Question: what do you get if you take three neo-Marxist intellectuals from the Frankfurt School and put them in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the US’s wartime intelligence agency and the forerunner of the CIA? Answer: some of the most brilliant analysis of Nazi Germany ever written and a valuable lesson in postwar planning.
Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse and Otto Kirchheimer – leading figures in the creation of Marxist “critical theory” and, in Marcuse’s case, a “rock star” of the 1960s radical left – were Jewish émigrés who fled Germany for the US in the 1930s. Between 1942 and 1944, the three friends were headhunted from posts in American universities by General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the leader of the OSS, and reunited in the service of the US government. The reports they prepared on Nazi Germany, first declassified in the mid-1970s, have now been collated and published for the first time, edited by the Italian academic Raffaele Laudani. Together they form a rich and multilayered collection of political essays that will be of enduring interest to students of military intelligence, Marxism, Nazi Germany and the Allied effort in the Second World War.
John Bew is a Contributing Editor at War on the Rocks.