Tad Szulc

Tad Szulc

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Tad Szulc was born in Warsaw on 25th July, 1926. As a young boy he was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland. Later he studied at the University of Brazil (1943-1945).

Szulc worked for the Associated Press in Brazil before moving to the United States in 1949. He covered the United Nations for the United Press International until joining the New York Times in 1953. He worked as a foreign correspondent and reported on a series of important events. This included the overthrow of Marco Pérez Jiménez, the military dictator of Venezuela in 1958. The following year Szulc published Twilight of the Tyrants (1959).

In 1961 Szulc discovered that the Central Intelligence Agency were training Anti-Castro partisans in Florida and Guatemala with the idea of invading Cuba. Szulc's article was published in the New York Times on 7th April, 1961. However, the editor removed details of the proposed invasion and the involvement of the CIA in this operation.

Later, President John F. Kennedy, told the New York Times's managing editor, Turner Catledge: "If you had printed more about the operation, you would have saved us from a colossal mistake."

Szulc joined forces with Karl E. Meyer to write The Cuban Invasion: The Chronicle of a Disaster. The CIA did not approve of the book and according to their files, Szulc was described as "anti-agency" and "under suspicion as a hostile foreign agent."

Szulc also became unpopular with the communist government in the Soviet Union for his reporting of the Prague Spring. Szulc was a supporter of Alexander Dubcek and the reform movement in Czechoslovakia. On the morning of the Red Army invasion, Szulc wrote: "Czechoslovakia was occupied early today by troops of the Soviet Union and four of its Warsaw Pact allies in a series of swift land and air movements." This resulted in him being thrown out of the country on the grounds that he was taking "an interest in secret military questions."

After leaving the New York Times in 1972 Szulc wrote several books including Compulsive Spy: The Strange Career of E. Howard Hunt (1974), a biography of E. Howard Hunt, The Energy Crisis (1978), The Illusion of Peace: Foreign Policy in the Nixon Years (1978), Fidel: A Critical Portrait (1986), The Secret Alliance (1991), Pope John Paul II (1995) and Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer (2000).

Tad Szulc died of cancer in Washington, D.C., on 21st May, 2001.

This is a city of open secrets and rampaging rumors for the legions of exiled Cubans who plot the downfall of Premier Fidel Castro and his regime. Men come and go quietly on their secret missions of sabotage and gun-running into Cuba, while others assemble at staging points here to be flown at night to military camps in Guatemala and Louisiana... The exiles intend... to gain a beachhead in Cuba to set up a 'Government in Arms' and then request diplomatic recognition by foreign nations.

Hunt's time in the OSS is also unclear. Some information indicates that he was attached to an OSS unit in Southeast Asia which won a Presidential citation. Hunt may have belonged to this OSS Detachment No. 101, but it is by no means certain. The 101, which fought in Burma with local guerrillas and distinguished itself in defeating superior Japanese forces, is the only OSS Detachment to have received a Presidential citation. (It was at one time commanded by William R. Peer, who later became a Lieutenant General and was in charge of investigating the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam war.) I know quite a few of the 101 Detachment veterans, but none of them remembers the face or the name of Howard Hunt.

According to Hunt's former lawyer William O. Bittman, Hunt was in an OSS unit working with bands of Chinese guerrillas. This would have been OSS Detachment No. 202. Bittman once told me about Hunt volunteering to attack a Japanese unit in order to prevent the massacre of some American prisoners by their captors. In his book on the Cuban invasion, in which he occasionally reminisces about other situations in his past, Hunt mentions being at Kunming airport, in southeastern China. Kunming was the terminal for the airlift flights "over the Hump" from Burma which provided support for anti-Japanese forces in southern China. It was at Kunming that Hunt appears to have met for the first time Tracy Barnes, a remarkable OSS and later CIA officer, under whom Hunt was later to serve in the overthrow of the Guatemalan government and at the Bay of Pigs. Actually, Barnes, who died in 1972, spent most of the war in OSS detachments in Europe, but apparently he was on a temporary mission in Asia when he met Hunt.

For nineteen months in 1951 and 1952, Hunt had under his orders William F. Buckley, Jr., who later became the well-known syndicated conservative columnist. Buckley was in Mexico for the CIA on what he recently described as a "tangential special project." They quickly befriended each other, and Buckley is the godfather of three Hunt children. He remains to this day Hunt's best friend and was named the executor of Dorothy Hunt's estate after she was killed in a plane crash in 1972.

Howard Hunt is not a man who believes in retirement or vacations. In the afternoon of April 30, 1970, he walked out for the last time from the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. Next morning, May 1, he was at work at his new job with the Robert R. Mullen & Company public relations firm, on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington.

Hunt was fifty-one years old going on fifty-two, and he desperately wanted and needed employment. His constant need for money was something of a mystery to his friends and associates. His CIA pension was $24,000 and the Mullen company was paying him $24,000 a year. Dorothy, his wife, worked part time at the Spanish Embassy, where she wrote letters in English for the Ambassador. The family's income, therefore, had to be at least $50,000, which was not bad in Washington in 1970. Besides, Hunt received residual royalties from some of the forty-four novels he had published over the previous twenty-eight years.

To be sure, the family had high expenses and they lived well. The mortgage and upkeep for Witches' Island was rather high. Kevan, the younger daughter, was attending Smith college. Lisa, the eldest, had a history of illness, and medical bills must have been considerable. Earlier, both girls had attended Holton Arms, an expensive private girls' school in the Maryland suburbs not far from the Hunts' house. The family had two cars, a Chevrolet and a Pontiac. Kevan had a red Opel station wagon of her own.

The Hunts lived comfortably, then. On Howard's insistence, they dined every evening by candlelight. They were busy on the suburban Potomac cocktail circuit. Their house was full of animals-cats and dogs and birds and even, once, a small boa constrictor. By all accounts, Dorothy was a warm and loving mother to her children. She was interested in Howard's new activities. Now that he had left the CIA, he could talk freely about his work-at least for a while. Friends who visited the Hunts during weekends found them relaxed and at ease. Howard, puffing on his pipe, would fondle one of the kittens. Dorothy mixed the drinks. Much of the housework was done by a Uruguayan woman who had been with the Hunts since their days in Montevideo more than ten years earlier. All in all, it was a rather pleasing picture of a well-to-do American family, with the father embarked on a new career, the mother working but dedicated to the children and to her pursuit of horsemanship, and the kids doing well at school.

Yet things were not all that simple downtown for Howard Hunt. In the first place, he was frustrated in his job. In the second place, he craved more money. The frustration evidently came from the instant transition from a glamorous association with the CIA (so it was believed to be) to the brain-addling dullness of writing press releases and other publicity material for the Mullen firm. For this is what Hunt was doing at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, although he claimed he was a vice president of the company. As Richard Helms was to testify in the summer of 1973 at the Senate Select Committee hearings, Hunt had been given undemanding jobs at the Agency in his last two years because of his daughter's medical problems, which, Helms said, required much of his attention. Still, it was painful for Hunt to be cut off so abruptly from the CIA and from the comforting sense of belonging to an elite, even though Hunt was increasingly critical of the CIA for losing its old aplomb. Now he was an outsider in the intelligence community and a "has-been." It must have rankled. Humorously or wistfully, Hunt decorated his personal memo pad, the kind that has the owner's name at the top, with an imprinted "00?" in the right-hand corner. This play on James Bond's "007" code number, which indicated "license to kill," revealed Hunt's uncertainty over his own identity in the context of a new life.

Financially, Hunt was always "haggling" for more money, as his associates at the public-relations company reported later. When he first discussed joining the Mullen firm before his retirement from the CIA, he talked about buying into the company. Robert Rodolf Mullen, founder and chairman of the board, was in his sixties and thinking about retirement. Hunt expressed an interest in buying a share of his equity, but when the time came he seemed to have difficulties in raising the $2000 in "earnest money" which the Mullen firm required. Later, he put up an argument for an $8,000 salary increase - this would have brought up his salary to $32,000 - but the Mullen people turned him down. Hunt made noises about resigning over the money issue but never did anything about it.

Actually, the Mullen company was an interesting place for a man like Hunt to be in Washington in 1970. Robert Mullen, a veteran newspaper man, had served as director of public information for the Economic Corporation Administration between 1946 and 1948 (the latter being the year when Howard Hunt used the ECA as his CIA cover in the Paris station). It is unclear whether Mullen and Hunt met in those days, although it is possible that Mullen had some contacts with the Agency. In any event, the two references Hunt gave when he applied for the job with the Mullen company were Richard Helms and William F. Buckley. Helms was then still Director of the CIA and Buckley, an old CIA friend, was now a famous commentator. Many people around Washington believe that there is indeed such a thing as a CIA "old-boy network."

At the time of the Watergate raid and in subsequent testimony before the Senate Investigating Committee, Helms insisted that he barely knew Hunt. But there are reasons to believe that Helms was at least quite aware of Hunt's existence. For one thing, according to senior Agency officials, Helms tried hard to get Hunt the Madrid station job which Allen Dulles had promised him. For another thing, Helms kept copies of Hunt's spy novels around his office and often gave or lent them to friends and visitors.

Watergate - the symbolic shorthand word we use to describe the great political scandals of the early 1970s - was not born in a vacuum. The men who planned, ordered, and executed the Watergate crimes were neither the product of nor a sudden aberration in American history. Both Watergate and those associated with it were, instead, the result of a strange American historical process with roots in the early years of the Cold War.

This process culminated in a plan, first conceived in Richard M. Nixon's White House in 1970, to apply Cold War techniques of foreign intelligence operations to political surveillance, espionage, and sabotage against Americans at home. Watergate, therefore, was actually launched in July 1970, when President Nixon approved a top-secret plan for domestic intelligence operations, although the psychological climate for it had existed for a long time among the men who thought it up.

Watergate foundered on June 17, 1972, almost two years later, when, through a sheer accident of carelessness on the part of the chief "dirty tricks" operator, the five men arrested after breaking into the Washington headquarters of the Democratic National Committee could be linked with the White House.

Nations are often saved or disgraced by seemingly unimportant events, barely understood at the time of their occurrence. This was the case with the 1972 Watergate raid. Looking back, we may be thankful that what the White House at first contemptuously called a "third-rate burglary" did happen on that June night, and that the raiders were caught red-handed because it exposed and, I hope, killed the great conspiracy of domestic intelligence and other secret and sinister enterprises that otherwise might have veered the United States in the direction of becoming a corrupt police state.

Castro betrayed the revolution and used skilled Communists to subordinate the government of Cuba to his concept of Marxism-Leninism. He imposed other comrades over the military, and drove out of Cuba the Yankees he so ardently despised. Szulc describes all these events, including their root causes and eventual consequences, in a way which makes the reader wonder if the United States could have prevented Castro or if he was an historical inevitability.

