Johannes Agnoli (1925-2003), born Giovanni Agnoli in Valle di Cadore, about 100 km north of Venice, was a person of extremes. During his school years he was an admirer of Benito Mussolini, considering fascism and Bolshevism superior to liberal democracy. In 1943 he volunteered for the German Wehrmacht and was sent with his unit to Yugoslavia to fight the partisans. Captured by the British army near Trieste in May 1945, he was sent as a POW to Egypt. On his release in 1948 he moved to Germany, where he worked in a sawmill during the 1950s.
He studied at the University of Tübingen and became acquainted with Wolfgang Abendroth. In 1962 he was appointed assistant to Ossip Flechtheim at the Otto Suhr Institute in Berlin. From 1972 onward he was professor of political science, a chair he held for almost two decades. Agnoli joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1957, but he was expelled from the party because of his membership of the Socialist German Student Union (SDS).
A fierce opponent of German and Italian parliamentary democracy, Agnoli criticized Germany’s grand coalition between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in the 1960s. His writings on extra-parliamentary democracy were famous in leftist student circles.
In autumn 2015 Lex Wouterloot completed cataloguing Agnoli’s papers. The papers contain correspondence with a number of individuals including Klaus Croissant, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Horst Mahler, and Klaus Meschkat, but also a large number of manuscripts, translations, lectures, interviews, and publications. His files on the Republikanische Club in Berlin are particularly interesting, as are those on the Unione Emigranti Italiani Progressisti (UEIP) – Gruppo di Lavoro Berlino-Wolfsburg and on other groups of Italian migrant workers in Germany.
His papers also contain a variety of sound recordings of lectures and interviews Agnoli gave.
A biography of Agnoli was written by his wife Barbara Görres Agnoli under the title Johannes Agnoli. Eine biographische Skizze.