Melvin J. Lasky, an American writer and editor who shaped opinions against communism in Cold War Europe, has died at his home in Berlin. He was 84.
Lasky, who died of a heart ailment May 19, was a native New Yorker who was the editor of two influential European magazines. His London-based magazine Encounter, which he edited from 1953 to 1991, was one of Europe’s leading intellectual journals, and in his 15 years at Der Monat (The Month), he helped chronicle the aftermath of World War II.
Lasky served as a combat historian during the war and was among the first group of Americans into Berlin, entering with Gen. Lucius D. Clay’s military government contingent after the Nazi capital was taken by the Red Army.
Lasky stayed on as a freelance journalist, and in the fragile postwar years he raised Clay’s ire for criticizing the Soviet Union. The general was close to expelling him in 1948 when Moscow imposed the Berlin Blockade; Clay reversed course and hired Lasky as an adviser, according to Lasky’s Web site.
That same year, Lasky co-founded Der Monat, in which he reported on the East German uprising in 1953 and the Hungarian revolution in 1956.
The magazine caused a scandal in Germany in the 1960s when it came to light that it was partly funded by the CIA.
As a journalist, Lasky interviewed world leaders, including Winston Churchill, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, former German chancellors Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt, and former Czech President Vaclav Havel.
He was also associated with some of the world’s best-known writers and intellectuals, including Thomas Mann, T.S. Eliot, Bertrand Russell, George Orwell, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and William Faulkner.
He wrote many books himself, including “The Hungarian Revolution” (1957), “Africa for Beginners” (1963), “Utopia and Revolution” (1977) and “The Language of Journalism: Volume One: Newspaper Culture” (2000).
Born in New York on Jan. 15, 1920, Lasky was the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He received a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York and a master’s in history from the University of Michigan.
In 1995, the city of Berlin awarded Lasky its distinguished service medal, and in 1997, a commission of German historians included him as “one of the most important Berliners.”