The House Un-American Activities Committee conducted numerous investigations during 1951. They had concentrated on two major probes, the Communist infiltration in Hollywood and the Red foothold in defense plant areas, especially those in the Baltimore, Maryland and Boston, Massachusetts areas. Other probes concerned Communist activities in Hawaii, the Communist Party's National Farm Commission and the Sorge spy ring. Initial witnesses, union officials from the Baltimore area, refused to state whether they were Communists and declared the Committee's questions were designed to embarrass their unions. They also refused to answer many other questions and cited their rights against self-incrimination.
The Committee was at it again in 1957 and 1958. The April 18, 1958 edition of the Jewish Post in Indianapolis, Indiana carried a brief story stating that Maryland chess whiz Irving Kandel, accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee of being a Communist ringleader in Maryland, was the center of a controversy in the Maryland Chess Federation over whether he should be allowed to continue as a member...Spokesmen for two state clubs said their groups would drop out of the federation rather than play games against Kandel. Kandel, a 44-year-old member of the Maryland Chess Federation, was described by investigators for a House Un-American Activities sub-committee as one of the ringleaders of the communist conspiracy in Maryland.
In 1957 Kandel appeared before the Committee where he was identified as head of District 4 and he also invoked the fifth amendment concerning his present or past leadership of District 4. While on the witness stand he stonewalled the committee and refused to answer most questions, as was his fifth amendment right.
When one witness was asked, “Did Comrade Kandel take over on the issue of desanctification of Stalin?” the reply was, “I believe his name has just now entered the discussion. Kandel, I might point out, was introduced to me as the head of the party in the State of Maryland.”
Q: “What was the statement, what were the statements he made with reference to the desanctification of Stalin?”
A: “Well, Comrade Kandel only met with our club twice. The second time he met with our club he discussed the Khrushchev report. And the general tenor of his remarks were-and he followed the article in a current issue of Political Affairs that dealt with that. He followed the article fairly closely, but the general tenor of his remarks was that it would be a good thing, that he felt that the party would benefit by this criticism, and it would open up new opportunities for the party to strengthen itself….and that would result would have a beneficial effect. That was the general tone of his remarks on that.”
Q: “What did Kandel say, if you recall, with reference to the Khrushchev speech?”
A: “Well, Kandel lauded that speech. He felt that the substance of that speech was sound and that we should study it carefully and be guided by it. Now, there are other things which show the relationship there with the international Communist conspiracy. One is the fact that the comrades are so elated, so elated over Communist successes in other countries.”
Another witness, when asked, “Who is Irving Kandel? Do you know him?” conferred with his lawyer and refused to answer. Additional witnesses were asked questions about Kandel.
Q: “What type of meetings were these that you held with these two people?”
A: “Underground meetings.”
Q: “What gave you the impression that they were underground meetings?”.
A: “When Kandel came to the first meeting, he did not give the name; but I recognized him, I had met him before I had joined the party. He said he is not living at home; he is living under a different name, and this is necessary to keep the party from being decapitated.”
Later Kandel himself appeared before the committee for questioning.
Q: “Kindly identify yourself by name, residence, and occupation.”
A: “I believe, as close as I can figure, that those are three separate questions. I wonder if you would be good enough, to avoid possible confusion, to give your questions one at a time.”
Q: “Before you do that, do you know the gentleman who is standing here at the clerk's desk signing the voucher?”
A: “Now, which one of these questions do you want me to answer first?
Q: “The first question has been withdrawn. You have been asked if you know the man who was signing this paper. Do you know him?”
A; “There is no man there.”
Q: “There he is. Turn around, you will see.”
A: “Just a moment, now. I assume, Congressman Walter, that your command turn around is your way of asking a question.”
Q: “It is not any command. I just thought I would refresh your recollection or assist you because the man was standing here and moved.”
