4 / 2013

Magdolna Baráth

Contributions to the History of the Re-organization of Border Defence/Border Guards after World War II

The armistice agreement signed on 20 January 1945 put Hungary under the obligation to withdraw its army and personnel within the borders valid on 31 December 1937. The organization of border defence started along this provisional borderline and its full force was limited to 5,000 persons.

The recruitment of the border guard started according the proclamation of the Interim National Government in January, 1945. The organization of the Hungarian border guard became so urgent because of the recurrent atrocities of the Yugoslavian partisans, who by crossing the border, occupied some settlements in the vicinity of Baja and Szeged with the aim of annexing them to Yugoslavia.

At the end of the 1940s, however, significant changes happened, which influenced both the structure of border defence/border guards and its working circumstances. The changes were in connection with the establishment of the State Security Authority of the Ministry of the Interior. Border guards, river authority, aerial authority, the Central Authority in Charge of Controlling Foreigners and passport office were integrated within one structure.

The author analyses the structural changes of border guards between 1945 and 1949 and describes the most significant characteristics of the border guard system in her study.

Géza Vörös

“Eaglets” in the tempest

The Tribulations of a Catholic Priest in the Communist Dictatorship Having Done Children’s Safety Service

The author reveals the biography of an outstanding person in his study. István Regőczi’s life, partly because of its length, could demonstrate the practices of the political police during both the Rákosi and Kádár eras. As a chaplain he was a teacher of religion in Pestszenterzsébet during World War II when he gathered together the orphans giving them the name of “Eaglets”, which name he found in one of the Christmas meditations of the great devotional writer Ottokár Prohászka. He started his work with them and built a house out of the ruins for them. During the bombardment of Budapest he took care for fifteen children and by giving shelter to a number of Jewish families he also saved their lives during the Arrow-cross terror.

After Communists’ seizure to power churches belonged to one of the chief enemies of the regime and were at the target point of the political police. Although the state security authorities were re-organised several times, but the main goal of them never changed: to stop religious life, to ban the activities of the churches, or at least to have a strict control over them. These aims were realised by putting loyal church leaders to the chief position of the churches, by making the activity of competent priests impossible, sometimes even removing them from their positions. Anybody being at any position in the church hierarchy could fall victim to such a procedure, which remained more militant and oppressive than the official party policy itself.

The life of István Regőczi is a good example for this. Members of the Catholic Church were even observed not long before the system changes at the end of the 1980s although the hierarchy became co-operative with the regime. The situation was even worse for those, like Regőczi, who dealt with young people, because Communists were aware of the importance of education: the future belongs to those who win the youth.

István Orgoványi

The Hungarian Resistance Movement

Leaflets in the village of Békéssámson in the 1950s

The stabilization of the Communist dictatorship and the keeping of it in motion always presumed finding and making enemies and increased the apparatus and power of the political police. The cult of personality, together with terror, made the whole society an enemy of the system and the political power even emphasized the defencelessness of the individual by the general atmosphere of distrust.

The very strong oppression obviously provoked the resistance of the Hungarian society. The resistance brought about movements even before the revolution of 1956, such as White Guards, White Partisans, the Association of the Sword and Cross, the National Resistance Movement, or as it is analysed in the study of István Orgoványi, the Hungarian Resistance Movement. The political police, however, often discovered these movements before their significant growth by its extensive network of agents. In some cases, the small findings were exaggerated by false testimonies or tortures in order to make the court of law bring a charge against the perpetrators.

Because of the war propaganda the members of the resistance movements expected the outbreak of a new war in many places. There was a common unrest against the Communist dictatorship because of the terror, the presence of the Soviet troops and the forced social changes. Among these circumstances young local people in the village of Békéssámson started to throw leaflets and organize the Hungarian Resistance Movement. However, it was uncovered by the state security organs very soon.

Éva Sz. Kovács

“The Agents of Kádár terrorize Vienna…”, or how to Kidnap Somebody?

The documents analysed by the study of Éva Sz. Kovács illustrated one of the operations of the Hungarian state security in Austria with the aim of bringing home Bertalan Geőcze (Gőcze), or “Grey-haired” as he was mentioned by the authorities according to his code-name.

Bertalan Geőcze came to Hegyeshalom after World War II where he became the director of the elementary school. At the same time he was the leader of the local agricultural co-operative. Due to his familiarity with the region, Geőcze supplemented his income by smuggling. Local police and border guard organs turned a blind eye to his activity. Despite this, Geőcze left Hungary in 1948 illegally, since he was accused of many other crimes. Nonetheless, he had good relations to the Hungarian state security organs, and in the hope of being able to come home he offered his services.

However, Geőcze’s connections with the Hungarian state security was cut in 1951. At that time he was said to set up a spy residency against Hungary in Vienna and he sold his previously gathered information. He rejected the repeated requests of the Hungarian state security to get into contact.

Therefore the Hungarian authorities decided the search of him and stop his adversary activity, which they wanted to act out by bringing Geőcze home. The documents reveal the details of this action, called “Rowing-man”. We learn how the action was planned, who co-operated in its realization, which is an example for both the co-operation of the state security organs of the Socialist countries and the employment of joint agents.

István Papp

Hybrid Maize and State Security

Hungarian party leadership found itself under a pressure after 1956 because of the situation of agriculture and peasantry. In internal politics it became obvious that the sufficient supply of the population with agricultural goods and food had an absolute priority, which presumed a strong agricultural sphere. But in foreign politics Soviet leadership had a significant pressure over János Kádár after the transitory year of 1957 to finish the previously failed collectivisation of agriculture and liquidate the small and medium-sized peasant estates and peasant society. Consequently a new term was born in party terminology: the so-called “double task”. This expression meant that the agricultural development and production growth must have been parallel to the building of the system of agricultural co-operatives.

