Knauer v. United States, 510

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation66 S.Ct. 1304,328 U.S. 654,90 L.Ed. 1500
Docket NumberNo. 510,510
Decision Date10 June 1946

328 U.S. 654
66 S.Ct. 1304
90 L.Ed. 1500



No. 510.
Argued March 28, 29, 1946.
Decided June 10, 1946.
Rehearing Denied Oct. 14, 1946.

See 67 S.Ct. 25.

Page 655

Mr. Ode L. Rankin, of Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from page 655 intentionally omitted]

Page 656

Mr. Frederick Bernays Wiener, of Providence, R.I., for respondent.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Knauer is a native of Germany. He arrived in this country in 1925 at the age of 30. He had served in the German army during World War I and was decorated. He had studied law and economics in Germany. He settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and conducted an insurance business there. He filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen in 1929 and his petition for naturalization in 1936. He took his oath of allegiance and was admitted to citizenship on April 13, 1937. In 1943 the United States instituted proceedings under § 338(a) of the Nationality Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 1137, 1158, 8 U.S.C. § 738(a), 8 U.S.C.A. § 738(a), to cancel his certificate of naturalization1 on the ground that it had been secured by fraud in that (1) he had falsely and fraudulently represented in his petition that he was attached to the principles of the Constitution and (2) he had taken a false oath of allegiance. The District Court was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Knauer practiced fraud when he obtained his certificate of naturalization. It found that he had not been and is not attached to the principles of the Constitution and that he took a false oath of allegiance. It accordingly

Page 657

entered an order cancelling his certificate and revoking the order admitting him to citizenship. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 7 Cir., 149 F.2d 519. The case is here on a petition for a writ of certiorari which we granted to examine that ruling in light of our decisions in Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118, 63 S.Ct. 1333, 87 L.Ed. 1796, and Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665, 64 S.Ct. 1240, 88 L.Ed. 1525.

I. In the oath of allegiance which Knauer took he swore that he would 'absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly to the German Reich,' that he would support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic'; that he would 'bear true faith and allegiance to the same' and that he took 'this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.'2 The first and crucial issue in the case is whether Knauer swore falsely and committed a fraud when he promised under oath to forswear allegiance to the German Reich and to transfer his allegiance to this nation. Fraud connotes perjury, falsification, concealment, misrepresentation. When denaturalization is sought on this (Baumgartner v. United States, supra), as well as on other grounds (Schneiderman v. United States, supra), the standard of proof required is strict. We do not accept even concurrent findings of two lower courts as conclusive. Baumgartner v. United States, supra, 322 U.S. at pages 670, 671, 64 S.Ct. at pages 1243, 1244, 88 L.Ed. 1525. We reexamine the facts to determine whether the United States has carried its burden of proving by 'clear, unequivocal, and convincing' evidence, which does not leave 'the issue in doubt,' that the citizen

Page 658

who is sought to be restored to the status of an alien obtained his naturalization certificate illegally. Schneiderman v. United States, supra, 320 U.S. at page 158, 63 S.Ct. at page 1352, 87 L.Ed. 1796.

That strict test is necessary for several reasons. Citizenship obtained through naturalization is not a second-class citizenship. It has been said that citizenship carries with it all of the rights and prerogatives of citizenship obtained by birth in this country 'save that of eligibility to the Presidency.' Luria v. United States, 231 U.S. 9, 22, 34 S.Ct. 10, 13, 58 L.Ed. 101. There are other exceptions of a limited character.3 But it is plain that citizenship obtained through naturalization carries with it the privilege of full participation in the affairs of our society, including the right to speak freely, to criticize officials and administrators, and to promote changes in our laws including the very Charter of our Government. Great tolerance and caution are necessary lest good faith exercise of the rights of citizenship be turned against the naturalized citizen and be used to deprive him of the cherished status. Illtempered expressions, extreme views, even the promotion of ideas which run counter to our American ideals, are not to be given disloyal connotations in absence of solid, convincing evidence that that is their significance. Any other course would run counter to our traditions and make denaturalization proceedings the ready instrument for political persecutions. As stated in Schneiderman v. United States, supra, 320 U.S. at page 159, 63 S.Ct. at page 1353, 87 L.Ed. 1796, 'Were the law otherwise, valuable rights would rest upon a slender reed, and the security of the status of our naturalized citizens might depend in

Page 659

considerable degree upon the political temper of majority thought and the stresses of the times.'

