Press and Sun-Bulletin/December 16, 1946
A few days ago a startling story broke in the papers under an Atlanta dateline concerning a secret organization called the Columbians, which appears to be anti-Semitic and anti-Negro. At worst it is a rather juvenile group and quite small, for it claimed only 5,400 members and those who exposed it said it had only 500.
The “break” of the news story was contrived in dramatic fashion, revealing a professional touch. The only ground for the startling allegations was the “confessions” of two young backsliders, 18 and 21. On the basis of the printed allegations, I doubt that anyone will be convicted of a crime and I note particularly that no crimes were charged and no arrests were made.
IF THIS is a sinister and dangerous organization, however, it obviously is petty by comparison with the outfit which arranged the expose.
That organization is the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League of New York. It was organized in 1933 to boycott Hitler’s Germany and, by other means, to oppose the rise of Hitlerism. In the years since, it has become, by its own boast in the Atlanta case, a secret, private espionage system.
It plants its agents in positions of trust in private employment to filch confidential information and betray it to the league and to photograph private correspondence and other documents for any purpose that suits the individuals who run the league. It is reasonably comparable to the German Gestapo and the late Russian O. G. P. U.
IT HAS NO official equal in the agencies of the United States Government, which even to this day do not include a “secret police” service of this type. Not even the FBI, the intelligence departments of the army and navy or the authorized investigators of legally qualified committees of Congress have the right to plant secret agents in the offices of private groups, whether political or fraternal, to photograph or copy their private papers and to make public information obtained in this way.
The Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League has absolutely no standing as an official agency of any branch of the government nor does it present itself to the public as a secret police or detective agency. It operates in the guise of a group opposed to Hitlerian and similar methods of secret terorism through methods amounting to moral and political blackmail. In the Atlanta case, nevertheless, its agents boastfully told of their cleverness in worming their way into a private group. The Columbians may prove to have used illegal methods to obtain illegal results, but in any case, they should have been investigated by the authorized police of Atlanta or the state of Georgia or by the FBI.
THE NON-SECTARIAN Anti-Nazi League has no more right to employ the methods that it did employ against the Columbians than it has to do the same thing to the Masons, the Knights of Columbus, to any innocent, law-abiding family or any business organization. Nevertheless, it may be doing just that. The public can’t know what it is doing, because it is a privately operated secret service.
The active director of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League is James H. Sheldon, of New York, known as “Doctor” Sheldon. He was listed as a member of the National Committee of the American Committee for Struggle Against War, an immediate forerunner of the American League Against War and Fascism, which in turn dissolved into the American League for Peace and Democracy.
He was active in the League Against War and Fascism, which the Dies Committee classified as a Communist front in the United States.
ONE PURPOSE of this league was to stop the manufacture of munitions and other materials for war, by violent methods. It does not appear that Sheldon himself is or ever was a Communist. But, like many others, he has become an inveterate committeeman and executive director of “activities.”
The president of the league is Herman Hoffman and the treasurer is Isidore Lipschutz. Lipschutz is a refugee diamond broker from Belgium who appears to be either a rich man in his own right or to have large financial backing.