Talk in Gyula on the victims of the retaliation in the countryside after the 1956 revolution


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  • 2019. June 16.

A joint conference of the National Archives of Hungary and the Committee of National Remembrance was held on 13th June 2019 in the Mogyoróssy János Library in Gyula. The symposium "The victims of the retaliation in the countryside after the 1956 revolution" is a result of a four-year-long joint research project. The examination of the 1956 trials started four years ago, index and databases were made, and as the second step detailed analyses of trials were conducted. In opening of the event one could learn that 688 sentences were passed based on fake charges in Békés between 195053 and five individuals were tortured to death by Soviet soldiers. In the same period there were 1 million show trials which resulted in 400 thousand fabricated sentences and around the same number of victims.

There was a revolution of order in the countryside, including Békés

In the country, including Békés the revolution was peaceful, organised and humane -said Gyula Erdmann, retired director of the Békés County Archives in his opening speech. He emphasized that although many thought there would be lynching due to the cruelties of the previous years, in the cities and towns intelligent, well-informed, excellent individuals came forward and stepped into the places of party secretaries and council leaders, they provided order and the citizens followed them. To thank him, Comrade Director was the main witness of the prosecution against Mádai in the trial. There were some rare exceptions, like Vésztő and Sarkad, as some policemen and State Security staff were beaten and hit. In Füzesgyarmat a party secretary who had been eager to organise confiscations was beaten along the main street of the village. Those who had a score to settle with him could step out of the house and hit him, but it was soon finished. -In the countryside, including Békés County there was a revolution of order, without a bloody retaliation, except for few, rare cases, said the expert. -Former leaders were often defended. Gyula Erdmann mentioned the case when János Mádai personally defended the local communist director in the collective farm and saved his life by doing that. The peaceful revolution was the complete opposite of the inhumane vengeance of János Kádár and his associates, making him a treasonous mass murderer. Throughout the country 400500 people were executed, about 500 people were beaten to death, 22 thousand people were imprisoned. For the latter, prison was a redemption comparing to the tortures they had to go through in the preliminary arrest, said Gyula Erdmann. -In Békés five people were tortured to death by State Security staff, some others were half-dead after the beating the got and they were dragged along the street tied to a car. In the county there were 688 sentences based on fake charges. Among the convicts there were 12 military officers of Horthy and former gendarmes respectively. 176 workers, 155 day labourers, 188 small farmers, 100 intellectuals and 18 'kulaks' were sentenced. The director of the Archives of Gyula highlighted: in Békés five people were tortured to death, one of whom was Lajos Horváth, a leader of the revolution who committed no crimes. It often happened that the victim was half beaten to death and then they were tied to a car and dragged along the village or town half-dead. Besides, 688 sentences were passed on fake charges, twelve of which were for military officers of Horthy and the same number of sentences were for ex-gendarmes. 176 involved workers, 155 day labourers and agricultural workers, 118 small farmers, 100 intellectuals and 18 kulaks.

Trials '56 Database

Réka Földváryné Kiss held a key note speech with the title "Reasearch on the executors of the retaliation based on the Trials '56 Database". 1856 is the most emblematic year of Hungarian freedom. The chairperson of NEB emphasized that Hungary is unique in the sense that that society turned against one of the biggest military superpower of the time with arms. It resulted in a huge retaliation, which was the topic of the conference. In her speech she mentioned Ilona Tóth's case, who was falsely accused with murder. In that case the prosecutor, György Molnár was a matter of interest as he was appointed when he was in his early twenties, with a history at the political police and he was doing a one-year-long course on law at the time of Ilona Tóth's trial.

István Szekeres's case was mentioned who made fliers.

Ádám Erdész, director of the Békés County Archives of the Hungarian National Archives held a speech with the title "Choosing and legitimizing the leaders of the revolution in Gyula and the circumstances of making important decisions (25th October-17th December 1956)". He gave a detailed account of the role and personality of János Nádházi, president of the Revolutionary Committee in Gyula, and of the key role he and his associates had in avoiding radical events.

One of the most interesting topics on county level was presented by Gyula Sáfár, deputy director of Békés County Archives of MNL (National Archives of Hungary) in his speech titled "The end of resistance. István Szekeres's trial in Békéscsaba". István Szekeres distributed fliers from the end of 1956, beginning of 1957 for about a year. He wrote the slogans of the revolution on small pieces of sticky tapes and stuck them on drainpipes and post boxes. Despite the extensive investigation, he was arrested relatively late. Had that happened earlier, he might have suffered more. He might be considered lucky, as he was sentenced to one year in prison, which was suspended for three years.

Szekeres became a member of the National Guard in 1956, at the age of 16, and he was one of the people who stood in front of Soviet tanks with hands held up to surrender. In 1958 his hearing was in camera, he was taken there from the prison on Gyula with his hands and legs chained together. István Szekeres was one of the participants of the conference on Thursday.

A number of prestigious researchers talked about the topic of the retaliation after the 1956 revolution. One of them was József Kis (Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County Archives), István Galambos (NEB), Zsuzsanna Mikó (MNL). István Galambos, research associate of NEB was talking about the result of the research into the 1956 trials in Várpalota. The Békés County Archives was represented by Gyula Sáfár, deputy director, who was talking about István Szekeres's trial, while the director of the archives, Ádám Erdész had a talk with the title "Choosing and legitimizing the leaders of the revolution in Gyula and the circumstances of making important decisions (25th October - 17th December 1956)".

There is a firm intention to organise similar conferences in every part of the country with the involvement of local archives.

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Conference Reka Kiss