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Between Past and Future

Sorin Antohi

III. Vulnerabilities of the New Democracies

13. Counterrevolution

István Rév

Texte intégral

  • 1 Naturally, the white terrorist’s was not the longest legal procedure ever. According to the record (...)

1A legal case that had been under consideration for seventy-three years was closed on 28 November 1994 in an open session of the Supreme Court of the Hungarian Republic. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence brought against Mihály Francia Kiss in 1957 for war crimes and other criminal acts by the Council of the People’s Tribunal of the Supreme Court of the Hungarian People’s Republic. The Supreme Court reexamined the case on the appeal of Francia Kiss’s bereaved daughter. Since according to the criminal code a claimant may make such an appeal only once, and since there may be no appeal to a decision made by the Supreme Court in such criminal cases, this legal procedure, which was initiated in the summer of 1921 and which continued with interruptions until the end of 1994, was finally closed1.

  • 2 Archive of the City of Budapest (BFL) B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5.e/20630/III/49), 17.
  • 3 Office of the Attorney of the City of Budapest. BÜL 638/1957 (BFL 1798/57/1).

2In August 1921 Albert Vári, assistant royal prosecutor, and Peter Kovács, prosecutor, were directed by the minister of justice to undertake an investigation of murders and other atrocities committed in the region between the Danube and the Tisza rivers in 1919 and 1920. The investigation, however, was interrupted when Governor Horthy—who came to power after the defeat of the 1919 first Hungarian Soviet Republic—granted a general amnesty to those who had committed crimes out of “patriotic fervor” between 1919 and 1921. This clemency was granted primarily to paramilitary detachments and was especially directed to the countless murders committed by Ivan Héjjas’s so-called “supplementary gendarmerie” after the summer of 1919. During the prosecution’s investigation in 1921, only one charge was brought against Mihály Francia Kiss (despite the fact that his name arose in connection with a number of crimes) in the case of the murder of a trader from Pusztamérges, Vilmos Kalmár, in the woods at Orgovány on 6 June 1920. The victim’s relatives brought the charges against the defendant. Mihály Francia Kiss never denied committing the crime, but, though the evidence indicated murder and robbery rather than “patriotic fervor”, the government’s amnesty brought an end to the prosecution2. (Afterwards, a remarkable instance occurred in which the judge said “God bless you, Mihály!” to the departing defendant, who then threatened to kill his accusers3.)

  • 4 Besides Francia Kiss, Iván Héjjas, the chief of the supplementary gendarmerie was sentenced to dea (...)

3On 13 May 1947 after the end of World War II, Budapest’s People’s Tribunal delivered a murder conviction in the case of Ivan Héjjas and company (in fact, due to Ivan Héjjas’s absence, Zoltán Babiczki and company were convicted). Mihály Francia Kiss, defendant No. LXII in the case, was sentenced in absentia to death by hanging4.

  • 5 Nb. IV. 131/1947 (BFL-VII. 5e?206307I/49), 6.
  • 6 Nb. IV. 131/1947 (BFL-VII. 5e?20630/I/49), 6-7.

4The lawyer of eight of the defendants on trial submitted a petition debating the political nature of the crimes. According to the lawyer, “if forces arising are under such great stress that they believe they can achieve their goals only through the introduction of violence, terror, and struggle, a revolution is born. Acts, especially violent acts, carried out in the interest of achieving such a revolution may be considered to be of a political nature5...” Thus, according to the defense lawyer, only revolutionary acts are political in nature. “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which achieved power through the use of violence and was only able to keep power through violence and terror, had already fallen on 1 August 1919. By autumn 1919, and in 1920, there was no longer any need for acts of a political nature to overturn the existing state, social, and economic order. By that time the counterrevolution had succeeded, and the regime served by those accused in the Orgovány case was already in power. The motives and reasons for the actions carried out in Orgovány were not the desire or attempt to achieve political goals, but rather revenge!6

  • 7 Nb. IV. 131/1947 (BFL-VII. 5e?206307I/49), 7.

5Governor Horthy’s amnesty of November 1921 was for those who committed acts of “patriotic fervor”—in other words, acts with political motivation and (at least on paper) not common crimes. However, Dr. Nagy, the defense lawyer—keeping in mind the fact that the statute of limitations was invalid in the case of crimes with clear political motivation or crimes against humanity—attempted to show that the acts committed by the accused “were common crimes, as is proven by the methods with which they were carried out...and also the fact that they were accompanied by theft, robbery, and other means of extorting money7”.

  • 8 NÜ/13672/5. Sz. 1946 (BFL-VII. 5e/206307III/49), 1.

6In its accusation, the People’s Tribunal had originally referred to Act VII of 1945, according to which “crimes are to be punished and are declared not to have reached the statute of limitations, in which human lives were taken in 1919 and the times following, and which were left unpunished over the twenty-five years following the counterrevolution due to Amnesty Decree No. 59 391/1921.I.M., passed on 3 November 1921, and due to the sympathy shown by the authorities responsible for punishing these criminal acts, sympathy which went beyond even the bounds of Amnesty8”. (The legal reasoning cited here is identical to the logic of the so-called Zétényi-Takács legal draft of the Hungarian Parliament, which recommended in 1991 that the statute of limitations had not been reached for certain types of crimes not punished for political reasons during the decades of communist rule in Hungary, as the statute should be counted from a point in time following the fall of the communist system—in fact, from the time when the first democratically elected postcommunist government came into office in May 1990.)

  • 9 NOT. II. 727/1`947/9 (BFL-VII 5e/20630/I/49), 4.

7The appeal in the case of Héjjas’s detachments came before the appellate court, the National Council of People’s Tribunals (NCPT), which brought a sentence on 25 November 1948. The NCPT for its part decided that the incidents under question in the case could be considered war crimes under different paragraphs—under Pt. 11 & 5 and Pt. 13 & 2— and this is why the statute of limitations did not apply to them. The National Council stated that the decree, which brought the People’s Tribunal into existence and which later became law, had been formulated “so that as soon as possible, punishment would be meted out to all those who were the cause of, or participated in, the historic catastrophe which struck the Hungarian People9”.

8This passage in the law quoted by the People’s Tribunals refers to World War II as the historic catastrophe and specifically to the fascist Arrow-Cross rule of 1944. The reasoning of the National Council, therefore, created an immediate connection between the acts carried out by detachments some twenty-five years before in 1919 and the reign of Szálasi’s Arrow-Cross forces:

  • 10 NOT. II. 727/1`947/9 (BFL-VII 5e/20630/I/49), 4.

“It is a commonly known historical fact that following the fall of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat of 1919...which made a heroic, revolutionary attempt to liberate Hungary’s repressed working classes and other social strata and to establish a socialist economic and political system, our homeland fell into a dark age of counterrevolution and white terror, followed by the Horthy-type reactionary system of consolidation, that logically—that is, with unavoidable consistency and as if by law—led to the servile affiliation with Italian-German policies, which eventually led to the evil and insane intervention in World War II, and finally, in 1944 poured the filthy, murderous flood of Arrow-Cross rule onto our people and our nation, a rule whose terrible acts and destruction of human lives and material goods were in proportion, scale, and methods beyond human comprehension... It is, therefore, an unquestionable historical fact that the multiple and typical crimes discussed in this case, whether committed directly by Héjjas’s detachments or under their direction or inspiration, were spawned in the filthy, deadly swamp of the counterrevolution, from whence they drew their bestial power and outrageous nature10.”

  • 11 NÜ 13672/5sz/1947 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 1.
  • 12 George S. Berkeley, Vienna and its Jews: The Tragedy of Success (Cambridge, Mass.: Madison Books, (...)

