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My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Memoirs, 1993
Postscript, 1994

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 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. We'd like to hear from you.
Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families

BERKELEY, 1941-1944

When we arrived in Berkeley on August 17, 1941, it was not like our arrival in Portland two years earlier. We had been in Berkeley, at least briefly, during our first stay in America when I was a Research Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1931 to 1933. We found a house rather quickly at 2555 Buena Vista Way north of the campus, with a beautiful view of San Francisco Bay and of the Golden Gate. One advantage of the house was the proximity of Hillside School across the street. Both of our children started school almost immediately, Suzanne in the kindergarten and Michael in second grade. Little did we think that the world scene would change so abruptly while we were there. I had to work hard on some new courses, one of which was Capitalism and Planned Economy, a subject which interested me then, and still does today, some fifty years later.

One day in December I got in my car, all alone, and drove across the hills, through Walnut Creek, and up a high mountain called Mount Diablo, not far from Sacramento. The view was spectacular, with the glint of San Francisco Bay on the Western horizon. While on top of San Diablo I overheard people talking excitedly about some attack on Hawaii. I paid no attention, believing they had had one too many. When I got home, I learned that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, destroying the entire Pacific fleet of the United States. The date was December 7, 1941, "the day that will live in infamy."

Within a matter of weeks the whole world scene changed radically. Previously the prevailing political attitude was one of isolationism, nurtured by an aggressive America First movement, with a supporting cast on the left, claiming that the war raging in Europe was just an example of capitalist competition (at least before Germany attacked the Soviet Union). Now suddenly the war became popular. It was very impressive to watch the United States changing gear and girding for the struggle. Very soon a line of barrage balloons appeared behind the Golden Gate bridge. Not much later we saw from our living room explosions on the horizon -- we never learned whether they were Japanese submarines sinking U.S. ships or being sunk.

I found the university very congenial. It seemed more collegial than some I knew and gave me support whenever I asked for it. The students were more appreciative and less critical than at Reed. The department also received Nadia and me very kindly in a social way and not only its members, but others on the faculty soon became our friends. I loved walking home from my office at South Hall. The campus was less crowded than it is today and beautifully landscaped. Especially in the spring, it was redolent with the fragrance of numerous trees and shrubs.

No sooner did we arrive in Berkeley than I found myself just as busy on the lecture circuit as I had been in Portland, if not more so. I must have made hundreds of speeches, to large audiences and small, while in Berkeley, not only in the Bar Area, but throughout California and soon in places like Denver and beyond. I have no doubt that my popularity was due not to my ability to speak, but to the war itself, and to the fact that I was a credible witness to what was going on in Europe. I must have had just the right accent, understandable, but foreign enough to sound authentic, which it still is today more than 50 years later!

My most significant venue was the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco, which many people regard as the most important civic platform in the state. I suppose each American president and presidential candidate has spoken there at least once. It is something of a must for celebrities visiting San Francisco. I was no celebrity, but I was given the unusual recognition of being invited three times to speak before it in the course of a single year.

Perhaps, too, it was not me, but my message. In the past, while teaching at Reed, I was primarily trying to wake up America to the dangers of Nazism and German expansionism. Now I shifted to the problems the world would be facing after defeating the German-Japanese coalition. A good example of this was a speech I delivered before the Commonwealth Club, meeting at the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco on January 15, 1943. The subject was "Post War Reconstruction: Our Last Chance." I described not just the physical destruction that would follow, and the suffering of the people, but especially the complete devastation of the political and economic system the victorious allies would encounter. I called for immediate organization of an effort to start with relief supplies and rehabilitation even before the end of hostilities. However, my main point was that peace would fail again unless there was a determined international drive to provide reconstruction capital for investments in the war-ravaged countries. Although I did not know it then, I foreshadowed what was to become UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) in the year that followed and the Marshall Plan a few years later. It probably had something to do with my being invited to become the head of training for UNRRA as soon as it was launched.

I more or less repeated the message at Institutes of International Relations at Riverside, Mills College, and also during the ensuing summer at Reed, and at numerous other meetings. The University of California published a series, which included my contribution. In addition, I taught a class on postwar problems held evenings at the University's extension center in San Francisco.

