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Hot Books in the Cold War

The West's CIA-Financed Secret Book Distribution Project Behind the Iron Curtain

Alfred Reisch

Publication Year: 2013

A goldmine of previously untapped information on the untold story of the secret book distribution program financed by the CIA to Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The book program, at its height between 1957 and 1970, was one of the least known but most effective methods of penetrating the Iron Curtain, and reached 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 the program into one of the most effective political and psychological tools of the Cold War. The book includes excellent chapters on the vagaries of censorship and interception of books by communist authorities based on personal letters and accounts from recipients of Western material. It will stand as a testimony in honor of the handful of imaginative, determined, and hard-working individuals who helped to free half of Europe from attempted mental bondage and planted many of the seeds that sprung to life when communism collapsed and the Soviet bloc disintegrated over twenty years ago.

Published by: Central European University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xxviii

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, ...

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pp. 1-2

This book could not have been written without the assistance of many individuals and organizations. My particular thanks go to the Hungarian American Enterprise Fund and its Hungarian director Elisabeth Simon and its Board of Directors for their generous Senior Scholar Fellowship, ...

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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. ...

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Chapter 1. Origins, Objectives, and Launching of the Book Project Under Sam Walker

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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, ...

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Chapter 2. Titles, Contents, Numbers, Targets, and Aims of the Mailings

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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. ...

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Chapter 3. The Man in the Grey Suit. George C. Minden and his Concept of Cultural and Ideological Competition

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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, ...

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Chapter 4. The New York Book Center. Books, Books, and More Books

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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. ...

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Chapter 5. The Book Project Reaches New Heights. The Golden Age of the 1960s

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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. ...

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Chapter 6. Western and Émigré Books and Periodicals Published with Covert Support

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pp. 87-102

Since 1957, FEC regularly sent the Polish émigré periodical Kultura and the Czechoslovak émigré magazine Svědeství to Poland and Czechoslovakia, respectively. Throughout the 1960s, Free Europe’s West European Operations Division (WEOD ), later renamed Press and Special Projects Division (PSPD), ...

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Chapter 7. New Opportunities Through East-West Contacts

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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. ...

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Chapter 8. The Early 1970s. The International Advisory Council

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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. ...

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Chapter 9. A Lasting Enemy

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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 ...

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Chapter 10. The Communist Regimes on the Defensive: Criticisms, Warnings, and Attacks

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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, ...

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Chapter 11. The Person-to-Person Distribution Program: A Direct Way to Reach East Europeans. The Early Polish Program 1958–1959

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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. ...

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Chapter 12. Another Vehicle for Reaching the People of Eastern Europe: the Person-to-Person Distribution Program and Personalized Mailings

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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. ...

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Chapter 13. The Most Important Book Distribution Point: Vienna

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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. ...

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Chapter 14. Letters from Poland, the Crucial Country

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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 ...

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Chapter 15. Letters from Czechoslovakia Before and After 1968

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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. ...

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Chapter 16. Letters from Hungary Under Goulash Communism

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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. ...

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Chapter 17. Letters from Romania Under the Ceauşescu Regime

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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). ...

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Chapter 18. Letters from Bulgaria Despite Very Strict Censorship

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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. ...

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Chapter 19. The Last Seventeen Years: International Literary Centre, Ltd., East Europe,and the USSR

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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. ...

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Conclusion The Impact of the Book Distribution Project and its Contributionto the Ideological Victory of the West

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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 ...


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pp. 527-536

Subject Index

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pp. 537-543

Index of Names (Tables & Image Plates follow index)

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pp. 544-550

E-ISBN-13: 9786155225352
Print-ISBN-13: 9786155225239

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: photographs, tables, photocopies of documents
Publication Year: 2013