Extension of Statements and Refutations

Typescript by Hanns Eisler, expanding on the Statements of 9 May and 10 May 1947.

See background notes by G Mayer and list of Eisler’s writings in English.

Taken from Hanns Eisler – Musik und Politik – Schriften 1924-1948,
ed. Günter Mayer (1973: VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig), pp. 504-513 © Stephanie Eisler,
Page turns in the 1973 edition are inserted here according to the principle that |#411-2| means the change from page 411 to 412.

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One of the ‘facts’ which Miss Ruth Fischer gave to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which perhaps this Committee will call ‘evidence’, in its newspapers releases, and which I read in the Hearst papers, is that she spoke with Gerhart and me in Paris in 1933. This is a concocted lie. The last time she really saw Gerhart was at the funeral of my father, but he didn’t speak to her then. He had broken with her as far back as 1921 or 1922.1 I was in Paris in 1933 and I met my brother so often in Paris that |#504-5| it is quite possible that I met him in 1933 too. I’m not sure about it. What defence then do I have against such ‘evidence’, as Miss Fischer did live in Paris, Gerhart was maybe in Paris and I was surely in Paris. In order to make my position understandable, I will use a parable.

Mr. Budenz and Mr. Thomas will excuse me if I use their names for this purely invented parable which distorts facts about them and uses them in fictitious, hypothetical situations.

Top of this document  Suppose Mr. Budenz and Mr. Thomas were personal friends, or even related to each other. And suppose that Mr. Thomas had written in his youth a Catholic prayer for a church community festival — a fact which Mr. Budenz knew. Feeling again uncomfortable in his new surroundings, the Catholic church, Mr. Budenz acts upon secret instructions of the dignitaries of the Ku-Klux-Klan,2 which is fiercely Anti-Catholic. And while remaining officially and publicly in the church, snoops around for them, gleaning facts on the subversive relationship of Monsignor Sheen3 to Rome. Then he remembers that Mr. Thomas, who is a Protestant, once wrote a Catholic Prayer. And he sees red!

While still editor of the Catholic paper The Daily Roman Observer Georgia, he declares himself openly for the KKK and denounces his former affiliations. He writes a sequel to his book — My Story 2. Being in need of funds, and suffering from the frustration and imbalance caused by lightning personality changes and shifting of allegiances, he accepts an offer from the KKK News, (a syndicated journal,) and writes a series of six articles, dealing especially with Mr. Thomas, Chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

He not only charges that Mr. Thomas is secretly a Catholic, but he produces a copy of the Catholic Prayer which Mr. Thomas wrote, shamelessly enough in Latin, a foreign language, and which might even be a code for an atom spy ring. He reports his strange and curious meeting with Mr. Thomas to the FBI.

After not seeing Mr. Thomas for years, he suddenly called one night in Manhattan, and asked in a voice bordering on hysteria, whether he could see me immediately. He was very secretive about it. I met him and he asked me to follow him. We went downtown to Wall Street. We went into a large building and entered an office. On the door was the inscription ‘Payne, Webber and Thomas’. Two men were |#505-6| waiting for him. I cannot tell you of my disgust and horror when he immediately fell on his knees before Payne and Webber, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he said to them:

‘Look, boys, the Department of Justice has started an investigation against us — so my friends in Washington tell me. Please let out of this affair. I cannot afford it. I have just become Chairman of the House Committee of Un-American Activities which is investigating the Eisler brothers. If it became public that I am a member of your firm it would create a scandal. They could even accuse me, because I have always served you so loyally all these years, of representing the interests of our firm rather than those of the American people. Something has to be done.’

His partners consoled him, kissed him on the cheeks and said:

‘Look Thomas, we have a solution. While you are serving your term in Congress, we’ll say that you’re on a vacation so you won’t be involved in this investigation by the Department of Justice, against us. You, at least, will be out of it. And be free to investigate the Eisler brothers, but we, the defendants, will confess in Washington.’

They kissed him again and then I went to a small dimly lit bar in upper Manhattan. There he said to me, his voice hushed, a horse whisper, ‘I have still another secret to tell you. My real name is not Thomas — my real name is Finney. Don’t tell anyone about it, please.’ And then, like a man seized by a paralytic shock, he asked me ‘Why, why will Payne and Webber, the defendants, confess in Washington?.’ I told him ‘The answer is very simple, they are guilty.’ He rushed out. Horrified and disgusted, I was more fortified in my decision to break with the Catholic Church and go over to the Ku-Klux-Klan.

