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Paul Henze (1924-2011)

Paul B. Henze
Paul B. Henze

Paul Henze joined RFE in 1952 in Munich, where he spent the next several years helping to develop the concept of “surrogate,” or substitute, broadcasting. In a section he contributed to Cold War Broadcasting, he wrote that "Radio Free Europe was an experiment" that "by the end of the 1950s... had evolved into a semi-permanent feature of the East European political and social landscape."

This eulogy was prepared for delivery at a memorial service for Mr. Henze, held on 17 July 2011 in northern Virginia. Henze served as a senior advisor to Radio Free Europe in the 1950's.

My friendship and admiration for Paul developed in three contexts, each one of which is publicly known through an acronym: RFE, CIA, NSC.

The first of these (RFE) stood for Radio Free Europe. I met Paul in the early 1950s when visiting its headquarters located in Munich, Germany. Paul was one of the top Americans in charge of the effort to pierce the Iron Curtain through radio broadcasts into Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. I was struck from the very beginning by his devotion to the cause of freedom for the East Europeans then under Stalin’s rule, and by his realization – novel at the time – that truthful radio broadcasts could eventually negate the communist monopoly of power.

Paul realized earlier than most that the division of Europe would not be undone by force of arms, but that the liberation could come through information made available in spite of Soviet jamming and repression. His palpable enthusiasm and his long-range optimism won him the enduring friendship of the grateful Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, and others – foremost among them the legendary World War II hero, Jan Nowak, who used to tell me that Paul was an honorary Pole (no pun intended). By treating the East European exiles engaged in the mission as equals, Paul made them feel that RFE was an alliance of equals. And some decades later, indeed, a peacefully Eastern Europe became part of the Western Alliance.

But before that happened, RFE had to be maintained and its outreach to the East technically modernized. In the early 1960s, Paul and I traveled together on a mission to North Africa to establish whether RFE’s antennas could operate also from Morocco. By then, I knew that Paul had been for some years part of the CIA, and that the radio operation was sponsored by the Agency. That did not bother me in the least. In my view, it was a sign that the CIA was innovative in its engagement in the Cold War, and that it had imaginative and dedicated senior officers like Paul. But in the course of the trip I discovered not only Paul’s enduring enthusiasm for his mission, but also his insatiable ethnographic curiosity about other cultures and their history. I learned from his comments about what we saw in North Africa that he was a broadly gauged scholar, to whom travel was above all an endless learning experience. In later years, for example, he became entranced by Ethiopia, and my knowledge of that country increased immensely after each meal with Paul.

My third and most sustained relationship with Paul was in the context of the White House, and specifically of the National Security Council. When I assumed the post of National Security Adviser to the President, I asked Paul to join the NSC staff and to assume responsibility for oversight of the radios and to coordinate more generally our efforts to prevail in the Cold War without an actual war. Paul was in his element. He mobilized his enthusiasm, his commitment, and his boundless energy not only to protect RFE, but to develop also a broader effort to nourish the hopes of those living in the Soviet bloc, including even the Soviet Union itself, that someday they, too, would be free.

In the then prevailing political climate, none of that was easy to do and it was often frustrating. There were occasions when well-meaning public figures were advocating the closure of all such efforts and the acceptance instead of the permanence of the Iron Curtain and Europe’s division. Paul proved himself to be a ferocious bureaucratic infighter and eventually the winner – though at times he was even impatient with my efforts to pursue – on the President’s behalf --- also some accommodation with the Soviet Union in the area of mutual arms control.

But that was Paul, my fellow Cold warrior: enthusiastic, fearless, committed, principled, and relentless. A great American, an Eastern European by association, and one of the anonymous architects of the peaceful and victorious end to the Cold War.

-- Zbigniew Brzezinski
Mr. Brzezinski served as U.S. National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.