The Sziklai Myth
The anger which had been simmering because of the grievances over deportations and resettlements in the village of Budakeszi surfaced immediately in 1956. Sándor Sziklai, the local communist strongman and his father-in-law became victims of it. Conditions of his death are still surrounded with legends. It spread immediately in the village – without any evidence – that the hated Sziklai, being cornered by the insurgents, first killed “Uncle Kiss”, his father-in-law and then committed suicide. This myth has solidly prevailed until today, so much that even historians have accepted it without reservations. However, evidence is at hand among the archival sources. The legends above were refuted by four eyewitnesses, and their testimonies – together with the last medical examination – prove without any doubt that Sziklai’s death was caused by a hand grenade of an insurgent, and his father-in-law took his own life. Kádárist publications tried to falsify the facts, but in the Sziklai case, unfortunately, no break-through has happened so far…
“It Isn’t As Painful For The Firm As For Us”
Burglary attempts into the editorial office of the Nemzetőr
Tibor Tollas, as a decisive figure in the Hungarian émigré community, was in the target cross of the Hungarian state security between 1956 and 1989. From among some 200 files in which his name appears, this article focuses only on one particular piece because the procedure described therein was a single case with Tollas, and the case was terminated within the same file. In Betekintő several papers have been devoted to the activity of the Hungarian intelligence in Austria from which we know that very often criminals with a good command of German were used to commit burglaries and kidnapping. A team of this kind was used against Tibor Tollas and his newspaper “Nemzetőr” when he was living in Vienna. The scenes that would perfectly fit in crime stories as well as burlesque shows can be read in Sándor Aranyosi’s agent files. The series of actions, which lasted for months, eventually failed. Through the presentation of these actions one can gain a better insight into the conditions of the era, the methods used by the state security system as well as the mentality of their staff.
The ‘Banned’ and the Unspeakable
Karády nostalgia in the 1970s and 1980s
During the waves of nostalgia in the 1970s and 1980s, the interest in the pre-war songs of Katalin Karády awakened. After the German occupation of Hungary March 19, 1944), the actress’ films and songs were considered undesirable and she was arrested and severely tortured by the Gestapo. Although she was allowed to act after 1945, political persecution finally reached her too: in 1951, she left Hungary. The Karády phenomenon soon became a symbol of ‘being banned’ and of unspeakability. The cultural policy of the Kádár era also contributed to the Karády nostalgia by maintaining, reproducing and dissolving the bans and unspeakabilities. This article introduces Katalin Karády’s life and the consequences of her political abuse and presents the development of the Karády phenomenon. It also makes it clear that the Karády nostalgia was created by the artists who reflected to the phenomenon (and also to the bans and the unspeakabilities) by working with the actress’ songs.
Greek Families in the Isolated Labour Camps in Árkus, Borzas and Kónya
In the first half of the 20th century, numerous examples can be found of coercive measures to prohibit leaving one’s residence and deportations of certain ethnic or social groups for political reasons. The topicality of this article lies in the fact that it shows examples of police detention of refugees from the Greek civil war who had been given political asylum as a group after arriving in Hungary after the organised rescue efforts of the Soviet Union and the communist countries between 1949 and 1951. No interviews were conducted with the deported Greek families. Research in this field has been very sporadic. Based on archival sources and the recollections of Hungarians who were deported to the closed labour camps in the Hortobágy region, this article discusses the stories of Greek families which were forcibly taken to the camps in Árkus, Borzas and Kónya.
“His New Place Of Residence Can Be Considered A Forced Residence Too”
The deportation of Jenő Benedict in the summer of 1951
The Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security holds the dossier of Jenő Benedict (or Benedikt). This source, which reveals the process of the former factory owner’s deportation (in 1951), is a dramatically condensed record of the events of a few months. This type of dossier, which is not at all rare, contains the usual four-page questionnaire (filled in by the informant, usually the caretaker), the final decision and other related documents that determined the fate of the person. These materials marked the various stages of the Passion, the forcible removal from the place of residence, for each displaced person. Jenő Benedict never engaged in politics, and his person precisely exemplifies the behaviour of a wealthy Jewish citizen who played an important role in Hungarian economy but was essentially apolitical and focused solely on his profession. However, his life was threatened twice: during the Holocaust and in 1951, when he was expelled from Budapest by the Communist regime. Although the Jewish community managed to place him in a nursing home, his fate was determined by a very dramatic scenario.
Amendment, or Punks (History) Really Not Dead Yet
The historian basically makes true statements about the past based on sources, so it does not matter what sources he works with. A new document that can even shed new light on the object often falls into the hands of the historian after the research has been completed and its results have been published. Based on my own examples, I go through two such cases where the newly discovered sources did not only contain new information on the research topic but also introduced new aspects of investigation. It has been proven once again that no matter how prudent a historian is, his knowledge of the past is necessarily fragmentary and often contingent, so getting to know the past will never be over.
A Life Devoted to the Szekler Village Community: A Biography István Imreh
A BOOKREVIEW ON
Both Noémi Zsuzsanna: A székely faluközösség nótáriusa. Imreh István élete és munkássága. [The notary of the Székely village community. The life and work of István Imreh]
Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület, Kolozsvár, 2021. 248 p.
The book review analyses the recently published biography written by Noémi Zsuzsanna Both on István Imreh, a well-known Transylvanian historian. Imreh’s outstanding historical work mainly concentrates on the rules adopted by the villages of the Transylvanian Szekler (Székely) community, and thus represents a valuable source of our knowledge on the Szekler feudal society, economy and everyday life. Although his work can be easily connected to movements within western historiography (like the Annales School), Imreh’s methods were mainly rooted in his activity as a student in Cluj/Kolozsvár in the first half of the 1940’s, influenced by the Romanian sociographical and Hungarian popular movements. Imreh joined the communist party after the Second World War and was a prominent intellectual in Cluj/Kolozsvár. As Both convincingly demonstrates, Imreh’s historical work and activity as a professor had a great impact on generations of Hungarian historians and history teachers in Transylvania.
The Story of László Kovács
A film by Ágota Varga
(Megbélyegzetten [Stigmatized] – 1968)
Film director Ágota Varga, a winner of the Béla Balázs Award, finished her latest film, Megbélyegzetten (Stigmatized) in 2019. The harassment of the Hungarian society by state security in the Kádár era is a returning topic in her films, including the highly acclaimed Tartótiszt (The Spymaster) of 2013, which is a self-confession of a former state security officer. Megbélyegzetten tells the story of László Kovács, who was arrested at the age of 14 in 1968, charged with an attempt to overthrow the order of the state, and sentenced to 10 months of imprisonment. The film club of the archives screened the film in September 2021, which was followed by a conversation with the director as well as the screenwriter Balázs Maruszki. This article is a summary of the conversation.