These are extremely serious problems. They involve not only fundamental principles of our political system designed for the protection of minorities and majorities alike. They also involve tremendously high stakes for the individual. For denaturalization, like deportation, may result in the loss 'of all that makes life worth living.' Ng Fung Ho v. White, 259 U.S. 276, 284, 42 S.Ct. 492, 495, 66 L.Ed. 938. Hence, where the fate of a human being is at stake, we must not leave the presence of his evil purpose to conjecture. Cf. Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135, 149, 65 S.Ct. 1443, 1450, 89 L.Ed. 2103. Furthermore, we are dealing in cases of this kind with questions of intent. Here it is whether Knauer swore falsely on April 13, 1937. Intent is a subjective state, illusory and difficult to establish in absence of voluntary confession. What may appear objectively to be false may still fall short of establishing an intentional misrepresentation which is necessary in order to prove that the oath was perjurious. And as Baumgartner v. United States, supra, indicates, utterances made in years subsequent to the oath are not readily to be charged against the state of mind existing when the oath was administered. 322 U.S. at page 675, 64 S.Ct. at page 1245, 88 L.Ed. 1525. Troubled times and the emotions of the hour may elicit expressions of sympathy for old acquaintances and relatives across the waters. 'Forswearing past political allegiance without reservation and full assumption of the obligations of American citizenship are not at all inconsistent with cultural feelings imbedded in childhood and youth.' Baumgartner v. United States, supra, 322 U.S. at page 674, 64 S.Ct. at page 1245, 88 L.Ed. 1525. Human ties are not easily broken. Old social or cultural loyalties may still exist, though basic allegiance is transferred here. The fundamental question is whether the new citizen still takes his orders from, or owes his allegiance to, a foreign chancellory. Far more is required to establish that fact

Page 660

than a showing that social and cultural ties remain. And even political utterances, which might be some evidence of a false oath if they clustered around the date of naturalization, are more and more unreliable as evidence of the perjurious falsity of the oath the further they are removed from the date of naturalization.

We have read with care the voluminous record in this case. We have considered the evidence which antedates Knauer's naturalization (April 13, 1937), the evidence which clusters around that date, and that which follows it. We have considered Knauer's versions of the various episodes and the versions advanced by the several witnesses for the United States. We have considered the testimony and other evidence offered by each in corroboration or impeachment of the other's case. We have considered the appraisal of the veracity of the witnesses by the judge who saw and heard them and have given it that 'due regard' required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 52(a), 28 U.S.C.A. following section 723c. We conclude with the District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals that there is solid, convincing evidence that Knauer before the date of his naturalization, at that time, and subsequent was a thorough-going Nazi and a faithful follower of Adolph Hitler. The conclusion is irresistible, therefore, that when he forswore allegiance to the German Reich he swore falsely. The character of the evidence, the veracity of the witnesses against Knauer as determined by the District Court, the corroboration of challenged evidence presented by the government, the consistent pattern of Knauer's conduct before and after naturalization convince us that the two lower courts were corret in their conclusions. The standard of proof, not satisfied in either the Schneiderman or Baumgartner cases, is therefore plainly met here.

We will review briefly what we, as well as the two lower courts, accept as the true version of the facts.

Page 661

As early as 1931 Knauer told a newly arrived immigrant who came from the same town in Germany that in his opinion the aim of Hitler and the Nazi party was good, that it would progress, and that it was necessary to have the same party in this country because of the Jews and the Communists. During the same period he told another friend repeatedly that he was opposed to any republican form of government and that Jewish capital was to blame for Germany's downfall. He visited Germany for about six months in 1934 and while there read Hitler's Mein Kampf. On his return he said with pride that he had met...

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