Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Gordon Friesen: Interview with the FBI, 1945

Sis Cunningham and Gordon FriesenGORDON FRIESEN was telephonically contacted at his residence at 353 East 84th Street and requested to appear at the New York Field Division Office for interview. He was interviewed on March 27, 1945 after the purpose of his requested appearance was made known to him. The following is the record of questions put to and answers made by GORDON FRIESEN:

New York, New York
March 27, 1945

By Special Agent Thomas M. Corbett:

Q. What is your full name?


Q. What is your present title and position?

A. Well, my present title is Script Editor with the Master Radio Desk in the Office of War Information.

Q. What is your local address?

A. 353 East 84th Street, New York City.

Q. Are you at the present time a member of the Communist Political Association?

A. I am not.

Q. Have you ever been a member of the Communist Political Association?

A. I have not.

Q. Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

A. No.

Q. Have you ever attended meetings of the Communist Political Association or Communist Party?

A. I have attended several meetings of the Communist - I have never attended any meeting of the Communist Political Association. I have attended several meetings of the Communist Party. Yes, Sir.

Q. Can you tell us the date of the last meeting of the Communist Party you attended?

A. I don't recall exactly the date. I once attended the Communist Party meeting at Madison Square Garden. I think it was the - I'm sure it was the fall of 1942. I remember there was snow falling so it must have been late in 1942. I don't recall, but I think Mr. EARL BROWDER spoke, but I don't remember exactly if he did.

Q. How many meetings of the Communist Party have you attended?

A. Well, I attended a meeting, I don't recall whether it was a Communist Party meeting or an event staged by the "Daily Worker", in Detroit in the summer or fall of 1943, at a place called Graystone Gardens, I think. It was around the corner from where I lived at the time. In both instances they were open meetings and I was, I wanted to see what was going on.

Q. Are those the only two occasions at which you attended any Communist Party meetings?

A. They are the only occasions I can recall offhand. In the spring of 1941, I think it was the latter part of March, I went to Oklahoma City from my hometown in Weatherford, Oklahoma, in the western part of the state, to become chairman of what is known as the Political Prisoners Committee in order to do publicity work and help in the defense of, well they were, I think there were nine people charged with their criminal syndicalism. Four of them were tried. In each instance each either admitted or it was fairly well proved that they were members of the Communist Party. One of them was openly the State Secretary of the Communist Party in Oklahoma.

But the charge was, well the principle for which I came to their defense, there were very few people in Oklahoma who would do it, was that of selling books. They sold MARXIST literature as well as a lot of other stuff. The Oklahoma County Police, if I remember right, confiscated - the Oklahoma County Sheriff confiscated some ten thousand books, and I went to their defense and became Chairman of the Political Prisoners Committee.

Q. What was the entire name of that committee?

A. I think that is the entire name of it, the Oklahoma Political Prisoners Committee.

Q. Was that connected with the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners?

A. No, it was purely a local committee.

Q. What was your interest in this committee, Mr. FRIESEN?

A. Well I had, I had what I considered more or less of a liberal background, and before I assumed this position, which took me before the public eye as chairman of this committee, I went into it rather thoroughly and the issue to me did not seem to be one of Communism at all. The people who were prosecuting this case there had a book burning in which a certain [...], conducted a book burning. I forget where in the hell it was, but it was out on Eastern Avenue in Oklahoma City in rodeo grounds or something, and his forces raided this book store which the Communists ran on East Grand Avenue and piled his books up and set fires to them. Well, in my mind it was exactly and precisely the same damn thing that was happening in Berlin. The books which were burnt, were burned, were by the same authors and same titles, and I looked further into it and this [...] who was conducting the G-- d--- thing had the background of the Silver Shirts in California, had been associated with the Party, and the guy who was pressing the charges was an Assistant County Attorney by the name of [...] who was connected with the Coughlinites, who in my mind along with [...] were trying to institute Fascism into countries which were interrelated, and not a question of Communism at all but a question of Fascism.

Q. Were you compensated for your activity in that committee?

A. I was not compensated to any great degree, no.

Q. By whom were you paid for the compensation you did receive?

A. The committee appealed for funds in order to carry on the defense, and from these funds I received enough to just keep alive. There was no set sum whatsoever. I wrote a pamphlet for them.

Q. What was the title of this pamphlet?

A. The name was "Oklahoma Witch Hunt".

Q. Did you receive any payment resulting from the sale of that pamphlet?

A. Well, I received a certain sum for writing it. It was considered more or less freelance work on my part.

Q. By whom were you reimbursed?

A. I was reimbursed from funds taken in by the Oklahoma Political Prisoners Committee. We had a number of contributors in the bulk of the state of Oklahoma. People who were afraid to get out in the public eye and make their names known, but were prepared to contribute funds in order to carry on the work we were doing, which they were convinced was a defense of the American Bill of Rights, the violation of which in this case might ultimately lead to Fascism.

Q. Have you ever registered to vote as a member of the Communist Party?

A. No, I have not.

Q. Did you ever sign a petition for Communist Party candidates?

A. I don't recall that I ever did. During that time in Oklahoma, I was answering your question, I did attend a number of Communist Party meetings because people we were fighting for were Communists and I wanted to find out what in the h--- they were up to and so forth. I don't recall where, but I did attend several of them.

Q. Did you distribute any Communist literature?

A. No, I never did.

Q. Have you ever written any Communist literature?

A. No, I never have. However, I wrote this pamphlet called the "Oklahoma Witch Hunt" to which I signed my name, and which I was thoroughly convinced was the right thing to do at the time, and which I am still convinced was right.

Q. Do you have anything further to say concerning the questions I put to you? Any statement you would like to put on the record?

A. Well, I think I pretty well stated my position, at least during that particular period, and it is added because of the convictions I held before I went to Oklahoma City to take up the defense of the Communists, and convictions which I maintained ever since. In fact, I quit a secure job in Detroit and turned down more money in order to come to New York City and work for the Office of War Information for basically the same convictions. The whole thing is a fight against Fascism, and somebody's got to do it.

I would like to add, the Oklahoma fight was all four of these people were convicted in very short order. However, the Oklahoma State Court of Criminal Appeals reversed these convictions on virtually the same grounds on which we fought for them. I think they were exactly or more or less the same. All four of them are free at the time. Two of them are in the Army, one of them in France, and the third one, there were three men and one woman, [...] are both in the Army. [...] is in France. [...] was registered as a psycho-neurotic 4-F because he made the mistake of taking his examination in Oklahoma where the old prejudices still apparently played a dominate part in his case. Otherwise, I think he would have been in the Army for the past sixteen months. The point I was trying to make was that the Oklahoma Court of Appeals upheld the same things I was in their employment for.

/s/ Gordon E. Friesen

April 10, 1945 - I have never in my life advocated the overthrow of the U.S. Government by force and violence nor have I ever belonged to any organization advocating such. -- Gordon Friesen.

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