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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books I have ever read
In Double Lives, Professor Koch meticulously details the manipulation by the Soviets' master propagandist Willi Munzenberg of thousands of European and American progressive intellectuals in the inner-war period of the 1920s and 1930s by his vast publishing network and interlocking front organizations under the covert direction of the Communist International (Comintern)...
Published on April 20, 2008 by anarchteacher

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7 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Messy but interesting
This book is badly edited and loaded with typographical errors; if it were a toaster, I'd call it defective and return it. Yes, it is an interesting addition to the literature of the Soviet revision. But the editing and the typos are horrible. You are left to figure out what word was meant -- does "writing" mean "writing"? is "ind" really...
Published on April 2, 2004


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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books I have ever read, April 20, 2008
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This review is from: Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (Paperback)
In Double Lives, Professor Koch meticulously details the manipulation by the Soviets' master propagandist Willi Munzenberg of thousands of European and American progressive intellectuals in the inner-war period of the 1920s and 1930s by his vast publishing network and interlocking front organizations under the covert direction of the Communist International (Comintern) and the Soviet secret services of the NKVD and the GRU.

He particularly concentrates upon the intellectual elite that fell under Munzenberg's sway in this cultural war against the West.

This includes such persons as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Andre' Malraux, Andre' Gide, Pablo Picasso, Dorothy Parker, George Grosz, Lincoln Steffens, John Dos Passos, Bertolt Brecht, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett and Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

This volume shatters myth after historical myth of this critical period.

Munzenberg, Koch states, "developed what may well be the leading moral illusion of the twentieth century: the notion that in the modern age the principal arena of the moral life, the true realm of good and evil, is political."

The notion that - the ethical is the political - and that the highest form of ethical expression was "anti-fascism," - with the Soviet Union as the publicly-identified, ideologically most dedicated opponent of fascism, thus holding the moral high ground.

This myth was actually built upon the basest of lies.

As Koch demonstrates, from the earliest days of the National Socialist regime in Germany, beginning with the Reichstag Fire less than a month after Hitler became Chancellor, a sinister covert relationship existed between Nazi secret intelligence and their Soviet counterpart.

This clandestine cooperation continued throughout the decade: Hitler's massacre of Ernst Rohm and his S. A. leadership in the Night of the Long Knives; Stalin's terror purge of CPSU party members, feckless intellectuals, military officers (most notably Field Marshal Tukhachevsky's betrayal by documents forged in a Gestapo laboratory), and the murder of tens of millions of ordinary Soviet citizens, reaching its culmination in the Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact of August, 1939.

Publicly the Soviet Union and their international Popular Front network (of what were secretly designated "useful idiots" or "Innocents' Clubs") preached "anti-fascism."

Covertly Stalin sought accommodation, appeasement, and eventual alliance with Hitler.

Besides fascinating details dealing with the duplicitous Reichstag Fire trials, the Cambridge Five British espionage scandal, the Spanish Civil War as an international component to Stalin's Great Terror, and finally Muzenberg's own mysterious murder, one of the most intriguing aspects of Koch's study involves the use of women espionage agents.

"Many of the `Muzenberg-men' were women. The Russian writer and historian Nina Berberova writes with astringent authority about a cohort of agents or near-agents, the women whom she calls the `Ladies of the Kremlin."

These were women who became influential figures in European and American intellectual life partly on their own, but above all through the men in their lives. The men, most often, were famous writers, `spokesmen for the West,' Meanwhile, the consorts whom they most trusted were guided by the Soviet services.

"Leading this list were two members of the minor Russian aristocracy: the Baroness Moura Budberg, who was mistress to both Maxim Gorky and H. G. Wells, and the Princess Maria Pavlova Koudachova. Moura Budberg's links to the Soviets were shadowy, and remained secret for decades, until they were at last exposed by the Russian historian Arkady Vaksberg in his 1997 book, The Gorky Secret. We have more certain knowledge about the Princess Koudachova, who first became secretary, later mistress, wife, and at last widow to the once enormously celebrated pacifist novelist Romain Rolland.