9In its charges in 1947 the public prosecutor had already established that the crimes of the accused had arisen from the “national-Christian theory” of the 1919 provisional counterrevolutionary government in the provincial city of Szeged. “It was this Idea from Szeged which Miklós Kállay [then prime-minister] referred to in 1943 in his unfortunate speech as a theory predating the idea of National Socialism by more than a decade, and yet being essentially identical to it and having a major influence on it. This Idea from Szeged was one which even Adolf Hitler had to admit was his inspiration. This Idea from Szeged was the first sprout of the enormous tree of Fascism11”. The reasoning behind the accusation treats Hitler and Szálasi as if there had been no other historical alternative to fascism after 1919; events that followed the logic of history had to lead to 1944, then to 1947, and finally to the courtroom where these events and their consequences were being discussed. Thus the executioner, Mihály Francia Kiss, was in fact already a member of the Arrow-Cross in 1919, long before the party was set up, and perhaps even then knew of Hitler—in contrast to those who in 1889 failed to notice that an infant called Hitler had been born. In fact, in its view of history and its style, the logic of the court is not at all far from the views of George S. Berkeley, who, in discussing the suicide of crown Prince Rudolf and his lover, Marie Vetsera, in his book Vienna and its Jews, notes that: “The other event of special significance to the Vienna Jews that occurred in 1889 passed unremarked by almost everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike. Three months after Rudolph’s death, in the border village of Braunau, a son was born to Alois and Klara Hitler12”.

  • 13 NÜ. 13672/5sz. 1947 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 2.

10In addition to the link between Szálasi and Iván Héjjas (and the crimes committed by Francia Kiss in 1919), the prosecution found other direct links to fascism. According to the prosecution’s reasoning, the crimes committed by the detachments not only preceded but also served as a model for Hitler and the national socialists. The prosecutor also found proof of the detachment’s historical roots and their defining role in the development of European fascism in his introductory remarks, in which he discussed the biography of the former prime minister, Gyula Gömbös: “The organizer of the Horthyist National Army was in fact Staff Captain Gyula Gömbös who had served for some time in Croatia and who was well acquainted with the secret South Slav military organization called the ‘Black Hand,’ as well as its cover organization ‘Na-rodna Obrana.’ He established his own secret society, called the Etelköz Association (EKA), on this model...This association attempted to realize the holy trinity of the Szeged Idea. EKA, under the leadership of its founder, who later became Prime Minister, was secretly in complete control of the whole country during the quarter of a century of Horthyist rule. Ministries, the Parliament, social, political, and economic organizations were all merely puppets on EKA’s stage13...”

  • 14 NÜ. 13672/5sz.l947 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 2.

11Thus, according to the public prosecutor, the crimes committed by the detachments were not merely a preview of what Hitler’s theories and Szálasi’s rule of terror were to bring, but in fact from 1919 on the members of the detachment—Héjjas, Mihály Francia Kiss, Gömbös, and the secret fascists of the Etelköz Association—were in control of the country, “for only people who were, or who became members of EKA were allowed to play a serious role in politics in Hungary14”. From the very minute of the defeat of the dictatorship of the proletariat onward Hungary was in fact controlled by fascists, who moved political players like puppets. By starting the story in 1919 with the defeat of the first Hungarian Soviet Republic, the court succeeded in presenting fascists as primarily anticommunists, as if fascism had come into existence in the first place in order to challenge communism. Without emphasizing 1919, it would have been difficult to push the other targets, other victims, other adversaries of fascism into the background.

  • 15 NOT. II. 727/1947/9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/I/49), 6-

12In the reasons for its judgment in the appeal, the National Council of People’s Tribunals also highlighted the fact that “[t]he ‘Orgovány methods’—the binding with barbed wire, the gouging out of eyes, scalping, burying alive, and all the rest of the bestiality which is incomprehensible for a European—were, if not in extent, then at least in content, a true forerunner of concentration camps and gas-chambers. The inhumane irresponsibility of the leaders of the detachments can only be compared with the leaders of S.S. bands and Fascist party units...[A]fter the course of twenty-five years Hejjas’s detachment made it possible for Sztójay’s and Szálasi’s regimes in 1944 to afford this country the dubious honor of calling the counterrevolution Europe’s first Fascist system, and thus Hungary was brought to the judgment of the world after World War II with an even greater burden of sin and guilt15”.

  • 16 Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions,

13This is apocalyptic history, and an indictment is an appropriate genre for such a depiction of events. Methodologically, if not stylistically, the court’s text is closely related to the flashback as used in film and fiction. The U.S. literary historian, Michael Andre Bernstein, calls this technique “foreshadowing”—”a technique whose logic must always value the present, not for itself, but as a harbinger of an already determined future...At its extreme, foreshadowing implies a closed universe in which all choices have already been made, in which human free will can exist only in the paradoxical sense of choosing to accept or willfully—and vainly— rebelling against what is inevitable16”.

  • 17 See Amos Funkenstein, “Collective Memory and Historical Consciousness”, History and Memory 1:1 (19 (...)

14It is as if the prophecies of the Old Testament had referred to events in the New Testament, as if the former were merely prefigurations of the latter, as if at a higher level the New Testament, in its completeness, were to perfectly fulfill the promise of praeparatio evangelica17.

  • 18 B. XI. 1789/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/III/49), 19.

15At the beginning of 1957 the police in Dunavecse village gained information that (as was included in the text of the judgment of the Budapest capital court) “during the counterrevolution [of 1956] Mihály Francia Kiss appeared in the region of Szabadszállás in a Soviet-made Pobeda automobile and there met the president of the local counterrevolutionary National Committee. The investigation that followed showed that it was most likely that the person who called himself József Kovács of Bodakút and Mihály Francia Kiss were one and the same person18”. On 8 March 1957 Mihály Francia Kiss was arrested and imprisoned. On 22 March 1957 in the Interior Ministry’s Csongrád county police headquarters, Mrs. Jenő Rácz appeared and accused Mihály Francia Kiss of the kidnapping and murder of her brother, Vilmos Kalmár, in Pusztamérges in the summer of 1920. The mutilated upper body of the kidnapped trader had been found in the woods at Orgovány with other extremely mutilated and beheaded corpses. A suit had been brought against Mihály Francia Kiss in this case at the start of the 1920s, but the case was then dismissed due to the general amnesty granted by Admiral Horthy.

  • 19 B. XI. 1789/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/IIl/49), 1.

16Budapest’s capital court initiated a new suit in Mihály Francia Kiss’s case. In contrast to the judgment of 1947, the capital court did not restrict its charge to “the crime of the illegal torture and murder of humans”, but also found Francia Kiss guilty of “the production of one counterfeit identity card, the crime of the registration of false personal data in his identity papers, the attempt to commit a crime by using one counterfeit identity card, and the crime of concealing one weapon and bullet”. The court condemned him to death for all of these crimes19. In the course of the trial the court found that the accused had taken part in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of sixty-six victims in twelve separate incidents.

  • 20 B. XI. 1789/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/III/49), 18-19.

17The court also found that the procurement of a counterfeit personal identity card and the hiding of a pistol after World War II was proof that the defendant had not abandoned his criminal ways and that there was continuity in his constant criminal activities between 1919 and 1956: “In addition to the crimes committed by Mihály Franica Kiss in 1919 and 1920, he also committed crimes following the liberation of Hungary in 1945...there can be no doubt that Mihály Francia Kiss was, and remains to this day, an individual with undeniable Fascist sympathies20”.

  • 21 B. XI. 1789/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/III/49), 5.

18This judgment placed an even greater emphasis on the continuity of fascism in Hungary and on the vital role played by the white terror of 1919 in the development of fascism worldwide. “[Francia Kiss was one of those] who represent the catastrophic political tendency which led to true Fascism, Nazism, World War II, the terrible and horrifying acts of the Arrow-Cross Party, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of working people21”.