The document published by the author in his study is a proof of how even a narrowly interpreted special problem of cultivation became overpoliticized. It could even arouse the interest of the state security. It gave an evidence to the thesis that in 1958 the totalitarian model of dictatorship was still alive, which was supported by the political police. To decide whether great state farms were the most appropriate places for producing hybrid maize, or new types of state companies had to be built for it, does not seem a relevant political question today. But in the study the absurdity of such polemics is put in historical context and therefore we are closer to understanding.

János M. Rainer

A Handbook and Starting Point

A bookreview about György Gyarmati – Mária Palasik (eds.): Trójai faló a Belügyminisztériumban. Az ÁVH szervezete és vezérkara. [The Wooden Horse of Troy in the Ministry of the Interior. The Structure and General Staff of the State Security Authority.] Budapest, 2013. Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára – L’Harmattan Kiadó.

The volume published by the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security at the end of 2013 is the second piece of a series dedicated to especially the history of the organization of the State Security Authority (ÁVH). It both presents a clearer view on the history of the organization and goes beyond the borders of it, because the structure of the organization proper is preceded by an introductory essay of the editors, followed by the most voluminous part of the book, the so-called archontology. This latter takes the largest part of the book and contains the biographies of almost two hundred persons in leading position in the State Security Authority in the Ministry of the Interior between 1953-1956. This is enough. however, to define the volume as “a handbook”.

The introductory essay of Mária Palasik and György Gyarmati has general intentions to write political history beyond the special research methodological explication how to deal with state security sources. It is an almost confessed ambition of the authors to give a fresh reading of the short, but significant period between 1953-1956, to stimulate thinking, or start debate about it.

The book also contains the study of Ildikó Cserényi-Zsitnyányi on the history of organization of the Ministry of the Interior, which is a professional and precise overview. It provides a great help to those researchers who deal with the history of the State Security Authority in the Ministry of the Interior; they might rely on this study and this is the most what can be said about a study: it helps, directs, gives the framework of interpretation and forms a solid basis. The 186 biographies constitute the main part of the volume, which supplements organically the history of the organization thus providing a useful handbook.

Zoltán Pál

Speaking Differently about the Great Show Trial

A bookreview about István Ötvös: Koncepcióváltások. A Rajk-per katonai vonala [Changes of Concepts. The Military Line of the Show Trial of Rajk]. Attraktor, 2012.

Stalinist dictatorship is one of the darkest periods of the Hungarian history. The keywords first coming to mind when speaking about the Rákosi era are total terror, state security authority, internment camps, deportation, forced collectivization and cult of personality. Also show trials belong among these atrocities. Two of them were the greatest trials, those of Primate Mindszenty’s and Rajk’s, which like a drama ended in the execution of Rajk, the former Communist minister. There have been a lot of publications about his trial, many historians tried to describe and analyse its history, therefore it is an interesting question what novelty could be in it? This is the main question of the author of the book review when reading István Ötvös’ monograph.

Ötvös argues in his book that the show trials of 1949-1950 (the Rajk-Brankov trial, the procedure against László Sólyom and other military leaders, the Szebenyi trial) were based not only on false political concepts, but used concepts of the intelligence services, which were changed during the trial several times.

Further positive contribution of the book Changes of Concepts is to show the most characteristic features of Rákosi era. It successfully introduces the mechanism of creating enemies, analyses the reasons and realization of reckoning. This book is a chronicle of the cruelest clashes within the party elite for the power over the secret services. The author presents these events and processes with a scientific apparatus sometimes in an ironic, but profound style.

Zsolt Krahulcsán

“A Compromise of Popular Front Type”

A book review about Gábor Tabajdi: Kiegyezés Kádárral. „Szövetségi politika”, 1953-1963. [Compromise with Kádár. “Politics of Alliance”, 1953-1963]. Budapest, Jaffa Kiadó, 2013.

The title of the new monograph of Gábor Tabajdi is “A Compromise with Kádár”. Kádár, as the one-time first secretary of MSZMP, might have been proud when hearing that his name suggested the term “compromise” to somebody after putting down with ruthless violence the Hungarian revolution of 1956 and effectuating a bloody revenge by mass executions. The author himself acknowledged in the introduction of the book with some astonishment: even in public debate about history the concept of a compromise with Kádár (although a forced one) after the revolution of 1956 is getting more popular when speaking about the relationship of the power elite and the representatives of the society.

According to Gábor Tabajdi, Kádár and his group applied a new technique of power practice from the end of 1956. The deeper reasons for this has been still undisclosed. He attempts to analyse these levels of deeper and personal reasons and examines the “politics of alliance” of MSZMP in a chronological order and according to different aspects of the power. First he analyses the formal systems and after discussing the official ideology he tries to analyse the realization of power in practice in the everyday life of the political world. The monograph follows a logical structure: the preliminaries and tradition of the “politics of alliance” are followed by the international context, the resolutions of the leading corps of the party, their decisions and finally the re-organization of the Popular Front. After that the newest results of the author’s researches are introduced: the activity of the state security services in order to help the fulfilment of the aims of the party and the analysis of the relationship between the Ministry of the Interior and other actors of “the politics of the alliance”, the presentation of the personal and informal connections.

The latest monograph of Gábor Tabajdi corrects and completes our knowledge about the Kádár regime in many ways. It is a well-written and even enjoyable reading not only for professional historians but also for the larger public. It describes how Kádár and his circle stabilized his power by personal deals, blackmailing, disintegration and opportunism and how he chose his “enemies” and “compromised alliances”.