About the time the reader thinks he has answered this question, the Duarte approach comes to the forefront. There was no room for Communist leadership in Duarte's Christian democracy. "State capitalism has failed repeatedly," he writes, "and our aim is to increase the private sector by allowing more people to participate." Duarte describes how the military turned its to allegiance to El Salvador and away from political factions. He is not opposed to foreign investment (with a social conscience) in El Salvador.

Castro's victory over the United States at the Bay of Pigs, and the 1962 missile crisis that could have started World War III, are related, perhaps for the first time in detail, in English, from Castro's perspective. Certainly, these are important chapters in this definitive study, as is the character profile of the mysterious Che Guevara, which is so much a part of the Castro story. On balance, these books are fresh, interesting and most helpful to anyone interested in the Caribbean basin, an area some Americans fear could be another Vietnam.

Tad Szulc - History

Copyright © 1986 by Tad Szulc

This book is for Marianne—again

2. Pinar del Río—large percentage of Moncada recruits came from here

3. here Isle of Pines (now Isle of Youth), Castro and company imprisoned here, 1953–1955

4. Bay of Pigs (or Playa Girón), April 17, 1961, exiles' invasion

5. Santa Clara, capital of Las Villas province—conquest climaxes Che's campaign

6. campaign Escambray Mountains—non-Castro guerrillas in 1958/site of anti-Castro guerrillas, 1960–1965

7. Bayamo—simultaneous rebel attack on barracks, July 26, 1953

8. Granma landing—Los Cayuelos, December 2, 1956

9. Alegría de Pío battlefield—first Castro defeat

10. La Plata—Fidel's headquarters atop Sierra Maestra

13. Birán—Fidel's birthplace

14. Santiago—Moncada barracks attack, July 26, 1953

15. Sierra Cristal—Raúl Castro's "second front"

16. Guantánamo—U.S. naval base

17. Tuxpan, Mexico—Granma departure point, November 25, 1955

President Fidel Castro Ruz of Cuba asked me the following question as we stood in his office winding up a long conversation shortly after midnight on February 11, 1985:

"Will your political and ideological viewpoint allow you to tell objectively my story and the revolution's story when the Cuban government and I make the necessary material available to you?" He added: "We would be taking a great risk with you."

This was at the end of five lengthy, consecutive meetings I had with President Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana as I prepared to write this "portrait," and we had touched on an immense variety of themes concerning him and his life story. My reply to President Castro's question was that I didn't think total objectivity existed, but that I would commit myself to approaching this project with the greatest possible honesty. I remarked that since we both were honorable men, his ideology and mine, differing in the most absolute fashion as they did, should not interfere with the writing of an honest book. President Castro said, "You may paint me as a devil so long as you remain objective and you let my voice be heard," and we warmly shook hands.

I had my first conversations with Fidel Castro in 1959, shortly after his revolution triumphed, when I was in Havana as a correspondent for The New York Times. In 1961, I accompanied him on a tour of the Bay of Pigs battlefield. I returned to Cuba in January 1984 to interview President Castro for Parade magazine, and the idea of this book was born during a very long weekend we spent together in Havana and the countryside in endless discussions. I had reminded him that there was no serious biography of him or comprehensive study of the revolution, and that he owed it to history to remedy this lack.

We went on exchanging messages through Cuban diplomats in Washington during the balance of 1984, and we immediately agreed that this should not be an official or authorized biography or portrait. Instead, it would be an independent project with collaborative support by President Castro and his associates as well as access to written materials of the revolution. I spent a month in Havana early in 1985, holding a series of meetings with President Castro, then my wife and I set up shop in a house we rented in Havana for six months between March and August (where we were visited by President Castro). Our understanding did not require that the manuscript be seen by President Castro prior to publication, and therefore it was not. I am certain that when he does read it, he will disagree with many of my opinions and conclusions but that he will find the pledge of honesty to have been met. He knows, of course, that others may see him differently than he sees himself, and for me to be critical is not a violation of his trust.

Clearly, this is not a definitive biography, principally because President Castro is alive and has not completed his labors. Perhaps only the next generation of historians can attempt a full-fledged biography of this extraordinary personage. This "Critical Portrait," therefore, seeks to capture his personality and the story of his life as it is possible to reconstruct at this stage. It is not meant to be a history of the Cuban revolution, or of Cuban-American relations, and this is why I have avoided discussing in depth the achievements and the problems of the revolution. Nevertheless, Fidel Castro and his revolution are inseparable, and this portrait was sketched against the broader background of contemporary Cuban history.

To write it, I interviewed scores of Fidel Castro's friends, associates, and comrades-in-arms, in addition to my conversations with him. I have listened to a great many Cubans who have insight into the very complex personality of Fidel Castro and into the process of the revolution. I was able to see President Castro in action on occasions ranging from receptions at the Palace of the Revolution to a tour of the prison on the Isle of Youth (formerly Isle of Pines), where he had spent nearly two years as a prisoner of the Batista regime. I revisited the Bay of Pigs, and my wife and I climbed the Sierra Maestra to Fidel Castro's wartime command post to gain a sense of the environment in which he fought we inspected the landing spot of the Granma that brought him and his rebels from Mexico, and the nearby battlefield where Fidel Castro's revolution almost ended three days after it began.

Among Cuban personalities I have interviewed and who have made this book possible because of the time they sacrificed were Vice-President of Cuba and Education Minister José Ramón Fernández Álvarez Pedro Miret Prieto, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist party and one of President Castro's oldest associates Vice-President Carlos Rafael Rodríguez Culture Minister and Political Bureau member Armando Hart Dávalos former Interior Minister and close comrade-in-arms Ramiro Valdés Menédez Faustino Pérez and Universo Sánchez, who were with Fidel Castro at the moment of near disaster Alfredo Guevara, whose friendship with Castro goes back to their university days and their first revolutionary experiences former Political Bureau member and Transport Minister Guillermo García, who was the first Sierra Maestra peasant to join the Rebel Army Blas Roca, former secretary general of the Communist party, and Fabio Grobart, one of its founders in 1925 Melba Hérnandez, who fought with Fidel in the Moncada attack and was among the first members of the revolutionary movement Vilma Espín, president of the Cuban Women's Federation and member of the Political Bureau (and wife of Raúl Castro) and Conchita Fernández, who was Fidel Castro's personal secretary during the first years of the revolution.

It is impossible to list here all the Cuban officials, friends, and acquaintances in political and cultural fields who were of immense assistance in my research. Foreign dioplomats served as important guides, and among them I wish to mention Clara Nieto Ponce de Léon, former ambassador of Colombia in Cuba and, during our stay, director of the UNESCO office. In the Sierra Maestra, peasants who knew Castro during the war provided remarkable accounts of those days. Finally, our research and interviews in Havana were coordinated by Alfredo Ramirez Otero and Walfredo Garciga of the Ministry of External Affairs.

In the United States, conversations with Jorge Dominguez of Harvard University Nelson Valdés of the University of New Mexico Wayne S. Smith, who served as head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana George Volsky, who is a jour
nalist in Miami and a leading expert on Cuba and Max Lesnick, a university friend of Castro's and now a publisher in Miami were immensely useful. Numerous Cubans who knew Castro in boarding school and at the university, and are now exiled in the United States shared their recollections. My special gratitude is to The Hon. Ambler H. Moss, dean of the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Miami, and to Dr. Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute of Inter-American Studies at the University of Miami, for superb research and intellectual support. Gabriela Rodríguez was a most intelligent and resourceful researcher. My wife, Marianne, lived through all of it: meetings with President Castro, entertaining Cuban friends in Havana, climbing Cuban mountains, organizing masses of material we brought back from Cuba, researching in Washington, and reading, improving and editing the manuscript.

At William Morrow and Company, my publishers, Lisa Drew was an editor with whom it was a joy to work. Morton L. Janklow and Anne Sibbald, my literary agents, were marvelously imaginative and encouraging.

Advancing on his elbows and knees so slowly that his great bulk hardly seemed to move at all, the sweaty man in a torn olive-green uniform, horn-rimmed glasses on his unshaven face, slid carefully into the low canefield until he was entirely covered by a thick layer of leaves. In his right hand, he clutched a telescopic-sight rifle, a Belgian-made .30–'06-caliber weapon, his only and most beloved possession.

The tall rifleman was a thirty-year-old lawyer named Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, Cuba's fiercest apostle ever of a shattering social and political revolution, and now—at high noon on Thursday, December 6, 1956—he faced not only the imminent death of his dreams but his own as well.

Cubans had known Castro for years as a loud and ineffectual plotter, a loser. To the outside world, and notably to the United States next door, he was, at most, just another Caribbean troublemaker of whose existence the Eisenhower administration was not even aware.

This American ignorance reflected the traditional attitude toward Cuba, the nearest thing the United States had to a protectorate in the Western Hemisphere: Washington need not worry about Cuban politics and politicians because its proconsuls in Havana always kept them in line. The idea that within a few years Castro would establish the first Communist state in the Americas would have been dismissed as ridiculous had anyone suggested it in December of 1956.

At that moment, in fact, Fidel Castro and his absurdly small rebel group—which had landed four days earlier on the southern coast of his native Cuban province of Oriente after an almost fatal voyage from Mexico—were completely surrounded by government troops. The exhausted and famished expeditionaries had been totally routed and dispersed the previous afternoon in their first battle ashore.

The notion of surrendering to the soldiers of the dictatorship of President Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar that he and the eighty-one rebels had arrived to overthrow never occurred to Castro, the son of a tough Spaniard. On the contrary, he had the inner certainty of triumph that only visionaries feel when the odds are impossibly and virtually mathematically arrayed against them.

The last time I was in Havana to see Fidel Castro, he was nearing his sixtieth birthday, and I found him philosophizing a bit about life. Among other notions, he believed firmly that it was his natural destiny that well over a quarter-century ago, he had scaled the heights and reached the apex of power.

The subject was part of a broad conversation about history and the human condition one late evening in his office at the Palace of the Revolution, and Castro was perfectly matter-of-fact in acknowledging that some leaders are destined to play crucial roles in the affairs of men, and that, yes, he was a case in point.

He then turned to his favorite historical theme, that such leaders may affect "subjectively" the objective conditions in a country. To Fidel this is an absolutely vital point in the "correct" interpretation of the Cuban revolution inasmuch as he had succeeded in proving wrong the classical theories of the so-called "old" Cuban Communists. These Communists had insisted that a Castro-preached mass revolution in Cuba was impossible because the necessary "objective conditions," as defined by Karl Marx, did not prevail accordingly, they turned their backs on the Fidelista insurrection until the closing months. Unprecedentedly, the Communists in Cuba were therefore co-opted and captured by Fidel Castro (who did not belong to the party) rather than the other way around. They had placed themselves in a situation where they had no option.

