Monthly Archives: November 2012

I Sympathize With Moskoff

Sending the missive via special delivery, Saul Moskoff wrote to New York Herald Tribune education editor Fred Hechinger on December 9, 1953, apparently in conjunction with a planned article. He noted that he was enclosing the only photo he had available of himself, and then made a request: “If it is possible for your photographers to touch it up so as to remove the ‘bags’ from under my eyes, it might result in eliminating the possibility of frightening children who may happen to look at the page.”

Accessed at the New York City Municipal Archives.


A Question of Trust? Rabinowitz on Moskoff

You could trust Roy Cohn to come after you, Victor Rabinowitz told researcher Linda Cirino in the late 1970s. Dealing with Saul Moskoff was different. He could be just as trusted to come after you — just more insidiously. “Roy Cohn and Dick Arens working in Washington were killers. They came out ready to kill. Moskoff was not a killer,” Rabinowitz said.

Rabinowitz, one of the lawyers who defended the teachers, worked with Louis Boudin, representing a wide range of the people caught up in the mid-20th-century anti-communist investigations.

Moskoff “was always your friend. There was never any question about Cohn. He was your enemy. But Moskoff — I’m not sure which is better — he was always polite, he was always interested in protecting the rights of the teachers and everybody else. He had this law he had to enforce. … The brutality of the congressional committee approach was not ever present here. The result of course was exactly the same. …It all resulted in exactly the same thing. It made no difference. After a very short period everybody was aware that the interview with Moskoff would turn out to be exactly the same thing. I think we went there because we were all thinking in terms of preparing some kind of legal case, and legal cases did come out of this.”

Excerpted from taped interview by Linda Cirino of Victor Rabinowitz.

NYU Press Announces Priests of Our Democracy

Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge, by Marjorie Heins, is slated for February 2013 publication.  In the book, Heins focuses on the fight for academic freedom, and on the court decisions that grew out of the 20th century’s anti-communist teacher investigations. It tells the stories of the teachers whose lives were upended by them, and discusses the repercussions we still feel today. It’s available from NYU Press (
Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions growing out of New York state investigations bookended the struggle. The 1952 Adler decision rejected the claim that academic freedom provided teachers and professors with protection against being investigated for their political beliefs.  Years of court cases at all levels eventually chipped away at loyalty investigations and the refusal to acknowledge the primacy of academic freedom. In the 1967 Keyishian case the Court reversed Adler and declared that freedom “a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.”    
Marjorie Heins is a civil liberties lawyer, writer, and teacher, and the founding director of the Free Expression Policy Project. She wrote the profile of Irving Mauer, one of the teachers whose cases she covers in Priests of Our Democracy, at our related site Dreamers & Fighters. You can read it at .