Radio Free Europe (RFE) was a key element in the information war waged by the United States against communist censorship. During the Cold War, RFE gained a reputation as the most reliable source of international and internal news in virtually all East European countries, threatening their governments’ monopoly on information. Communist governments’ security agencies relentlessly gathered information on the radios’ activities and attempted to infiltrate RFE’s headquarters in Munich.
Andrzej Czechowicz was probably the best known communist-era spy who was an active agent while working for RFE in the late 1960s. Employed for five years in RFE’s media analysis service in Munich, this Polish Security Service (Służba Bezpieczeństwa) operative collected considerable information on the personnel of the Polish section and on RFE sources of information within Poland and photographed thousands of pages of internal documents. After more than five years, Czechowicz returned to Poland in 1971 and participated in programs aimed at embarrassing Radio Free Europe and the US government. His revelations received significant attention in the West, by coinciding with Senator J. William Fulbright’s and others’ campaign against RFE as a CIA-funded “relict of the Cold War” standing in the way of détente with the Soviet Union. Fortunately for the people of Eastern Europe, RFE survived and was able to play a leading role in the democratic revolution that swept the Soviet Bloc less than twenty years later.
Perhaps the most significant element of the Andrzej Czechowicz Papers is the agent’s recently completed autobiography, an unpublished manuscript of more than 1,300 pages. The text is different from that of the two books Czechowicz wrote in the People’s Poland, markedly more frank and truthful than what he wrote under close scrutiny of the Department of Propaganda and Agitation of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party. The collection also includes a number of letters, as well as copies of documents, articles, and photographs.
The Hoover Institution Archives are home to the broadcast and corporate archives of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as the private papers of dozens of former RFE employees. The Czechowicz Papers contribute a somewhat different perspective on RFE’s history—from the other side of the information war’s front line.
For additional information, contact Maciej Siekierski at siekierski [at] stanford.edu.