The Kuczynskis were a German-Jewish family of active anti-fascists who worked assiduously to combat the rise of Nazism before and during the course of the Second World War. This book focuses on the family of Robert and his wife Berta – both born two decades before the end of the nineteenth century – and their six children, five of whom became communists and one who worked as a Soviet agent. The parents, and later their children, rejected and rebelled against their comfortable bourgeois heritage and devoted their lives to the overthrow of privilege and class society. They chose to do this in a Germany that was rapidly moving in the opposite direction.
With the rise of German nationalism and then Hitler fascism, the family was confronted with stark choices and, as a result of making these choices, suffered persecution and exile. Revealing how these experiences shaped their outlook and perception of events, this book documents the story of the Kuczynskis for the first time in the English language and is a fascinating biographical portrait of a unique and radical family.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: who are the Kuczynskis?
- Robert René – world pioneer of social statistics
- Jürgen follows in his father’s footsteps
- Ursula – the politically precocious child
- Life under fascism
- Working underground
- The exile years - England
- Ursula – a Soviet agent in the Oxfordshire countryside
- Jürgen joins the US army
- Back in Germany at last
- Ursula’s return to the GDR
- Life for Jürgen and Marguerite in the GDR
- Ursula reveals her past
- The sun sets on a dream – the end of the GDR
- The British Kuczynskis
- Children of the war
- The spying business and the role of MI5
John Green is a journalist and author who has written several political biographies. His particular area of interest is the history of East Germany.
John Green provides a wonderfully rich account of this family of intellectuals, social activists and fighters against fascism. He also offers new insights into what it meant to be on the pro-Soviet left during the twentieth century's 'age of extremes'.
Matthew Stibbe, Professor of Modern European History, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
This captivating account of the Kuczynskis is far more than a family saga. John Green has produced a personalised history of the turbulent lives of left German Jews from the 1930s till after the Cold War on both sides of the Iron Curtain. A provoking book that brilliantly challenges readers to rethink the past.
Stephan Lieske, Lecturer, English Department, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany
This book is a remarkable story of a German-Jewish family, the Kuczynskis, whose members refused to become victims of fascist terror, joining the communist movement instead and dedicating their lives to fighting fascism and to building a socialist society. This family biography encapsulates the essence of twentieth century Europe – war, exile, hope and commitment.
Mary Davis, Emeritus Professor of Labour History, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
John Green has produced a remarkable history of the Kuczynski family and its role in the fight again fascism. This very well researched and expertly written volume will be of value to anyone interested in the politics of the radical left in 20th century Europe.
Alex Miller, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Otago, New Zealand