April 19, 2014

1956 RFE Easter Message to Hungary via Balloons lofted over the Iron Curtain

In 1956, the Free Europe Press in Germany launched the following Easter Card in balloons headed for Hungary...the message read, in part: 

Stand fast and do not let yourselves be caught again in the yoke of slavery.” - The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians...

Free nations are based on Christ’s precepts. Tyrants from Genghis Khan through Hitler and Stalin have tried to destroy the code of equality, tolerance and justice...

The message of Easter knows no Iron Curtain. The message of Easter is addressed to you – help your fellow who is endangered by hate. The message of resurrection cannot be stilled. Kindle the spirit of self-sacrifice and charity, which unites and strengthens the nation.

March 24, 2014

Jaroslav (Jeff) Jan Endrst (1923-2014), Cold War Hero

Former Radio Free Europe staffer Jaroslav (Jeff) Jan Endrst died February 22, 2014; below is a short review of his life:

Jaroslav Jan Endrst, of Pelham, NY, passed away Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. He was 91. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Mr. Endrst proudly served as correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for more than 40 years, the majority of them as chief correspondent at the United Nations. 

He was predeceased by his loving wife of 41 years, Elsa B. Endrst, and Jan Endrst, his son by a previous marriage. Mr. Endrst is survived by his son, James Endrst; his daughter Christine Endrst McDermott; and grandchildren Veronika Endrstova, Nina Endrst, Liam McDermott and Mae McDermott. 

journalist for more than 57 years, Mr. Endrst escaped from behind the Iron Curtain in November of 1949, at the age of 26, rather than help an agent of the Communist government frame and imprison his American colleagues at the Associated Press in Prague. Forced by the dangerous nature and circumstances surrounding the escape to leave his infant son, Jan, and first wife, Jaroslava Mullerova, behind, Mr. Endrst enlisted the help of professional smugglers and made his way through the Soviet-occupied zone of Austria to Vienna. "The episode turned out to be a seminal event of my life," he wrote in a series of personal memoirs. "But the flip side of personal triumph over ideological evil was what is now called 'collateral damage' to 'unintended victims.' In this case, they were my family and my friends…The knowledge of it, and the uncertainties about their lives, dampened any feeling of glee or jubilation.”

For the next two years, Mr. Endrst made a living as a stringer, creating his own independent news service and working with a variety of Western news organizations. In October 1951, he went to work for Radio Free Europe in Munich, Germany, where he met his second wife, the former Elsa Latzko, a pre-war American immigrant from Austria. They were married in Oberammergau in September of 1954. On May 9, 1955, Mr. Endrst arrived in New York-and America-for the first time, accompanied by his new wife after a transatlantic trip on the Italian ocean liner Vulkania. "I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment," he wrote, noting that it had been a dream of his from a young age.

Over the course of his life and career with Radio Free Europe, including a stint covering the Kennedy White House, Mr. Endrst traveled to more than 100 countries (he was fluent in three languages), forever cultivating his lifelong interest in other cultures and his keen understanding of international relations and world politics.

A towering physical presence known for his wit, charm and wry humor, Mr. Endrst lived independently following the death of his wife, "Elsie," in 1995-surviving three bouts of cancer and numerous physical challenges, before his passing. "I have been blessed with a loving family and good friends," he said, writing about his "American Journey" in 2005. "I have no regrets about the past. It has been a good journey for me, ending in a terrific country.”

(Obituary published on NYTimes.com, February 27 - February 28, 2014)

For a fascinating look into the life of Jaroslav Endrst, especially his escape from Czechoslovakia through the Iron Curtain, here are the links to a 3-part tribute written by his journalist son James Endrst:

Interestingly, a detailed article entitled "No Game for Sissies" about Jaroslav Endrst and his escape to the West appeared in the June 9, 1951, issue of the American magazine Saturday Evening Post.  The author, Joseph Weschsberg (also born in Czechoslovakia), used Endrst's family name as Vejvoda, in order to protect his identity.

February 12, 2014

60 Years Ago: Lincoln's Birthday, February 12, 1954, and the Crusade for Freedom

In 1954, the Crusade for Freedom’s national campaign took place as “Freedom Week”, which began on the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, February 12th, and ended on President George Washington’s birthday, February 22nd.

Here is a short overview of the launching of the 1954 Crusade for Freedom:

1. Seven women dressed in native costumes of the “captive” East Europe nations sent a “freedom message” by lightly tapping the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, seven times with a rubber mallet. The women were identified as ex-refugees who declined to give their names “on fears of reprisals on relatives still living behind the Iron Curtain in Europe.” The seven strokes stood for Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and the Baltic States. A microphone picked up the tones and carried them outside to a crowd that had gathered in Independence Square. An Associated Press photograph of the event was carried by newspapers throughout the United States.

