Andrew Nagorski

Stories by Andrew Nagorski

  • The Jewish Priest

    It was 1943, in German-occupied Swieciany, a town that belonged to Poland before World War II and is part of Lithuania today. A Jewish mother frantically asked an illiterate Polish Catholic woman to take her newborn baby. Discovery, the Catholic woman knew, would mean execution. But she was childless, and swayed by the mother's desperate logic. "Save this Jewish baby in the name of the Jew you believe in," she said. "When the child grows up, he'll become a priest." True to that prophecy, Romuald Waszkinel became a priest in 1966. For the last 28 years, he has taught philosophy at the Catholic University in the eastern Polish city of Lublin.Last week Polish and German leaders commemorated the 60th anniversary of Germany's invasion of Poland that started World War II, but the war keeps springing new surprises on the survivors. Waszkinel is one of many hidden children in Poland who have learned their true identities only as adults. Waszkinel began pressing his mother about his...
  • Berlin's Fresh Faces

    At 33, Hans Martin Bury represents a new breed of Germans. Instead of a hike in the Black Forest, his idea of a good time is scuba diving in Mauritius or Costa Rica. Unlike the older generation of politicians who steadily expanded the welfare state, he's convinced the state has to do less and small entrepreneurs need more leeway to do more--even if that means less security. "The first goal of the young isn't to go into the public sector or to join a big company," he says. "They understand that the flip side of risk is opportunity." But Bury, who was first elected to the Bundestag as a Social Democrat when he was only 24, hasn't had time to go scuba diving this summer. Last month Chancellor Gerhard Schroder appointed Bury a minister on his staff. Bury's job: pushing through a highly unpopular austerity program aimed at stimulating economic growth. The program aims to reduce the national budget by $16 billion a year, cut taxes and downsize the welfare state. "If we stick to this...
  • Remembering The Wire Cutters

    Quick, rerun the images of Central Europe in 1989 in your mind and what do you see? Certainly the charismatic shipyard electrician Lech Walesa, the workers' hero who exploded the myth of the workers' state, leading the Solidarity delegation to the round-table negotiations with the embattled Polish communist leadership and then to a stunning victory at the polls. Or perhaps the joyous crowds on Prague's Wenceslas Square greeting Alexander Dubcek, back from his long political exile, and dissident playwright Vaclav Havel, soon to become Czechoslovakia's philosopher king. And, of course--from those pictures seared in everyone's memory--Germans celebrating atop the Berlin wall on the night of Nov. 9, when this ultimate symbol of a divided continent broke wide open.But there's usually a glaring omission: Hungary's dismantling of the barbed-wire fences on its border with Austria that year. On June 27, Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn and his Austrian counterpart Alois Mock took up...
  • Reopening Old Wounds

    The accusations, filed in a New York City court in June, couldn't have been blunter. Lawyers representing 11 American and British Jews seeking the return of family property in Poland claimed the Holocaust took place in Poland because of the Poles. "Germany took advantage of the anti-Semitic climate in Poland by locating the notorious death camps there," the class-action suit maintained. After the end of the war, Poland pursued "ethnic and racial cleansing" to seize and profit from Jewish property. Violence against Jews was "part of a systematic scheme to wipe out all traces of the Jewish race," the lawyers concluded.The Jewish experience in Poland has long been a sensitive topic. And since the country's largest daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, published the full text of the lawsuit earlier this month, the debate has sparked again. This time, though, many Polish and foreign Jews have rallied to Poland's defense. Not that they deny the case for Polish Jews and Catholics who had their property...
  • The Freedom To Shop

    As she strolls through Berlin's vast Kaufhof department store, browsing down the aisles of women's hosiery, Sabine Konig radiates an aura of adventure. The 35-year-old office worker doesn't really need new stockings. She's here in the name of freedom--and to do something that been forbidden here all her life: go shopping on Sunday. "This is terrific," she declares. "I don't have any special purchases in mind. I just wanted to show up to support this." Customers throughout the store share Konig's sense of liberation. Peter Hermann is examining a display of luggage on sale. "The politicians and the unions are against this," the high-school teacher says of the store's decision to defy the national law against operating on Sunday. "But the people are for it." A decade after the Berlin wall's collapse, a grass-roots revolt is once again sweeping the city. Before it's done, the whole country may be changed forever.Until recently, law-abiding Germans didn't shop on Sunday--even in...
  • The Improbable Dream

