||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia. (December 2011)|
A factory worker, Barthel was a member of the socialist youth movement; he was a World War I frontline soldier from 1914 to 1918. He was co-founder of the Youth International in the Soviet Union in 1920, and was acquainted there with Vladimir Lenin. In 1923 Barthel moved from the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) to the Social Democratic Party of Germany. He drew closer to Nazism after the Seizure of Power; he was a reporter on Strength Through Joy trips, and a press correspondent during the war. In 1922 he had worked Communist ideas into the poem "Arbeiterseele" (The Worker's Soul), but in 1934 his novel Das unsterbliche Volk (The Immortal Volk) described "the transformation of a German worker [himself] from a Communist to a follower of the Führer". In a tone of resignation, Barthel titled his postwar autobiography Kein Bedarf an Weltgeschichte (No Need for World History; 1950).