19The Council of the People’s Tribunal of the Supreme Court (which acted as the appellate court in the Francia Kiss case and which confirmed the death sentence reached by the first court) reversed the chronology of history in its judgment on 9 August 1957 by declaring that in 1919, the detachment already

  • 22 Nbf. II. 5123/1957/14 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 2 and 8-9.

“rightly claimed that it was the predecessor and harbinger of Hitler’s Fascism and Szálasi’s reign of terror... [T]hese Fascist-style acts of terror and the driving of the country into the reign of terror of open Fascism and World War II are links in a chain which are joined one to the other, just as the acts of terror and the heinous acts of the Arrow-Cross hordes are not merely related to the vandalism of October 1956 [the 1956 revolution] in form, but are a part of the bitter struggle of the former ruling classes...The crimes committed by Mihály Francia Kiss, therefore, are to be considered war crimes, but not because the country could not be regarded as being in a state of peace when they were committed, as the court first suggested, but rather because they are part and parcel of the causes of the historic catastrophe which bestruck the Hungarian nation at the fall of the glorious Hungarian Soviet Republic [in 1919], with the twenty-five years of Horthy’s Fascism, and directly led to and peaked with our role in World War II and to Szálasi’s reign of terror22”.

  • 23 Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions, 26. See also how Habermas formulated the same idea: “The sentence (...)

20Such turns of phrase as “rightly claimed that it was the predecessor and harbinger of Hitler’s Fascism and Szálasi’s reign of terror” sound as a German burger might have sounded running through town shouting: “the Thirty-Year War has just begun23!”

21In 1957, however, the court felt it was its duty to find and prove the connection between the white terror of 1919 and the so-called “second coming of white terror”, the counterrevolution of 1956. The elderly white terrorist murderer served as a link between 1919, 1944, and 1956, and this link became one of the most important elements of the explanations of the outbreak of the counterrevolution in 1956:

  • 24 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 8.

“[The] Fascist-type acts of terror initiated by Iván Hejjas and Mihály Francia Kiss, which grew in size and scope over time, became a seed for the worldwide movement which is known everywhere as ‘Fascism’ and which initially oppressed and destroyed millions of people and finally drove the whole world into the World War II Catastrophe [sic]. The Hungarian counterrevolution became a cradle for Fascism, and through the mutilation of human souls led in a straight line to the events which exploded in Hungary on 23 October 1956...The detailed and well-established facts of the case are entirely recognizable in the acts of terror and mass murders committed by the Arrow-Cross in 1944 and are also clearly visible in the movements which were committed against the faithful sons of the Hungarian People’s Republic during the counterrevolution after 23 October 1956. The sadistic murders, skinning of humans alive, cutting out of sexual organs, and similar acts committed in Orgovány, Izsák, and the region of Kecskemét in 1919 were not unknown to those who carried out similar murders in the Arrow-Cross’s Party Headquarters in Budapest. The murderers of our executed and mutilated martyrs on Republic Square [in front of the Budapest headquarters of the communist party where the only truly bloody anticommunist atrocity of the revolution occurred on 30 October 1956] and those who committed murders in front of the police department in Miskolc [another site of bloodshed during the revolution] used the same methods and carried out their acts with the same sadistic cruelty as Mihály Francia Kiss and his terrorist companions did in 1919. All of this makes it clear that the crimes committed by Mihály Francia Kiss and Ivan Héjjas some thirty-eight years ago are closely connected to the latest round of vandalistic Fascist attacks which are to be found right through Hungarian history24.”

  • 25 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 32.

22“Mihály Francia Kiss was one of the cruelest counterrevolutionaries of all time”, indicated the court in its judgment of his guilt and the effects of his acts. “His crimes point the way down a lasting trail leading to the next horrors and were a cradle to the deformity which was later called Fascism. His behavior laid its stamp on the quarter of a century of rule by Horthy Fascism; it was to be found throughout the underground organization of the counterrevolutionary movement, throughout the period of the building of Socialism; and this same spirit eventually exploded with elementary power in the horrible days of the rebirth of the counterrevolution on 23 October 1956. The seeds Mihály Francia Kiss and company sowed in 1919 grew into a terrible harvest in the days of the counterrevolution of 1956. The orgy of murder and blood roared identically in both periods, and the connection between the two is to be found in Mihály Francia Kiss and his spirit25”.

  • 26 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 3.

23Even without a deeper analysis of the text, it is clear that the evoking of white terror in 1956 was not merely a stylistic formula. Historical continuity was presented both on the positive as well as on the negative side in the court’s judgment, for as the capital court had established in 1957, history was continuous on the other side as well: “In October 1918 a proletarian revolution broke out in Hungary. The imperialist formation of Austro-Hungary collapsed, fell to pieces, and this initiated the process which finally, after decades and decades of hard fighting, led to the liberation of nations and eventually to the development of People’s Democracies. This journey, however, was not an easy one26...”

  • 27 Kossuth Publishing House, (Budapest, 1974), 318 and 197 respectively.

24According to the account of history given in the accusation, the advance of history was first interrupted by the white terror of 1919 that drove the forces of progress underground. After the victory of the Soviet Union and the working classes in 1945, however, the forces of fascism hid underground and continued their work illegally (as had the Croatian “Black Hand” in its time), waiting for the moment when they could again break to the surface. October 1956 brought the moment for which they had waited. “The true character of 23 October was expressed on 30 October [the date of the siege of communist party headquarters on Republic Square in Budapest]. What was still hidden on 23 October came out into the light of day on 30 October. On 30 October the hour struck for the beginning of the black carnival. We were witnesses when the counterrevolution removed its mask”, wrote Ervin Hollós and Vera Lajtai, apologists of the post-1956 communist restoration in Republican Square 195627.

  • 28 In the fall 1997 all copies of the book were checked out from the Budapest Central Public Library.
  • 29 According to the information General Béla Király was kind enough to pass to me, at the end of 1944 (...)

25The communist historical thriller Spearmen by András Berkesi and György Kardos was created to illustrate and popularize the court’s—and official communist—theories. The book, which was reprinted nine times (it retained its popularity even after 1990) and was finally turned into a film, follows the story of one Major Ákos Rajnay (whose real name is István Korponay) from the time of his involvement in the white terror through the hibernation of the “Spearmen” in 1944 until their reawakening and reactivation in 1956. The Spearmen were a paramilitary organization that the authors based on the communist interpretation of the Etelköz Association. Ivan Héjjas clearly serves in part as a model for Ákos Rajnay. The two authors present the counterrevolution as the outcome of the joint conspiracy of international imperialist intervention— this provided the justification for Soviet military intervention to help the Hungarian communists—and the underground forces of the white terror. (According to the book, the Spearmen were left behind as saboteurs-inhibernation by the German and Hungarian fascists, who ordered them to hide themselves as ordinary and loyal citizens until the time arrived for an armed counterrevolutionary uprising.) The novel could not have been written without the active cooperation of the Interior Ministry, the Secret Service, and the Communist Party’s Department of Propaganda and Agitation, for its authors clearly used classified documents about the Spearmen from the Interior Ministry’s secret archives28. This was all the easier to assume, as the coauthors both served in the Ministry’s Military-Political Counterintelligence Department before they began their writing careers29.

26According to the restored post-1956 communist regime, the counterrevolution of 1956 was a continuation, or rather the second edition, of the counterrevolution of 1919. The white terror of 1919—as depicted in the accusation of the People’s Tribunal, and in the judgment by the Peopie’s Court of 1947—was a precursor to fascism, or rather was fascism in its first form. The counterrevolution of 1956 was closely connected to and rooted in fascism. By using this historical theory, an immediate link was found between 1919, 1944, and 1956. Mihály Francia Kiss symbolized the logic of historic continuity in person. However, even though some alleged witnesses saw the former white terrorist driving the Pobeda automobile to a meeting with the president of the local National Council, the old mass murderer who hid in a field watchman’s shack on the great Hungarian plain from 1945 until his arrest in 1957 could not have convincingly claimed to have taken an active part in the terrible crimes of the counterrevolution. A stronger, more direct link was needed.

