|Richard Lettis: The Hungarian Revolt|
The Soviet troops that attacked [after 3 November] were not the same as those which, during the first intervention, had suffered so crushing a defeat at the hands of young "good-for-nothings" in the Hungarian capital. The troops stationed in Hungary had been relieved between the 28 and 30 October. In fact the occupation army had been largely "contaminated" by contact with the Hungarian population, and scenes of fraternization had been numerous. On October 27th I was brought to the Hotel Royal . . . to serve as interpreter between a group of Russian tank men and Hungarians surrounding them. The Russians explained that they wanted to shoot only at the enemies of socialism, and that they could see we were no fascists. . .
Dezso Kozak, Franc-Tireur (Paris), 25 December [202/203]
The Soviet Government tonight agreed that a joint Soviet-Hungarian commission shall meet in Budapest tomorrow at noon to discuss Hungarian complaints that Russian troops are still rolling in. It will discuss too the ultimate withdrawal of Soviet armour from Hungary . . . But in Budapest, however, the news has caused remarkably little reaction . . . The main reason is that the members of the new inner Cabinet have their misgivings that this Russian move is just another manoeuvre.
That was the fear of Zoltan Tildy, the silver-haired Minister of State, leader of the Smallholder Party . . . The only real chance of success for these talks,' Tildy told me rather sadly, "is that Soviet troop movements pouring fresh armour into Hungary, and their operations inside our country, should stop -at least until the talks begin. The bad, sad news is that the movements have not ceased. According to our incontrovertible information, they are still going on."
Even while we were talking, the new Defence Minister, Colonel Pal Maleter, pulled himself up to his 6 ft. 4 in. and asked Tildy to step into the corner so that he could give him the latest military report.
During our talk, Mr. Tildy said the Hungarian Government would be prepared to withdraw its appeal to UNO on one condition. "We are prepared," he said, "to withdraw our protest to UNO provided that Soviet troops will immediately cease operations and leave our country."
Tildy, only recently released from eight years house arrest to which he was submitted with his white-haired wife, received me in the very same room in which I had talked with him in 1946, when he was the deputy Prime Minister in the Hungarian Government. Then I found him rather a weak man, waffling, and unsure of himself, giving vague and evasive answers. Today, as he sat there with his wife and two new Smallholder Ministers, I found him strong, firm, and decided.
"From the very beginning the Government," he said, "has wanted to solve this matter by negotiation. But the events which have been taking place since Wednesday afternoon are in contrast to the spirit of the previous negotiation offer that had been agreed . . . For our protest to the Soviet Ambassador, our general staff prepared a map showing the exact order of battle of all Soviet military units which are now coming into the country and those which had been formerly stationed here. We insisted that we can tolerate no kind of interference by Soviet troops in Hungary's domestic affairs. Moreover, the Government has declared null and void all declarations made by the former Government concerning the presence of Soviet troops. So there is no legal basis today with which the Soviet Government can justify the operation of troops in Hungary." ...
Sefton Delmer, Daily Express (London), 3 November [203/204]
"Neutrality" is the word today in Budapest. It figures in the notes addressed today by the Hungarians to the Soviet Government, in the message to Mr. Hammarskjold, the Secretary- General of the United Nations, and it crops up in almost every political conversation -and there are few others in Budapest these days.
The model is Austria, not Yugoslavia with its lofty but involved concept of active co-existence, nor Switzerland with its centuries of peace. Ravaged by war, torn by revolution, raped by foreign military occupation, Hungary is sighing for the goal that Austria has achieved: first the withdrawal of foreign troops, then neutrality.
Abstract as this concept is, strange as it may be to the minds of ordinary workers and peasants, it has yet caught the imagination of the nation. "If Austria can do it, why couldn't we?"
Yesterday Mr. Nagy said that he had asked the Big Four to recognise Hungary's neutrality. Hungary is waiting anxiously for their reaction. The people here can understand why Moscow is delaying its reply. But why, it has asked, have the Western Governments not replied immediately that they acknowledge Hungary's neutrality? By delaying its reply, even for a day, the West is making things easier for Moscow. It is, in effect, countenancing the march of Soviet troops on Budapest...