Kandel was then asked gain to identify himself by name, residence, and occupation and he again conferred with his lawyer. He was the directed by the Cahirman to answer the question, which he did. Kandel stated, “My name is Irving Knndel. I live in the nine hundred block, Brooks Lane. Now, you ask me my occupation. I wonder what relevancy this question has to the ostensible purpose of this committee.” To that the Chairman replied, “Answer the question.” Kandel stated, “I refuse to answer the question because I believe this question violates my rights under the first amendment, and further, I claim my privilege under the fifth amendment not to be a witness
After further discussion questioning continued…
Q: “You work at the Fisher Brush Machinery Co. in Baltimore, do you not?”
A: “I have already refused to answer a question of that kind. I still refuse to answer that question.”
Q: “I put it to you as a fact that you work at the Fisher Brush Machinery Co. in Baltimore, and I ask you now to confirm or deny that fact.”
A:” I refuse to answer that question on the same ground.”
Q: “Do you honestly apprehend that, if you told this committee truthfully while you are under oath whether or not you worked at Fisher Brush Machinery Co. in Baltimore, you would be supplying information which could be used against you in a criminal proceeding?”
A: “It might.”
And so it went with Kandel reusing to answer any questions. When asked if he had every used any other name, he again refused to answer. Specifically, he was asked if he had ever used the name Henry Foss and, again, he refused to answer.
Q: “Are you a member of a labor organization?”
A: “I don't know what connection this question has with the ostensible purpose of this committee. I don't know what legislation would be forthcoming. If I belonged, or do not belong, to any organization.”
When directed to answer the question, he refused.
Q: “Where and when were you born?”
A: “In the United States in 1912.”
Q: “What State?”
A: “New York.”
Q: “Give us a word about your education.”
A: “In a word?”
Q: “As many words as you need.”
A: “I will be glad to. I started out by going to grammar school, graduated, proceeded from there to junior high school. I went through junior high school. It may well be that after that I took one or two additional courses, but I can't remember exactly the consequences.”
Q: “Did you take the courses? We are not concerned with the consequences. We are merely asking you whether or not you took the courses.”
A: “The consequences I referred to, do with successfully completing the course.”
Q: “When did you last engage in your formal study?”
A: “Well, a man should never stop studying.”
Q: “Kindly tell us when it was you last were engaged in formal study in an institution.
A: “I assume by that you mean a school of some kind?”
A: “Well, it might be in 1943.”
Q: “What school was that, please, sir?”
A: “I believe it was a Navy school. As I remember, it was a school run by the man by the name of Henry Ford for his company and utilized by the United States Navy.”
Q: “Were you then a member of the United States Navy?”
A: “I was enlisted. I was recruited, drafted.”
Q: “Tell us, please, sir, the period of your service in the Navy?”
A: “To the best of my knowledge and belief, it was sometime during the war, 1943, 1944, 1945 perhaps.”
Q: 'Where did you serve in the Navy?”
A: “I served wherever they sent me.”
Q: “Where did they send you?”
A: “They first sent me to boot camp. As I remember, this place was in the neighborhood of Sampson, New York…If my memory does not fail me, I believe I went from there by way of Canada to Dearborn, Michigan; and from that point, to the best of my knowledge and belief, I was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia, I believe it is and from there to San Francisco. From there to the Eniwetok group. Well, that was in the Pacific, and it is hard to say when you are in the Pacific exactly where you are.”
Q: “Was all of the period of your active service aboard vessels in the Pacific?”
A: “Well, my whole period of service was active.”
Q: 'Was your entire period of service aboard vessels in the Pacific?”
Q: “Tell us then where else you served.”
A: “If I remember the name of the place. I believe it was called Tokyo Bay.”
Q: “Was the entire period of your service aboard vessels in the Navy in the Pacific area?”
A: “What area do you have in mind when you say Pacific area?”
Q: 'Did you serve in the Atlantic?”
Q: “Thank you, sir. Did you receive a commission in the Navy?”
A: “To do what?”
Q “A commission as a commissioned officer.”
A: “I was an officer. I was a non-commissioned officer.”
Q: “What was your rank? The questions was then corrected by the committee chairman that the correct term was rating, not rank and the Chairman added that they wanted to keep the record absolutely accurate. Kandels' reply was, “Splendid idea. Accuracy in this committee would be a welcome event. I was a machinist mate, repair, third class.”