"Maria Pavlova Koudachova was an agent directly under Soviet secret service control. There is some questionable evidence to suggest that she was trained and assigned to Rolland's life even before she left Russia after the Revolution. . . That she was a secret service operative, however, and one expressly planted in Rolland's life, cannot be doubted. Babette Gross (common-law wife of Willi Munzenberg) put it to me plainly in the summer of 1989. `She was an apparatchik,' she said flatly. `And she ran him.'" (Koch, page 28).

Koch proceeds to discuss other women deep within the Communist apparat, such as the American Ella Winter, and their distinguished men of distinction.

In Winter's case, the men were pioneer muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, and upon his death, Hollywood screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart, part of Hemingway's circle immortalized in The Sun Also Rises.

Stewart was the Academy Award-winning author of The Philadelphia Story, and one of the highest-paid screenwriters of the day, notes Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley in Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s, Crown Forum, 1998. He was also one of "the most vociferous guardians of the Party line," especially through the vexatious days of the Nazi-Soviet Pact (Billingsley, page 82).

Upon reading these various accounts a pattern soon develops.

The profiles were remarkably similar.

The men were all internationally known novelists, artists, playwrights, etc. celebrated for their independence of mind, their supposed integrity of spirit, but in actuality men who were manipulated by their muses.

The technique proved very successful in this inner war period.

There is no reason to believe that the Communist intelligence services ceased to use such agents of influence during the years of the Cold War.

"Yoko Ono, phone your office."
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye opening and very interesting, January 7, 2004
This is the kind of book that makes you ask yourself every few pages "did you know that?!", "how come I didn't know this!", and "how come nobody talks about this!"
It is really a good portrait of those grim times in Europe. It exposes the workings and everyday life of the real spies. It gives the "bad guys" you heard about or saw only in movies a real face. Full of detail that does not bore but expand the palette of colors.
Even if you are not interested in history or politics you should read this. I have tried to find other books on Muezenberg and I recently came across "The Red Millionaire" by Sean McMeekin, which I intend to read soon.
I think more investigating journalism should be done about other dark myths of our recent history. We have to look more critically at the people who want to mold our minds.
This is a very valuable book.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lies without end, April 12, 2006
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Thomas Dunskus (Faleyras, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (Paperback)
Anyone interested in the ideas that have shaped the cultural and political face of the 20th century should read this book, because it sheds an uncompromising light on the activities which went on behind the scenes and identifies the strings which were being pulled to move the actors on the stage. More often than not the players remained completely unaware of the objectives they helped to promote, and their public was led by the nose, impressed by the cultural celebrities that showed them the way.

Stephen Koch's book, now available in its second printing (may there be a third!) highlights the communist undercover propaganda activities in the West that formed Moscow's ideological spearhead in the 1920s and 1930s. It tells the often tragic stories of the men and women doing the work who thought they were helping to create a better world and often ended up dangling from Stalin's gallows or as non-entities in the endless plains of the Gulag.

In the early days of the Bolshevik empire, this propaganda was aimed primarily at the capitalist countries, it was to promote the cause of the forgotten masses, to fight the lost but glorious causes of victims like Sacco and Vanzetti, to eliminate local rivals and to establish goodwill in intellectual circles. Capitalism was, obviously, the class enemy number one, but intially the campaign lacked a political foe, although Italian fascism, another liberatory ideology that sprang up after the first World War had at least given the enemy a name.

From that point of view, Hitler's sudden rise in Germany, spurred by the Depression which struck Germany hardest of all industrialized nations, was a godsend for communist cause. Now there was a way for Moscow to get a free entry ticket into the ruling circles of the Capitalist world. Stalin could now sell to the society he was trying to eliminate a glossy magazine describing Hitler's evil deeds, and the pitch was made so much easier because the claims could be verified on the spot - not many people toured the Soviet Union unaccompanied by local "guides". Anyone, more or less, was able to travel to Berlin or into the German provinces to view the astonishing - and to many people threatening - changes that were taking place there. For most observers it was preferable to get their goosebumps closer to home, in an environment they knew fairly well rather than attempt to satisfy their curiosity by visiting the Red Empire.

