The trial of Rajk from a Polish perspective
The reports of Józef Światło from the spot
The trial of László Rajk and his comrades did not only legitimize the Stalinist version of the dictatorship of the proletariat but at the same time let the world know that there were no alternatives to the Soviet model within the Socialist bloc. The trial itself followed a Soviet scenario, it was well prepared: the accused were chosen carefully not to mention the hearing of the witnesses and „the confessions”. It was also very important that the trial should receive an international publicity both in the West and in the Socialist bloc. In the latter, it even served as a model: the aim of Stalin and Rákosi was to hold possibly similar show trials in Czechoslovakia and Poland in order to suppress those efforts, which wanted to think differently about Socialism than in the Soviet Union.
On 24th August 1949 Roman Romkowski, Minister of public security and Colonel Józef Światło arrived in Budapest. Their journey had two aims. On the one hand, they wanted to obtain evidences against the people who Rákosi had already arrested. On the other hand, they wanted first hand information about the possible Polish relations of “the spy scandal of international significance”, which was about to explode. Miklós Mitrovits translated two Polish documents: the report of Józef Światło about his journey in Hungary written in October 1949 and the statement of Lazar Brankov taken in September 1949.
Omelette à la ÁVH: one election, two results in 1949 National Popular Front as source of “political reaction”
After the formation of the Hungarian Workers’ Party in the summer of 1948, the Communist seizure of power was effectuated during 1949 by the re-organization of previous institutions under Communist control. In January 1949 the National Committees were eliminated, in February the Communal Tribunal was dismissed, which had had control function over the executive power for more than half a century. The National Office for Labour Force Distribution and the Hungarian National Independent Popular Front were established at the same time.
With the elections in 1949 the Communists tried to suppress their opposition and put and end to the several meta-communicative and mass demonstrations, which had tried to oppose the Communist seizure of power in the previous one and a half years. The expected positive outcome of the elections intended to answer the “clerical reaction” as well, which matched religious tradition with widespread social support.
The author analyses the outcome of the elections in his study in this context. He publishes a report of September 1949, which summarized the activity of the national units of State Security Authority from the aspects of their role played in this crucial period.
The show trial of the workers of the meat processing industry
The study introduces one of the most ruthless verdict ever pronounced in a show trial, in the so-called trial of the meat processing industry. The verdict was adjudicated by the Special Tribunal of Anti-Usury, which was established by Law XXIII, 1947. The real aim of the trial was the punishment and liquidation of those people who were seen as dangerous enemies of the society, or could be at least seen so, as scapegoats (such as clerics, rich peasants, social democrats, etc.). The show trial was carefully composed by the Hungarian Workers’ Party and the political propaganda and media deliberately followed the prescribed scenario.
Eight members of the management of the National Company for Meat Processing were sentenced during the show trial. Two of them were executed at the same day when the sentences were announced. The rest got ten-fifteen years in penitentiary. In spring 1954 the rehabilitation of the victims of the show trials started, but the trials of public supply were not among them. Their victims were rehabilitated only in 1990.
In her study, Erika Varsányi saluted the memory of the victims.
The seven lives of an agent
The action group of “Aczél” – “Rónai” and “Szirom”
In the second part of her study, Gabriella Unger analyses the history of some action groups consisting first five, later three members. At the same time she examines the life of some members of the external group and reconstructs their daily life.
Besides introducing the activity of the action group the author discusses the organizational structure and changes of the contemporary state security organs – mainly that of the counter-intelligence, but extends her inquiry to show the methods of the external observation and fieldwork, too. As a part of it, she examines the Special Subdivision, which was established in summer, or autumn, 1954. Its main task was the home delivery of “some emigrant leaders and active spies” to Hungary, i.e. their kidnapping. Through their kidnapping the state security wanted to gather information about foreign state security organs and their suspected network in Hungary. At the same time they wanted to divide the Hungarian emigrant community this way, too.
János Kaiser and his comrades’ activity started in autumn 1954: comparing to his previous work, the state security wanted to use him in more serious operative actions.
The main enemy of the Hungarian state security among the emigrant organizations was the Hungarian Veteran’s Association (Magyar Harcosok Bajtársi Közössége - MHBK). The targeted person to be kidnapped was András Zákó, the leader of MHBK. Gabriella Unger in the second part of her study reconstructs his kidnapping and shows how it was prepared and realized.
