István Weis, “the stiff, negative, eternal enemy”
István Weis (1889–1973) was a professor of law, a high-ranking civil servant and social politician between the two world wars in Hungary. He participated in the social political jurisdiction during the Bethlen government as an expert of the Ministry of Work and Social Welfare. He was a director-general of the National Social Insurance Company (OTI) between 1933 and 1936. His academic works – e.g. The Hungarian Society of Today, The Social History of Hungary and The Hungarian Village – have been counted among the primary sources of social history of interwar Hungary since then.
However, István Weis’ life changed dramatically after World War II: he was interned twice and sentenced for prison in a show trial. During his internment Weis lived in five internment and forced labour camps in Pécs, Buda-Dél, Kistarcsa, Isaszeg and Bernátkút. Nonetheless his misery did not stop in 1953, when the new government of Imre Nagy announced an amnesty as a consequence of the international and national détente after the death of Stalin. Internment and forced labour camps were closed, but Weis was not released. He was immediately committed to prison while his show trial brought its results: he had to spend one more year in prison in Márianosztra. After his release at the end of 1954 he was silenced and worked as a physical worker until his death in 1973.
In her topical study the author introduces the scholarly achievements of Weis, gives an overview of his public life between the two world wars and finally reconstructs his life after World War II, including his internment, life in internment and forced labour camps and show trial.
Ádám Gellért – János Gellért
Flight from Genocide
The Aftermath of the 1941 Deportations of Hungarian Jews
Between 12 July and mid-August of 1941, the Hungarian State expelled twenty thousand people of Jewish origin from Hungary to the newly occupied Soviet territories. The decision was made in early July at a Council of Ministers meeting at the behest of the Office of the Government Commissioner of Carpatho-Ruthenia and the Chief of Staff of the Hungarian Army. The transportation of the Jews was organized by the National Central Alien Control Office (KEOKH) and by the Office of the Government Commissioner of Carpatho-Ruthenia. The deportees were concentrated at the border region (Kőrösmező and Havasalja) and transported by the advancing Hungarian army over the Dniester river. The German army that took over the administration of Galicia on the 1 August, requested the Hungarian authorities to stop flooding the army rear area with civilians. Meanwhile news reaching Budapest about the plight of the deportees prompted the Hungarian Minister of the Interior to halt deportations in mid-August. Even though the government received credible reports that the Jews were being murdered by German and Ukrainian units, it made concerted efforts to prevent the return of the expellees. The article presents a comprehensive account about the evolution of the decision-making process and its implementation in the border region. It draws on a wide range of archival documents including contemporary documentation, post-war trial transcripts, letters and survivor testimonies.
The State Security Department of the Hungarian State Police
The history of the organisation (October, 1946 – September, 1948)
The organisation of the Hungarian State Police started on two premises after World War II with two different leaders: András Tömpe was in command in Debrecen and Gábor Péter in Budapest. Due to this dualism the Country Headquarters of the Political Security Department of the Hungarian State Police came into being in early 1945 under the leadership of Tömpe, while in Budapest Péter led the Budapest Headquarters of the Political Security Department of the Hungarian State Police. Moreover, political investigations also started in the Military Political Department of the Ministry of Defence (Katpol).
The abolition of the territorial division of the political police took place when László Rajk was the Minister of the Interior. As a minister he was commissioned to contract or abolish certain departments of the state police in order to curtail the expenditure of the ministry, or to make the administration more effective. Therefore by his directive of 6th October, Rajk incorporated the country headquarters into the Budapest headquarters and changed its name into State Security Department of the Hungarian State Police. Its functioning was expanded to the whole territory of the country. At the end of the same year a detailed regulation of the new organisation was published to circumscribe its competences.
Although Gábor Péter’s organisation remained only one of the departments of the police in the state administrative structure, it was subjected directly to the Minister of the Interior, which meant that neither the country, nor the Budapest police superintendents could dispose it. Since an intermediate level of the command was skipped, the state security departments in the country did not belong to the local police commanders any more, but to the leader of the State Security Department directly.
In his essay the author analyses the different units of the State Security Department, interprets their structural changes and introduces the archontology of the highest-ranking leaders of the organisation.
The attachment of Péter Veres to the case of “The Hungarian Community”
The dissolution of the Independent Smallholders Party and the displacement of its three most important leaders – those of Béla Kovács, Ferenc Nagy and Béla Varga – were in close connection with that chain of events, which is often referred to as the cause of the so-called Hungarian (Secret) Community. Its history started sometime in the 1920s, but the community flourished between 1938 and 1947 with some aftermath even after the trials. The historical reconstruction of the Hungarian Community might be one of the most venturesome projects of the Hungarian historiography, because it comprised a presumably inextricable mixture of the history of the secret societies of the Horthy regime, the legal youth organisations, the changing middle class identity, the popular movement, the theory of the Hungarian racist ideologies and the anti-communist resistance.
The surveillance of Péter Veres, one of the most well-known popular writers and the president of the National Peasant Party, started well before the end of World War II by the political police. However, the operative officers of the State Security Authority decided to gather together scattered reports about Veres only in April, 1951 and at the same time he was put into the central register of adversaries. The statements, which were taken voluntarily or under pressure and the documents, which happened to be in the possession of the political police as results of perquisition are still relevant sources to reconstruct the history of the turn of 1930s and 1940s. At that time the organisations and key figures of the Hungarian Community and the contemporary popular movement coincided in many cases.