The person who had forged Moscow's propaganda organization abroad from the very beginning and who had immediately identified the new objectives by producing the "Brown Book" which blamed the Reichstag fire on the Nazi's themselves, was Willi Muenzenberg, a man born in Germany and one of Lenin's personal aides. Stalin supplied him with whatever means he needed to seduce the intellectual elites, both in Europe and in America, leaving to Willi the choice of the treatment - money, women, publicity - to be aplied in each particular case, be it Bertolt Brecht or Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway or Picasso, Andr? Malraux or the Mann family.

Anything that would disparage Hitler and his ideas would be used to advantage; the result was a world-wide political constellation of strange bedfellows, fundamentally opposed each other. At a critical moment it created a common groundswell which engulfed the center of Europe and pushed the rest of the continent to the edge of an abyss where it was to remain for half a century. To achieve his ends, Willi and the all-too-willing writers he had bought in one way or another were not afraid to use the Lie on a grand scale. Paris was their HQ. According to Stephen Koch, Malraux' report of a trip to Berlin he undertook in early 1934 to secure the release of Dimitroff was a fabrication and a fraud (p. 129f). Koch states that the "Oberfohren memorandum", supposedly a German account of the horrors perpetrated by the SA and published in the Manchester Guardian, was a "pure piece of black propaganda" (p. 157) written by one of M?nzenberg's men. Countless other such fabrications were circulated and poisoned the soul of western culture and civilization.

By 1939, once the Hitler-Stalin pact had allowed the great European War to start, however, Muenzenberg became expendable like so many other communists who fell from grace. Stalin eliminated the international activities which Moscow had so strongly promoted for more than two decades. When the German army moved into France, Willi fled south from Paris but never reached a safe haven in Switzerland or Spain. Many months later, his dead body was found in a forest on his escape route. Stephen Koch is hesitant as to how Willi died, whether by his own hands or by those of Stalin's men. He also allows for a Blitzaktion of the Gestapo, but this is unconvincing, because the Wehrmacht had not yet reached that area and even if the Germans had been looking for him and been aware of his whereabouts in those tumultuous days of the collapse of France, they would certainly not have failed to interrogate such an important personality before any act of revenge, whereas the Soviet Union, for both political and tactical reasons, would have been most eager to silence him at the first opportunity.