27On 14 March 1957, eight days after Mihály Franica Kiss’s arrest and two days after the publication of news of his detention, the official daily of the communist party Népszabadság printed a story under a headline typed in bold: Mihály Francia Kiss’s Offspring Arrested”. The story gave an account of how Béla Francia, the “offspring” of the infamous white terrorist (the exact relationship between the two was obscured with this imprecise noun), was arrested for his role in breaking into a grocery store with other common criminals during the days of the counterrevolution. Béla Francia was to be sentenced to four years in prison. (After 1963 he was rehabilitated, for he had ironclad proof that he could not have been on the scene when the store was broken into. It was also proven that he was in no way related to Mihály Francia Kiss. He was not even an “offspring” of the man’s family. He merely—to his very bad luck—bore the same family name.) Béla Francia’s arrest, the report about it, his trial, and his condemnation provided the missing link to the tale that began in 1919. If the white terrorist himself was humanly incapable of carrying out the long list of horrible deeds, his offspring was not: blood is thicker than water (even blood on a murderer’s hands).

28In the course of the trials Francia Kiss became the archetype of the fascist: the fascist who had been there at the beginning of all things, who had hidden and survived underground (as the Black Hand had under the name Narodna Obrana). In all that time he had not changed one whit. He was just biding his time and waiting to do what he had done from the start—to show the world the true face of fascism. The crimes committed by Mihály Francia Kiss only gain their true meaning in the context of later horrible events, especially following 1956. According to the court’s judgment, the anticommunist had to be, by definition, a fascist.

29Fascists, before all things, were—in this reading— anticommunists. The history following World War I was a history of constant, ongoing struggle between the forces of communism and of fascism—as the 1919 white terror clearly revealed. Fascism’s true enemies were always communists, even if its victims may have appeared to be others. The only true goal of fascism was the destruction of communism. Communism, for it’s part, was the only active, uncompromising, and organized arm against fascism, the only guarantee against the dark forces.

  • 30 NÜ. 1372/ (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/III/49), 2.

30“Miklós Horthy and the officers who massed around him proclaimed far and wide that the causes of the ruin of Hungary, of the 1919 revolution, and of the country’s mutilation after World War I were the Marxist socialists, or in other words, the Bolsheviks and Jews, whom they believed to be one and the same. Horthy himself, his friend, the German General Ludendorff, and his protegee [sic] Adolf Hitler, all fully believed the anti-Semitic and antisocialist book of trash, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ which was edited by the Russian teacher Nilush at the behest of the chief of the Tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, in 1903. After the Russian Revolution the book was widely disseminated throughout Europe by none other than Russian counterrevolutionary officers. One could say that it became a sort of bible for Horthy and the coattail politicians and officers who massed around him. In this spirit Gyula Gömbös, István Zadravetz, and their counter-revolutionary company in Szeged initiated the most unbridled propaganda and hate campaign against anything that could be called left-wing or—what was to them one and the same—Jewish30”. The public prosecutor found it important to mention the fact that the anti-Semitism of the counterrevolutionary forces in Hungary was rooted in the work of the Bolsheviks’ sworn enemy, the Okhrana, the Tsar’s secret police, which was then disseminated throughout Europe by counterrevolutionary officers who worked against the Bolshevik revolution. Horthy’s friend’s protegee, Adolf Hitler, also borrowed from this source, even if later than the leaders of the Hungarian counterrevolutionaries. (Thus Hitler himself becomes Horthy’s protegee.)

31In its opinion in 1957, Budapest’s capital court defined the essence of fascism’s anti-Semitism in an even clearer and more direct way:

  • 31 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630?III/49), 4.

“The imperialist forces in every country recognized the danger posed to capitalism and the furthering of imperialism by the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and this is why they felt that no means are too low to be used in the suppression of movements working toward the democratic transformation of the masses and to uphold the power of the upper classes. In working toward this goal, especially under the conditions that prevailed in Hungary at the time, they found that the most successful strategy would be to misdirect the class struggle into a religious conflict. Due to Austrian policies at that time, beside the conflict between nationalities that became sharper and sharper on the territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was especially the so-called Jewish question, which was constantly and carefully kept on the platter at all times by the governments of the Monarchy. This religious contradiction was the one that was most useful over the course of time in suppressing every sort of democratic movement among the working class, because the loss of the War and the following events were ascribed to Hungary’s Jews, and the attacks directed against leftists were also used to feed and fuel the hatred directed against the Jews31”.

  • 32 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630?IlI/49), 5.
  • 33 “Those who spread anti-Semitism today, do this in order to misdirect the attention from the sabota (...)
  • 34 NÜ. 13672/5. SZ./1946 (BFL-VII 5e/20630/IlI/49), 6.

32In this system of argumentation it was not the Jews who were the real victims. Quite the opposite: the insults they suffered served to “misdirect the class struggle into a religious conflict”, to fool the “masses”—”...the dubious characters who gathered in Szeged...openly propagated the claim that the Communists caused Hungary to lose the War and to fall apart, and that it was the Jews who invented Communism, and thus the entire policy of the counterrevolution was the uprooting by root and shoot of the power of the proletariat32”. The counterrevolution—that is, fascism, in the narratives of the court and communist historians— associated Jews with Bolshevism in order to hide its true nature and work, which was—according to the communist court—nothing other than anticommunism and the struggle against the only protectors of the working masses. In other words, the Jews were useful for the fascists only in order to disorient the workers, to fool them in order to suppress them by leading them in a false direction33. “Anti-Semitism, which cannot in theory be reconciled with Christian ideology, budded to such a degree in the practice of the Héjjas detachment and in its pre-Fascist cruelty, that it showed it was a worthy partner of the vandalism carried out by Fascism in the 1940s. Because of the association of the terms ‘Jew’ and ‘Bolshevik’ in their propaganda, every Jew was an enemy and, thus, to be destroyed34”.

  • 35 “When the postwar quest for truth began, forms of resistance were in place of honor, forms of coll (...)
  • 36 On the myth of nationwide antifascist resistance in the West, see Tony Judt, “The Past is Another (...)
  • 37 M. Cherif Bassiuni, Crimes Against Humanity in International Law (Dordrecht: Martin Nijhof Publish (...)

33In Western Europe following World War II it was only a short time before a new history of the war, the myth of wholesale national resistance, was established35. In Europe’s Soviet half, however, the communist movement retroactively took complete control of resistance to fascism. In the West—allegedly—only certain well-defined and marginalized figures and groups collaborated with the Nazis—that is, with the Germans—who, in this tale born not long after 1945, were primarily and almost solely responsible for the horrible crimes committed in World War II36. Germans stood accused by the court at the Nuremberg Trials, and the prosecution proved German responsibility. Thus, the outcome supported this view of history. (“The aim of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal was to try ‘the highest level’ German war criminals37”.) The Germans started World War II, and they robbed and murdered throughout Europe. The guilty were to be found among the citizens of Germany—a slowly disappearing country that effectively no longer existed, that was merely a group of zones of occupation, and that soon became two separate entities, attached to two separate worlds.

  • 38 “A silence of the Occupation days that persisted after the Liberation was silence about the Jews. (...)

34The communist parties of Western Europe also played their own, not so insignificant, role in the creation of the retrospective fiction of wholesale national resistance. Communist antifascists could thus become members of the national majority, and even its avant-garde in France and Italy. It is no coincidence, then, that the first draft of the Italian amnesty bill was prepared by the secretary general of the Italian Communist Party, Palmiro Togliatti, in 1946. Right until the end of the 1970s, and in some countries even up to the crumbling and collapse of the communist systems at the end of the 1980s, there was hardly any attempt to carry out critical or self-critical analyses of the history of national resistance in the western part of the European continent38.

