Review: Eyewitness to History: Memoirs and Reflections of a Foreign Correspondent for Half a Century by Isaac Don Levine

I first came across Isaac Don Levine while researching the question of whether Stalin had been an agent of the tsarist police — an Okhrana mole inside the Bolshevik Party. Levine published a letter claiming to prove this in Life magazine in 1956, followed by a book, Stalin’s Great Secret. A quarter of a century earlier, he had published the first full length biography of Stalin in English. I was very disappointed to find that in this, his autobiography, he makes no mention of that story, not the article he published nor the book he wrote, both of which were the subjects of controversy.

Instead, he chooses to talk about his other journalistic adventures, including his meetings with Trotsky during the Russian civil war, or Trotsky’s assassin in a Mexican prison years later. Levine found himself at many interesting places and times, including Palestine during the mid-1930s, or in Dallas interviewing Marina Oswald, the widow of John F. Kennedy’s assassin in 1963.

He was accused of sympathies for the Russian regime, but was also a militant anti-Communist, an associate of Whittaker Chambers and Richard Nixon too.

For reasons that are hard to explain — after all, a journalist like Levine should be an expert at telling a story — this should have been a much more interesting book.