Actually, in the early days the orthodox Communists could take even less Castro's ideological heresy (or, in their view, towering arrogance) of postulating that "a man's personality can become an objective factor" in a changing political situation. Naturally, Fidel always had himself in mind in this context. The traditional Cuban Marxist-Leninists, with their thirty years experience as a Moscow-directed party, with activities confined to the organization of protest labor strikes or "popular front" alliances with "bourgeois" politicians (including Batista in the 1940s), could not bring themselves to believe that a single man's personality could, in effect, trigger a national revolution. Only Castro and the most faithful Fidelistas could believe such a thing.

It must be assumed that in 1956, the Cuban Communist party—known formally as the Popular Socialist Party and declared illegal by Batista after the coup on March 10, 1952—took its orders (and opinions) from the Kremlin. The Soviets, however, had evidently learned nothing from the Chinese civil war when Mao Zedong demonstrated that, contrary to Stalinist theory, communism could prevail only if it enjoyed full backing among the peasantry, the control of the cities was not enough.

Castro wasn't proposing a peasant revolution in Cuba, but, as the centerpiece of his strategy, he did envisage guerrilla warfare expanding with peasant support from a mountain nucleus to engulf in time the whole island—a concept the ideology-minded Communists could not absorb. Consequently, the "old" party secretly sent an emissary to Mexico in November 1956 to dissuade him from his publicly announced plans to land in Cuba that year "to be free or martyrs." Communist attitudes toward Castro at that stage and afterward describe an immensely fascinating and complicated relationship, one constituting the political backbone of the Cuban revolution that has never before been fully disclosed.

In a way that neither "old" Cuban Communists nor the United States was able to comprehend at the time—and Moscow and Washington may still not fully understand it even now—Fidel Castro built his revolution primarily on the sentiments of Cuban history. He tapped the deep roots of the mid-nineteenth-century insurrections against Spanish colonialism and its themes of nationalism, radicalism, and social-justice populism. Whatever the timing of his private allegiance to Marxism, Castro waited more than two years after victory to identify himself publicly with socialism it may have been tactical, but it also represented a recognition of the feelings of the Cubans toward the revolution of the Sierra Maestra.

The two most worshiped political deities in socialist Cuba are José Martí, the great hero of the independence wars and one of the most brilliant thinkers in Latin America, and Karl Marx. Their portraits appear together everywhere (sometimes along with Lenin's), and it is beyond question that Martí—the man who always warned against United States ambitions in Cuba and the Caribbean—was from the outset Castro's personal role model. And, too, it is Martí's, and not Marx's, bust that stands guard at every Cuban public school, notably at the tiny schools the revolutionary regime built in the most remote mountain areas. In his speeches Castro reminds his audiences that the Cuban sense of history and nationalism was as crucial as Marxism in giving birth to the great revolution. In 1978, twenty years after his victory, he reminded his fellow Cubans and the world that "we are not only Marxist-Leninists we are also nationalists and patriots."

With Castro ruling as the first secretary of the Cub
an Communist party since 1965 (it took nearly seven years after the advent of Fidelismo to fashion Cuba into a full-fledged Communist state), "objective" and "subjective" concepts have nowadays acquired a clear meaning for the island's Marxist-Leninists. Fidel himself considers that his approach to the revolutionary strategy provided a major practical contribution to scientific Marxism notwithstanding his exceptional intellect, he has added little of note to Marxist thought or theory. For, above all, Castro is a man of action.

At sixty, his beard and hair turning gray, Castro is searching for a new dimension of action. In the tradition of José Martí, he is taking on the mantle of the great continental leader, the elder statesman of Latin America. Presumably, Castro is looking toward new objectives because he is satisfied with his conceptual and institutional achievements as president of Cuba. If this is his judgment of his own record, history may find that it leaves much to be desired. The revolution bestowed on Cuba extraordinary gifts of social justice and equality, advances in public health and education, and an equitable distribution of the national wealth, and Fidel Castro deserves total credit for it. However, his compulsion to press ahead with new visions has left him with no patience with the day-to-day follow-up requirements of constructing a new society. His desire for absolute authority has withheld decision-making powers from his subordinates, and careful responsible management of the country and its economy remains Cuba's desperate need—to the point where the long-term success of the revolution is at issue.

In the mid-1980s, Castro set out to devote an astonishing amount of his time, private and public, to the new visions, spending endless hours at special meetings dealing with the problems of the hemisphere and holding forth on these subjects in an avalanche of speeches and interviews. Official propaganda filled the Cubans' consciousness with the myth and memory of Simón Bolívar, the nineteenth-century "Liberator" of much of South America who failed to unify the newly independent nations, demonstrating how irresistibly Castro is attracted to Bolívarian vistas. In a 1985 Havana speech, he intoned Bolívar's cry "Unity, unity . . . or anarchy will devour you," and there were again echoes of Castro's profound conviction that some men of greatness have it in them to affect the course of history.

The Secret Alliance : The Extraordinary Story of the Rescue of the Jews Since World War II

A well-researched, well-written account of the extensive covert activities that allowed two million Jews to steal home. Szulc (Then and Now, 1990 Fidel, 1986, etc.) provides ample atonement for an . Читать весь отзыв

The secret alliance: the extraordinary story of the rescue of the Jews since World War II

The "alliance'' investigative reporter Szulc writes about is the one established by American Jews and their imperiled coreligionists in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The purpose . Читать весь отзыв

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Об авторе (1991)

Tad Szulc, July 25, 1926 - May 21, 2001 Tadeusz Witold Szulc was born on July 25, 1926 to Seweryn and Janina Szulc in Warsaw, Poland. When his parents emigrated to Brazil in the mid 30's, Tad went to Le Rosey, a Swiss boarding school. In 1941. Szulc followed his family to Brazil and studied at the University of Brazil from 1943 to 1945. After attending school, Szulc was hired as a reporter for The Associated Press in Rio. In 1949, he arrived in New York to cover the UNited Nations for United Press International until 1953. He was then hired by the New York Times to the night rewrite desk, where he later became managing editor. He also wrote an occasional piece entitled Times Talk where Szulc discussed life in general and his various travels. Szulc was a foreign correspondent with the New York Times from 1953 to 1972. He was the first reporter to discover the beginnings of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, he covered revolutions and cold war intrigue, and generally always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to get the story. In his later years, Szulc wrote 20 books. consisting of foreign policy and politics and the many scenarios he had witnessed. He wrote biographies of both Pope John Paul II and Fidel Castro, as well as "Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer" and "The Illusion of Peace: Foreign Policy in the Nixon Years." After retiring from the Times, Szulc wrote freelance books and articles, including "Twilight of the Tyrants." Tad Szulc died at his home on May 21, 2001 of cancer. He was 74.

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One of the CIA’s private press contacts was a suspected Soviet spy

As previously discussed, senior CIA analyst Ray Cline covertly accumulated a number of press contacts whom he provided information to in order to ‘improve rapport, understanding and the Agency’s public image.’ While some of the people on the list were well credentialed and had pasts or futures associated with the U.S. Intelligence Community, documents reveal that at least one of the press contacts briefed by Ray Cline was a suspected foreign agent.

This makes the final note of the memo praising Cline’s press contacts ironic and questionable, at best.

While the memo describes some of his contacts with other members of the press, it provides no information about his contacts with Tad Szulc beyond the fact that they happened. However, according to declassified CIA documents, it’s known that Szulc was a suspected foreign agent, who was not only collecting information for the Soviets or the Cubans, but part of an active measures campaign designed to sabotage AMTRUNK, “one of the most important anti-Castro operations.” In the mid-1970s, one senior CIA officer noted that &ldquoa Soviet agent could not be more beneficial to the Soviets and the Communist cause than Szulc has been.&rdquo

Szulc had been suspected of being a foreign agent since the year after he came to the United States. It wasn’t until eleven years later, however, that he brought himself to CIA’s attention. In 1959, he presented himself to the Agency in Santiago, Chile and falsely claimed to have been cleared, requesting contacts with an Agency representative. Szulc was so persistent and seen as so dangerous that a widespread warning was issued through the Agency.

Despite decades of interest and focus on Szulc’s “anti-Agency activities,” as late as the 1970s CIA was unable to clear up the status of Szulc’s foreign connections. None of this, it seems, stopped Cline from briefing Szulc.

Despite his early anti-Communist leanings, the Agency noted that he had become increasingly critical of the Agency. The essential allegations, however, had been there from the beginning. In 1948, a number of sources indicated to the FBI that Szulc had been dispatched by Polish intelligence agencies. The Agency also believed that Szulc’s marriage had been arranged and performed for the sole purpose of granting him permanent residency in the United States.

While Szulc was eventually given an official Agency contact, it wasn’t Ray Cline but rather Albert Davies.

Szulc’s next official contact was similarly not Ray Cline but rather Alfonso Rodriguez. Based on his provided statement, Rodriguez was unsure of what to make of Szulc.

While the Agency acknowledged that the evidence that Szulc was a foreign agent is limited, and aside from statements from confidential sources largely circumstantial. However circumstantial the evidence, Szulc was under suspicion and his contacts with Cline appear to have been unsanctioned. Cline had been carrying out his clandestine press contacts since 1957, and only one entry in the memo is listed as official. The official contact was with Alsop and not Szulc, casting further doubt on whether Cline’s contacts were sanctioned. Given the security and counterintelligence risk, the concerns were real.

If he were a foreign agent, then Szulc’s aid to the Soviets was considerable. He broke the story of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and according to later CIA reports information which was withheld by his editors at the New York Times soon found its way to the Soviets. Other circumstantial but extremely suspicious correlations are brought up by the Agency. Szulc’s daughter, Nicole, had apparently aided Philip Agee in his research for Inside the Company: A CIA Diary. Understandably, the Agency wondered if Szulc hadn’t helped his daughter in her research.

A FOIA request has been filed to learn more about Cline’s contacts with members of the press, including Tad Szulc. In the meantime, you can read Cline&rsquos memo below.


In the Old City of Jerusalem—flash point for an ancient religious and political conflict—medics evacuate a Palestinian man who was wounded in a recent clash with Israeli police. "Religious extremism has deepened the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but basically it is a struggle over land and national identity," says Philip Wilcox, the former U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem and the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

Was there ever, thousands of years ago, a personage named Abraham whom more than three billion people—more than half of humanity—venerate as the father, patriarch, and spiritual ancestor of their faiths? Two billion of them are Christians, 1.2 billion are Muslims, and close to 15 million are Jews. And had Abraham verily spoken with God and celebrated with him covenants that became the foundations of these religions?

The outlines of Abraham's life appear first and most fully in Genesis, the first book of the holy scriptures of Judaism and the Christian Bible's Old Testament. Abraham also makes frequent appearances in other Jewish and Christian writings, including the Talmud and the New Testament, and he is mentioned time and again in the Koran, the holy book of Islam.