2. The Fraternal Order of Eagles sponsored a nation-wide balloon campaign called “Eagles Flight for Freedom” in cities and towns throughout the United States, which opened the Crusade’s "Freedom Week" campaign. Over four hundred local Eagle Aeries launched 4,164 Helium gas-filled balloons, similar to the ones launched by the Free Europe Press in Germany, which “carry hope and encouragement to Soviet oppressed peoples of Europe.”

The balloons contained messages from local Eagle leaders, with identification cards and envelopes asking for “Truth Dollar” contributions from the finder as well as the place and date of the finding. The largest launching took place in downtown Springfield, Illinois, home of Abraham Lincoln: 2,000 balloons, with “Crusade for Freedom” in large letters clearly visible, were lofted with a contribution appeal message from Robert W Hansen, national Grand Worthy President of the Eagles.

The February 22, 1954, issue of Life magazine carried a photo essay, “Fund Raising Takes to Air,” on the Springfield launching, including one photograph showing the balloons, which had been inflated by Girl and Boy Scouts, being carried in a “massive parade” through the center of the city to the launching site in Lincoln Square.

3. Three helium-filled balloons with the light blue logo “Crusade for Freedom” were launched at the international boundary line on the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Two rose up into the sky and drifted away; the third balloon fell into the Detroit River. The launching was billed to "remind Canadians and Americans of the importance of the freedom they possess, and to give hope to the people of other countries in Europe under the Communist yoke."

January 24, 2014

Ralph E. Walter -- An Appreciation

January 23, 2014 

Ralph E. Walter -- An Appreciation 

Ralph E. Walter died in Berlin on July 11, 2013. Over a long career at RFE and RFE/RL he did much to shape a responsible and professional broadcasting organization promoting freedom in Soviet-dominated Europe.

Ralph was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on May 7, 1924. Following service in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946, he enrolled at St. Olaf College, where he met Paul Henze, beginning a lifelong professional and personal friendship. He received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Minnesota.

Ralph joined the National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE), RFE’s parent organization, in 1951, first working in the Division for Exile Relations with East European leaders and organizations supported by the NCFE. In January 1954 he transferred to RFE in Munich as assistant political advisor for Polish affairs, reporting to Paul Henze and Political Advisor William E. Griffith. In October 1958 he returned to New York to work again on exile affairs. After a series of temporary assignments in New York and Munich, he was appointed RFE Policy Director in September 1965 and RFE Director in March 1968.

Mindful of inadequate management oversight of RFE broadcasts to Hungary in 1956, Ralph was determined that all RFE broadcasts during the 1968 Czechoslovak “Prague Spring” and the ensuing Soviet/Warsaw Pact occupation would be restrained and responsible. As he explained later to Arch Puddington [recorded in Puddington's Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty], “We heeded the lessons of the Hungarian Revolution. We were cautious, because we were conscious of the possibility of an invasion.” Departing from usual RFE practice during the crisis, Ralph and his staff approved political commentaries prior to broadcast and exercised policy oversight of newscasts. At his direction, RFE relayed much information from the underground radios--but not calls for active resistance, even when carried in Western media. These steps were controversial internally, but RFE broadcasts to Czechoslovakia throughout 1968 won high praise from Czechs and Slovaks and from Washington policymakers, including Deputy Undersecretary of State Chip Bohlen

Ralph likewise insisted on prior review of some Polish Service commentaries on the regime’s violent crackdown on protests on the Baltic Coast in 1970. RFE’s performance under his leadership during the 1968 Czechoslovak crisis and the Polish crises in the seventies and early eighties justified his careful and alert, hands-on style of management.

Ralph was a staunch defender of the independence of RFE and RFE/RL, resisting--not always diplomatically--what he saw as efforts of various American ambassadors, State Department and German Foreign Office officials, and Board for International Broadcasting (BIB) staff to interfere with RFE/RL operations and broadcasts. Rejecting criticism from the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest that Romanian Service broadcasts were “too harsh and querulous,” Ralph countered that “we have no intention of ceasing criticism of Romanian regime policies and practices.” He was equally blunt in rejecting suggestions from the German Olympic Committee and Foreign Office that RFE refrain from political broadcasts and contacts with Soviet bloc visitors during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Following the merger of RFE and Radio Liberty in 1975, Ralph was appointed Executive Vice President for Programs and Policy, overseeing RL as well as RFE broadcasts. In 1982, BIB Chairman Frank Shakespeare installed a new RFE/RL management team and Ralph (along with RFE/RL President Glen Ferguson and RFE Director Jim Brown) left RFE/RL in September after completing 31 years of distinguished service. A recent Polish TV documentary about RFE/RL concludes with an interview with Ralph recorded a year before his death in which he relates how proud he was to have been associated with RFE/RL and its exile broadcasters and to have witnessed a future he had worked for but never expected to see -- a Europe whole and free.

