“The Affectionate Thanks” – The case of János Csorba, the first mayor of post-1945 Budapest
János Csorba was the first mayor of Budapest after 1945. He started his term when the Buda part of the city was still a theatre of war, and Pest had already been occupied by the Soviets. He was the mayor of the capital city for only four months, but during this period he had to solve such serious and complicated tasks as maintaining the food supply for the population; providing public utilities like water, electricity, and heating; establishing public security and order; restoration of public transport; removal of rubble, etc. On May 16th, 1946, at the statutory meeting of the Interim Municipal Authority the president of the authority, the first secretary of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, Árpád Szakasits, expressed thanks to him with public praise accompanied by an enthusiastic ovation and the applause of the public. But this affectionate gratitude lasted for only six years.
János Csorba appeared on the radar of state security authorities in the spring of 1950. No exact reason has been discovered as to why information was gathered about him, but it was probably in connection with the political struggle against the second line management of the Independent Smallholders’ Party. On June 8th, 1951, a final resolution (resolution number 04815) was made. According to it, János Csorba was banished from the territory of Budapest and his residence was henceforth assigned to Dévaványa, a village in Békés County. Csorba appealed the decision several times, but his appeal was rejected each time.
In this study the author presents the career of the once highly respected politician, from its beginnings, and shows us what kind of merits and honors he earned in overseeing the recommencement of the lives of the population of the capital city after the siege of Budapest. Furthermore, she seeks an answer to the question of how Csorba could be placed on the list of deportees despite such merits and why the dictatorship of the proletariat looked upon him so unfavorably that they even denied his request to move to another settlement.
Deportees from Budapest in Gyulaháza between 1951–1953
In 1951 the leadership of the communist dictatorship decided to clean the capital city of the group of the so-called “undesired persons.” With the help of the police, more than ten thousand families were conclusively moved from the territory of Budapest to small villages and farms in the middle and eastern part of the country by referring to two resolutions dated from 1939.
As a consequence, twenty-two families, altogether sixty-eight persons, arrived suddenly from Budapest to the village of Gyulaháza in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County. During the deportation procedure, these people (former high-ranking civil servants, soldiers and police officers, wholesalers, landowners and their family members) were deprived of most of their material and personal properties in Budapest; the younger ones even lost their workplaces, and thus they were introduced to an entirely defenceless condition of existence. In the residences where they had been moved to, smallholders (“kulaks”), former landowners, gendarmes and a wage-thresher were counted among “the enemies of democracy.” Young people and those who were in good physical condition could work for a minimal salary, but could do only physical labour, mainly in agriculture. For them, Gyulaháza equalled a place of forced residence, where they were subject to police and administrative control by the local council, and could only leave the territory of the village with police permission.
Deportees continuously bombarded the Ministry of the Interior and other authorities with requests to try to relieve themselves from the force of the decree of deportation and to allow them to move back to Budapest, or at least to live with some relatives or acquaintances in the country. As a consequence, most of them were permitted to leave the village in the course of time; others, however, could only move from Gyulaháza in August and September, 1953, due to the political changes that occurred after the death of Stalin. But even then they could only move to Budapest from the second half of the year 1956.
In the study, the author very expressively presents the cruel milieu of the 1950s through personal lives, and examines the social and sociological composition of the deportees of Gyulaháza with statistical methods (diagrams, tables).
In 1951 an estimated 15,000 people were deprived of their homes and former lives during official deportations from Budapest. The state confiscated their material properties and gave them to the new political elite; meanwhile, the original owners were moved to “kulak” families in villages in Eastern Hungary, thus simultaneously punishing the host families. This case study presents only one aspect of the deportations, through the lives of some of the victims, whose stories are told not only through the deportations, but also through an independent series of legal trials.
After World War II, Germany was occupied by the Allied Forces. The territories occupied by the American, British, and French military forces composed a contract of administrative and economic cooperation with one another, and thus the so-called “Trizonia” came into being. At the embassy level, a three-power bureau called the “Military Permit Office” represented the territories of Western Germany, which stayed under French control in Hungary. In Budapest, the acting deputy of the French attaché had the task of heading the bureau that granted visas. The Hungarian state security mentioned this bureau only as the “Trizonia Bureau” and kept its diplomats under continuous surveillance. The State Security Authority created various political trials around the expulsion of the members of this bureau. They were eager to reconnoitre everybody with whom the diplomats kept contact. During the investigations such persons came onto their focus of attention who had been deported from Budapest only months before.
Through the reconstruction of the legal procedure against Tamás Tószeghy and his company, the study tells the story of these deportations.
“I possess Hungarian underground denouncing documents…”
The letter of Imre Kovács to István Pap in 1950
Imre Kovács, one of the leaders of the National Peasant Party, emigrated from Hungary in November 1947. After a short stay elsewhere in Europe, he settled in the United States, where he joined the work of the Hungarian National Committee. He reported about his first experiences to his friend, István Pap, a representative of the National Peasant Party, in the beginning of January 1950. In his letter, he wrote with an unguarded sincerity about the internal debates of Hungarian emigration, and characterized the activity of some politicians with the sharp remarks that were so characteristic of him.
IKovács’s letter was, however, appropriated from Pap by a Swiss woman, due to a private quarrel. She later forwarded it to one of the state security officers who worked for the Hungarian embassy in Belgium. This was when the State Security Authority initiated a smear campaign against Hungarian emigrant politicians. Though it was not the State Security Authority that initiated the campaign – nor was the campaign totally controlled by it – the Hungarian emigrant newsletter “Hungária” still dealt with it for weeks. Some delicate details of the stolen letter became public, and were readable by both the Hungarian communist leadership and those American institutions that funded the National Committee. Conflicts within the emigration community grew deeper; the possibility of the common representation became unthinkable, and the moral authenticity of the Hungarian National Committee and its leadership was questioned. In fact, the National Committee never returned to strength again. Its political crisis lasted for years, but it could not show any considerable results in either representing the Hungarian interests, or in efforts towards liberation.