In spite of a few questionable theses, "Double Lives" is a highly recommendable book which can be placed alongside Christopher Andrew's "Mitrokhin Archive" and St?phane Courtois' "Black Book of Communism" without any reservations.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bolshevik Agents, February 7, 2009
This review is from: Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (Paperback)
As archives and witnesses in formerly Communist lands have become available to historians, we better understand the significance played by Western intellectuals promoting the Soviet agenda. In Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (New York: Enigma Books, 2004; completely revised and updated), Stephen Koch details the tangled web of espionage and subversion spun by one of Lenin's and Stalin's premier agents, Willi Munzenberg, a German communist who "covertly directed propaganda operations in the West" (p. 5). He mastered both the arts of spreading propaganda and enlisting fellow travelers, shaping public opinion through various "Popular Front" mechanisms to garner support for the Soviet position.
"He wanted to instill the feeling, like a truth of nature, that seriously to criticize or challenge soviet policy was the unfailing mark of a bad, bigoted, and probably stupid person, while support was equally infallible proof of a forward-looking mind committed to all that was best for humanity and marked by an uplifting refinement of sensibility" (p. 15). He did so by co-opting public opinion in democratic countries and then denying he'd actually done so. "He organized in all the media: newspapers, film, radio, books, magazines, the theater. Every kind of `opinion maker' was involved: writers, artists, actors, commentators, priests, ministers, professors, `business leaders,' scientists, psychologists, anyone at all whose opinion the public was likely to respect" (p. 15).
He shrewdly manipulated scores of left-leaning intellectuals, fellow travelers whom he disdainfully called the "innocents." He played upon man's hunger for righteousness, for an inner sense of making the world a better place. "More than perhaps any other person of his era, he developed what may well be the leading moral illusion of the twentieth century; the notion that in the modern age the principal arena of the moral life, the true realm of good and evil, is politics" (p. 20). Thus the "lost generation" of the `20s--writers and artists such as Lincoln Steffens and John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, Bertolt Brecht and a cadre of Hollywood screenwriters and wealthy donors cultivated by another Soviet agent, Otto Katz--were Munzenberg's primary targets.
Hemingway, an "unchallenged celebrity" in the `20s and `30s, was as important to Munzenberg as Andre Gide (the French novelist). His literary style, providing a model for scores of writers, elicited an acclaim from all quarters. He became "the most influential moralist of the Word in his era," and, consequently, "all three of the principal leaders of the Hollywood Popular Front--Lillian Hellman, Dashiel Hammett, and Dorothy Parker--were writers whose prose vulgarized Hemingway's style" (p. 309). Hemingway's prominent role in supporting the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War opened the door for Soviet apparatchiks looking for propaganda opportunities. He was not himself a communist, only one of the "useful idiots" so easily manipulated by Munzenberg's men.
Since the Bolsheviks saw America as a serious threat to their endeavors, it was necessary to awaken a "worldwide anti-Americanism," to "instill a reflexive loathing of the United States and its people" (p. 41). Alienated intellectuals, looking for righteous causes, were easily massaged by Munzenberg's ministrations. The celebrated Sacco-Vanzetti case, for example, was almost wholly his creation, and he worked through a committee led by Gardner "Pat" Jackson, a prominent liberal of the day who persuaded Marion Frankfurter, the wife of Felix Frankfurter, a Harvard law professor who later became a Supreme Court Justice, to rally support for the accused killers. When Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, Professor Frankfurter wrote an impassioned defense of them that appeared in the Atlantic and was widely circulated to assail the injustices of the American judicial system.
During the `20s and `30s Munzenberg also promoted pacifism in the West, seeing it as a way to weaken (and if possible disarm) the democracies that might oppose the USSR. Communists, of course were not pacifists! They relished "class war" and attained their dictatorial goals through violence. But they knew how "peace" and "non-violence" appeal to idealists, so they frequently worked through "innocents" intent on making the world a paradise through good intentions. Bolsheviks such as Munzenberg thus easily found cooperative mouthpieces for their cause among Quakers and like-minded liberal Christians who made opposition to all war an item of faith.
The world changed dramatically when Hitler seized power in the `30s. Munzenberg fled his native Germany and found refuge in Paris, where he continued his subversive activities, promoting the Soviet agenda. The Reichstag Fire in Berlin, for example, generated an enormous propaganda war as various factions (both Nazi and Communist) were blamed and political advantages gained in the aftermath. Sitting in exile in Switzerland, Thomas Mann, the great German novelist, concluded that "'in the final analysis the origin of the fire may itself remain as mysterious and elusive as the intellectual and subjective line dividing National Socialism from communism. As I see it, the unconscious meaning of the trial lies in its exposure of the closeness, the kinship, yes even the identity of National Socialism and communism. Its "fruit" will be to push to absurdity the hatred between the two camps and their idiotic determination to annihilate each other, when in fact there is no need for such enmity. They are kindred though divergent manifestations of one and the same historical situation, the same political world, and are even less separable than are capitalism and Marxism. Symbolic outbreaks like the Reichstag going up in flames are, we sense, even if we cannot prove it, their joint work'" (pp. 132-133).
In England, Munzenberg's apparatus drew wealthy, privileged students into the "Cambridge Conspiracy." Similar work was done in "every country of interest to the Bolsheviks" (p. 180). In America, recruiters targeted Ivy League colleges. Elite, gifted youngsters easily adopt an "adversary" or "counter-cultural" stance regarding the "establishment" that enables them to live so comfortably. This adversary culture appeals especially to "vigorous intellectual and artistic" youngsters who relish a radicalism that seems to represent "freedom and truth." They want to "tear aside the bourgeois façade" and stand strong for "the deepest truth" ever known (p. 189). Thus young men in England such as Guy Burgess and Kim Philby, Americans including Alger Hiss and Michael Straight (whose family owned the New Republic magazine) were recruited for the communist cause. Young women too played an invaluable role. Ella Winter served as Felix Frankfurter's secretary at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, "guided the steps" of her first husband, the famous muckraker, Lincoln Steffens, and ultimately became "one of the most trusted party agents for the West Coast," working with special effectiveness within the Hollywood community.
Given their elite standing, these youngsters naturally enjoyed easy entry into the highest realms of government, academe, the media and arts. And they were ordered to ever support the Soviet cause and undermine Western democracies. They were, of course, never to admit this. Willi Munzenberg's widow, Babette Gross (an invaluable source for this book) remembered these agents' approach: "You do not endorse Stalin. You do not call yourself a Communist. You do not declare your love for the regime. You do not call on people to support the Soviets. Ever. Under any circumstances" (p. 249). Rather: "You claim to be an independent-minded idealist. You don't really understand politics, but you think the little guy is getting a lousy break. You believe in open-mindedness. You are shocked, frightened by what is going on right here on our own country. You are frightened by the racism, by the oppression of the workingman" (p. 250). But in fact, all of these agents took their orders from Moscow!
In time Munzenberg, along with virtually all veteran Bolsheviks, fell from Stalin's favor. He managed to avoid execution through various shrewd maneuvers, but he died (hanged under mysterious circumstances) soon after German forces invaded France in 1940. Double Lives reads much like a mystery novel, but it deals with some of the most historically significant currents of the 20th century.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This may give you a headache on the road to truth, March 18, 2011
By 
Geoff Puterbaugh (Chiang Mai, T. Suthep, A. Muang Thailand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (Paperback)
Probably the most astonishing item in this book comes from the author's interview with Babette (Willi Muenzenberg's wife) at the age of 91. She was by no means senile; she was ancient, but in top form. She had long ago abandoned Communism and become a sharp critic of that murderous ideology. But she knew where the corpses were buried. When our author asked her, "But what about Sacco and Vanzetti?", she just gave him a little smile and said, "That was Willi's idea."

