History Podcasts

Robert Treuhaft

Robert Treuhaft

Robert Treuhaft, the son of Hungarian immigrants, was born in New York on 8th August 1912. He won a scholarship to Harvard University and later became a lawyer. He developed left-wing political views while working for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Treuhaft applied to join the U.S. Army but was rejected on medical grounds. Determined to seek work related to the war effort, he found work with the Office of Price Administration (OPA) in Washington. It was while at the OPA he met Jessica Mitford whose husband Esmond Romilly, had just been killed while on a flying mission over Nazi Germany.

Treuhaft and Mitford moved to California where they married in 1943. They both joined the American Communist Party and were active in the East Bay Civil Rights Congress (CRC). He eventually became regional general counsel of the CRC.

In 1948 Treuhaft moved to Oakland and joined the legal firm of Oakland, Grossman, Sawyer & Edises. The company specialized in trade union and civil rights cases as its clients included the Congress for Industrial Organisations and the American Communist Party.

Treuhaft and Mitford also became involved in the Willie McGee case. McGee, a 36-year-old black truck driver was convicted of raping a white woman despite evidence that the couple had been having a relationship for four years. The trial lasted less than a day and the jury took under three minutes to reach a verdict and the judge sentenced McGee to be executed. Treuhaft argued that no white had ever been condemned to death for rape in the deep South, while over the last forty years 51 blacks had been executed for this offence. Despite a nationwide campaign led by Bella Abzug McGee was executed on 8th May 1951.

Treuhaft's involvement in the Willie McGee case resulted in him being subpoenaed by the California State Committee on Un-American Activities. Treuhaft and Mitford took the 1st Amendment and refused to answer questions about their involvement in left-wing political groups. Two years later they were called before the Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Once again they refused to give evidence and later Treuhaft was described by Joseph McCarthy as one if the most subversive lawyers in the country.

Over the next few years Treuhaft became increasingly disillusioned with the form of communism being developed in the Soviet Union. Shocked by the revelations about Joseph Stalin by Nikita Khrushchev and the Red Army invasion of Hungary, Treuhaft and Mitford left the American Communist Party in 1958.

As a trade union lawyer Treuhaft became aware of the financial problems that deaths caused in working class families. In an attempt to reduce the high costs of funerals he established the Bay Area Funeral Society, a non-profit undertaking service. In 1963 Treuhaft and Jessica Mitford published the best-selling book, The American Way of Death (1963). However, only Mitford's name appeared on the book cover as the publisher argued that "co-signed books never sell as well as those with one author."

Robert Treuhaft died in New York on 11th November 2001.

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Luther Smith vs the DA

In this interview Robert Treuhaft, local attorney and ally to The Flatlands, gives an update on the latest developments in the case of Luther Smith. Police had executed a no-knock warrant against Smith and, in a case of mistaken identity, had severely beaten him and traumatized his family. Smith had enlisted Treuhaft and fellow Flatlands ally John George to fight back in the legal arena.

On the day of interview, Treuhaft and George had filed charges on behalf of all seven members of the Smith family, as a preliminary measure on the way to seeking damages from the Oakland Police Department, the City of Oakland, and the 30 police officers involved in the raid.

Treuhaft and his wife Jessica Mitford were fixtures of the radical community in Oakland. Mitford, the daughter of an English peer, had rebelled against her aristocratic background early in life, including a stint embedded with Republican troops during the Spanish Civil War. Emigrating to America in 1939, she married Treuhaft in 1943. Both became members of the American Communist Party until 1958 following their departure, Mitford published several works of memoir and investigative journalism, including The American Way of Death, a nationwide best-selling expose of the funeral industry.

Treuhaft’s legal career, in line with his political beliefs, centered around the defense of targeted groups and marginalized individuals. As a founding partner of Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein, he provided substantial legal assistance to the poor of Oakland through the Alameda County Legal Aid Society.

Later, the firm would be better known for its role in the criminal defense of Black Panther Party members, and for the 1971 summer internship of a young Hillary Clinton during her years in law school. In addition to his legal advocacy, Treuhaft also ran as a reform candidate in 1966 for Alameda County District Attorney against Frank Coakley, an infamous law-and-order reactionary and opponent of police accountability.

Date: 5/7/1966


“Luther Smith vs the DA” (interview with Robert Truehaft), The Flatlands, May 7, 1966, 6.

Robert Treuhaft - History

In the heyday of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, associating with a known communist was grounds for intense suspicion and scrutiny. That was the early 1950s.

A line in a widely circulated chain e-mail, from an article written by former Clinton adviser-turned-foe Dick Morris, seems like old times.