In the meantime, I was enjoying my classes in Berkeley. One difference from my experience at Reed was the size of the classes: whereas at Reed much instruction was in the form of conferences, at U.C. Berkeley. I had some classes with well over 100 students. How did my students react to me? The other day I found an old clipping from the "Daily Californian," the student paper at U.C. of April 22, 1942:

TO THE EDITOR: I am beginning to wonder why our University, which is always importing renowned men to speak on the foreign situation, does not partake of the wisdom of its own faculty members. I refer to Frank Munk, lecturer in economics. Mr. Munk, a former official in the Czechoslovakian government, has seen nations trampled beneath the tread of Nazi boots. That Mr. Munk is a popular speaker can be seen from the fact that he is always appearing before luncheon and city clubs. If he were to speak at a University meeting, his campus would suddenly wake up to the realization that there is a war going on. If a University speech is not possible, why can't we borrow Wheeler Auditorium, put Mr. Munk in it and benefit from the experiences of one who has seen history in the making?

I was certainly very aware of the war. In addition to my regular load, I was soon teaching two other courses for the U.S. Army: one at U.C., an area course on Central Europe and the Balkans in the Army Specialized Training Program, and the other on the campus of Stanford University in the Army's Civil Affairs Training School. This latter one was preparing officers who would, and did, become military governors of defeated enemy countries. This required lots of commuting to Palo Alto.

I also volunteered for training in the Berkeley Auxiliary Police. This was in preparation for any emergency (it never occurred, but no one knew). We received regular police training, including gun firing. At the end of training we had to pass an examination, as well as practice firing. I don't remember the circumstances, but I had to take both children with me that evening. I did pretty well in the gun practice and was awarded a badge which read "Marksman." This may have been the first and last time I impressed my children.

One would meet interesting people at the University, most frequently at the Faculty Club. One of them was Hans Kelsen, renowned authority on international law. Strangely enough I never met him when he lived in Prague as professor of the German University. There existed an invisible but practically impenetrable curtain dividing the Czech and German universities, we were just invisible to each other. We had to get to Berkeley to become friends.

Another person whom I saw frequently at the Faculty Club during lunch was Robert Oppenheimer, head of the nuclear bomb project. The building where he had his office was guarded day and night by Marines. We knew the reason was a secret military project, but we never suspected its nature.

I also enjoyed good relations with the two chief administrators of the University, President Robert G. Sproul and Monroe E. Deutsch, Vice-President and Provost. They were helpful whenever I needed support, like providing a grant so I could finish my research on the economics in totalitarian regimes. This permitted me to write a serious book, which was published under the title of "The Legacy of Nazism" with the sub-title "The Economic and Social Consequences of Totalitarianism" (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1943). [Webmaster's Note: I have posted several chapters from this book on this website.]

It was generally well received. I only regret I do not now have the file in which I kept the reviews. I am attaching an information sheet prepared by Hiram Motherwell for the staff of the Columbia Broadcasting System which describes some of the salient points of the book.

August 9, 1943
Bulletin No. 20

Columbia Broadcasting System
Post-War Division,
Program Dept

Macmillan, July 1943

There is no hope that Nazism will disappear into thin air when Germany falls. Therefore, what kind of a legacy will it leave behind? What can be done about it?


Nazi "economics" is not economics in any sense elsewhere recognized. Not an attempt to balance forces and create a sound economic order, but a whipping of those forces into perpetual motion by state power for political purposes.


It is "re-industrializing" Europe by zones. Heavy and processing industry in the inmost zone (Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, etc.). In the second zone (France, Denmark, Holland, Belgium) industrial specialization so these regions cannot function as units without Berlin. Third zone (Poland, Balkans, Baltics, etc.) is being de-industrialized and condemned to agriculture only, which means a perpetually lower standard of living.


It has made a fiction of finance and banking, though full results will not be apparent until the Nazis are defeated. "The total collapse of Europe's financial system is almost inevitable." Terrific inflation foreseen as soon as Nazi controls are removed.


It has shattered the market. "The price system has been torn to rags...the damage is irreparable.


It has largely wiped out small independent business.


Overall effect has been to unite European industry under central control of Berlin, but unity does not mean uniformity. Hitler's "cartel system" consists of many different kinds of economic structures --- state monopolies, private trusts (like the Hermann Goering Works employing 600,000 workers in 20 countries), public corporations operating under state control but not theoretically part of the state, mixed corporations under state control, even Labor Front which is itself a vast industrial, banking and distribution concern.


"Cartel system" has proved fantastically efficient as a productive machine. Failures in it come from lack of understanding human factor. Post-War Europe cannot get rid of this system. Cannot cut it up into its prewar components without cutting off its own arms and legs.


In accordance with industrial zoning and need to fortify political power, Nazis are reshuffling Europe's population. The plan, now partly accomplished, is to:


Move entire Dutch and Czech population to Baltic Coast and to Russia.


