Testimony in the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer

- George F. Kerman

Q. As a result of your experience with Dr. Oppenheimer in the cases that you have reference to, what convictions, if any, did you form about him?

A. I formed the conviction that he was an immensely useful person in the councils of our Government, and I felt a great sense of gratitude that we had his help. I am able to say that in the course of all these contacts and deliberations within the Government I never observed anything in his conduct or his words that could possibly, it seemed to me, have indicated that he was animated by any other motives than a devotion to the interests of this country.

Q. Did you ever observe anything that would possibly have suggested to  you that he was taking positions that the Russians would have liked?

A. No. I cannot say that I did in any way. After all, the whole purpose of these exercises was to do things which were in the interest of this country, not in the interests of the Soviet Union, at least not in the interests of the Soviet Union as their leaders saw it at that time. Anyone who collaborated sincerely and enthusiastically in the attempt to reach our objectives, which Dr. Oppenheimer did, obviously was not serving So-viet purposes in any way.

Q. Have you said that he contributed significantly to the results?

A. I have, sir.

Q. Mr. Kerman, is there any possibility in your mind that he was dissembling?

A. There is in my mind no possibility that Dr. Oppenheimer was dissembling.

Q. How do you know that? How can anybody know that?

A. I realize that is not an assertion that one could make with confidence about everyone. If I make it with regard to Dr. Oppenheimer it is because I feel and believe that after years of seeing him in various ways, not only there in Government, but later as an associate and a neighbor, and a friend at Princeton, I know his intellectual makeup and something of his personal makeup and I consider it really out of the question that any man could have participated as he did in these discussions, could have bared his thoughts to us time after time in the way that he did, could have thought those thoughts, so to speak, in our presence and have been at the same time dissembling.

I realize that is still not wholly the answer. The reason I feel it is out of the question that could have happened is that I believed him to have an intellect of such a nature that it would be impossible for him to speak dishonestly about any subject to which he had given his deliberate and careful and professional attention.

That is the view I hold of him. I have the greatest respect for Dr. Oppenheimer's mind. I think it is one of the great minds of this genera-tion of Americans. A mind like that is not without its implications.

Q. Without its what?

A. Implications for a man's general personality. I think it would be actually the one thing probably in life that Dr. Oppenheimer could never do, that is to speak dishonestly about a subject which had really engaged the responsible attention of his intellect. My whole impression of him is that he is a man who when he turns his mind to something in an orderly and responsible way, examines it with the most extraordinary scrupulousness and fastidiousness of intellectual process.

I must say that I cannot conceive that in these deliberations in Government he could have been speaking disingenuously to us about these matters. I would suppose that you might just as well have asked Leonardo da Vinci to distort an anatomical drawing as that you should ask Robert Oppenheimer to speak responsibly to the sort of questions we were talking about, and speak dishonestly.

Q. Mr. Kerman, in saying what you have just said, are you saying it with an awareness of the background that Dr. Oppenheimer has, the general nature of which is reflected in the letter which General Nichols addressed to him, which is the genesis of these proceedings, and his response?

A. I am, sir.

Q. How do you reconcile these two things?

A. I do not think that they are necessarily inconsistent one with the other. People advance in life for one thing. I saw Dr. Oppenheimer at a phase of his life in which most of these matters in General Nichols' letter did not apply. It seems to me also that I was concerned or associated with him in the examination of problems which both he and I had accepted as problems of governmental responsibility before us, and I do not suppose that was the case with all the things that were mentioned in Gen-eral Nichols' letter about his early views about politics and his early activities and his early associations.

I also think it quite possible for a person to be himself profoundly honest and yet to have associates and friends who may be misguided and misled and for who either at the time or in retrospect he may feel intensely sorry and concerned. I think most of us have had the experience of having known people at one time in our lives of whom we felt that way.

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