"Hillary interned with Bob Treuhaft, the head of the California Communist Party," Morris wrote. "She met Bob when he represented the (Black) Panthers and traveled all the way to San Francisco to take an internship with him."

It sounds outlandish, but there's a little something to it.

While at Yale Law School, Hillary Clinton did spend the summer of 1971 interning as a law clerk at the firm Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein.

"A small law firm in Oakland, California," Clinton succinctly refers to it in her autobiography. By all accounts it was a fairly radical left-wing law firm, known for taking on discrimination and social injustice cases.

But senior partner Treuhaft was not "head of the California Communist Party" as Morris claimed in his article. It is true that Treuhaft was once an active member of the American Communist Party. Investigated and harassed by McCarthyites in 1950s, Treuhaft was listed by the House Un-American Activities Committee as one of the most dangerously subversive lawyers in the country, according to his 2001 obituary in the Times of London. But he became disillusioned with the party and left it in 1958, before Clinton started her internship with the firm.

In her book, Clinton makes only passing reference to her responsibilities at the firm, stating, "I spent most of my time working for Mal Burnstein researching, writing legal motions and briefs for a child custody case."

Burnstein, who was never a communist, is retired now. Reached at his home in California, Burnstein recalled that Clinton was one of the firm's better summer interns: smart and a hard worker.

"She wasn't political at all, that I remember," Burnstein said. "The only politics that were discernible were probably liberal politics. . She came to us because of the civil rights cases we did, the things we did with racial equity and other civil rights things. That was her interest."

It irks Burnstein that some want to attack Clinton for her association with the firm, even though he doesn't support her run for president.

"I think she did something that was relatively noble and altruistic when she was a young woman," Burnstein said.

Burnstein couldn't recall what specific cases Clinton worked on, but at the time, he said, he had cases where landlords refused to rent to black people, and one in which a group of doctors took umbrage with being asked to sign a "loyalty oath" attesting that they were not communists. But they also did a lot of landlord-tenant, workers' comp, family law and personal injury cases.

Robert Edward Treuhaft

By PAUL LEWIS Robert Treuhaft, a crusading radical lawyer who inspired his wife, Jessica Mitford, to write her best seller "The American Way of Death," died in New York on Nov. 11. He was 89.

As a union lawyer representing longshoremen in the San Francisco area in the 1950's, Mr. Treuhaft was enraged by the exorbitant fees undertakers charged, frequently consuming a widow's death benefits.

After organizing the Bay Area Funeral Society to reduce the cost of funerals for union members, Mr. Treuhaft encouraged his wife to write an exposé of the funeral industry, taking a year off from his Oakland law practice to help with research.

The result was "The American Way of Death," first published in 1963. Miss Mitford, who was known as Decca and who died in 1996, dedicated the work to her husband with gratitude for "his untiring collaboration."

In a 1993 interview, Miss Mitford said that initially she had not been interested in the subject. "Then Bob started bringing home the trade publications like Casket and Sunnyside, Mortuary Management — all those wonderful names — so I began to study them," she said.

When the British novelist Evelyn Waugh remarked that the book seemed to have been written by two people, Jessica Mitford's sister Nancy wrote back saying: "Clever of you to see the two voices. I am quite certain much of it was written by Treuhaft who is a sharp little lawyer, and who certainly made her write it in the first place."

In 1976 Gov. Jerry Brown of California appointed Mr. Treuhaft to the state Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers.

Robert Edward Treuhaft was born in New York on Aug. 8, 1912, the son of working-class immigrants from Hungary. His mother eventually came to run her own hat shop on Park Avenue his father, a waiter turned bootlegger, became part owner of a Wall Street restaurant.

Raised in the Bronx and then Brooklyn, Mr. Treuhaft won a scholarship to Harvard, where he studied law.

After working for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in New York, Mr. Treuhaft was rejected by the Army on medical grounds at the start of World War II and went to work for the Office of Price Administration in Washington there he met and fell in love with Miss Mitford.

The couple could scarcely have been more different in upbringing. She was one of the blue-blooded Mitford sisters, a daughter of Lord Redesdale and sister to Nancy, the novelist to Diana, who married Sir Oswald Mosley, the British fascist leader to Unity, one of Hitler's cronies and to Deborah, who became Duchess of Devonshire.

Miss Mitford was recovering from the loss of her first husband, Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchill's nephew, who had been killed on a Canadian Air Force raid over Germany and with whom she had eloped to fight with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

Mr. Treuhaft and Miss Mitford were married in 1943 Miss Mitford accepted his proposal before he had finished making it. They moved to San Francisco, where Mr. Treuhaft started a radical law firm that specialized in fighting every kind of discrimination and social injustice.

