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Robert A. Vogeler: Cold Warrior and American Patriot.

Mr. & Mrs. Robert A. Vogeler
Mr. & Mrs. Robert A. Vogeler
Recently I was handed a list of deceased faculty and staff of St. Mary High School in Greenwich, Connecticut. I am a 1968 graduate and recognized many of the names on the list. 

A few names stood out because of their unique life history that brought them to teach at a small Catholic high school in the 1960's. Msg. Pierre Botton was from Lyon, France. He taught French (naturally), but also founded the choir and an a cappella group called "Les Incroyables", which was my first exposure to choral and a cappella singing. Dr. Rene A. Perez-Amargo, who taught Spanish, was a Cuban emigre and a former member of the Cuban Supreme Court.  

The most famous teacher at St. Mary High School was Dr. Robert A. Vogeler, who taught science and mathematics. Although I did not know it at the time, Dr. Vogeler had been imprisoned for fifteen months during 1949-51 by the Communist government of Hungary as an American Spy, which he later wrote about in his best-selling book "I Was Stalin's Prisoner" (1952). Dr. Vogeler was then a 39 year old executive for International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. ("ITT") stationed in Vienna and responsible for Eastern Europe when he was arrested, tortured, forced "to confess", tried before a "kangaroo court", and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for spying. He was tried by the same Judge who in 1949 convicted Cardinal Mindszenty, the most famous Communist prisoner, who was convicted by a "people's court"of espionage and sentenced to life but actually served five years until released during the Hungarian uprising in 1956.  Dr. Vogeler was released after 527 days in captivity thanks to incessant lobbying by his Belgian "bombshell" wife Lucille Vogeler, who made his treatment a cause celebre which invited world-wide attention and lead to the active intersession of the U. S. State Department. After his release Dr. Vogeler became a valued speaker and expert on the newly forming  bloc of totalitarian states which Winston Churchill had dubbed the "Iron Curtain" in a 1946 speech warning America that the Soviet Union was solidifying its control over war-torn Eastern Europe. The communist tactics of trumped up arrests, show trials, suborned witnesses, nationalization of private industry, suppression and intimidation of opponents, systematic rape and robbery are described by Dr. Vogeler in his book in harrowing detail based on his personal experiences and observations. Dr. Vogeler also carefully and methodically documents and demolishes the confession he was forced to sign under duress while exposing the corrupted society and system that imposed injustice and inequality under the guise of the rule of law.

Today, decades after the fall of communism and the liberation Eastern Europe, where our students spend their junior years studying abroad, our tourists roam freely and our business people broker deals, it is hard to imagine what it must have been like immediately after the war in the 1940s and 1950s in places like Vienna, Prague and Budapest where a younger Robert Vogeler was on the front lines between the forces of communism and capitalism as he fought the good fight for IT&T and the United States of America.  

After that teaching at St. Mary must have been relatively easy (except perhaps at lunch time).

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kevin oconnor [ko] January 18, 2014 at 04:17 PM
I also had Dr.Vogeler as a teacher at St, Mary h.s. He was a graduate of the naval academy, recieved his doctorite at M.I.T and i believe had something to do with the Manhattan project[atom bomb] He was an absolute genius. It took him awhile to get used to teaching h.s. students, but we gave him the respect he deserved once we found out his back story.he also knew we were all "numbskulls" His wife was a stunner with brains to match. She went by the name "Lady Vogeler"She opened a day spa in greenwich, where the old hospital thrift shop used to be.[way ahead of her time] They had homes in Zurich,Paris,and New York.I believe his last home was in so.salem n.y. He was a true gentleman,and a great American.Anyone who met him would tell you the same.His life story can be found in the book Who's who in america, or google.
Ed Krumeich January 18, 2014 at 04:27 PM
He graduated from MIT after spending two years at the Naval Academy. In his book he explained that in the '30s they were cutting back on the navy so there would not be enough officer position for every Annapolis graduate so that students like him who were not planning a naval career dropped out to favor classmates who wanted a naval career. He later joined the naval reserve. He doesn't say anything about the Manhattan Project but he did technical work in the Midwest during WW 2.
gusfrederick January 18, 2014 at 05:24 PM
Ed & KO Thanx for the info - I guess I was one of the numbskulls that he was referring to! Interesting teachers that we all had.
Peg Heron Heidel January 18, 2014 at 08:53 PM
Thank you for the information in this article. I discovered it on St. Mary High's alumni Facebook page. It led me here to the Greenwich Patch. I had the honor of speaking with Father Botton after he celebrated Mass, filling in for our Pastor here in Sherman, CT, several years ago. I have such nice memories of him and of Dr. Perez, who so humbly didn't elaborate to us on his impressive background. Dr. Vogeler was my teacher at SMHS as well. I never knew the depth of his amazing story. Again, thank you. Looking forward to following upcoming stories. With appreciation ~

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