Christianity accepted Abraham as its patriarch almost at its own birth. Paul the Apostle wrote in the New Testament's Epistle to the Romans of that faith of our father Abraham.

And in the Magnificat in Luke, the Virgin Mary says the Lord helped his servant Israel in remembrance of mercy as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. The Prophet Muhammad, who taught the principles of Islam in the seventh century, similarly honored Abraham, whom the Koran recognizes as one of Islam's prophets: We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob. The Koran elevates Abraham's story to religious practice. Muslims are commanded to prefer the religion of Abraham the Hanif (monotheist), and the Koran says God took Abraham as Khalil, his "friend."

Yet when I asked scholars the question, "Was there ever a man called Abraham?" as often as not they were respectful (we can't disprove it) but convinced of the futility of trying to find a flesh-and-blood individual. "Abraham is beyond recovery," said Israel Finkelstein, a biblical archaeologist at Tel Aviv University. Without any proof of the patriarch's existence, the search for a historical Abraham is even more difficult than the search for a historical Jesus.

The important thing, we are told, is to assess the meaning and legacy of the ideas Abraham came to embody. He is most famously thought of as the founder of monotheism, although Genesis never credits him with this. The stories do, however, describe his hospitality and peaceableness and, most important, his faith and obedience to God.

Whatever scholars may say about the history of Abraham, Genesis provides an irresistible narrative. So I set out during the year 2000, following him through Genesis, keeping other scriptural writings and modern scholarship within reach. As Genesis tells it, Abraham was born in Ur of the Chaldees, journeyed to Haran, thence to Canaan and west to Egypt. He returned to Canaan, to Hebron, where he died and was buried in a cave next to his wife Sarah.

When might these wanderings have taken place? Islamic scholarship does not delve into Abraham's origins, and in the other two religions there is no firm consensus. Working with the lineages recorded in the Bible, some scholars place Abraham around 2100 b.c. A number of historians who have married biblical history with archaeology converge on the period from 2000 to 1500 b.c. others argue that the most you can say is that an Abraham figure could have preceded the Israelite monarchy, which began about 1000 b.c.

For all his mystery, Abraham remains intensely alive today. In fact, we may even be witnessing a renaissance of his memory. Pope John Paul II—Abraham's ardent champion—earnestly hoped to make a pilgrimage early in the millennial year in honor of the patriarch, because Jews, Christians, and Muslims all regard themselves as Abraham's spiritual offspring. In 1994 the pope told me that going to Ur was his dream. "No visit to the lands of the Bible is possible without a start in Ur, where it all began," he said. But at the last moment, in late 1999, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, canceled the invitation.

The pontiff announced that instead he would hold in the Vatican "a spiritual commemoration of some of the key events of Abraham's experience." On February 23, 2000, Rome witnessed a huge Vatican auditorium being turned over to Abraham. When the pope lit branches on an altar recalling the site of Abraham's impending sacrifice of his son, smoke and incense filled the auditorium. For a moment 6,000 of us relived the story.

Why is Abraham so vividly alive today? Faith—Judaic, Christian, and Islamic—and his majestic yet elusive presence provide one answer. But the most eloquent explanation I've heard originated with Rabbi Menahem Froman, who lives near Hebron. He said, "For me Abraham is philosophy, Abraham is culture. Abraham may or may not be historical. Abraham is a message of loving kindness. Abraham is an idea. Abraham is everything. I don't need flesh and blood."

And Terah took Abram his son and Lot son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law . . . and he set out with them from Ur of the Chaldees toward the land of Canaan. (Genesis 11:31)

My pursuit of Abraham began with a 500-mile (805 kilometers) taxi ride from Amman, the capital of Jordan, to Baghdad, in Iraq. This was followed by a 200-mile (322 kilometers) dash southeast through a wasteland of sand and scrub grass. Crossing the Euphrates River, I passed through a half dozen military checkpoints, arriving at last in Ur, widely believed to be Abraham's birthplace. My first impression was one of utter disappointment: Ur was dusty and forlorn, with no discernible pulse. The only visual point of reference was the pyramid-like brick tower, or ziggurat, built in tribute to Sin, the moon god, around 2100 b.c.

A sharp east wind arose as Dheif Mushin guided me around the site of the ancient city, which covered about 120 acres (49 hectares). Founded sometime in the fifth millennium b.c., Ur was unearthed during the 1920s and '30s by an expedition under the British archaeologist Leonard Woolley. Along with the ziggurat the team found royal tombs and the remains of houses on city streets, which Woolley gave such incongruous names as Church Lane and Paternoster Row. The tombs held scores of stunning objects in gold, silver, and precious stones, confirming that Ur was at the heart of a rich and powerful civilization.

"This is the house," declared Mushin, a slim, blue-eyed man of 41. We had come to the corner of Church Lane and Broad Street and were staring into a shallow pit near the remains of the palace of Ur's glorious third dynasty, which lasted from 2100 to 2000 b.c. In the pit were a square stone floor and partly restored walls—the ruins of one of the largest houses Woolley excavated in Ur—dating from between 2000 and 1595 b.c. Woolley made much of his "discovery" of Abraham's birthplace, for which he was knighted. Although the possibility that Abraham had actually lived in this house was remote, I couldn't help but be excited by the thought.

"You must imagine Ur as it was," Piotr Michalowski, an authority on ancient Mesopotamia at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told me before I left for Iraq. "In the third millennium Ur was the metropolis of Mesopotamia—a port on the Euphrates very close to the Persian Gulf." The river brought rich alluvium down to Ur, creating a floodplain that gave generous sustenance to a population of perhaps 12,000 at the city's peak around 2100 b.c. Since then, said Michalowski, the coastline retreated a hundred miles (161 kilometers), leaving Ur behind—to the sands.

We owe our knowledge of the region to the Mesopotamians, who invented cuneiform writing around 3200 b.c. They produced hundreds of thousands of clay tablets and cylinders chronicling life Ur alone has yielded thousands of texts just from the third dynasty.

"We have many archives from about the 19th century b.c. dealing with seagoing enterprises," said Michalowski, who is editor of the Journal of Cuneiform Studies. "I see a thriving urban center, with bustling, narrow streets full of shops, where craftsmen were making everything from leather goods to precious ornaments. Ur was a major commercial center—one might think of Venice in later days." Traffic in river vessels and cattle carts and donkey caravans linked Ur and Mesopotamia with present-day Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan, as well as with Syria, Israel, and Egypt. Date palms grew in the countryside, and irrigation canals from the Euphrates and the Tigris, which then flowed closer to the city, made farming possible: barley, lentils, onions, garlic. Sheep and goats supplied ghee and wool.

It was beguiling to think of an Abraham growing up in Ur—I imagine a thin teenager of middle height, dressed in comfortable leather and wool, going to school, playing with his brothers, Nahor and Haran, and their friends. "Only a very small proportion of the population could read and write," said Michalowski. "If Abraham was literate, that would mean he had taken schooling at the house of a priest or bureaucrat who would have taught him a broad range of skills. He would have studied languages, arithmetic, and accounting, but above all else he would have been immersed in Sumerian literature. This would be the intellectual milieu he grew up in."

I see Abraham developing into a tough, compact young man with evident leadership skills. He may have worshiped Sin, the god of the moon and Ur's chief deity. "Mesopotamians worshiped a pantheon of deities, including major ones like Sin," said Michalowski, "but each person also had an additional, personal god." I wondered if, somehow, Abraham's reflections on the moon god had led him to the idea that the world is governed by one God.

In my quest for Abraham, divine inspiration would have helped. It was frustrating to find myself continuously suspended between different sets of legends—like virtual realities—with no facts to direct my investigation.

For the scriptural recorders the concept of time was so elastic that Abraham's family history strains credulity. In Genesis the entire story of Abraham's lineage is told in breathless, compressed language, starting with Noah and the flood, then proceeding with Noah's son Shem and Shem's brothers and their progeny. If this genealogy is taken literally, it would have covered centuries—ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

Given the vacuum of evidence, it is understandable that historians and archaeologists are locked in debate about the patriarch's existence and time of birth. Abraham Malamat, a spry septuagenarian who is emeritus professor of Jewish history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, believes Abraham may have lived sometime between 2000 and 1800 b.c. "The Bible and the entire body of ancient Israelite history make this the most plausible time frame for Abraham," Malamat told me one snowy evening in his Jerusalem apartment. "We are possibly the closest people on the subject. A historian is closer than an archaeologist."

Israel Finkelstein, who is chairman of the archaeology department at Tel Aviv University, argues that written documents are not the only source for reconstructing history. "In the past 20 years archaeology has become the main tool for studying the earliest phases of ancient Israel. Archaeology is sometimes the only tool." There is no archaeological evidence, Finkelstein says, that camels—which are often described in Genesis as beasts of burden—were widely used for carrying goods until after 1000 b.c. He sees this as but one clue that the way of life reflected in the stories about Abraham is that of a much later time than the period of 2100 b.c., which some scholars arrived at by studying lineages in the Bible. "Whether there was a historical Abraham or not, I cannot say. But much of the reality behind Abraham in Genesis should probably be dated to the seventh century b.c."

Ur is another case in point. The writers of Genesis refer to it as Ur of the Chaldees, but scholars agree that the scriptures are confusing, because the Chaldees did not appear in Mesopotamia until early in the first millennium b.c. Finkelstein suggests this is further confirmation that the Genesis stories emerged at that time, as the people of Judah sought to build a national identity in a hostile world.

I asked Abraham Malamat about these confusions. "There are anachronisms like the camels—you might have a few anachronisms—but this doesn't destroy the overall picture." Rather, he says, these inconsistencies should be seen as later additions by biblical writers and therefore as hardly relevant for dating purposes.

Amid all the uncertainties, one thing seemed clear as I climbed the famous ziggurat in Ur with Dheif Mushin: To the ancients the three-tiered tower must have been a mighty symbol of the solidity of traditional beliefs. The great monument brought me closer to understanding the magnitude of Abraham's break from those beliefs. We can never know, but perhaps his early experiences in Ur prepared him for the spark of inspiration that carried him—and humanity—on a great journey.

In ancient Mesopotamia as in the Middle East today, armed conflict was frequent. Cuneiform texts record an attack by Elamite armies from present-day Iran around 2000 b.c., and a disruption of this kind may have contributed to Abraham's leaving Ur. Whatever the reason, Genesis tells us that he left toward the land of Canaan with Terah, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot, and they came to Haran and settled there.

"Settling and starting off again, waging war and making peace, fighting battles and concluding treaties"—this was to be the basic rhythm of Abraham's life, writes Karl-Josef Kuschel, a theology professor at Germany's University of Täbingen. The 600-mile (966 kilometers) journey from Ur must have taken the family and their caravan of donkeys several months as they progressed northward up the Euphrates Valley to Haran. The city lay on the banks of the Balikh River at the crossroads of important trade routes in the Fertile Crescent. Like Ur, it was a major center of worship of the moon god, Sin.

