Portraits from Kádár’s Secret Service

DEMOKRATA - 10.04.2021 (Ferenc Sinkovics)

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  • 2021. April 10.

The Committee of National Remembrance (NEB) undertook to explore an area that is considered to be a blank spot. We would like to describe the characteristics and operation of state security through the stories of the leaders of the organization. As part of an interesting and exciting book series, another standard work on the topic has been published. We had a conversation with Réka Földváryné Kiss.

(…) We encountered the fact that justice, public records and the network of informants has been present in public discourse, but primarily agents receive the most interest, and the idea is that if this part of history is explored successfully, we might as well claim that everything is resolved. The book Pártállambiztonság – Arcképek Kádár titkosszolgálatából [Party State Security – Prtraits from Kádár’s Secret Service] is intended to turn that around, and I decided to do the editing works. The general public does not know who the leaders of state security and key figures of the Kádár regime were. What they have in common is that they all played a significant part in the brutal retaliation after the revolution.

(…) After the revolution Kádár did not have sufficient power so after a formal identity procedure, he kept 90-95% of State Security staff. He had the second and third liners of Rákosi’s political police do the retaliation after the revolution. After 1962, i.e. the beginning of the so-called détente he had some first liner State Security officers take the blame. He mainly put those on the sideline, who knew a lot about him. After all Kádár was an interior minister in the Rákosi era, and he took part in some elimination procedures within the party. It is enough to think of the Rajk trial. Then Kádár himself was caught by the machinery, he spent three years in Rákosi’s prison.

(…) These ex-state security officers carried on with their activities in the contexts of economics, culture, diplomacy, academics, press, radio and television, certainly in leader positions. For Kádár, the point was to remove them from the system of state security, to avoid them demoralizing the organization and turning it against him. Those who were dismissed made no fuss, received appropriate tasks in their new places, so they would interpret the change in their lives as they still served the cause of communism – and they did. In addition, they could make a good livelihood from it. These people became the eminence grises, reliable pillars of the regime. István Tömpe, for example, organized the retaliation after the revolution beside Ferenc Münnich, and he was the first chairperson of the Hungarian Radio between 1962 and 1974. Kádár asked Moscow for his brother, András Tömpe, who was apparently a Soviet spy in South-America, so that he would organise the system of Hungarian intelligence from 1959. He was set aside after a while, big time! At the end of his career he was the head of a professional organization of publishers.

(…) If we look at the internet database of NEB, we can find that those who forced statements out of arrested people after the revolution by means of beating, torture or blackmail, were predominantly undereducated. That does not mean that others in the political police with more educated backgrounds, skills and foreign language knowledge were less cruel. There was considerable intellectual capital accumulated in the higher levels of the organization, but we are talking about despicable individuals.

(…) Kádár was not a newcomer in 1856. He had participated in establishing Rákosi’s dictatorship, gathered all the experiences relating to that, and he was aware that state security played a crucial part in keeping communist power. But he did not want it to grow too big, like ÁVH, which was much-hated before 1956. Therefore, state security had no independence. Another difference was that as opposed to earlier practice, i.e. Rákosi’s openly violent organisation, Kádár’s state security resorted to more covert, more manipulative means. Certainly only after the retaliation of 56. Its key concepts were demoralization and compromise. Szilveszter Harangozó was a grand master of these. However, in Zsolt Krahulcsán’s book one comes across the fact that on an internal forum of the Ministry of Interior in the summer of 1989, József Horváth talked about the need for a model change with parliamentary majority in favour of the governance of MSZMP [Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party]. He added that any forces urging the model change towards a volatile situation and aiming at the ultimate defeat of MSZMP at the elections must be compromised and degraded before the public. And that was the main idea. (…)


Földváryné Kiss Réka Kádár János