  • 39 See Angelika Timm, Jewish Claims against East Germany: Moral Obligations and Pragmatic Policy (Bud (...)
  • 40 See James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven: Yale Univer (...)
  • 41 Új Élet, 1 February 1960, 1.
  • 42 Magyar Nemzet, 17 July 1951, 2.

35In Europe’s eastern half only communists were allowed to be antifascists in histories that could only be written by communists, for fascism—in communist historiography—came into being in opposition to communism, and the placement of someone other than communists in the role of the victim was only a dirty trick on the part of the fascists—a transparent attempt to fool the people, “nothing but a weapon of the ruling class for the enslavement of the German working class”, as East German history books taught39. Fascists tried to destroy communists, who were the only real adversaries of fascism. (The explanation for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was confusing and opaque in history books printed after 1945. It was described as a sign and consequence of the Soviets’ naïve trust and their peace-loving character. The secret clause was never even mentioned, as it was impossible both historically and by definition for communism and fascism to be allies.) This is one of the reasons why Jews had to disappear from the list of the true victims of fascism, and is the explanation for the triangle inscribed in stone on a memorial at Birkenau to differentiate among the political inmates there, and is why during the reign of the Polish communist regime the text on gravestones at Auschwitz emphasized the murder of a highly-inflated number of political inmates40. This is why in its issue on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz the Hungarian Jewish newspaper Új Élet (New Life) reported: “The delegation waited by the gates to Auschwitz for Jozef Czyrankievicz, [Polish] Prime Minister, to whose coat his former fellow political deportees pinned the symbol of political prisoners, the triangle with a red letter P41”. This is also why the National Executive Committee of Hungarian Israelites was forced to make the following statement in 1951: “There is not a single person of Jewish faith among the ranks of those who are being forced to leave the cities and resettle in the countryside at this moment, not a single person who is being deported because of membership to our denomination. In contrast to rumors, those being deported were all filthy rich traders, factory owners, and landlords, and enjoyers of Horthy’s fascist system—a system which is known throughout the world for its persecution of the Jews, and a system to which those being deported now gave their material and moral support before the catastrophe of World War II42”.

  • 43 Open Society Archives (OSA) 300/40/12371.
  • 44 “Dr. Höttl, The Champion of Survival”, Népszabadság, 25 June 1961.

36The Tel Aviv correspondent of Radio Free Europe noted during the Eichmann trial that: “The governments of Eastern Europe are ready to help the Israeli government in preparing for the Eichmann trial, in case the trial aims to be more than merely an investigation of the crimes the one-time Nazis committed against the Jews”. An East European diplomat who gave an interview to the Radio Free Europe reporter emphasized that “the people’s democracies wish the Eichmann trial will shed light on all acts committed by all Fascists, including those of the neo-Nazis of present day West Germany43”. In communist historiography, the twentieth-century history of fascism was continuous not only from the beginning of the century up to World War II but even from the end of the war until the arrival of the final victory of world communism. In a six-part article printed in a series in the Hungarian party’s daily during the trial in Jerusalem, two mercenary pen-pushers, László Szabó and István Pintér, uncovered how Eichmann’s Hungarian assistants allegedly became agents of West German intelligence and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and thus were the direct link between the Endlösung and the anticommunist manipulations of the West after the war44.

  • 45 Wolfgang Höpken, “War, Memory, and Education in a Fragmented Society: The Case of Yugoslavia” (pap (...)
  • 46 See Timm, Jewish Claims, 40
  • 47 See Tony Judt, “Myth, Memory in Postwar Europe”, 91.

37The officers of Hungarian antifascist military units that were not under communist control during World War II were not allowed to be members of the Partisan Union until the late 1980s. They were not awarded the Freedom Medal, granted to other members of the resistance. The activities of the Görgey Battalion, KISKA, and the Buda Voluntary Regiment (noncommunist, antifascist, armed resistance battalions) were scarcely, if ever, mentioned. Hungary’s communist historiography of communist antifascist struggle was not an exception in Eastern Europe. In Tito’s Yugoslavia, “textbooks stuck to a dogmatically simplified dichotomy of ‘revolutionaries’ (i.e. the partisans) and ‘counterrevolutionaries’ (ranging from Croat ustashe and Serbian chetniks to native ‘quislings’ and ‘bourgeois’ governments in exile) reserving, of course, not just political legitimacy, but also the ‘good’ virtues and morals only for the first ones”. Another typical tendency of the textbooks was “to ‘de-ethnicize’ World War II on Yugoslav soil, describing the events predominantly from a ‘class-perspective’ as a war between Communist partisans and all kinds of ‘bourgeoisies,’ thus ignoring the war’s ethnic dimension and its character as a civil war...According to the ‘classapproach’ it was the ‘bourgeoisie’ on all sides—the Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian—which was held responsible for the ethnic violence and the war crimes45...” In the German Democratic Republic, the Socialist United Party tied its legitimacy to the long fight between anticommunist fascism (“the highest stage of imperialism”) and antifascist German communism. The Holocaust became “de-Judaized” in the G.D.R46. It was as if only Ernst Thälmann, the secretary of the German communist party, had been killed in Buchenwald, as if the victims of fascism—in the memory of the G.D.R.—were first and foremost communists. The postwar exhibition in the Buchenwald concentration camp focused almost exclusively on political inmates, leaving the Jewish victims in the shadows, and not mentioning Roma, homosexuals and others persecuted in the camp. Postwar individual guilt and responsibility for the past was absolved through this collective antifascist communist sacrifice. The G.D.R. presented the confrontation between the communist German Democratic Republic and the bourgeois German Federal Republic as a continuation of the war between communists and (the “offspring” of) fascism. In Bulgaria, in the war crimes trials initiated by the Fatherland Front, no distinction was made between those who actively collaborated with the Germans, the so-called “friends of the West”, and anticommunist democrats47.

  • 48 “What should we think of those so-called socialist Zionists, who would like to furnish the most de (...)

38After the end of World War II both the perpetrators and the victims wanted to forget—to leave the terrible memories of their past behind. The communist party—which in the interest of enlarging its own antifascist role, had retroactively driven Jews out of the camps anyway— offered Jews a chance to abandon their Jewish identities while remaining antifascists. The great majority of the Central European Jewry was thoroughly assimilated before the outbreak of the war. (According to the last census before World War I, for example, about seventy-five percent of Hungarian Jews considered themselves to be Hungarian.) Most Jews were confronted with their Jewish identity only at the moment they were forced to wear the yellow Star of David in the ghettos or in concentration camps. Jewishness for them did not mean much more than victimization, starvation, suffering, the loss of relatives, the gas chambers, and other unimaginable horrors. Most of them were unable to do anything with their lately discovered Jewishness, but naturally wanted to stand firmly opposed to fascism48.

  • 49 See Peter Apor, “The Lost Deportations: Kunmadaras, 1946” (master’s thesis, History Department of (...)

39On the other hand, the majority of the witnesses and perpetrators of genocide hoped that as long as they maintained the appearance of loyalty to the communist system, they would be able to avoid being held responsible for their actions. The stigma of being “Hitler’s last ally” and a “fascist people” (depending on political needs, these titles could be applied either strictly to the members of the former ruling classes or to all members of Hungarian society) was constantly harped on in the rhetoric of the leaders of the Hungarian communist party. This served as a reminder and warning that if the need ever arose to punish people for their pasts there was something to remember. The opponents of Stalinism, the defendants in the show trials of the 1940s and 1950s, were almost always accused of having been fascists or collaborators among other things either before 1945 or after. During the course of the criminal prosecution of the 1946 pogrom in Kunmadaras (in which Jews, who had just survived the concentration camp, were killed), the prosecutor and the court transformed the case, which was a twentieth-century mutation of the medieval blood libel, into an antidemocratic and—naturally—anticommunist fascist conspiracy49.

