November 10, 2015

New Book of Interest: Beyond the Divide: Entangled Histories of Cold War Europe

Here is the Table of Contents of a new book that should prove of interest to followers of this blog, and a link to the book's introduction:

Beyond the Divide: Entangled Histories of Cold War Europe

Berghahn Books: New York, Oxford (2015)

Edited by Simo Mikkonen and Pia Koivunen

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Opening Up Political Space: Informal Diplomacy, East-West Exchanges, and the Helsinki Process
Giles Scott-Smith
Chapter 2. Challenging Old Cold War Stereotypes: The Case of Danish-Polish Youth Exchange and the European Détente, 1965–75
Marianne Rostgaard
Chapter 3. Transmitting the “Freedom Virus”: France, the USSR, and Cultural Aspects of European Security Cooperation
Nicolas Badalassi
Chapter 4. Cultural Diplomacy of Switzerland and the Challenge of Peaceful Coexistence, 1956–75
Matthieu Gillabert
Chapter 5. Expert Groups Closing the Divide: Estonian-Finnish Computing Cooperation since the 1960s
Sampsa Kaataja
Chapter 6. French-Romanian Academic Exchanges in the 1960s
Beatrice Scutaru
Chapter 7. Hungary Opens toward the West: Political Preconditions for Finnish-Hungarian Cooperation in Research and Development in the 1960s and 1970s
Anssi Halmesvirta
Chapter 8. “Discrete” Intermediaries: Transnational Activities of the Fondation pour une entraide intellectuelle européenne
Ioana Popa
Chapter 9. The Image of “Real France”: Instrumentalization of French Culture in the Early Communist Czechoslovakia
Václav Šmidrkal
Chapter 10. Dealing with “Friends”: Soviet Friendship Societies in Western Europe as a Challenge for Western Diplomacy
Sonja Grossmann
Chapter 11. The Soviet Union Encounters Anglia: Britain’s Russian Magazine as a Medium for Cross-Border Communication
Sarah Davies
Chapter 12. Transnational Television in Europe: Cold War Competition and Cooperation
Lars Lundgren
Chapter 13. Transnational Spaces between Poland and Finland: the Grassroots Dismantling of the Iron Curtain and Their Political Entanglements
Anna Matyska
Chapter 14. A Filter for Western Cultural Products: The Influence of Italian Popular Culture on Yugoslavia, 1955–65
Francesca Rolandi

Simo Mikkonen is a Finnish Academy Research fellow in the Department of History and Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He is the author of State Composers and the Red Courtiers: Music, Ideology, and Politics in the Soviet 1930s (2009).
Pia Koivunen is a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Advance Social Research at the University of Tampere. She has published widely on the World Youth Festivals and the Soviet role in the Cultural Cold War, and is preparing a monograph on Soviet cultural diplomacy.

The Introduction can be read here

November 05, 2015

Radio Free Europe's Transmission Belt with Hungarian Freedom Fighters

One area that led to the allegations that Radio Free Europe (RFE) was inciting Hungarian freedom fighters was in the re-transmitting of information and appeals, sometimes without comments, from the various independent radio stations broadcasting in medium and short wave that sprang up in Hungary after October 23, 1956 and lasted to November 9, 1956.
RFE had one of the world’s largest radio monitoring stations in Schleissheim, outside Munich. It was here that the freedom fighters’ radio stations were heard, recorded, and sent to the headquarters building in Munch. However the freedom fighter’s radio stations in Hungary did not have a fixed time or frequency on which to broadcast. RFE sent engineers to the Austrian-Hungarian border to search for the transmissions and sent their results to Munich and to Vienna. 

There were at least 14 and possibly as many as 50 local freedom stations on the air. The chief ones were Free Radio Gyor, Miskolc, Pees, Debrecen, Dunapentele, Free Radio Rakoczi (Kaposvar), Szombathely, Nyiregyhaza, Radio Damjanich (Szolnok), Free Radio Eger, Free Radio Szechenyi (Szeged), Radio Vorosmarty (Szekesfehervar) and the Radio of the Workers' Council of the County of Szabolcs-Szatmar. RFE set up a special radio monitoring unit in Vienna to augment the monitoring in Schleissheim. In this way many, if not most, of the small radio station appeals were recorded and re-broadcast by RFE, not in the original voices, mostly due to poor quality, but with RFE staffers. 

Every evening at 5 p.m., the directional antenna at Holzkirchen (outside Munich,) used to broadcast to Czechoslovakia on medium wave, was turned to broadcast to Hungary.

Cord Meyer, former CIA staffer responsible for Radio Free Europe, and other projects, has written:

In the period immediately following the outbreak of fighting in Budapest, RFE became the best source of information available to the United States on what was actually happening throughout Hungary. 

