O. John Rogge
O. John Rogge
O. John Rogge at the time of his nomination in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be Assistant Attorney General.
Oetje John Rogge 
October 12, 1903
|Died||March 22, 1981 (aged 77)|
New York City, New York
|Alma mater||University of Illinois|
Harvard Law School
|Known for||Civil liberties activism|
|Title||Assistant Attorney General of the United States|
|Term||1939 – 1940|
|Spouse(s)||Nellie Alma Luther (m. 1926)|
Wanda Lucille Johnston (m. 1940)
|Children||Genevieve Oetjeanne Meyer and Hermann Rogge|
Oetje John Rogge (German pronunciation: [ˈiːtʃi dʒɔn ˈɹɔɡə]) (October 12, 1903 – March 22, 1981) was an American attorney who prosecuted cases for the United States government, investigated Nazi activities in the United States, and in private practice was associated with civil rights and left-wing political causes.
Oetje John Rogge was born on a farm near Springfield, Illinois, on October 12, 1903, to German immigrant parents. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1922 where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and earned a law degree at Harvard, where he was on the Law Review, in 1925. He worked in private practice for several years before returning to Harvard for a year in 1930-1931 and earning his Doctor of Juristic Science degree.
Rogge entered government service in 1934, working for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation until 1937, where he became special counsel. He held the same title at the Treasury Department and served for two years as assistant general counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In May 1939, Rogge became assistant attorney general and headed the Justice Department's criminal division. On December 3, 1940, President Roosevelt wrote to Attorney General Robert H. Jackson: "I have been getting a lot of complaints about our friend Rogge–that he is a self-seeker and that he is overbearing." Rogge married Wanda Johnston in Des Moines, Iowa, on December 15, and while on his honeymoon announced plans to leave the Justice Department to become special counsel for the trustees of the Associated Gas and Electric Company, where he was tasked with handling litigation arising from the company's 1933 refinancing.
In 1943, Rogge returned to the Justice Department as a special assistant to the Attorney General and in 1944 served as prosecutor in the federal government's prosecution of 29 isolationist and Nazi sympathizers, a case that ended in a mistrial after the death of the judge.
While he was preparing for that case, a member of the U.S. prosecution team at the Nuremberg trials told him that in Germany he would find evidence of direct links between the Nazi government and prominent Americans. He left for Europe on April 4 and conducted an investigation that included conversations with 66 people, including Göring and von Ribbentrop. The report that Rogge authored disturbed Attorney General Tom Clark, who determined it would have to remain a secret internal document because of the prominent names it mentioned, including that of Sen. Burton Wheeler, a friend of Clark. Within days of Clark's decision, syndicated columnist Drew Pearson, reported details from Rogge's report. Pearson likely obtained a copy of Rogge's work indirectly from Clark, who could then blame Rogge for making the information public.
Rogge used his report as the basis for his public denunciations of the continuing fascist threat to the United States. On October 14, 1946, in a New York City speech, he said: "The removal of Hitler and Mussolini and a few of their collaborators does not mean that fascism is dead. Now the fascists can take a more subtle disguise, they can come forward and simply say 'I am anti-Communist.'" Speaking to a political science class at Swarthmore College on October 22, Rogge described Nazi efforts to defeat FDR's re-election in 1936, 1940, and 1944. He identified John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers and William Rhodes Davis, a business executive in the oil industry, as the Nazis' principal targets in the U.S. and detailed the cooperation between those two. He called the Nazi plan to get Lewis to oppose FDR in 1940 "a fantastic scheme".
Clark dismissed Rogge from his position at the Justice Department with a letter saying Rogge had "willfully violated the long-standing rules and regulations" of the Justice Department by revealing the contents of internal documents. Clark wrote that Rogge failed to keep a commitment he made to Clark on the morning of the Swarthmore speech when they discussed what had appeared in Pearson's column in which, by Clark's account, Rogge agreed not to discuss his report of Nazi activities. Rogge issued a statement that he had an entirely different understanding of their conversation. He said he intended to continue speaking publicly about the dangers of fascism and criticized recent decisions of the Justice Department: "The country has a crying need for more statesmen and fewer politicians."
The Administration's policy seems doubly dangerous when one recalls that J. Edgar Hoover has been completely free to tell about the insidious activities of the Communists. I am glad he is, but I would judge that his speeches were based on official files just as mine were.
In October 1947, Rogge started his own firm based in New York City and Paris to focus on corporate law practice and tax work.
