Secret Reports on Nazi Germany by Neumann, Marcuse and Kircheimer


John Bew in New Statesman:

Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse and Otto Kirchheimer – leading figures in the creation of Marxist “critical theory” and, in Marcuse’s case, a “rock star” of the 1960s radical left – were Jewish émigrés who fled Germany for the US in the 1930s. Between 1942 and 1944, the three friends were headhunted from posts in American universities by General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the leader of the OSS, and reunited in the service of the US government. The reports they prepared on Nazi Germany, first declassified in the mid-1970s, have now been collated and published for the first time, edited by the Italian academic Raffaele Laudani. Together they form a rich and multilayered collection of political essays that will be of enduring interest to students of military intelligence, Marxism, Nazi Germany and the Allied effort in the Second World War.

The Frankfurt group was housed in the central European section of the research and analysis branch of the OSS – a huge and eclectic organisation with a staff of more than 1,200. United in the successful prosecution of the war effort, it was perhaps the world’s greatest ever think tank and contained in its ranks some of the foremost intellectuals of 20th-century America – historians, economists and social scientists from across the political spectrum such as Felix Gilbert, Walt Rostow and Arthur Schlesinger.

In a foreword to the book, the Cambridge philosopher Raymond Geuss suggests that such “toleration of intellectual deviancy”, in which the ideas of Marxism could be harnessed in the defeat of fascism, stands in contrast to the “politics of myopic intellectual conformism” of the Anglo-American world in the 21st century. One might add that war produced a generation of academics willing to get their hands dirty and adjust their tradecraft in order to serve a greater cause.