submitted on 2009-11-17 09:09:00 EST
Ellersieck, Heinz E.
A February 25, 2004, interview with Heinz E. Ellersieck, associate professor of history, emeritus, in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Dr. Ellersieck received his undergraduate and graduate education at UCLA (AB 1942, MA 1948, PhD 1955). His father was German violinmaker Hellmuth Ellersieck, who emigrated to Denmark before the outbreak of World War I, where he met and married Dr. Ellersieck’s mother. In 1914, to avoid extradition to Germany to serve in the Kaiser’s army, he and his wife moved to Norway, where their children were born. In 1926 the family emigrated to Los Angeles.
Dr. Ellersieck attended Alta Loma Elementary School and Los Angeles High School. After his graduation from UCLA in 1942, he joined the army, spending almost a year in the infantry in Fort Meade, Md., before joining the ASTP [Army Specialized Training Program] and studying Russian at Cornell. He attended intelligence school at Fort Meade and in 1945 was sent to England, to the air force intelligence branch. He was discharged in the summer of 1946 and returned to UCLA, where he studied Russian history with Waldemar Westergaard and Raymond H. Fisher.
After receiving his MA, Dr. Ellersieck spent fourteen months in European archives gathering material for his dissertation on the 17th century czars Alexei Mikhailovich and Feodor Alexeevich. In 1950, he was recruited as an instructor in Caltech’s Humanities Division by Professor Rodman W. Paul and the division’s new chairman, Hallett Smith, and he discusses their efforts to turn it from a teaching division into a division emphasizing research and scholarship, on a par with the institute’s science divisions.
He also recalls joining, soon after his arrival, Caltech’s Project Vista, which the air force had asked the institute to undertake in preparation for a possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe. (Ellersieck was recruited because of his military and intelligence experience and his knowledge of Russian history and language.) He comments on the report that resulted and the air force’s unhappiness with its recommendations against the use of tactical atomic weapons. He comments on his further studies of the Soviet Union during the years of the cold war. His retirement in 1988 coincided with the end of that war.
He also discusses his continuing interest in Pasadena civic affairs, especially his involvement with Pasadena preservationists and with police community relations.