There is no doubt about the determination both of the people and of the Government to defend the city. "We have had a few days' rest now", said a Hungarian officer, "and we are now ready for them again."
From all areas where Soviet troop movements are proceeding it is reported that the people are joining the national guard in great numbers.
Yet, with all this, it is difficult to believe that the Russians would risk another battle of Budapest. It is most likely that they are trying to intimidate the Hungarians into giving up the city without a fight. They have obviously not learned much about Hungarian mentality.
Victor Zorza, Manchester Guardian, 3 November [204/206]
From the very contradictory reports of the Hungarian press and radio and from the numerous comments in the foreign Press the following can be quite clearly concluded. Various dark forces which do not at all represent the interests of the people have hastened to associate themselves with the just discontent expressed by healthy elements of the Hungarian people in connection with certain shortcomings in the work of the State apparatus of Hungary . . . The disorders in Budapest and other parts of the country have been used by direct enemies of the Hungarian working people and by their foreign sponsors. It is they who are now continuing their subversive work, hampering the normalisation of the situation and striving to bring about a rift within the ranks of the Hungarian people and to cause political and economic chaos.
A truth which will be bitter for the Hungarian people must be stated. Unfortunately the enemies of the Hungarian people have to a certain extent been successful. A situation is now arising in Hungary which threatens all the achievements of the Hungarian working people during the years of the people's rule. Friends tell the truth to your face, because they want to help and warn their friends against a wrong step.
There is every ground for anxiety.
V. Kartsev, Radio Moscow, 2 November [206/207]
As the President of the Council of Ministers and designate Foreign Minister of the Hungarian People's Republic I have the honour to bring to the attention of Your Excellency the following additional information:
I have already mentioned in my letter of November 1st that new Soviet military units entered Hungary and that the Hungarian Government informed the Soviet Ambassador in Budapest of this fact, at the same time terminated the Warsaw Pact, declared the neutrality of Hungary, and requested the United Nations to guarantee the neutrality of the country.
On the 2nd of November further and exact information, mainly military reports, reached the Government of the Hungarian People's Republic, according to which large Soviet military units crossed the border of the country, marching toward Budapest. They occupy railway lines, railway stations, and railway safety equipment. Reports also have come that Soviet military movements in an east-west direction are being observed on the territory of Western Hungary.
On the basis of the above-mentioned facts the Hungarian Government deemed it necessary to inform the Embassy of the USSR and all the other Diplomatic Missions in Budapest about these steps directed against our People's Republic.
At the same time, the Government of the Hungarian People's Republic forwarded concrete proposals on the withdrawal of Soviet troops stationed in Hungary as well as the place of negotiations concerning the execution of the termination of the Warsaw Pact and presented a list containing the names of the members of the Government's delegation. Furthermore, the Hungarian Government made a proposal to the Soviet Embassy in Budapest to form a joint committee to prepare the withdrawal of the Soviet troops.
I request Your Excellency to call upon the Great Powers to recognize the neutrality of Hungary and ask the Security Council to instruct the Soviet and Hungarian Governments to start the negotiations immediately.
I also request Your Excellency to make known the above to the Members of the Security Council.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the expression of my highest consideration.
U.N. Document S/3726, November 2 [207/214]
THE AVH AND PRISONERS, OLD AND NEW
Former AVH members are reporting en masse at the Public Prosecutor's office, asking to be arrested. A report was handed to Dr. Sandor Nemes, the President of the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Public Prosecutor's office showing for example, that in a single district, namely Budapest XIII, 30 former AVH agents reported early this morning. The situation is similar in other districts...
Free Radio Kossuth
This morning the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Public Prosecutor's office began the revisions of cases of political prisoners and the cases of common criminals imprisoned in Marko Street Prison. In very many cases sentences were administered which were far too severe in relation to the crimes committed, or such persons were arrested and are still in prison for offenses that are no longer considered crimes. Hundreds were condemned simply because they could not stand the hunger, misery, and the terror which existed under the old regime...