As local revolutionary councils to announce their demands seized the low-powered provincial radio stations, the sensitive monitoring equipment of RFE in West Germany was able to pick up these weak signals and get translations promptly back to the Washington analysts and policymakers. 

From these broadcasts, it became quickly apparent that the revolution was on a national scale and not simply confined to street fighting in Budapest. 

Since these local radio stations, fourteen in all, could be heard only in their immediate provincial areas, they soon began making direct requests to RFE to replay their revolutionary demands on its powerful transmitters so that the whole country could be informed of the speed and depth of the revolt. 

The American management of RFE recognized immediately that the decision to rebroadcast back into Hungary such far-reaching demands involved policy considerations beyond their competence and they asked me for guidance on how to react. I took the problem up with Allen Dulles. He asked me to discuss it with Robert Murphy, then the number three men in the State Department. By the end of the day, we had our policy guidance from the top level of the Eisenhower administration. 

RFE was given authority to rebroadcast local programs when specifically requested as a communication service, but with attribution to the local station making the request and with identification of the program as a verbatim repeat of the original broadcast. To the extent that RFE then served as a transmission belt for communications between provincial revolutionary councils it played a significant role in spreading throughout Hungary the news of what was happening not only in Budapest but also in the outlying towns. In so doing, the radio did not act irresponsibly but as the disciplined instrument of a conscious policy decision by the Eisenhower administration. 

This rebroadcasting by RFE did serve to identify the radio with the fundamental goals of the revolution, and in the wisdom of hindsight RFE was later blamed for what was in fact a high-level policy decision of the administration. 

Interestingly, some radio stations also broadcast in Morse code.  Here is one example, on November 4, 1956, was this message sent from an unidentified radio station: 

Special appeal to Radio Free Europe. Early this morning Soviet troops launched a general attack on Hungary. We are requesting you to send immediate military aid in the form of parachute troops over the Trans-Danubian provinces. S.O.S. Save our Souls.

Reportedly, the last heard broadcast was on November 9, 10:15 p.m., from an unidentified station: "Send news. in general and in detail. We look forward to news. Say something."

Famed author James Michener included a quotation from a 1956 refugee in his book The Bridge at Andau, that I believe, succinctly captures the reaction of those who listed to the live broadcasts of Radio Free Europe: 

No Hungarian is angry at Radio Free Europe. We wanted to keep our hopes alive. Probably we believed too deeply what was not intended by the broadcasters to be taken seriously. The wrong was not with Radio Free Europe. It was partly our fault for trusting in the words. It was partly America’s fault for thinking that words can be used loosely. Word like ‘freedom,’ ‘struggle for national honor,’ ‘rollback’ and ‘liberation’ have meanings. They stand for something. Believe me when I say that you cannot tell Hungarians or Bulgarians or Poles every day for six years to love liberty and then sit back philosophically and say, ‘But the Hungarians and Bulgarians and Poles mustn’t do anything about liberty. They must remember that we’re only using words.’ Such words, to a man in chains, are not merely words. They are weapons whereby he can break his chains.

For more information about the role of Radio Free Europe and examples of what the freedom stations were transmitting, see Allan A. Michie, Voices through the Iron Curtain: The Radio Free Europe Story.

November 02, 2015

Radio Free Europe and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Part 2, Impact in United States

1957 Crusade Poster
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution was a focal point for the 1957 Crusade for Freedom campaign. Below we will briefly look at the controversy surrounding RFE and how the Hungarian Revolution played out domestically in the United States -- a subject not examined in much detail in Cold War histiography.

Crusade for Freedom 1957 National Chairman Eugene Holman and Crusade president Arthur W. Page briefed sixty Crusade  “Trippers” at a luncheon in their honor on October 18, 1956, prior to their departure to Europe.  

The "Trippers" were in Munich on a “study tour,” when the Hungarian Revolution started. During a tour of the RFE headquarters building, they heard a musical program sung by the Hungarian Radio Choir, including “God Bless America.” On October 23, 1956, they visited a Free Europe Press balloon- launching site, where they individually launched balloons, with miniature newspapers.

"Trippers" in Paris
On October 24, 1956, the group visited the RFE monitoring station outside Munich at Schleissheim, where they listened first-hand to the local rebel stations broadcasting in Hungary. They then flew on to Berlin, where Dr. Otto Suhr, West Berlin mayor gave them each a small replica of the Freedom Bell. The “Trippers” then flew to Paris for a briefing by General Gruenther “on the role of NATO and psychological warfare in Western defense efforts."
Some members of the group published accounts of their activities and experiences after their return to the United States. For example, after she had returned, Mrs. R. I. C. Prout, president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, was interviewed on the NBC television shows “Home” and “Today,” wherein she detailed what she personally had seen and heard in Europe.