What?!?! How could that possibly be true?

The explanation lies in this book, which will really make you dizzy as you recognize the items of Soviet disinformation one at a time. It finally turns into a case of "wheels within wheels," where the dedicated enemies Hitler and Stalin nevertheless wind up cooperating with one another in a sort of Satanic waltz. For example: Hitler wanted to eliminate a large number of German Communists. No problem, said Stalin, and provided him with a list of German Communists that Stalin wanted dead.

If you read this book, you will suddenly come to a very different understanding of historical reality. For example, if you read that Felix Frankfurter and Lincoln Steffens both loudly and publicly deplored the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, you will understand why.

This is an extremely valuable book which belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in the history of the twentieth century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, February 27, 2014
By 
Jahana "Impeach Obama now" (Davis, CA, United States) - See all my reviews
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I'm glad that I bought my own personal copy of this incredible piece of research written from a critical perspective and well-written stylistically at that. If only all cultural criticism were as incisive as this.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A reavealing and very worthwhile book., November 5, 2011
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This review is from: Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (Paperback)
I don't think it the least bit hyperbolic to say that anyone who learns about Willi Munzenberg and his work will feel his presence in todays political environment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, August 22, 2014
thanx
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Double Lives: Double Cross, January 3, 2007
This review is from: Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (Paperback)
Stephen Koch makes clear through the device of tracing some of the life of Willi Munzenberg that Stalin and Hitler were in cahoots through most of the 30s. Hitler's Anti-Bolshevism and Stalin's Anti-Fascism were merely window dressing to fool the democratic opponents to one or the other regime. Stalin's Soviet Union aided the Wehrmacht during the time when the Treaty of Versailles limited the size and capability of the German Army. Koch makes it clear that Stalin's duplicitousness continued right up until Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The cluelessness of many, if not most, Western intellectuals during this period is breathtaking from the vantage point of the post-Cold War world. What is more disturbing is the post-fact absolution of Stalin from complicity in Hitler's rise and his conquest of Western Europe. Anyone interested in the true history of post-WWI Europe should read this book.
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7 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Messy but interesting, April 2, 2004
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This review is from: Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (Paperback)
This book is badly edited and loaded with typographical errors; if it were a toaster, I'd call it defective and return it. Yes, it is an interesting addition to the literature of the Soviet revision. But the editing and the typos are horrible. You are left to figure out what word was meant -- does "writing" mean "writing"? is "ind" really "find"? -- and doing so continually interrupts the narrative.
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