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The Dies Committee Suppresses Evidence

Three Suspected Nazi Spies were quietly taken out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the Dies Congressional Committee headquarters in New York in Room 1604, United States Court House Building. The three men were each questioned for about five minutes by Congressman J. Parnell Thomas of New Jersey and Joe Starnes of Alabama. The men were asked if they had heard of any un-American goings-on in the Navy Yard. Each of the three subpoenaed men said he had not, and the Congressmen sent them back to work in the Navy Yard after warning them not to say a word to anyone about having been called before the Committee.

When I learned of the Congressional Committee’s refusal to question men they had subpoenaed, I wondered at the unusual procedure especially since it promptly put Nazi propagandists (such as Edwin P. Banta, a speaker for the German-American Bund) on the stand as authorities on “un-American” activities in the United States. A little inquiry turned up some interesting facts.

One of the Committee’s chief investigators, Edward Francis Sullivan of Boston, had worked closely with Nazi agents as far back as 1934. Sullivan’s whole record was extremely unsavory. He had been a labor spy, had been active in promoting anti-democratic sentiments in cooperation with secret agents of the German Government and in addition was a convicted thief. (Shortly after Slap-Happy Eddie, as he was known around Boston because of his convictions on drunkenness, lined up with the Nazis, he got six months for a little stealing.) Before going on with the Congressional Committee’s strange attitude toward suspected spies and known propagandists in constant communication with Germany, it might be well to review a meeting which the Congressional Committee’s investigator addressed in the Nazi stronghold in Yorkville.

On the night of Tuesday, June 5, 1934, at eight o’clock, some 2,500 Nazis and their friends attended a mass meeting of the Friends of the New Germany at Turnhall, Lexington Ave. and 85th Street, New York City. Sixty Nazi Storm Troopers attired in uniforms with black breeches and Sam Brown belts, smuggled off Nazi ships were the guard of honor. Storm Troop officers had white and red arm bands with the swastika superimposed on them. Every twenty minutes the Troopers, clicking their heels in the best Nazi fashion, changed guard in front of the speakers’ stand. The Hitler Youth organization was present. Men and women Nazis sold the official Nazi publication, Jung Sturm, and everybody awaited the coming of one of the chief speakers of the evening who was to bring them a message from the Boston Nazis.

W.L. McLaughlin, then editor of the Deutsche Zeitung, spoke in English. He was followed by H. Hempel, an officer of the Nazi steamship “Stuttgart,” who vigorously exhorted his audience to fight for Hitlerism and was rewarded by shouts of “Heil Hitler!” McLaughlin then introduced Edward Francis Sullivan of Boston as a “fighting Irishman.” The gentleman whom the Congressional Committee chose as one of its investigators into subversive activities, gave the crowd the Hitler salute and launched into an attack upon the “dirty, lousy, stinking Jews.” In the course of his talk he announced proudly that he had organized the group of Nazis in Boston who had attacked and beaten liberals and Communists at a meeting protesting the docking of the Nazi cruiser “Karlsruhe,” in an American port.

The audience cheered. Sullivan, again giving the Nazi salute, shouted: “Throw the goddam lousy Jews all of them into the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll get rid of the stinking kikes! Heil Hitler!”

The three suspected Nazi spies were subpoenaed on August 23, 1938. They were:

Walter Dieckhoff, Badge N, living at 2654 th Street, Sheepshead Bay.

Hugo Woulters, Badge N, living at 221 East 16th Street, Brooklyn.

Alfred Boldt, Badge N, living at 64-29 70th Street, Middle Village, L.I.

Boldt had worked in the Navy Yard since 1931. Dieckhoff and Woulters went to work there within one day of each other in June, 1936.

The three men were kept in the Committee’s room from one o’clock on the day they were subpoenaed until five in the afternoon. When it became apparent that the Congressmen would not show up until the next day, the men were dismissed and told to come back the following morning.

Not a word was said to them as to why they had been subpoenaed. Nevertheless Dieckhoff, who was with the German Air Corps during the World War, instead of going to his home in Sheepshead Bay, drove to the home of Albert Nordenholz at 1572 Castleton Ave., Port Richmond, S.I., where he kept two trunks. Nordenholz, a German-American naturalized citizen for many years, is highly respected by the people in his neighborhood. When Dieckhoff first came to the United States, the Nordenholzes accepted him with open arms. He was the son of an old friend back in Bremerhafen, Germany. Dieckhoff asked permission to keep two trunks in the Nordenholz garret; he stored them there when he went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

During the two years he worked in the Yard, he would drop around every two weeks or so and go up to the garret to his trunks. Just what he did on those visits, Nordenholz does not know.