Free Radio Kossuth
The National Revolutionary Committee of Hungarian Lawyers condemned lynch law in a communiqué . . . Individuals have been attempting to take revenge for anti-national attitudes or personal grievances. The communiqué emphasized that strictly on the basis of legality Hungarian lawyers protest any action that could imperil in any way the achievements of the National Revolution. The lawyers emphasized that they do not want to exempt anybody from the normal processes of jurisdiction, and they request the people to maintain discipline and moderation...
Free Radio Kossuth [214/215]
My friends were mostly at the Writers' Club in Bajza Street. Most of them had gone into gaol during the early months of the Rakosi terror, and emerged only in 1954, during the "liberal period" of Imre Nagy (before they shoved him out again for "rightist deviation", read sense of decency and justice).
I shall leave their names unsaid. Yet it is an important fact about the revolt of 1956 that it was encouraged and inspired -like its notable ancestor of 1848- by men of letters: almost entirely, by radical men of letters. There was no coherent organisation behind the rising of October 23 -not even any preconceived intention; but there was an inspiration. It came from the writings of a score of men who published, week by week and gradually in stronger words, their articles of protest in the Irodalmi Ujsag, the "Literary Gazette". As with Petofi in 1848, so these men now.
One of them had lately married. "We met in gaol, as a matter of fact. Met? Well, not exactly. We used to tap out messages to each other. She came out earlier than I did, but she waited for me. They'd given her a bad time. They'd torn out her toe nails. The usual Rakosi charges: spying, wrecking, all that...
One learnt these things with shame. Counter-revolution? On Wednesday October 31st, this Writers' Club was put in editorial charge of Budapest Radio. Almost to a man they were principled supporters of radical social change ...
And the army?
Many units handed over their arms at once. Others stayed neutral. After the first day, none remained with the Russians and the political police.
Its officers? A mixed bag.
A colonel showed where I could find the office of General Paul Maleter on the day
that Nagy made him Minister of War (and the day before the Russians seized him). This colonel was fairly rubbing his hands. He said: "Just think, I've been a colonel for ten years. With my experience, too. I fought on the Russian front, you know -and these Communists woudn't promote me. You'll see. Now there'll be promotion".
Perhaps; and perhaps not. For Maleter and his fellow-commanders were different. Already famous for his refusal to surrender the Kilian Barracks to Soviet tanks. Maleter impressed one. A tall lean self-confident man: a man of action, a product of Communist training both military and otherwise. He still wore his little partisan star of 1944 (and another Red Star awarded for successful coal-digging by his regiment at Tatabanya) at a time when the whole officers' corps was dragging off its Soviets-style epaulettes. "If we get rid of the Russians" he said to me, "don't think we're going back to the old days. And if there's people who do want to go back, well we'll see". And he touched his revolver holster.
Even the newly-reissued Sziv (an authoritative Catholic weekly) wrote that Saturday morning that: "We renounce the nationalised estates of the Church." And Mindszenty's broadcast of the same night -distorted afterwards by those anxious to prove counter-revolution at all costs- was in fact a qualified and yet siguificant reinforcement of the Nagy Government. Mindszenty, true enough, called that Government "the heirs of a broken system".
That system -the Rakosi regime- did in fact collapse overnight. To defend it, among Hungarians, there was no-one but the political police; and they were only defending themselves.
By Saturday the hunt for these hated hangmen was practically over: in the process, some of the innocent also suffered. Only at the big party headquarters in Republic Square was the chase still warm. There I saw men drilling for a suspected secret "bunker" many feet down.
Giant shovels had scooped wide trenches in the Square: fruitlessly.
In the basement they were also drilling. Deep in black miry mud, pastried with filthy sheets of paper, that basement had a long series of stepping-stones that were made of books, bundles of books. We trod on these, wobbling as we went across that gruesome cellar towards the arc-lit din of drilling.
I looked down to see what books had met this fate.
Engulfed in mud there lay the works of Marx and Lenin.
Yes, a broken system.
