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.
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 mental bondage and planted many of the seeds that germinated when communism collapsed and the Soviet bloc disintegrated.
Introduction by Mark Kramer Foreword Ch.1. Origins, Objectives, and Launching of the Book Project Under Sam Walker Ch.2. Titles, Contents, Numbers, Targets, and Aims of the Mailings Ch.3. The Man in the Grey Suit. George C. Minden and his Concept of Cultural and Ideological Competition Ch.4. The New York Book Center. Books, Books, and More Books… Ch.5. The Book Project Reaches New Heights. The Golden Age of the 1960s Ch.6. Western and Émigré Books and Periodicals Published with Covert Support Ch.7. New Opportunities Through East-West Contacts Ch.8. The Early 1970s. The International Advisory Council Ch.9. A Lasting Enemy. The Censors 1956 to 1968; 1969 to 1973 Ch.10. The Communist Regimes on the Defensive: Criticisms, Warnings, and Attacks Ch.11. The Person-to-Person Distribution Program: A Direct Way to Reach East Europeans. The Early Polish Program 1958–1959 Ch.12. Another Vehicle for Reaching the People of Eastern Europe: the Person-to-Person Distribution Program and Personalized Mailings Ch.13. The Most Important Book Distribution Point: Vienna Ch.14. Letters from Poland, the Crucial Country Ch.15. Letters from Czechoslovakia Before and After 1968 Ch.16. Letters from Hungary Under Goulash Communism Ch.17. Letters from Romania Under the Ceausescu Regime Ch.18. Letters from Bulgaria Despite Very Strict Censorship Ch.19. The Last Seventeen Years: International Literary Centre, Ltd., East Europe, and the USSR Conclusion: The Impact of the Book Distribution Project and its Contribution to the Ideological Victory of the West Bibliography Appendix: Selected statistical tables, illustrations, reproductions of key documents and reports, photos of key persons.
Alfred A. Reisch is a political scientist, specializing in international relations, diplomatic and Cold War history, foreign, military, national security, and minority affairs. He was a Senior Political Analyst with Radio Free Europe in New York and Head of RFE´s Hungarian Research and Evaluation Section in Munich, Germany.
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