He served as defense attorney for some of the defendants charged with contempt of Congress for withholding records of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. In November 1947, he attacked Clark, claiming that he was "leaking to picked newspaper men" reports about the special Federal grand jury investigation of subversive activities then sitting in New York. He called it "the most porous grand jury investigation in Justice Department history." In 1948, on behalf of the Committee, he filed suit in federal district court challenging the constitutionality of Truman's Executive Order 9835, which had provided the government with authority for listing the Committee on the Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations.
Rogge lectured at the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace in 1949.
Hired by the Civil Rights Congress, Rogge served as one of three defense attorneys appealing the convictions of the Trenton Six, African Americans convicted by an all-white jury of the murder of an elderly white shopkeeper. In December 1949, after winning them a new trial, he and the other attorneys were banned from participation in their re-trial because, the trial judge explained, "your conduct throughout has been consistently in violation of one or more of some seven canons of professional ethics." Rogge said the judge's action "extends the reign of terror imposed on lawyers who defend the unorthodox and the weak."
In 1951, Rogged joined other lawyers in defending 17 Communist Party members, including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. The communists were accused of charged conspiring to "teach and advocate violent overthrow" of the government. Original lawyers were: Abraham L. Pomerantz, Carol Weiss King, Victor Rabinowitz, Michael Begun, Harold I. Cammer, Mary Kaufman, Leonard Boudin, and Abraham Unger. Later, a judge replaced them with Rogge, gangster Frank Costello's lawyer George Wolf, William W. Kleinman, Joseph L. Delaney, Frank Serri, Osmond K. Fraenkel, Henry G. Singer, Abraham J. Gellinoff, Raphael P. Koenig, and Nicholas Atlas.
In July 1948, Rogge filed to run for Surrogate of New York County as the candidate of the American Labor Party. He supported Henry A. Wallace when he ran for president as the candidate of the Progressive Party in 1948. When the party's members fought over accepting the support of Communists, Rogge took the position that the party needed to draw a clear line that established its independence from Communist influence.
In 1951, he left the American Labor Party after two years as a member and registered as a Democrat. He remained a member of the executive committee of the Progressive Party.
In 1949, in contentious testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rogge sharply attacked the nomination of Attorney General Clark to a seat on the Supreme Court. He condemned him for issuing lists of subversive organizations in an attempt to "out-Dies the Dies Committee", for maintaining "blacklists", approving extensive wire-tapping, and promoting "a loyalty witch hunt" and "a cold war against anyone who engaged in independent thinking." He said Clark's appointment represented the "erection of an American type of fascism."
Continued legal efforts
On October 10, 1949, as part of a delegation from the National Non-Partisan Committee that included Paul Robeson, he visited the Department of Justice asking that the indictments against twelve Communist leaders be quashed.
In 1950, Rogge was a member of the Peace Information Center, a short-lived anti-war organization that provided information on peace initiatives in other countries and promoted the Stockholm Appeal, a call for an absolute ban on nuclear weapons.
In June 1950, David Greenglass, a former employee at the Los Alamos nuclear center, was arrested on charges of passing information about the atomic bomb to Soviet agents. Rogge took over the defense of Greenglass and his wife Ruth, who was also accused, though never indicted. Greenglass confessed his involvement and implicated his sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were convicted of espionage and sentenced to death in 1951. At Greenglass's sentencing hearing, Rogge repeatedly told the court his client deserved "a pat on the back" for his testimony and argued that a light sentence, no more than five years, would encourage others to follow his example. Greenglass received a 15-year prison sentence. Of Rogge's role in arranging for Greenglass to testify against the Rosenbergs Roy Cohn later wrote: "Without John Rogge there might not have been a successful prosecution. Indeed, it is not too much to say that Mr. Rogge broke the Rosenberg case. Which is the very definition of irony."
When local authorities tried to close a Times Square movie theater on the grounds that it had violated a State statute that banned the public display of "nudity, sexual conduct and sado-masochistic activities," Rogge defended the theater owner's choice of films as free expression protected by the First Amendment. He lost the case in 1971.
Personal and death
On December 15, 1939, Rogge married Wanda Johnston in Des Moines, Iowa.
At his death on March 22, 1981, he lived in Stamford, Connecticut. He died of cancer at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. His second wife, the former Wanda Lucille Johnston, and two children survived him.
- Our Vanishing Civil Liberties (NY: Gaer Associates, 1949)
- Why Men Confess (NY: Thomas Nelson, 1959)
- "Unenumerated Rights", 47 Cal. L. Rev. 787 (1959)
- The First and the Fifth: with some excursions into others (NY: Thomas Nelson, 1960)
- Obscenity Litigation in 10 American Jurisprudence Trials (1965)
- Infobox information is from Who Was Who in America, V. VII, 1977-1981. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1981. p. 489. ISBN 0-8379-0210-X.
