1 / 2022

Konstantin Medgyesi

“…He’s Still at Us”

Károly Grósz and Imre Nagy

Károly Grósz “believed” in Imre Nagy in October 1956. From the second half of the 1980s until his death, however, he became a fierce critic of Imre Nagy – who had been dead for more than three decades. Grósz wanted to play the not-so-grateful historical role that he would expose the sins of the late prime minister who had undertaken martyrdom.
Grósz’s communication differed markedly from the temperament of the communist characters of the late Kádár era; he could speak more freely, untinged by ideological shackles. He also spoke honestly about the phenomena of the past in his recollection interviews in the 1990s. There is little anger or rage behind his words.

There is one exception: Imre Nagy. He could not forgive him, he could not “let him go” – when it came to him, Grósz, the suggestive communicator, could not get rid of his demons. In his remarks on the Imre Nagy case, the panels of spiritual frustration can be painfully identified; the pragmatic politician, the impassively arguing communicator, will be dominated by his negative feelings.

In this article, we seek to examine the diverse interrelationships of this particular spiritual and political phenomenon.

Éva Kádár

The Changes of Gábor Péter’s Personality in the Light of the Reminiscences

This article aims to explore why Gábor Péter, who had been performing Mátyás Rákosi’s orders with unconditional obedience for years and had been one of the central figures of the creation of the communist dictatorship and the preparation of show trials as the head of the ÁVO and later ÁVH, became one of the most important defendants in the Zionist trial, a planned grand show trial, the fatal outcome of which he could only avoid because of Stalin’s death. Using the accessible sources including the memoirs of Gábor Péter’s co-defendants and those who he had interrogated, the trial documents, the analysis of the verdict as well as the literature on the Zionist trials in Hungary, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, I wanted to find out whether it was Gábor Péter’s position in the state machinery that made him an eligible person for the role of “a state defence leader of Jewish origin” in an anti-Zionist trial, constructed on the model of the Abakumov trial, or the originators of the concept chose him because in a letter sent to Viktor Abakumov, the head of the Soviet state security, Péter protested because of the forged nature of the Rajk trial, and ordered to stop the torturous interrogation of László Rajk? In this context, I attempt to explore the deformity which developed in Gábor Péter’s personality and the reason that triggered it, which resulted that he was willing to continue to follow the instructions and orders during the preparation work for further show trials even after his opposition during the Rajk case.

Gyula Kosztyó

Search at a Greek Catholic Monastery by the Gendarmerie in Transcarpathia

The subject of the article is the search performed by the gendarmerie at the residences of Greek Catholic monks in Munkács on 23 March 1939, an operation conducted in search of arms as well as press material aimed against the Hungarian state. The operation took place following the reannexation of Transcarpathia by the Hungarian army and the subsequent introduction of military administration in the region. The gendarmerie were distrustful of the monks of the Basilian Order, which was clearly sympathetic with the Ukrainian cause, giving them enough reason for a raid. In the article I also aim to present the fact that the search was followed by a Hungarian official investigation due to a suspicion of anomalies in the work of the gendarmerie. The main findings of the investigation will be shown in detail as well as the similarities and differences between the findings and results of the official investigation and the reports of the monks themselves. I also considered it crucial to present the responses the search received from abroad as well as the reactions of actors in Hungarian internal politics on the matter.

Zoltán Pál

Agent Reports from the Institute of Literary History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1958–1964)

The article introduces the early history of the Institute of Literary History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences based on state security documents. Literary historian László Szekeres worked in the institute in the first years of the Kádár Era. The Political Investigation Department recruited him to be an agent on 4 May 1957 by using compromising data. Szekeres joined the Institute of Literary History in 1958 and wrote reports under the alias “Barna Sziklai” about his colleagues to the political police. Persons he reported about included István Sőtér, Tibor Klaniczay, József Szauder, Sándor Fekete, Endre Gerelyes, Miklós Szabolcsi, József Béládi, Mihály Czine, György Bodnár, Ambrus Oltványi, Sztoján Vujicsics D., Béla Pomogáts, etc. The documents he wrote provide an insight into the everyday life of the institute, the debates and conversations of the scholars who were working there. As the Institute of Literary History was an important institution of the intellectuals of Budapest and one of the most significant research centres of Hungarian literary historians, a detailed analysis of Sziklai’s reports can contribute to having a better knowledge of the history of humanities intellectuals in the Kádár Era.