On November 2, 1956, Cord Myer of the CIA, with responsibility for RFE, wrote to Arthur Page, advising him that at that a letter or note from President Eisenhower to the Crusade for Freedom supporters “would not be what we wish. Particularly in view of the news just received of the Soviet intervention in Hungary.” The annual White House luncheon meeting of corporate executives who financially supported the Crusade for Freedom had to be temporarily postponed “because of the international situation.”

Journalist Drew Pearson wrote in his syndicated column that appeared in newspapers on November 8, 1956, about a meeting he had with a Hungarian émigré named Dr. Fabian who told him,

The Green candles in the windows. Green is the color of the peasants’ party. It has become the symbol of freedom, the symbol of protest, or revolt. All over Hungary you will see green candles in the windows. The Soviets can’t stop them.
You will also see the green paint on the walls—slaps of green paint.  It’s a symbol. Your Crusade for Freedom has helped this. Your balloons have helped. They have carried messages, which keep the spirit of freedom alive. They have spread green all over Hungary.

The NBC television network series “Armstrong Circle Theater” aired a docudrama “Flight #387 from Budapest” on November 13, 1956, that was about a group of six men and one woman who escaped to West Germany by hijacking a commercial airliner. The television show was “based on research material supplied by the Crusade for Freedom in support of Radio Free Europe and Free Europe Press.”  One newspaper previewer wrote, "No tribute to the Hungarian love for freedom could hope to match the events of the past month but this story ... is exciting and well-written."

The December 1956 Crusade for Freedom Newsletter sent out to supporters focused on the events in Hungary. There were photographs and first person accounts of the events in Hungary. The newsletter editorial was “RFE must continue to bridge the Iron Curtain” and began with,

The Soviet Empire is in upheaval. Long years of oppression and brutality are reaping their harvest...The smiling faces of the Russian overlords have been ripped from their faces...One of the major instruments keeping the truth alive behind the Iron Curtain through these dark years was Radio Free Europe, supported by the American people through the Crusade for Freedom. And today, more than ever before, Radio Free Europe is needed by the people behind the Iron Curtain.

The main slogan for the 1957 Crusade campaign was: "The one thing the Iron Curtain can't keep out -- TRUTH." Advertisements were placed in such diverse magazines as Popular ScienceSports Illustrated and the Locomotive Engineers JournalThe 1957 Crusade began in February and the Advertising Council's newspaper advertisements contained other slogans such as “Great is TRUTH and Shall Prevail,” “Underground by Air,” and “...above all things TRUTH beareth away the Victory.”

In a press release, published in full in the December newsletter, Joseph C. Grew, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Free Europe Committee, not only denied in details that Radio Free Europe incited the Hungarian Revolution, but also he added, 

Radio Free Europe and Free Europe Press have performed the functions of a free press for the people behind the Iron Curtain. It is vital that they continue this work until freedom is regained. It has never been the policy or practice of Radio Free Europe to incite rebellion; instead it has been the policy to keep the hope of ultimate freedom alive and to encourage the captive peoples to seek expanding freedom by peaceful means.

Ike with '57 Poster
On January 8, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent a letter to Crusade Chairman Holman that demonstrated his continuing interest in and support of the Crusade campaigns:

Since the Crusade for Freedom began six years ago, I have wholeheartedly endorsed its concept and its activities. More than ever before, contributing to the Crusade is an effective way for every American to reassert his belief in the indivisibility of human freedom, and in the right of peoples, wherever they may live, to have governments of their own choosing.

Events of the past several months are dramatic evidence of the profound depths of the spirit of freedom, which motivates the peoples of captive Europe. Soviet military intervention and repression in Hungary, designed to crush the spirit of freedom so bravely shown by the Hungarian people, makes it more vital than ever that Radio Free Europe continue to provide all the subjugated peoples with unbiased truth about events in their own lands and in the Free World. These peoples must remain assured that their courageous demonstration of mankind’s everlasting love of freedom is not passing unnoticed.

Arthur Page as president of the Crusade for Freedom sent out a letter to Crusade leaders on January 15, 1957, quoting from the Eisenhower letter and adding,

We of the Crusade more than ever must rise to the increased responsibilities which 1957 is placing on us. We know now – because of the way in which the American people responded to the Hungarian situation – that Americans will expect much of the Crusade. We must more than fulfill their expectations.

Just before the kickoff of the 1957 Crusade campaign, Arthur Page wrote a short letter to President Eisenhower that showed his close relationship to the President:

Dear Ike,

I shall be most happy to lunch at the White House on the fifth of February and do all I can to justify your sponsorship of the Crusade.

And, may I add, the State of the Nation message was a great paper.  There are two great dangers, the Russians from without and inflation from within and, of these, I fear inflation the more, for if it devitalizes us it also invites the Russians to increase their pressure.