Assembly of Captive European Nations (ACEN) records
Records (1954- ) of the ACEN include internal organization materials of delegations to various nations; information on the General Committee and its members; information on working committees; records of the Plenary assemblies; minutes; lists of national and international member organizations, consultative organizations, and associate-member organizations; an explanation of the archives organizational historical data; the United Nations and Council of Europe; relations and correspondence to various governments and United States officials; international conferences; relations with other international, national, and religious organizatons; universities, libraries and research institutes; press and broadcasting releases; special projects; publications; correspondence with individuals and corporations; and miscellany.
- Creation: 1954-1989
- ACEN (Organization) (Organization)
Language of Materials
Multiple European languages
Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.
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This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.
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Origins and Purpose
The Assembly of Captive European Nations was a coalition of representatives from nine nations who found themselves under the yoke of Soviet domination after World War II. Membership in the organization consisted of former government and cultural leaders from Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. Founded on September 20, 1954, the ACEN was established to "symbolize in one name both the plight and the aims of the Central and Eastern European nations," which were either unrepresented or misrepresented in the United Nations. Its founding came on the heels of a number of human rights declarations signed as a result of World War II.(1) Working together to give power to their individual voices, representatives of these nine captive nations aspired to become the authorized source of information about conditions behind the Iron Curtain and become the forum through which views and actions could be put forth and discussed. In their own words, the goals of the ACEN were as follows: to provide liberation from communist dictatorship by peaceful means, to educate public opinion on the actual situation behind the Iron Curtain, and to enlist the cooperation and assistance of governmental and non-governmental institutions.
The ACEN undertook a number of activities to accomplish its goals. With funding from the Free Europe Committee, the organization was able to establish a main office in New York, as well as offices in Paris, Bonn, and London and delegations throughout the world.(2) The generous funding allowed the ACEN to sponsor symposia and exhibitions in addition to mailing thousands of letters and reports to government officials. ACEN-published materials were distributed throughout the United States and abroad, provided free of charge to libraries, schools, and institutions.
Membership and Structure
Membership in the ACEN was confined to national committees and councils, the political purpose, character, structure, and bylaws of which were consistent with those of the ACEN. Member organizations were classified at three levels: national, associative, and consultative. National member organizations were existing national committees or councils representing the interests of each captive nation. The nine organizations selected sixteen delegates each to participate in the executive functioning of the ACEN. The members included the National Committee for a Free Albania, Bulgarian National Committee, Council of Free Czechoslovakia, Committee for a Free Estonia, Hungarian National Council, Committee for a Free Latvia, Committee for a Free Lithuania, Romanian National Committee and, adding eight delegates each, the Polish Democratic Committee and the Polish Council of National Unity. Associative level members were international organizations based on major political parties, such as the International Peasants Union and the Christian Democratic Union of Central Europe. Four delegates from each group participated in the assembly, but did not possess voting privileges. Consultative member associations were international organizations formed by exiles for the purpose of defending the rights or voicing grievances of special sections or groups. Their contribution to the ACEN was in providing alternative viewpoints on issues raised in the assembly.
Using the United Nations as their structural model, the principal organs of the ACEN were the Plenary Assembly, General Committee, working committees, and Secretariat. The Plenary Assembly convened every September in New York and functioned as the supreme consultative and statutory body of the ACEN, laying down general policy through series of resolutions and selecting the General Committee. The Plenary Assembly met once a year, usually on the same date as the United Nations, and was attended by delegations appointed by members and associate members. Special sessions were held outside of the regular meetings to address specific issues; beginning in 1956, annual special sessions began in Strasbourg, France.
The General Committee acted in the name of the ACEN between plenary assemblies, scheduling press conferences, drafting protests, visiting heads of governments, and generally working to keep open lines of communication with government officials. General Committee representatives were elected to one year positions and counted among their responsibilities proposing dates for assembly meetings, electing officers for the organization, supervising the work of the Secretariat, directing and executing the budget, coordinating work of the working committees, and making decisions regarding membership issues.
Working committees were established to divide up the chore of compiling the information required to back up the arguments of the ACEN. The reports, statistics, and surveys produced by the working committees in turn became the appeals, declarations, and resolutions of the ACEN. Often, drafts of the official proclamations were produced within the committees and presented to the General Assembly for approval.
