Konrad Kellen

Konrad Kellen (born Konrad Moritz Adolf Katzenellenbogen; December 14, 1913 – April 8, 2007) was a German-born American political scientist, intelligence analyst and author.

At different points in his career, Kellen analyzed postwar German soldiers, defectors from behind the Iron Curtain, captured Viet Cong, and terrorists. He was among the first intelligence analysts to conclude that, contrary to prevailing U.S. administration assessments, enemy morale in the Vietnam War was in fact high and that the war was not winnable; while at the RAND Corporation Kellen co-authored an open letter to the U.S. government urging withdrawal of troops.

Early lifeEdit

Kellen was a member of a prominent Jewish family in Berlin, the son of Ludwig Katzenellenbogen. He was a distant relative of Albert Einstein and a cousin of economist Albert Otto Hirschman.[1] He studied law in Munich before fleeing Germany with his family in March 1933 at age 19 to escape Nazi persecution.[2][3] After living in France, the Netherlands and Yugoslavia, Kellen traveled to the United States.[2] He arrived in New York in 1935 and moved to Los Angeles, becoming an American citizen under the name Konrad Kellen.[2] From 1941-1943, Kellen was the private secretary to author Thomas Mann.[3]


During World War II, Kellen worked in a U.S. Army intelligence unit in Europe,[1] working in psychological warfare, and being awarded the Legion of Merit.[2] After the war, Kellen remained in Germany as a political intelligence officer with the occupation forces[4] as part of the denazification initiative,[2] his duties including interviewing German soldiers to find out why they kept fighting for Hitler long after it was clear that their war was lost.[1] Kellen also worked for Radio Free Europe, interviewing defectors from behind the Iron Curtain to study life under the Soviet regime.[1]

In 1945, Marc Chagall's daughter approached Kellen in a Paris cafe and asked him to save a stack of Chagall's canvases from the chaos of postwar Europe by bringing them to the United States, which took Kellen over a month to accomplish.[1][5] Kellen was given one of the Chagall paintings as compensation, which he sold in the 1950s.[5]

In the early 1960s he worked at the Hudson Institute think tank with military strategist and futurist Herman Kahn.[6] In the mid 1960s, Kellen joined the RAND Corporation.[4] He was among the first to conclude, in 1965, that the Vietnam War was unwinnable.[7] His opinion disagreed with the U.S. Administration's optimistic view, based in part on assessments by analyst Leon Gouré, that the war was winnable because of low enemy morale, Kellen joining with RAND colleagues in writing an open letter to the U.S. government recommending that troops be withdrawn.[1] In a 1971 analysis, Kellen disagreed with many other observers and concluded that "nothing seems more unlikely" than that the communists would strike in a big way once the US forces were down to 200 thousand or less.[8] In contrary to his forecast, the communists launched the bigger than ever Easter Offensive in South-Vietnam in March 1972. In 1972, months before the U.S. pullout pursuant to the Paris Peace Accords, investigative journalist Jack Anderson cited the open letter authored by Kellen as authority for the assertion that communist military morale in Vietnam was high.[9]

Kellen went on to become an analyst of terrorism, his reports from the late 1970s and early 1980s identifying trends in terrorism that manifested a decade later.[7]

Kellen wrote research papers and newspaper commentaries, as well as books including the biography Khrushchev (1961) and The Coming Age of Woman Power (1972), a study of male-female relationships.[4] In 2003 he published his autobiography, Katzenellenbogen, named after his original family name. He lived in retirement in Los Angeles,[1] dying at his home in Pacific Palisades.[3]

Terrorism expert Brian Jenkins said Kellen often took a contrarian or independent view among RAND Corporation colleagues.[4] In 2013, six years after Kellen's death, journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell noted Kellen's life and career were based on his ability to listen, citing him as "a truly great listener" for his ability to listen without filtering what he heard through the biases of the times.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Gladwell, Malcolm (July 8, 2013). "Viewpoint: Could one man have shortened the Vietnam War?". BBC News. Archived from the original on July 11, 2013. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Weil, Bernd A. (April 13, 2007). "Konrad Kellen (1913-2007)". Die Welt. Archived from the original on July 12, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "Sekretär von Thomas Mann gestorben (Secretary of Thomas Mann has died)". Deutsche Welle. May 10, 2007. Archived from the original on July 13, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d Noland, Claire (April 12, 2007). "Konrad Kellen, 93; Rand researcher studied Vietnam War and urged withdrawal of troops". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 12, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Saigon, 1965 with Malcolm Gladwell | E2/S1: Revisionist History Podcast (Transcript)". Simon Says | Transcription. 2017-07-20. Archived from the original on 2018-05-27. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  6. ^ "Obituary: RAND Analyst Konrad Kellen Helped Explain Motivation of Terrorists and Other U.S. Foes". RAND Corporation. April 12, 2007. Archived from the original on July 12, 2013. Retrieved July 7, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Hoffman, Bruce (January 21, 1989). "The Age of Women (book review)". The National Interest. Archived from the original on July 12, 2013.
  8. ^ Kellen, Konrad. "1971 and Beyond: The View from Hanoi" (PDF). RAND Corporation. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  9. ^ Anderson, Jack (September 6, 1972). "Communist Morale High in Vietnam". St. Petersburg Times. p. 19-A.

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