Study Guide

Double Lives

by Stephen Koch

Double Lives Essay - Critical Essays

Double Lives

DOUBLE LIVES is one of a slew of books which have recently appeared reviewing the significance of the Cold War in the wake of the Soviet Union’s disintegration. What did the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States really mean? What were Soviet intentions? These questions have been asked since the Cold War’s beginnings in the late 1940’s. With the ending of the Cold War and the gradual opening up of Soviet archives, these questions are beginning to be pursued in a new and authoritative manner.

Koch focuses on the period between 1933 and 1940, the years encompassing the advent of the Nazi regime in Germany, the Spanish Civil War, and the beginning of World War II. He makes frequent reference to the decades before and after this seven-year epoch, but he believes that Hitler’s hegemony and Stalin’s consolidation of authority through the purge trials of the mid-1930’s are the proper frame for understanding Soviet treatment of the West.

Although his evidence is sketchy, and he often overstates his argument, Koch demonstrates how much in common Hitler and Stalin had as dictators, and how Stalin used the anti-Fascist movement in the West to promulgate Soviet objectives—essentially a free reign for him in Eastern Europe and elsewhere docile governments, infiltrated with Soviet spies or sympathizers.

Koch suggests that Willi Munzenberg, a German Communist, ran the Soviet apparatus of spies and fellow travelers throughout Europe and America and came to grief (by suicide or Stalinist murder) in 1940, when Stalin achieved his longstanding aim of an alliance with Hitler.

Koch’s arguments are controversial and need much more investigation, but he has undoubtedly shown that the Soviet effort to control public opinion in the West was more extensive and more successful than heretofore supposed.

Sources for Further Study

Commentary. XCVII, January, 1994, p. 65.

Journal of Military History. LVIII, July, 1994, p. 566.

The Nation. CCLVIII, May 30, 1994, p. 752.

National Review. XLVI, February 21, 1994, p. 56.

The New Leader. LXXVI, December 27, 1993, p. 14.

The New Republic. CCX, May 30, 1994, p. 37.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, January 23, 1994, p. 3.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, December 13, 1993, p. 56.

The Wall Street Journal. January 17, 1994, p. A7.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, February 6, 1994, p. 8.