    On a visit to Slovenia last week, Bill Clinton told a cheering rain-soaked crowd that the tiny ex-Yugoslav republic should serve as a role model for Serbia. But if they loved the praise, most in the audience doubted that Serbia would follow the Slovene path. "I don't think it's possible," said financial analyst Andrea Peterca. "Slovenia is too different from Serbia."She's got a point. Tucked in the northern corner of the former Yugoslavia between the Alps and the Adriatic, this nation of 2 million inhabitants has more in common with its Austrian and Italian neighbors than with the chaotic region to its south. "We never felt ourselves to be part of the Balkans," says Silvester Pilsak, a Web designer who braved the rain to see Clinton. With a per capita income of about $11,000, Slovenia can already claim relative affluence and a solid democratic system. It's also largely ethnically homogeneous and lives in peace with everyone. The contrasts with Serbia couldn't be greater. And yet...
  • A New Job For Solana

    Nato secretary-general Javier Solana likes to joke that he keeps Nordic hours in the morning and Spanish hours in the evening. In other words, the 56-year-old Spaniard is a workaholic, and never more so than during the war over Kosovo. At 3 a.m. recently, a member of the U.S. delegation to NATO was startled to receive a call from a Solana aide. Solana had asked the aide to find out how Washington was reacting to the day's events--and report back immediately. "He's got one of the toughest jobs in the world right now," says one NATO diplomat. ...
  • 'Hitler's Offspring'

    Frederick Kempe opens his book "Father/Land: A Personal Search for the New Germany" with the lies he once spread about his father. Kempe told boyhood buddies in Utah that his dad grew up in Germany but came to America and fought for Uncle Sam against the Nazis. Why, Dad was even decorated as an American war hero for injuries suffered at the Battle of the Bulge! The truth was that Kempe's father had served as an Army cook in Virginia, but the real story "wasn't dramatic enough to separate me sufficiently from my German roots," writes Kempe in "Father/Land" (G.P. Putnam's Sons). ...
  • The Paint Attack

    Joschka Fischer had not started his speech before a bag of red paint burst against his ear. As the German foreign minister flinched and security guards wrestled his attacker to the ground, someone in the crowd shouted: "In Yugoslavia it's blood that is flowing, not ketchup!" The outburst began a day of confrontations at a special party congress of the Greens last week in the industrial town of Bielefeld. One protester interrupted the meeting by prancing naked in front of the podium. Others set off stink bombs and chanted "Warmonger!" Marchers outside carried posters depicting Fischer with a Hitler mustache.At the end of the day, however, the foreign minister and other moderate Greens prevailed. They had blocked a resolution demanding an unconditional halt to NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia--a move that might have toppled the center-left coalition of Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and seriously challenged the alliance's unity.The escape was a near thing. The party, formed some 20...
  • Fathers With Sons

    When Jarmila married Jiri Florian in the Czech city of Brno in January of 1969, she said "I do" to a TV technician. Two months later, her husband was also a Catholic priest. He'd been ordained in a secret ceremony shortly after their wedding. That was practically the only way Catholics in Czechoslovakia who opposed the communist regime could be ordained back then. Jarmila took it all in stride. "I was 18, and I saw it as a romantic adventure." She even helped her husband organize secret masses. They didn't tell their three daughters about their father's double life until the regime ended in 1989. But the girls weren't surprised. "Our oldest daughter told us she'd suspected for a long time," says Jarmila.Fortunately, the local communist authorities didn't. And that was the whole point. During the dark days of the cold war, the former Czechoslovakia's communist regime relentlessly persecuted Catholics, carefully vetting who could be ordained and jailing anyone who spoke out against...
  • Spoiling For A Fight

    Michael Steiner, a veteran diplomat, was skeptical when Germany's newly elected Chancellor Gerhard Schroder tapped him for the job of national-security adviser last fall. Schroder had toppled Helmut Kohl by waging a campaign focused almost entirely on domestic issues, vowing to reinvigorate the economy and bring down the unemployment rate. And in the early days, Steiner found it difficult to get his new boss to focus on foreign policy. "Oh, these diplomats," the chancellor would tease him, trying to get back to his domestic agenda as soon as possible. Not anymore--not in the midst of the first war in which Germany has participated since World War II. "Now, he realizes foreign policy is important," says Steiner with evident satisfaction.Kosovo has changed everything. Germany is suddenly front and center both in the fighting and diplomacy. While German Tornado jet fighters continued to play their part in the air war, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer launched a new peace proposal last...
  • City On The Edge