Both joined the United States Communist Party and were frequently investigated and harassed by government officials for many years they were denied passports, for example. But by 1958 they had grown disillusioned with Communism and left the party.

In 1964 Mr. Treuhaft was one of four foreign lawyers expelled from Portugal by the fascist government of Premier Antonio de Oliveira Salazar after they had tried to investigate penal conditions in the country.

In 1971 he accepted a young Yale lawyer named Hillary Rodham (now Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton) as an intern.

After his wife's death, Mr. Treuhaft completed her last book, "The American Way of Death Revisited." He was working on a collection of her letters at the time of his death.

Mr. Treuhaft is survived by a stepdaughter, Constancia Romilly, and his son, Benjamin, a New York piano tuner who runs the Send a Piano to Havana Project, shipping old pianos to Cuba.

Ближайшие родственники

About Jessica Lucy Treuhaft

Jessica Lucy Mitford, nicknamed Decca or Dec, writer and campaigner, was born in Burford, Oxfordshire on 11 September 1917 and died Oakland, California 23 July 1996.

Parents: 7th and penultimate child of David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford (1878-1958), 2nd Baron Redesdale and Sydney Bowles (d. 1963).

  1. eloped to Spain in 1937 and was married by the British Consul to Esmond Romilly, a nephew of Winston Churchill he had joined the International Brigade to fight against Franco. In WWll Esmond joined the Canadian Air Force. He was killed in action in November 1941.
  2. in 1943 in Washington, D.C. to Robert Treuhaft. He was a Harvard-educated lawyer of Hungarian-Jewish extraction.

Children of Jessica Mitford and Esmond Romilly:

  1. Julia Romilly, b. ca. 1938 in the East End of London, and died of measles at four months of age.
  2. Constancia nicknamed Dinky, b. 1941 in Virginia.

Children of Jessica Mitford and Robert Treuhaft, born in Oakland, California:

  1. Nicholas, born in 1944. He was killed in a traffic accident in 1955.
  2. Benjamin, born in 1947.

Born into one of Britain’s most renowned families, Jessica Mitford forsook the traditional perquisites of upper-class life in order to fight fascism and government corruption.

She was born Jessica Lucy Freeman-Mitford on September 11, 1917 in Gloucestershire, England, the sixth of seven children, was the daughter of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale and his wife Sydney (daughter of politician and publisher Thomas Bowles), and grew up in a series of her father's country houses. She had little formal education, since her mother did not believe in sending girls to school, but was nevertheless widely read. Though her sisters Unity and Diana were well-known British supporters of Hitler and her father was described as being "one of nature's fascists," Jessica (always known as "Decca") renounced her privileged background at an early age and became an adherent of communism. She was known as the "red sheep" of the family.

At age 19, Mitford met her second cousin Esmond Romilly, who was recuperating from dysentery caught during a stint with the International Brigades defending Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. Romilly was a nephew (by marriage) of Winston Churchill. The cousins fell in love immediately and decided to elope to Spain, where Romilly picked up work as a reporter for the News Chronicle covering the conflict. After some legal difficulties caused by their relatives' opposition, they married. They moved to London and lived in the East End, then mostly an industrial slum area. Attended by doctor and nurse, Mitford gave birth at home to a daughter, Julia Decca Romilly, on 20 December 1937. The baby died in a measles epidemic the following May. Jessica Mitford rarely spoke of Julia in later life and she is not referred to by name in Mitford's autobiographical novel, Hons and Rebels.

In 1939, Romilly and Mitford immigrated to the United States. They traveled around, working odd jobs, perpetually short of cash. At the outset of World War II, Romilly enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force Mitford was living in Washington D.C. and considered joining him once he was posted to England. She gave birth to another daughter, Constancia ("the Donk" or "Dinky") Romilly on 9 February 1941. Her husband went missing in action on 30 November 1941, on his way back from a bombing raid over Nazi Germany.

Mitford threw herself into war work. Through this, she met and married the American civil rights lawyer Robert Treuhaft in 1943 and eventually settled in Oakland, California. She became an American citizen in 1944. There the couple had two sons: Nicholas born 1944 (who was killed in 1955 when hit by a bus), and Benjamin, born 1947. Mitford approached her motherhood in a spirit of "benign neglect", described by her children as "matter-of-fact" and "not touchy-feely". She became closer to her own mother by letter over the decades.

