David Schine and Roy Cohn - Joseph's McCarthy's henchmen - turned their attacks on overseas State Department-sponsored libraries.David Schine and Roy Cohn - Joseph's McCarthy's henchmen - turned their attacks on overseas State Department-sponsored libraries. The point of these was to provide war-torn European communities a place to go for otherwise hard-to-get books by American authors. Or, to be more specific, the point was to provide the sort of American books that would persuade postwar Europeans, otherwise susceptible to the wiles of communist criticism, that the American imagination was being nourished by the free and diverse cultural life in the U.S.
But McCarthy and his people decided that some of the books in these libraries had been written by disloyal people. Schine and Cohen went traveling (a classic boondoggle disguised as a national-security emergency), yanked books off shelves and ruined the careers of librarians and many other government workers in Europe whom Schine-Cohn said they suspected of radical pasts.
The pair spent forty hours in Paris, sixteen in Bonn, nineteen in Frankfurt, sixty in Munich, forty-one in Vienna, twenty-three in Belgrade, twenty-four in Athens, twenty in Rome, and six in London. What was it all about? After a time, it turned out to be about books in I.I.A. libraries, but the interest in books was probably minor at the start. The expedition had been set up only a few days in advance, and the purpose of it was so obscure that everywhere the travelers touched down they gave a different account of why they were traveling. In Paris, they said they were looking for inefficiency in government offices overseas. In Bonn, they said they were looking for subversives. Asked in Munich which it was, Cohn explained that it was both. "Efficiency," he said, "includes complete political reliability. If anyone is interested in the Communists, then he cannot be efficient." Back home, on "Meet the Press," he said he didn't consider himself competent to judge performances abroad and had gone only to look into "certain things."
Richard Rovere was there after the Cohn-Schine tornado had done its damage. Here is his description of what he found afterward:
I was working in Europe a few months after Cohn and Schine left, covering much the same territory they had covered, and I had a chance to see what they had wrought. Actually, not many people had been fired as a result of their trip. The most notable victim, probably, was Theodore Kaghan, who had been a Public Affairs Officer in the United States High Commission for Germany. A witness at the Voice of America hearings had called him a "pseudo-American," and it had come out that in the thirties he had shared an apartment in New York with a Communist. He might have survived these scandals if he had not described Cohn and Schine as "junketeering gumshoes" to a newspaperman during the tour, and he might have survived even this if the State Department had not been in such a panic to get rid of him. He was eased out speedily, and so were a few others, but what really damaged the whole American complex in Europe was the shame and anger of the government servants who had witnessed the whole affair. I must have talked with a hundred people in Bonn, Paris, Rome, and London who told me their resignations were written, signed, stamped, and ready for mailing or delivery. Some did not really want to resign; others planned to, and were simply waiting until they could find other jobs or make the necessary arrangements for getting their families out. No one, probably, could estimate the number of people whose departure could be traced to this affair, and surely no one could estimate its effect on morale. Morale sank very low so low, indeed, that I was surprised to note, among government people in Europe, a willingness to denounce McCarthy in extravagant language and to ridicule Cohn and Schine. This was most unlike Washington at the time, and the explanation I was given was that very few people cared any longer whether they held their jobs or not.