Of the original six committees, only four were active by the late 1960s due to the merging of interests and information. The Political Committee produced documents and reports on issues such as the extent of Soviet aggression and the ACEN's ongoing request to include the captive nations in the United Nations. The Political Committee eventually merged with the Legal Committee, which reported on Soviet violations of international human rights laws and the illegal incorporation of the nations into the Soviet Union. The Social Committee tackled such issues as the treatment of women, religious persecution, and genocide, later merging with the Economic Committee, which focused its efforts on drafting resolutions and reports on issues including East-West trade and various economic injustices. The Information Committee dealt with issues pertaining to the freedom of information (or lack thereof) and later combined efforts with the Cultural Committee, responsible for monitoring the cultural aspects of Soviet colonialism.
The ACEN Secretariat was responsible for carrying out decisions made by other organs of the ACEN, subject to the instructions of the General Committee. The Secretariat was comprised Of the Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, and various staff and personnel required to fulfill duties, such as running Plenary and General Committee meetings and compiling annual reports on ACEN activity to the Plenary Assembly.
Activities and Publicity
Following the initial establishment of the organization, efforts turned to publicizing its aims. Members serving in every branch of the ACEN managed to produce a copious amount of written material having to do with the state of the captive nations-reports, resolutions, informational pamphlets, books, and an endless stream of correspondence. ACEN members traveled and met with international heads of state. Their representatives participated in symposia and conferences, offered their services through a comprehensive speakers' bureau, and generally involved themselves to varying extents in a myriad of issues concerning communism and human rights. The information generated by the working committees was used in newspaper articles and television and radio broadcasts. Published literature in many languages was made readily available to all who asked, and the ACEN replied to every letter received.
Beginning in 1959, the ACEN promoted the annual commemoration of Captive Nations Week, an event that spurred a torrent of correspondence to government officials throughout the United States to ensure that the captive nations were not forgotten.(3) The ACEN sponsored an anti-communist photo and essay display called the "Soviet Empire Exhibit," graphically depicting scenes of Soviet persecution along with facts about existing standards of living. The exhibit opened in New York in 1958 and subsequently in cities around the world.
The Demise and Legacy of the ACEN
The late 1960s saw a decrease in ACEN activity, with a number of foreign delegations closing their doors. As the Cold War entered a period where open antagonism gave way to policies of detente, support of organizations such as the ACEN gradually fell away. In 1971, Free Europe, Inc., was ordered to suspend all financial assistance to ACEN activities as of January 1972 in the name of economizing and "budget-trimming." The remaining international offices were closed on short notice and all publication activity came to a halt. With the support of individual sponsors, a skeleton crew endeavored to keep the ACEN going, but within a couple of years, even this effort stopped.
The ACEN provided a valuable service to its governmental and private anti-communist supporters: by keeping abreast of communist persecution and publicizing this knowledge in the strongest of terms, organizations such as the ACEN could say aloud what government officials could only think. In vehement declarations, the ACEN condemned the Soviet Union and garnered the support of public and private citizens for its cause. When the United States government deemed activities in this vein no longer useful in the climate of a changing political agenda, they withdrew support.
The ACEN reached beyond the scope of its member nations to grasp an understanding of how communism affected the world, hoping this would compel the world to take a second look at the plight of the captive nations and begin the process of restoring their freedom. The question of the ACEN's effectiveness in its war against communism is one that remains to be answered. For the many thousands of letters sent and contacts made, the ACEN receives no mention in history books. The lasting significance of the Assembly of Captive European Nations has yet to be determined.
(1) Among the many declarations signed, perhaps the most influential in the founding of the ACEN was the "Declaration of Aims and Principles of Liberation of the Central and Eastern European Peoples," signed on 11 February, 1951, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia.
(2) Free Europe Committee was covertly funded by the CIA in order to further the U.S. government's Cold War attempts to fight communism through the use of exiled nationals. Among its other projects, FEC also funded Radio Free Europe.
(3) Captive Nations Week was set in motion by the National Captive Nations Committee, an official organ of the U.S. Government.
77 Linear Feet
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated by Feliks Gadomski, Secretary General of the Assembly of Captive European Nations, New York, between 1973 and 1975. The inventory was compiled by Astra Apsitis of the IHRC, and its publication in 1994 was made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access. This inventory was reformatted and encoded by Paul Bowman, Josh Olson and Anna Peter, IHRC Archives Student Assistants, and Daniel Necas, Assistant Curator, in 2003 and 2017.
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