  • 50 “Supersessionisl theology necessarily reduces the predecessor text to an ‘Old Testament’, whose in (...)

40For tribunals, especially for people’s tribunals sitting in judgment over war criminals, in extremis Veritas. The ghastly crimes committed by the mass murderer Mihály Francia Kiss—the torture and murder of at least sixty people—therefore understandably compelled the court to make use of historical statements, which suggested that something had happened even before it could have happened and that everything that happened later was already part of the past50. The need to construct and prove historic continuity in such a view of history—and the grave dangers inherent in this—were obvious in the first judgment of Mihály Francia Kiss’s case, or rather in the opinion of the court. An ambition to introduce continuity to the case compelled the court to develop an official reading of history which was fraught with dangers, especially for the restored communist order after 1956, but which were not foreseen at the time.

41It can probably be proven that the construct of 1956 as a counterrevolution is the key to the understanding of the history of the Kádár era. Through the optics of the counterrevolution, the period before and after 1956 can be seen in a unique perspective, and this view would even surprise the official history writers of the period. The construct of the counterrevolution—in an unintended way—created continuity between the Stalinist era and the period following 1956. The problem that arose and that the leadership of the party had to deal with was similar to the one that early Christian apologists faced when they argued the uniqueness of the New Testament and it’s special status, while simultaneously trying to prove to heretics the continuity between the two Testaments, for both were given by the same pastor.

42One of the officially produced reasons for the outbreak of the counterrevolution was found in the pre-1956 Stalinist system—the show-trials, which demonstrated the unlawfulness of the period; but an equally defining role was given to the permanently present, underground fascist counterrevolution which continuously operated in secret from the white terror of 1919. In this narrative, the post-1956 Kádár regime continued the anti-imperialist, antifascist struggle of the pre-1956 period: it protected the same values against the same enemy that had now committed crimes against humanity in its attacks against communism on three occasions—in 1919, 1944, and 1956.

43For 1956 to feature as a replay of the white terror of 1919 and the continuation of fascism, the first Hungarian Soviet Republic had to be rehabilitated. Before 1956 the Hungarian Soviet Republic could only be mentioned in a vague and confusing way or was barely mentioned at all in textbooks, as it was too difficult to remind the public that most of the leaders of the first Hungarian Bolshevik experiment did not die in the prisons of the protofascist Hungarian counterrevolutionary regime, but rather in exile in Moscow as defendants in the show trials, as victims of the great terror in Stalin’s prisons, or in Soviet gulags. Stalin’s death and the disappearance of the Hungarian hard line leadership after 1956 (most of them once more went into exile in the Soviet Union) provided the chance to resurrect the almost forgotten Soviet Republic. This resurrection was the precondition for substantiating the counterrevolutionary interpretation of 1956, for the references to the first white terror of 1919, and also for presenting the counterrevolution as just another appearance of the ever present fascist danger. It was no accident that the reorganized communist youth organization took the name “Alliance of the Communist Youth”, the name of the youth organization at the time of the first Hungarian Soviet Republic. On the banner of the Alliance there were two dates: 1919 and 1957 (the years when the Alliance was established and then reorganized).

44Paradoxically, continuity with the pre-1956 regime provided legitimacy for the restoration of the communist system after the Soviet troops defeated the 1956 revolution. The populace, especially after the 1963 amnesty when most of those who survived the postrevolutionary terror were released from prison, found that although those in power were mostly the same and although the system did not deny its close connection to the period before 1956, still, life was easier to live, was less unpredictable and frightening than it had been before; it was different, and yet the same. In comparison with itself, the Kádár regime seemed better than itself; it was less frightening than it might have been, and people felt that they had to fear the regime less than they should have had to. Had the basis of comparison been another country—such as neighboring Austria—or another political system and not a previous incarnation of the regime itself, it would have been much more difficult for the communist restaurateurs to legitimize their unconstitutional and arbitrary rule. Kádár blamed his predecessor for all the political mistakes that led to the outbreak of the uprising in 1956, and he distanced himself from this Stalinist predecessor, but at the same time he emphasized continuity. This delicate balance between continuity and discontinuity, in which the counterrevolution played the key role, proved to be a stabilizing factor, even if, perhaps, stability was not the initial historic and ideological intention.

45This history of continuity, however, gave populist reformers in 19881989 a chance to say, like Imre Pozsgay at the occasion of the opening of the reconstructed Széchenyi Palace which had been turned into a luxury hotel, that “the long decades of demolition and destruction have finally come to an end”. With the help of one single sentence, any distinction between the pre-1956 and the post-1956 periods was demolished—the two eras simply collapsed into one undifferentiated continuous history. This enabled and encouraged people to talk about the “Bolshevik rule of bloody terror” when referring even to the events of the late 1980s, a time when in reality there were no political prisoners in Hungary and the majority of the population spent most of its time making money by whatever means possible in the second economy, which was informally tolerated by the regime. When the final days of communism arrived, nobody was ready to remember any differences between Kádár and anybody or anything that had preceded him. The history of continuity that originally ensured the legitimacy of the Kadar regime after 1956 proved to be one of the most important elements of its delegitimization in 1989. Communism in part fell victim to its own historical construction.

46One of the important goals of the East European war crime tribunals was to prove that, as a rule, anticommunists became fascists, that anyone who was an anticommunist was a fascist. But these trials and communist history-writing had another aim as well—to prove the truth of historical trivialism: that all fascists were anticommunists. These two statements combined have had a significant impact on the formation of views about communism after 1989. I believe that the history of the twentieth century, written by communists—with the fight between communism and anticommunist fascism as its focus—has proven to be a serious obstacle to the development of an intelligent, honest, critical, and self-critical debate about communism after its fall in 1989.

47“Representing Mihály Francia Kiss’s daughter, Mrs. Gyula Mészár, ‘The National Union of Former Political Prisoners’ appeals against the judgment of the Budapest Capital Court [of 1957], because the appellant believes that during Mihály Francia Kiss’s prosecution the torture and murder of humans was not verified”. The legal counsel of the National

48Union of Former Political Prisoners appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that Mihály Francia Kiss had been condemned to death by hanging in the course of a typical show trial and was accused of war crimes and executed by the communist court after the 1956 revolution merely because he was an anticommunist. His crime was that he fought against communism as early as 1919 and then throughout the whole of his life, just as the Hungarian Army had when it attempted to stop Bolshevism during World War II at the Don River. The leaders—who were some of the generals of that army, which fought as allies of the Nazis and who were then condemned for war crimes and crimes against humanity—had been rehabilitated by the Supreme Court of the Hungarian Republic after 1990.

49In the formerly communist part of the world, the rehabilitation of war criminals after 1989 is not exceptional to Hungary. Among others who gained acquittal, or for whom serious attempts have been made to gain such acquittal, are the Croatian leader Ante Pavelic, the Serb Draza Mi-hajlovic, Bishop Stepanic of Zagreb, and the one-time leader of the Romanian Iron Guard, Antonescu. Similarly Miklós Horthy was given a (partially) official reburial with the participation of the members of the first postcommunist, right-wing government. So there is nothing surprising or exceptional in the fact that the Union of Former Political Prisoners tried to gain rehabilitation for the mass murderer Mihály Francia Kiss. According to those who worked for the rehabilitation of such people, their common crime, the reason why they fell victim to the communist system, was that they were all anticommunists, just as the courts and historians after 1945 had indicated. The communist judges deemed anti-communists as fascist in order to sentence them as war criminals. Those who tried to rehabilitate fascists and war criminals after 1989, after the disappearance of communism, did nothing more than take the logic of the communists seriously in order to use it as a reason for acquittal.

