Tag: Stalin

History, Poland, Russia

U.S. Responses to WWII Soviet Propaganda Against Poland

U.S. Responses to WWII Soviet Propaganda Against Poland — Lessons for Confronting Putin’s Propaganda

By Ted Lipien

Aggressive propaganda in support of territorial claims against other, almost always smaller and weaker nations, has been a constant feature in Soviet history. There are many similarities between Soviet propaganda and propaganda currently employed by the Kremlin against Ukraine and the West. Soviet propaganda portrayed Russia as a victim or a potential victim of aggression, made Soviet aggression appear as self-defense, and labeled all those who opposed the Kremlin in any way as Fascists. The Communist regime in Russia also fabricated and promoted false evidence to cover up Soviet crimes. The very same themes are being used and constantly repeated today by President Putin’s propaganda and disinformation machine to justify his military aggression in Ukraine and other aggressive foreign policy moves. President Putin and his media are also engaged in a propaganda campaign to distort World War II history and to whitewash some of Stalin’s most hideous crimes.

Read more
Cold War, Glos Ameryki, History, International Broadcasting, Poland, Public Diplomacy, Russia, VOA

Warsaw Uprising Betrayed by Pro-Stalin WWII Voice of America

Warsaw during August 1944  anti-Nazi uprising.
Warsaw during August 1944 anti-Nazi uprising.

 

August 1, 2019 is the 75 anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising, a 63-day unsuccessful operation by the Polish resistance Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) to liberate Warsaw from Nazi German occupation. About 16,000 Polish fighters were killed and between 150,000 and 200,000 Polish civilians died, mostly from mass executions. After the Home Army capitulation in Warsaw, the Germans expelled from the city the entire civilian population. Thousands of the evacuees were sent to Nazi concentration or labor camps. The city was almost completely destroyed during the fighting and after the uprising in a deliberate German action of blowing up buildings.

But in line with Stalin’s negative view of  of Polish anti-Nazi fighters who were not pro-Soviet Communists, World War II U.S. Voice of America radio broadcasts largely ignored the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, while most Americans and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who caved in to nearly all of Stalin’s demands, expressed support for  the Poles’ fight for freedom. VOA’s early news writers, including future Stalin Peace prize winner, American Communist Howard Fast, did not practice journalism in the style of CBS wartime radio reporter Edward R. Murrow. They followed in the footsteps of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty who, because of his pro-Soviet and pro-communist bias, shamelessly lied about the starvation and death of millions of people in Ukraine and in other parts of the Soviet Union under Stalin’s rule.

Some of Soviet sympathizers and Communists were hired by VOA’s first director John Houseman, a future Hollywood Oscar-winning actor. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Military Intelligence quietly forced him to resign in 1943 with the approval from the FDR White House, but many of his Communist hires remained until at least 1945. Some stayed on for a few years longer. Some went back to Eastern Europe to work as propagandists and diplomats for Soviet-dominated communist regimes.  

But a different view of early Voice of America radio broadcasts was presented by current VOA director Amanda Bennett in a recent Washington Post op-ed:  “Those broadcasts were lifelines to millions. Even more important, however, was the promise made right from the start: ‘The news may be good for us. The news may be bad,’ said announcer William Harlan Hale. ‘But we shall tell you the truth.’” Bennett insisted that Edward R. Murrow helped to create VOA. Based in London and working for CBS, he had absolutely no role and no influence over wartime VOA dominated by admirers of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Unlike early VOA officials and broadcasters, Murrow was not a journalist to be easily fooled by Soviet propaganda. 1

It took Zofia Korbońska, Irene Broni (Irena Radwańska), Zdzisław Dziekoński, Jan Grużewski, Wacław Bniński and other VOA Polish Service Cold War era broadcasters and journalists who were former Warsaw Uprising fighters many years to undo the damage done by Soviet agents and sympathizers who had taken control of U.S. international broadcasting during World War II. Another VOA Polish Service broadcaster, my deputy Marek Walicki, witnessed the Warsaw Uprising as a young boy. Eventually, with the help of these journalists, VOA was perceived in Poland as a symbol of America’s commitment to freedom and democracy, but it required a change of staff, a change of management and a new vision for the organization that previously had betrayed American values.

The 1944 Warsaw Uprising was doomed because Stalin halted the Red Army offensive to allow the Germans to kill and crush anti-Communist Poles. As a result of concessions made by Roosevelt to Stalin  and the presence on the ground of Red Army troops Poland fell under Soviet domination and communist oppression for nearly five more decades. The early Voice of America did not only betray Warsaw Uprising fighters and Poland, it betrayed more than 80 million people in all the nations which fell under Soviet rule.