The gallery of the Church persecutors
The leaders of the counter-intelligence against Churches, 1945–1956
This study of the author is the second part of his previous study, which was published in Betekintő 2015/1. There he gathered together the biographies of those state security officers who led the counter-intelligence against the Christian churches in the political police of the party-state between 1945 and 1953. He also introduced the structure of the Political Security Department of the Hungarian State Police (PRO), that of the State Security Department (ÁVO), the State Security Authority (ÁVH) within the framework of the Ministry of the Interior and later, as an independent authority. Now the focus of research goes to the period between 1953-1956. To introduce the biographies of the leaders of the counter-intelligence against the Churches, again the so-called prosopographical method is used. Thus not only the strictly speaking biographies could be reconstructed but also we can read data about the family origin, the education and career track of the officers.
The documents, which are preserved in the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security regarding the personal data of the official and secret officers of the state security consist more than 150 running meter. In this study, the life of fifteen officers were selected but only nine of them had personal files in the archives. Therefore the author had to explore the missing information from different other sources like the signing of their reports at the end of different documents or at state security commands. Beside the biographies, Géza Vörös introduces shortly the changes in the structure of church-related counter-intelligence.
The gallery of the Church persecutors
The Organization and Activity of the Reconnaissance Department of the Frontier Guard of the State Security Authority between 1950 and 1956
In the first part of his study, which was published in Betekintő 2015/1., István Orgoványi examined the process of the re-organization of the Frontier Guard of the State Security Authority, the formation of its Reconnaissance Department, its structure and personal data. The author also analysed the network-building activity of the department, the management and control of its sub-divisions and introduced the problematic of defending the South borderline of Hungary as facing problems of illegal border crosses, the investigation of different intruder channels and Yugoslav military activity.
In the second part of the study, the author keeps introducing the special characteristics of the Hungarian border defence: in this case he analyses the Western borderline. The methods in defending the Austrian-Hungarian border changed as the nature of the relationship of the two countries changed. The author analyses data gathered before the Revolution of 1956. The data shows the headcount of the staff in details and also reveals the external network system of the Frontier Guard, i.e. the Volunteer Frontier Guard staff.
Orgoványi claims that in order to increase the effectiveness of the frontier defence the state intended to use the contacts to the simple citizens. Parallel to the demolishing of the technical border lock, the frontier defence built hidden technical devices thus making the reconnaissance work easier. However, the Revolution of 1956 changed the entire previous infrastructure and methodological approach fundamentally.
From Budapest Dance Palace to the dissection table
The Lapusnyik-case, or the emigration and death of a secret agent at the beginning of the Kádár era
In the summer, 1962 the political police had an extraordinary case. Béla Lapusnyik, a police sergeant of the Observation and Fieldwork Department (II/9.) committed illegal border cross at night on 8th May. He escaped to Austria. His act was regarded as treason and generated a series of action in the Ministry of the Interior because they supposed that Lapusnyik could give information for Austrian intelligence, counter-intelligence and even for military counter-intelligence. This could have dangerous consequences for the Hungarian agencies. Everybody was certain that Lapusnyik would indeed give information to the Austrian state security, although in fact he could not, because he did not have enough time for this. Namely, among unknown circumstances he died in a hospital in Vienna while being a prisoner of the Austrian state security.
During the procedure taken in the Ministry of the Interior the everyday life of the political police was well documented. During the investigation it also became clear how the framework of the state security could serve with good opportunities for a young man and how it really distorted his personality.
Mária Palasik in her study concentrates on the investigation. At the same time, however, she also introduces Béla Lapusnyik, his life, family origin, his career and all details, which can be reconstructed about his border cross. The author also examines what the Hungarian state security organs could do in such a situation, or later, in order to prevent such actions. Finally she summarizes the facts what can be known about how a young and healthy man could die as a prisoner of the Austrian state police (Staatspolizei- STAPO).
Was there a revolutionary situation in Hungary in 1989?
The stability of Hungary seen from GDR
By the second half of the 1980s the crisis, which appeared in the countries of the Eastern bloc, signified the urgent need of reforming the social and economic model. The Soviet policy of urging East-West dialogue provided favourable circumstances for these reforms in several countries of the Soviet allied system.
The East German reactions to the Hungarian changes were determined by the special situation of GDR. As regarding the possible consequences of the Hungarian foreign policy, the leadership of GDR rightly estimated its consequences, because due to its geopolitical situation, Hungary indeed took a leading role in holding back the East German emigrants. Although the demolishing of the obsolete border lock in 1988 had still been to be approved by the authorities, but the emission of the world passport, which was introduced as a result of the third package of the Helsinki process, predicted the events of the next few months. It also included measurements of the free border cross between the two German states and the two parts of Berlin.
Ágnes Jobst translated a report, which compared the situation at the end of 1988 to 1956. This document, which contains information about the changes of the Hungarian political life, was compiled by the 2nd Political Department of the Embassy of GDR in Hungary and was forwarded to the Foreign Office of GDR.