Hot books in the cold war 

Hot books in the cold war : The CIA-Funded Secret Western Book Distribution Program Behind the Iron Curtain

Alfred A. Reisch
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 596
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    Hot books in the cold war 
    Book Description:

    This study reveals the hidden story of the secret book distribution program to Eastern Europe financed by the CIA during the Cold War. At its height between 1957 and 1970, the book program was one of the least known but most effective methods of penetrating the Iron Curtain, reaching thousands of intellectuals and professionals in the Soviet Bloc. Reisch conducted thorough research on the key personalities involved in the book program, especially the two key figures: S. S. Walker, who initiated the idea of a “mailing project,” and G. C. Minden, who developed it into one of the most effective political and psychological tools of the Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-615-5225-35-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Introduction Book Distribution as Political Warfare
    (pp. IX-XXVIII)
    Mark Kramer

    Throughout the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union waged “political warfare” against each other and their respective allies. This form of interaction, unlike the global military standoff between the two sides, was intended by each superpower to affect the perceptions, attitudes, motives, and—ultimately—political behavior of the other side’s organizations, groups, individuals, and government officials.¹ The aim of the operations was to overcome (or at least diminish) the opposition of those who were most hostile, to gain the allegiance of those who were neutral or uncommitted (i.e., to “win their hearts and minds”), to reinforce the...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 1-2)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. 3-6)

    My original intent when planning this book was to write up the entire story of the West’s secret Cold War book distribution project, a period of 35 years, from July 1956 until the end of September 1991. For reasons beyond my control, I was able to locate and access only the first 17 years of the complete archival documents covering the project. Financed throughout by the CIA, fourteen of these years (1956 to 1970) were run under the aegis of the Free Europe Committee in New York, and the remaining 21 years up to 1991 under the cover of an...

  6. Chapter 1 Origins, Objectives, and Launching of the Book Project under Sam Walker, Jr.
    (pp. 7-22)

    On the basis of the documents found at the Hoover Institution Archives, it can be ascertained that the idea of creating Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty and of using radio to penetrate the Iron Curtain with news from the West first grew out of discussions held in 1948 between former Ambassador to Moscow George F. Kennan, then director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff, and other government officials.¹ Among them was Frank Wisner, who served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Europe during the war. In 1948, he became director of the office of Special Projects,...

  7. Chapter 2 Titles, Contents, Numbers, Targets, and Aims of the Mailings
    (pp. 23-38)

    The Minden Papers in the Hoover Institute Archives do not contain materials on the early book mailings operations in which the Munich office of Free Europe Press (FEP) played a crucial role. Fortunately, close to 40 monthly statistical reports and 36 summaries of responses received have been preserved by John Matthews, then director of the FEP Office in Munich. They cover the first three-and-half years of the book mailing project period, from July 1956 through December 1959. These reports, averaging 15 to 20 pages, contain the exact titles and the number of copies of the books and other publications (magazines...

  8. Chapter 3 The Man in the Grey Suit. George C. Minden and his Concept of Cultural and Ideological Competition
    (pp. 39-54)

    During the 1970s, new covers—the International Advisory Council, inc., and, after 1975, the International Literary Centre, Ltd.—were used to make the book project even less visible to the “other side.” Following the resignation of Sam Walker, the Free Europe Organization and Publication (FEOP) Division was established on July 1, 1959, through the merger of Free Europe Press and Free Europe European Operations (FEEO) under the direction of Robert Minton, with George C. Minden as supervisor of the division’s book mailing project. Two years later, Minden became director of the newly created Communist Bloc Operations Department (CBOD), and thereafter...

  9. Chapter 4 The New York Book Center. Books, Books, and More Books…
    (pp. 55-72)

    During the long lifespan of the book project under the short directorship of Sam S. Walker Jr., and the much longer directorship of George Minden, a fairly small group of dedicated people were involved with its practical implementation in the so-called New York Book Center. Many of them have since passed away, and most of those still alive have reached a ripe age. This chapter will both reveal the identities of these unknown and unsung actors of the long ideological Cold War, and examine what their tasks were in the framework of the secret book project.

    In July 1956, at...

  10. Chapter 5 The Book Project Reaches New Heights. The Golden Age of the 1960s
    (pp. 73-86)

    Although no monthly reports for the years 1960 through 1962 (except for October 1961) were found among the Minden Papers at the Hoover Institution Archives, a number of FEP office memos and a draft summary from 1962 prepared by Minden that includes annual and cumulative totals help fill the gap. the worsening of the international situation in 1959–1960 did not influence the book mailing project; nor had the fiscal measures against gift parcels in Poland been extended to books.

    A few preserved monthly reports by PSPD’s national editors reported a “real bursting of the dam” in Hungary, with a...

