This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Irita Van Doren, emcee for the event, introduces James Michener, author of "Bridge at Andau ". She describes his book and the about the plight of Hungarians during the invasion of Communist Russian forces. She gives many examples of the great violence that took place.
James Michener does not discuss his novel in particular, rather he discusses the results of the Hungarian Revolution.
Laura Fermi also discusses Russia. Author of "Atoms in the Family: My Life with Enrico Fermi," Fermi discusses her travels to Russia and in particular their scientific advances.
Gilbert Highet discusses his book "Juvenal the Satirist: A Study" and his passion for poetry.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71209
Municipal archives id: LT7519
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Our first speaker today is James Michener. We of the free world were shocked horrified and stared to admiration by the brave hopeful tragic events that came out of Hungary last fall but all too swiftly Budapest its agony and its lesson is receding in the wake of later and different crises and so it is doubly important that our memories and our hearts should be stirred once more as they are by James Michener the eyewitness report the Brigitte and now Mr Michener's contributions to understanding and friendship between Asia and America having to noted such notable things as Tales of the South Pacific paradise revisited and a couple of novels with Korean and Japanese setting the bridges a Cocodrie and siren now. He was in Rome when the momentous events in Hundred began going straight to and out on the Austrian Hungary and border he observed and assisted in the flight of thousands of men women and children driven from their native land by Russian communism. In his account of that tragedy the days from October twenty second to November eleventh live again the excitement of successful rebellion against tyranny for five days of the joy of victory of free communication with the outside world the hope of a real people's government the blessid release felt by men and women who had been suppressed and fearful for eleven years and then the ruthless return of the Russians with a hundred and sixty thousand men and four thousand tanks flame throwers and Jap planes and we see the city systematically shocked to pieces incredible bravery of the girls of beautiful as the twelve year old boy who covered himself with grenades and running into the path of the lead tank it in a car bomb blew it and himself to pieces the thirty young Hungary and last remnants of the brave defenders of Castle Hill who marched proudly out on a rope white flag of surrender only to be deliberately mowed down by machine gunfire again and again women in queues shocked to death ambulances fired on nurses tending the wounded killed we see the stubborn defense of the shattered Kilian barracks where men shot by our own officers who had gone out to surrender. And the last ditch desperate resistance of the work done on civil islands men who were supposed to be the very hardcore of kind for his report just Mitch and I interviewed hundreds of men and women after they came across the bridge into Austria often going into Hungary himself to help exhausted sick and desperate men women and children over the last few miles to liberty with a group of interpreters he checked and rechecked their stories all the names when necessary to protect friends and relatives let the time sometimes we have the experiences of several people into a composite story the result is the bridge and that an important and profoundly moving book in which the logic of Hungary is made clear in the summer eloquence of its Author our three speak it a day James Michener. That of the. Friends of books I think we all know that last autumn our world passed through a climactic period it was one of the great moments of contemporary world history and as for impact it is only now being realized. I do not want to review the facts of that event I think you are all aware of their general outline I certainly don't want to review the book that I have written about it because I labored on that under such intensity that it is not a particularly pleasant thing for me to recapitulate I would like for a few moments to focus upon one solitary aspect of this and that is the effect of this great revolution upon Russia and to project some casual and not all out thoroughly worked out thought I was to what the impact of that. Reaction to Russia's might be upon us I offer these these thoughts with. Complete. Modesty and diffidence because there are not very many people in the world to know the answers to these questions and although I have tried to pick their brains as best I could I myself am in no sense an expert however these things happened to Russia in Hungary and it would be well for us to remember this because we see all the problems that beset the United States and the headaches that Mr Dulles lives and they consternation that Mr Eisenhower we must not forget that Russia has the counterpart of those problems these things happened a very strong satellite army in Hungary trained by Russians staffed only by senior officers who had lived in Moscow and had imbibed communism and its very fountain head. This powerful army at the time of crisis turned against communism about ninety eight percent not a single unit of the Hungary an army remained faithful to comment now. One can say that that was an event of passion of the moment which it was one can say that the leading officers who defected had. Defected earlier from capitalism to communism and now are simply going back which is true you can say that the army is not important in the total life of the nation because Russia would let it be and that is true but you cannot argue away the fact that one of Russia's satellite armies turned every gun it could find against Russia and fought in many instances to the very depths now no Russian can be ignorant of this fact and nobody can ignore it it simply means that around the western perimeter of Russia there is a built in time bomb consisting of all the armies of the satellite nations who in a time of crisis we have reason to believe would fight wholeheartedly against Russia that must be entered into that fact must enter into all Russian calculations from here on they cannot move in that area with any assumption that their flanks or their rear will be protected because we know that they will not be protected let me say however what this does not mean. It does not mean that if America or Britain or France tried to go through those countries to get Russia that the people what automatic they joined up with Britain or France or America that is probably not true and as a matter of fact based upon what the circumstances were of the entry of our forces these armies might very well fight against us but because they they want to be semi communist countries there is no great urge toward capitalism there no Hungary and was laying down his life for democracy or rob the Republican Party in the United States or Anthony Eden's foreign policy it is not right to assume that they are going to side with us actively in matters which are of no fundamental concern to their therefore we could make a serious mistake if we tried to launch trouble along this massive border with out a program that can side with their program and I have heard very few aspects of the American program which do coincide with the fundamental interests of the Garia Rumania Poland or Czechoslovakia but the fact that it is not necessarily in our favor that this is happening should not blind to the fact that it is tragically to Russia's detriment that it did happen and from now on there is that calculation which must haunt the Kremlin the fact that if she tries to operate too freely in