Top of this document  But even the fictional Mr. Budenz’s fictional testimony is false. The meeting he spoke of did not take place and the alleged conversations are pure invention. But Mr. Thomas would have a hard time exposing this lies, especially if Payne and Webber have in the meantime, disappeared — possibly to Greece, as secret financial advisors to the king, as a sort of lend-lease. It is Mr. Budenz’s word against Mr. Thomas’ word. Who will be believed? Poor Mr. Thomas is in a bad spot. For much of Mr. Budenz’s testimony is, in fact, true. It is true that Mr. Thomas is a member of the firm of Payne and Webber. It is true that he is now only on vacation from that firm for as long as he serves as Congressman. It is true |#506-7| that the investment firm of Payne and Webber is under investigation by the Department of Justice, and it is further true that Thomas’s real name is Finney.

What I have done is to take certain known and probable facts from the lives of Mr. Budenz and Mr. Thomas, as I read them in the Hearst papers, and weave them into a report in the style of the sensational Miss Ruth Fischer. I have tried to show how simple facts — like being in Paris in 1933, can be manipulated and exploited to support and give credulity to a story that is sheer invention, falsenhood and distortion. So now the Un-American Activities Committee is after me and is showing a special interest in my ‘Activities in Hollywood’. Why is it necessary to convince the American public that the Eisler brothers are suspicious characters, the red-witch hunt is on and hares are needed for the hounds. In Hollywood, especially, the air is hot. The atmosphere is charged with accusation, indignation, recrimination and protests. No one is immune. A Charles Chaplin, who is admired by the whole world and recognized to be one of the greatest artists of our time, received scandalous treatment by a part of the press for his latest picture, Mr. Verdoux, a truly great masterpiece.4 Even in many most favourable reviews you will find strange and startling remarks. For example, Time magazine, May 5 1947, praises Mr. Chaplin for his courage, ‘at a time when many people have regained their faith in war under certain conditions and in free enterprise under any conditions whatever’.

Living in Hollywood, I don’t know how many people ‘have regained their faith in war under certain conditions’. But I remember reading the warnings of the scientists who worked on the atom bomb, which convinced me that at least they have lost their faith in any war, under any conditions whatever. A prominent producer, Mr. Samuel Goldwyn, whose picture, Best Years of Our Lives5 won an unprecedented number of academy awards, was accused of showing disrespect to bankers and was, moreover, warned, that he would one day ‘have to eat his celluloid’.

Will they now form a Committee to investigate Un-bankers activities?

It is not surprising to me that due to the accident of my geographical situation — I am living in Hollywood — and the co-incidence of my family ties — I am a brother of Gerhart Eisler — the House Committee should find me a most convenient and natural target for attack. But what infuriates |#507-8| me, and what is most shameful and unfair in the announced investigation of my ‘Hollywood activities’, is the attempt to intimidate and smear my friends and the artists with whom I have had professional contacts.

Top of this document  I arrived in Hollywood in 1942. I was never a member of any political organization in America and as an alien (although I had received my first citizenship papers in 19416) I behaved with the utmost correctness. All my activities were artistic activities only. My knowledge of American politics is limited and I have never dabbled in it. That does not mean that I was not interested in world affairs or that I advocate the old theory that an artist should remain isolated in his ivory tower, for which it is becomingly increasingly difficult to pay the rent anyway. I learned the hard way in Germany how necessary it is for an artist, who wishes to remain a living and eating one, but not a corrupted one, to participate in the fight against reaction and fascism. I participated in this struggle only as a musician and my contribution was unfortunately a very modest one. My contact with politics and parties was very loose. I never held a membership card of any party, I never paid dues, and I never attended regular meetings.7 But I met anti-fascists of every description: Catholics, Lutherans, Jews, Social Democrats, Communists, Liberals, Monarchists, and Confusionists — of all social strata; scientists, workers, housewives, clerks, priests, bohemians, teachers, painters, poets and composers. Many of them showed real courage. Many of them were eager to fight or at least to do something. Too many of them died. I saw mistakes and confusion, set-backs and defeats. It was a bitter time. But as a result of my experiences, I must say that the communists were those who were the least confused, the least demoralized, reliable fighters, with good discipline, always willing, even eager to make every sacrifice in the fight against the common enemy. I admire them for this, and no crank, stool-pigeon, labour-spy, or the syndicated hysteria of the Hearst press at its smear campaigns, and, last but not least, no House Committee on Un-American Activities will intimidate me or prevent me from saying this. Did I always agree with the Communists on every point? No, certainly not. There is often disagreement between allies. This is implicit in the nature of the relationship. But disagreement between allies can be straightened out, and straightening out is quite different from attacking. Was I, a composer, primarily interested in his art, always pro-labour? |#508-9| Certainly. A nationally known magazine suggested in a recent article that my family had something to do with this. I must concede this point. But the picture presented of my family was too tasteless, vulgar and distorted, that I now take the liberty of making some remarks to correct it. (It is not surprising that I know more about my family than even the editors of this magazine, and I hope I will not be charged with Un-Henry Luce8 Activities in doing this.)

