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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


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 mentions me.

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 old-world style.

I gradually 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 formation.

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."




Munich, July 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.

Referring to 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 world generally."

Special 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 economist.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity of developing cooperative relationships with leaders of the free world and especially of Western European thought" he said.

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.

His American 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 Science Association.

As president 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.

His published 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."


The books listed below provide additional background on this period of history to help illustrate this portion of my grandfather's memoirs.


Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty; Arch Puddington


Radio Free Europe and the Pursuit of Democracy: My War Within the Cold War; George R. Urban


America's Other Voice; Sig Mickelson


Tales From Hungary; Agnes Vadas



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