Felix Rosenthal, Non-signer
22 Sept 1999
I was sent the announcement of the 50th Anniversary Retrospective of the infamous Loyalty Oath debacle. I was the only non-signer, a Teaching Assistant during my graduate year in what was then called the School of Architecture, I was not then, nor ever before, a member of the Communist Party or any of its affiliates.
I returned the oath unsigned, accompanied by a letter in which I explained that I did not regard the Regents of UC as a properly constituted body that could claim the right to inquire into my political beliefs; and that, as a refugee from Nazi Germany, I feared that the loyalty oath would ultimately lead to the deplorable conditions that prevailed in other, less democratic countries.
Oath-resisting teaching assistants had been required to submit to a hearing by a Regent-appointed Commission of Examiners. They had to present themselves accompanied by their respective Deans, in my case Wm. Wurster who had started his post only 3 days before. His efforts on behalf of non-signers were already known. He was most understanding and supportive and wished that I had not been the only one in his Department.
I was well prepared for the hearing As a member of US Intelligence in WWII. I was a highly trained interrogator of prisoners and was, therefore, quite able to spot the trick questions by the prosecutors from Boalt Hall that would make me say yes or no to the burning issue. I never gave them a hoped-for answer.
When my service record came up, one of the inquisitors recognized that I had also held posts of such sensitivity that I had been cleared no less than 27 times by the FBI! He moved, therefore, that I be acquitted and the Committee went along with his recommendation.
A few days later I received a letter from the Regents that I had been fired as a non-signer. The Regents simply overruled the finding of the Committee they had created in the first place Quite frankly, I was rather pleased because, given the abomination of the oath, I had not wanted to be acquitted in the first place.
My decision not to sign was also bolstered by the fact that I was a nephew of Prof. Leonardo Olschki, and a close friend of Prof.Ernst Kantorovicz, both famous, totally apolitical scholars who eventually were among the final 18 non-signing holdouts. You will be amused by what my uncle answered to a letter from the Chancellor's Office asking him whether now that the unsavory episode was finished, he would like to teach again. He declined, citing his age--it had taken five years for the the court-ordered reversal . He added that the situation reminded him of an old Arabic proverb, that "it is the washed dog that smells the worst"!
I will be out of the country during the time of the Symposium . I am, therefore, sending this to you in the hope that you can put it into the right hands, and that I may have added a tiny crumb to the UC History Program.
With regrets at having to miss the Retrospective, and with kind regards,
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Last updated 11/19/99.