Censored by Voice of America in 1950, re-interviewed in the 1980s, Józef Czapski gets a plaque in Prague

Censored by Voice of America in 1950, re-interviewed in the 1980s, Józef Czapski gets a plaque in Prague

By Ted Lipien


This week, December 21, 2021, a plaque at Józef Czapski’s birthplace in Prague, the Czech Republic, was unveiled in a ceremony attended by ambassadors from Poland, the Holy See, Lithuania, and Estonia. The Embassy of Italy, which now occupies the building where renowned Polish artist and writer Józef Czapski was born in 1896, was represented by chargé d’affairs Antonella Fontana. Deputy Mayor of Prague, Hanna Marvanová, also attended the ceremony. Czapski’s mother was Austrian-Czech aristocrat Josephine von Thun und Hohenstein. His father was a Polish aristocrat.

Czech sculptress Paulina Skavova created the plaque.

For a post in Polish (po polsku) SEE: Tablica w Pradze na Nerudowej

Autorką tablicy jest czeska rzeźbiarka, Paulina Skavova, fot. Paweł Mazur

The U.S. government broadcaster, the Voice of America (VOA), partially censored Józef Czapski in 1950, when he tried to describe the Soviet mass murder of about 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia leaders in Katyn in western Russia and at other locations.

According to journalist Julius Epstein, a pre-World War II Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and Austria who gave a sworn testimony to a congressional investigative committee, Czapski, who barely escaped death in Katyn, felt devastated by the VOA management’s censorship of his Katyn talk.

The Polish prisoners of war (POWs) were secretly executed in 1940 on the orders from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin when Stalin and Hitler were allies. The Polish officers were in Soviet captivity following the joint German-Soviet invasion and occupation of Poland in 1939, which started the Second World War. Czapski was imprisoned in several Soviet camps. After his release, following the German attack on the Soviet Union, Captain Czapski (later promoted to Major) searched for the missing Polish officers and was repeatedly lied to by Soviet officials. The Soviet secret police murdered the officers, but Soviet officials and propagandists blamed the Germans for the massacre for many decades.

VOA was quickly rebuked in 1950 for its censorship of Czapski by members of the U.S. Congress. The Truman Administration later carried out personnel and management reforms at VOA.

The Voice of America Polish Service re-interviewed Józef Czapski, as a witness of the Soviet genocide of people of many nationalities, including Russians, when I was in charge of the service in the 1980s.

In his youth, Józef Czapski was a pacifist but later defended Poland in the 1920 war with Soviet Russia. At the start of World War II, he was mobilized as a reserve officer. His political outlook was highly liberal in the Christian and Catholic tradition. He was a strong supporter of political tolerance, except toward totalitarian ideologies on the right and the left, and a believer in multiculturalism. Czapski admired pre-Bolshevik Russian culture (he studied in St. Petersburg), spoke fluent Russian, and had many anti-communist Russian dissident friends. They included Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whom the Voice of America also banned and censored for several years in the 1970s to avoid upsetting U.S.-Soviet relations during the period of Cold War détente between Washington and Moscow.

The Voice of America resumed interviewing Solzhenitsyn during President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

The Voice of America management has never apologized to the families of Katyn victims for spreading Soviet propaganda during World War II, or to Czapski, Solzhenitsyn, and VOA audiences, for its limited censorship in favor of Soviet Russia during the Cold War.

Józef Czapski is now being rediscovered as an artist, writer, and a witness to history thanks to several books published about him in English in recent years.

He is now considered one of the greatest Polish painters of the 20th century and one of Poland’s most talented modern writers and essayists.

Portret mężczyzny by Józef Czapski, 1972.

Portret mężczyzny by Józef Czapski, 1972.

Józef Czapski’s most famous book Inhuman Land, describing imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag and his futile search in Russia for the Polish officers who were killed in Katyn, was published in the U.S. in the 1950s.

I am writing a book about him and his sister, writer Maria Czapska, in Polish and English, and hope to publish them in 2022. In my book, I describe VOA’s censorship of Czapski in 1950 and VOA’s earlier participation in the Soviet propaganda lie about Katyn. The Voice of America started repeating Soviet propaganda lies about Katyn shortly after the mass graves were discovered in 1943.

The Katyn propaganda lies continued after the war in the Soviet Block. In communist-ruled Poland, one of the most energetic communist promoters of the Katyn lie and anti-U.S. propaganda was a former Voice of America writer and editor Stefan Arski, aka Artur Salman, who in 1947 returned from the United States to Poland and joined the Communist Party.

The person in charge of Voice of America news at the time when VOA promoted Soviet lies about Katyn was American Communist and best-selling novelist Howard Fast, who on December 21, 1953 received the Stalin Peace Prize. The Voice of America has never officially admitted that VOA’s chief news writer and news director in 1943 joined the Communist Party and was honored by Soviet Russia’s most prestigious award for foreigners, named after Stalin, one of the greatest perpetrators of genocide in the 20th century. Exactly 68 years after the Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda published the announcement about Howard Fast’s Stalin Peace Prize (it failed to mention his former employment by the Voice of America), Józef Czapski was honored with a plaque at his birthplace in Prague.

SEE: Hunger for Truth – Józef and Maria Czapski’s Fight Against Kremlin Propaganda by Ted Lipien (Tadeusz Lipień)

Howard Fast – Chief of Voice of America News Who Won the Stalin Peace Prize by Ted Lipien (Tadeusz Lipień)

From Congressional Record

#JozefCzapski #VoiceofAmerica #VOA

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