Notable Trials in the Northern District of Illinois


United States v. Haupt, et al. - The treason trial of Hans Max Haupt

Haupt trial sketch - Courtroom. By permission of the Chicago History Museum
Haupt trial sketch - Courtroom. By permission of the Chicago History Museum

Haupt trial sketch - Witness Mrs. Gerda Melind. By permission of the Chicago History Museum
Haupt trial sketch - Witness Mrs. Gerda Melind. By permission of the Chicago History Museum

Judge William J. Campbell
Judge William J. Campbell

On June 27, 1942, the FBI arrested Hans Max Haupt, his wife Erna, Erna’s brother Walter Froehling and his wife Lucille, and the Haupts’ friends, Otto and Kate Wergin. All six were charged with the crime of treason. All charges stemmed from the activities of the Haupts’ son, Herbert Haupt. Herbert Haupt came to the Chicago from Germany with his parents in the 1920's. Hans Haupt became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1930 and the 11-year-old Herbert received derivative citizenship through his father’s naturalization. Herbert Haupt was very involved in German youth groups in the Chicago area and evidently developed a desire to serve Germany. In 1941, without informing their parents, Herbert Haupt and his friend Wolfgang Wergin left Chicago and made their way to Germany, where Wergin enlisted in the German army. Haupt became part of an elite sabotage unit and in 1942 returned to the United States with the assignment to purchase an automobile for the other saboteurs and provide information about his former employer, the Simpson Optical Company. The Simpson Optical Company was the manufacturer of a key element in the secret Norden bombsight.

After landing in the United States, Herbert Haupt made his way to Chicago where he visited his parents, his aunt and uncle, and the parents of his friend. While reports conflict, it was established that Hans Haupt helped his son purchase a car and was assisting him in getting his old job back at Simpson Optical. The FBI had the Haupts under continuous surveillance and after a week, all were arrested. Herbert Haupt was tried and executed under the authority of a military tribunal.

The Haupts, Froehlings, and Wergins were tried before Judge William J. Campbell, in his second year on the federal bench. On November 14, 1942, the jury found all six defendants guilty of treason; Judge Campbell sentenced Hans Max Haupt, Walter Otto Froehling, and Otto Richard Wergin to death and Erna Emma Haupt, Lucille Foehling, and Kate Martha Wergin to 25 years imprisonment. All six were to pay a fine of $10,000.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, basing its reversal in part on Judge Campbell’s charge to the jury. Of the six defendants, only Hans Max Haupt was retried in a jury trial before Judge John Peter Barnes. Judge Barnes sentenced Haupt to life imprisonment and a fine of $10,000. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, with Judge Major in dissent. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in 1947.

In 1947, Hans Max Haupt received a presidential commutation and was deported to Germany, joining his wife Erna who had been deported in 1946.

Published Cases
47 F.Supp. 832 (N.D. Ill. 1942)
Docket No. 33481
Date: October 16, 1942
CAMPBELL, District Judge

47 F.Supp. 836 (N.D. Ill. 1942)
Docket No. 33481
Date: November 24, 1942
CAMPBELL, District Judge

136 F.2d 661 (7th Cir. 1943)
Docket Nos. 8165-8170 (cases consolidated)
Date: June 29, 1943
Rehearing Denied: July 23, 1943
MAJOR, KERNER, MINTON, Circuit Judges

152 F.2d 771 (7th Cir. 1945)
Date: December 20, 1945
Rehearing Denied: January 24, 1946
EVANS, MAJOR, KERNER, Circuit Judges

330 U.S. 631 (1947)
Date: March 31, 1947
Rehearing Denied: 331 U.S. 864 (1947)