Service and Suspicion in the Clement and Sophie Winston Papers

[Written by Rive Cadwallader. This was the last collection she processed before graduating from the University of Pennsylvania.  Congratulations, Rive!]

Clement and Sophie Winston were, in their own estimation, “not politically active individuals”. Both were engaged in service to their country -Clement as an economic analyst at the Bureau of the Budget and Sophie as a volunteer arts instructor with the American Red Cross- yet they “never joined any groups pushing particular causes.” The couple took road trips, wrote poetry, and sent handmade birthday cards to their friends. However, their respectable vocations, political neutrality, and typical middle-class lifestyle were not sufficient to protect the Winstons from suspicion under what Clement described as the “present condition of hysteria” that pervaded the United States during the Cold War. Clement’s position at the Bureau of the Budget subjected him to scrutiny under the Executive Order 9835, signed by President Truman in 1947, which required ‘loyalty checks’ for all federal employees to ensure “maximum protection… against infiltration of disloyal persons.” The Loyalty Board initially determined that Clement held “associations with particular individuals” whose political affiliations were in question, but by December 1952, it ultimately resolved that there was “no reasonable doubt” as to Clement’s “loyalty to the government of the United States.” Clement’s correspondence from this period reveals that the process of this investigation and hearing was intensely stressful and unsettling for him. He wrote to a friend, after his hearing,

“My emotions are terribly disturbed. It seems as if I have suffered a great, great loss. It seems as if someone near and dear to me, someone who was a part of me, were forever and irretrievably lost. I feel so broken and so ashamed.”

Part of the pain that Clement felt at the suggestion of his disloyalty to the United States may have pertained to his and his family’s experiences of immigration and emigration, discrimination, and belonging, across multiple continents. The first three years of Clement’s life were spent in transition between his family’s home city of Belaya Tserkov, Russia (today, Bila Tservka, Ukraine) and Philadelphia. As Clement explained in a letter of 1939, accounting for the ambiguity surrounding the date and place of his birth, “I was born during a period of great strain for my family.” Around the turn of the century, Esther and Jacob Weinstein (later, Winston), their sons, and a few other relatives resolved to leave Russia. By 1902, they had traveled as far as Germany, when Esther (who was pregnant with Clement) and her sister became extremely ill. Esther’s sister died, and the family decided to turn back for Belaya Tserkov, during which in-between period Clement was born- whether on Russian or German soil, he was never certain. Finally, in 1905, Esther, Jacob and their three children were able to settle in Philadelphia.

While Clement Winston does not explicitly provide his parents’ reasons for emigration, their decision was likely influenced by severe anti-Semitism in Russia. Violence against Jews in Belaya Tserkov became more and more brutal in the years following the Weinstein’s emigration. The city’s Jewish community suffered from pogroms in 1905 and a massacre during the civil war of 1919 to 1920. In 1941, German Nazis and Ukrainian auxiliaries murdered the remaining Jewish population of the town. Though Clement spent all but a few years of his life in the United States, and became a citizen with his family in 1915, these tragedies probably lingered in his mind. In the shadow of such brutal and narrowly escaped discrimination in the nation of his birth, he was a strongly dedicated citizen of the United States and it would have been understandably upsetting for him to have his allegiance questioned. As Clement wrote in a poem the day after his Loyalty Board hearing, his patriotism can be measured in his dedication to the American people, and,

“In my desire to cherish & preserve
And protect these things & these people,
From any who would dare
Encroach upon them to destroy them;
These people are my people,
And these I love”

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