During the mid-1950’s, she unsheathed her poison pen and launched her career as a muckraker. After she published The American Way of Death (1963), a powerful exposé of the funeral industry, the resulting public outcry forced the industry to restructure itself almost overnight. Her other investigative books included The Trial of Dr. Spock (1969), Kind and Usual Punishment: The American Prison Business (1973), Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking (1979), and The American Way of Birth (1992).

In a series of investigative articles, Mitford single-handedly exposed a variety of society’s cherished institutions, including Bennett Cerf and other �ulty” members at the Famous Writers’ School, Elizabeth Arden’s Maine Chance spa, National Broadcasting Company (NBC) censorship, a restaurant in New York City, and personnel procedures at California’s San Jose State University. Censors were among her favorite targets. In September, 1965, she published an article titled 𠇍on’t Call It Syphilis” in McCall’s magazine. The hard-hitting exposé publicly embarrassed NBC for cancelling a two-part segment on the dangers of syphilis.

Meanwhile, Mitford herself was the subject of an attempt at censorship when she was hired to teach at San Jose State University as a distinguished professor in 1973. The trouble began when the university ordered her to sign a loyalty oath, tried to fingerprint her, and deleted the word “muckraking” from her course descriptions. When she resisted these measures, the administration fired her and canceled her classes. However, she ignored both actions and continued teaching her classes without pay. Eventually she signed the oath under duress, but forced the fingerprint issue into court. Finally, an embarrassed university paid her after the fall semester ended, a court ruled that the fingerprint requirement was not enforceable.

Mitford’s long struggle against censorship won her respect as one of the nation’s foremost investigative journalists. The New York Times conceded that “Mitford’s pen is mightier than the sword,” and Time magazine dubbed her “Queen of the Muckrakers”𠅊 title that she cherished.

Mitford died of lung cancer at age 78. In keeping with her wishes, she had an inexpensive funeral, which cost $533.31 – she was cremated without a ceremony, and the ashes scattered at sea, the cremation itself costing $475. The funeral company was the Pacific Interment Service, which prides itself on "dignity, simplicity, affordability".

Her widower survived her by five years. Their surviving daughter had continued the activist tradition by working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She had two children with James Forman, its African American director, and eventually became an emergency room nurse.

I'm interviewing Bob Treuhaft in his house in Oakland. To begin, tell me something about your family.

Well, my family now, or my family at the beginning?

Your family at the beginning.

Well, my parents were both Hungarian, first-generation Americans. They came here their separate ways, I suppose, around the early 1900s. Maybe 1906 or 1907. They met in New York and married there. My mother's father had died and she came with her mother and a younger brother when she was about fourteen years old. She [Aranka Hajos] got a job in millinery, a hat factory making women's hats, and stayed in that field for a very long time. Much later she became a very well-known custom milliner in New York on Park Avenue. She supported herself and her younger brother and her mother.

She met my father [Albin Treuhaft] a couple of years later. He was a waiter and they married, and he kept working as a waiter until Prohibition when he became a very small-time bootlegger. He never made much money out of it because he was a sort of honest bootlegger who wasn't involved in any of the major rackets. He always wanted to be in the restaurant business, and he had a chance to become part-owner of a restaurant down in the financial district in New York. My parents spoke Hungarian and English interchangeably. Most of their friends were Hungarians they always

I was born in 1912. I have a younger sister who is about six years younger than I, and I had another sister who died in early childhood. I was born in the Bronx, we lived in the Bronx, and I have some memory of my early childhood in the Bronx. I went to kindergarten and I remember a teacher being invited to our house for home-made ice cream, made by my mother. I went to primary school in the Bronx. Then we moved to Brooklyn when I must have been ten or eleven and shared a two-family house with a Hungarian friend of my father's, also a waiter. I went to junior high school and high school in Brooklyn.

The Family in Hungary

Are there any family traditions about why your parents came from Hungary? Why they emigrated?

Well, they came their separate ways, but there are a couple of things. They came because of the poverty of existence in Hungary. Hungary was a very poor country to begin with. They were both Jews. I say "Hungarians," but there's a distinction really. They are Hungarian Jews. And although there was a fair amount of acceptance of Jews in Hungary, Hungary was by no means one of the worst countries and especially in the cities, the Jews thought that they were pretty well integrated, and they didn't learn until Hitler came along that they weren't really. But they came at a time when things were supposed to be wonderful in America compared to conditions in central Europe. They were driven by poverty and by the hope of making a better life.

Was there a traditional occupation?

No. Well, my father came from a village in Hungary, which is now part of Czechoslovakia. I've been there a number of times. And I spent a very happy summer there when I was about twelve years old. His family owned a very tiny little tavern in town. They were poor and it was a strictly working class place. It was in an area where again, in the countryside in Hungary, there was a great deal of anti-Semitism, a very vicious anti-Semitism. On one of the visits there I actually saw it and experienced it in a way. So he had nothing really to keep him there. And he had really no tradition either.

