Albert E. Kahn

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Albert Eugene Kahn
Born(1912-05-11)May 11, 1912
DiedSeptember 15, 1979(1979-09-15) (aged 67)
RelativesAlbert Kahn (uncle)

Albert Eugene Kahn (May 11, 1912 – September 15, 1979) was an American journalist, photographer, author and nephew of modernist industrial architect Albert Kahn. He is mostly known as author of books Sabotage! The Secret War Against America and The Great Conspiracy: The Secret War Against Soviet Russia which described leading Soviet communists as foreign spies based on their forced confessions at the Moscow Trials. 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.

Early life and education[edit]

Kahn was born in London, England to an affluent politically conservative Jewish family. Educated in the United States, he attended 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 1932. Married in 1934, he and the former Harriet Warner moved to California, where Kahn tried unsuccessfully to become a Hollywood screenwriter.

Political leanings[edit]

After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Kahn agreed to lead an ambulance tour to raise medical relief funds for Loyalist forces fighting against the fascist-supported Franco rebellion. On the tour, Kahn spoke to audiences ranging from the wealthy to the unemployed. It was the height of the Depression and Kahn was deeply affected by the widespread deprivation that he saw. Communists and socialists organized many of the speaking events and impressed Kahn with their idealism. 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. A talented orator, he began giving anti-fascist speeches. As he shared his name with his prominent uncle, the publicity caused consternation at the firm. Their concern was heightened by the reality that Henry Ford was the company's largest client, and Ford was engaged in business in Nazi Germany. In a meeting with his uncle and father, the younger Kahn was given a choice: Stop speaking publicly, or resign. He chose the latter option.

He was the American Labor Party candidate in the 1948 elections for New York's 25th congressional district.[1]

Anti-Nazi journalism[edit]

Almost immediately Kahn was offered a position as Executive Director of the newly formed American Council Against Nazi Propaganda. Working for a Board of Directors including Helen Keller, Condé Nast, John Gunther, former Ambassador William E. Dodd, and Thomas Mann, Kahn founded The Hour, a syndicated newsletter. In that capacity he engaged in investigative journalism to expose Nazi espionage, sabotage and propaganda operations 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 revelations 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), an international bestseller. In the latter, on the Moscow purge trials, the authors accepted as valid the charges of treason against former Soviet opposition leaders, and the underlying allegation of plots to overthrow the Soviet state, assassinate Lenin, Stalin, Gorky, and others.

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[edit]

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,[2] 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 to have Matusow lie in admitting perjury, 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,[3] Seeds of Destruction; the truth about the U.S. occupation of Germany[4] by Cedric Belfrage and The ecstasy of Owen Muir[5] by Ring Lardner.

Breaking the blacklist[edit]

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. On another trip to Moscow, Kahn met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin and proposed collaboration with him on the Soviet leader's autobiography. Khrushchev agreed, but was forced from office before the project was launched. Other Kahn 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.

Later life[edit]

He died on September 15, 1979, of a heart attack in Glen Ellen, California.[6]



  1. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Kaan to Kandrevas".
  2. ^ Matusow, Harvey (1 January 1955). "False witness". Cameron & Kahn – via Hathi Trust.
  3. ^ Rosenberg, Ethel; Rosenberg, Julius (1 January 1954). "The testament of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg". Cameron & Kahn – via Hathi Trust.
  4. ^ Belfrage, Cedric (1 January 1954). "Seeds of destruction; [the truth about the U.S. occupation of Germany]". Cameron & Kahn – via Hathi Trust.
  5. ^ Lardner, Ring. "The ecstasy of Owen Muir". Cameron & Kahn – via Hathi Trust.
  6. ^ Blau, Eleanor (September 19, 1979). "Albert E. Kahn, a Writer Critical Of Government in McCarthy Era. An Unaffiliated Marxist". The New York Times. 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[edit]

  • Arbunich, Marty. "Touching Image of Inspiration that Stirred Eichler's Soul -- Two Boys, Two Races, One Poignant Photograph", Eichler Network
  • Bentley, Elizabeth. 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.
  • Caballero, Raymond. McCarthyism vs. Clinton Jencks. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2019.
  • Haynes, John Earl and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press (1999).
  • Kahn, Albert E. The Matusow Affair, Moyer Bell (1987).
  • Kahn, Brian. My Father's Son, manuscript (2007).
  • Sayers, Michael and Albert E. Kahn. Sabotage! The Secret War against America. Harper & Brothers Publishers. 1942

External links[edit]