Special Trustees Committee to Investigate the Charges of Lienhard Bergel Records
Scope and Content Note
The Special Trustees Committee to Investigate the Charges of Lienhard Bergel files, RG 03-C2, span the years 1929-1936, with the bulk of the documents having been generated during the course of the Committee's hearings from the spring through the summer of 1935. These files contain documents relating to the investigation in general, the hearings in particular, the Committee's final reports, and the involvement of various non-University persons and organizations during the course of the affair in the mid-1930s.
Document types include correspondence, statements, reports, stenographic transcripts, notes, telegrams, magazines, pamphlets, and newsclippings.
These files are not comprehensive of all related materials available during the period in question, and a number of other record groups may be consulted. It should be noted that what appears in these files was gathered over a very short period of time (from May to August, 1935) and illustrates only what the Special Trustees Committee used in its brief dealing with the case. While these files are inclusive of some non-University documents (usually among the "exhibits"), there are lacking certain key areas of information available from University records themselves, such as overall budget profiles of the College at that time, information pertaining to the University "anti-nepotism" ruling, or any Board of Trustees material addressing Bergel's "Petition of Appeal" which immediately followed delivery of the Committee's report. One could say that the Special Trustees Committee files are reasonably comprehensive, however, regardless of the limited number of issues the Committee selected in delivering its final report.
2.0 Cubic Feet (5 manuscript boxes)
Language of Materials
The Special Trustees Committee to Investigate the Charges of Lienhard Bergel files contain materials related to a series of 1935 hearings held at Rutgers University. The charges stemmed from the dismissal of Professor Lienhard Bergel from the faculty of the New Jersey College for Women German Department. Bergel, an opponent of fascism, accused deparment chairman Friedrich Hauptmann of making his decision based on his pro-Nazi sentiment. After the American Civil Liberties Union became involved in Bergel's case, Rutgers President Robert C. Clothier created a five-member Special Trustees Committee to hear Bergel's claims and establish a final decision. The resulting hearings, which began on May 21, 1935 and lasted two months, ended in a decision in Hauptmann's favor. The files, which include a partial transcript of the hearings themselves, are divided into three series, I. Hearing Files, II. Committee Hearings, and III. Newsclippings.
Biographical / Historical
Chronology of Events
- May 11, 1935
- Due to pressures from both within and without the University, President Robert C. Clothier appoints the Special Trustees Committee to investigate Leinhard Bergel's charge that he was dismissed as a New Jersey College for Women instructor of German due to his political views. He names J. Edward Ashmead as chair of the Special Committee.
- May 15-18, 1935
- President Clothier sends out letters to faculty and students asking them to submit evidence or mandatorily summoning them to appear for testimony.
- May 21, 1935
- First of 29 hearings held, at 2:00 pm, in the Trustees Room of Old Queens. Bergel, and later, Harold Archer Van Dorn and several students, take the witness stand and are examined by Committee members and NJ Assemblyman Samuel Pesin.
- May 23 & July 5, 1935
- Mary Atwood, a witness in Bergel's behalf, is examined by Committee members and Hauptmann's attorney.
- May 24, 1935
- Ruth Wagner, a witness in Bergel's behalf, is examined by Committee members.
- May 31, 1935
- Evelyn Lehman, a witness in Hauptmann's behalf, is examined by Committee members and Bergel's attorney.
- June 21, 1935
- Sidney J. Kaplan, Bergel's attorney, proposed "amicable compromise and settlement" to Committee, with provisions for temporary reappointment of Bergel.
- July 11-13, 1935
- Bergel takes the stand and is questioned by Committee members.
- July 20, 1935
- President Clothier requests of Ashmead that the Committee "conclude their labors promptly…" for reasons of vacation and other business.
- July 23, 1935
- Final hearing held.
- August 9, 1935
- Committee agrees to and signs final version of its report.
- August 13, 1935
- President Clothier sends final version of Committee report to Pandick Press in New York City (hand-delivered by Earl Schenck Miers of Rutgers Department of Alumni and Public Relations).
- August 17, 1935
- President Clothier formally announces that Committee has completed its report, and sends copies to certain persons.
- August 19, 1935
- Bergel delivers a "Petition of Appeal" to the Board of Trustees.
- October 11, 1935
- Trustees ratify Committee report and reject Bergel's petition.
- December 19, 1935
- Ashmead returns exhibits submitted by Bergel to him.
- November 25, 1936
- Ashmead's death ends six-year term as trustee.
Incidents prior to formation of the Ashmead Committee and not listed here are summarized in the penultimate chapter of the Committee's report. It should also be noted that although 110 witnesses testified as the hearings, only those listed in the chronology can be ascribed to particular dates, due to incompleteness of the court stenographer's transcriptions.
Over the years these files were often consulted, and as a result came to show an arrangement that contrasted with the accession list that originally accompanied them. That list showed a certain logic and has been adhered to in the current arrangement: folders have been restored to the order on this list. However, files relating to the Committee report proper were deemed a series unto themselves and shifted to a position following the hearing files, while newsclippings were allowed to remain at the rear of the files. Additionally, the contents of the original six manuscript boxes were condensed to fill five manuscript boxes, and all newsclippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper.
Records of the Special Trustees Committee are arranged into three series.
- I. Hearing Files
- II. Committee Reports
- III. Newsclippings
- McCormick, Richard P. Rutgers: A Bicentennial History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966
- Oshinsky, David M., McCormick, Richard P., and Horn, Daniel. The Case of the Nazi Professor. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989
- Schmidt, George P. Douglass College: A History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1968
- McCormick, Richard P. Rutgers: A Bicentennial History. New Brunswick, NJ:Rutgers University Press,1966
- Oshinsky, David M., McCormick, Richard P., and Horn, Daniel. The Case of the Nazi Professor. New Brunswick, NJ:Rutgers University Press,1989
- Schmidt, George P. Douglass College: A History. New Brunswick, NJ:Rutgers University Press,1968
- Academic freedom--New Jersey--History--20th Century
- Civil rights--New Jersey--New Brunswick
- College teachers--New Jersey--Dismissal--History--20th Century
- Education, Higher--New Jersey
- Fascism--New Jersey--History--20th Century
- Politics and education--New Jersey--History--20th Century
- Rutgers University--History
- Inventory to the Records of the Special Trustees Committee to Investigate the Charges of Lienhard Bergel, 1934-1935 RG 03/C2
- Edited Full Draft
- Mitchell Greenberg
- May 1987
- Language of description note
- Finding aid is written inEnglish.
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