Item description for Out of the Night: The Memoir of Richard Julius Herman Krebs alias Jan Valtin (NABAT) by Jan Valtin...
A bestseller in 1941, selected by the Book of the Month Club for a special edition and described by Book of the Month Club News as: “. . . full of sensational revelations and interspersed with episodes of daring, of desperate conflict, of torture, and of ruthless conspiracy . . . It is, first of all, an autobiography the like of which has seldom been.”
The son of a seafaring father, Richard Julius Herman Krebs, a.k.a. Jan Valtin, came of age as a bicycle messenger during a maritime rebellion. His life as an intimate insider account of the dramatic events of 1920’s and 1930s, where he rose both within the ranks of the Communist Party and on the Gestapo hit list. Known for his honesty and incredible memory, Krebs dedicated his life to the Communist Party, rising to a position as head of maritime, organizing worldwide for the Comintern, only to flee the Party and Europe to evade his own comrade’s attempts to kill him. As a professional revolutionary, agitator, spy and would-be assassin, Krebs traveled the globe from Germany to China, India to Sierra Leon, Moscow to the United States where a botched assassination attempt landed him a stint in San Quentin.
From his spellbinding account of artful deception to gain release from a Nazi prison and his work as a double-agent within the Gestapo, to his vivid depiction of a Communist Party fraught with intrigue and subterfuge, Krebs gives an unflinching portrayal of the internal machinations of both parties.
Writing at age 36 under the name Jan Valtin, Krebs lays bare a young life filled with idealism and devotion—disillusionment and loss—in a world full of revolutionary promise gone immeasurably wrong.
”An exciting, real book without a trace of unnecessary melodrama.”—H.G.Wells
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.25" Width: 6" Height: 9" Weight: 1.75 lbs.
Release Date May 1, 2004
Publisher AK Press
ISBN 1902593863 ISBN13 9781902593869
Availability 0 units.
More About Jan Valtin
The son of a merchant marine, Richard Julius Herman Krebs a.ka. Jan Valtin came of age in during a maritime rebellion and soon joined the German Communist Party working as a professional revolutionary. His life intimately tied with the dramatic events of 1920's and 30's Germany where he rose in ranks in the Communist party and on the Gestapo hit list. After tricking the Nazi's to gain release from prison and fleeing his own former comrades attempts to have him killed, Krebs spent his final years in the United States were he published his amazing autobiography.
Reviews - What do customers think about Out of the Night: The Memoir of Richard Julius Herman Krebs alias Jan Valtin (NABAT)?
It was a dark night Sep 15, 2008
This book captivated me. His story is amazing. Although I am not sympathetic to the revolutionary passion, it is too destructive, I was sympathetic to his quest. He realized that he was blind to the deadliness of communism. That he suffered first under the Nazi's, sent by a greedy apartchnik to his doom, he overcame that and then was arrested by his own side. He escapes the Nazi's and the Communists. His wife and child do not. His wife is sent back to the camps, what happens to her, no spoiler here. That ripped my heart wide open. As with I Chose Freedom, these two men left loved ones behind. How that must have torn them apart inside.
Out of the night Into the light Apr 25, 2008
I think it is a good novel and it is worth reading today, especially for young people who have no experience of things past, and have never learnt about the manoeuvering of certain political options. Together with 1984 makes a powerful reminder of the shape of things to come if we do not take positive action.
But note that this is a fictionalized autobiography! Dec 27, 2007
When I finished reading this book a few years ago I was unanimous with myself that this was indeed the most amazing, exciting life story I had ever read! So fascinated was I with the man and his life that I searched far and wide for more info on him, only to be disappointed on reading the book 'Der Spion, der aus Deutschland Kam. Das geheime Leben des Seemans Richard Krebs' (The spy who came from Germany. The secret life of the sailor Richard Krebs) by Ernst von Waldenfels, unfortunately still only available in German. In this book, the author makes use of documents in Soviet and (East German) Gestapo archives only available since 1990 to show that Kreb's story is fictionalized. Jan Valtin is partially a fantasy character, one whose role in the Communist Party was far greater than the real Richard Krebs' actual role. Much of the book is true, including his early world wandering, jail time in San Quentin, etc. It's generally his importance in the hierarchy which is exaggerated, and other information which must have been purposely withheld as its publication would have put lives in jeopardy. On the other hand, the German book mentioned above threw in some more details of this man's still amazing life. After publication of his book he volunteered for the US Army and took part in the Pacific War, the island-hopping phase from the Philippines onwards. The book he wrote on his division's activities (Children of Yesterday - the 24th Infantry Division in War) is sought after by military memoir fans with no idea of his earlier career. Thus, he must be one of the few people of those times who was recruited in the names of Communism, Fascism AND Capitalism! All in all, highly recommended as an entertaining read, but keeping the above in mind. (The only completely factual books I've read which can compare in any way are Arthur Koestler's autobiographies, Arrow in the Blue and The Invisible Writing.)