We knew Ralph Walter as boss, colleague, and friend. We honor his dedicated service to RFE and RFE/RL for over three decades. His contribution to the cause of freedom in Eastern Europe is fully documented in his papers that are now part of the RFE/RL Collection at the Hoover Archives at Stanford University.

-- A. Ross Johnson
-- Martin K. Bachstein

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty © 2014 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

January 20, 2014

Healing the Sick behind the Iron Curtain through Radio Free Europe's Doctor Consultants Programs

American readers of the January 21, 1957, issue of Life magazine would have seen this cartoon on page 51 in the “Believe It or Not!” section:

You can heal the sick by radio!

Behind the Iron Curtain, millions are denied medical aid.  But you can reach them. Each dollar sent to Crusade for Freedom, gives Radio Free Europe’s Doctor Consultants a full minute to answer pleas for medical guidance over the air. You’ll help alleviate the suffering of many brave people buy sending a dollar today to Crusade for Freedom, c/o Local Postmaster.

RFE's broadcasts were entitled "Radio Doctor" and were featured in books and articles such as:

"Radio Doctor: a medical journal of the air, which describes progress in medical science, new drugs, medicines and methods of treatment," Allan A. Michie, Voices through the Iron Curtain, p. 54.

For the time period September 1954 - August 1955, RFE analyzed 93 letters received from Czechoslovakia. 35 letters were "requests for medical advice or medicine, including one telegram direct from a hospital." (Robert Holt, Radio Free Europe, p. 237)

The March 1956 issued of The Reader's Digest carried an article by medical writer, John Drury (J. D.) Ratcliff entitled "Radio Medicine Pierces the Iron Curtain."

The December 1963 issue of the Boyscout's magazine Boy's Life carried a long article about Radio Free Europe, including this description:

One of the most widely listened to of all RFE programs is its “Radio Doctor.” Divided into two parts, it covers technical information to keep medical people abreast of advances in Western medicine and also talks to laymen, answering specific queries. The program points out deficiencies of Communist health programs. In Bulgaria, not long ago, Minister of Health Kolaroff boasted about the declining infant mortality rate and the mistake of giving figures. Radio Free Europe quickly pointed out that the figures were six times higher than that in Sweden.

"Radio Doctor," a Czech program, described the latest medical drugs in the West, access to which the Iron Curtain barred listeners. RFE planners hoped to arouse in them "strong feelings of frustration.“ Radio Free Europe's impact on the Kremlin in the Hungarian crisis of 1956: three hypotheses," Canadian Journal of History, December 2004.

January 15, 2014

New Book of Interest

Details of a new book of interest:

The Inauguration of “Organized Political Warfare”:
The Cold War Organizations sponsored by
the National Committee for a Free Europe/Free Europe Committee

Katalin Kádár Lynn, Editor

  • Veronika Durin-Hornyik: Université Paris-Est, France “The Free Europe University in Exile, Inc. and the Collège de l’ Europe libre (1951-1958)”
  • Tibor Frank: Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary “Imre Kovács and Cold War Émigré Politics in the United States”
  • Katalin Kádár Lynn: Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary “At War While at Peace: The History of the National Committee for a Free Europe”
  • “History of the Hungarian National Council 1946-1971”
  • Maria Kokoncheva: Altborg University, Denmark “George Dimitrov and the Bulgarian National Council”
  • Jonathan H. L’Hommedieu: Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Georgia, USA “The Baltic Freedom Committees: Policies and Politics of an Exile Community”
  • Anna Mazurkiewicz: University of Gdansk, Poland “The Assembly of Captive European Nations and the Free Europe Committee in the face of Nikita Khrushchev’s US Visits in 1959 & 1960”
  • “The Schism within the Polish Delegation to the Assembly of Captive European Nations (1954-1972)”
  • Marius Petraru: Sacramento State University, American River College, California, USA “The Romanian Government In Exile in the United States: 1947-1975”
  • Francis Raska: Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic “History of the Council of Free Czechoslovakia” 
  • Toby Charles Rider: Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA “The Cold War Activities of the Hungarian National Sports Federation”