  11. Chapter 6 Western and Émigré Periodicals and Books Published with Covert Support
    (pp. 87-102)

    Since 1957, FEC regularly sent the Polish émigré periodical Kultura and the Czechoslovak émigré magazine Svĕdeství to Poland and Czechoslovakia, respectively. Throughout the 1960s, Free Europe’s West European Operations Division (WEOD), later renamed Press and Special Projects Division (PSPD), financially supported a large number of East European émigré political and literary journals and magazines, whose very existence often depended on this kind of support. This was done through the purchase of a large quantity of copies for mailing to Eastern Europe or direct distribution to East European visitors to the West. In 1966, Free Europe supported, in whole or in...

  12. Chapter 7 New Opportunities through East-West Contacts
    (pp. 103-112)

    From its beginning, the Free Europe Committee was eager to establish and become actively engaged in contacts with the East. An unsigned office memorandum from 1959 dealt with the ways in which to conduct successful new operations in the field of East-West contacts by creating new instrumentalities and improving existing techniques. FEC recognized the fact that, because it was known as a “cold war propaganda organization,” it could only play a “small direct role in these contacts.” Many organizations, foundations, and universities active in the contacts field were reluctant to jeopardize their own contact programs through an open association with...

  13. Chapter 8 The Early 1970s. The International Advisory Council
    (pp. 113-124)

    Minden’s PSPD semi-annual report for the period 1 January to 30 June 1970, the last report he submitted to Free Europe’s new President William Durkee,¹ was based on a survival budget of $419,985, 33% less than the $619,858 budgeted in the first half of 1969. This made it possible to distribute roughly 111,000 books and periodicals to approximately 39,000 persons and institutions in six countries of East Europe, 14% less than in the second half of 1969. There was a decrease in the number of books in each distribution method, with the exception of personalized mailings, which totaled 1,841. At...

  14. Chapter 9 A Lasting Enemy
    (pp. 125-206)

    Much has been written about the internal state censorship system of the East European communist regimes modelled after the system launched by the Bolsheviks as early as October–November 1917. Emulating the Soviet model of central censorship office established in 1922, known as “Glavlit,” the authorities achieved within their borders complete state control over the press and all communication media by being the sole providers of everything needed by the publishing industry. This economic control, from printing presses and typewriters to newsprints, also applied to periodicals and publishing houses. In fact, censorship was not even needed because nothing could be...

  15. Chapter 10 The Communist Regimes on the Defensive: Criticisms, Warnings, and Attacks
    (pp. 207-232)

    The communist regimes of Eastern Europe and their Soviet overseers could not fail to notice the steadily growing flow of Western literature reaching them from different points of origin in the U.S. and in Western Europe. Being well aware of the inherent threat these ideologically unwanted and unsuitable books and periodicals posed to their monolithic political control, they mostly resorted to censorship to intercept any book or magazine they considered “subversive.” The relevant party committees held regular meetings, sometimes at the highest level, to discuss the problem, and instructions were issued to post offices, libraries, and other institutions that received...

  16. Chapter 11 The Person-to-Person Book Distribution Project: A Direct Way to Reach East Europeans. The Early Polish Program in 1958–1959
    (pp. 233-254)

    The person-to-person distribution program for Polish visitors to the West started in January 1958 under the auspices of the Free Europe Press (FEP) in New York, with Andrzej Stypułkowski, a young Polish émigré, coordinating the program from London. On December 1, 1958, the program’s activities were transferred to the East Europe Institute, Inc. (EEI), with offices at 35 East 53rd Street in New York. EEI was described as a private organization incorporated into the state of New York, and “its purpose [was] to facilitate distribution of literature to Eastern Europe, particularly to Poland, with emphasis on exchanges and individual contact.”¹...

  17. Chapter 12 Another Vehicle for Reaching the People of Eastern Europe: The Person-to-Person Distribution Program and Personalized Mailings
    (pp. 255-294)

    Because mailed books were subject to censorship, most of the books about international affairs and politics, as well as selected books with political impact about philosophy, religion, law, history, social sciences, economics, business, and labor, were distributed hand to hand to East European visitors to the West. This method was given the name “person-to-person distribution program.” This chapter is based on general data and selected accounts of hand-to-hand distribution to visitors from all the target countries of the book program. From the start, book distributors were to use an initial for each East European visitor and to avoid precise identification,...

  18. Chapter 13 The Most Important Book Distribution Point: Vienna
    (pp. 295-308)

    Because of its geographical proximity to communist-ruled Eastern Europe, Austria and its Vibrant capital city, Vienna, played a key role throughout the duration of the book distribution and book mailing programs. Many people, Austrians and East European émigrés, were involved in this endeavor, as well as a number of Austrian organizations. But the key role was played by one single man who, for close to a quarter of a century, became George Minden’s most important man in Vienna. After 1990 until his retirement in 2002, he managed the Wiener Spielzeugschachtel, a children’s toyshop in Vienna. Today, Peter Straka enjoys the...