Lessons in Real Life May 30, 2007
A very exciting book. It shows how the idealism of youth, with all its energy and intensity, can be twisted by unscrupulous people. Over time Valtin comes to realize that idealism alone is not sufficient to triumph over the powerful organizations that will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. This book really shows the power of propaganda and the battle between the Communists and the Nazis to use their propaganda machines to take over Germany. It shows what happens when people without any morals come into power. It doesn't matter what system it is, immoral people can corrupt any system of government. A must read for anybody the least bit interested in politics. You'll love it if you're not a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist or Nazi.
Excellent, complex story of a revolutionists' dilemma May 8, 2007
This story is not nearly as black and white as some suggest. While it is undeniably true that Stalinism is the opposite of communism, this was a realization that came slowly to those revolutionists who worked for the Comintern (Communist International). I'm not sure that every reviewer even actually read this book. Mr. Valtin could never be characterized as a "murderer." In fact, Valtin spends 3 years in San Quentin for intentionally botching a murder he was ordered to carry out. Later, at great personal risk, Valtin refuses direct orders to organize the murder of Nazis. Valtin does not carry out every order he was given.
Valtin comes to notice the stark chasm between Marxism and Stalinism. A major motif of the story is Valtin's slow and sure awakening that the Soviet Union's imperial interests do not equal the interests of the world's workers. From Valtin's first unchaperoned visit to the "Revolutionary Fatherland" he realizes that working for the Soviet Union is not really protecting the world revolution. Time and time again he experiences the aristocratic behavior of the Comintern's leadership, and the self-destructive witch hunts used for personal gain by rising revolutionists. All this time, he notes the discrepancies between theory and practice.
But what is remarkable, and what makes this book a valuable lesson, is how Valtin pulls the wool over his own eyes time and time again. His initial motives and values were honest, inherited from his family and his class of historically rebellious German seamen, borne out of poverty and the capitalist crises between world wars. His denial of the unpleasant truth that Stalinism is a lie, along with his actions that often robotically toe the party line, illustrates an all too human behavior, especially in the 20th century when burying oneself in ones` work was a common way to avoid introspection and grief. It was also cognitive dissonance, an unwillingness to finally recognize and pronounce more than a decade of his life's work as more harmful to workers worldwide than helpful.
Valtin's principles are expounded and acted on again and again, not always to his own satisfaction, like any other human. I ask myself how, if I was in the same situations, I could have safely quit the Comintern, a top secret organization whose strict policy was to kill rather than fire its own operatives who proved inadequate or rebellious. How would any of us break with Stalin, or the Crips or the mafia or the CIA, or any other murderous power that prefers its secrets to go to the grave? Not even Trotsky could escape Stalin's assassins. It is no simple task to leave the Comintern. Indeed, it is almost impossible. I wonder if I would have held up nearly as well as Valtin did in the Gestapo's torture chambers.
While Valtin himself does not draw the conclusions many thoughtful communists would from his life, this book is still an invaluable document of a time when millions of earnest workers all over the world honestly thought Stalin and Soviet Russia were shining beacons of revolution. It took decades of obvious evidence otherwise to undo this grave error of the early 20th century's non-Russian Left. In retrospect, from our comfortable ivory towers we can damn Valtin for not predicting what, in hindsight, are obvious historical developments. But in the heat of constant class battle it is difficult to stop and navel-gaze, no matter how crucial it might be to do so.
I agree with John Wrights essay "Out of the Fight," in that Valtin would have greatly benefited from more critical contemplation of the directions his life and party took. This book never pretends to be a manual for revolution. It is actually a very good case study in how not to run a revolution. Some tactics they use are fascinating and brilliant, others are undemocratic and self-destructively dishonest. This book is an honest and effective indictment of Stalinism's failures, just like Yue Daiyun's To The Storm: The Odyssey of a Revolutionary Chinese Woman is a brutally honest catalog of Maoism's shortcomings. Anyone interested in a humane government of, by, and for regular people should read both of these books and avoid these mistakes. It is a difficult and inherently unrealistic goal to change the world we live in. If we were realistic, we would change ourselves to adapt to the world rather than change the world. This is why only so-called "unrealistic" people ever make any social, political, artistic, or scientific progress. To live in a capitalist state while working towards a socialist state is a tight wire act that is vulnerable to countless cries of "traitor!" and "hypocrite!"
OUT OF THE NIGHT is an extremely engaging page-turner, action-packed, honest and thoughtful in many ways. Like any story of a failed revolutionist, it can be falsely wielded as propaganda against Marxism itself, but it is actually a powerful fable against blind party allegiance. Very highly recommended.