Basil Davidson, The Times of India (Bombay), 24 November [215/222]
I left the Hungarian News Agency and my editorial office at Igazsag and went out again to gather news. Budapest seemed to justify optimism . . . It no longer showed the excitement of the last days. . .
How many jokes there were that morning! The people were relieved, the people were jesting. In a shop window, I saw three "mannequins", each wearing a sign with the inscription "Gero", "Rakosi", "Apro" . . . At the Soviet propaganda headquarters "Horizon," a huge inscription: "Store for Rent". The motion picture theater Nap advertised a Czech film: "Irene, Please Return Home." A facetious hand had crossed out the name of Irene and had written in "Russki". The Bastya theater announced a French film "The Escaped" . . . Jokers had added a subtitle: "Gero, Hegedus, Apro." Stalin Square, where only the bronze boots were left of the enormous statue of the dictator, was re-baptized "Boot Square". People joked about the defeated AVH ... which only a fortnight ago tried to prevent groups of more than three people from walking in the streets. Their call to order at that time was said to have been:
"Proletarians of the world) unite! But not in groups of more than three!" . .
At five o'clock in the afternoon I was present at the memorable press conference held by the government in the Parliament building . . . In another group -under the mantle of secrecy- important and well-informed personalities -gave "off the record" accounts about the negotiations being conducted with the Soviets. They said agreement had "partly" been reached on four points:
(1) Soviet troops would completely evacuate Hungarian territory and the Government would make It clear, in the solemn farewell, that this was not a matter of "occupation troops."
(2) Damaged monuments erected in commemoration of the Red Army's battles against Hitler are to be restored, and the Hungarian Government would be responsible for their further up-keep.
(3) A financial reimbursement would be made corresponding to the value of Soviet property in Hungary, and indemnities would be paid for losses inflicted upon the Red Army during the insurrection.
(4) Hungary would become a neutral country, with a neutrality, as in Finland, oriented towards the East, and not oriented towards the West, as in Austria.
Dezso Kozak, Franc Tireur (Paris), 23 December [222/223]
We received information proving that propaganda supplied to the Soviet radio and Soviet troops tells of "fascist massacres" in Hungary. As it is feared that many Soviet soldiers will believe these slanders, we urge every free Hungarian radio station to start regular broadcasts in Russian and Hungarian to counteract these false rumors.
Free Radio Rakoczi
According to information from the Ministry of Defence, members of a Soviet battalion in the Gyongyos area have handed their arms over to the civilian population, stating that they do not wish to fight the Hungarian people. Since handing over their arms they have been camping at the outskirts of the town.
Free Petofi Radio
A member of the Revolutionary Council of Bekes County . . . gave the following
information to a correspondent of the Hungarian News Agency about Soviet rnoves in the neighborhood: There is a Soviet motorized unit stationed southwest of Bekescsaba and another south of Szarvas. As far as I can see they intend to surround the city. The Soviet commander was surprised when I asked him to avoid populated areas, for the people are in a very excited mood and an armed conflict might ensue. The Soviet commander said that his troops had been sent with orders to fight fascists, people who want to bring back the fascist order. The negotiators explained that there was no question of this. They also told the Soviet commander that Rakosi's anti-people's regime had brought the population in a difficult position. The Soviet officers, having been informed of all this, declared that they would never fire on the Hungarian people.
Free Radio Szombathely
The soldiers who have arrived at Gyor said that . . . they were told that the Americans want to attack Hungary and that they must defend the Hungarian workers . . The Soviet soldiers are unaware of the true situation and, on seeing the enthusiasm of the people, they are more and more convinced that the Hungarian people is fighting for the independence of its fatherland and the wellbeing of the workers.
Hungarian News Agency
Tanks are approaching ... No one is in the streets except Soviet troops on patrol. Nyiregyhaza has been surrounded ... Every part of the county has been occupied ... The situation has reached maximum tension.
Radio Free Miskolc [223/227]
Imre Nagy turned out to be, objectively speaking, an accomplice of the reactionary forces. Imre Nagy cannot and does not want to fight the dark forces of reaction ...
