My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK,Monday—I read with great interest the shocking statement by Mr. Joseph Kornfeder who said he was once a worker at the Communist Party's International Headquarters in Moscow but quit the party in 1934 and is now busy testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee on the subject of Protestant churches. If true, his statement is shocking. He says there are 600 Protestant clergymen who are members of the Communist Party and 2,000 more pretty close to the machine and 3,000 to 4,000 among the fellow traveller category.

Please note this: these accused are all Protestant clergy but one of the stories says that there was an equal effort made by the Communists to infiltrate not among Roman Catholic priests but among Roman Catholic laymen high in church circles, and among the Jewish clergy. It seems to me that the evidence given at times is not always convincing, even though we are expected always to believe that anything said by an ex-Communist must, of course, be true.

One of the proofs is that a certain number of clergymen signed a petition opposing the execution of Julius Rosenberg and his wife. In other countries there were many people who opposed this execution. I happen to feel that the trial had been fair and since we had capital punishment in this country there was no other sentence that could be imposed. I do not believe in capital punishment, however, and hope we will do away with it. Many of those who signed that petition, I am sure, did so because they were opposed on principle to capital punishment and the question of the guilt of the condemned was secondary, particularly as in peace time it is rare to give such a penalty even for such a serious offense. I do not believe that one can take for granted, therefore, that everyone who signed that petition did so merely because they were Communists.

It is inevitable, I think, that the FBI must get much of its information from ex-Communists and I think if they choose to employ an ex-Communist in the Justice Department, as they have done in the case of John Lautner who admittedly was a former longtime high functionary of the Communist Party, the FBI can certainly watch him and he may be of use to them. But to consider anything said by all these ex-Communists as true without corroborating proof seems to me one of the strange phenomena that confronts us today.

The army seems a little better able to defend itself than the clergy because the army functions with such care and precision that it can prove everything step by step. The clergy usually are not able to cover themselves with careful documentation in everything they do, and I imagine it would be hard for many of them even if they are finally given an opportunity for a hearing to get together the proof which is necessary both in a court and before these committees.

We have succeeded very well in undermining the confidence of the people in all State Department officials and though Senator McCarthy keeps repeating that under General Eisenhower the State Department and the Pentagon have improved their methods, it is rather difficult for people to find out whether those he accuses originated during Democratic years or had a tie somewhere along the line with the Republicans. The result is we are left doubtful of our Government officials, doubtful of our clergy, and therefore exceedingly careful and timid if we talk to any stranger. We should all wear placards saying "Cleared by Senator McCarthy."

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL