My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Frank Munk, my grandfather, wrote this autobiography to record his memories
from 1901 onwards. This history and its postscript are available on our family website in his
memory as they tell a complete story of the 20th century. These memoirs may be referenced as
long as proper attribution is made; our family retains ownership and copyright. We have one
request: if you reference this material in any way, please send us email at
firstname.lastname@example.org and a copy of the paper, if possible, as we would
like to know when this material is of interest and we are curious as to how it is being used.
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© Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families
RADIO FREE EUROPE
I have always
thought that one major advantage of college teaching was the fact that you did
not have to do it all the time, in keeping with my permanent itch to try new
adventures. When I was invited by Radio Free Europe to join their staff, I took
the hook and obtained a leave of absence from Reed College for the academic year
1958 - 1959, subsequently extended till 1960.
Radio Free Europe
was organized in 1949 to broadcast to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania,
and Bulgaria to encourage opposition to Soviet domination. It was clearly a
product of the Cold War, although it survived the latter. It was financed partly
by private funds, but mostly by the U.S. government.
To some extent my
stint with RFE was a byproduct of the critical events in Eastern Europe towards
the end of 1956: first upheaval in Poland, but primarily the revolution in
Hungary. The working people in that country staged an armed revolt against the
Soviet army of occupation. Within a few days the Communist government was
defeated. At that moment the whole might of the Soviet Union was mobilized
against Budapest and the revolution collapsed.
Many people blamed
RFE for having excited the opposition and raising too many hopes of help from
the West. As a result it was thought in many quarters that the news services of
RFE ought to sound more like the BBC and less like the Voice of America. It was
also felt that special attention should focus on the intellectual elites.
I was originally
hired for another assignment, but when I met the European Director in New York
it was decided to create a special post for me, that of Adviser on Intellectual
Cooperation to the Director. I think it was a sensible decision: when the time
for Communism ran out in Czechoslovakia, it was the students who brought about
the Velvet Revolution.
Before leaving for
Munich, I had to return to Portland for an important event -- the wedding of
Suzanne and Brooks Ragen on June 17, 1958.
Munich was chosen
because of its proximity to the target countries. It is also an attractive city
with a beautiful background of the Alps, which we greatly enjoyed. But I must
confess my first impressions were largely very mixed. To me it was the home of
the Nazi movement, with its Brown House in the center, and the place where the
infamous Munich Pact was signed. I would never have lived in Munich if it had
not been for the facts just described. As it was, we lived in Munich for two
full years -- and liked it.
The RFE offices
were located in a modern building in the center of an extensive and beautiful
park called Englischer Garten. Entry into the headquarters was tightly
controlled; everybody had to show a special pass. This was a necessary
provision. During my stay, agents of the Czech communist government tried to put
poison into salt shakers used in the cafeteria inside the building. Speaking of
agents, the Czech government also succeeded in infiltrating the staff. The agent
later returned to Prague and wrote a book about his experiences, in which he
The managing staff
of RFE were Americans. The Director was born in Holland and used to head Dutch
resistance to the Nazi occupiers. His name was Erik Hazelhoff. Almost all of the
editors and broadcasters, who totaled about 2,000, were exiles from various
countries. It was a most interesting group of people, occasionally querulous,
but very stimulating. We used to meet many of them socially and liked them. And,
of course, I found some old friends, and made new friends, among the large Czech
group, including the head of the Czech desk, Julius Firt.
It was Firt who
first suggested to the management that one way to reach the intellectuals would
be to broadcast a kind of University of the Air to people who were fed a steady
regime of Marxism-Leninism in their schools of higher education. This became the
centerpiece of my programming. I finally arranged with the College of Europe in
Bruges (Brugge) in Belgium to prepare university-level lectures on problems
dealing all the way from philosophy to European integration.
The College of
Europe was a brain child of Henry Brugmans, a Dutchman and enthusiastic
proponent of European integration, who became the first Rector (President) of
the College. During my stay in Munich, I also joined the faculty of the College
and taught there from time to time. I found Bruges a charming city, full of
realized that I was useful to RFE in another way. By associating with the
intellectual leadership of Europe in these projects, it made RFE credible and
respectable in their eyes. RFE was seen as a positive force, not just as a
propaganda arm in the Cold War. It also was valuable to me. I was always aware
of G. Bernard Shaw's dictum: "Those who can, do, those who cannot, teach." It
felt good to be a doer for a change.
Sometime during my
tour with RFE I also realized that American support for European integration,
and specifically what came to be called the Common Market (the progenitor of the
Atlantic Community), was a double-edged sword: it might unite Europe, but divide
it from America. Something of that is now happening, in pitting in some ways a
European trade bloc against a North American bloc. As a result I directed my
attention to efforts to create an Atlantic Community instead of a European
I participated in a
number of formal and informal meetings, in Geneva, at Villa Serbelloni in
Bellagio, and finally in Brussels. I have before me an RFE press release (which
I had written) reporting the formal launching of an Atlantic Institute, "for the
purpose of strengthening and coordinating the cultural, moral, intellectual, and
spiritual forces of the Atlantic Community." The meeting elected an organizing
Committee chaired by Paul Van Zeeland, former Prime Minister of Belgium, and a
Steering Committee that included me. The Institute was subsequently established
in Paris. As readers of these "Memoirs" will learn,
I spent a year at the
Institute in Paris, while writing a book called "The Atlantic Dilemma."
ONE ENGLISH GARDENS
RELEASE:FROM: D.F. GROZIER
17 (RFE) -- Dr. Frank Munk, 57, author and professor of political science
at Portland, Oregon's Reed College, former UNRRA director of training and
former chief economic advisor to UNRRA's Austrian and Czechoslovak
missions, has been named Advisor on Intellectual Cooperation to the
European Director of Radio Free Europe, Munich.
the current broadcast of radio courses of the College of Europe over RFE
transmitters to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania
(first broadcast: June 2, 1958), Dr. Munk said they represent "part of an
intensive effort by Radio Free Europe to present to Eastern European
scholars and intellectuals the ideas of Western Europe and of the free
emphasis will be placed on European unity and integration and on the
positive aspects of free world scientific, artistic and cultural
achievements, according to the veteran educator, administrator and
forward to the opportunity of developing cooperative relationships with
leaders of the free world and especially of Western European thought" he
Dr. Munk, who
is on leave of absence from Reed College, where he has held the chair of
political science since 1946, was born in Czechoslovakia. Social science
research fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation at Harvard, Columbia and the
Brookings Institute from 1931 through 1933, he left Czechoslovakia in
1939. He has been an American citizen since 1947.
academic career, which began with Dr. Munk's appointment to the faculty of
Reed College in 1939, includes faculty membership at the University of
California (Berkeley), a visiting professorship at the University of
Washington and leadership in the Northwest Institute of International
Relations, of which he has been dean since 1947. In addition, Dr. Munk is
a member of the Adult Education Association of America's Executive
Committee and of the Executive Council of the Pacific Northwest Political
of the World Affairs Council of Oregon, Dr. Munk pioneered "the Great
Decisions," a community-wide discussion of international affairs through
discussion groups, radio, television and press. This program won the
Foreign Policy Association's first national award for "the most
significant contribution to citizen understanding of world affairs" and
received commendations from President Eisenhower, Secretary of State John
Foster Dulles and Adlai Stevenson.
Dr. Munk led
study tours and seminars to Europe in 1955, to the Soviet Union in 1956
and along the "Asian Perimeter" from Turkey to Japan in 1957.
works include "The
Economics of Force (1940)."
During the two
years with RFE I gave more lectures and attended more conferences than I care to
remember, but some stand out in my memory, partly because of the caliber of
participants, and partly because of the ambiance. Among these I recall a
Congress for Cultural Freedom held on the Isola San Giorgio in Venice, or a
similar meeting in Vienna hosted by the President of Austria and the Austrian
Government in the Palace of Schonbrunn. I could not but think of the time I
spent in Vienna in 1946, right after the war, and to compare this new,
self-confident Austria with the dismal prospects of only a few years ago. Of
other meetings I like to remember Alpbach, a charming resort high in the
Tyrolean Mountains, which is still used each year for the same purpose. All in
all, for me these were a very satisfying two years.
As my leave from
Reed was about to expire, I had to make another major decision. Erik Hazelhoff,
the Director, asked me to stay with RFE indefinitely and with a higher salary. I
was tempted. But finally I decided to return to Reed and a lower salary. My
reason was that I wanted to have real roots in one country rather than remain an
international migrant. I think I made the right decision, although I frequently
thought of the exciting years in Europe.
Before I left, I
received a letter from Eric Hazelhoff from which I quote: "I am sure you are
aware of my feelings about your departure. Often enough have I done my best to
persuade you to stay, and it is only because I am familiar with and respect your
reasons for wanting to return to the United States that I have not employed some
more insidious wiles in order to make you stay with us. It is my considered and
conservative opinion that no single person has done RFE more good in the last
two years than you. I am unfortunately also of the opinion that this is largely
due to a unique combination of talents and mentality which you possess and which
makes it almost impossible to expect similar successes from your successor,
whoever he would be."
books listed below provide additional background on this period of history to
help illustrate this portion of my grandfather's memoirs.