The Soviet Government, seeing that the presence of Soviet troops in Budapest might lead to further aggravation of the situation, ordered troops to leave Budapest, but ensuing events have shown that reactionary forces, taking advantage of the non-intervention of the Nagy Cabinet, have gone still further...
The task of barring the way to reaction in Hungary has to be carried out without the slightest delay -such is the course dictated by events...
Pravda (Moscow), 4 November [227/228]
THE BATTLE RAGES
From my windows I saw the horizon light up with sinister flames. The ground shook and for three hours one explosion followed upon the other. The Russians entered into Budapest without any difficulty. The roads leading into the town were merely guarded by a total of about thirty Hungarian tanks.
The battle raged right in the midst of a town of one million. Dwellings, factories, barracks, and streets just like those in Paris served as battle lines. The principal resistance centres were workers' districts. The targets which the Soviet attacked with particular rage and fury were the metallurgical factories in the "red outskirts" of Budapest, districts inhabited by workers, groups of workmen's dwellings and factories where the Hungarian Communists had their strongholds and their most active militants.
It was they -the young Hungarian Communists, the metal workers, the workers with grimed hands, who fought the most fiercely against Soviet armoured cars.
Michel Gordey, France-Soir (Paris), 13 November [228/229]
I woke suddenly - from the heights of Buda, Soviet tanks had opened fire on the city . . . The telephone rings. It is one of my Hungarian friends, a long-time Party member who had joined the freedom-fighters: "We are ready to battle to the last cartridge . . . It's up to you Westerners to help us!"
A few minutes later another telephone call. A high official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs implores me, a French journalist, to intervene with my Government: "Send us arms!" All my colleagues received similar appeals. (And those who sent them were not "fascists" or "counter- revolutionaries," but well-known communists.).
The dawn is fresh. The streets are literally swarming with Soviet tanks and arms. Guards have been posted at street-crossings. Shots are fired from all sides.
At Bajcsy-Zsilinsky Avenue, I can see a tank column maneuvering in the direction of Alkotmany Street . . . probably towards Parliament, where Imre Nagy had sent out a desperate appeal . . . The Hungarian News Agency at Feny Street has been partially destroyed by Soviet artillery. All communication with the outside world has been cut off. The bridges connecting Buda and Pest have been occupied by the Russians ...
Thomas Schreiber, Le Monde (Paris), 7 December
It could not have been more than five in the morning when we were roughly awakened by our colleague Saporito who rushed into our room after having hastily put his overcoat over his pyjamas. "There is shooting!" he said. "Can't you hear it?" And, indeed, from afar a mournful rumbling could be heard, like the noise of a distant avalanche. I got up immediately, asking Matteotti to do the same. He was rubbing his eyes, trying to justify his desire for sleep by optimistic remarks that were immediately repudiated by the approach of the cannonade.
As I rushed to the telephone switchboard, the whole hotel was in uproar. I met a poor woman, quite pale, who said to me: "I left the concentration camp last week. I was in for seven whole years". . .
Now ten armoured divisions were advancing on the capital. They entered at 6:15 with a terrifying clash of steel. Arriving from all directions, always accompanied by the muffled rumbling of artillery, they dispersed in threes along the main avenues towards the centre of the city, their cannons pointing before them, and machine guns attached on every side. At every crossroads, one tank halted, while the others continued on their route...
On the part of the Hungarian insurgents, this extraordinary battle was carried out without the slightest attempt at dissimulation. They all knew perfectly well that sooner or later their ammunition would be exhausted, they would have no other arms, and they would be at the mercy of police repression. But no one troubled to take an assumed name.
None of them tried to grow beards, to wear glasses, to change their address. Their action was co-ordinated and orderly. . . . This could be noticed by the number of messages arriving at the students' headquarters which I was visiting. . . . The basic order was that armoured columns should not be attacked; they had to be followed and note taken of single vehicles which, for some reason or other, remained behind, and where they were to be found. Then groups left to attack. . . Soon the Russians began to avoid posting isolated tanks at any spot but always left them in pairs, one protecting the other...
Indro Montanelli, Corriere della Sera (Milan), 13 November
|Richard Lettis: The Hungarian Revolt|