    I'm the happiest man on earth," proclaims Mathias Dopfner, 36, editor of Die Welt, the only national German daily to have moved its headquarters to Berlin. "For the moment, this is the place to be. It's nearly 4 million people. It's where East and West meet. It's a divided city that's coming together again." Dopfner talks eagerly about the way he has revived the almost-moribund conservative newspaper since he took over the top job last July, and his pride in its expanded coverage of Berlin. He steps to the window of his 16th-floor office in the Axel Springer building, a window that once overlooked Checkpoint Charlie, the wall and a barren no man's land. All of them have now virtually disappeared. "It isn't beautiful," he says, pointing to the forest of cranes and jumbled construction down below. "But it's fascinating."And historic. Eight years after the German Parliament narrowly voted to relocate the capital, it will hold its first session next week in the rebuilt Reichstag. That's...
  • Dropping The Pilot

    A British tabloid crowned him "the most dangerous man in Europe." Other critics called him "Oskar the Red." An unabashedly leftwing Finance minister in a new German government that was trying, without much success, to establish its pro-business credentials, Oskar Lafontaine often seemed to overpower his boss, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. So there was rejoicing in boardrooms and stock exchanges across Europe last week when Lafontaine suddenly quit.He did a thorough job of it. In three terse letters, Lafontaine, 55, gave up his cabinet post, his leadership of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) and his seat in Parliament. The day before Lafontaine's resignation, Schroder reportedly complained at a cabinet meeting that "anti-business" policies were being foisted on him by his team and hinted that he might resign himself. When Lafontaine quit instead, Schroder denied that he had forced him out; Lafontaine refused to say anything at all; Schroder also denied that he planned to make...
  • Fresh Start

    The script was quite specific--and, if you were a businessman, more than a little alarming. After leading their Social Democratic Party to victory in national elections last September, Gerhard Schroder and Oskar Lafontaine would be virtual co-chancellors. Lafontaine, a good old-fashioned, bank-bashing, tax-and-spend leftist, would retain his position as party boss and also serve as Finance minister--a combination that raised questions as to which man would really be in charge. If Lafontaine became greedy, his foes warned, he might even dispense with the pretense and shove the more moderate, less determined Schroder out of the picture altogether. But somewhere along the line, the script got a major rewrite. Last week it was the fiery Lafontaine who abruptly resigned from the Finance Ministry, from his party job--and even from Parliament. And the man who was left standing, with the enhanced powers of party boss as well as chancellor, was none other than the putative lightweight,...
  • Bad Company

    WACLAW KOLODZIEJEK stands up, the smile frozen on his face, and pulls open his golf shirt. There on his chest, tattooed in bluish purple, are the numbers: 2254. They are slightly askew and off-center, just right of the sternum, as if the German who injected them was in a big hurry. And in August 1940, when Kolodziejek arrived at Auschwitz, the Nazis were. They had yanked him and thousands of other Poles off the streets of Warsaw to quickly turn the dusty little town into an extermination factory. His tattoo numbers prove that Waclaw--a blond, 17-year-old Catholic with movie-star looks--was among the first transported to Auschwitz. He helped build the place. For three years he was beaten and terrorized to the point where, today, when he walks the streets in the New York City borough of Queens, he keeps his back straight and looks ahead, as if in response to a ghostly command from the SS. In 1942, Kolodziejek says, Josef Mengele experimented on him. And later he nearly starved. He...
  • A Stumbling Start

    THE GERMAN MEDIA HAVE BEEN POUNDING CHANCELLOR GERHARD SCHRODER ever since he took office in late October. But it was the people of the state of Hesse who last week made it official: SchrOder and his ""Red-Green'' coalition government are off to a bad start. Ignoring polls that predicted re-election for Schroder's team in the first state contest since he became Germany's leader, Hesse's voters signaled their resentment of a planned liberalization of citizenship laws and awarded the opposition Christian Democrats a surprise victory. Schroder promptly backpedaled on the issue, as the Red-Green tensions that have confounded him from the start grew even worse. ...
  • Love Among The Nazis

    THE PLOT STRAINS CREDULITY. A young Jewish lesbian, living under a false identity in wartime Berlin, develops a crush on a German mother of four whose Nazi-loyalist husband is serving on the Eastern front. The Jewish woman seduces the German, who discovers true love for the first time. As the Gestapo hunts down the city's remaining Jews, the couple conducts a desperate affair for nearly two years. But ""Aimee and Jaguar,'' which will kick off the Berlin Film Festival this week, isn't the product of a screenwriter's overwrought imagination--it's history. ""A story like this has certain magic because it really happened,'' says Max Faberbock, the film's director. ...
  • All Is Forgiven, Or Is It?

