1 / 2014

Krisztián Varga

A Murderous Attempt against Miklós Horthy
Documents from the judiciary proceedings of Sándor Sztaron

It happened ninety years ago. An unemployed, young worker-like man crossed the streets of Budapest. He had a revolver under his coat and decided that he will murder regent Miklós Horthy with it. He tried to find Horthy maniacally, red the social news of the papers in the hope to learn where he might take part in a public event to catch him. At that time newspapers reported about the public representations of the statesmen in the cultural, sport or charity programs. This way the would-be assassin got to know that the regent will attend one of the performances of the National Theatre on 8th April, 1924. He decided to use this occasion and get to close contact with Horthy at the entrance of the theatre. His attempt was not successful, however, because the regent finally did not go out that evening. The young man returned home to find out a new plan, but he couldn’t, because the detectives of the Budapest Headquarters of the Royal Hungarian State Police arrested him.

The source published in this article introduces the reader to a less-known historical event. It is not well-known that there were numerous murderous attempts against Miklós Horthy. They are not mentioned even in the biographies of him. A probable reason for this is that these attempts were not successful. They had a little influence on the political history, or even on Horthy, they were only on the agenda of the state police. These cases, however, contributed to the development of the security system of the age. Neither of these attempts was successful because state police could intervene in time.

Zoltán Boér

A Woman being (also) the Wife of the Hungarian Gestapo Leader…

Gizella Sándor returned to Budapest at the age of seventeen in 1932. Using his father’s relations, she soon became a member of the leftist political community. As a result, she emerged within the radar of Péter Hain, a detective of the Hungarian royal police, who later became her husband. Gizella Sándor’s first induction happened first at this time. She had to report about her previous leftist friends. After her marriage she got acquainted with the police, military and political leaders of the Horthy era, and with prominent German businessmen and diplomats. After the German occupation of Hungary she helped the Gestapo with her reports about her own husband. She was interned after the Soviet occupation because of the activity of her husband. After spending more than a decade in internment, she received the cover name “Andrea Semsei” by the Hungarian political police. Her task was not unknown to her, she had to report about her friends again. The Revolution of 1956 brought a turning point into her life. However, she did not get the freedom as two hundred thousand of her fellow emigrants. She crossed the Hungarian-Austrian border together with her liaison officer and with the active help of the state security. Her emigration fitted into her yearly working plan, which aim was to reorganise the disintegrated Communist intelligence service.

Ágnes Körber

The Establishment of a Publishing House
Footnotes to the Trial of Rajk

A new publishing house started its activity from 1 January, 1955, the Corvina Foreign Language Publishing House. Its first editors happened to be employed almost directly from their prison cells. Five of them – Péter Balabán, Noël H. Field, Pál Justus, László Pődör and Györgyi Tarisznyás were arrested and accused during the trial of Rajk and Pálffy and except from László Pődör they all spent more than half a decade in prison. Only the case of Noël Field has been researched by two German historians up to now, but the names of the other four emerged only in some surveys. This study strives to fill this gap.

Pál Justus was one of the leaders of the Social Democratic Party, the advocate of the unification of the Social Democratic Party with the Communist Party, the vice-president of the Hungarian Radio, later accused in the trial of Rajk. He did not suspend his political activity after his release.

Györgyi Tarisznyás, a teacher in Paks, was absolutely free from political influence. She might emerge at the horizon of the State Security Authority because of her personal relationships. She was used as a false witness in the trial of Rajk, and after a short period of freedom, which she spent in fright, she was arrested again.

Péter Balabán spent the years of the World War II in Switzerland, where he got acquainted with some members of the National Independence Front. He wrote some articles and summaries to call the attention to the hopeless situation of Hungary. After the world war he returned to Hungary and the State Security Authority observed him as a person having lived in the West.

László Pődör was also a teacher according to his original qualifications. Coming from the opposition movement in Miskolc he started his career in the politics after 1945. After his various turns he was elbowed off from the political life. He was arrested because of his good relationship with János Gyöngyössy and György Pálffy.

Years in prison were tormenting for all of them, but they became the decisive and creative personalities of the Hungarian cultural life.

István Ötvös

A Multiplied Construction, or did a Spanish Line Really Exist in Rajk’s Case?

In Rajk’s show trial the principal defendant admitted publicly that he had started his “wicked” deeds already in Spain. That’s why it could be assumed that Rajk’s participation in the Spanish Civil War could contribute to the outcome of his show trial. Moreover, this accusation was also brought against some other defendants in the satellite trials. This impression is even reinforced by the fact that somewhat later, the Spanish Civil War also occurred in other show trials in Czechoslovakia. Being a member of the International Brigades (the Brigadas Internacionales) equalled Trockism at that time, the partakers were nearly pushed into the same category as those “Whites”, who fought against the Bolsheviks after 1918.

It is still a question, however, why the participation in the Spanish Civil War could play a key-role in Central Europe more than ten years after the fall of the Popular Front Government? Originally the Civil War was looked at in the Communist mythology as a “progressive” and heroic fight against the counter-revolutionary powers. The volunteers of the International Brigades were counted among the heroes of the labour movement before and after the show trials. But they were not during them! In fact, they were considered as spies and agents.

In this study the author seeks to answer to the question, why the Spanish Civil War could play a negative role in these trials. The Stalinist purges reached only a small part of the more than 1,000-member Spaniard volunteers’ group in Hungary. Against Social democrats “administrative methods” were used: internment and police surveillance. In case of the Spaniard volunteers, however, it happened otherwise. Does this mean that there was really a problem with their Spanish experience, or something absolutely different stands in the background?

