A Political Family: The Kuczynskis, Fascism, Espionage and The Cold War, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

A Political Family

The Kuczynskis, Fascism, Espionage and The Cold War, 1st Edition

By John Green


356 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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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.


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

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: who are the Kuczynskis?
  2. Robert René – world pioneer of social statistics
  3. Jürgen follows in his father’s footsteps
  4. Ursula – the politically precocious child
  5. Life under fascism
  6. Working underground
  7. The exile years - England
  8. Ursula – a Soviet agent in the Oxfordshire countryside
  9. Jürgen joins the US army
  10. Back in Germany at last
  11. Ursula’s return to the GDR
  12. Life for Jürgen and Marguerite in the GDR
  13. Ursula reveals her past
  14. The sun sets on a dream – the end of the GDR
  15. The British Kuczynskis
  16. Children of the war
  17. The spying business and the role of MI5
  18. Epilogue

About the Author

John Green is a journalist and author who has written several political biographies. His particular area of interest is the history of East Germany.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics

The series Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics has two areas of interest. Firstly, this series aims to publish books which focus on the history of movements of the radical left. ‘Movement of the radical left’ is here interpreted in its broadest sense as encompassing those past movements for radical change which operated in the mainstream political arena as with political parties, and past movements for change which operated more outside the mainstream as with millenarian movements, anarchist groups, utopian socialist communities, and trade unions. Secondly, this series aims to publish books which focus on more contemporary expressions of radical left-wing politics. Recent years have been witness to the emergence of a multitude of new radical movements adept at getting their voices in the public sphere. From those participating in the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, community unionism, social media forums, independent media outlets, local voluntary organisations campaigning for progressive change, and so on, it seems to be the case that innovative networks of radicalism are being constructed in civil society that operate in different public forms.  

The series very much welcomes titles with a British focus, but is not limited to any particular national context or region. The series will encourage scholars who contribute to this series to draw on perspectives and insights from other disciplines.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / General
HISTORY / Europe / Germany
HISTORY / Jewish
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Communism & Socialism
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Fascism & Totalitarianism