Arthur Kahn Papers, 1920-2009


Arthur David Kohn was born in Connecticut to a middle-class Jewish family September 21, 1920 on Yom Kippur. At 17 he changed his last name to “Kahn.” He attended the New Jersey Teachers College at Trenton and graduated in 1940 with a specialty for political science in general secondary education; held membership in several clubs, namely the psychology club, and was editor for the school's yearbook. Upon graduation he taught high school English and comparative literature until he was recruited as a civilian for the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, which utilized his talent for analytical thought, political science, and psychology.

Arthur Kahn arrived in France weeks after D-Day as a prisoner of war interrogator and served in Brussels as a “peripatetic” intelligence investigator under British Marshal Montgomery. He later served in the American occupation zone under General Patton. There he monitored and analyzed the political climate and de-Nazification of Germany and edited the leading state department publication in Germany. His communist leanings were crystallized by his experiences with long-oppressed German communists further suppressed under post-war pressure between the West and the Soviet Union which created a re-armed and ostensibly anti-communist western Germany.

His political activities were monitored by the U.S. State Department and other intelligence-gathering institutions beginning in 1947 when he increased activity within the U.S. Communist Party, published articles, books, and toured the country decrying the rearmament of western Germany and emerging cold war. He was eventually blacklisted. Much of his writings were published abroad or through noted communist publishers Angus Cameron and Albert Kahn. He served as the Director of Nationalities with the communist leaning Progressive Party of 1948, the research director for both WEB DuBois’ Peace Information Center and the American Peace Crusade, served in the Puerto Rican commission for the New York State Communist Party, and ran for Congress under New York's American Labor Party in 1952. In 1959 he embarked on a nine month trip through the Eastern Bloc as the guest of the people's democracies and was the first westerner to visit Albania since World War II. He accomplished this despite official passport restrictions for communists.

In the 1960s he resumed his academic ventures and received a doctorate in philosophy from New York University. He taught English and comparative literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Kahn helped found and later chair the Classics department at the new Brock University in Ontario and then visited Colgate University for one year before slipping into retirement.

In 1981 Kahn founded and chaired the Sulmona Institute on Italian Civilization, a lecture course and archaeological practicum in central Italy. He continued to travel and publish books and articles on communism and classics but focused on increasing gay activism, HIV/AIDS, and thoughtful accounts of his recent travels in Israel and his 1990 trip to the Soviet Union.