A sincere, though perhaps belated acknowledgment of the fact that Romania's history in the years of the totalitarian regime cannot be written without emphasizing the role played by the station on our lives under the conditions then prevailing.
He added, that RFE had been Romania's "window to the normal world outside," and a source of "adequate and pluralist information." President Iliescu also recalled the “darker side” of Romania and RFE’s history:
· The February 21, 1981 terrorist bomb attack in Munich.
· Physical attacks on other Romanian journalists working for RFE.
· The controversial circumstances surrounding the deaths of three directors of RFE’s Romanian Service.
Below we will look at the “controversial circumstances surrounding the death” of one of the three RFE’s Roman Service directors: Noel Bernard (1925-1981), who, for more than 16 years (1955-1958, 1965-1981), was one of the most respected directors of RFE’s Romanian Broadcast Service.
Nestor Ratesh, one of Bernard’s successors as RFE’S Director of the Romanian Broadcast Service, succinctly detailed Bernard’s popularity in Romania:
He not only managed the service, but was also its main editorialist. His almost daily commentaries were balanced, reasoned, civil, elegantly written and delivered in a clear, imposing voice. It was radio journalism at its best. He was a hero in Romania, an almost fabled character. One anecdote that made the rounds in the 1970s went like this:
Ceausescu decided one day to make an impromptu visit to a remote village. The villagers seemed rather unimpressed by his presence. Intrigued, he stopped a couple of peasants and asked them whether they knew who he was.
“No,” came the answer.
“But wait, it can’t be, you certainly do know me,” said the visitor. “I am the one who speaks to you quite often, who tells you everything you should know. Here in your village, you can hear me on the radio.”
“Don’t say, good gracious! Of course we know you. Welcome to our village, Mr. Noel Bernard.”
On August 18, 1980, the Romanian Ministry of Interior’s Department of State Security (DSS) approved a "Strict Secret" action plan (“Plan of Measures”) against Noel Bernard, Radio Free Europe, and others, who were considered to be “enemies of the state.” The Romanian Intelligence Service assigned Noel Bernard the code name “Jackal” and explained why he had to be “neutralized”:
In his capacity as chief of RFE Romanian Department, the Jackal coordinates the hostile propaganda activity against our country, activity for which he has used a series of employees and collaborators of Jewish origin. He also contacts Romanian citizens, especially intellectuals, who travel abroad or have settled there, whom he debriefs or recruits for dissident or protest actions.
Recently, the Jackal has intensified his slanderous and defamatory propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Romania.
Given the danger the Jackal's activity represents for our country, it is imperative we apply more professional and vigorous security measures, in order to:
· Discredit the Jackal, determine his dismissal from his post with RFE, and pave the way for radical steps against him.
· Aggravate the discord between the Jackal and Emil Georgescu, and that among other Romanian and Jewish employees of the radio's Romanian Department with the aim of neutralizing them and having them fired from RFE...
· Undertake special measures with the aim of paralysing the activity of the Free Europe objective and of neutralising employees, by damage and destruction of buildings and
installations of the station, as well as by bodily harm to the most active employees and collaborators of Free Europe.
The radical measures against the Jackal will be proposed by March 19, 1981
Bringing discredit on the Jackal will go hand in hand with measures against Emil Georgescu and the Paris group according to separate plans.
Concerning the compromising and liquidation of N. Bernard … Through the means available to us steps have been taken in order to perform the action documented by the Chief Architect. The file follows.
On January 27,1981 the CIE posted three threatening letters to Romanian Service employees. One of two letters posted in Linz, Austria, was sent to Noel Bernard, The threatening letter arrived on February 3, 1981,and was signed "GRUPA V." This letter referred to Bernard's medical condition, and contained threats against both Bernard and his wife, Iona Magura-Bernard.
In a telegram from CIE agents in Germany to CIE headquarters dated March 1, 1981, after Noel Bernard’s illness had become public knowledge, we read:
(Subject) Noel Bernard convalescent
(From) Comrade Colonel Bogdan
The data published by B.I.R.E. confirm that the measures taken by us started to show effects. We should intensify measures to compromise Emil Georgescu and Ioana Magura so as to intimidate them and have them removed from the radio.
B.I.R.E. was the Buletinul Informativ al Romanilor din Exil (Information Bulletin for Romanians in Exile), a Romanian language newsletter published in Paris.
Noel Bernard died of cancer on December 23, 1981; he was 56-years-old.
President of Romania Traian Basescu formally presented the Report by the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania Parliament of Romania on December 18, 2006. In his presentation speech to Parliament, he said:
To the despair of the communist regime, Radio Free Europe was indeed what it set out to be - the speaking newspaper for Romanians everywhere. I do homage to the memory of Ghita Ionescu, Mihai Cismarescu, Noel Bernard and Vlad Georgescu, men who fought with altruism and passion for the knowledge and utterance of the truth. I extol Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca, who, while physically in exile, continued to live every day for the Romanian people, keeping awake, through their unforgettable Free Europe broadcasts, the moral conscience of Romanians.
In addition to the specific mention of measures against Noel Bernard and others, the August 1980 “Plan of Measures” contains the only known reference to the eventual bombing of Radio Free Europe on February 21, 1981:
Through defectors Riva, Protopopescu, Kraus, Barta Geza , and others, we shall study the buildings and installations of the Free Europe radio station, the guard and security system, vulnerable points etc., with the aim of finding ways and concrete solutions for the use of adequate means with a view to damaging and destroying the buildings and installations of the Free Europe radio station, by planting explosives, causing fires, etc.
In the summer of 2007, through the efforts of Nestor Ratesh, Romania’s post-Communist Foreign intelligence Service (Serviciul de Informaţii Externe -- SIE) declassified and released a copy of the ten-page “Plan of Measures”, which was then reprinted in various newspapers in Romania. The document was released in conjunction with the opening of the summer school located at "The Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance", Sighet, Romania.
For more information:
A book of selected Noel Bernard's RFE programs 1974-1981 was published as Aici e Europa Liberă in Munich in 1983 (IDV, Jon Dumitru Verlag), with a 2nd Edition in Bucharest, Romania in 1991 (Tinerama).
Appendix B of my book Cold War Radio (2009) contains the fully translated text of the August 18, 1980, Action Plan.
The full Romanian text of the Action Plan is also reprinted as Appendix D in my book Securitatea contra Radio Europa Liberă (2011).