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Havemann joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1932 and worked for the resistance until his arrest by the Gestapo in 1943. He received a death sentence, but due to his knowledge he was instead forced to do research while in jail.
After the war, he became head of administration in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for physical Chemistry and Elektrochemistry in Berlin, but in 1948 he was dismissed from this position due to political pressure from the American authorities in West Berlin. He continued his scientific work in the institute until he got barred from his laboratory in January 1950.
In 1963 he lectured on 'Scientific Aspects of Philosophical Problems' (published as 'Dialectic without Dogmatism—Natural Sciences against Communistic Ideology') and was expelled from the ruling Socialist Unity Party and dismissed from the University—officially because he gave an interview to a newspaper from West Germany.
He continued his work as a socialist critic and was put under house arrest in 1976, at his home in the village of Grünheide. This continued until his death in 1982, after a long time suffering from lung disease.
In 1989 he was politically rehabilitated by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.