Arthur Kahn Papers, 1920-2009

Scope and Content Note

The collection, dating from 1920 to 2009, is arranged into three series: PERSONAL, PROFESSIONAL, and PHOTOGRAPHS; and documents the life and careers of Communist Party of the United States member, classics professor, and author Arthur David Kahn. In the 1950s Kahn was active within leftist organizations but retained little documentation. The bulk of the materials are related to the freelance writing of books and especially journal articles. Kahn utilized these records to write several books about his experiences during World War II as well as a series of memoirs. The collection is predominately in English but includes some Russian, Greek, Italian, German, Romanian, Hungarian, Czech, and French.

The PERSONAL series consists of eight sub-series: Articles about Kahn, Correspondence, Schooling, Diaries, Aesthetic Realism Writing Exercises and Lists, Diary of Roger Serf Translation, Freedom of Information Act Intelligence Records, and Community Arts and Humanities. They span 1937 to 2008. The series is primarily correspondence and travel diaries. Correspondences from individual persons are arranged alphabetically, followed by general and subject correspondences which are arranged chronologically. The correspondence is largely from family and friends but includes letters to notable blacklisted publishers Angus Cameron and Albert Kahn with whom he collaborated for The Matusow Affair book which further discredited Joseph McCarthy, letters from German communists, coordinative materials for a 1990 trip to the Soviet Union and subsequent letters to bring Russian artists into the United States, his suit to reinstate passport privileges, and an extended exchange with the U.S. government requesting pensions be granted for civilian OSS personnel who worked in the war zone. The diaries span three decades, are arranged chronologically, and primarily document his extensive personal and scholarly visits to Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Israel, among other eastern Mediterranean nations and France.

The Schooling sub-series includes a graduate thesis, doctoral term papers, the yearbook for his teachers college, and coordinative materials for that school's 50th anniversary reunion. The Articles about Kahn sub-series includes Romanian newspaper articles, clippings from his 1950 peace tour, and 1989 Soviet magazine articles regarding his coming visit. The remaining four sub-series lack component parts and therefore are not sub-divided. Of these the Freedom of Information Act files which outline U.S. government monitoring of his activities at home and abroad is the largest sub-series.

The Aesthetic Realism Writing Exercises, as indicated, are materials created during Kahn's flirtation with the Aesthetic Realism philosophy. The Diary of Roger Cerf Translation is a translation of the prison diary for a man Kahn claims was the first Belgian soldier executed by the Nazis as a prisoner of war. The original was given to Kahn by Cerf's family but it does not appear that Kahn attempted to publish it in its entirety. The Community Arts and Humanities are letters, notes, and flyers for his involvement in arts and humanities in the Brooklyn area during the 1990s.

The majority of the materials in the collection are in the PROFESSIONAL series which consists of four sub-series: His career in the Office of Strategic Services, his Teaching, his Writings, and Political Activism. The OSS sub-series is primarily reports written in Germany and his correspondence stateside as well as a political terminology quiz for enlisted men. The Teaching sub-series includes correspondence while at the State University of New York at Buffalo and Colgate University, but especially at Brock University where he chaired its classics department. Other Brock materials include lecture outlines as well as Latin and archaeological society correspondence. Also included are coordinative correspondence and instructional materials for the Sulmona Institute on Italian Civilization, a summer course he devised and initially self-financed in 1980.

The Writings sub-series include three further sub-series for his draft Manuscripts, Manuscript Correspondence with publishers and other persons, and Printed Articles. The Manuscripts are divided into six further sub-series: Short form General Fiction and Non-Fiction, Eastern Bloc Tour, Books, Classics, Unknown Israel, and Soviet Union and Reminiscences. The short form General Fiction and Non-Fiction include the bulk of his early writings. The Books sub-series contains drafts of Kahn's foreword to his translation of Georg Lukacs’ book Writer and Critic, a research file for Kahn's own book Experiment in Occupation, and 21 monographs authored or translated by Kahn. The remaining sub-series are short form accounts and scholarly articles regarding Eastern Europe, Classics, Israeli politics and society, and the Soviet Union just before its break-up. Books and General Fiction and Non-Fiction are arranged chronologically by earliest date and the rest are alphabetical by title. Kahn advocated the relevance of classics in contemporary political society and thus in addition to his overtly political writings many of these classics manuscripts contain political intent.

The Manuscript Correspondence sub-series is divided amongst correspondence for Books or Short Form writings. Therein they are arranged alphabetically. Each sub-series holds correspondence for writings concerning gay rights, communism or World War II, classics, and fiction. Notable is the collaboration with Marxist theorist Georg Lukacs. These dozen letters are in German and appear to concern Kahn's translation efforts. The Printed Articles sub-series includes clippings primarily from journals: They are General, Classical, and Political. From there they are arranged alphabetically. These include the finalized forms for many of his manuscripts and some that do not exist in drafts.

The Political Activism sub-series is sparse and unrepresentative considering the degree of involvement within various leftist organizations in the 1940s and 1950s. It includes proclamations issued by Kahn as head of the Progressive Party's nationalities division, literature related to his American Labor Party run for Congress in 1952, papers regarding the courts martial for several Puerto Ricans refusing to fight in Korea, and much later documents concerning AIDS presence in Israel and an early possible treatment.

The PHOTOGRAPHS series contains two sub-series, General and Autobiographies. The General sub-series follows the arrangement of the manuscript portion as described in the contents list. It primarily documents his writing and teaching careers. The Autobiographies sub-series are the photographic files used by Kahn to illustrate his memoirs and include family photographs and images from his professional life.