these areas see must expect the retaliation of all of the armies their station and the second factor which we should remember is that at the height of the crisis. When the very essence of communism was at stake in these in the streets of Budapest when the relation of Russia to Hungary was at stake Russian troops themselves. Who had long been stationed in Hungary refused to take arms against the Hungary and people and they had to be taken out and a new group brought in who were not so contaminated and it was very who did the killing and the dreadful work that Mrs Van Doren so appropriately spoke of it was new troops brought in the inference being that the rate of contamination of Russian troops by their superior cultures along her border appears to be very great and the Russian leaders will have to take this into account. Third fact that the Russians I think must be very fair was the fact that this was by and large a revolution of young people who had never known anything better than communism it was not people looking back in memory upon a style G. gauge which they loved dearly for the better life they had had in the one nine hundred twenty S. and thirty's the majority of people who destroyed Russian tanks in the streets of Buddha past were infants in the one nine hundred thirty S. or not yet born so that in no sense could this have been called a capitalist throwback or a romanticist recall of days of vanished glory it was a hard headed conclusion on the part of real communists that their system was not working. I would again throw in a word of caution on both these points and there is no evidence of any Russian unit of the army having and the fact that it was only individuals not even anything as large as a platoon went over and total several tanks did but they are by nature solitary units no platoon of tanks went over the second point is that although there was great agitation throughout all of the satellite countries on the part of youth there is no substantial evidence yet that there is any similar agitation within Russia itself therefore a group of us in the end. Who had access to some rather unusual sources of information pooling all the knowledge we had came to the gloomy conclusion that there was no solid evidence that we could get hold of that there was likely to be any similar kind of uprising within Russia within the foreseeable future now we. Varied sometimes in our definition of foreseeable future but I being perhaps a more pessimistic a lot would say six or seven years at least the factors that operated and hungry do not to me seem to be operating within Russia itself so that I wish for thinking on that score would seem to me to be unfounded I must add that there are some of my colleagues who are perhaps in this field much better informed than I who did have some hopes I don't share that leads to the final point. You can see Russia is relationship to her own problems and the limitations which the hunger and Revolution has now placed on her freedom of action. One might be tempted and I'm now going to give the view of some very learned people and our European capitals whose job it is to follow this they said that Hungary at they said that the hunt Gary and. Events would lead Russia to relinquish her pressure upon all of the satellite nations that she saw and how that she could not hold them except by force of arms and I didn't time that would become psychologically intolerable and financially impossible that we should therefore look forward to a gradual relaxation of the Russian rule. And the sense the fine was now exposed and probably also in Asia similar situations might arise but you should expect to see Russia somewhat retreating from her intransigence attitude and the Cold War that. The standardization would continue and that process of rapport with the Western powers would be generated in one way or another and that in general things would be better. This again is a view I have never shared and I must say that from the studies I have made and from the people I have consulted who are also well informed I conclude that exactly the opposite will happen and on that very gloomy note I must. Finish I think that instead of a general relaxation the leaders of Russia will see that the distant one ization program led to great trouble in Poland and in Hungary and that it must inevitably lead to some of the trouble elsewhere therefore it should be abandoned. I think a certain Gunter dominant type of philosophy will take over the Kremlin in which they will have to say he coldly and cruelly an analysis of things well it can't be any worse we are hated but we can't be any worse hated than we are now things haven't gone well there's no reason to expect that by the devices that we were following a little while back to get any better let us retreat to the way things were before the hard cold withdraw within the Russian shell. Reemphasis upon the virtue Stalin isn't repression of liberal movements wherever they arise and a willingness if. Such a course throws up that possibility of going to war over the Russian policy I think that that will be the reaction for the next four or five years I think that we're in a very critical age right now Russia might use to as Russia might use any. Excuse that comes to hand in the long run however and this I feel quite firmly that such a policy of repression and military force used throughout the entire Russian empire will defeat itself. The relaxation will have to come I think it right come in five or six years the next years I see is very critical partly because the lessons of Hungary I've just spoken of will be so painfully apparent to the Kremlin that they will not want to risk their reputation anywhere else after that I think that the relaxation that we all hope for might come. Thank you Mr and at least we've got an honest and a realistic opinion from someone who has had reason to. Do a great deal of investigation and to have some justification for his remarks and it is good to know that he at least thinks that this in the end will turn out as we would like it. In nineteen thirty eight and Rico Femi with his family went to Stockholm to receive the Nobel award for his work in nuclear physics the innocent pretext of the Nobel ceremonies and the prize money saved from confiscation made it possible for the family to escape from fascist Italy and to emigrate comfortably to the United States almost immediately on arrival here Professor Perry began teaching in the physics department of Columbia University three years later the family moved to the University of Chicago where Professor family joined the famous and top secret Manhattan Project so life began for La Ruffa and me in the United States he's now an American South. In the summer of ninety five Mrs Varian was engaged by the Atomic Energy Commission to write an informal account of the forthcoming Geneva conference on the peaceful uses of atomic energy especially of the part taken in it by the United States this conference came to have great significance or it offered the first opportunity in many years for an exchange of information and ideas. Among the scientists of the world the conditions surrounding it were propitious for only two weeks had elapsed between the famous summit conference of the big four with its much publicized spirit of Geneva and the opening of the Atoms for Peace Conference in the same place the good will still lingered for two hundred delegates from seventy three countries came more than one hundred men and women reported to the world for two weeks of Geneva there were no i am. No two talent here in the States no democracies no East no West only men eager to learn how to disclose what they had learned this is very good as a faithful account of the whole project the growth of the idea the difficulties in getting it on the way the papers planned and wr