Interviews translated by Katica Avvakumovits
Including first person interviews
Kinga Széchenyi, educator, writer, and sculptor graduated from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest Hungary in 1970. She then taught at Toldy Ferenc Secondary Grammar School, and later became a teacher trainer for Eötvös Loránd University. She translates English and American literary works and psychology publications.
Széchenyi researched the internal deportations of the Rákosi dictatorship and published Megbélyegzettek, the Hungarian language edition of Stigmatized (Krater Kiadó, Pomáz, 2008). She has given lectures on the internal deportations at conferences and at institutions in Hungary, the USA, and Transylvania, Romania. The second edition of the Hungarian work was released by Helikon Publishing in June of 2015.
She studied sculpture at Dési-Huber Art School, Budapest, and makes plaquettes and statuettes. Her János Bolyai and Gyula Farkas plaquettes are given as awards for mathematicians at international conferences. Her large Bolyai plaquette is on a memorial tablet in Marosvásarhely, Transylvania.
She was awarded the Silver Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic for her achievements in education in 1998.
“We do not like to remember but must remember… we must recall these events to be able to fight against future dictatorships.” These are words Kinga Széchenyi uses to introduce her work dealing with the internal deportation and attempt at eradication of Hungary’s upper and professional classes by the Hungarian communist regime at the height of the Cold War.
This meticulously researched and very personal volume, recounts in detail the history of the internment or as it is most often referred to, the internal deportation, in Hungary of Hungary’s aristocracy and professional classes during the era of Mátyás Rákosi, 1947-1953. Hungarian history under Rákosi’s leadership was hallmarked by dictatorial control and atrocities of an unprecedented scale after he and his fellow communists consolidated their power in 1947.
Rakosi and his cohorts were Hungarian Communists indoctrinated and trained in the Soviet Union during the interwar period and returned to Hungary at the end of World War II by the Soviet Union. The Hungarian communists quickly assumed total control of the nation, then occupied by Soviet troops, as was the case in the other countries of Central and East Europe. The Hungarian regime under the leadership of Rákosi exercised total, dictatorial control while they themselves were puppets of the Soviet Union.
In a proletarian dictatorship some strata and groups become enemies, or scapegoats. In Hungary’s case it was those people who still had private property, or had it until 1945, or were earlier in high-ranking civil or military positions, and those whose ideas differed from communist ideology. The leadership in power tried to convince the population at large of the above mentioned groups’ guilt, and they served as scapegoats for the regime. The Rákosi period was characterized by house searches, wire tapping, arrests, people going missing, purges, show trials. Many people were imprisoned, sent to internment camps, forced labor camps, many thousands were deported.
Just as in the Soviet Union, instead of a system of liberty and equality, the Hungarian dictatorship became a brutal and oppressive regime. The first part of this book details the atrocities of the Rákosi dictatorship and includes extensive research based on documents and archival materials that now can be found and accessed but are far from complete. Documents exist which illustrate the actions preceding the internal deportations and how the deportees were listed; the author also provides evidence of the legal justification the authorities fabricated to justify their actions and all repressive restrictions imposed on the deportees.
Deportation left its unforgettable mark on its victims for a lifetime. In 1953, after Stalin’s death, Rákosi’s power was reduced in an attempt to show “collective leadership” within the party. Due to the so-called Clemency Law of July 1953, the deportees were released. However, the internally displaced citizens were not allowed to return to their original residences, there was no restitution of property then or later. They were under police supervision for a very long time, some of them until the political changes in 1989–90. For decades they were discriminated against when they applied for jobs or wanted to continue their studies; they were unable to rid themselves of the “class enemy” stigma.
In the second part of the book the deportees themselves recount their experiences. These personal reminiscence bring alive the private tragedy of the internal deportations caused by the Rákosi era leaders and their subordinates. There are victims who even after many years are unable to process and be at peace with their internment and its consequences. These memoirs illustrate the long-term impact of the internal deportations not only on individuals, but the tragedy of the loss of its intellectual and professional classes to Hungarian society at large.
In addition to giving a general overview and illustrating the process of the deportation, the assembled documents provide valuable first hand evidence of the tyranny of the party state and of this tragic period of Hungarian history.