On the night Dieckhoff was subpoenaed he suddenly appeared to claim the trunks. He told Nordenholz that he planned to return to Germany. Just what the trunks contained and what he did with them I do not know. They have vanished.

I called upon Dieckhoff in the two-story house in Sheepshead Bay where he lived. He had no intimate friends, didn’t smoke, drink or run around. The life of the German war veteran seemed to be confined to working in the Navy Yard, returning home unobtrusively to work on ships’ models and making his occasional visits to Nordenholz’s garret.

So far as I could learn, Dieckhoff became a marine engineer, working for the North German Lloyd after the World War. In 1923 he entered the United States illegally and remained for two years. Eventually he returned to Germany, but came back to the United States, this time legally, applied for citizenship papers and became a naturalized citizen five years later.

Before he went to work on American war vessels, he worked in various parts of the country in automobile shops, in the General Electric Co. in Schenectady and as an engineer on Sheepshead Bay boats. Even after Hitler came into power, he worked on Sheepshead Bay boats. After the Berlin-Tokyo axis was formed (1935), Germany became particularly interested in American naval affairs, for the axis, among other things, exchanged military secrets. Shortly before the agreement was made, Dieckhoff suddenly went to work for the Staten Island Shipbuilding Co., Staten Island, which was building four United States destroyers, numbers 364, 365, 384 and 385. He worked on these destroyers during the day. Until late at night he pursued his hobby of building ships’ models, which he never made an attempt to sell.

Dieckhoff weighed his words carefully during our talk.

“Why did you apply for a transfer from Staten Island to the Brooklyn Navy Yard?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess there was more money in it.”

“How much were you getting when you were working on the destroyers?”

“It was some time ago,” he said slowly. “I do not remember very good.”

“How much are you getting now at the Navy Yard?”

“Forty dollars and twenty-nine cents a week.”

“You went to Germany last year for a couple of months and before that you went to Germany for six months. Were you able to save enough for these trips on your wages?”

“I do not spend very much,” he said. “I live here all alone.”

“How much do you save a week?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Ten dollars a week.”

“That would make five hundred dollars a year if you worked steadily, which you didn’t. You traveled third class. A round trip would be about two hundred dollars. That would leave you three hundred to spend provided you did not buy clothes, etc., for these trips. How did you manage to live in Germany for six months on three hundred dollars? Did you work there?”

He hesitated and said, “No, I did not work there. I traveled around. I was not in one place.”

“How did you do it on three hundred dollars for six months?”

“My brother gave me money.”

“What’s your brother’s business?”

“Oh, just general business in Bremerhafen. He’s got a big business there.”

“Perhaps I can get a report from the American Consul ”

“Oh,” he interrupted. “His business isn’t that big.”

“Have you a bank account?”

He hesitated again and then said, “No, I do not make enough money for a bank account.”

“Where do you keep your money for trips to Germany? In cash?”

“Yes, in cash.”

“Where? Here? In this room?”

“No. Not in this room. I have it locked up.”


“Oh, different places,” he said vaguely.

“Where are those places?”

“I have my money with a friend.”


“Nordenholz, Albert Nordenholz.”

“You work in Brooklyn, live in Sheepshead Bay and save ten dollars a week in Port Richmond with a friend? Isn’t that a long distance to go to save money?”

He shrugged his shoulders without answering.

“What’s Nordenholz’s business?”

“I think he’s retired. I think he used to be a butcher.”

“You don’t know very much about a man’s business and you travel all this distance to give him money to save for you when there are banks all around? Why do you do that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. It seems to me that it is better that way.”

Later when I asked Nordenholz, he denied that Dieckhoff had ever given him any money to hold.

Dieckhoff had worked on turbines, gear reductions and other complicated mechanical parts on the cruiser “Brooklyn.” The moment I asked him if he handled blueprints he answered in the affirmative, but quickly added that the blueprints were returned every night and locked up by the officers. A capable machinist could, he admitted, after careful study remember the blueprints well enough to make a duplicate copy.

“When you went to Germany after working on the destroyers did anyone ever question you about them over there?”

“No,” he said quickly. “Nobody.”

“My information is that you did talk about structural matters.”

He looked startled. “Well,” he said, “my brother knew I worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We talked about it, naturally.”

“My information is that you talked about it with other people, too.”

He stared out of the window with a worried air. Finally he said,
“Well, my brother has a friend and I talked with him about it.”

“A minute ago you said you had not talked about it with anyone.”

“I had forgotten.”

