Reckoning with the Wartime Activity in the 1950s
The participation of Hungary in the war against the Soviet Union became the basis of legitimacy for the Rákosi regime and was regarded as “the original sin” of the Horthy era. For the members of the Muscovite Hungarian Communist emigration this gave a possibility to construct such a concept of the enemy, in which the prominent leaders of Horthy era and sometimes almost even the whole society could be presented as sinners. This could help explain the increasing vehemence of the ideological and political struggle against the representative figures of the recent past in the 1950s.
The study of Judit Pihurik shows how this heritage of the world war was used in the 1950s by analysing historical sources about a couple of members of the one-time Hungarian Royal Army. Some of these sources are memoirs; some are so-called “anti-fascist farewell albums”, which were created in the war prisoners’ camps. Observation files and those of legal procedures and some lists which were made by the secret police organizations in 1962 are also used in the study.
A Refugee or Deserter?
A mysterious vanishing of a state security captain
András Czirok, the deputy head of department of the main division of Western European intelligence department of the State Security Authority (ÁVH) vanished in Vienna on 22nd May, 1953. His colleagues, who were waiting for him in the residency of the Hungarian embassy first thought that he had lost his way in the city or had suffered an accident somewhere. In reality it never turned out what had happened to Czirok. He was suspected to be kidnapped, but the state security had a concept that Czirok simply deserted.
Czirok’s files did not give an exact answer to his mysterious vanishing and his family still has had no idea what could have happened to him. They did not receive information from the state security. The author introduces the circumstances of his vanishing, his professional career and the way how the state security dealt with the case for decades.
The Observation of Mátyás Erdős by the Secret Services
Hungary was being occupied by a foreign power since 1945, which was anti-religious from its very beginnings. The regime was maintained by a dictatorship, since 1949 a total one, based on terror and army, built according to Soviet patterns with the help of an extensive secret agent network. In the eyes of the secret police the most dangerous enemies of the regime were the priests and pastors, who lived exemplary lives and became the support and comfort of the people. Mátyás Erdős was one of them. He was not imprisoned though, but between 1952 and 1983 he was totally neglected.
The personal files of Erdős were created in the 1960s. He emerged at the horizon of the state security first in 1948 when the show trial of prince primate Mindszenty was on the agenda. He had to leave his seminary in 1952 due to a state decree and he was replaced to Epöl. His state security observation files were dated at that time. There were a number of informants of the III/III Main Divisions of the Ministry of the Interior who reported about Erdős. In his study, the author publishes three of them.
Plans for the Deportation of the Writers of the Popular Movement in 1951
The Popular Movement, which started to decline after 1945, witnessed a further degradation after the Communist seizure to power. Both emigrants and those who stayed in Hungary formed smaller and smaller circles. These circles were not so closed, however, as they had been at the start of the Popular Movement. The feeling of belonging together still survived and the solidarity did not disappear totally. Moreover, in crisis solidarity overcame almost in every case. The source, which is published in the study reports about the writer István Sinka and demonstrates that although popular writers could belong to different political side they could keep together. The reports of the informant present the life behind the official face of the dictatorship, to which both the state security members and the informants belonged.
The analysed source is from the personal file of István Sinka. Although the file was opened in 1951, some reports originated already from 1949. It is assumed that the observation of the (extreme) right wing of the Popular Movement had already started as early as the end of World War II. The report reflects the motifs of the informant and the expectation of the political police and therefore could serve as a reliable source for the reconstruction of the opinion of the state security organs about the Movement.
Finale and overture
The Reburial of Imre Nagy and the State Security
The ceremonial act of the reburial of Imre Nagy and his martyr comrades was not only a symbolic restitution. A symbol in itself, however, was not enough to overthrow the political system. It needed the multitude of people demonstrating around the reburial to make a step forward on the way to democracy. Regarding the representatives of the still existing communist power it meant an arm-twisting or a satisfaction for their outrageous oppression of the memory of the revolution of 1956. On Heroes’ square, at the venue of the demonstration, political ambition met wide-range social quest for democracy on 16th of June, 1989. Giving the final tribute to the martyrs and commemorating the events of 1956 became an opportunity to detachment from the agonizing state socialism.
Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior in charge of state security affairs, Ferenc Pallagi major-general ordered 10 days before the reburial that an information report should be sent in every two, or three hours to his secretariat. The study and the published documents at the end of the study present how the Ministry of the Interior reflected the reburial (and itself) according to these reports and contrast them with sources about the opinions of the contemporary participants and what they knew or supposed about the presence of state security at the reburial.
“On the Waves of the Danube”
A report about the lecture of Dr. Laura Stancu, Director of C.N.S.A.S. in Bucharest, 27th March, 2014
An extraordinary media interest characterized the fourth conference on Romanian Communism in Bucharest, 27-28th March, 2014. Laura Stancu held a lecture about the special operative actions of Romanian intelligence with the title “On the waves of the Danube. New archival sources on the special foreign exchange actions”. According to the archival sources of the Romanian Secret Service and Romanian Intelligence Service, which were handed over to the archives and which secret status was now resolved, the lecturer gave an accurate and coherent picture about the secret foreign exchange actions of the Romanian intelligence services including the archival files called “Dunarea”, the documentation about the operative foreign exchange actions.
The author presents the Hungarian summary of the Bucharest lecture and in his report states that the Romanian secret services looked for such people under different codenames who were the victims of the Nazi regime and acting on their behalf the Romanian state could gather restitution from the Federal Republic of Germany. Another possibility for increasing the income of the Romanian state was to provide permission to people with Jewish origin to emigrate and grant people with German ancestry an emigration visa.
The Memory of Violence
A report about the workshop in the Institute for Military History of the Ministry of Defence, Ágoston Tóth room, 28th May, 2014
The Institute for Military History of the Ministry of Defence organized a workshop with the title “The Memory of Violence. Individuals, Institutions and Methods” in May, 2014. The intention of the organizers was to approach some of the research topics of contemporary history from the perspective of military history and the social memory of violence. The aim of the interdisciplinary approach was to enrich the history of the contemporary history with forgotten persons and “lieu de memoire”. This intention is a progressive one because dealing with contemporary history, partly because of its nearness to the present, needs and demands new aspects and methods for researchers. What reasons can support why history writing should reject e.g. autobiographies written in prison, or oral history interviews, or the linguistic analysis of show trials while these can contain relevant new information? Memoirs, oblivion, recollection, the presentation of geographically conceptualized areas, or films can also put new aspects of history into the limelight.
The participants of the workshop belonged to a younger generation of historians, therefore they used a new language. They found their voice, which is distinguishable, but not uniform. The organizers consciously selected participants from different historical schools and rendered them to research topics. The Kádár-regime supervised historical memory by permitting only such approaches which fitted the power’s concept of history. This historical narrative was discredited after 1989 as hagiographic and a new perspective could emerge. This new perspective became the natural context for the new generation of historians, actively participating in this workshop.
In the Trap of the Network
A book review about Tibor Takács: Informants about their Activity – Memoirs of Secret Agents about the Kádár era. Budapest, L’Harmattan, 2013.
Takács’ book is a remarkable piece of historiography, because in his introductory study he does not just introduce his sources but trains his reader how to read them, thus giving a kind of study-aid to the interesting but difficult material. The trinity of (over)hearing-remembering-narrating is put into a special limelight because the imperative of the higher authority to create memoirs, they were born as methodological, didactical material for the state security, causes a further twist in the procedure of interpretation. In case of forced memoirs, as oral history states it, it is a fundamental experience that people remember in stories and the process of remembering cannot be distinguished from creating an identity. In oral history interviews, however, one can ask the interviewee, but in case of Takács’ book his discourse is only on paper.
Takács’ book merges modern literary theory, psychology, cultural anthropology and xenology. It often challenges the archive-based historiography because of its positivism, meanwhile it utters a serious critique against archives themselves (because of the special structure of documents for example). However it can be claimed that by thorough source-based researches and by serious theoretical background the archival sources are still useful bases for historian’s inquiry.