Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Henry Gustave Reinsch Papers
Scope and contents of the collection
The Reinsch collection consists of court documents, including official rulings and pieces of evidence, six letters from Reinsch to Bernice during his time in the Los Angeles hospital, one letter to Reinsch from his mother in Germany, as well as an intriguing letter from Bernice to Judge Black.
Bernice's letter has two strong creases, suggesting that it was folded and placed in a business envelope for mailing, however, this document likely never made it to Judge Black. The letter is held together with adhesive tape, having been ripped into eight pieces. Two mostly blank pieces have been lost. Edits on the document suggest that this letter may have been a draft, but Mrs. Reinsch's signature suggests just the opposite. Possible explanations of Mrs. Reinsch's letter range from the pedestrian -- perhaps she accidentally tore it up while going through personal and legal records, deciding what to save and what to throw out -- to the provocative -- perhaps she sent it to Judge Black, who, wanting to make his position clear, returned it, torn to shreds. The true story behind Bernice's letter remains unclear.
A scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings provides biographical information on Reinsch and a timeline of his trials. Clippings that do not directly relate to Reinsch's trial are at least as important as those that do. Articles about Ku Klux Klansmen not being allowed to demonstrate suggest that Reinsch viewed his trial as a Freedom of Speech issue. Headlines from an issue of The Thunderbolt, a periodical claiming to be "the white man's viewpoint," may reveal some of Reinsch's political feelings: "Eichmann Trial Giant Propaganda Hoax."
This collection documents an exception to the rule when it came to investigations for the Custodial Detention Index. Reinsch "loaned" large sums of money to William Dudley Penney, the head of the fascist Silver Shirts Legion, who, by the time Reinsch was on trial, was serving a fifteen year sentence for sedition. Reinsch was not merely a supporter, a level "C" on the CDI classification scale, of the Silver Shirts, he spoke as a leader, a level "A", at meetings held at his own home. Reinsch may not have been dangerous. He may not have been a fascist. He may have been willing to give his life for his adopted country. He may only have been guilty of exercising his First Amendment rights. There can be no question, however, that compared to the thousands of truly innocent German Americans who were interned during the years of World War II Reinsch was guilty.