Ein Fenster zur Welt. Osteuropa in der "New York Review of Books", 1963-2003


  • Victoria Harms




This article discusses the role Central Europe has played in the self-identification and po-sitioning of New York intellectuals during and since the end of the Cold War. Through the lens of the New York Review of Books, it analyzes the rise of the human rights movement and of East European dissidents, the emerging consensus of the Holocaust as the ultimate evil, and the identification of Central Europe as a coherent but historically endangered cultural region. This contribution to the intellectual history of the Cold War focuses on the motivations and changing preferences of intellectuals and activists in New York. It relies on the published articles in the Review and interviews with participants in the East-West network discussed here. Although originally founded as a left-leaning journal that fiercely criticized the US po-litical and intellectual establishment, the Review came to embrace classical liberalism in the 1970s. New groups of dissidents in Eastern Europe, such as the Moscow Helsinki Group, KOR, and the Charta 77, encouraged this ideological shift. They inspired the New Yorkers to rally behind the cause of human rights and opened their eyes to the tragic fate of twentieth-century Central Europe. Many in this informal network on either side of the Iron Curtain shared a family history that rooted in Jewish Eastern Europe. This alliance did not only offer the dissidents’ elusive protection through the Review’s influence on public opinion but also lent credibility to the American intellectuals involved and bolstered the perception of their political and intellectual integrity. After 1989, however, the network fell apart when much of Central Europe succumbed to ethno-nationalism. The New Yorkers focused instead on the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Eventually, friendships deteriorated over the opposing attitudes toward the US invasion of Iraq and the war on terror, in which both sides deployed the same arguments as during the Cold War but to different ends.

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