Samuel Dickstein (February 5, 1885 – April 22, 1954) was a Jew Democratic Congressional Representative from New York, paid agent of the NKVD and a New York State Supreme Court Justice. He played a key role in establishing the committee that would become the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which he used to attack American nationalists which he perceived to be "National Socialist sympathizers".
Early life and career
Dickstein was born into a Jewish family living near Vilnius in present-day Lithuania. He emigrated to the United States in 1887 with his parents, who settled in New York City. There he attended public and private schools in New York City, the College of the City of New York, and graduated from the New York City Law School in 1906. He was admitted to the bar in 1908 and commenced law practice in New York City. He served as special deputy attorney general of the State of New York from 1911–1914, member of the board of aldermen in 1917, member of the State Assembly 1919–1922. He served as a member of the Democratic County Committee and was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-eighth Congress and was reelected eleven times. He resigned from Congress on December 30, 1945. He served as Chairman on the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization (Seventy-second through Seventy-ninth Congresses).
During his tenure as Chairman of the Committee on Naturalization and Immigration, Dickstein became aware of growing Anti-Semitism along with vast amounts of anti-Semitic literature being distributed in the country. This led him to independently investigate the activities of American nationalist organizations and other groups he determined to be fascist in nature. His investigations led him to introduced a resolution calling for the formation of a special committee to probe un-American activities in the United States. The "Dickstein Resolution" (H.R. #198) was passed in March 1934, with John William McCormack named Chairman and Samuel Dickstein Vice-Chairman. Dickstein had refused the chairmanship of the Committee, feeling that his Jewish ancestry might have an adverse effect on the proceedings.
Throughout the rest of 1934, the Special Committee on Un-American Activities conducted hearings, bringing before it most of the major figures in the American nationalist movement. He was instrumental in establishing the temporary Select Committee on Un-American Activities (the 'Dies Committee') with Martin Dies, Jr. as chairman, in 1938 to investigate fascist and Communist groups in the United States.
Later the same committee was renamed the House Committee on Un-American Activities when it shifted attention to Communist organizations and was made a standing committee in 1945.
In his 2000 book The Haunted Wood, writer Allen Weinstein stated that documents discovered in 1990s in the Moscow archives showed Dickstein was paid $1250 a month from 1937 to early 1940 by the NKVD, the Soviet spy agency, which hoped to get secret Congressional information on anti-Communist and pro-fascist forces. According to Weinstein, whether Dickstein provided any intelligence is not certain; when he left the Committee the Soviets dropped him from the payroll.
The 2009 book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, explains the methodology and circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the information about Dickstein in the Weinstein book. Vassiliev was given access by the SVR in the 1990s to the 1920-30 operational files of Soviet civilian intelligence operations in America.
Dickstein later served as a Justice on the New York State Supreme Court until his death in New York City.
- Morrison, David (1999). Heroes, antiheroes, and the Holocaust. Jerusalem, New York: Gefen Publishing House, 120. ISBN 9652292109.
- Weinstein, Allen; Vassiliev, Alexander (2000-03-14). The Haunted Wood : Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era. New York: Modern Library, 140–150. ISBN 0-375-75536-5.