In Haran, Abraham would have found himself in the midst of a clamorous community of Amorites, Hurrians, and other ethnic groups. Haran today is a dusty Turkish village of around 500 people living in beehive-shaped clay houses, joined by arches to increase the shade and air circulation. Numerous archaeological excavations show that builders in ancient times also sought, by using thick walls and wide-open yards, to moderate the effects of temperatures that can exceed 120°F.

With Aydin Kudu, a young guide from Istanbul, I visited the remains of a house on a small hill in the center of Haran, where, according to local legend, Abraham lived. Judging from its configuration, this spacious construction had belonged to a large and prosperous family. Sitting on a low wall, Aydin and I speculated that Abraham's family must have been quite affluent during the years they lived in Haran. After Terah, his father, died, Abraham, as paterfamilias, would have supervised the family's flocks, traded wool for wheat with farmers, and recruited local people for his growing clan. Seeing the multitude of sheep around Haran, it struck me that the scene today was probably not very different from that in Abraham's time.

Later, I tried to extract at least one new Abrahamic legend out of Suleyman Sanäar, a village elder. Sanäar, a dignified 63-year-old Muslim with an impressive white beard, had invited me to his house for ceremonial tea and pita bread with a few friends. But all I got was the suggestion that a king of the region early in the second millennium b.c. was Abraham's uncle. Such stories exist to please visitors, small groups of whom—mainly Christians—come by bus every week to search for Abraham's heritage.

If archaeology denies us any direct evidence of Abraham, Terah's name appears tantalizingly in cuneiform tablets. Ömer Faruk Harman of Marmara University in Istanbul cautions that "Terah" almost certainly is not a personal name. It is probably a clan name or the name of a town in extreme northern Syria or, more likely, southeastern Turkey, not far from Haran. Still, Abraham was a son of Terah, which may establish the connection between Abraham and Haran.

While in Haran I made a side trip to a place that claims its own intimate connection with the patriarch. Şanliurfa (known as Urfa until World War I) is a pleasant, relaxed city of nearly half a million an hour's drive away. Some scholars believe that because Şanliurfa is so much closer to Haran than Ur, it is the more logical candidate for Abraham's birthplace. Either way, paternity of Abraham is a boon to tourism, and the city has instituted annual Abraham festivals that swell city coffers.

Not surprisingly, Şanliurfa is rife with legends about Abraham. One says he was born in a cave at the foot of a rock outcrop in the southern part of the city. According to this tale Abraham aged a month on the first day after his birth and turned 12 on his first birthday. His faith in a single God led him to smash figures of deities and idols. Furious, King Nimrod ordered Abraham burned, but a huge pool of water materialized, dousing the fire, and flaming logs turned into fierce fish that saved Abraham. A few steps from the cave two large pools—Halil üÖr Rahman and Aynzeliha—symbolize the miracle. They are stocked with a plethora of fat carp that are believed to be sacred: He who eats Abraham's carp will be struck blind.

Many of Şanliurfa's pilgrims come from Iran, and buses arrive a few times a week with Muslim worshipers, chiefly women, their heads covered with scarves. Worshipers enter the cave through a small mosque with a minaret, spend a few minutes inside praying, then leave. Some pray outside at the low stone wall around the mosque, bowing over it or prostrating themselves on the ground. The afternoon of my visit, a lone elderly woman in a black head scarf was praying at the wall as lightning flashed overhead.

Wherever Abraham was born—Şanliurfa or Ur or somewhere else—it was in Haran, Genesis says, that he received the words that established his obedient relationship with God. Once again, he would have to leave his home. And the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your land and your birthplace and your father's house to the land I will show you. And I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing."

As Robert Alter of the University of California, Berkeley, writes, "Abram, a mere figure in a notation of genealogy and migration. becomes an individual character. when he is here addressed by God."

The only time I came close to glimpsing the patriarch as an individual was in Jerusalem, when Abraham Malamat showed me a book containing reproductions of a fresco painted in an ancient palace in Mari, Syria, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southeast of Haran. Dating from the early second millennium b.c., which Malamat believes is the right period for Abraham, the palace—along with tens of thousands of cuneiform tablets—was excavated by a French expedition starting in 1933.

What I saw was a rather unheroic-looking man with brownish skin and a small black beard. He is wearing a black cap with a white headband, and the two-horned head of a sacrificial bull reposes by his lap. "His face is characteristic of the western Semitic type," Malamat said. "So are the cap and the bull. I think it most likely that Abraham descended from western Semitic nomadic tribes, probably from Syria or southern Mesopotamia.

"This picture in my opinion comes close to Abraham," Malamat continued. "Maybe he's a concept, but his figure makes sense. There are pictures on the Mari walls, figures that may be close to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

It was the old conundrum: Without clear proof, the only thing you can ever say about Abraham is: "In my opinion."

Abram being seventy-five years old when he left Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew and all the goods they had gotten . . . and they set out on the way to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.

As best as can be reconstructed from imprecise maps of the ancient Fertile Crescent, Abraham traveled southwest from Haran across Syria, past Damascus. A large body of retainers would have accompanied him. Abraham's crossing into Canaan gave me the sensation that I was emerging from a fog and beginning to see the historical landscape. Not only is Genesis a more detailed road map from this point on—it names Canaan and specific locations there—but history itself is reasonably explicit about the region and the people Abraham would have encountered in the Promised Land.

Flowing with milk and honey, as the Bible describes it, Canaan stretched roughly from Syria in the north to Egypt in the south. Canaanites produced an unusual purple dye made from shellfish, so much so that the region came to be called "the land of purple." They were active traders—one meaning of "Canaanite" was "merchant"—and as such were subject to the influences of their flanking civilizations, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Around the time Abraham may have arrived, Mesopotamia was an especially important source of goods, people, and ideas.

And Abram crossed through the land to the site of Shechem, to the Terebinth of the Oracle, proclaims Genesis. Shechem is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East, dating from the beginning of the second millennium b.c. Situated west of the Jordan River, it is today's Nablus, a bustling city of 130,000 under the control of the Palestinian Authority. In Shechem, God appeared to Abraham, saying, "To your seed I will give this land." Genesis gives no response from Abraham but notes that he built an altar to the Lord.

As to Canaanite religion, Abraham would have encountered a fertility-centered religion with seasonal festivals and animal sacrifices. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the Bible portrays the Canaanites as idol worshipers who held human sacrifices and engaged in deviant sex, practices seen as a threat to an emerging monotheism, but neither archaeology nor Canaanite texts support this description of the Canaanites.

In Nablus I met up with Avner Goren, an archaeologist with an encyclopedic knowledge of biblical history. We went looking for evidence of Abraham's Shechem but found nothing that could be tied to the patriarch. Everything seemed harmonious while we were there, but before long lethal battles would erupt between Palestinians and Israelis. Automatic arms' fire would fill the air around the tomb thought to be that of the Prophet Joseph, Abraham's great-grandson. Canaan is still a battlefield, as it has been on and off for thousands of years.

Genesis says nothing about how long Abraham remained in Shechem. All we learn is that from there he pulled up his stakes. . .for the high country east of Bethel and pitched his tent with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east, and he built there an altar to the Lord, and he invoked the name of the Lord. Some scholars believe that since Bethel was a Canaanite cultic site, the Bible, by directly connecting Abraham to it, provided a way for the Hebrews to claim it as their own.

From Bethel, the modern Arab town of Baytin, Abraham journeyed south to the Negev desert. It was mainly downhill traveling, over brushland and into the barrens. Irrigation makes the Negev bloom today, but in Abraham's time a dry, rocky expanse filled the landscape between Beersheba and the Gulf of Aqaba. To make matters worse, an especially severe drought struck the Negev soon after his arrival, forcing him to move again. Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was grave in the land. The attraction of Egypt was the Nile and its extravagantly fertile delta.

At this point Abraham must have been questioning God's promises that he would give him a child and a homeland. He was still childless, and after reaching Canaan, he had been uprooted yet again.

One spring morning I drove from Cairo to Avaris, an archaeological site at Tell el Daba, where Abraham may have established himself. The area produces rice, corn, cotton, and, during the spring months, wheat. I was cordially received by Manfred Bietak, chairman of the Institute of Egyptology at the University of Vienna, who is leading the excavation of the site.

"Absolutely blank," was his immediate reply when I asked what the Egyptian historical sources say about Abraham. "As far as the Egyptians are concerned," he said, "it's as if Abraham never set foot in the delta."

The timing of Abraham's arrival in the delta is as indeterminate as where he settled. Some scholars believe that an Abraham figure could have come to Egypt at the time of the Hyksos (an Egyptian word meaning "foreign rulers") in the first half of the second millennium b.c., but most argue he would have been there much earlier.

Whoever the pharaoh was during Abraham's stay in Egypt, he was implicated in Abraham's life in the most intimate way. As Abraham approached the Egyptian border, he said to Sarai his wife, "Look, I know you are a beautiful woman, and so when the Egyptians see you and say, 'She's his wife,' they will kill me while you they will let live. Say, please, that you are my sister, so that it will go well with me on your count and I shall stay alive because of you."

Genesis continues, and Pharaoh's courtiers saw her and praised her to Pharaoh, and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. That Sarah was no longer a young woman did not seem to have discouraged the pharaoh.

Genesis offers no moral judgments on this peculiar turn of events, nor does it go into any other aspect of Abraham's life when Sarah was presumably in the pharaoh's harem. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, a compilation of largely Roman Catholic biblical studies, suggests that Abraham's deception calls into question his faith that God would protect him and fulfill the promise that, To your seed I will give this land. The JPS Torah Commentary, a Jewish analysis, makes the point that Abraham would have erred if he had expected God to work a miracle to get him out of this fix. As it turned out, God did intervene. And the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his household with terrible plagues because of Sarai the wife of Abram.

The lack of detail about Abraham's behavior is a frustrating example of the gaps spawned by the transformation of oral traditions into the written stories of Genesis. If Abraham's deception is open to interpretation, the pharaoh's reaction was abundantly clear. And Pharaoh summoned Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She's my sister,' so that I took her to me as wife? Now, here is your wife. Take her and get out!"

Abraham was a rich man when he left Egypt—heavily laden with cattle, with silver and gold. By now I see him, consciously or not, beginning to lay the foundation for the establishment of monotheistic religion. To understand Abraham's connection with monotheism, says James Kugel of Harvard University, you have to look beyond Genesis itself, which says nothing directly about it. "Centuries and centuries after Abraham might have lived, there were interpreters who read his story in Genesis. These interpreters lived from around the third century b.c. on. When they got to chapter 12, they said, 'Oh, why does God start speaking to Abraham and promise him all these wonderful things, like making him a great nation?' Eventually they went to the Book of Joshua, where it says that Abraham's family all worshiped other gods." Kugel says the interpreters concluded that Abraham was the only one who didn't worship these other gods.

