Communazis: FBI Surveillance of German Emigre Writers

Alexander Stephan, Author, Jan Heurck, Translator, Jan Van Heurck, Translator
Alexander Stephan, Author, Jan Heurck, Translator, Jan Van Heurck, Translator Yale University Press $50 (384p) ISBN 978-0-300-08202-9
Reviewed on: 09/11/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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During the 1930s, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and scores of other German writers fled the Nazi regime to settle in the United States. Some were awarded posh Hollywood contracts; others just barely made ends meet. Using much archival material, Stephan demonstrates in this remarkable study that J. Edgar Hoover and his henchmen at the FBI spied on virtually all the writers. Why? Because the migr s were suspected of being socialists (largely true), and Hoover, a rabid anti-Communist, was obsessed with flushing out anyone with leftist sympathies. Once WWII broke out, the German writers were faced with the additional burden of living as foreign nationals in an enemy country. The Office of Censorship read all their letters; the FBI kept track of their sexual partners; agents combed their works for hidden anti-American meanings. Stephan, a professor of German history at the University of Florida, jumped through a great many hoops in order to obtain the government files on which his study is based, and he does not avoid sharing these travails with the reader. As a result, parts of his text read like the dryest kind of detective book (""The INS gave me 30 pages""; ""A further 90 items were withheld by the FBI""). But this detective work also dishes up some surprises, such as that Thomas Mann's daughter (also the onetime wife of W.H. Auden) was an informant for the FBI. A feature on the front page of the arts section of the New York Times in early September promises serious media attention for this title and, consequently, brisk early sales, despite the dry, research-report tone. Illus. (Oct.)
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