Erika Varsányi

The Impressions of an Agent about the Hungarian Social Democrat Emigration at the end of the 1950s

The sources published here are the reports of a talented, ambitious former Social democrat who turned to be an agent of the Hungarian state security and gave reports about those of his previous party comrades who had been forced to leave their country. He also reported about the internal debates and problems of the Social democrat emigration. László Pusztai (Pucsok), “János Szepesi” or later “Sándor Szepesi” on his cover name, spent six months in Brussels under the pretext of participating in the world exhibition in 1958. He had the possibility to gather together lots of relevant information about the prominent leaders of the emigration, e.g. Anna Kéthly, Andor Bölcsföldi, Olivér Benjámin and Imre Szélig. Pusztai had a winning manner and following from his knowledge about the personal and party matters, he managed to worm himself into the confidence of the emigrant Social democrat leaders. He conducted many informal conversations with them, thus learning how they secretly kept contact with their party members in Hungary and how they got and sent money. Pusztai made summaries about his experiences and the information he received. He analysed for example the emigrant Social democrat organizations, obtained the detailed program of the emigrant Hungarian Social Democratic Party and got information about their financial background. For example he reported about the financial support of the Arbeiter Hilfswerk (a labour charity organization) and about the help of the Internationaler Bund Freier Gewerkschafter (International Organization of Free Trade Unions). He also analysed the personal network of the emigrant Social democrat leaders: their close relationship with some Austrian, British and Belgian parties and leaders of the Socialist International. On the basis of his reports, the study also examines the complicated and often insolvable problem of the unity of the Hungarian emigration.

Gergő Bendegúz Cseh

The Garage
Trying to Make a Secret State Security Location Legal

Irrespective of political system or historical era, it is always important for the political police to follow closely the hypothesized or real enemies of the state by gathering information about them and about their relations and by documenting the activity of the targeted persons. These operations have always belonged to one of the most conspired and mostly covered actions of the state security, often hidden behind an open or regular activity. Through them they tried to explore the daily activity and the relationship network of the targeted persons or groups, but similar methods were used to reconnoitre the usage, the visits and possible functions of a certain location, called “object” (it could be an embassy, a meeting place, a factory, a flat, etc.).

In the Socialist era the state security observation and making the so-called report of surroundings were the tasks of an independent organizational unit within the state security. Its independent function was obviously in connection with the fact that persons working for such a field were chosen according to specific criteria (a strict requirement prescribed the moral and political reliability, good skills of making observations, adaptability, good health conditions, but at the same time a normal physical appearance), they received a special training and their work was carried out in a conspired manner even in the sight of the police, e.g. they worked mainly at a civil workplace, like for example a factory or business.

The Representative Transport Company was founded in 1957 with full of serious ambitions and many functions. On the one hand, it provided a legal means of observation for the state security when controlling the foreigners coming to Hungary. On the other hand, it could be used for further observation of foreigners.

The source published by Gergő Bendegúz Cseh gives an insight into the conspiracy of the political police in the first period of the Kádár era, it shows the methods used by observation and how the “legalization” usually happened.

Tibor Takács

Out of Place
The Disciplinary Procedure of Lajos Nagy, a State Security Officer in Nyíregyháza in 1960

In September, 1960 János Kopka, a young journalist from Nyíregyháza made a report against Lajos Nagy, a Lieutenant of the Political Investigation Department of the Police Headquarters of Szabolcs-Szatmár County. A day before Kopka had visited the Spartacus Nyíregyháza – Locomotive Szolnok champion football match in the national second class. Starting for home, he noticed that some people had burnt newspapers in the grandstands. This did not shock him, but he recognized two drunken corporals among them. The officers cursed everybody who tried to warn them and behaved in an unacceptable manner. In the meantime Kopka recognized Lieutenant Lajos Nagy among the disturbers, too, an acquaintance of him, whom he told to discuss the matter next day, thus trying to settle the scene. However, Lieutenant Nagy did not calm down and vexed Kopka further.

Lajos Nagy was familiar with two fields: the state security service and football, although he increasingly did not find his place in the former since 1958. (Probably there were some reasons behind the fact that since 1952 he could not find his place in any positions.) This is why the football fan overcame the state security officer in his attitude on 25th September, 1960, on the ominous football event. Other state security officers, however, were not so ill-considered. The story has the conclusion that state security officers sometimes acted against their own colleagues if they thought it necessary for maintaining the ideal order of the football grandstands.

Bence Csatári

Extracts from the State Security Observation of the Pop Music Radios

In the Kádár era the responsible units of the Department III/III of the Ministry of the Interior observed every segment of the cultural life and had an exact knowledge about even the smallest cases, thus legitimizing their own work. After the reorganization of the state security organization in 1962, the department of internal affairs could deal with the cultural life even more intensely. As a consequence, in the upcoming years the number of agents and informants increased also in the field of entertainment, which affected also the work of the Hungarian Radio. Employees of the Hungarian Radio could happen to be informants, but there were a number of informants from other segments of cultural life concerning the work of the radio. Among them writers, electricians, reporters of the Győr studio of the Hungarian Radio, journalists, cosmeticians, DJs and, of course, rock musicians could be found.

One of the state security reports gave information about the guest performance of the Hungarian Radio’s Entertainment Orchestra in the GDR, other reported that many listened to the pop broadcasts of the Voice of America or Radio Free Europe. Moreover, secret police had an eye even on the fan clubs of Western bands. The study not only takes an account on these cases, but also explores the attitude of the party-state oppression to those life styles, which were considered alien to the “Socialist moral”.

The reports, which were given about the Hungarian Radio, could seem either important or unimportant to the nowadays reader, but they can, however, distinguish our knowledge about the pop culture of Hungary. Agents made their reports from time to time, which reports were used by the operative officers to show their own importance for their superior authorities thus demonstrating the significance of the state security towards the party-state leadership.

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