Robert Best

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Robert Henry Best (April 15, 1896 - December 16, 1952) was an American broadcaster of German propaganda during World War II. He was convicted in 1948 of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.


Best was born in Sumter, South Carolina, a son of Albert H. Best, a Methodist minister, and graduated in 1922 from Columbia University with a bachelor's degree in journalism. With money from a Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship, Best traveled to Vienna where he found work as a foreign freelance news correspondent for the United Press working out of Vienna in 1923. He contributed articles to the New York Times, Chicago Daily News, Time, and Newsweek.[1]. When Germany occupied Austria, Best remained in Vienna.

When Germany declared war on the United States in December, 1941, Best was arrested along with other U.S. reporters for deportation, but Best was allowed to remain in Vienna with his fiancee Erna Maurer, an Austrian reporter for the Associated Press in Vienna. In March 1942 Best was hired by the German Foreign Office radio division which was a National socialist propaganda machine created by Joseph Goebbels. Best began broadcasting National socialist propaganda from Germany. [2] Best's broadcasts were antisemitic and anti-Roosevelt, even though many of his former friends in Austria were Jewish. Best was one of two dozen Americans recruited at various times to broadcast to the United States from Berlin.[3]. Best's broadcasts became so strident that his National socialist supervisors took him off the air on July 14, 1942. On September 2, 1942 he married Erna Maurer who was then 41 years old. Best was 46.

On July 26, 1943, a Federal grand jury in Washington D.C. indicted Best (and Jane Anderson, Douglas Chandler, Edward Delaney, Constance Drexel, Fred W. Kaltenbach, Max Koischwitz and Ezra Pound)[4] in absentia for treason. After the war ended, Best was arrested on January 29, 1946 in Austria and was brought to the U.S. on March 29, 1948 for trial in Boston. Best was accused of "giving aid and comfort" to the National socialists. He acted as his own lawyer in front of judge Francis J. W. Ford. Several people testified at his trial including Princess Sofia zur Lippe-Weissenfeld of Austria. [5]

On April 16, 1948, Best was convicted of 12 counts of treason. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and began his sentence at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. His conviction was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit[6] in Best vs. USA[7] and appealed in February 1951 to the U.S. Supreme Court which refused a hearing.[8]

In August 1951, Best suffered a brain hemorrhage and was transferred to the medical center for federal prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. Best died there on December 16, 1952 and was buried in Spartanburg, South Carolina on December 21, 1952.

See also


  1. Path To Treason, page 1053
  2. New York Times, Mar 30, 1948, p 17
  3. Path To Treason, page 1056
  4. Associated Press, “8 Indicted on Charges of Treason,” Moberly Monitor-Index, 1943-07-26 at 1.
  5. New York Times, Apr 8, 1948, p 20
  6. Best v. United States, 184 F.2d 131. No.4363. United States Court of Appeals First Circuit. July 6, 1950.
  7. New York Times, Jul 9, 1950, p 24
  8. The Reno Evening Gazette, Feb 28, 1951

External links

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