    HE HAS NEVER READ A SPY novel. But from 1972 to 1981, Polish Col. Ryszard Kuklinski lived a double life that could have been concocted by John le Carre. While serving as a military planner and aide to Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the last communist strongman, he delivered more than 35,000 top-secret Warsaw Pact documents to the CIA. Kuklinski always knew the price he might pay for his actions. ""There were many moments when I felt the execution squad right behind me,'' he told NEWSWEEK in a rare face-to-face interview in suburban Virginia last week. ""I thought about the possibility of torture every day.''Since narrowly eluding capture in Warsaw 16 years ago, Kuklinski, now 67, has lived under a false identity at secret locations in the United States. Poland sentenced him to death in absentia in 1984; five years later, when the communist regime crumbled and Solidarity took over, the sentence was commuted to life in prison. Last month prosecutors dropped all charges on the ground that...
  • Eastward Expansion

    MADELEINE ALBRIGHT'S RUSSIAN nickname is "Iron Lady." The U.S. secretary of state acted the part this month in Moscow. Negotiators from both sides were haggling over the shape of NATO-Russia relations after the alliance invites several former Warsaw Pact members to join. At first Moscow's Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov pressed for a "cap" on NATO troop numbers. Albright said no, then observed that her plane was on the tarmac, engines running, and time was short. Primakov abandoned his demand, but griped that Russians are terribly jittery about NATO enlargement. "I've heard your concerns," Albright said, smiling sweetly at the former spymaster. "As President Clinton likes to say, I feel your pain." ...
  • A Stirring In The Streets

    ISOLATED AND CONSUMED WITH THE Balkan war, Serbia has long seemed stubbornly immune to the democratic forces that freed Eastern Europe as the Soviet Union collapsed. President Slobodan Milosevic beat back his first big street protests in 1991; nearly a decade after the Soviet empire began to teeter, he still rules absolutely. But now nearly two months of daily demonstrations against the regime are steadily increasing the pressure on him to bow to democracy. Last week the anti-Milosevic movement buried its first martyr, a man apparently trampled by supporters of the government. On New Year's Eve, 250,000 people rallied in central Belgrade. Worst of all for Milosevic, the Serbian Orthodox Church broke a pattern of subservience to the government, demanding that Milosevic accept the results of local elections won by opposition candidates last Nov. 17, which the strongman had refused to do. The clerics also accused Milosevic of wrecking the Serbian economy--and turning the country into...
  • A Loose Cannon

    As Boris Yeltsin signed the decree that fired him, the trappings of power began to slip away from Aleksandr Lebed. His Kremlin phones went dead. His official bodyguards disappeared. Security agents carted away the files he left behind in his office. Conducting the dismissal on television, Yeltsin complained that Lebed had never been a team player. "I cannot tolerate this situation any longer," said the wan-looking Russian president. Lebed showed no sign of surprise or remorse. "I am no good as a bureaucrat," he said defiantly at a news conference. "I do not know how to bow. I do not know how to be servile." He barely disguised his belief that Yeltsin would not last long. Calling the president "an old sick man," Lebed said he would start campaigning to succeed him at the next election. Later he went to the theater to see a performance of "Ivan the Terrible," remarking with typical black humor: "I want to learn how to rule the state." ...
  • Heard On The Street: This Russia Is New

    MY FIRST TOUR AS Moscow bureau chief was cut short: in August 1982 I was expelled for ""impermissible journalistic activities.'' That broad term apparently covered a variety of offenses -- investigating food shortages in the provinces; writing about Leonid Brezhnev's physical decline and the ensuing Kremlin power struggle. Now in July 1996, I am winding up a second tour in Russia, still reporting on a Kremlin leader's health and its impact on future power struggles. Does it sound like I'm stuck in instant replay?I'm not. This really is a new Russia. I'm not talking only about the big changes: the collapse of communism and the development of democracy, however flawed and fragile. Those changes are now taken for granted, perhaps too much so. What has intrigued me just as much are the changes in individual behavior, Russia's street-level transformation.I mean that quite literally. When I came back to Moscow in late 1994 I had forgotten the how-to's of Russian traffic etiquette. I would...
  • Yeltsin, Act Ii