His father had a job in the post office and either his father or his grandfather, because of having a government job, were a little bit better off than most. Because of that, they changed their name from a Yiddish Hungarian name to a German name. That's why we got Treuhaft, which is a name they selected. It's not a real word in German, but it means something nice like loyalty it's a misnomer. Because Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was safer to have a German sounding name if you were Jewish. So his father had some pretensions of being an intellectual, which means that he had about a dozen books in German when he came to America, and some in Hungarian also that he brought with him. But he was totally inactive and totally a defeated person.

My parents brought my father's parents over when I was about, I guess, eight or nine years old, because both of them were working, and the grandparents wanted to come over. They were doing very badly over there. They came over and lived with us, and my grandmother became sort of the housekeeper. She did all the cooking and the housework. There wasn't very much to them. I never knew my mother's family, but my mother came from a larger town in Hungary and had lived for some years in Budapest, and had much more claim to being sort of out of the lowest classes and into a somewhat more bourgeois milieu. She had an uncle or cousin who had a music shop and had some name in the music world, having produced some operas. I met him on a visit to Hungary when I was about eleven years old, I guess. Although my mother came, again, from the very poorest of the poor in Hungary, she made some claims to be, to having, intellectual pretensions. She hadn't any schooling at all. But she was always interested in theater, things like that.

As a matter of fact, both my parents, the one thing that they did, outside of their own Hungarian circle, was go to the theater. They loved Broadway theater. And I have stacks of programs that they brought home. They saw most everything that was well reviewed on the New York stage when there were lots of plays going. And when they saw something that I might be interested in — they would go in the evening, of course — they would buy a ticket for me for a matinee. And I'd go by myself to the matinee, and that was a great contribution to my early existence. I saw wonderful things early on when I was in high school, and even before that. When Beatrice Lillie came over, and Gertrude Lawrence, and Charlot's revue and Noel Coward, I saw them all. And that was a wonderful experience for me.

Growing Up in Brooklyn.

It lifted my education out of the ordinary. Because in Brooklyn where I lived and in the Bronx also, everyone without exception, maybe one exception among my contemporaries, the people I had contact with — my friends, my playmates — were all Jewish. The whole neighborhood we lived in was all Jewish. It was not the Jewish ghetto. It was a step above that. The Jewish ghetto in Brooklyn would be some steps removed from us. We were in an area where there were two-family houses, sort of connected houses and because both my parents worked and my mother made a pretty good income, there was never any want at all in my family, and we were not in the pushcart area of Brooklyn. I imagine we even looked down a little bit on the people who lived in the lower reaches.

But I had no contact with anyone socially who was not Jewish, except one: my father had one friend who was an American Southerner. And my father was quite proud to bring him [home] because he was a Gentile, he sort of liked my father. He had met him at some gambling club, something like that, and he was a stockbroker, a salesman for a stockbroker. And that was a new kind of opening, and he was sort of proud of having this man for a friend. This man took advantage, and he persuaded me to put my savings into a stock that went bust. I remember also that when I referred to somebody as "colored," he'd say, "You don't call them colored. They're niggers. You call a nigger a nigger." And so, he had me doing that. I was rather proud that I knew what to call a colored person.

Oh, I was about eleven or twelve, I would guess. And before my grandparents came over we did have housekeeping help most of the time because we were small children and both my parents were working. I think of one or two occasions when we had a Black, Negro maid, who would come in by the day. But we had absolutely no social contact with any of them, and my parents and their friends didn't consider themselves racists, but they referred to Black people as "schvartzas". They wouldn't call them by name. They'd say, "The schvartza is coming in to clean tomorrow."

In the school I went to, Montauk Junior High School in Brooklyn, most of the people there were Jewish, most of the students and a lot of the teachers also. I certainly didn't know any who weren't Jewish. There was a nearby neighborhood where there

Let me try to make a distinction here. Your family, they were culturally Jewish. Were they also religiously Jewish?

Exactly. They were culturally Jewish but they were not religiously Jewish. My grandparents were religiously Jewish and would go to the Jewish synagogue. The synagogue they went to was one of the old-fashioned ones, orthodox, where the women were not permitted on the main floor. They would sit upstairs on the balcony. And we had one set of friends, our dentist and his wife, who were Hungarians, and very, very orthodox, but more of our friends were not. As a matter of fact, my parents rarely went to the synagogue, almost never but I, on my own, got myself bar mitzvahed. For a short time, I took an interest in it.

