Register of the Herbert Romerstein collection

Finding aid prepared by Hoover Institution Archives Staff.
Hoover Institution Archives
434 Galvez Mall
Stanford University
Stanford, CA, 94305-6010
(650) 723-3563
© 2012, revised 2014

Title: Herbert Romerstein collection
Date (inclusive): 1883-2009
Collection Number: 2012C51
Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Archives
Language of Material: English
Physical Description: 1009 manuscript boxes, 34 oversize boxes, 15 card file boxes. (441.2 linear feet)
Abstract: Pamphlets, leaflets, serial issues, studies, and synopses of intelligence documents, relating to the Communist International, communist subversion in the United States, Soviet espionage and covert operations, and propaganda and psychological warfare, especially during World War II.
Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
Creator: Romerstein, Herbert


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Publication Rights

For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Herbert Romerstein collection, [Box number], Hoover Institution Archives.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 2012, with subsequent increments following.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog at . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in the online catalog is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

Biographical note

As of 2012, Herbert Romerstein, most recently a professor at the postgraduate Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC, specialized in espionage, Soviet political warfare, international terrorism, and internal security. He authored such books as Stalin's Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt's Government (2012), The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and American Traitors (2000), and Heroic Victims: Stalin's Foreign Legion in the Spanish Civil War (1994).
Romerstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1931. In high school he joined the Communist Youth League and soon after became a card-carrying member of the Communist Party USA, where, as he has often said, he "learned to read communist." His infatuation with communism, however, was short-lived. When the Korean War began, he had to decide which side he supported; he decided to support freedom. Following his military service, he became a research analyst and investigator for American Business Consultants, who published the anti-Communist newsletter "Counterattack," and for Bookmailer, a small publishing house that published his first book, Communism and Your Child in 1962. He testified before the Senate Sub-Committee on Internal Security on Communist Infiltration of Youth Organizations in 1951 and before the Subversive Activities Control Board. He attended the Vienna Youth Festival in 1959 and the Helsinki Youth Festival in 1962, all sponsored by the Communist front groups World Federation of Democratic Youth and International Union of Students.
Romerstein entered US government service in 1965 as an investigator for the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. Later he served as minority chief investigator for the House Committee on Internal Security and as a professional staff member for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In his final years of government service, during President Reagan's administration, Romerstein served as head of the Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation and Active Measures of the United States Information Agency. Since retiring from the government in 1989, Romerstein did extensive research in both US and foreign archives, including work in the Ukrainian archives and in the archives of the Communist International in Moscow.

Scope and Content of Collection

The principal focus of the collection is on international communism and on communism in the United States. Besides material issued by or relating to the Communist International, the Young Communist International, the Communist Information Bureau, the Communist Party, U.S.A., the Young Communist League and communist parties of countries other than the United States, there is also a great deal of material issued by communist front organizations, ostensibly independent but closely associated and concentrated on specific fields, including peace, labor, religion, race, ethnicity, journalism, law, education, women, youth, and solidarity with Communist-bloc countries or movements abroad. Among those organizations covered are the World Peace Council, American League against War and Fascism, Red International of Labor Unions, World Federation of Trade Unions, International Labor Defense, International Red Aid, Workers International Relief, Christian Peace Conference, National Negro Congress, International Workers Order, International Order of Journalists, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Women's International Democratic Federation, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, World Federation of Democratic Youth, International Union of Students, World Youth and Student Festival, American Youth Congress, Friends of the Soviet Union, National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, and Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization. While correspondence and internal and public issuances of these organizations form the largest volume of material, the collection also includes reports and other writings of a critical nature about them. The extent of documentation of this network of organizations is unusually comprehensive.
A second focus is on Soviet espionage in the United States. The collection includes a set of the Venona Project intercepts of Soviet diplomatic communications made by the United States government during the 1940s and publicly released in the 1990s. It also includes an English translation of the complete set of notes made by Alexander Vassiliev on the contents of Soviet intelligence service files that he examined in the 1990s. Access to these files was subsequently closed by the Russian government, but Vassiliev's notes served as a basis for the books The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America: The Stalin Era (New York, 1999) and Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (New Haven, 2009), both of which Vassiliev co-authored.
A third focus of the collection is on psychological warfare. In addition to documentation of propagandistic activity by Communist International and other communist organizations, there is a large body of propaganda leaflets and flyers, issued by the American, Soviet, British, German and Japanese governments during World War II, and lesser quantities from World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War, illustrating the employment of this aspect of modern warfare by belligerents on all sides.
A lesser theme concerns documentation of far-right organizations and particularly of antisemitic activity. The collection includes a large collection of antisemitic publications, including many editions of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in various languages. Some other notable subsidiary themes include: a collection of song books of revolutionary and also of Nazi organizations; a collection of communist publications designed for children and issued by the Young Pioneers of America; a considerable volume of material on Communist Party activity in the International Brigades and various relief organizations during the Spanish Civil War; and some documentation of splinter groups from the Communist International and Communist Party, U.S.A.
Communist International records in Soviet archives provide a major source of material in the collection. There is a large volume of photocopies of documents from these records. A large proportion of these documents concerns the Communist International's relations with the Communist Party, U.S.A., but many documents deal more generally with Communist International activities. There is a considerable bloc relating to Willi Münzenberg and his international front organization work. English translations of some documents are included. Photocopies of documents from archives of the East German Ministerium für Staatssicherheit provide sources for the history of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands and of Soviet espionage in Germany, as do photocopies from German police records of the Nazi era.
The sources of some of the other material in the collection are readily apparent, but are obscure in other cases. Many items, notably pamphlets and serial issues, were publicly available. Some material was generated by, or passed through the hands of, the Congressional committees on whose staffs Romerstein served. Original letters to individuals, notably Albert E. Kahn and Jessica Smith, whose papers may have been confiscated, are likely in this category. Copies of raw governmental working documents, especially Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency reports and Department of State dispatches, were acquired, often in redacted form, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. A substantial body of material from the 1920s and 1930s was collected and/or generated by the American Vigilant Intelligence Federation, a private anti-communist organization with headquarters in Chicago. Other material was acquired from the American Security Council and other private anti-communist groups. Material emanating from United States governmental and private anti-communist sources have, in addition to their primary informational value, a secondary value in documenting the scope of surveillance of Communist Party and other radical activities.
The great bulk of the collection is in the Subject File, which is arranged alphabetically by issuing organization or by topic. In general material relating to international or American organizations or applicable to international or American topics is entered directly, while material relating to organizations or topics in countries other than the United States is entered under name of country. Oversize serial issues and other oversize items are located in the Oversize File. There are also photographs in the Audiovisual File.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Communist International.
Communism--United States.
Espionage, Russian--United States.
Psychological warfare.
Secret service--Soviet Union.
Subversive activities--United States.
World War, 1939-1945--Psychological aspects.