In numerous later works—including the Book of Jubilees (found with the Dead Sea Scrolls), the New Testament, early Christian writings, and the Koran—Abraham is presented as a model of faith and pure monotheism. The idea caught on and became fixed.

After returning to Canaan, Abraham settled a land dispute between his herdsmen and those of his nephew, Lot, who had left Egypt with him. He did this not by fighting but by letting the younger man decide. Lot picked the verdant valley of the Jordan River down to the southernmost shore of the Dead Sea, where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah stood. Abraham—known ever more as a peacemaker—was content to remain among the mountains and deserts of the Promised Land, making his temporary home under terebinth trees in Mamre.

By now God had appeared to Abraham, reconfirming his gift of the Promised Land. "Raise your eyes and look out from the place where you are to the north and the south and the east and the west, for all the land you see, to you I will give it and to your seed forever. . . . Rise, walk about the land through its length and its breadth, for to you I will give it."

In the ancient Middle East, walking around a property was a ritual for taking final possession of a piece of land. Genesis makes no mention that Abraham fulfilled God's order to walk about the land. But the Genesis Apocryphon, an interpretive text found in the 1940s among the Dead Sea Scrolls, fills in this blank, describing at length a journey Abraham made around the Promised Land.

To show his gratitude to God, Abraham built an altar in Hebron, which lies in a hollow in the mountains of Judah some 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem. Although Israel largely withdrew its military forces from the overwhelmingly Arab city in January 1997 as part of the peace process with the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli government kept control of a strip including a small Jewish neighborhood along al Shuhada Street in the center of the old town. Some 450 Jews live on al Shuhada Street (with 210,000 Arabs around them), which was closed to Arab traffic and guarded at either end by Israeli soldiers. I found it eerie driving along the silent, empty street, with the storefronts shuttered.

In Hebron, Abraham suddenly found himself an active military commander. An emissary brought him word that Lot had been captured in Sodom by four warmongering kings. Genesis, which at times is very precise, recounts that Abraham marshaled 318 of his retainers and struck the enemy at night, chasing them north past Damascus in Syria and freeing Lot.

Returning in triumph, Abraham reached Salem—the town that most likely became Jerusalem, sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It may have been there that he had a "conversation" with God in which he expressed his doubts about the divine promises. As Robert Alter of UC Berkeley points out, "This first speech to God reveals a hitherto unglimpsed human dimension of Abram." God's promise of a very great reward prompted Abraham to complain about what he thought had been the Lord's failure to fulfill earlier pledges. He said, "O my Master, Lord, what can You give me when I am going to my end childless. . . . to me you have given no seed."

God replied, "Look up to the heavens and count the stars. . . . So shall be your seed."

On that day, Genesis says, God made a covenant with Abraham: "To your seed I have given this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates."

From Salem, Abraham went to Mamre and Hebron, where he now spent most of his time. I visualize him as a grand old man, sitting under a tree, dispensing wisdom, overseeing the family finances, and, of course, talking with God.

At this point Genesis records an event that would profoundly influence the course of world history. In the ancient Middle East wives who could not bear children encouraged their husbands to procreate with slaves or concubines. Thus Sarah, who was barren, convinced Abraham to have a child with Hagar, an Egyptian slave who had probably stayed with them since the clan's expulsion by the pharaoh.

The birth of Ishmael, Abraham's first son, foreshadowed the emergence in Arabia in the seventh century a.d. of a new religion—Islam—under the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad. The Koran calls Abraham's first son an apostle (and) a prophet . He was most acceptable in the sight of his Lord. Ishmael's pedigree lent legitimacy to the new faith, but the Koran never mentions Hagar's name.

Abraham first, then Ishmael, are the perfect models of piety for Muslims. Abraham's name appears in 25 of the 114 chapters of the Koran, and to this day Ibrahim and Ismail are common first names among Muslims. "The Koran explains that all true revelations come from God," says John Voll, professor of Islamic history at Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. "It is the record of the divine revelation, which is shared by all the scriptures."

There is no doubt that Muhammad and his inner circle of disciples believed in Abraham as the founder of their faith. The Koran orders Muslims to follow the religion of Abraham. Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian but he was true in Faith, . . . and he joined not gods with God.

Muhammad was born in Mecca around 570. There he was surrounded by Jewish and Christian communities—although Muslims do not believe that these faiths influenced the revelation of Islam. In 622 Muhammad moved to Medina, where his following quickly grew. He was recognized as the last in a series of prophets, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, all of whom appear, redefined, in the Holy Book of Islam.

The Koran reports that Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House. The "house" is the Kaaba in Mecca, Islam's holiest shrine. One of the four corners of this small rectangular structure is a sacred black stone that is a remnant of the original building. The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj, when Muslims from all over the world circle the Kaaba, reinforces the central role of Abraham and Ishmael in the Islamic faith.

The Koran does not give particulars about the birth of Ishmael, but Genesis goes into great detail. It reports that after Hagar became pregnant, Sarah resented her. She complained to Abraham that when the Egyptian "saw she had conceived, I became slight in her eyes," and she went on harassing the girl. Abraham replied meekly, "Look, your slavegirl is in your hands. Do to her whatever you think right."

Consequently Hagar fled from Sarah into the desert wilderness. Sarah's motivations are blurred, but what intrigues Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is that she acted independently of Abraham when circumstances required. As the rabbi put it, Sarah and Abraham were as much partners as a married couple, and "she would allow Hagar to be an instrument of procreation but would not allow her the honor and privilege of being Abraham's beloved wife-companion." By law, Steinsaltz said, "women were quite independent. They had the right to own property, and they had standing. Sarah had a say, in one way or another." I asked him if this makes Sarah the first great feminist. "Yes," the rabbi shot back.

God, for his part, took another view of the situation. An angel intercepted Hagar when, apparently heading home to Egypt, pregnant, she stopped at a spring near Kadesh in the Negev. Hagar told the messenger she was fleeing from Sarah, but the angel ordered her to "return to your mistress and suffer harassment at her hand." As a consolation the angel said to Hagar, "Look, you have conceived and will bear a son and you will call his name Ishmael for the Lord has heeded your suffering." Hagar obeyed. Ishmael (whose name in Hebrew means "God has heard") was born. Abraham was said to be 86 at the time.

Thirteen years after Ishmael's birth the 99-year-old Abraham was summoned by God, who made explicit his choice of Abraham as the father to a multitude of nations. To symbolize the significance of this new, exalted status, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. God also changed the name of his wife, Sarai, to Sarah. Then God announced that "I will also give you from her a son," and upon hearing this, Abraham flung himself on his face and he laughed, saying to himself, "To a hundred-year-old will a child be born, will ninety-year-old Sarah give birth?"

In their next meeting, God appeared to Abraham when he was sitting outside his tent. Looking up, Abraham saw three travelers among the trees. In a customary display of hospitality to strangers, he fetched water to wash their feet and treated the visitors to curds and milk and a calf he had cooked. Waiting on them as they ate (the scene depicted in Rembrandt's famous etching "Abraham Entertaining the Angels," owned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), he heard God repeat the promise that Sarah would have a son. Sarah, who had been listening from inside the tent, laughed inwardly, expressing her doubts. "After being shriveled, shall I have pleasure, and my husband is old. Shall I really give birth, old as I am?"

After playing host at Mamre, Abraham moved from Hebron back to Beersheba. Within a year his son Isaac ("he who laughs" in Hebrew) was born. Abraham circumcised him on the eighth day, in keeping with God's order that every male be circumcised.

Genesis then speaks of a second expulsion of Hagar. Sarah demanded this after observing the much older Ishmael playing and laughing with Isaac she wanted to assure Isaac's inheritance, even though he was not the firstborn. Now God took Sarah's side, ordering Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. He told him that "through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed. But the slavegirl's son, too, I will make a nation, for he is your seed."

Hagar and her son were banished to the desert, but they were not alone. God provided for them, giving them a well of water when Hagar had lost all hope. Ishmael, Genesis says, grew up and dwelled in the wilderness, and he became a seasoned bowman. The Bible reveals little else except that his mother procured him an Egyptian wife and he helped bury his father. This is the last mention of Hagar. Muslim tradition holds that mother and son stayed together in Mecca, and they are said to be buried in a common grave—Hijr Ismail—next to the Kaaba.

Accompanied by Avner Goren, I followed Abraham to Beersheba. When we stopped at one Bedouin settlement, children rushed forward to beg: for water, not money. Abraham, too, needed water, and he dug a well in Beersheba, hoping to live in peace with the local inhabitants. He also planted a tamarisk tree, a symbol of plenty, invoking the name of the Lord, everlasting God. At this stage I envision Abraham as a full-time proselytizer and one-God activist.

The day of our visit to Beersheba was unusually raw the Negev had just had more than half a foot of snow—one of the heaviest snowfalls in 50 years—and the whitened palm trees looked festive and beautiful. Beersheba was the patriarch's home for a number of years. A well said to be the one dug by Abraham still exists in the center of town, just off busy Hebron Road. (But it no longer provides water.)

Recognizing the city's spiritual importance, in 1979 Anwar Sadat, then president of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister, came to Beersheba to begin peace negotiations between their two nations. But as Goren and I stood in the snow at Abraham's well, three Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter-bombers roared overhead. The message was plain: The Middle East is still far from real peace. Achieving it, repairing Abraham's fractured spiritual legacy, will demand an extreme act of faith from Palestinians and Israelis, whose common heritage is now a matter of scientific proof. A recent study of the DNA of male Jews and Middle Eastern Arabs—among them Syrians, Palestinians, and Lebanese—shows that they share a common set of ancestors.

The ultimate test of Abraham's faith in the only God appears to have arisen in Beersheba, when God ordered Abraham to take Isaac to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains.

When Abraham and Isaac reached their destination—which Jewish and Christian tradition holds to have been the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the site today of the Dome of the Rock shrine—the patriarch erected an altar. He bound Isaac and placed him on a pile of wood on the altar. But when Abraham raised the cleaver to kill his son, God's messenger called out from the heavens, "Do not reach out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God." A ram, caught by its horns in a nearby thicket, was presented as a burnt offering instead of Isaac.

In the Koran, God similarly tests Abraham's faith by ordering the sacrifice of his son, but the son and the place are not named. In sura, or chapter, 37:102, 112 Abraham said, "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice." When Abraham shows his willingness to comply with God, he is promised another son, Isaac. And We gave him the good news of Isaac—a prophet,—one of the Righteous. Most Muslims therefore believe that Ishmael was the one to be sacrificed and that this test occurred in or near Mecca.