  • 51 Adam Katz, “The Closure of Auschwitz but not its End”, History and Memory 10:1 (Spring 1998): 62.

50“[T]he genocide of the Jews was the only mass atrocity in history which was followed and concluded by an explicit, formal, judicial, and practical precedent-setting act of international judgment...Furthermore, the legitimacy of the postwar liberal democratic order of the ‘West’ was explicitly tied to this judgment. Auschwitz was then, on the level of juridical clarification, not only ‘settled’ through the clear identification of perpetrators and victims. But in addition, it was transformed into the ground for a reorganized international order based on the principle of ‘freedom,’ allowing that order to appear ‘transpolitical’ (especially in its constitution as ‘natural’ opposition to ‘totalitarianism51’)”. For the West after 1958-1959 and especially following the Eichmann trial, fascism meant and became equal with the Holocaust and Auschwitz. This was the crime and the name that had to be remembered and recalled so that it would never be repeated: for as long as the memory of this horror lasts (goes the assumption) it can be controlled, and we might be able to defend ourselves from ourselves. Memory—in this historiographic and political practice—is the force whereby distance can be created from crimes against humanity. The West committed itself to intervention in Bosnia only when the western press began to write about the “Holocaust” and “genocide in Bosnia”, when the unique crime was evoked whereby, in a paradoxical way, the unbearable situation suffered by the Muslims was posed as a denial of the uniqueness and singularity of the Holocaust. This historiographic and logical paradox was repeated in Rwanda, and this is why the successors to Nuremberg, the International War Crimes Tribunals, were established to bring judgment to these crimes. The memory of Auschwitz and Nuremberg has become an important part of the self-definition of western democracies and one of the most important sources of internationally accepted human rights.

  • 52 François Furet, “Democracy and Utopia”, Journal of Democracy 9: 1 (January 1998): 79.

51The strange silence surrounding the history of communism after 1989, however, seems to suggest the belief that, unlike fascism, communism has finally and truly come to an end, and that there is neither the need nor the time to remember it, to face it, or to talk about it. “Communism never conceived of any tribunal other than history’s, and it has now been condemned by history to disappear, lock, stock, and barrel. Its defeat, therefore, is beyond appeal52.” A thing has come to an end that we, in any case, did not make, a thing for which we are not responsible. Just as was the case with the Germans, those nonexistent citizens of a nonexistent country, communism was made by the Soviets, the already nonexistent subjects of the nonexistent Soviet Union. While before 1989, when talking about the occupying army, Hungarians referred to the Russian troops, now only Bolsheviks and Soviets are mentioned and remembered—people who cannot be found anywhere anymore.

  • 53 On the connection between Nuremberg and Katyn, see Telford Taylor, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Tr (...)

52In the East the Jews, the Holocaust, Auschwitz, and even Nuremberg have fallen victim to the historiographic and ideological battle between communists and anticommunist fascists. The system after 1945 was not legitimized by resistance to Auschwitz, the absolute crime, but by the mythologized rhetoric of the continuous struggle against anticommunist fascists. Before 1989, Nuremberg and the judicial prosecution of crimes against humanity and war crimes could only be a footnote in the history of post-World War II events. After 1989 in the former communist world Nuremberg is presented as the justice of the victors. The Soviet prosecutor of the Stalinist show trials; the memory of Katyn, for which the Soviet prosecutor Pokrovskii tried to blame the Germans; the argument of tu quoque, that the Soviets committed even more and even greater crimes than the Germans did—all these have been used to delegitimize Nuremberg53. After the fall of communism the Nuremberg trials, the source and basis of international human rights, have become just as suspect in post-communist countries as everything else that was once associated with the Soviets or communism.

53The other element of communist historiography and legal argumentation also makes a fair assessment of communism difficult. The reasoning, namely, did not just state that all anticommunists were fascists, but also the reverse: that every fascist is an anticommunist. Following the fall of communism, religious, national, and ethnic incitement is less complicated and holds fewer political risks than does a judgment of the history and legacy of communism based on careful analysis. Anyone who doesn’t want to be called fascist might insist that the former members of the communist party were just good, patriotic, true born Hungarians (Slovaks, Romanians, Russians, etc.) who did not take communism seriously for a minute—which is why they were able to join the party so lightheartedly. Such a person would also argue that by using methods borrowed from the old (Jewish) Bolshevik tradition (signing petitions, publishing samizdat journals and publications, organizing demonstrations, etc.), members of the former democratic opposition who seemingly opposed communism in fact legitimized the communist system.

54In the West, a wall built upon the ruins of Auschwitz grows ever more massive and protects humanity from itself: the international system of human rights desperately tries to keep catastrophe at bay (even in Kosovo). In the East, however, the soft, crumbling construction of communism promised false protection—before falling utterly to ruin— against the simplified danger of fascism fashioned as anticommunism. In the communist reading of recent history, anti-Semitism and race-hatred were just a mask on the face of fascism that had nothing to do with its true nature. Race-hatred and national and religious persecution in this interpretation are not defining characteristics of fascism, which is why it is so easy to incite hatred in the eastern half of Europe today. Extreme nationalists, anti-Semites, and racists are not necessarily seen as fascists—for this is what the East European history books taught. “An anti-communist is fascist”, said the communists; for anyone who does not want to be stigmatized as fascist nowadays in the former communist world, it is hard to face communism. It is easier to be a racist.

55As the postmortem consequence of communist agitation, propaganda, its representation of history, any condemnation of communism coming from any direction, for any reason or out of any conviction, appears to be fascist, whatever the motivation of this criticism may be. Even in death, the suspicion to which communism gave birth—and this is becoming less and less obvious and more and more difficult to recognize—makes it difficult for anyone to analyze the history of the past half century and to utter words that mean what they mean and not what justices meant by them in their judgment in the Francia Kiss case.

56On 4 June 1996 at 4:20 p.m. during parliamentary debate over the bill that proposed to enshrine in law “the memory of Imre Nagy, martyred prime minister of Hungary”, Ottó Sándorffy, representative of the right-wing Smallholders’ Party, took the floor: “It’s not likely that the Prime Minister, who struggled against the cult of personality in all of its forms, would have liked to have been raised above his fellow martyrs, and isolate himself from other victims. (Applause from the ranks of the Smallholders’ Party). All other executed victims suffered the same injustice. This is why it is right and just to read their names, one after the other, together with the name of the martyred Prime Minister aloud to this House. The names of the 278 heroes and victims executed by the Communist dictatorship in retaliation following the 1956 Revolution and Freedom Fight: Géza Adamszky (Members of Parliament rise.)...Tibor Földesi, Mihály Francia Kiss, Ferenc Franyó54…,”


1 Naturally, the white terrorist’s was not the longest legal procedure ever. According to the records: “When the State of Israel was established and the Supreme Court inaugurated in Jerusalem, dozens of Christian clerics implored President Smoira to allow the Supreme Court, as the successor of the Great Sanhedrin (the Supreme Jewish Court during the time of Roman rule), to retry Jesus Christ and thereby rectify the injustice caused to him”. See Asher Maoz, Historical Adjudication: The Kastner Trial and the Commission of Inquiry into the Murder of Arlosoroff’ (1998), 1. The president of the Supreme Court sent the request to the state attorney, who in turn started extensive research, the result of which was published in the book the Trial and Death of Jesus (New York: 1967).

