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Samuel Dickstein

Samuel Dickstein (February 5, 1885 – April 22, 1954) was a Democratic Congressional Representative from New York, paid agent of the NKVD and a New York State Supreme Court Justice. He played a key role in establishing the committee that would become the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which he used to attack fascists, including Nazi sympathizers, and suspected communists.

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Early life and career

Dickstein was born into a Jewish family living near Vilnius in present-day Lithuania. He emigrated to the United States in 1887 with his parents, who settled in New York City. There he attended public and private schools in New York City, the College of the City of New York, and graduated from the New York City Law School in 1906. He was admitted to the bar in 1908 and commenced law practice in New York City. He served as special deputy attorney general of the State of New York from 1911–1914, member of the board of aldermen in 1917, member of the State Assembly 1919–1922. He served as a member of the Democratic County Committee and was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-eighth Congress and was reelected eleven times. He resigned from Congress on December 30, 1945. He served as Chairman on the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization (Seventy-second through Seventy-ninth Congresses).

During his tenure as Chairman of the Committee on Naturalization and Immigration, Dickstein became aware of the substantial number of foreigners legally and illegally entering and residing in the US, and the growing Anti-Semitism along with vast amounts of anti-Semitic literature being distributed in the country. This led him to investigate independently the activities of Nazi and other fascist groups in the U.S. This investigation proved to be of such significance that on January 3, 1934, the opening day of the second session of the 73rd Congress, Dickstein introduced a resolution calling for the formation of a special committee to probe un-American activities in the United States. The "Dickstein Resolution" (H.R. #198) was passed in March 1934, with John William McCormack named Chairman and Samuel Dickstein Vice-Chairman. Dickstein had refused the chairmanship of the Committee, feeling that his Jewish ancestry might have an adverse effect on the proceedings.

Members of Committee probing Communist Activities in the U.S.: Grover Whalen, Police Commissioner of New York; Rep. Samuel Dickstein, N.Y.; Rep. Albert Johnson, Washington; Chairman and Rep. John C. Box, Texas, and 6 other men May 9, 1930

Throughout the rest of 1934, the Special Committee on Un-American Activities conducted hearings, bringing before it most of the major figures in the U.S. fascist movement. Dickstein, who proclaimed as his aim the eradication of all traces of Nazism in the U.S.[1], personally questioned each witness. His flair for dramatics and sensationalism, along with his sometimes exaggerated claims, continually captured headlines across the nation and won him much public recognition.

He was instrumental in establishing the temporary Select Committee on Un-American Activities (the 'Dies Committee') with Martin Dies, Jr. as chairman, in 1938 to investigate fascist and Communist groups in the United States.

Later the same committee was renamed the House Committee on Un-American Activities when it shifted attention to Communist organizations and was made a standing committee in 1945.

Following the 1938 Anschluss, Dickstein attempted to introduce legislation that would allow unused refugee quotas to be allocated to those fleeing Hitler.[2]

In his 2000 book The Haunted Wood, writer Allen Weinstein stated that documents discovered in 1990s in the Moscow archives showed Dickstein was paid $1250 a month from 1937 to early 1940 by the NKVD, the Soviet spy agency, which hoped to get secret Congressional information on anti-Communist and pro-fascist forces. According to Weinstein, whether Dickstein provided any intelligence is not certain; when he left the Committee the Soviets dropped him from the payroll.[3]

The 2009 book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, explains the methodology and circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the information about Dickstein in the Weinstein book. Vassiliev was given access by the SVR in the 1990s to the 1920-30 operational files of Soviet civilian intelligence operations in America.

Dickstein later served as a Justice on the New York State Supreme Court until his death in New York City.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Chip Berlet, Matthew Nemiroff Lyons (2000). Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. Guilford Press. ISBN 9781572305625. 
  2. ^ Morrison, David (1999). Heroes, antiheroes, and the Holocaust. Jerusalem, New York: Gefen Publishing House. p. 120. ISBN 9652292109. 
  3. ^ Weinstein, Allen; Vassiliev, Alexander (2000-03-14). The Haunted Wood : Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era. New York: Modern Library. pp. 140–150. ISBN 0-375-75536-5. 

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External links

New York Assembly
Preceded by
William Karlin
New York State Assembly, New York County 4th District
1919–1922
Succeeded by
Samuel Mandelbaum
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Meyer London
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 12th congressional district

1923–1945
Succeeded by
John J. Rooney
Preceded by
Sol Bloom
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 19th congressional district

1945
Succeeded by
Arthur G. Klein







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