Hot Books in the Cold War
The CIA-Funded Secret Western Book Distribution Program Behind the Iron Curtain
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.
"Alfred A. Reischi teos avardab vaieldamatult arusaama külmast sõjast. Eriti tuleb esile tõsta, et avarat ja huvitavat, aga varem peaaegu tähelepanuta jäänud teemat on autor käsitlenud rohkem kui kaks aastakümmet pärast selle lõppu."—Akadeemia
"Alfred Reisch's meticulously researched book about the CIA's secretly funded book distribution program provides the first detailed account of the extraordinary "political warfare" effort conducted by the CIA to counter the Soviet global political and cultural offensive, as Mark Kramer points out in his superb introduction in the book... The reader will also be impressed with the intricacies of the secretive network operating out of New York (the names of the New York-based and the overseas front cover "sponsoring" organizations were often changed as the situation required) and with centers in London, Paris, Rome, Munich and Vienna. These major western cities had dozens of emigre groups who were willing to cooperate with the CIA front organizations. Because of its geographic proximity to Communist-ruled Eastern Europe, Vienna was the most important book distribution hub, while Rome became a "hot" center after the arrival on the scene of the Polish Pope John Paul II. The Polish regime started allowing many thousands of Polish religious pilgrims to flock to Rome... 'Hot Books in the Cold War' is a must read for all those diplomats who served in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, since I am certain, that they too were affected and assisted in carrying out their political, press and cultural work without ever hearing about the existence of the extraordinary CIA-run book program."—American Diplomacy
"Hot Books in the Cold War is an absorbing tale of cloak and dagger derring-do by people who loved books and wanted other people to have access to them. The late Alfred A. Reisch (he died in 2013) tells this story both as a historian and as a one-time participant in the CIA-financed book distribution program in Eastern Europe and the USSR. It really should be made into a movie—there are heroes galore and seldom has a book communicated the risks average people will take on behalf of the right to read and to maintain a life of the mind in the face of a totalitarian state. Reisch makes you feel you are in the room with a nervous dissident receiving a package containing that most dangerous of objects in his society—a book from abroad. One of the most valuable features of Hot Books in the Cold War is the overview of the program provided by Mark Kramer in his introduction to the book. Kramer's account of the mechanics of the program fascinates. The level of detail in this book about this era is impressive and eye-opening for those of us with little knowledge of the cultural front of the Cold War. Books given to teachers were used in classroom instruction and reading circles facilitated person-to-person transfers. In the age of the e-book it is easy to forget that the book as tangible object symbolized to recipients in the book distribution program such sentiments as, 'I trust you—read this' or simply 'It is not like this everywhere.' Historians of the book should add this book to their reading lists and all academic libraries should contain a copy."—Critical Margins
"A well-documented pioneering analysis of the "book program" that complemented Western broadcasts and provided Western literature to East Europeans and Russians during the Cold War. Highly recommended for anyone interested in U.S. Cold War foreign policy."—A. Ross Johnson
"The secret book distribution program to Eastern Europe funded by the CIA during the Cold War gave hope and courage to thousands of intellectuals and other dissidents. It helped to cultivate the seeds of opposition and contributed to the eventual triumph of reason over dogmatism. Alfred Reisch's book fills in an important gap in our understanding of how the United States effectively used the "soft power" of information not only to promote democracy but to contribute to the collapse of European communism. The word indeed proved mightier than the sword."—Janusz Bugajski
|Central European University Press|
Other Titles in HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century
Other Titles in The Cold War