2 Archive of the City of Budapest (BFL) B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5.e/20630/III/49), 17.

3 Office of the Attorney of the City of Budapest. BÜL 638/1957 (BFL 1798/57/1).

4 Besides Francia Kiss, Iván Héjjas, the chief of the supplementary gendarmerie was sentenced to death in absentia.

5 Nb. IV. 131/1947 (BFL-VII. 5e?206307I/49), 6.

6 Nb. IV. 131/1947 (BFL-VII. 5e?20630/I/49), 6-7.

7 Nb. IV. 131/1947 (BFL-VII. 5e?206307I/49), 7.

8 NÜ/13672/5. Sz. 1946 (BFL-VII. 5e/206307III/49), 1.

9 NOT. II. 727/1`947/9 (BFL-VII 5e/20630/I/49), 4.

10 NOT. II. 727/1`947/9 (BFL-VII 5e/20630/I/49), 4.

11 NÜ 13672/5sz/1947 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 1.

12 George S. Berkeley, Vienna and its Jews: The Tragedy of Success (Cambridge, Mass.: Madison Books, 1987), 87. Quoted in Michael Andre Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions: Against Apocalyptic History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 18. In opposition to such apocalyptic reasoning, Arthur Danto remarked that “no one came to Mme. Diderot and said: ‘Unto you an encyclopaedist is born.”’ Arthur C. Danto, Analytical Philosophy of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 12. Quoted by Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions

13 NÜ. 13672/5sz. 1947 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 2.

14 NÜ. 13672/5sz.l947 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 2.

15 NOT. II. 727/1947/9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/I/49), 6-

16 Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions,

17 See Amos Funkenstein, “Collective Memory and Historical Consciousness”, History and Memory 1:1 (1989): 14.

18 B. XI. 1789/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/III/49), 19.

19 B. XI. 1789/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/IIl/49), 1.

20 B. XI. 1789/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/III/49), 18-19.

21 B. XI. 1789/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/III/49), 5.

22 Nbf. II. 5123/1957/14 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 2 and 8-9.

23 Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions, 26. See also how Habermas formulated the same idea: “The sentence, ‘the Thirty Years War began in 1618,’ presupposes that at least those events have elapsed which are relevant for the history of the war up to the Peace of Westphalia, events that could not have been narrated by any observer at the outbreak of the war”. Jurgen Habermas, “A Review of Gadamer’s Truth and Method”, in Understanding and Social Inquiry, eds. Fred R. Dallymayr and Thomas A. McCarthy (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), 346.

24 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 8.

25 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 32.

26 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/49), 3.

27 Kossuth Publishing House, (Budapest, 1974), 318 and 197 respectively.

28 In the fall 1997 all copies of the book were checked out from the Budapest Central Public Library.

29 According to the information General Béla Király was kind enough to pass to me, at the end of 1944, when the Soviet Army was already in the country, he was approached by some of Szálasi’s military leaders, who offered him the post of the chief of staff of the secret “Spearmen” organization. According to General Király—who had served in the Hungarian army from the 1930s and who in 1956 became the leading general of the revolutionary armed forces—the “Spearmen” was most probably an existing secret organization that came into being at the beginning of the 1920s and was active mostly in Transylvania, where it was engaged in intelligence operations and sabotage activities. The Fascist leadership hoped that the “Spearmen” would be able to perform the same functions in the rear of the Soviet Army. General Király—who became a member of the Hungarian Parliament after 1990—found the situation absolutely hopeless in 1944 and declined the offer.

30 NÜ. 1372/ (BFL-VII. 5e/20630/III/49), 2.

31 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630?III/49), 4.

32 B. XI. 1798/1957-9 (BFL-VII. 5e/20630?IlI/49), 5.

33 “Those who spread anti-Semitism today, do this in order to misdirect the attention from the sabotage of the supporters of the pseudo-feudal order, the big capitalist and the reaction that is the cause of all our troubles today”, argued Erik Molnár, the would-be director of the Historical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the would-be minister of foreign affairs and minister of justice in the 1950s, at one of the rare public debates still held right after the war. Erik Molnár, A zsidókérdés Magyarországon (The Jewish Question in Hungary) (Budapest: Szikra, 1946), 16.

34 NÜ. 13672/5. SZ./1946 (BFL-VII 5e/20630/IlI/49), 6.

35 “When the postwar quest for truth began, forms of resistance were in place of honor, forms of collaboration were being concealed...” Natalie Zemon Davis, “Censorship, Silence And Resistance: The Annales During The German Occupation Of France”, Litteraria Pragensia 1:1 (1991), 21

36 On the myth of nationwide antifascist resistance in the West, see Tony Judt, “The Past is Another Country: Myth, Memory in Postwar Europe”, Daedalus (Fall 1992): 83-118; especially 90-108.

37 M. Cherif Bassiuni, Crimes Against Humanity in International Law (Dordrecht: Martin Nijhof Publishers, 1992), 245.

38 “A silence of the Occupation days that persisted after the Liberation was silence about the Jews. It was not until the last number of the Annales of 1947 that two books on Jewish history were finally reviewed, and there was little more till two essays in 1957. The lack here was not so much practical as conceptual. In 1945, when Febvre proposed to Gallimard a grandiose seventy-seven volume inquiry on the state of France, ‘Sémitisme et l’antisémitisme’ were included under the rubric, ‘Quelques virus,’ but under the rubric ‘Quelques forces’, where he had envisaged books on ‘nourritures chrétiennes’ and on ‘le protestant français’. There were no books on Jews. Only around 1953 did he conceive of a ‘bel ensemble’ of three books: ‘un protestant français, un catholique français, un Israélite français’. What seems likely is that the category ‘Jew’ had been so powerfully filled with negative and exclusionary association during the Occupation that it took lime, outside of the active world of Jewish scholarship, to establish it as a meaningful historical subject—even around the elevated and assimilating term ‘Israélite’”. Davis, Censorship, 22

39 See Angelika Timm, Jewish Claims against East Germany: Moral Obligations and Pragmatic Policy (Budapest: Central European University Press, 1997), 39

40 See James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 141.

41 Új Élet, 1 February 1960, 1.

42 Magyar Nemzet, 17 July 1951, 2.

43 Open Society Archives (OSA) 300/40/12371.

44 “Dr. Höttl, The Champion of Survival”, Népszabadság, 25 June 1961.

45 Wolfgang Höpken, “War, Memory, and Education in a Fragmented Society: The Case of Yugoslavia” (paper for the conference on “Remembering, Adapting, Overcoming: The Legacy of World War Two in Europe”, New York University, 24-27 April 1997), 14.

46 See Timm, Jewish Claims, 40

47 See Tony Judt, “Myth, Memory in Postwar Europe”, 91.

48 “What should we think of those so-called socialist Zionists, who would like to furnish the most developed form of society, the Socialist society, according to the laws of a semi-nomadic shepherd people?...The progressive way of solving ‘the Jewish question’ in Hungary cannot be anything else but the total assimilation of the Jews. This road is the only one that leads to democratic development and to the elimination of those facts [sic] on which anti-Semitic propaganda subsists”. Molnár, A zsidókérdés Magyarországon, 17.

49 See Peter Apor, “The Lost Deportations: Kunmadaras, 1946” (master’s thesis, History Department of the Central European University, 1996).

50 “Supersessionisl theology necessarily reduces the predecessor text to an ‘Old Testament’, whose independent significance is fundamentally annulled once it is construed as only the first stage of a process culminating in the annunciation of a ‘new and more complete truth’”. Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions,

51 Adam Katz, “The Closure of Auschwitz but not its End”, History and Memory 10:1 (Spring 1998): 62.

52 François Furet, “Democracy and Utopia”, Journal of Democracy 9: 1 (January 1998): 79.

53 On the connection between Nuremberg and Katyn, see Telford Taylor, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials (New York: Knopf, 1992), especially 466-472



István Rév is professor of history and political science at the Central European University and academic director of the Open Society Archives at CEU.

© Central European University Press, 2000

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