The aim of the author is to illustrate the complexity of the question and to point out that in the show trials of 1947 and 1948 mostly those motifs were emphasized, which served directly the actual political aim of the Hungarian Communist Party.
Targeted Individual at the Horizon
The induction of Imre Vámos
The name of Imre Vámos equalled the literary review Horizon among the Hungarian emigration for a long time. The review started in November, 1950 in Zurich and soon became a forum of literary and public life for the Hungarian emigrés. The new periodical turned to be a thorn in the flesh of the establishing communist dictatorship because not only young poets and writers having escaped to the West found there a place of publication but also emigrant politicians with their political writings. It is not accidental therefore that state security organs observed the editorial office from the very beginning and right after the publication of the first brochure they tried to control the review. They started a series of actions with this intention, but Horizon, as New Horizon from 1958, never fell under their influence during its four-decade history. They had partial success however, although not in the way as they had expected.
Imre Vámos, as one of the founding editors, was thought as a potential fellow comrade by the State Security Authority since 1950 and they tried to induct him for years. It is still an open question what kinds of benefits the state security could take from this action, but it seems certain that no homeward emigration wave started with the home coming of Imre Vámos and Béla Horváth, pity for the party leadership. Those five brochures of Horizon, which publication was supported by the state security did not receive a positive echo, either. The history of the induction of Imre Vámos is a telling story about the political police and the communist system itself. Regardless of some stops and turns the actions for trying to induct Vámos were continuous between 1950 and 1964. The actions started in the darkest years of the Rákosi regime, which was not hindered by the reforms of Imre Nagy and still existed even until the consolidation period of Kádár regime. It means that the methods and aims of the state security did not change too much in these years.
The author introduces the lasting efforts for the induction of Imre Vámos, analyses their results and thereby shows to us how the Hungarian state security organs tried to disorganise the western Hungarian emigration.
The state security network of informants and the amnesty of 1963
The network of informants was counted as the most significant and important secret operative instrument without which not an effective work of state security could be realised, as the related directives of the Ministry of the Interior defined. Its formation started nearly parallel with the organisation of political police after World War II, although the systematic organisation of it became manifest only after 1949. The experience of the Soviet advisors was made use of, when the basic principles of the network building were laid down. Consequently, the differentiation within the network of informants started. They distinguished between agents and informants, residents, T-home-keeper [an occasionally used flat rented from somebody by the state security organs] and K-flat [a flat used exclusively by the state security organs]. More emphasis was laid upon induction on basis of personal conviction beside the “traditional” way of pressure and compromising.
The network collapsed during the revolution of 1956. Its reason could be partly the dissolution of the state security organs itself because the escape of the operative officers (their hiding or arrest) made the keeping of contact with the informants impossible. Many informants and agents were de-conspired because state security documents were published, but in many cases even informants spoke publicly about their contacts with the state security.
After the revolution the political police was re-organised and one of its main tasks turned to be the chase against “counter-revolutionists”, to reconnoitre the events on and after 23rd October, 1956 and re-organise the network.
The resolution made during the 8th Congress of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party and the amnesty announced by the decree of 1963/4. influenced the existence of the network in several ways. The author introduces and analyses these influences in his study.
Special supplements of state security documents
Among the documents of the Historical Archives there are files, which contain not only paper-based documents, photos or pamphlets, but also objects. There are several reasons for attaching them to the files: some of them were confiscated as exhibits during a proceeding while others were attached to the files during the operative work. These latter could be so-called sign objects or such objects, which underwent examinations (for example pastilles to develop ciphered writing or paint samples in some graffiti cases).
As all intelligent services of the world, also the Hungarian took a special care to conceal the induction of the informants, to keep contact with them or with any other member of the network. Those informants and agents who were inducted in Hungary by the III/I. Department of the Ministry of the Interior or by its predecessors were prepared thoroughly by their operative officers how to behave during personal meetings abroad and how to keep the rules of conspiracy. One of the compulsory patterns of contact was to give password, or sentence and to use an agreed sign object because not the same operative officer got into contact with the informants abroad as prepared him/her in Hungary. “The sign object” served to prove and confirm a secret contact, e.g. a photo cut into two pieces or two identical but rare objects. Therefore it had to be a small and individual object and its show proved to be valid only together with the password, or sentence. The operative officer and the informants agreed generally on password and sign object during his/her preparations for foreign work, or extraordinary situation (e.g. war) in order to strengthen conspiracy. The informant was thoroughly prepared to accept only the password properly uttered together with the sign object, but later to have a full confidence in the person who showed them.
Although these objects (medals, coins, badges, cigarette lighters, rings, etc.) are attached to the given files, they are preserved separately by the archivists because of preserving their condition. They are also kept account separately. At the moment nearly fifty such objects are in the possession of the Historical Archives, some of them introduced in this study of the author.
Wrestling with the past
An attempt to come to terms with the past on individual and community level with a special emphasis on the relationship of church informants and communist-socialist state security
The study describes the social context, in which the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary made an attempt to come to terms with the relationship between church informants and state security following the collapse of the communist system. It also gives an overview of the process of the formation and work of the church committee whose role was to disclose and analyse the relationship between state security services and certain church people. Furthermore, it examines statements given by church bodies and individuals in order to find some aspects that can answer the following question: why has the process of coming to terms with the past become unexpectedly difficult in the given church community and why has the generally formulated pattern of repentance – confession of sins – and forgiveness proved to be inapplicable in settling the question in an adequate way. After its publication in German, the study is first published in Hungarian in this issue of Betekintő.