Alfred Reisch

Alfred A. Reisch, political scientist, Senior Political Analyst for Radio Free Europe and author, died on May 17, 2013 in Košice, Slovakia, after a long battle with cancer. Although born in the Netherlands in 1931, Alfred was always proud of his Hungarian heritage. He worked with RFE in New York as Senior Political Analyst and in Munich as leader of RFE’s Hungarian Research and Evaluation Section.
His final and quite noteworthy accomplishment was the recent publication of his tome, Hot Books in the Cold War: The CIA-Funded Secret Western Book Distribution Program Behind the Iron Curtain (Central European University Press, 2013). Mark Kramer, director of Harvard’s Project on Cold War Studies, penned the Introduction and Columbia University’s István Deák also endorsed the book.

Alfred and his lovely wife Irene became friends of mine last year while I was in Slovakia on an Andrew Mellon International Institute of Education Graduate Fellowship for dissertation research. We met often at a favorite café in Košice to discuss Slovak-Hungarian relations, Košice’s nomination as European Capital of Culture 2013 and the research projects we both were pursuing. Alfred and Irene graciously offered to translate for me several chapters of a key source written in Hungarian. (Our meetings were always lively as Alfred spoke to me in perfect English while I chatted with his wife in Slovak!) Irene even shared with me her recipe for the “Marlenka” honey cake famous to Central Europe. Their friendship definitely enriched my year abroad and contributed to my studies as Alfred continued to mail me clippings from local Košice newspapers after my return to the States.

We will miss Alfred’s presence at this November 2013’s Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies Conference as Alfred was planning to contribute toward the panel commemorating Slovakia’s 20 years of independence. His passion for spreading knowledge and uncensored ideas (until the very end!) is an example for us all.

Story and photo by Marty Manor Mullins