Bar Mitzvah

What was that experience like?

Well, about the age of seven or so, I, like other people in the same class socially and economically, was spared the ordeal of a hot summer in New York. And the way it was done was to send you to a boys' camp. These camps were strictly segregated. Jews went to Jewish camps and the non-Jews did not accept Jews. So, I went to a variety of these camps during the summer — they were fairly expensive and you got fitted out with the camp uniforms and camp colors and that sort of thing, and you'd go there for two months. When you got a little bit older, you'd get a job at one of these camps as a waiter or as a counselor, so from about seven to seventeen I spent my summers in places like that. Now they were all, as I say, without exception, entirely Jewish, entirely segregated Jews were not accepted by camps run by Gentiles. The camps had been a tradition among the better off New Yorkers for a long time. But they excluded Jews, as did the adult summer resorts. I worked in some of those — Jewish ones, of course — they also were strictly segregated in those days.

My parents were always looking, of course, for one of the cheaper camps, and the cheaper one they found one year was a Zionist camp. It was run by Zionists, and some of the great early names among the Zionists were among the founders of this camp, Camp Keeyumah. It was in Vermont on Lake Champlain. And as


What was your mother's personality like?

Well, my mother [Aranka] was a very vivacious, outgoing person. She had lived in the outside world, having graduated from seamstress to hat maker and then to designer. She had somewhat of a reputation as a designer, working for these hat factories. Again, the hat factories were almost invariably Jewish owned and Jewish operated, although they were, I think, unionized, but the unions were quite Jewish also. Anyway, she felt that she was, and she was to some extent, sophisticated, compared to my father, who was a very sweet, easy-going fellow. She was constantly after him to make something of himself and to stir himself, to move up in the world and stop being a waiter. My wife [Jessica Mitford] devotes a chapter to Aranka in her book, A Fine Old Conflict 1. She would drop in from New York when — we're jumping now to 1943 or 1944 — we were married and living in San Francisco. Decca, my wife, was rather irritated by the fact that my mother would drop in without notice and announce that she was going to stay for a few days. Not that we didn't want to have her, but we didn't like the assumption that she could drop in any time.

One of the first times that she came, she came from New York in her furs and with a little dog. This was a year after we'd gotten married. And she came up to the house where we were staying,

So as soon as I went off to work, my mother went to work on Decca: "The trouble with you is you're not demanding enough. You don't want enough from Bob. You don't demand a car. You don't demand better clothes. A fur coat. And that sort of thing. And that's the only way to get him to do anything. You have to really push him to work harder and to try harder." So, the next day as I was out on the street waiting for the streetcar to take me down to the OPA [Office of Price Administration] office in the furniture mart, Decca sticks her head out of the window and screams, "Get to work, you dirty bum! [Laughter] Get moving! Make some money!" My mother was there. Of course she was shocked. Some fun.

Family Values

So money was one of the family values. Was intellectual achievement a value, too?

Yes, I think, the way it was in most Jewish families. The Jewish immigrants placed a great deal of emphasis on the importance of education for their children. The only education my mother and my father had was when they went to the foreigners' school to learn English to become citizens, to attain their citizenship. But, you know, money was important and the education of their children was very important.

Were you pressured to get an education?

Well, I didn't have to be. I was going to public school and it was just assumed. I think my parents would have been terribly shocked if I hadn't finished high school, and it was the assumption that you would go to college if your parents could afford to send you. And they would have sacrificed to any extent to help me go. But my going to Harvard actually was a freakish kind of chance.

This high school I went to, New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, claimed to be the largest high school in the U.S. it did have at least 10,000 students. It had the best track team in the United States. I was involved a bit in that. I was on the track team, I did some high jumping. My rough guess would be that about 40 percent of the students were Jewish, that about 50 percent of the teachers were Jewish, and among the other 60 percent of the students, they were Irish-Catholic mainly and Italian-Catholic.

I had the impression — I know it's not true — that the principal of the school, Dr. Henry Potter, was the only WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] in the institution. He was totally out of place in that school. He used to come to work in a chauffeur-driven car. He would wear a cut-away and striped trousers for the weekly assembly. That kind of thing. Very weird. A great big fellow. So, in my senior year at high school, I had a friend, Phil Kaiser, who went to the same summer camp where I had gone. And Phil had three or four older brothers who were in various stages in college. They were an important local power family, the Kaisers.

