Feb 19

Yesterday, I received a nice note from Linda Zises, one of Harold Glasser’s daughters. Glasser, as many of you might know, was a Treasury Department official during the New Deal who was later accused of being a Communist and an espionage agent. The National Security Agency stated in its Venona releases that Glasser was an agent codenamed “Ruble” by the Soviets. Historians such as Allen Weinstein and John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr have echoed those claims. But there is considerable evidence to the contrary. Some of it comes from Glasser himself, who was especially impressive in his testimony before the grand jury in 1949. I’m not going to go into all that here, because a new Web site being launched soon will be investigating these charges in detail. What I did want to pass one was Linda’s note, which I found to be both revealing and touching. Too often historians who level charges don’t bother to investigate the human aspect of those they accuse. It’s a shame, too, because not only do they leave readers with half the story, they also miss important clues that may help reveal the truth. The best example I can give you of a book that explores the subject’s personality to help reveal the truth about the charges is Tony Hiss’s “The View From Alger’s Window.”

Here’s part of what Linda had to say about her father:

“Dad was known as the little kid on the block in South Side of Chicago where he grew up.  In the violent crime ridden streets  he was protected by his five older brothers.  He grew up in the world depicted in the James Farrell novel, “Studs Lonigan.” At the age of 16, he started school at the University of Chicago. He went to the university carrying the kosher lunch packed by his mother until one day, before  class, he threw the lunch in the trash and that ended his identification with the orthodox Jewish community. He became  a lifelong  ‘non believer.’

“He graduated and then went on to do graduate work at Harvard.  He left Harvard before completing his degree to go to work for the federal government.


“He had an extraordinary sense of humor and he loved to relate stories to his children.  One of his most enjoyable one was the time John Foster Dulles saw him walking back to their hotel from an important meeting.  Dulles asked him if he would like a lift.  And HG answered “No, I prefer to walk”. That was his arrogance coming to the fore. He was arrogant, yet often humble.  He was funny and enjoyed the ironies of life.  At his fiftieth wedding anniversary he announced  “Everything I did, everything I achieved politically in my life time has been undone.”  This was not an angry an speaking, nor a depressed man.  He was amused.

“He died at the age of 88, soon to be 89.  Even in the nursing home, when he was unable to speak or to smile, when it came to his recreation time it took two strong nurses to hold him back when they loosened the restraining straps, because he would run down the hallway to recreation, a nurse on either side trying to hold him back.  He was always rebellious, always the one to set a precedent.  He was never a spy.  He would never risk doing anything that wasn’t legal.

“ ‘Ruble be damned,’ he would have said and laughed.”

Both Linda and her sister said Glasser and his wife associated with radicals and the Party, as did many people during the Depression, but that their father, aside from being arrogant, was extremely independent and would never kowtow to anyone or any one philosophy. Both also said he was never a Party member and never a spy.

Photo: Courtesy LIFE photo archive hosted by Google

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