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Willi Münzenberg (Erfurt 1889 - Saint-Marcellin 1940)

Willi Münzenberg was already committed to the Arbeiterbildungsverein „Propaganda“ (Association for Workers’ Education “Propaganda”) in the first ten years of the century. During World War I he took on the leadership of the Internationales Jugendsekretariat (International Youth Office) in Bern and became a friend of W.I. Lenin during his pre-revolutionary days in Switzerland.

In 1919 he became a member of the KPD (German Communist Party / Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands) and was elected chairman of the newly founded Kommunistische Jugendinternationale (Communist Youth Internationale). From 1921 on Münzenberg was responsible for the Soviet Union’s propaganda operations in the West. In the same year the IAH (International Workers’ Aid / Internationale Arbeiterhilfe) was founded to elicit German aid for victims of the Russian famine.

From 1924 to 1933 Münzenberg was member of the KPD’s central committee as well as member of the parliament. In his function as leader of the communist’s propaganda machine Münzenberg founded the Kosmos-Verlag GmbH (Kosmos Publishers) which soon became the second largest in Germany. Münzenberg’s „information network“ included newspapers such as "Sowjetrußland im Bild" (1921, later: "Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung", "Welt am Abend" (1926), "Eulenspiegel" (1928), and "Berlin am Morgen" (1931).

Münzenberg established various organisations and events (film screenings, book clubs, publicity tours, and theatre evenings) to support the proletarian cause. Film and photography have always played an important role for Münzenberg which is stressed even more in his manifesto „Erobert den Film! Winke aus der Praxis für die Praxis proletarischer Filmpropaganda“ [www.trend.partisan.net/trd1099/t351099.html] published in 1925. In 1926 he founded „Prometheus Film- Verleih und Vertriebs GmbH“ with the aim to distribute Russian films and to produce the so called “quota films” in Germany.

After the Nazi take over in 1933 Münzenberg moved to Paris. In 1938 he was expelled from the KPD’s central committee because of his criticism of Josef W. Stalin’s politics. He was dismissed from all his offices and expelled from the party in 1939.

In October 1940 Willi Münzenberg was found hanged. The circumstances of his death have never been cleared up.

See also Babette GROSS: „Willi Münzenberg. Eine politische Biografie“, Leipzig: Forum 1991.


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