In Genesis, Abraham returned to Beersheba. Sarah died in Qiryat Arba, near Hebron, at the age of 127. Abraham buried her in the Cave of Machpelah, in a tomb he bought for 400 silver shekels. He then dispatched a servant to the city of Nahor in northern Mesopotamia, near Haran, to find a wife for Isaac. Rebekah was the chosen woman. Back in Hebron again, Abraham had to be the busiest old man in all of Canaan. He found himself a new wife—a woman named Keturah, who gave him six children.

Abraham died at the ripe old age of 175. Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the Machpelah cave next to Sarah.

In a sense Abraham never died. On the highest religious level Abraham and his monotheism was a model for Jesus and his early Christian disciples and, much later, Muhammad and his Muslim followers. Today he still stands out as a unique spiritual figure, transcending the frontiers of great religions. However questionable the accuracy of the scriptures, however thin the archaeological and historical evidence, Jews, Christians, and Muslims still revere him as the patriarch.

One of the most touching expressions of devotion to Abraham I encountered on my travels was a short poem, "Hymn to the Blessing of Abraham," given to me at Istanbul Technical University. It was written by a Muslim, Cengizhan Mutlu, and tells of King Nimrod, who plotted to kill Abraham for his monotheism. My Turkish guide, Aydin Kudu, provided an impromptu translation.

Nimrod doesn't comprehend this.

Ibrahim is thrown into the fire.

He feels no pain, he doesn't groan.

He says, "My God will save me."

Two angels had said it rightly.

"My God will save me." In these five simple words is the essence of Abraham and his astonishing endeavors. They spell out his fundamental belief that there is one God. That belief changed the world forever.

Czechoslovakia Since World War Ⅱ

The history of Czechoslovakia is one that should plague the Western liberal conscience. It does not. In deed, Western “democrats” have consistently ignored the only Central European state which has, over the last 50 years, thrice managed to pro duce rational and humane forms of government. A great merit of Tad Szulc's exhaustive survey of the country is to deplore this myopic lack of concern.

The consequences of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's be trayal of Czech President Eduard Benes at Munich are well docu mented. But the West did not note them. Ten years later, when Stalin subverted Czechoslovakia “as usual the West seemed to know little and care less about the country's fate.”

The same thing happened two and a half years ago. “The so‐called Free World [accepted] the invasion with no more than pious expressions of regret and condemnation. … Con cern in Washington and the NATO capitals was … how quickly Czech oslovakia might be forgotten as an inconvenient element in the big power games.”

But Mr. Szulc feels not only moral indignation at the fact that “the democrats of the world sat on their hands” when the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in August, 1968. He is also deeply disappointed by the premature destruction of Dubcek's experiment in socialist democracy, which he rightly considers a “fun damental metamorphosis of Commu ism as we have known it.”

Mr. Szulc's book is much more than its title suggests. The first half is a long survey of 1945‐67 in not only Czechoslovakia but all of Eastern Europe: it is (in parts) clumsily writ ten, unhappily repetitious and some times even inconsistent. The second half is the story of the 1968–69 Czech crisis it is much better arranged and written. So much so as almost to appear to be from a completely dif ferent pen.

But this second half is also highly personal—it includes a record of Mr. Szulc's journalistic activities (as The Times correspondent) in and around Prague until his expulsion in Decem ber, 1968. It is arguable that he has sometimes fallen into the trap before all journalists: we believe that be cause we see or do something partic ular ourselves, it must be significant. It often isn't. But Mr. Szulc has taken no chances and records not only that the United States Ambassador was a perfect gentleman to reporters but also that the Embassy's incinerator caught fire from overburning. Did that really affect the history of Czechoslovakia?

These minor criticisms apart, the book provides an absorbing survey of the construction and then the decay of Stalinism within Czecho slovakia. Mr. Szulc traces very accu rately the roots of Prague Spring through Novotny's petty dictatorship and the forlorn attempts to shore up the crumbling system. He shows why such partial repairs were ineffective and why the whole structure was pulled down by Dubcek in 1968 (only to be rebuilt a year later). Mr. Szulc has a goad eye for the ironies of Czechoslovak politics and smiles at the seesaw of orthodoxies which hoisted first Husak and then Dubcek and now Husak again into favor.

His sketch of Dubcek and the di lemmas with which this shy, obscure and totally sympathetic idealist was suddenly faced in 1968 is acute—he understands the complexities of Dubcek's character and offers no pat solution to it. He does not give Dubcek enough credit for humane if cautious liberalism before 1968, but that is probably because he did not have very much time in Dubcek's native Slovakia: Leopoldov prison is not in Bratislava Dubcek's home town of Trencin is not in Central Slovakia.

His time in Prague, on the other hand, has given Mr. Szulc a close in sight into the Czech character—that curious blend of romanticism and pragmatism that sometimes verges (dare one say it?) on opportunism. But while he recognizes this trait, Mr. Szulc skates perhaps a little too swiftly over its consequences—those very unattractive features of the re form movement that really caused the Kremlin to destroy it.

Discussing the use that journalists made of the sudden freedom of the press in 1968, he states that “they were not vindictive.” Unfortunately this was not always true: far too many journalists used their liberty to settle personal scores and to salve their, own consciences. It was no co incidence that some of the most “pro gressive” were those who, only a year before, had been the most orthodox. And many of the worst offenders— those who attacked the Soviet Union and individual party officials most shrilly—are now comfortably en sconced in plush Western apart ments, doing nothing for their country.

The Russians had a point when they alleged that the Czechoslo vak press harbored bourgeois opportunists.

Mr. Szulc also understands very well the Russians and their sad de sire to be loved, even by those whom they seek to oppress. He points out that “the most extraordinary thing about the Soviet Union's involve ment in Czechoslovakia, indeed, was that it never stopped feeling threat ened there from the day its tanks first entered Prague in May 9, 1945.” No wonder the anti‐Sovietism in Czechoslovakia before the invasion (which Mr. Szulc quite rightly em phasizes) frightened and hurt the Russians so deeply.

Mr. Szulc believes that “the inva sion has been a resounding political fiasco for the Kremlin.” There's surely little sign of it yet. For, as Mr. Szulc points out, the West did not much care—detente was actually hastened by the invasion. And for the Left (both New and traditional) Prague Spring just isn't fashionable in the same way as Cuba and the Vietcong. Within Czechoslovakia it self, Husak's total “normalization” and destruction of the reform move ment is proof enough of the success of the invasion, Prague Spring repre sented an enormous threat to the en trenched and unimaginative Soviet bureaucracy, after much debate the Kremlin took what was, in its own lights, the safest step.

But in the long term Mr. Szulc is right: “Human socialism was the philosophy of the Czechoslovak ex periment and it was a tragedy for Marxism and socialism that Brezh nev's tanks temporarily interrupted this East European renaissance before it could be fully and freely tested.” Quite so: but will the interruption be all that temporary?

Oral History Collections

Interviews with theater directors and artists conducted by Rolando Almirante, a Cuban director active in the 21st century.

Art in Action Oral Histories Project

Interviews with directors and founders of local community organizations, students in the Arts in Action program, and immigrants to South Florida.

Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Collection

Interviews conducted principally with members of the first generation of Cubans exiled since the Cuban Revolution, including political prisoners, visual artists, business leaders, educators, and community activists.

Greg Bush Florida Community Studies Oral History Collection

Interviews conducted by Professor Gregory Bush and the Institute for Public History (IPH) about public spaces in South Florida, migration, gentrification, the history of individual neighborhoods, housing, and community services.

Conversations with Dr. William Butler

Interviews of 10 key administrators, faculty, trustees, and alumni of the University of Miami by Dr. Butler from the 1990s.

Joe Cardona Video Collection

Unedited interviews for the documentary Café con leche and videotaped interviews for the documentary José Martí: Legacy of Freedom by Joe Cardona, an independent filmmaker.

Graciela Cruz-Taura Collection

Audio cassette recordings of interviews with Cuban historian Dr. Herminio Portell Vila Amalia Bacardí, wife of Bacardí founder Facundo Bacardí Massó and artist Félix Beltrán.

Grandes Leyendas Musicales Cubanas Interviews Collection

Interviews conducted by Eloy Cepero with Cuban-born musicians at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami.

Guantánamo Bay Naval Base Collection

Transcripts from an oral history project on Cuban balseros (rafters).

Haitian Diaspora Oral History Collection

Interviews with individuals of Haitian ancestry that are renowned in the world of the arts, community activism, civic leadership, and many professional organizations.

Historic Black Churches Oral History Film Project

Material related to the “Historic Black Church Oral History” film project sponsored by the UM School of Law’s Center for Ethics and Public Service.

Human Rights Oral History Collection

Interviews with Cuban dissidents, including the Grupo de los 75 and the Damas de Blanco, with a focus on the Black Spring of 2003 when the Cuban government arrested 75 activists.

Immigrant Archive Project Interviews

DVD copies of interviews with Cuban and Cuban-Americans for the Immigrant Archive Project, produced by the Latino Broadcasting Corporation.

Diana G. Kirby Papers

Life history interviews with 60 women as part of a research project focusing on patterns of legal and illegal drug use among a sample of Cuban refugees living in the United States.

Valerie Lester Papers

Oral history interviews with Pan Am flight attendants.

Mildred Merrick Interview

Interview with Mildred Merrick by William Walker. Merrick headed Richter Library’s Reference Department and worked for the library from 1959 to 1991.

P.A. Phillips Collection

Oral histories conducted by undergraduate and graduate students with World War II veterans.

Port Washington Public Library Oral History Collection

Transcripts of two interviews with Pan Am employees.

Max Rameau Papers

Interviews documenting activism for the homeless and the poor within the South Florida communities of the African diaspora, with a focus on Take Back the Land and the Umoja Village Shantytown.

Rosenstiel School Oral History Project

Interviews with Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science faculty and others discussing the school’s history and future.

StoryCorps-Warmamas Community Archive (2013-2015)

The StoryCorps-Warmamas Community Archive (2013-2015) is a collection of interviews with enlisted men and women, veterans, their family and friends. The collaboration between StoryCorps and Warmamas is part of StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative which serves as a platform to allow military families to share their experiences.

Tad Szulc Collection of Interview Transcripts

Typescript transcripts of Tad Szulc’s taped interviews with Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and other government officials in Cuba and with Cuban exiles in Miami, Florida, from 1984 to 1985, in preparation for Szulc’s book Fidel: A Critical Portrait.

UM School of Communications: “Last Night in Cuba” Video Interviews

A documentary film that examines the experiences of Cuban exiles leaving their homeland, with interviews of ten Cubans of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds who fled the island between 1959 and 1963.

UM School of Music Oral History Collection

Interviews with School of Music faculty members and others.

World Wings International Records

Oral histories of Pan Am flight attendants affiliated with World Wings International.