I am not impressed by radical backgrounds or theories (as the editors of this magazine) so I do not think it important that (my brother and) I have mixed blood. More significant is the fact, that we are the offspring of different classes. My father was a important philosopher whose book Wörterbuch der Philosophischen Begriffe (Encyclopedia of Philosophical Terminology) is still considered (a) classic. As a liberal, he always had real sympathy for labour based on his masterly interpretation of the works of Kant and Hegel. He was never a Marxist though, but belonged rather to the school of German idealistic Philosophy. He was a Neo-Kantist. The Neo-Kantists tried to extend the methods of Kantian Philosophy to the findings of natural science at the end of the 19th century (Die Marburger Schule: Paul Natorp and Hermann Cohen).9 My father, the philosopher, married the daughter of a (common labourer) worker and peasant woman. My mother, who had only the limited education of her class, possessed a brilliant intelligence and wit. Some members of my father’s family never really accepted her, even looked down on her, and we children were very sensitive about this fact and resented it. So we developed quite naturally a deep sympathy and respect for labour.

But my whole interest since my early childhood was music. I must confess that during the history periods at high school were the virtues of the House of Hapsburg were extolled, I behaved rather subversively, engaging, I’m afraid, in Un-Hapsburgian Activities. I was secretly reading, under my desk, the scores of Richard Strauss and Arnold Schönberg.

In world War I served in the Austrian army, and was assigned to a Hungarian infantry regiment. There the Hungarian peasants, farm-hands and workers became my teachers and showed me how to survive under the most difficult circumstances.

Other facts about my life and professional activities can be |#509-10| looked up easily found in various music encyclopedias or in Current Biography, Who’s News and Why, 1942.

Top of this document  Many of my compositions, especially those written in Germany and during exile in Europe, reflected my ideas and experiences and if some of them became more or less known in the labour movements throughout the world, it does not follow that they were written for any political organizations. To give only a few examples:

‘Solidarity’ was written for a film, Kuhle Wampe, produced in Berlin in 1931. The song entitled ‘In praise of learning’ was one written for the play The Mother which was produced in 193110 in Berlin a ad also in Copenhagen, New York, London and Paris. The song ‘United Front’, was written for a small play produced in London produced by German refugees in 1935.11 The song called ‘Comintern’, which can be found in many song books under various titles, ‘Arise’, ‘Unity’, etc. was not written for the Comintern but for a play produced by students in Berlin 1927.12 All these songs were translated into almost every language.

And I am not responsible for the quality of the translations into English, Japanese, French or Spanish.

But these were only a small part of my artistic activity. I am the composer of many chamber music works, orchestral works, choral works, cantatas, oratorios etc. In America I am more or less known through my works for the stage; the films, chamber music, choral works, songs, a few performances of orchestral compositions and gramophone recordings.13 My Vienna Publishing House has now begun, after fourteen years of suppression by Hitler, to publish my works again14 and I think my publishers in Paris and Berlin will soon follow. I mention these facts only in an attempt to restore somewhat my standing as an artist which was so distorted by the newspapers, columnists, and radio commentators. I have no illusions (however). This is an uneven match. I feel like a native who tries to defend himself against an atom-bomb with bow and arrow.

What further surprises has the House on Un-American Activities in store for me? What new headlines? That I was in Moscow? Yes, I visited the Soviet Union several times as did many artists. I gave concerts there, composed the music for two films15 and enjoyed the musicality of the Russian people for whom I have deep sympathy. That I was in the United States in 1935? That I was brought here by the Lord Marley Committee and the Anti-Nazi-League to give |#510-1| concerts and lectures for the benefit of the children of refugees from the Saar? These are well known facts about which I was questioned endlessly when I immigrated in 1940.16 Do they want to prove that I mixed with the wrong crowd, with communists? I would have mixed with any crowd that had the foresight then to realize that Hitler meant war. And since the American communists, together with other organizations and groups, understood the danger of Hitlerism from the beginning and worked to mobilize forces against it, I’m sure I met, at least, some of them. I can’t remember the face and name of everyone who shook my hand after a concert or a lecture, but doubtless some of them were communists. I gave interviews to all the press, including the Daily Worker and the New Masses.17 I couldn’t speak a word of English, (so that) all my interviews and lectures were in German and had to be translated (into English) by voluntary translaters. I was a complete greenhorn. I did not want to overthrow the American Government, and I was not in the remotest way ‘a threat to the security of the United States’.

