4 /2017

Rolf Müller

Accounts of Violence
Narratives of Punishment and Death in State Security Reports from 1952

In his publication the author reconstructs the forms of direct violence and its effects as they were represented in the documents of two law enforcement institutions of the State Security Authority in 1952. Reports of the leaders of Kistarcsa Central Internment Camp and Kozma street State Security Prison in Budapest recorded different punishments (thrashes, tortures), death cases (illnesses, executions), and the extraordinary reactions of the prisoners (hunger strikes, escapes and other attempts of desertion). The inquiry takes into account the events of one year only but the larger historical context shows that this year was the peak point of the history of the activity of the political police between 1950 and 1953. In this peiord the state security organs controlled the internal and foreign security of the country as a quasi state security ministry. The increase of its power did not only mean its independence but appeared also as a kind of multi-functionality. Its consequence was that state security extended its authority to internment camps and prisons, new places of performing violence.

Mária Palasik

A Life in Illegality in the Rákosi Era
The Story of János Hortobágyi

The author has cherished this story for ten years, which she originally found when doing researches about the murders in Gyömrő district in 1945. The protagonist of the story, János Hortobágyi, was a public personality only for a couple of weeks: he led the village police in January 1945 in Rákoscsaba, a duty which he was charged by the Rákoscsaba Workers’ and Peasants’ Council and was supported by the military leader of the Red Army in that district. However, his life was adventurous: he was put to the courts of justice six times between 1945 and 1958, more or less innocently. In this regard his life was not unique, since in the rough 20th century this might have happened to many. Nevertheless, Hortobágyi’s case is special because he escaped from his working place in Drasche brickyard when he spent his punishment in National Transit Prison. From this time on, he lived in illegality until 29 June 1955 with a false ID card under the name “Zoltán Bíró”. The study is based on the archival materials of János Hortobágyi, witnesses’ testimonies, the documentation of the political police, family documents and the memoirs of his son, László Hortobágyi.

Ildikó Cserényi-Zsitnyányi

Ferenc Kummer, a mining engineer from locksmith

The mining engineer Ferenc Kummer has almost been unknown to historiography and even to his own profession so far. Emigrating in the course of Hungarian-Soviet exchange programme of prisoners of war, he could experience how totalitarian dictatorship and personality cult worked in the Soviet Union. He returned to Hungary in 1948 complying the request of Ernő Gerő and Mátyás Rákosi. Facing the outburst of totalitarian terror in Hungary, Kummer, however, was aware that the legal procedures against his colleagues and friends lacked any grounds and that the political leadership only sought scapegoats to justify the poor consequences of irreal economic policy. Ferenc Kummer’s legacy is beyond any doubts. One of the most important chapters of his life was his role in the show trials of mining engineers between 1952 and 1954. The victims and their relatives could be grateful to Kummer because in many cases they could survive only due to his activity. It is apparent from his biogaphy written by a former victim and later friend, László Dzsida that Kummer’s Communist conviction was pushed into the background when dealing with his profession, or supporting his colleagues in the show trials.

Tibor Takács

Agent at the Grand Stand
Contributions to the History of the Reception of Space in State Security Files

Agent “Star” worked for the state security organ of the Budapest Police Headquarters as informant between 1961 and 1969. He had to observe and report about the football fans of Ferencváros Sport Club. By using his files the study examines how the state security in the Kádár era tried to keep an eye on certain physical spaces, like stadiums in order to control virtual spaces like sports, which state security itself wanted to use to its own aims. It can be stated that in general state security was not interested in the game, but wanted to rule the grand stands. The political police was convinced that the atmosphere at the grand stands was less influenced by the football and more by the provocation of hostile groups. That’s why any small groupings of football fans that was for example typical in the cheaper sectors of Népstadion Football Arena kindled the actions of state security. The case of agent “Star” proves that even such a limited task as observing a certain area was unsuccessful due to individual incomprehensiveness of the agent but also consequent upon structural (more precisely architectural) reasons. The study points out that football as the product of modernity is altogether suitable for examining many aspects of modernity, among others the controlling and restrictive techniques of political police.

Zsuzsanna Borvendég

One Step to Capitalism.
The Role and Significance of Joint Ventures in the Economy and Intelligence in the 1970s and 1980s

The significance of the Hungarian secret services increased after the revolution of 1956 among the secret service organs of the Eastern bloc. Hungarian intelligence reached an outstanding position by the 1980s mostly in the field of technological-scientific intelligence and its related transfers. The precondition of its success was the existence of a professional foreign trade elite, which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s and created a network, which could be used as embargo channels. The lobby group, which was suppported by the military intelligence achieved the creation of a legal act in 1972, which made it possible for the foreign trade companies to establish joint ventures in the West. Later these joint ventures formed the basis of that offshore network, which transfered the technology according to Soviet interest. The study examined how this network was built. This porcess had also serious economic consequences because behind the foreign trade lobby there was a clandestine pressure group, which used the offshore companies as a “money pump”. By giving profitable foreign trade orders to the joint ventures this pressure group contributed to the increase of the foreign trade deficit and to the indebtedness of Kádár’s Hungary.

Balázs Orbán-Schwarzkopf

Guns and Drug in the 1980s
Extracts from the Declassified Files of Terrorism, Guns and Drug Business

A high number of precedents illustrates the important role of certain states in maintaining the hidden networks of criminality and terror. Drugs could function as an extraordinarily profitable and useful means of warfare because this way the enemy finances the fight against itself, to say it simply. As a consequence, the increase of criminality, just like terrorism, weakens the strength and stability of a government. In the case of terrorism, criminals are used as tools of a clandestine war. To use indirect means like criminal, terrorist networks and transfer countries belongs to the most characteristic ways of its functioning because thus the principal initiator could conceal its real identity. From the 1980s this complex system has been supplemented by computer security hackers, migration and industrial espionage. The study tries to redefine our approach to terrorism and criminality. State security data from the 1980s reveal that nowadays processes have often had their roots already in the 1980s.

Géza Vörös

Contributions to the History of Re-establishing the Diplomatic Contacts between the Vatican and Hungary in 1989-1990

The diplomatic contacts between the Vatican and Hungary was cut after World War II. For nearly two decades its re-establishment was out of question and no diplomatic repprochement could take place. But as a consequence of the partial agreement that was signed in 1964 and due to “Ostpolitik”, the Vatican’s policy towards the countries of the Eastern bloc, a slow change started. The death of Cardinal Mindszenty, the release of the Catholic priests from prisons and Kádár’s visit to Rome in 1977 were also important milestones in the process of repprochement. Substantive dialogue however began only in the late 1980s, which was observed also by the political police. Cardinal László Paskai prepared the invitation of pope John Paul II to Hungary, which met the intentions of the political and party leaders, too. From the Vatican’s side, the role of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli was also decisive. Finally, the diplomatic contacts were officially re-established in spring 1990 when also the free practice of religion was granted, the rehabilitation process of the victims of persecutions started and the infamous agreement of 1950 between the Communist state and the Catholic church was abolished.