    BORIS YELTSIN KNOWS his own strengths and weaknesses. ""In emergency situations, I'm strong,'' he wrote in ""The Struggle for Russia,'' his volume of memoirs. ""In ordinary situations, I'm sometimes too passive.'' He's right. During his first term as president, Yeltsin powered his way through several emergencies: he faced down a coup by communist hard-liners, and ordered an army assault on rebellious parliamentary opponents. This year he's staged an extraordinary physical and political comeback. Unless the polls are wrong, he will beat Communist Party challenger Gennady Zyu- ganov in this week's runoff election. But in between adrena- line rushes, Yeltsin tends to fall into a funk. His chronically weak heart acts up. Or he hits the bottle. Or he just gets bored with the details of governing. And the country drifts along until the next crisis. Is that what the next four years will be like?Still focused on the campaign, Yeltsin strategists have done little thinking about a second term...
  • The Essential Zyuganov

    GENNADY ZYUGANOV occasionally relieves the deadly monotone of his campaign oratory with a flash of humor. In one of his favorite wisecracks, he compares himself to Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev. ""I myself drink a lot less than Boris Nikolayevich,'' the line goes, ""and a bit more than Mikhail Sergeyevich.'' Thus he neatly positions himself between Yeltsin's weakness for booze and Gorbachev's unpopular attempt to break the country of its drinking problem. In his unbuttoned mode, Zyuganov can be quite disarming. When I first met him, at Yekaterinburg in the Urals three years ago, I introduced myself as ""Andrew Nagorski -- NEWSWEEK.'' With an impish grin spreading across his beefy face, he replied: ""Gennady Zyuganov -- the Soviet Union.'' ...
  • Kissing Up To The Past

    STAND AT THE EDGE OF A RALLY for Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov in an av- erage town like Klintsy in western Russia, and listen to his supporters: ...
  • Two Men Scheming For The Presidency

    It took the Communists five years to come back from the political dead. But in a stunning victory last month they won control of more than one third of the seats in the lower house of Russia's Parliament; ultranationalists came in second. President Boris Yeltsin, who appeared in public last week for the first time since his October heart attack, played down the results. But the vote stood as an important primary for the presidential race coming up in June. The outcome of the December vote has turned Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader, into a contender for Russia's top job-and may prompt the ailing and unpopular Yeltsin to seek reelection. Neither has yet declared himseft a candidate. Still, it's possible to imagine what these two front runners might be thinking as they plot their paths to power. One' correspondent's conjuring: ...
  • The Red Renaissance

    The symbols of Russian communism haven't changed much. When party leader Gennady Zyuganov addressed 2,000 enthusiastic supporters recently, a bust of Lenin looked down on the crowd. A big red banner hung behind the stage, with a hammer and sickle and the words WORK -- POWER TO THE PEOPLE -- SOCIALISM. Nor was Zyuganov's rhetoric a big surprise: Russia has fallen victim to the West's quest for global domination, he said; the reformers have looted the nation's vast wealth under cover of "privatization." But this wasn't just another rally in the run-up to Sunday's parliamentary elections. This was in Nizhny Novgorod, the Volga city widely hailed in Moscow and the West as the pacesetter of Russian economic reform -- the city one would expect to find most hostile to the communists' message. Yet Grigory Yavlinsky, one of the chief architects of Nizhny Novgorod's early reforms, attracted about 800 lukewarm supporters at his rally in the city two days later. ...
  • The Return Of The Reds

    The communists of the old Soviet bloc were always scared of their own people. Nothing frightened them more than a genuine mass movement--it showed how phony their own party-inspired "mass movements" really were. And no single person frightened them more than Lech Walesa, Nobel Prize winner and leader of the Solidarity trade union in Poland in the 1980s. Their fears were well founded, of course. As soon as glasnost in the Soviet Union offered a sliver of an opening, Wale-sa led Solidarity to power in the Polish Parliament in 1989, and communism quickly crashed across Eastern Europe. Walesa became president of Poland in 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed the next year, and there could no longer be any question about what The People wanted. ...
  • Boris In Autumn

    BORIS YELTSIN CALLED IT "THE best meeting, the friendliest meeting, the most understandable meeting" he had ever had with Bill Clinton. But history may judge last week's summit in Hyde Park, N.Y., differently. After Yeltsin collapsed in the Kremlin Thursday morning and had to be ehoppered to the hospital with an acute heart condition, it seemed possible that the two presidents' meeting on Franklin Roosevelt's old estate may have been their last. Aides hastened to describe Yeltsin's condition as "less serious" than the heart attack last summer that kept the Russian president holed up in a sanitarium for a month. But they say it will be the end of November before Yeltsin picks up a normal work schedule. Even his saturnine aide Viktor Ilyushin, in the long tradition of Kremlin trusties who hate to reveal anything about their bosses, admitted that "the president's condition does not inspire great optimism." ...