Robert Henry Best
Robert Henry Best (April 16, 1896 – December 16, 1952) was an American broadcaster of Nazi propaganda during World War II. He was convicted of treason in 1948 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Best was born in Sumter, South Carolina, a son of Rev. Albert Hartwell Best, a Methodist minister. After graduating from Wofford College in 1917, he joined the Coast Artillery in October 1917. He was commissioned in 1918 and stayed in the U.S. Army until 1920. He then went to the School of Journalism at Columbia University, graduating in 1922.
With the money from a $1,500 Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship, he then traveled extensively in Europe, arriving in Vienna in 1923 where he settled and found work as a foreign freelance news correspondent for the United Press. He also contributed articles to The New York Times, Chicago Daily News, Time and Newsweek. Best gradually fell under Nazi influence following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, the Anschluss, on March 12, 1938.
In July 1941, United Press fired him for ‘nonperformance’, thus putting him in financial difficulties. He then made an approach to German State Radio for employment, but with no immediate success.
Propaganda for Nazi Germany
When the United States declared war on Nazi Germany on December 11, 1941, Best was arrested along with other U.S. reporters and held for deportation at an internment camp in Bad Nauheim. There he decided to withdraw from the group of exchangeable Americans and remain with his fiancée Erna Maurer, an Austrian reporter for the Associated Press, whom he later married on September 2, 1942.
Best then received permission to travel to Berlin unaccompanied where he met Werner Plack, a member of the Radio Division of the Foreign Office, who recruited him as a commentator for German State Radio.
In April 1942, Best began as a news editor and commentator for the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft, German State Radio, working in the U.S.A Zone. He broadcast talks to the U.S. under the pseudonym of ‘Mr. Guess Who’ presenting ‘B.B.B.’(Best’s Berlin Broadcasts). His primary propaganda targets were President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, the Jews and the Soviet Union. Recordings of some of Best's broadcasts may be found in Record Group 60 General Records of the Department of Justice—Sound Recordings at the National Archives, Washington, DC.
Best was notable for continuously making suggestions to his superiors of ways to heighten the effectiveness of German propaganda warfare.
Best was arrested on January 29, 1946 by British forces in Carinthia, Austria and handed over to the US Army. He was then flown to the United States to stand trial, arriving in Massachusetts on December 14, 1946.
On July 26, 1943, Best along with Fred W. Kaltenbach, Douglas Chandler, Edward Delaney, Constance Drexel, Jane Anderson, Max Otto Koischwitz and Ezra Pound was indicted in absentia by a District of Columbia grand jury on charges of treason.
Best was arraigned on January 20, 1947 and stood trial at the Boston Federal District Court on March 29, 1948. He acted as his own lawyer before Judge Francis Ford. The witnesses at his trial included Princess Sofia zur Lippe-Weissenfeld of Austria.
On April 16, 1948, he was convicted of 12 counts of treason, with the jury's special finding that he actually gave ‘aid and comfort to the enemy’. He had admitted in court the authorship of his broadcasts. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.00.
He appealed his conviction in 1950 (Best v. United States., 184 F.2d 131 (1st Cir. 1950). Best again acted as his own lawyer. The appeal court affirmed the judgment of the District Court. Best further appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which refused to review the treason conviction on February 27, 1951.
He served his sentence at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. On August 12, 1951, he was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. Best died there of a brain hemorrhage on December 16, 1952, and was buried at the Pacolet Methodist Church Cemetery, Pacolet, South Carolina, on December 21, 1952. Buried beside him is his sister Miss Louise Best (1892-1966) who was a long-time Methodist missionary and honorary citizen of Brazil. Interestingly, fellow Nazi propagandist Herbert John Burgman died at the same prison as Best on the first anniversary of Best's death.
- Jane Anderson (Nazi collaborator)
- Herbert John Burgman
- Douglas Chandler
- Donald S. Day
- Edward Leo Delaney
- Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury
- United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners
- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,774273,00.html The Press: Worst Best – TIME Magazine, February 15, 1943
- http://news.google.co.uk/newspapers?id=-F0sAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GMsEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6890,2156697&dq=robert-henry-best&hl=en FORMER SPARTAN CHOOSES TO STAY IN NAZI GERMANY - Herald-Journal, May 24, 1942
- http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=EP19420525.2.87 U.S. JOURNALIST STAYS ON IN GERMANY - Evening Post, 25 May 1942
- "A Finding Aid to Audiovisual Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to World War II".
- http://news.google.co.uk/newspapers?id=Wa4qAAAAIBAJ&sjid=lmQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4096,1529697&dq=robert-henry-best&hl=en AMERICANS INDICTED AS TRAITORS - Sarasota Herald-Tribune, July 28, 1943
- http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0916F83455157B93C1A9178FD85F4C8485F9&scp=5&sq=%22Robert%20H.%20Best%22&st=cse BEST'S JURY HEARS HIS TALK FOR NAZIS; Impeaching of Roosevelt, Suing for Peace by U.S. Urged in Recorded Broadcast – NY Times, April 03, 1948
- http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30C10FF3F59157A93CAA9178FD85F4C8485F9&scp=1&sq=Sofia%20zur%20Lippe-Weissenfeld&st=cse PRINCESS TESTIFIES AGAINST ROBERT BEST – NY Times, April 08, 1948
- http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F4071EF83954177A93C3A9178CD85F4C8485F9&scp=4&sq=%22Robert%20H.%20Best%22&st=cse Best Sentenced to Life as Traitor In His War Broadcasts for Nazis – NY Times, July 01, 1948
- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,798450,00.html TREASON: None Too Good – TIME Magazine, April 26, 1948
- http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Issue/straitstimes19510228.aspx - U.P. syndicated report
- http://news.google.co.uk/newspapers?id=nYkRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=xeIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5207,4366226&dq=robert-henry-best&hl=en PORTRAIT OF A TRAITOR: - The Register-Guard, December 27, 1952
- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,822589,00.html Milestones, December 29, 1952 – TIME Magazine, December 29, 1952
- *Robert Henry Best at Find a Grave
- Louise Best at Find a Grave
- Robert Henry Best at Find a Grave
- Courtroom Battle of World War II (Part 1 of 3). contains information on the careers and fates of some of the Nazi broadcasters (including Robert Best) and other collaborators.
- Courtroom Battles of World War II (Part 2 of 3).
- Courtroom Battles of World War II (Part 3 of 3).