RUDE AWAKENINGS: An American Historian’s Encounter with Nazism, Communism and McCarthyism

Carol Sicherman
New Academia Publishing, 2012
978 Pages, 50 Illustrations
ISBN 978-0-9836899-8-0 Paperback
ISBN e-Book
Price: $28.00 Paperback
$9.99 e-Book

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About the Author

Carol Sicherman taught in the English Departments of Cornell University and Lehman College of the City University of New York. Her publications include: Thomas Traherne’s Christian Ethicks, ed.; Becoming an African University: Makerere 1922-2000. The reference works Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: The Making of a Rebel and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources won the Conover-Porter Award of the African Studies Association in 1992.  She has published many articles on Renaissance and African literatures and on higher education in East Africa. She lives in Oakland, California.

About the book

Drawing on family papers, wide-ranging interviews, FBI files, American and German newspapers, a wide array of published sources, and her own memories, the author traces Marks’s German American heritage, his education both formal and informal, his marriage to a fellow Communist from a poor Russian family, his rocky start as an academic, his anguish when confronted by his Communist past, and his ultimate creation of a satisfying career. Her sleuthing encompasses as well the paths to safety taken by his German friends as they found sanctuary around the world–in Russia, England, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, Palestine, Brazil, the United States, and Canada.


“Of particular interest is Carol Sicherman’s carefully researched description of the anti-Semitic atmosphere that Jewish students encountered at Harvard in the twenties and thirties, as well as the experience of a young American thrown into the turmoil accompanying the collapse of Germany’s democracy and the appeal of Communism as an alternative to Nazism.”
–Curt F. Beck, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Connecticut

“Based on a unique treasure trove of family letters and diaries, this biography interweaves the intellectual trajectory of a well-connected American academic with his observations and ideological responses to a most dramatic period of German history and European-American relations from the early 1930s to the 1960s. This book will be read and pondered with much profit not only by scholars and college students, but also by those who continue to find the insights to be gained in retrospect from the tragedies of the 20th century indispensable for an understanding of our contemporary predicament.”
–Volker R. Berghahn, Seth Low Professor of History, Columbia University

Rude Awakenings is a must read for students of 20th-century political and intellectual history. It tells the story of Harry J. Marks, who, after witnessing the tragic rise of Nazism in Hitler’s Germany, embraced Communism because he saw the USSR as the leading anti-fascist force in the world. Equally gripping is the story of Marks’s disillusionment with Communism and his decision to “name names” when as a history professor in the McCarthy era he was summoned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities to testify about his radical past.”
–Robert Cohen, Professor of History and Social Studies Education, New York University.

“Young and somewhat naive, Marks was nonetheless a quick learner who soon grasped the significance of what he was observing. He recorded his impressions of … the Third Reich in a diary as well as in the many letters he exchanged with correspondents in both Germany and the US. This trove of sources forms the core of the book. They not only offer yet another firsthand glimpse of the way in which the Nazis shattered the affluent and cultured world of German Jewry, but also help us understand why someone like Harry Marks would then gravitate to the communist orbit…. In the most fascinating section of the book, Sicherman mines Marks’s diary and correspondence with these people to trace their experiences under the Third Reich.”–Ellen Schrecker, German Studies Review (May 2013)