Robert Treuhaft - History

Guide to the Robert E. Treuhaft Papers TAM 664

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
[email protected]

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Erika Gottfried

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 09, 2018
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Biographical, 1893-2002

Scope and Content Note

Documents in this series include passports (which document Treuhaft's travels as early as the summer of 1937 when he visited England, France and Italy, as well as, Austria, Germany and Hungary, as well as later travels to England, Hungary, Portugal, and the Soviet Union), report cards and grades from elementary school as well as for Harvard University, class notes for an evidence class at Harvard Law School, announcements and notes for a 50th reunion of his Harvard class about which he wrote an article in The Nation copies of his FBI and CIA "files" obtained through FOIA requests. Correspondence and receipts in the "red-baiting" folders (as they were originally labeled by Treuhaft or his office staff) document extensively his efforts to defend himself from attempts to dismiss him from his job at the Office of Price Adminstration on political grounds. These same files contain numerous newspaper clippings, leaflets and publications report on the course of much of his political activity, albeit often in a biased or distorted manner, including accusations and attacks in the right-wing press and a scurrilous newsletter from a local Communist Party group even an insurance claim that documenting what may have be a politically motivated deliberate damage to Treuhaft's automobile.

Scope and Content Note

Announcements of deaths, mainly individuals from the Zipser family, who were probably relatives of the Treuhaft's father or mother, published in Hungarian and German.

Hillary Clinton: Radical Leftist?

When you think Hillary Clinton, what’s the first thing that springs to mind?

For me, it’s pantsuits. No kidding. Pantsuits, followed by thoughts of her deceptive behavior with respect to Benghazi, her terrible accent when she proclaimed, “I don’t feel no ways tired,” in a speech in Selma, Alabama, and her many ties with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

Seriously what the hell is this?

A new discovery I made about her past in the wee hours of this morning have fleshed out a new side of Hillary I’d not noticed before. That discovery being her tie to Robert Treuhaft.

Who is Robert Treuhaft?

Robert Treuhaft was an American lawyer and former memberof Communist Party USA who worked for labor unions and radical left causes for the majority of his life.

Well who should so happen to intern for Treuhaft after college but one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Check out this excerpt from A Woman in Charge: “The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton” by Carl Bernstein.

Hillary told [Bill Clinton] that she planned to spend the summer in Oakland, California, as an intern at the law firm of Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein.

In Oakland, she would be working for the most important radical law practice on the West Coast, celebrated for its defense of constitutional rights, civil liberties, and leftist causes. “The reason she came to us,” said Robert Treuhaft, the firm’s senior principal, “the only reason I could think of because none of us knew her, was because we were a so-called Movement law firm at the time.”

In all probability, Hillary found her way to the firm through her professor, Tom Emerson, an old friend of Treuhaft and some of his partners. “There was no reason except politics for a girl from Yale” to intern at the firm, said Treuhaft. “She certainly was…in sympathy with all the left causes, and there was a sharp dividing line at the time.”

Treuhaft et al. had represented leaders of the labor movement on the West Coast who had been prosecuted for allegedly being members of the Communist Party. It had also represented some of the Black Panther leadership. Of the firm’s four partners, “two were communists, and others tolerated communists,” Treuhaft said, but none acknowledged membership in the party until many years later.

Her radical leftist roots have been out in the open for a long time now, but I’ve never seen so much as a single reference to this important factor of her political origins in all the time I’ve spent doing research. I certainly find it interesting that she sought out an internship in Oakland, California, with a member of the Communist Party. A lawyer who represented the Black Panthers, no less.

So, when I think Hillary Clinton, I feel I will now immediately think “pantsuits & Communism” from now on. A deadly combo indeed.

In “The Six,” a new biography of the Mitford sisters, a trove of information

By Susan Sheehan, Washington Post Writers Group

The Mitford sisters may be the most written-about girl group in history. Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah: The flamboyant British aristocrats have kept tabloid journalists and biographers scribbling away for nearly a century. Between their high-profile trysts, questionable politics and literary output, it’s no wonder they’ve been the source of fascination.

Mary S. Lovell published “The Sisters,” a definitive biography of the Mitfords, in 2001. Now comes “The Six” by Laura Thompson, author of books on subjects as diverse as greyhound dog racing, Agatha Christie and the Lucan Affair and, most recently, a biography of Nancy Mitford. The question is whether we need another book about the Mitfords.

Thompson herself notes that she’s treading a well-worn path. “Familiarity is undoubtedly an issue,” she writes in the introduction, but she asks that readers “look afresh at the familiar and consider. These girls are prize exhibits in a Museum of Englishness. What they represent is complex, although their image has divine simplicity. And whatever one’s opinion of what they represent, it is impossible, in truth, to find them boring.”

