Communism expert and Cold War historian Herb Romerstein died this week after a long illness. Paul Kengor remembers:
Herb knew the Cold War and communist movement unlike anyone. He understood it because he lived it and breathed it. Born in Brooklyn in 1931, he himself had been a communist, having joined the Communist Youth League before becoming a card-carrying member of Communist Party USA (CPUSA). He broke ranks over 60 years ago, the final straw being the Korean War, which made clear to him that he was dealing with inveterate liars, whether in Korea, Moscow, or among communists on the home-front. He went on to become one of America’s best anti-communists and most respected authorities, regularly testifying before Congress. He became a chief investigator for the House Committee on Internal Security. In the 1980s, he joined the Reagan administration, where his full-time job at the U.S. Information Agency was to counter Soviet disinformation, a duty for which few were so well-equipped or enthusiastic. He relished the role of taking on professional Soviet propagandists such as Georgi Arbatov and Valentin Falin. Later, he did the highly touted analysis of the Venona transcripts, which he published as The Venona Secrets.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I cannot do justice to how this translated into action. I never tire of listening to stories from Herb’s longtime friend Charlie Wiley on how they penetrated the communist-run World Youth Festivals in the 1950s, or challenged a Soviet official successfully spooning the Party line to open-mouthed progressives at the All Souls Church in New York, or tossed a wrench into this or that meeting of communist youth leaders. Guys like this were one of a kind who lived life to its fullest. They were warriors — unafraid, cheerful, colorful Cold Warriors. [American Spectator, May 10]