- New York Times: David Bird, "O. John Rogge, 77, Anti-Nazi Activist," March 23, 1981, accessed June 18, 2012. For education details and early career, see: New York Times: "O.J. Rogge is Named to M'Mahon Post," May 20, 1939, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: "Rogge Resigns Post on Jackson's Staff," December 20, 1940, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: "O.J. Rogge is Named to M'Mahon Post," May 20, 1939, accessed June 18, 2012. On SEC activity see also: New York Times: "More Data Sought by SEC on Giannini," February 8, 1939, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: Raymond Daniell, "Income Tax Cases Sped in Louisiana," July 27, 1939, accessed June 18, 2012. Rogge "became a Paul Bunyan of the grand jury system. He ruined more reputations and more businesses, cracked apart more fortunes than the genius Huey himself." Harriet Kane, Louisiana Hayride, p. ?
- McMahon, Kevin J. (2004). Reconsidering Roosevelt on Race: How the Presidency Paved the Road to Brown. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 162, n. 62. ISBN 0-226-50088-8.
- New York Times: "O.J. Rogge Weds in Iowa," December 16, 1940, accessed June 18, 1940
- "Rogge Resigns Post on Jackson's Staff" (PDF). New York Times. December 20, 1940. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
- New York Times: "Jury is Selected in Sedition Trial," May 17, 1944, accessed June 18, 2012; New York Times: Nancy MacLennan, "Tumult is Raised in Sedition Trial," May 18, 1944, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: "Rogge Ties Lewis to Nazis in Politics," October 23, 1946, accessed June 18, 2012
- Dale Harrington, Mystery Man: William Rhodes Davis, Nazi Agent of Influence (Bussey's, 1999), 205
- Harrington, Mystery Man, 206, 208
- Harrington, Mystery Man, 207
- New York Times: "B'nai B'rith Wins Award from Navy," October 14, 1946, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: "Clark Ousts Rogge for Speech Linking Americans with Nazis," October 26, 1946, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: "Rogge Calls Aim Exposing Fascism," October 27, 1946, accessed June 18, 2012
- Harrington, Mystery Man, 209
- Rogge, Oetje John (1961). The Official German Report: Nazi penetration, 1924–1942. T. Yoseloff.
- U.S. v. McWilliams and U.S. v. Winrod et al.
- New York Times: "John Rogge Heads Law Firm," October 7, 1947, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: "Rogge Says Clark Plans 'Witch Hunt'," November 8, 1947, accessed June 18, 2012
- Abbott, Roger S. (June 1948). "The Federal Loyalty Program: Background and Problems". American Political Science Association. 42 (3): 492–4. JSTOR 1949912.
- Kahn, Marion Jacobs (2008). Chile of Madness. Minneapolis: Bascom Hill Publishing. p. 156.
- New York Times: "Three New York Lawyers Barred in Jersey for Murder Case Tactics," December 17, 1949, accessed June 18, 2012
- "Judge Relieves Defense Aides In Red Trial". Washington Post. 9 August 1951. p. 2.
- "Former Federal Legal Light Addresses Guild". Columbia Spectator. 24 October 1947. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
- "Guide to the National Lawyers Guild Records TAM.191". Tamiment Library. September 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
- New York Times: Warren Moscow, "ALP Retains Rogge in Surrogate Race," July 28, 1948, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: "3 Ex-Candidates Drop out of A.L.P.," January 11, 1951, accessed June 18, 2012
- Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities (July 31 through September 9, 1948). U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). September 1948. pp. 915 (introduction), 920 (objects).
- New York Times: Lewis Wood, "Clark is Accused by Rogge, Ex-Aide," August 11, 1949, accessed June 18, 2012
- New York Times: Bess Furman, "Quashing of Case Sought for Reds," October 11, 1949, accessed June 18, 2012
- Hevesi, Dennis (July 9, 2008). "Ruth Greenglass, Key Witness in Trial of Rosenbergs, Dies at 83". New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- "Atom Spy, Wife Must Die; 3rd Defendant Gets 30 Yrs". Trenton (N.J.) Evening Times. April 6, 1951. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- Conklin, William R. (April 7, 1951). "Greenglass Gets 15 Years; Judge Recognizes Spy's Aid" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
- Cohn, Roy (1988). The Autobiography of Roy Cohn. Lyle Stuart. p. 71.
- "People v. Lou Bern Broadway, November 9, 1971". Leagle. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Communists: New Client", Time, June 12, 1950]
- Sam Roberts, The Brother: The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent his Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair (Random House, 2001)
- Deery, Phillip (2014). Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York. Fordham University Press.