Albert E. Kahn

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Albert Eugene Kahn
Born May 11, 1912(1912-05-11)
Died September 15, 1979 (aged 67)
Glen Ellen, California
Cause of death Heart attack
Relatives Albert Kahn (uncle)

Albert Eugene Kahn (May 11, 1912September 15, 1979) was a Jewish communist journalist, photographer and co-editor of the anti-fascist bulletin The Hour. Kahn was the American Labor Party candidate in the 1948 elections for New York's 25th congressional district.[1]

Early life and education

Kahn was born in London, England to an affluent politically conservative Jewish family. Albert E. Kahn's father, Moritz Kahn, was senior engineer in the firm who set up the Kahn brothers Soviet Union operation in conjunction with Gosproekstroi.

Albert Kahn was educated in the United States attending Phillips Exeter Academy and Dartmouth College, where he was a star athlete. His education exposed him to Shakespeare, and later in life he said that it was the study of King Lear that first awakened in him a sense of injustice. He was Dartmouth Class Poet, graduating in 1934. Married in 1934, he and the former Harriet Warner moved to California, where Kahn tried unsuccessfully to become a Hollywood screenwriter.

Communist leanings

After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Kahn agreed to lead an ambulance tour to raise medical relief funds for Spanish communist forces fighting against the national Franco troops. On the tour, Kahn spoke to audiences ranging from the wealthy to the unemployed. Communists and socialists organized many of the speaking events and after completing the tour in 1938, he joined the Communist Party of the United States.

With no employment prospects, Kahn accepted a job at Albert Kahn, Inc., but his political activism quickly caused a rupture as he began giving anti-fascist speeches in public. As he shared his name with his prominent uncle, the publicity caused consternation at the firm. Their concern was heightened by the fact that Henry Ford, an anti-communist, was the company's largest client. In a meeting with his uncle and father, the younger Kahn decided to resign from the company.

Anti-National Socialist journalism

Almost immediately Kahn was offered a position as Executive Director of the newly-formed American Council Against National Socialist Propaganda. Working for a Board of Directors including Helen Keller, Condé Nast, John Gunther, former Ambassodor William E. Dodd, and Thomas Mann, Kahn founded The Hour newsletter in 1939. In that capacity he engaged in investigative journalism against nationalist and patriotic elements in the United States. He also investigated the activities of American fascist and pro-fascist groups such as the German-American Bund. The Hour's propaganda activities were widely used in printed media, by radio commentators such as Walter Winchell, and by the War Department, Justice Department and the Office of War Information.


Material obtained by The Hour became the foundation for Kahn's first best-selling book, Sabotage! The Secret War Against America (1942), co-authored with Michael Sayers. Plans by Reader's Digest to print excerpts from the book resulted in the first notations by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in Kahn's FBI file: "Can nothing be done to stop this?"

Kahn and Sayers also collaborated on The Plot Against The Peace (1945) and The Great Conspiracy: The Secret War Against Soviet Russia (1946). Kahn, an outspoken opponent of the Cold War, was blacklisted from mainstream publishing in the late 1940s. Using pre-sales of books to leftist trade unions, he wrote and published High Treason: The Plot Against the People (Lear, 1950), a post-1917 political history of the United States, and The Game of Death: Effects of the Cold War on Our Children (C&K, 1953).

Cameron and Kahn

In the early 1950s, Kahn and Angus Cameron, an eminent Little, Brown editor who had recently been blacklisted, formed the publishing firm Cameron & Kahn. In 1955 the firm published False Witness, the confession of former Communist and paid government witness, Harvey Matusow, that he had repeatedly lied under oath. Matusow's announced confession caused a sensation, and the government's response to pending publication of the book was to subpoena Kahn, Cameron and Matusow to appear before a federal grand jury. The publishers were accused of bribing Matusow to falsely assert that he had committed perjury on behalf of the government. After months of hearings and thousands of pages of testimony, the grand jury declined to issue indictments against Cameron or Kahn.

Simultaneously with the grand jury proceedings, Kahn, Cameron and Matusow were subpoenaed to testify before the United States Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, chaired by the Mississippi senator, James Eastland. The purpose of the hearings was to determine whether publication of False Witness was the result of a Communist conspiracy, rather than to assess the origin and consequences of Matusow's admitted perjury.