Tamás Szőnyei

Wandering Texts

Early Suits against Punks and False Claims about Punk Band CPg in State Security Papers

Three members of CPg were sent to jail in early 1984 because of their anti-communist lyrics. „Botrányt akarunk! (We Want Scandal!), the recent book by Tibor Takács tracks down how distorted notions of them being racist have spread and been stuck on the group up to now. It might have been the result of the political police manipulating the media to discredit the punk movement but there is no evidence to prove it. Tamás Szőnyei argues that even some of their fans thought plainly by mistake that an infamous racist song was written by CPg although it belonged to the skinhead group Mos-oi whose members were given suspended sentences in late 1983. The false claims concerning CPg can be found in several state security investigations against young people wearing Nazi badges on the street, singing racist songs in bars and spraying swastikas on walls. Nazi imagery among British punks in 1976–77 was simply a means to shock. In the 1980s in Hungary it meant more than that apart from the shock factor – and in some cases an admiration of Nazi Germany – it also served as the most radical signal of anti-communist feelings. The study reveals how the state security handled this problem in towns like Szeged, Eger and Zalaegerszeg. At the same time, it shows that even though none of the punk and skinhead bands was officially released, their music was distributed all over the country by home taping.

Katalin Paréj-Farkas

“Wearing a Mask — Always Playing a Role”

A BOOKREVIEW ON
Petrás Éva: Álarcok mögött. Nagy Töhötöm életei.
[Behind Masks. The Lives of Töhötöm Nagy]
Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára – Kronosz. Budapest–Pécs, 2019. 312 p.

Eva Petrás’s book on the life of Töhötöm Nagy introduces one of the most interesting figures in 20th century Hungarian church history. Starting as a Jesuit priest and an important leader of the organization KALOT that brought together Catholic agrarian youth in his young years, his personality changes into a chameleon before our eyes, thanks to the meticulous and objective work of the historian. His roles in the various political systems are quite diverse: from the factory worker to the college teacher who negotiates with the Soviets, the secret agent, the Vatican ambassador or the freemason. Following the path of life of Töhötöm Nagy, who always adapted to the situations but was in fact hidden behind masks, interesting questions of church history come into new light, such as the cooperation and education of the Catholic young people living in rural Hungary, the personality of Mindszenty and his activity as head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, or the question of post-war modus vivendi. The prudent and valuable work of the author relies on several sources, using material from more than ten archives that hold the primary source material, the heritage of Töhötöm Nagy. Even if the life path of Töhötöm Nagy, who came from the Jesuit order and then became a freemason, served the socialist state authority and was a man with a family, is divisive, the exemplary and preconcept-free historical work provides a coherent and complete picture of the life of the protagonist. The presentation of the facts prevents us from thinking hastily and harshly about the ever-changing and adventurous nature of the Jesuit priest, and helps us get to know a truly special person in the light of historical facts.

Róbert-István Antal

“What Does a Million and a Half Hungarians Want?”

A BOOKREVIEW ON
Főcze János: A MADOSZ. Baloldali magyar történet a Román Királyságban (1934–1944).
[The MADOSZ. Hungarian Left-wing Story in the Kingdom of Romania (1934–1944)]
Kolozsvár, Erdélyi Múzeum Egyesület – Kriterion Kiadó, 2020. 336 p.

The book review examines the recently published book by János Főcze on the history of the Organization of Hungarian Workers in Romania (MADOSZ). His main theses are that although many members of MADOSZ were also members of the Party of Communists in Romania (krp), this political organization cannot be regarded as a simple cover organization for the communists – as was viewed by historiography earlier. Instead, the author defines MADOSZ as a left-leaning Hungarian organization which aimed for the resolution of the social and ethnic dilemma in Romania by adopting the ideology of socialism and converting it to the Transylvanian realities. As Főcze convincingly demonstrates, MADOSZ was a marginal political group in the interwar period, its legal activity covered only two years (1936–1938), and before and after this period it was an illegal political organization. But according to Főcze, its history could be viewed as one of the adaption mechanisms (besides the conservative or the liberal answer) to the socio-economic and political challenges which provoked the Hungarian community living in Romania.

Adrienn Joó

Invisibles

Documentary film about the heroes of the Mecsek Hills

The documentary film Invisibles was screened at the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security on 9 March 2022. After the screening, the director of the film, Sándor Cs. Nagy, its dramaturg Zsófia Sashegyi and historian Barbara Bank talked about the film.

The film is the fruit of the devoted work of Sándor Cs. Nagy. Without his perseverance this documentary could hardly have been completed. According to Sándor, it was the heroism of the revolutionaries of Pécs that gave the creators the strength to finish the film: if the revolutionaries had held out to the end and not surrender, they could not give up either.

The film elaborates the meeting of three so-called invisibles of the Mecsek Hills in the south of Hungary (Antal Lux, Ferenc Tésenyi and József Farkas) and shows their recollections of the days of fight against the Soviets. It is very touching to see how, after 60 years, deeply buried memories come to the surface. The film also takes us to the most important sites of the revolution in Pécs. The three protagonists also show the scenes of the fights in the Mecsek.

Barbara Bank told us that the name ’the invisibles of the Mecsek’ was a nickname that the propaganda gave to the freedom-fighters hiding in the hilly areas around Pécs.
The expressive, high-quality, comic book-like animation drawn by natural free hand praises the efforts of Lili Rontó.

Sándor is planning to continue the documentary, and its significance is that again and again new highlights emerge, through which we can learn more about our past.

English