  19. Chapter 14 Letters from Poland, the Crucial Country
    (pp. 309-346)

    For a period of over 30 years, thousands of letters acknowledging receipt of books sent and requesting other books arrived at the New York Book Center, forwarded by the numerous sponsors involved in the book program in the U.S. and in Western Europe. The original letters are no longer available; they may have been shredded when the book program ended in 1991 or were perhaps shipped to Washington and stored away in some government agency warehouse. Yet, excerpts from the most interesting letters were carefully selected by the national editors and translated into English. A country-by-country selection from these excerpts...

  20. Chapter 15 Letters from Czechoslovakia Before and After 1968
    (pp. 347-398)

    Because censorship was most severe and cautiousness prevailed in Czechoslovakia, responses barely trickled in when the book program was launched: 12 responses in the last five months of 1956, 103 by the end of 1957, and a cumulative total of 1,142 by the end of 1959. From 1960 onwards, responses and requests doubled every year. Following the de-Stalinization of 1963, requests surged forward, jumping from close to 1,000 in 1962 to some 3,500 in 1963. On average, it took three months from the time a book was mailed to the time an acknowledgement of receipt was received. Moreover, European publishers...

  21. Chapter 16 Letters from Hungary under Goulash Communism
    (pp. 399-438)

    While most responses from Hungary came from individuals, letters from institutions rose to more than 15% of the total at the beginning of 1963, many from organizations that had long received books but had never replied before. Letters from institutions continued to increase steadily in 1965, again with many of them responding for the first time. Letters from Hungary showed a constant and notable enthusiasm for increased cultural exchanges with the West, for works on literature, Western languages, modern art, architecture, music, in particular jazz, religion, philosophy, history, and general culture. Books on politics and the humanities also began to...

  22. Chapter 17 Letters from Romania under the Ceauşescu Regime
    (pp. 439-480)

    Between July 1956 and December 1959, a total of 97,000 books were mailed to Romania, but only 218 responses with 146 requests for books were received—a rather discouraging result.¹ Very few letters arrived during March (22 responses and 28 requests) and April 1963 (21 and 10). Minden reported: “The Rumanian regime’s ongoing reassessment of cultural relations with the West was still affecting the number of responses, and no discernible trend came out of the few letters received in april.”²

    In May 1963, the Romanian Academy of Sciences confirmed the receipt of a dictionary and requested six other specialized reference...

  23. Chapter 18 Letters from Bulgaria Despite Very Strict Censorship
    (pp. 481-504)

    Of the five East European countries targeted by the book project, Bulgaria, together with Romania, was in the hold of a very strict censorship. This was one of the main reasons why responses and requests were initially very modest as compared to Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. In 1963, except for the month of December, Bulgaria was ahead of its northern neighbor Romania. In March 47 responses and 62 requests were received, with a high of 108 responses and 66 requests in November, and with both falling below 100 (63/41) in December.¹ One year later, Bulgaria still accounted for only 41...

  24. Chapter 19 The Last Seventeen Years: International Literary Centre, Ltd., East Europe, and the USSR
    (pp. 505-520)

    There is evidence that the involvement of Free Europe’s Radio Liberty in the book mailings to the Soviet Union was preceded by a similar project undertaken by the American Committee for liberation from Bolshevism (AMCOMLIB), an organization set up in January 1951 with financial support from the CIA to deal with Russian refugees and émigrés. Reader’s Digest editor Eugene Lyons was its first president. After undergoing a series of name changes, in January 1964 it became the Radio Liberty Committee, Inc. (RLC), with radio broadcasts to the Soviet Union.¹ Between January 1, 1960 and April 30, 1961, AMCOMLIB also sent...

  25. Conclusion The Impact of the Book Distribution Project and its Contribution to the Ideological Victory of the West
    (pp. 521-526)

    A U.S. Government official aptly described the power of the book when he stated at a senate hearing: “Books differ from all other propaganda media, primarily because one single book can significantly change the reader’s attitude and action to an extent unmatched by the impact of any other single media.”¹ A recent U.S. Government document briefly mentions the non-radio programs of Free Europe, Inc. and Radio Liberty, namely their sponsorship of book distribution programs. According to the report, from the late 1950s until 1970 the two organizations distributed a total of two-and-a-half million books and periodicals in Eastern Europe and...

  26. Bibliography
    (pp. 527-536)
  27. Subject Index
    (pp. 537-543)
  28. Index of Names
    (pp. 544-550)
  29. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  30. Back Matter
    (pp. None)