Each of the essays in this volume focuses on an organization or activity funded through the National Committee for a Free Europe, Inc. (NCFE was known as the Free Europe Committee, Inc. after 5 March 1954) during the war of ideas and ideals in which the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged that came to be known as the Cold War. This US government sponsored organization existed between 1949 and 1971 and was but one aspect of United States policy arising from the policy of containment and an aggressive stance against Soviet Expansionism. Archival information on the NCFE offers a rich source of information that has not yet been thoroughly mined by scholars. The NCFE’s original charge, as outlined in 3 May 1948 by George Kennan to the National Security Council in a policy paper titled “The Inauguration of Organized Political Warfare”, was to wage “organized political warfare” which became the ideological basis for US policy during the Cold War. In large part this effort involved the U.S.-based exiles from the nations of Central and East Europe that had become Soviet satellites after World War II. The NCFE organization was developed and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Policy Coordination. 

The first chairman of NCFE’s Executive Committee was Allen W. Dulles, and it was operated and funded covertly through American intelligence channels throughout its twenty-two year existence as an ostensibly private, not for profit entity funded by donations from the American public.

Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty are the two most well known divisions of NCFE, with RFE having the highest profile. As the two radio divisions’ archival records were acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University in 2000, those divisions have been the focus of most NCFE-related scholarship. Additional archival material documents the much wider range of Cold War activities which the NCFE established, sponsored and funded, but until now, these have received little attention and research on the non-radio aspects of its operation has been minimal—due in part to the fact that, as of this writing, a portion of the primary archival material relating to the parent organization remains classified. Despite this challenge, each of this book’s contributors has successfully researched an activity or organization sponsored by the NCFE or its later incarnation the FEC or Free Europe, Inc.

Of primary interest to scholars will be the histories of the Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish and Baltic States national councils or committees, which represented the U.S.-based exile leadership of those satellite nations. These nationalities’ groups and their leaders were intended by the NCFE’s founders to lead the propaganda battle against the growth of world-wide communism. Kennan outlined the mission of the NCFE and the nationalities committees in the following manner “encourage the formation of a public American organization which will sponsor selected refugee committees so that they may act as the focus of national hope and revive a sense of purpose among political refugees from the Soviet World; provide an inspiration for continuing popular resistance within the countries of the Soviet World; and serve as a potential nucleus for all –out liberation movements in the event of war.” The nationalities committees were provided with operational funding for their domestic and international offices, publications and activities as well as funds for salaries to their leadership. 

However, NCFE sponsorship was not limited to these groups, its organizations numbered well over one hundred and circled the globe, represented not just in the United States but in Europe, Latin America and Asia as well. The major sponsored organizations ranged from the Assembly of Captive European Nations, the Free European University in Exile, the Crusade for Freedom, and the International Peasant Union to various propaganda programs including those that sponsored cultural and sports activities and organizations. The history of the Assembly of Captive European Nations and that of the Free Europe University in Exile, Inc. are addressed in this volume.

The NCFE and its Cold War campaign of “organized political warfare” activities remains one of the last aspects of U.S. Cold War policy that has not been thoroughly researched, and Cold War scholarship will not be complete until this history is made available. This volume takes the first step in that direction but there is still much more material that is to be uncovered.

Katalin Kádár Lynn

Helena History Press
Distributed by Central European Press, Budapest and New York

January 14, 2014

Cold War Redux? Moscow Denies Visa to RFE/RL Advisor

David Satter
January 13, 2014
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Kevin Klose says the Russian government has denied a visa request to David Satter, a distinguished U.S. journalist and adviser to RFE/RL.
Klose said in a statement on January 13 that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been informed of the action against Satter and has lodged a formal diplomatic protest with the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Klose says the U.S. Embassy has sought an explanation from the Russian Foreign Ministry without success.
Satter had been living and working in Russia as an RFE/RL adviser since September.
He had been reporting and providing commentary to RFE/RL’s Russian Service.
He had also been providing interviews and analysis to other news and opinion websites.
Satter received notification in December that his visa request was approved — including an official notification number from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
He had been told to present that number to the Russian Embassy in Kyiv.
But Satter says he was told later by a Russian Embassy official in the Ukrainian capital that his presence in Russia was considered “undesirable” and his visa request had been rejected.
Klose said he considers the use of the term “undesirable” by the Russian official to be the equivalent of declaring Satter “persona non grata” in Russia.