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Paul B. Henze, An Appreciation

Paul B. Henze passed away on May 19, 2011.
Paul B. Henze passed away on May 19, 2011.

Paul B. Henze, colleague and friend, died on May 19, 2011. His many professional accomplishments included his role in shaping Radio Free Europe in the 1950s and supporting RFE/RL later, both inside and outside the U.S. government.

[For more on Henze's life and work, we encourage you to read this eulogy by former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, which he prepared for delivery at a memorial service for Henze held in northern Virginia on July 17, 2011.]

Born in Redwood Falls, Minn., Paul graduated from St. Olaf College and, following service in the U.S. Army in Europe, completed a master's program in Soviet studies at Harvard.

In 1952 he joined RFE as deputy political advisor in Munich to William E. Griffith. Until 1958, Paul helped shape the concept of full-service substitute or surrogate broadcasting. Having taught himself shorthand, Paul chronicled many internal RFE discussions in its formative years, some of which are available for viewing in the Hoover Institution archives at Stanford University.

Later, in a number of government positions, especially as a National Security Council staff member responsible for international broadcasting during the Carter administration, Paul was an unfailing supporter of RFE/RL.

Over the last decade, while pursuing scholarly interests in Turkey, the Caucasus, and especially Ethiopia, Paul's interest in RFE/RL was rekindled. He helped us celebrate RFE/RL’s continuing legacy in Budapest, Warsaw and Prague. He was honored by the government of democratic Poland and traveled with founding Polish Service director Jan Nowak-Jezioranski around the country. Paul even contributed a chapter on RFE's early years to the volume "Cold War Broadcasting" (Central European University Press, 2010).

When I turned to writing "Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond," my book about RFE/RL (Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press, 2010), Paul provided invaluable insights into RFE’s early years. During our many conversations at his Virginia farm he also made available volumes of private correspondences he'd had with RFE leadership during his tenure.

From his material, I learned how Paul had helped counter irresponsible suggestions made in the wake of the June 1953 East German uprising that RFE should promote violent unrest in Eastern Europe. In one letter, Paul vented his frustration at the "stupid" and "hair-brained" advice of some officials who thought RFE should advocate sabotage in Eastern Europe. Disparaging them as "psychological warriors," he wrote that "our exiles here will never carry out the kind of orders the PW-boys want to give."

In his section for "Cold War Broadcasting," Paul 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."

That did not just happen. Paul Henze and his Munich associates – Americans and exiles alike – made it so. With his passing, we celebrate Paul Henze’s many accomplishments and adventures and we especially honor his lifelong contribution to RFE/RL.

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    A. Ross Johnson

    A. Ross Johnson was a senior executive of RFE/RL from 1988 to 2002, serving as director of Radio Free Europe, director of the RFE/RL Research Institute, and acting president and counselor of RFE/RL. Johnson is the author of "Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond" (2010) and co-edited, with R. Eugene Parta, "Cold War Broadcasting: Impact on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe" (2010).