Move quarter million Slovenes to Siberia.


Condemn Poles permanently to serf labor, a la Pharaoh.


Eliminate Jews.


Old political anatomy of Europe shattered, and continent will be obliged to grow new bones.


Millions of deportees, refugees and forced laborers will seek to rush "home," and will clog social arteries.


Entire class system of prewar Europe will have disintegrated. German upper classes will be eliminated by United Nations (confiscation of Junker lands, etc.). Middle class and small businessmen have been liquidated throughout Nazi Europe, and have become State employees. Hundred million peasants in East Europe will be "searching for a new heaven and new earth" since they won't be able to support selves on their land, and their countries have been deprived by Hitler of all means of producing wealth which could be exchanged abroad for food.


Hatred, unparalleled for volume and intensity, of conquered peoples for Germany and Italy; especially of Jews, Poles and others whom the Nazis have sought to slaughter or starve out of existence.


Emotional anarchy will be suffered by tens of millions as a result of years of suffering and tension.


The entire Nazi economic structure must be taken out of Nazi hands, and the landed military and industrialist classes expropriated out of existence. Who will inherit it?


"In this post-war world cartels, trade associations, and all the various governmental bodies set up all over the world will perchance become the vehicles of reconstruction ... It is extremely improbable that Europe will attempt to return to a laissez-faire economy..." All-out planning under some form of world-wide controls needed.


The great danger is restriction of domestic markets. "The world is not so afraid of American tariffs as of American depressions."


"The composition, distribution and character of Europe's population must undergo periods of painful and prolonged readjustment."


"There will develop a vacuum of intellectual leadership that will probably take a generation to fill." Shattering of class relationships point to "new forms" of social controls.


Hate is so violent that "there will be an irresistible urge to apply racial discrimination to Germans ... It should be led into orderly channels."


Incidentally, after I had left the University, I was the recipient of the Gold Medal for Literature of Scholarship by the Commonwealth Club of California for 1944, an award made annually on a national basis.

While in Berkeley, my relations with the Czechoslovak government in London became even closer. This was partly due to the presence of a new Czech Consul in San Francisco. It was Bohus Benes, nephew of President Benes whom I had met together with the President in 1939 in Chicago. Bohus was generally credited with saving the President's life in 1938, after the catastrophe of Munich, by flying his plane to Prague and spiriting him in the same airplane out of the country. After the establishment of a government-in-exile in London, Bohus evidently had a falling-out with some members of Benes's entourage and was sent to San Francisco to be far from London.

Our family and the Benes family became very good friends, especially because they, too, lived in Berkeley. This was also true of our children, especially of Suzanne, who was close to Benes's daughter, whom they called Muska. She is now Mrs. Zbigniew Brzezinski, wife of President Carter's national security adviser and well-known scholar.

I was the main speaker on October 28, 1942, the day of Czechoslovak independence, at a big meeting arranged by the Czechoslovak National Council in San Francisco. There were many other occasions where Bohus Benes and I were speakers together. Some time in 1943 the Czech Finance Minister, Dr. Ladislav Feierabend, visited the Bay area and was a dinner guest in our home. He showed us the new banknotes (more precisely state notes) printed in England for use in Czechoslovakia after liberation. I am reminded of the occasion whenever I visit Czechoslovakia, because some of them are still in circulation--probably not for long. Some time after the visit I was appointed an adviser to the Czechoslovak Ministry for Reconstruction. The only thing I did in this connection was publish a pamphlet analyzing probable economic problems that would emerge after the war. I neglected one possibility, which became the reality, namely the almost complete nationalization and socialization of Czechoslovakia under Soviet auspices. By that time we felt completely at home in Berkeley and I was looking forward to settling down. Then everything changed, practically overnight. I received a telegram from Washington asking me if I would be interested in joining the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), then in the blueprint stage, to take charge of training its overseas personnel. I replied in the affirmative, was granted a leave of absence by the University and left for Washington on April 5, 1944.

Nadia and I often talked about whether we preferred California or Oregon, if we had to make the choice. It was all theoretical and on that basis she leaned towards California, whereas I favored Oregon. I suppose I still do, especially in view of what happened to California, and especially to Berkeley in the sixties. I am glad I was not at Berkeley during that troubled period. Also, I have a feeling that California has by now lost much of what made it livable and attractive. A single look at Los Angeles now in 1992, compared to the L.A. of 1932, tells the story. My real choice now, and then, is Portland and I am happy that is where we are.


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