Loyalty on Trial

Editor's Choice



The book Loyalty on Trial: One American's Battle with the FBI is a study of how the government responded to what it perceived to be disloyal German American citizens during WWII. This parallels the way the government reacts today as it struggles to find a balance between assuring national security and safeguarding civil liberties. The author analyzes the issues raised then-- with a careful comparison of what is at stake now, for all Americans.

In an effort to assure Americans during WWII that the homeland was secure from subversives and potential saboteurs, the loyalty of German Americans was challenged by the FBI. The First Amendment issues raised in this case and others were ultimately heard by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Loyalty on Trial reveals that Arthur Wolter, the author's father, was accused of being the "power behind the throne" of an organization targeted by J. Edgar Hoover during WWII as subversive and un-American. He was referred to by the House Committee on Un-American Activities as the "poet-laureate of the German American Bund," and his writings were used against him in the government's attempt to revoke his citizenship.

The book's Foreword by Professor Arnold Krammer of Texas A&M University details the historical context of how Arthur Wolter's story fits into the larger picture of the Roosevelt/Hoover pursuit of domestic security by using internment, deportation, and denaturalization, while grabbing emergency powers that skirted the law. Krammer is an expert in German American history and the author of Undue Process: The Untold Story of America’s Enemy Aliens.

The purpose of Loyalty on Trial is to provide a small but missing piece of the historical puzzle concerning the erosion of our Constitutional rights during crisis. When government seeks expedient means to achieve a 'greater good,' history provides 'red flags' as a wake-up call. The goal of telling this story-- of loyalty on trial in one American's battle with the FBI - is to wave one of those red flags.

For me, as a teacher, what made the story worth documenting was not a desire to posthumously defend my father's name--he pursued his legal vindication in the courts. Students and others who value our rights must recognize the need to remain ever vigilant over those who govern us.