Ione Wright Papers

Transcripts of oral histories with former Pan Am employees, with a focus on the airline’s early activities in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The Catholic Church: A History of Adapting and Embracing New Technology

While some dioceses and parishes are handling the COVID19 crisis better than others when it comes to reaching the faithful through technology, the Church as a whole is succeeding because of a centuries-long foundation.

Though critics, including many of the faithful, often view the Catholic Church as antiquated and out of touch with the modern world, the Church throughout history has demonstrated a willingness to respond to, and embrace, emerging communication technology. Adopting modern digital communication tools continues that response and demonstrates the Church’s eternal relevance. This open-minded progress dates as far back as the second century when a young Catholic Church was communicating with trending, cutting-edge technology.

Until that time, the basic form of any book, defined as any written works or collections thereof, was the scroll. Though still used today in Judaism for the Torah, scrolls are mostly obsolete technology. Their slow decline began when the codex, pages of papyrus or animal skin bound together on one side like a modern book, emerged in the second century.

Though it did not become universal until the fourth century, the codex was adopted hundreds of years earlier by Christianity and the young Catholic Church. In fact, most Christian manuscripts from the second and third centuries were codices.[1] Perhaps, as with most advances in communication technology, the proliferation of the codex was a result of its ease of use.

This was only the beginning. History shows us continued progress in adoption, and the sanctification of, secular communication methods. Beyond the codices of the third century, the Church’s communication methods have been modern and forward-thinking. Catholic baptism of communication technology spans centuries and continues today. Here are a few highlights from the Catholic Church’s history of using mainstream media to convey the unique messages of the Church.

During a time when print ruled mass communications, media and political pioneer, Fr. Gabriel Richard, came to the United States and brought the printing press to Detroit, Michigan. In 1802, Fr. Richard began publishing Michigan Essay and Impartial Observer in Detroit. It was the first Catholic newspaper published in the United States.[2] He went on to be elected the first Catholic priest in the United States Congress, serving one term from 1823 to 1825.[3]

Two decades after Fr. Richard’s newspaper began circulating, the Most Reverend John England was the first bishop of Charleston, South Carolina. Well respected by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, Bishop England founded the United States Catholic Miscellany in another early adoption of communication technology: print, in this case.[4]

“If you like a Catholic paper with snap, vigor, courage, here it is. If you like one that is easy to read, here it is. If you like one that will always be loyal to the Church and has no selfish axe to grind, here it is.” Msgr. Matthew Smith wrote these words in the inaugural issue of the National Catholic Register 90 years ago. Purchased by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in 2011, the Register is now largely Catholic newspaper distributed digitally and is read by “tens of thousands of active lay Catholics along with over 800 priests, 160 bishops, 40 archbishops and 30 Vatican officials” according to its content-rich website.[5]

“If Jesus or St. Francis (of Assisi) were alive now, they’d use modern technology to reach the people.” These words of St. Maximilian Kolbe call from his remarkable time on earth to today’s Church, reminding us of its mission and how to carry out that mission.

Kolbe, known to most during his life as Fr. Maximilian, is most commonly remembered as the Franciscan priest who gave his life at Auschwitz so another man would live. Though his life ended in quiet martyrdom, he spent most of his earthly journey loudly, but gently, proclaiming the Gospel in the most effective ways he could. Speaking several languages including Russian, German, Italian, and Latin, in addition to his native Polish, Kolbe was, in every way, a communicator.

“No one can alter the truth,” Fr. Maximilian said in a 1940 article in his magazine, The Knight. “What we can do and should do is to search for the truth and then serve it when we have found it.” He served the truth by communicating it.

Before World War II, Fr. Maximilian’s Conventual Franciscan monastery at Niepokalanow in Poland had a daily newspaper and a radio station, in addition to The Knight, and was getting ready for television. As a servant leader, Fr. Maximilian worked tirelessly, and often covertly, with his fellow friars distributing the messages of the Church across the most modern of communication channels. He did not cease during the war, as he believed that was the time when communication of the truth was most vital. Fr. Maximilian believed Adolf Hitler’s philosophy to be the antithesis of everything Christ stood for, and he communicated that truth with precision, passion, and technology.[6]

In his encyclical letter Miranda Prorsus, Pope Pius XII made a case for what he called “very remarkable technical inventions which … reach the mass of the people themselves.” The Holy Father was referring to the modern and emerging technology of the time: motion pictures, radio, and television. The ability of these technologies to reach the masses was of particular interest to the Pope because of the duty and mission of the Catholic Church.

Hers (the Church’s) is the duty, and for a much stronger reason than all others can claim, of announcing a message to every man,” he wrote. “This is the message of eternal salvation a message unrivalled in its richness and power, a message, in fine, which all men of every race and every age must accept and embrace.”[7]

His Holiness Pope Paul VI promulgated the Vatican II decree Inter Mirifica, the decree on the media of social communications. The document acknowledged and praised the value and tremendous potential of communication technology of the time, specifically “press, movies, radio, television and the like,” in proclaiming the Gospel and supporting the Kingdom of God. In a bold statement and challenge to Church leaders, Inter Mirifica asserted the following:

It is … an inherent right of the Church to have at its disposal and to employ any of these media insofar as they are necessary or useful for the instruction of Christians and all its efforts for the welfare of souls. It is the duty of Pastors to instruct and guide the faithful so that they, with the help of these same media, may further the salvation and perfection of themselves and of the entire human family.[8]

Could a cloistered 13th-century Franciscan nun have prophesized the use of television by the Church? St. Clare of Assisi, foundress of the Poor Clares, the first Franciscan nun, and the patron saint of television, might have done just that. Salt and Light Media’s Carolos Ferreira recounts Clare’s miraculous experience:

One Christmas Eve, Clare was so sick that she could not get out of bed even to go to Mass. While the other sisters were on their way to Mass, she stayed in bed praying so she could take part in the mass with her prayer. Just then, the Lord granted her a miraculous vision, and she was able to see the Mass, even though she was far away from where it was happening, as if it were taking place right in her own bedroom.[9]

Seven hundred years later a Franciscan nun, Mother Angelica, founded the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the first Catholic satellite television in the United States. Broadcasting Holy Mass and Catholic programming to the masses along with her sisters, friars, and priests, Mother Angelica said, “Faith is what gets you started. Hope is what keeps you going. Love is what brings you to the end.”[10]

While Saint Clare of Assisi is the patroness of television and Saint Maximilian Kolbe is the patron of media communications, perhaps no one in modern Catholic history is better known as a progressive communicator as Karol Wojtyla: actor, singer, poet, writer, priest, pope, saint. He took the name John Paul II when he was elected to succeed the late Pope John Paul I in 1978.

While popes praised and endorsed emerging communication technology, no one before John Paul II used media quite like he did. Deemed “The People’s Pope” by biographer James Oram, John Paul II engaged with people through media long before his papacy. In 1950, the young Fr. Karol Wojtyla began writing for Tygodnik Powszechny, a Catholic newspaper in Poland. In the 1970s, Cardinal Wojtyla published journal articles on theology, philosophy, and sociology while continuing to write regularly for Tygodnik Powszechny and Znak, a monthly magazine.[11]

During a visit to the United States in 1976, Cardinal Wojtyla took immediate and particular notice of the country’s broadcast technology and freedom of the press. Two years later, on the heels of his Papal inauguration, Wojtyla said to an Associated Press reporter, in English, “I love America. I thank you, Associated Press.” Pope John Paul II built a relationship with journalists from that time through his papacy. He answered their questions in the language in which they were asked. He showed a great respect for journalistic communication.[12]

Pope John Paul II’s love for God, the Church, and the people was evident in every encounter, whether in person or via technology. He used communication tools to build personal relationships with the faithful. Biographer Tad Szulc describes Pope John Paul II, the great communicator:

The Polish pope is a man of touching kindness and deep personal warmth, a quality that evidently he communicates to the hundreds of millions of people who have seen him in person … or on satellite or local television. His smiling face is probably the best known in the world, John Paul II having elevated his mastery of modern communications technology in the service of his gospel to the state of the art.[13]

John Paul II often referred to himself as the “Pilgrim Pope.” His definition of “pilgrim” did not only include charting new frontiers geographically, but technologically. Pope John Paul II grasped the ability modern technology like television and computers offered him to reach huge masses of people in person. Pope, now Saint, John Paul II baptized modern communication technology, and used it to reach the people with the message of the gospel–a unique message—using standard secular tools.[14]

It is fitting that John Paul II’s Mass of Canonization was broadcast live on television and streamed live online.

The positions of Church leaders on communication technology are not much different in the post-John-Paul-II 21st century. This might be because of the relatively low-profile Pope Benedict XVI (John Paul II’s successor) kept, with the exception of his endeavor as the first pope on Twitter. Or perhaps modern Church leaders see so much potential as communication technology continues to advance at a rapid pace.

The conclave that would elect Pope Francis in 2013 was concerned with the ability to get the message out using modern means of communication. Today’s Papal Office exists in an age of instantaneous communication. Social media and digital platforms dominate how we relate to each other and how the Church related to its people. Think about it … the Pope’s on Twitter. And Instagram. And the Vatican is on social media.

This is a result of the rich communication history of the Church. Right now, local parishes and religious orders are using technology like Facebook and Zoom to reach the people. Based on its past practices and willingness to embrace technological change, the Catholic Church may have been one of the most prepared organizations on the planet relating to dealing with today’s pandemic.

[1] Rev. Dr. Edward Foley, OFM Cap. From Age to Age. (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1991)

[2] “Catholic Newspapers.” Catholic History. catholichistory.net. 2007

[3] “Richard, Gabriel.” United States Congress. bioguide.congress.gov.

[4] “Catholic Newspapers.” Catholic History. catholichistory.net. 2007

[5] “About Us.” National Catholic Register. ncregister.com.

[6] Patricia Treece. A Man for Others: Maximilian Kolbe the ‘Saint of Auschwitz.’ (Libertyville, IL: Marytown Press, 1993.)

[7] Pope Pius XII. Miranda Prorsus. (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta, 1957)

[8] Pope Paul VI. “Inter Mirifica.” The Holy See. vatican.va

[9] Carlos Ferreira. “Saint Clare of Assisi: Patroness of Television.” Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation. saltandlighttv.org. 10 Aug 2012.

[10] “Beginning of EWTN.” EWTN Global Catholic Network. ewtn.com.

[11] James Oram. The People’s Pope: The Story of Karol Wojtlya of Poland. (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1979), 92

[12] James Oram. The People’s Pope: The Story of Karol Wojtlya of Poland. (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1979), 195, 196.

[13] Tad Szulc. Pope John Paul II: The Biography. (New York: Scribner, 1995), 24.

[14] Tad Szulc. Pope John Paul II: The Biography. (New York: Scribner, 1995), 338.

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