Top of this document  I am furious over the treatment my brother is receiving. Gerhart was a political figure all his life. His activities were like those of any political worker — writing, speaking, organizing. It is outrage and slander to call him an informer, a spy, a terrorist, an agent for a foreign power. I am proud of his fight against reaction and fascism both in Germany and in exile. I am proud of his behaviour in the concentration camp. I am infuriated that a man who stood so firmly for a cause for which the American people and the allies have made such sacrifices, should now through really sinister machinations, be thrown into an American prison.

I have stood by my brother, the German Communist Gerhart Eisler, and shall continue to stand by him. I shall do my best to defend him until he is released, cleared of all these false charges, and permitted to return to Germany. If it means trouble for me, I shall face it. Voltaire was once asked: ‘Suppose you were accused of having stolen Notre Dame, what would you do?’ ‘I would leave immediately for London.’ Thus the great Voltaire expressed his disgust with the Law and Justice of the Feudal Monarchy in which he lived. But I, living in America, shall not leave for London. For I have trust in American Law and Justice. And above all, I have trust in the American people.


Top of this document  Endnotes

1. See G Mayer’s background notes. Rudolf Eisler (father) died in 1926.

2. The Ku-Klux-Klan is an anti-democratic, terrorist secret association founded in Tennessee in 1866. After World War I it had spread right across the USA (20 million members in 1920). In the mid thirties, the KKK played an important part in the fascist offensive against various labour movements in the USA.

3. Monsignor Sheen was at that time the main representative of the reactionary fascist wing of the US Catholic Church. As Bishop of New York he exerted considerable influence in shaping public opinion.

4. Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux, based on the screenplay by Orson Welles, was produced between 1944 and 1947.

5. Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946).

6. ‘1944’, originally in this text, is clearly an error. Eisler applied for US citizenship on 10 June 1941 (New York South) and he himself states ’1941‘ for the same event elsewhere in his own writings.

7. The question of communist party membership was always a central issue in questioning procedure carried out by US immigration authorities (1938, 1940) and in Eisler’s first interrogation in Hollywood. Eisler’s statement is perfectly true on this point. In early 1926 he had applied for membership in the KPD but then pursued the matter no further, nor paid any membership dues, nor been issued with a party card, nor attended any membership meetings. See Eisler’s statements in the second interrogation of 24 September 1947 in Washington, ‘Hearings regarding Hanns Eisler, Washington, 1947, pp. 12-14 and 42-43. While there can be no doubt about Hanns Eisler’s communist convictions, there is no evidence that he was ever a member of the party...

8. Either Time or Life magazine. Henry Luce was chief editor at the time.

9. The Marburg School (Cohen, Natorp, Vorländer, Cassirer) is only one branch of Neo-Kantianism. They saw recognition theory (Erkenntnislehre) as one the most important approaches to philosophy. On the other hand, the Southwest German School (Windelband, RIckert, Lask, Bauch, Cohn) directed their attention more towards problems of value and duty, polemicising against historical materialism and its significance in the social sciences.

10. Both works were premiered in 1932, Die Mutter on 16 January, Kuhle Wampe in May (in both Moscow and Berlin).

11. This information is false. The ‘United Front Song’ (Einheitsfrontslied) was written in London in 1934. It was included in the Ernst Toller play Feuer aus den Kesseln but not written for that purpose.

12. The ‘Kominternlied’ was composed in conjunction of the organisations ten-year anniversary, more specifically for the program ‘10 Years of Comintern’ presented by the Agitprop group Das Rote Sprachrohr.

13. According to Lou Eisler, only two or three records were released in the USA. Eisler also wrote music to join together Charles Laughton’s recitations from the Bible, Shakespeare and Dickens. Nothing is known of this music.

14. Universal-Edition, Vienna.

15. So far only one film has been identified: Young People Have the Word (Komsomol, 1932).

16. Eisler is referring here to questions asked at immigration when entering the USA from Mexico in September 1940. [A question to the effect ‘Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party or any thereto associated organisation?’ was still on US Visa applications in 1971 and 1985. Entry was denied or granted only under exceptional circumstances and after a six-month process of scrutiny if you answered ‘yes’.]

17. Daily Worker was the CPUSA’s daily paper, New Masses its cultural journal.

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