Q: “And to complete the picture and to be accurate about it all, were you a member of the Communist Party while you were in the Navy?”
A: “I refuse to answer that question on the grounds previously stated.”
Q: “Did you receive an honorable discharge from the Navy?”
Q: “When was that, please, sir?”
A: “At the end of my service.”
Q: “What year was that?”
A: “To the best of my recollection, it was around that period of 1946, perhaps.”
Q: “What was your first principal employment after the discharge which you received from the Navy during this period around 1946?”
A: “I refuse to answer that question on the grounds previously stated.”
Q: “And how long did that employment last?”
A: “To what employment do you make reference?”
Q: “The employment that you had immediately after your discharge from the Navy.”
A: “Have you established that I have employment?” When directed to answer the question, Kandel refused.
Upon further questioning about his employment, Kandel was directed to answer the question, but he could do so without disclosing any information which could be used against him in a criminal proceeding. He claimed he did not understand the question. When it was rephrased, Kandel claimed he didn't see any sense in repeating the same question that he didn't understand in the first place. Several more questions were asked concerning his employment which he also refused to answer.
Q: “...I will endeavor to, with one simple little question: Have you ever done anything since you were discharged from the Navy except work for the Communist Party?”
A: “That is about the simplest question I have heard in a long time.” (Kandel conferred with his counsel) “You see, there is a premise in your question, simple though it may be. The premise is that I worked for the Communist Party.”
Q: “Well, have you?”
A: “Now, you are asking that as a question, have I worked for the Communist Party?”
A: “I refuse to answer that question on the grounds previously stated.”
Kandel was then showed a copy of the Communist New York Daily Worker, Monday, November 1, 1948, "The Heroes of Yesterday Speak Up Today!" World War II veterans demand dismissal of indictments of the Smith Act defendants. It was a letter addressed to the then President and the Attorney General of the United States urging the dismissal of the indictments against 12 Communist leaders.
It was pointed out to Kandel that on the letter was a list of names of persons who sent the letter, including the name of Irving Kandel and he was asked to verify the authenticity of that document and to certify the participation by himself. After conferring with his lawyer and some hemming and hawing, Kandel refused to answer. Additionally, he refused to answer if he was a member of any labor organizations and where he had lived prior to his current address. Eventually he did state his previous address where he had lived for about 18 months. He refused to answer questions about where he had lived in 1952 and 1953.
When it was put to Kandel that during 1952 and 1953, in an underground operation of the Communist conspiracy, he lived at a particular address under the alias of Henry Ross, Kandel's reply was, “You say you state that as a fact? Do you have some supporting evidence?”
Questioning the was concerned about any tutoring or acting as an instructor in any kind of classes. Kandel stated that the question was so broad and general that it was almost impossible to answer, adding, “A casual conversation might be considered by some as a class, or any kind of conversation might be considered tutoring.” Asked point blank if he ever taught in a Communist school, he refused to answer.
Q: “Did you succeed George Meyers as head of the Communist Party in District 4 while Meyers was in the penitentiary?”
A: “It seems to me that that is a loaded question. You contain in it a statement, a number of premises which have not been established to my knowledge.” He was ordered to answer the question and refused. He was then excused. No charges were ever brought against Kandle.
Irving Kandel (1914-1993) was a machinist by trade. He died December 21, 1993 of leukemia at a hospital in Westminster, Colorado. The 80-year-old Northwest Baltimore resident had been retired for 15 years after working for many years for the Maryland Cup Company. A native of New York City who came to Baltimore as a young man, he served in the Navy during World War II. Kandel was a tournament bridge player as well as a chess player who won Maryland and New York City championships in the 1950s and 1960s. At his request, no burial services were conducted.
Kandel learned to play chess from his grandfather and was a member of the 1929 CCNY chess team. After being away from chess for many years he returned to win the Maryland State Cahmpionship in 1956, 57 and 58. He was also an accomplished postal player who won or tied for first in the CCLA's Grand Nationals a record setting eight times.