|Picture from Ken Cuthbertson. 1992.|
Inside: The Biography of John Gunther
Then I stumbled on an essay about Fulbright and Vienna by Walter Grünzweig, University of Dortmund, in a publication Fulbright at Fifty: Austrian-American Education Exchange, 1950-2000. In it, he recounts Fulbright visit to Vienna and his relationship with Fodor. He argues "the Vienna experience was formative for the later foreign policy specialist and the creator of the most important venue of international exchange the world has known." His arguments for this assertion can be found on pages 4 to 13 in this document:
Finding Out More AboutFodor's Years in Vienna
One of the first things I learned about Fodor is that he kept very interesting company and had some famous friends. Two of them were particularly important in the first half of his life: Dorothy Thompson and John Gunther. Fodor was a mentor to both Thompson, a journalistic dynamo, and Gunther, an exuberant, ambitious man, who clearly greatly admired Fodor. Both Thompson and Gunther were immensely successful journalists, and Fodor shows up prominently in their biographies. Also, Fodor and his wife are sympathetic characters in Gunther's roman à clef (about British and American reporters in Vienna in the first part of the 1930s). In the novel, Fodor is a journalist named "Sandor."
Another of Fodor's friends was William Shirer, who seems in his many books to be a self-absorbed man. Of course Shirer's fame came primarily from two books: Berlin Diary, mostly about his reporting from Berlin in the '30s and the massive Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. From his many autobiographical books, it is clear that he considered Fodor to be a friend, and he gives the best account of what was happening to Fodor and his family in Vienna in March 1938 just before the arrival of German troops in Vienna. However, Shirer was confusing when giving some details about Fodor. He wrote the Fodor was Jewish, but from all other accounts he was a practicing Quaker when in Vienna. Also, he refers to Fodor's wife as "the beautiful Slovak," but better sources say she was from Hungary.
|This picture was on the back dust jacket of Fodor's book, |
Plot and Counter-Plot in Central Europe
In their books, these journalists provided more information about Fodor and his work and life in Vienna. In addition to them, Fodor appears briefly in the memoirs of at least a dozen other journalists or political figures who were in Vienna in the 1930s. Without exception, Fodor is presented as the man who knows the most about what is going on in Central Europe and the Balkans and is willing to share his information.
The Later Fodor Years: The Fulbright Connection
While it is possible to get a good sense of Fodor and his life from about 1920 to 1940, information on the later years is sparser. We know from the Thompson and Gunther biographies about what happened soon after his arrival in the United States and how he made a living while here. Also, we can find newspaper articles about him speaking in different cities throughout the country. But, details are missing. For example, Fodor's entry in the Hungarians in America, 1963, says that he studied at Olivet College in Michigan in 1942 and that he received an "Hon. LL.B Sheffield, England." However, I found nothing that corroborates this information or provides details. The University of Sheffield law school, which I contacted, says it have no record of awarding such a degree to Fodor, so it may be from another college in the area.
Part of the problem is that Fodor's books and articles have very little autobiographical information, and little that he wrote after 1947 is easily obtained. After becoming editor of the Berlin edition of Die Neue Zeitung, he wrote -- I am sure -- editorials and other materials for the paper, but copies of the newspaper are in just a few archives in the U.S. and Germany.
Fortunately, some biographical material is available through his private correspondence with J. William Fulbright. Sen. Fulbright was among the famous people Fodor knew, the two reconnected in 1940 when Fodor came to the University of Arkansas to give a public lecture. Fulbright was then president of the UA and introduced Fodor to the assembly.
Reading Fodor's memo and letters showed the vast extent and reach of his knowledge of world events, and the people making them. Also it showed that by 1948, Fodor had become a staunch anti-communist crusader, something not wholly compatible with his liberal views and outlook in Vienna. The war and its aftermath changed people; for example, compare Shirer's Berlin Diary, written before the war, with his book, End of a Berlin Diary, published in 1947, which has a nasty, revenge-laden tone. Clearly, the war and its aftermath had affected Shirer, and it affected Fodor.
In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Edward R. Murrow, the famous journalist, to head the USIA. In Fall, 1953, Murrow had filmed a "See It Now" program in Berlin; during it, he interviewed Fodor, calling him "one of the greatest reporters I have ever known."
You can see Murrow's interview of Fodor, beginning at minute 29:40 of this 58 minute program, at this link:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4041790n (This is a fascinating video of Murrow's news program, with the great journalists of the early 1950s, such as Howard K. Smith, reporting from this besieged city.)
I read somewhere that Murrow appointed Fodor to an important USIA post, but have found no confirmation of that. Fodor retired in 1964, and lived until 1977.
Finding A Part of Fodor
I do not claim to have gained great insight into M.W. Fodor, but have formed some impressions about him. For example, I think that although Fodor lacked the flamboyance of Thompson, the ego of Shirer, the grand vision of Gunther, and the powerful prose of Sheean and Gedyes, he had one gift that made him their equal: an amazing memory that helped him accumulate knowledge about his subjects that far surpassed the knowledge that others had.
Also,while some of his famous journalist friends wrote from the heart, some to make money, and others because they were born reporters who had to tell their stories, it seems to me that Fodor wrote because he found out things, and made connections between them, and wanted people to know about them.