By Leo Lowenthal
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Extra info for An Unmastered Past: The Autobiographical Reflections of Leo Lowenthal
In the preparatory work for my book on your group, I read the texts in the following order. With regard to fascism, for instance, I excerpted and documented all pertinent passages in letters and all allusions in theoretical texts and entered them on a time scale from 1930 to 1945. It was then that I came upon some interesting points. Although it was the year of your emigration, for you 1933 did not seem to be the break it is commonly perceived as in contemporary accounts. Your group saw a much stronger continuity between the last years of the Weimar Republic, especially those since 1931, and the first years of Hitler's rule than is normally understood.
This attitude was manifested in the fact that only second-rate people were used for the programs destined for South America, and little attention was paid to them. Perhaps in this respect the behavior of my department was representative of the entire State Department. That's one good example. The other was Africa. For Africa there was simply nothing. I wrote memorandum after memorandum suggesting that we do some programming in Swahili, but nothing came of it (that changed later on). I must say that in my time, as I saw it, Africa scarcely appeared at all in the immediate realm of American foreign policy.
Dubiel: I'm amazed that your work in the OWI was so disorganized. I've always thought that when governments hire intellectuals for such functions, they must have a clearly defined research plan with a clear organizational hierarchy and precisely defined questions and instructions. Lowenthal: I don't mean that everything was totally chaotic. It ― 83 ― was, you know, wartime, and the American governmental apparatus was inflated with new agencies and personnel. And, to tell the truth, it wasn't really prepared for such things as intelligence work.