IIn this study, the author summarizes the actions of the state security and the reflections of the Hungarian emigrant community.
On both sides of the barricade…
Social democrat observers and observed
After World War II, in defence of the gradually developing dictatorial political structure, the communist leadership, in full possession of power, applied drastic means and methods to take revenge against those political activities which were presumed to be adversarial, to uncover their perpetrators, and to punish them in an “exemplary way.” From among the social democrats, thousands became the victims of the regime, and were excluded from society as a result of show trials and deportations, while others fell into an unbearable mental or physical situation due to the harassment and the permanent persecution of the authorities. By creating such circumstances, the one-time upstanding social democrats played a crucial role, be it coerced or voluntarily, or driven by political ambition, in helping state security authorities and thus became adversaries and betrayers of their former comrades.
By analysing the activities of agents of the social democrats, this study seeks answer the question as to why these agents stepped from one side of the barricade to the other; what kind of situations and personal qualities made them able to do this, and by their work how they served the regime, and what the moral of this story is for the future.
The expulsion of György Krassó from the University of Economics in 1955
György Krassó (1932–1991) was one of the best well-known figures of the opposition to the communist one-party state, an individual who fought in the revolution of 1956 and afterwards spent years in prison. In the 1960s and 1970s he was under continuous surveillance and control, with numerous legal trials and proceedings directed against him. Krassó, who struggled for the democratization of the established order, finally left Hungary in 1985, and returned only in 1989. He was also dissatisfied, however, with the process of the system changes and established an independent party, which was short-lived because of his early death.
This study publishes the documents of the disciplinary procedure held against him at the university. The autobiographies, records of evidence, and characterizations reveal the ideas of György Krassó’s youth and the contradictory functioning of the Hungarian university system.
Krassó, coming from a family of intellectuals, was a devoted communist in his youth. He continuously did party work and, moreover, worked as an ironworker in a sizable factory during his secondary school years. By his reasoning he claimed that as a true communist he had to learn the life of the workers.
In 1951 he was admitted to the University of Economics with a specialization in statistics. He studied with great enthusiasm and achieved outstanding results. However, he soon found fault with the leadership of the university. He not only recognized the imperfection of the educational system, but he often made remarks about it. This was an undesirable attitude at that time. Moreover, he had to do extra-work because of his poor financial background, and the administration of the university did not permit this. His postponements and negligence turned out to be permanent. Finally, in the beginning of 1953, he was expelled from the communist party. His expulsion from the university did not follow directly, but later, after his fifth disciplinary procedure and the negative changes regarding his situation in the party. He was expelled, in April, 1955, from the university, a decision that was approved by the ministry. In the beginning of October, 1956 Krassó applied to the minister, the same party functionary who had previously ordered his exclusion, for permission to continue his studies. No decision was made, however, because he was arrested due to his participation in the events of the revolution.
Freedom of speech and freedom after speaking
Freedom of opinion in the end of the 1980s in Hungary
In the second half of the 1980s, the concept of human rights increasingly came to the fore. Despite a constitutional declaration of the human rights, both political and legal guarantees – which could have ensured their actual realization – were missing. By that time, the political, social, and economic changes revealed more than ever the ambiguous attitude of the party-state towards fundamental freedoms. The political infrastructure and legal system changed gradually, and during this process, the institution of the fundamental freedoms adequate to democratic “Rechtsstaat” played a crucial role both in theory and in practice. Concurrent with the official information policy a “second publicity” also emerged and the statement that “the right to seek ways and means belongs to the socialist democracy” gained recognition.
How did the political and legal circumstances of freedom of opinion gradually change? What was in the background of the press law in 1986 and of the regulation of public meeting and assembly in 1989, and what was their significance? How did the resolution of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, on July 2nd, 1987, and the governmental programme regarding the economic and social development based on this influence the public atmosphere? What was the role of the state security services in that process, which tested the tolerance of the regime? How were “constructive social critique” and “offensive opposition” activities handled? We will search for answers to these questions in this study with the help of the analysis of parliamentary minutes, contemporary bibliographies, the documents of the headquarters’ meetings of the political police, and some concrete cases from state security files.
Closely explored history
A review of the book Éva Tulipán: Szigorúan ellenőrzött emlékezet. A Köztársaság téri ostrom 1956-ban [Éva Tulipán: Closely Watched Memory. The Siege on Köztársaság Square in 1956]
The party headquarters on Köztársaság Square was a particularly important scene of the 1956 Revolution. Éva Tulipán, however, did not only seek answer to the question, “What happened on 30th October, 1956?” but instead examines the methodology of myth creation of the Kádár regime. During the analysis of the events, she posits that the reason for the siege of the party headquarters could have been that the Hungarian Workers’ Party tried to organize the special armed forces there. Its aim was evident: along with the Soviet troops, armed forces consisting of Hungarian communists were also needed. The author also proves by her analysis of the documents from the trials held in retaliation, that the communist armed forces, which stayed in the building, had also had clashes with the revolutionaries some days before the siege itself. Tulipán wants to understand the process of how Köztársaság Square became a symbolic place, and how the Kádár regime constructed the myth and exaggerated the significance of the events that transpired there. This monograph took the context of the ‘memory of history’ as a starting point. For the author, Köztársaság Square is not important because of those widely disputed events that occurred there; she neither wants to condemn, nor to clear anybody. Éva Tulipán wants only to understand the events themselves. To understand above all why exactly Köztársaság Square became the symbolic place of the Kádár regime when it wanted to justify its deeds…