“This is the brother who gave you money to travel around in Germany?”

He didn’t answer.

“I didn’t hear you,” I said.

“Yes,” Dieckhoff said finally, “he gave me the money.”

I called upon the second of the three suspected spies subpoenaed by the Dies Committee. Alfred Boldt had done very responsible work on the U.S. cruiser “Honolulu.” Though he had not been in Germany for ten years, he suddenly got enough money last year to go there and to send his son to school at a Nazi academy. Boldt, too, has no bank account. He needed a minimum of seven hundred dollars for his wife and himself to cross third class, but the Dies Committee was not interested in where the money for the trip had come from.

Boldt left for Germany on August 4, 1936, and returned September 12. On the evening I dropped in to see him, he was tensely nervous. He had heard that someone had been around to talk with Dieckhoff.

“I understand your only son, Helmuth, is going to school in Langin, Germany?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “I sent him there two years ago.”

“No schools in the United States for a fifteen-year-old boy?”

“I wanted him to learn German.”

“What do you pay for his schooling over there?”

He hesitated. His wife, who was sitting with us and occasionally advising him in German, suddenly interrupted in German, “Don’t tell him. That’s German business.”

I assume they did not know that I understood, for Boldt passed off her comment as if he had not heard it and said casually, “Oh, twenty-five dollars a month.”

“You earn forty dollars a week at the Navy Yard, pay for your son’s schooling in Germany, clothes, etc., and you and your wife took more than a month’s trip to Germany last year. How do you do it on forty a week?”

His wife giggled a little in the adjoining room. Boldt shrugged his shoulder without answering.

“The cheapest the two of you could do it, third class, would be about seven hundred dollars. Where do you have your bank account?”

“No. No bank account,” his wife interrupted sharply.

“All the money is kept here, right here in this house,” he laughed.

“You saved all that money in cash?”

“Yes; in cash, right here.”

“No banks?”

“We like it better like that in cash.”

Boldt, like Dieckhoff, had been a marine engineer on the North German Lloyd. He went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1931. When the cruiser “Honolulu” made its trial run in the spring of 1938, Boldt was on board.

Like Dieckhoff and Boldt, Harry Woulters, alias Hugo Woulters, the third of the three subpoenaed men, is a naturalized citizen of German extraction. He went to work in the Navy Yard within one day of Dieckhoff. Before that, both had worked on the same four American destroyers at the Staten Island Shipbuilding Company.

The house where Woulters lives has a great many Jews in it, judging from the names on the letterboxes, and since Hugo sounded too German, he listed his first name as “Harry.”

“You and Dieckhoff worked on the same destroyers on Staten Island and you say you never met him there?” I asked.

“No, I never met him until the second day after I went to work in the Navy Yard.”

“How many people work on a destroyer a thousand?”

“Oh, no. Not that many.”

“About one hundred?”

“About that,” he said uncertainly.

“And you worked with Dieckhoff for six months on the same warships and never met him?”

“Yes,” he insisted.

“How come that if you never met him both of you applied for jobs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard at about the same time?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. It’s funny. Sounds funny, anyway.”

“When you worked on the cruiser ‘Honolulu’ you handled blueprints?”

“Yes, of course, but they were never left in my possession overnight,” he added quickly. I couldn’t help but think that Dieckhoff, too, had been very quick in protesting that the blueprints had never been left in his possession overnight. They seemed worried about that even though I had not said anything about it.

“Were they ever left in your possession overnight?”

“No. They guarded the blueprints ”

“My information is that they were left in your possession.”

“Wells, sometimes blueprints you know, when you work from blueprints sometimes, yes, sometimes blueprints were left in my possession overnight. I was working on reduction gears on the cruiser ‘Brooklyn’ and I kept the blueprints overnight.”

“How often?”

“I can’t remember how often. Sometimes the blueprints were kept overnight in my tool box.”

“You also worked on turbines and other complicated and confidential structural problems on the warship?”


“And you kept those blueprints overnight, too?”

“Sometimes not often. Sometimes I left them in my tool box overnight.”

Woulters, during the latter period of construction on the “Brooklyn” and the “Honolulu” had got two jobs which most workers do not like. He had the four to midnight and the midnight to eight A.M. watches. Normally Woulters likes to stay at home with his wife.

“While you had these watch duties you had pretty much the run of the ship?”

He hesitated and weighed his words carefully before answering. Finally he nodded and added hastily, “But no one can get on board.”

“I didn’t ask that. Did you have the run of the ship while everybody else was asleep when you were on watch?”

“Yes,” he said in a low voice.

“How did you happen to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I like to work for the Government.”

