Willi Münzenberg: Fighter against Fascism and Stalinism, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Willi Münzenberg

Fighter against Fascism and Stalinism, 1st Edition

By John Green


336 pages | 30 B/W Illus.

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Willi Münzenberg was a towering figure in the anti-fascist movement during the first half of the 20th century. He was acquainted with many of the leading left wing activists and thinkers of his day including Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and Karl Radek. He also played a foundational role in several important transnational organisations such as the Socialist Youth International, the largest anti-war movement in opposition to the First World War, the International Workers’ Relief organisation, and the League Against Imperialism and Colonial Oppression.

As a film distributor and promoter, he brought modern Soviet films to western Europe. As a publicist and manager, he built up the most influential left-wing media empire in the Weimar Republic and initiated the pioneering use of photography and photo montage. He was also a long-time member of the Reichstag. He was a pioneer in the use of a variety of media and the way he gained the support and collaboration of progressive politicians, artists and intellectuals ensured that he would become the leading, and most effective, opponent of Hitler’s and Goebbels’ propaganda machine, as he exposed the venality and brutality of the Nazis. Late in life, his turn against Stalinism almost certainly led to his mysterious death.

This is the first detailed biography in English to give coverage of the full range of Münzenberg's activism. There are valuable lessons to be learnt from the book about the best ways to counter fascism which are powerfully relevant to our contemporary political situation. It should be of great interest to activists, scholars and those with an interest in the history of the radical left.


"Willi Münzenberg is a key reference for anyone interested in anti-war movements since the First World War, left cultural politics, or specific relations between socialist and communist movements and transnational solidarity during the interwar period. And still, his biography and politics have fallen through existing webs of historical narration due to existing biases. Therefore I wholeheartedly welcome John Green’s attempt to rediscover and critically re-evaluate Münzenberg’s biography and the extraordinary achievements during his lifetime." - Dr. Uwe Sonnenberg, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Berlin and Internationales Willi-Münzenberg-Forum, Germany

"Willi Münzenberg remains one of the 20th century’s most intriguing personalities on the political left. His influence and political legacy still remain largely underrated or misrepresented. John Green’s Münzenberg biography thus forms an important and timely contribution to this complex story, closely related to the rise of international communism and the Soviet Union. This accessible account will help a new generation of readers to discover Münzenberg and his political activism for international solidarity, anti-colonialism and anti-fascism." - Kasper Braskén, Åbo Akademi University, Sweden

"My grandmother, Babette Gross, worked for Willi Münzenberg from 1920. She later became his life partner, living and working with him until his death in 1940. The aim of her Political Biography was to tell the story of his life objectively, supported by historical evidence and relying as little as possible on subjective experience. Subsequent biographers, although drawing on her account, have interpreted Münzenberg and his activities through their own somewhat tinted historical perspectives and attitudes. John Green's new biography has a more even-handed approach to the historical setting, bringing relevance to this area for a new generation of readers. A welcome addition to the scholarship, it throws a clearer light on the life and times of the enigmatic Willi Münzenberg and his fellow-travellers." - Dr. Catherine Gross, The Australian National University, Australia

Table of Contents


1. Early life

2. An émigré in Switzerland

3. Germany in Turmoil

4. Rebuilding the socialist youth movement

5. The Comintern’s emissary in Western Europe

6. The Communist Party and Civil War in Germany

7. Entrepreneur and Propagandist supremo

8. Publishing mogul

9. The influence of the KPD and Münzenberg’s organisation on working class culture in Germany

10. League against Imperialism

11. Fleeing the Nazis to France

12. Reichstag Fire and Counter Trial

13. Battles with the KPD leadership

14. French internment and mysterious death

15. Münzenberg’s British Secret Service Files

16. Summing up Münzenberg’s historical contribution

About the Author

John Green is a journalist and author. He worked for two decades making television documentaries before devoting himself to writing. He has since written several biographies, including one on Friedrich Engels and this his second for Routledge. He lived in Germany for a number of years and has a keen interest in 20th century German political history and culture. He and his wife live and work in West London.

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 / Great Britain
HISTORY / Revolutionary
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Radicalism