Obituary: Professor Jurgen Kuczynski

Article excerpt

Jurgen Kuczynski was a remarkable member of the remarkable Jewish Central European intelligentsia of the inter-war period. Like many of them he turned to Marxism as an answer to the ethnic and national rivalries, and economic and political chaos which followed the First World War. Many of them subsequently saw Stalin's version of Communism as the God that failed, and returned their Party cards. Kuczynski did not.

Born in 1904, in Elberfeld, Germany, the son of a banker, Rene Kuczynski, he studied philosophy, finance and statistics at the universities of Berlin, Erlangen and Heidelberg, gaining a doctorate in economics in 1925. Between 1926 and 1929 he extended his theoretical and practical experience in the United States, doing postgraduate studies at the Brooking Institute followed by work as head of the economic department of the American Federation of Labor, the main US trade union body.

Kuczynski joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1930 working as economics editor of the paper Die Rote Fahne ("The Red Flag") until it was banned by the Nazis in 1933. He remained in Germany until 1936 as part of the Communist underground. He then gained entry into Britain, where he headed the KPD emigre organisation. He also worked with R. Palme Dutt on the Labour Monthly, which, of course, had nothing to do with the Labour Party and was totally on Moscow's line. As with Dutt and other true believers, the Soviet Union was Kuczynski's true homeland, and he did not hesitate to follow his sister Ursula, "Sonia", into espionage activity for Moscow. It was through Jurgen that the fellow refugee Klaus Fuchs was put in touch with the Soviet military intelligence service (GRU) and started his career as an atom spy. Sonia became Fuchs's GRU controller. Their meetings took place in Banbury, where she lived as a refugee. Meanwhile Jurgen himself was becoming active in the secret world. Between 1944-45 he served in the US army air force with the rank of colonel. His job was as part of a team of analysts conducting the Strategic Bombing Survey. He passed on the results of their labours to Soviet intelligence. In 1945 Kuczynski returned to Berlin, living to begin with in the American Sector of the city. He joined the Communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) when it was established in 1946. However, the SED felt his talents could best be used in the various front organisations and in the academic sphere. He was appointed professor at the Humboldt University in 1946, where he founded the Institute for Economic History. He was a founding member of the League of Culture (Kultur Bund) and headed its group in the East German parliament for some years. He served as the President of the Society for the Study of the Culture of the Soviet Union, 1947-50, telling his members, "He who hates and despises human progress as it is manifested in the Soviet Union is himself odious and contemptible. …