True enough, the sisters are rarely boring — and in a narrative that contains some stylish prose, Thompson dwells on their quirky charms. Readers will need the Mitford family tree that appears at the front of the book, however, as Thompson leapfrogs through the saga of this infamous sisterhood.

The Mitford parents, David and Sydney, Lord and Lady Redesdale, were minor British aristocrats. The daughters all made their debuts, despite the fact that Muv and Farve (this is a family of countless nicknames) kept having to sell property to pay for presentations at court, cruises, nannies and governesses. The daughters were expected simply to find suitable husbands and breed, but instead of settling down quietly, five of the six achieved notoriety.

First there’s Nancy Mitford, the eldest, born in 1904 and the best-known she was the author of popular and well-regarded semi-autobiographical novels (“The Pursuit of Love” and “Love in a Cold Climate”) and biographies such as “The Sun King.” Thompson is generous — one could say overly generous — to Nancy’s novelistic skills, describing “Love in a Cold Climate” as her “second masterpiece.” Upon its publication, Thompson adds, Nancy’s status as an author “reached the exalted position for which writers pray, in which every single thing that they publish is received with rapture and no failure can really touch them.” Her social life, too, “was a glitterball whirl.”

Diana, the beauty in a good-looking family, married in 1929, had two children, then left her first husband, the Hon. Bryan Guinness (heir to the brewery fortune) for Sir Oswald Mosley, the married, philandering founder of the British Union of Fascists. The Mosleys, who married in Joseph Goebbels’ drawing room in Berlin in 1936 in a ceremony attended by Adolf Hitler, were imprisoned during the Second World War. What Diana would learn, 40 years later, was that Nancy, to whom fascism was “a disease,” had done her best to ensure that Diana would be imprisoned and, subsequently, kept that way instead of being released under house arrest. “This was the central relationship of the Mitford girls, this push-and-pull between Nancy and Diana,” Thompson observes.

Unity Valkyrie Mitford, an ardent fascist, met Hitler in 1933 and moved to Munich a year later. Hitler took pleasure in her company. Unity attempted suicide the day Britain declared war on Germany by shooting herself in the head, but she survived the bullet. The man she called “blissful Fuhrer” had her flown to neutral Switzerland. After Unity’s return to Britain, Muv took care of this brain-damaged daughter until she died of meningitis in 1948.

Pamela Mitford, a fascist sympathizer, became the second wife of a renowned and rich physicist, who married three more times after divorcing her. This so-called quiet sister lived in the country and, like Unity, didn’t write books. (The only son in the family, Thomas Mitford, who also had fascist leanings, pursued a military career. He declined to fight Germany, preferring to fight the Japanese, and was killed in Burma in 1945.)

Jessica, a fervent left-winger, eloped with her second cousin, Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchill’s nephew by marriage, to Bilbao he had fought with the communists in the Spanish Civil War. The couple subsequently emigrated to America, where Romilly volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force and was killed in action in 1941. Jessica remained in America. Two years later she married Robert Treuhaft, a partner in a radical law firm. Mitford and Treuhaft were active communists until 1958. She went on to write “The American Way of Death,” a best-selling expose on the high cost of funerals in her new land. One of the odder passages in “The Six” pertains to Jessica’s politics. “Jessica’s extremism is more acceptable to history than that of her sisters,” Thompson writes. “Such is the luck of the left.”

The youngest sister, Deborah, born in 1920, married Andrew Cavendish, who became the 11th Duke of Devonshire after the wartime death of his older brother, Billy Hartington, the husband of Kathleen Kennedy. The duchess renovated Chatsworth, the Devonshire ancestral seat, and turned it into a thriving enterprise. She consorted with British royalty and American royalty — she attended President John Kennedy’s inauguration and his funeral — and wrote a number of books, including a featherweight memoir just before her death in 2014.

“The Six” includes thousands of facts about the Mitford family, but Thompson offers few clear opinions of her subjects. She ought to have done so. Never mind their popularity, most of the Mitfords were unlikable. Their politics were appalling. There is no letting them off the Hitler hook. The most sympathetic figure in the book is Diana’s first husband, Bryan Guinness, who offered the adulterous Diana the necessary false evidence of his infidelity so she could procure a divorce. Thanks to his generosity, she moved with their two sons to Eaton Square and lived in luxury until Mosley’s young wife died. After a few more dalliances for Mosley and two abortions for Diana, they married.

The book offers so much material — too much, perhaps, and much of it redundant. “The Six” is fine for readers new to the Mitfords, but the definitive biography remains “The Sisters.”

“The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters”
By Laura Thompson.
St. Martin’s.
385 pp.

Watch the video: Where the Fire Has Been (January 2022).