“Have you a bank account?”


“What bank?”

“Oh, I don’t know, it’s some place on Church Avenue.”

“You have about 2,400 dollars in the bank, a nice apartment, and you and your wife went on a trip to Germany last year. Did you save all that money in so short a time on wages of forty dollars a week?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Your bank account does not show withdrawals sufficient to cover the trip to Germany ”

“Say,” he interrupted excitedly as soon as he saw where the question was leading, “when I was called before the Dies Committee, the Congressman there shook hands with me and asked me if I knew anything about un-American activities in the Navy Yard. I told him I didn’t and he told me to go back to work and not to say anything about having been called before them. Now I do not understand why you ask me all these questions. The Congressman told me not to talk and I am saying nothing more. Nothing.”

The Dies Congressional Committee was not interested in these three men whom they had subpoenaed and then, oddly enough, refused to question. Besides this very strange procedure by a Committee empowered by the Congress to investigate subversive activities, the Dies Committee withheld for months documentary evidence of Nazi activities in this country directed from Germany. The Committee obtained letters to Guenther Orgell and Peter Gissibl, but quietly placed them in their files without telling anyone about the existence of these documents. They did not subpoena or question the men involved.

The letters the Committee treated so cavalierly are from E.A. Vennekohl in charge of the foreign division of the Volksbund fuer das Deutschtum im Ausland with headquarters in Berlin, letters from the foreign division headquarters in Stuttgart, and from Orgell to Gissibl.

Gissibl was in constant touch with Nazi propaganda headquarters in Germany, receiving instructions and reporting not only on general activities, but especially upon the opening by the Nazis here of schools for children in which Nazi propaganda would be disseminated.

The letters, freely translated, follow. The first is dated October 29, 1937, and was sent by Orgell from his home at Great Kills, S.I.:

Dear Mr. Gissibl:

Many thanks for your prompt reply. My complaint that one cannot
get an answer from Chicago refers to the time prior to May,

I assume from your writing that it is not opportune any more to
deliver further books to the Arbeitsgemeinschaft, etc.

The material which Mr. Balderman received came from the V.D.A. It has been sent to our Central Book distributing place (Mirbt). If he wishes he can get more any time; that is, if you recommend it.

The thirty books for your Theodore Koerner School, which arrived this summer (via the German Consulate General in Chicago), also came from the V.D.A. If you need more first readers or study books, please write directly to me. Your request then goes immediately without the official way via the Consulate and Foreign Office to our Central Book distributing place. Please say how many you need and what else beside the first readers and primers you need. I will take care that it will be promptly attended to. Fritz Kuhn, of course, has to be informed of your request and has to give his okay....

With German greetings,

Five days earlier Orgell had written to Gissibl: “You may perhaps remember that I am in charge of the work for the Volkbund fuer das Deutschtum im Ausland for the U.S.A.”

On March 18, 1938, Gissibl, who had been taking instructions from Orgell, received the following letter from Stuttgart:

Dear Peter:

From your office manager. Comrade Moeller, I received a letter dated February 15. He informed me among other things that an exchange of youth is out of the question for this year. I regret this very much. I would like to see, in the interests of our common efforts, if we would have had youth all ready this year, especially also from your district. Perhaps it is still possible with your support. The time, of course, which is still at our disposal, is very limited. This I can see clearly.

I will write to you again in greater detail soon. In the meantime you can perhaps send me more detailed information about the development of your school during the past weeks; I recommend again the fulfillment of your justified wishes wholeheartedly. Let us hope that the result might be achieved very soon towards which we in common strive.

Hearty greetings from house to house.

In loyal comradeship,

On May 20, 1938, E.A. Vennekohl, of the People’s Bund for Germans Living Abroad, wrote to Gissibl as follows:

Dear Comrade Gissibl:

We wrote you yesterday that the 3,000 badges for the singing festival would be sent to you via Orgell; for various reasons we have now divided the badges in ten single packages of which two each went to the following addresses: Friedrich Schlenz, Karl Moeller, Karl Kraenzle, Orgell and two to you.

Please inform your co-workers respectively and take care that in case duties have to be paid they should be laid out; please see to it that Orgell refunds the money to you later; this was the simplest and the only way by which the badges could be sent in order to arrive on time.

With the German people’s greetings,

These documents in the hands of the Dies Committee show definite tie-ups between German propaganda divisions and agents in the United States (some of them came through the Nazi diplomatic corps), yet these documents were put aside. The letters from True, Allen, and others quoted in the previous chapter were also placed before the Congressional Committee. It refused to call the men involved.