The story of the book's publication and its aftermath was written by Kahn in the late 1950s, but not published until 1987, eight years after his death (The Matusow Affair, Moyer Bell).

Other books published by Cameron and Kahn included The testament of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Seeds of destruction; the truth about the U.S. occupation of Germany by Cedric Belfrage and The ecstasy of Owen Muir by Ring Lardner.

Breaking the blacklist

During the 1950s, Kahn had his passport revoked for refusing to sign the required affidavit stating whether or not he was or had ever been a member of the Communist Party, a requirement ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in a case involving noted painter and Kahn friend, Rockwell Kent.

Kahn broke the blacklist in 1962 with publication by Simon & Schuster of the critically acclaimed Days With Ulanova, an intimate portrait of the fabled Bolshoi ballerina. While in Moscow, Kahn met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin and proposed collaboration with him on the Soviet leader's autobiography, but Khrushchev declined. Other books included Smetana and the Beetles (Random House, 1967), a satire of the defection of Stalin's daughter; Joys and Sorrows (Simon & Schuster, 1970), Pablo Casals' memoir as told to Kahn; and The Unholy Hymnal (Simon & Schuster, 1971), a satirical expose of the Credibility Gap of the Johnson and Nixon administrations.

Allegations of Soviet spying

After his death, speculation developed as to whether Kahn had served Soviet intelligence. In 1946 the San Francisco KGB suggested that Kahn be recruited into Soviet espionage.[citation needed] Kahn requested that Julia Older, who worked in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), obtain information. Elizabeth Bentley stated in her deposition to the FBI that Kahn had furnished information directly to Jacob Golos and herself in 1942 on immigrant Ukrainians hostile to the Soviet Union. During that period, the Soviet Union was an ally of the United States in the war against Germany. Ukrainian nationalist and pro-fascist organizations were considered by the American government as allies of the Germans, and at the time Kahn shared his investigative findings with the FBI and American military intelligence. Venona project researchers John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr speculate Kahn may be code name "Fighter", as referenced in Venona decypt # 247 San Francisco to Moscow, 14 June 1946.

In September, 1958, Kahn was called for the final time to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. One witness, Fedor Mansvetov, testified that he knew Kahn to be a Soviet spy because "he is following party line" by not referring to East European countries as "satellites". Kahn submitted an affidavit with the committee which charged that "witnesses at your hearings have been repeatedly encouraged to bandy about...grotesque accusations", and included a challenge:

"If I could sue your committee for defamation of character and interference with my work, I would. It might be a good lesson for you. Perhaps you will advise me whether each of your committee members is willing to waive his congressional immunity and assume full personal responsibility for spreading the charges made against me by your witnesses at this hearing. Perhaps just one of you –let us say Senator Eastland –will repeat in public and without congressional immunity the accusation that I am a spy. There seems a peculiar aptness to that popular American saying, 'Put up or shut up.'"

None of the Senators accepted his offer.

He died on September 15, 1979 of a heart attack in Glen Ellen, California.[2]



  1. Kahn, Albert E. — of New York. American Labor candidate for U.S. Representative from New York 25th District, 1948.
  2. "Albert E. Kahn, a Writer Critical Of Government in McCarthy Era. An Unaffiliated Marxist.". New York Times. September 19, 1979, Wednesday. Retrieved 2008-04-04. "Albert E. Kahn, a writer and publisher who was an outspoken critic of Government activities during the McCarthy era, died of a heart attack Saturday while driving near his home in Glen Ellen, California. He was 67 years old." 

Further reading

  • Albert E. Kahn, The Matusow Affair, Moyer Bell (1987).
  • Brian Kahn, My Father's Son, manuscript (2007).
  • Elizabeth Bentley deposition 30 November 1945, FBI file 65-14603. Also see Venona 247 KGB San Francisco to Moscow, 14 June 1946, for an ambiguous mention of Kahn in the clear.
  • John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press (1999).
  • Mary Arbunich, "Touching Image of Inspiration that Stirred Eichler's Soul -- Two Boys, Two Races, One Poignant Photograph", Eichler Network
  • Michael Sayers, Albert E. Kahn. Sabotage! The Secret War against America. Harper & Brothers Publishers. 1942

See also

Template:Communism in the United States

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