During the Cold War, the Voice America eventually redeemed itself and broadcast truthful news behind the Iron Curtain. President Ronald Reagan paid tribute to former anti-Nazi Warsaw Uprising fighters, including those who later worked in the VOA Polish Service. During World War II, however, VOA Polish radio broadcasts prepared by admirers of Stalin and Communism, were filled with Soviet propaganda and hostile toward those who did not want to accept Stalin’s rule. They even largely ignored the Holocaust because Soviet propaganda, which they promoted, focused on the suffering and sacrifices of Soviet soldiers and civilians rather than the plight of  Jews or other groups and nationalities. Some of the early OWI journalists, including Stefan Arski,  a.k.a. Artur Salman, and Adolf Hofmeister, went to work for communist regimes in East-Central Europe. Before they left, these Soviet sympathizers and agents of influence made the life of a few honest VOA journalists extremely difficult. A VOA Polish Service broadcaster Konstanty Broel Plater resigned in 1944 rather than be forced to read Stalin’s propaganda lies to German-occupied Poland. Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, who was one of the most liberal members of President Roosevelt’s cabinet, in 1943 sent a secret memo to the White House with a warning that pro-Soviet fellow travelers and Communists employed in the Office of War Information have shown “bitter hostility” even toward “a considerable number of officials in the United States Government who are deemed inconvenient.” 2

This article, originally written in 2015, was updated for the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.

Notes:

  1. Amanda Bennett, Voice of America Director,  “Trump’s ‘worldwide network’ is a great idea. But it already exists.” The Washington Post, November 27, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-worldwide-network-is-a-great-idea-but-it-already-exists/2018/11/27/79b320bc-f269-11e8-bc79-68604ed88993_story.html.
  2. Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles April 6, 1943 memorandum to Marvin H. McIntyre, Secretary to the President with enclosures, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum Website, Box 77, State – Welles, Sumner, 1943-1944; version date 2013. State – Welles, Sumner, 1943-1944, From Collection: FDR-FDRPSF Departmental Correspondence, Series: Departmental Correspondence, 1933 – 1945 Collection: President’s Secretary’s File (Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration), 1933 – 1945, National Archives Identifier: 16619284.
Read more
Audio, Cold War, Featured, Glos Ameryki, History, International Broadcasting, Poland, Public Diplomacy, Radio, VOA

We are condemned to reach an agreement in Poland, Walesa told VOA Polish Service in 1987

Poland’s communist regime organized a referendum on political and economic reforms, which was held on 29 November 1987. Around a third of eligible voters did not participate, defying the regime. It was the first time that Communist authorities in Eastern Europe had lost a vote. I covered the referendum for the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service. After the vote,…

Read more
Cold War, Glos Ameryki, History, International Broadcasting, Photo, Poland, VOA

Reagan and Korbonski on Yalta and Poland

As Poland prepares for next year’s 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising, I wanted to share [highlight]Stefan Korboński[/highlight]‘s 1984 letter to The New York Times, in which the last chief of the Polish wartime underground State repeated President Ronald Reagan’s earlier statement that the United States rejects any interpretation of the Yalta agreement that suggests American consent for the division of…

Read more
International Broadcasting, Poland, Public Diplomacy, Russia

U.S. Embassies in Central and Eastern Europe Ignore 100 Anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s Birthday

TedLipien.com TedLipien.com, Truckee, CA, February 08, 2011 — One would think that the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birthday could be a perfect public diplomacy theme for all U.S. embassies in Central and Eastern Europe — a great opportunity for embassy-sponsored events to strengthen ties with America among diverse nations that owe their current independence and freedom in large part to President Reagan’s vision combined with his steadfastness in standing up to the “Evil Empire.” And yet, both highly-trained and highly-paid U.S. diplomats working in the countries of the former Soviet Block by and large completely ignored the anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birthday. Only two diplomatic post out of more than a dozen in the region sponsored a public event designed to remind older and younger generations of East Europeans of Ronald Reagan’s contribution to freeing them from Soviet domination.

Read more
Poland, Public Diplomacy, Russia

Reposting from Sept. 16, 2009: September 17 could be a new date in US-Polish relations

On the 71 anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, we are republishing our Sept. 16, 2009 blog post, in which we asked the Obama Administration to consider the significance of the 1939 division of Poland by Hitler and Stalin before making the White House announcement on the cancelation of the ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Poland: “September 17 could be a new date in US-Polish relations

Read more
Poland, Russia

“The Katyn Problem in Contemporary Russia”

Professor Aleksandr Guryanov’s presentation [translated from Russian] from the Katyn observances at the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress, May 5, 2010. This is sent with permission of Professor Mark Kramer [translator] and the Harvard University Cold War Archives. It can be reprinted or reposted with acknowledgment. “The Katyn Problem in Contemporary Russia” Aleksandr Guryanov, “Memorial” Society Esteemed Mr. Chairman and Ladies and…

Read more
Public Diplomacy

Barred from the White House, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner sends Obama a letter with congratulations

 This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner would not receive at the White House the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who was on a visit this week to Washington. President Obama apparently wanted to avoid upsetting Chinese communist leaders before his official trip to China.    Unwelcome at the White House at this time, (White…

Read more
Poland, Public Diplomacy, Russia

Sen. Voinovich criticizes Obama for public diplomacy disaster

Opinia.US In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) said he was disappointed in the manner in which President Obama’s decision to revise a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe was communicated to NATO allies, Poland and Czech Republic. Calling the handling of the missile decision a “major public relations and public diplomacy blunder,” Senator Voinovich…

Read more