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Letter to Ward and Annie Clarke about Communism

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Henry Clarke received his doctorate in musicology from Harvard University and then went off to serve during the Second World War as a private soldier. His letters to his parents (to whom he gives the nickname Panma) offer compelling testimony of a thoughtful man in the period from the Depression through World War II. Clarke was a Quaker, and came from a family with liberal views. In this letter, from March 17, 1935, Henry observes that the "common proposals" for laws to prohibit Un-American ideologies (he refers to them as "Laws Against Extreme Radicals") are uncomfortably similar to Nazi German laws that made every political party except the Nazi party illegal. These laws had already sent thousands of people to concentration camps. Henry Clarke argues in this letter, that by considering laws to prohibit Un-American ideologies, the United States is perched on a dangerous precipice and might slide down into the same kind of moral and political bankruptcy and tyranny as could be found in Nazi Germany. Clarke was a young, college-aged man when he wrote this letter. He is, as were many in the United States at the height of the Great Depression, clearly sympathetic to socialist and communist critiques of capitalism. The Nazis would enact the "Nuremberg Laws" in September of 1935. These laws would strip German Jews of their citizenship, their property and their right to work in all but the most menial occupations. Millions of Jewish people would be killed in Nazi concentrations camps.


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