RFE/RL Collection - Background Reports

  OSA / Digital archive / Background reports / Subjects / Browse / Search

The text below might contain errors as it was reproduced by OCR software from the digitized originals,
also available as Scanned original in PDF.

TITLE:             Biographical Background to Imre Nagy and His Associates
DATE:              1958-6-17
COUNTRY:           Hungary
ORIGINAL SUBJECT:  Hungarian Evaluation and Research
THEMATIC SUBJECTS: Hungary--1956 Revolution, Hungary--1953--Nagy's New Course, 1954, Personalities

--- Begin ---

Biogr Aphical Background F-64


News Background


MUNICH, June 17 (Hungarian Evaluation and Research) -- Radio
Kossuth broadcast on June 16 at 2400 hours an official
communiqué on the trial of Imre Nagy and his associates. The
communiqué did not say where and when the trial took place and
did not even mention the composition of the court. Nor was
mention made of the date of execution of the principal

The communiqué, however, mentioned that Imre Nagy, Jozsef
Szilagyi and Pal Maleter denied the accusations while Ferenc
DONATH, Miklos GIMES, Zoltan TILDY, Sandor KOPACSI, Ferenc
JANOSI and Miklos VASARHELYI pleaded guilty and showed

The communiqué emphasized that Geza Losonczy died from illness
during detention. He had already been jailed in connection
with the Rajk trial and spent several years in prison without
having been tried. During this time he contracted tuberculosis
of the lung, which is assumed to have caused his death. During
his first term of imprisonment Losonczy was also severely

Biographical information on the personalities who have been tried
and sentenced follows:

Imre Nagy

Born in 1896 of a farmer's family in KAPOSVAR, County Somogy,
he took part as a prisoner-of-war in the Russian October
revolution and returned to Hungary in 1921. Later, because
of his Party activities he had to flee to the Soviet Union where
he remained until the end of 1944.

Early in 1945 he became Minister of Agriculture and as such he
carried out the 1945 land reform. Subsequently he was Minister
of the Interior and for some time Speaker of the National
Assembly-He returned to the government around 1949 as Minister of food.
In the RAKOSI government (1952-53) Nagy was Deputy Minister.

On 4 July 1953 he became Prime Minister and initiated the
so-called New Course. His political star began to fade at the
beginning of 1955. On 19 February 1955 an official communiqué
labeled him sick and incapable of carrying out his duties as
Premier, while on 18 April 1955 he was relieved of the premier-

[page 2]

- (I)- Biogr Aphical Background F-65


ship and excluded from the Politburo and Central Committee
Later he was even excluded from the Party.

Nagy's exclusion from the Party was equal to a complete political
ban which lasted until the fall of 1956 when the pre-revolutionary
political fermentation brought him back to the political scene.

His first public appearance, as reported by the press, was at the
funeral of Laszlo Rajk (13 October 1956) and the subsequent days
completed his entire rehabilitation, as well as his re-admittance
to the ranks of the Communist Party.

After the beginning of the 1956 uprising, on 24 October 1956,
Nagy was made a member of the Central Committee of the HWP. On
27 October 1956 he became Premier and on 29 October 1956 a member
of the Party Presidium.

On 1 November 1956 he took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and initiated the negotiations with Soviet Ambassador ANDROPOV
about the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary.

On the morning of 4 November 1956, when the Soviet attacks started,
Imre Nagy sought refuge at the Yugoslav Embassy. He left the
Embassy under known circumstances on November 22 and on the same
day was kidnapped with his friends by the Russians.

Already on 26 November 1956 Janos KADAR launched the first attack
against Imre Nagy, by saying that "he committed an unpardonable
error against the Hungarian people". Since then leaders of the
Communist Party and press articles have made innumerable attacks
on Nagy and his friends. The regime surrounded the whereabouts of
Nagy with the utmost secrecy and from the time that he was
kidnapped nothing was officially disclosed about his place of detention.
Speculation said that he was held in SINAIA, Rumania, and in
summer 1957 other rumors reported him to be back in the ill-famed
prison of the political police in of Street, BUPAPEST.

Spokesmen of the regime always avoided giving exact answers to the
inquiries of Western newspapermen about an eventual trial of Nagy,

The sharpness of the attacks on Nagy increased particularly after
the fall' of 1957. In this context the 21 May 1958 issue of
"Nepszabadsag" deserves special mention because, in a long ideological
article dealing with the Hungarian attitude toward Yugoslavia Imre
Nagy was mentioned in the most sinister terms. Nagy was alleged to
have committed "open and complete treason during the
counterrevolution". He was also labeled "revisionist".

It is beyond doubt that during his role during the revolution
Imre Nagy achieved sincere popularity among the Hungarian people
and his execution will further increase, if that is possible, the
immense gap between the Party and the population.

Pal Maleter
Born in September 1917, for four and a half years he studied at

[page 3]


PRAGUE Medical University and in 1939 entered military service.
He graduated at the Ludovika Military Academy in 1942. In spring
1944, as a lieutenant, he went over to the Russians. In the
USSR he applied for admission to the KIEV Partisan School and
was put into* action against the Germans as a parachutist first
lieutenant in September 1944.

Maleter joined the Communist Party in 1944. In 1948 he became
a member of the bodyguard of the President of the Republic as a
lieutenant-colonel. In 1952 he was commanded to serve on the
general staff. Shortly before the revolution he became commander
of the technical auxiliary troops and as such approached the
revolutionaries barricaded in the Kilian Barracks, from where he
directed the military actions of the insurgents. Maleter became
the military leader of the revolution. On 1 November 1956 he was
promoted major-general and on November 2 he was appointed Minister
of Defense.

At the same time the Nagy government appointed him a member of
the mixed commission preparing the withdrawal of Soviet troops from

On 3 November 1956 Maleter went to a meeting with the Soviet
command from which he never returned. He was arrested by the
Soviet authorities and nothing was disclosed later about his
whereabouts .

Maleter's position seemed to be difficult from the beginning of the
retaliatory actions against the upsurgents. In May 1957 Istvan
DOBI denounced Maleter's contacts with the British military
attaché, An article in "Nepszabadsag" in April 1957 labeled him
a traitor. In his case the regime made no secret about the fact
that he would be tried, as it was announced by "Nepszabadsag" on
19 January 1958.

The growing popularity around Maleter's person raised him to the
rank of national hero.

Miklos Games

A journalist , he was a former staff member of "Szabad Nep" until
summer 1955 when he was dismissed because at a meeting he
demanded the publication of the confidential documents of the
Rajk trial. At the same time he was excluded from the Party as
a "rightist deviationist"

On 12 October 1956 Crimes was re-admitted to the Party. During the
revolutionary events he was among the closest collaborators of Imre
Nagy. His main job was to maintain liaison with the workers'
councils and with the factory delegations. After November 4 he
did not join Nagy at the Yugoslav Embassy but continued to maintain
this liaison and to organize the workers' strike movement. (It
seems that the KADAR regime did not pardon him for these activities
He was arrested in December 1956 and held in the "BUDAPEST of Street

[page 4]

- (3) - Biogr Aphical Background F-67


In May 1958 Gyula KALLAI attacked Gimes, saying that he was the
"ideological" preparer of the counter-revolution and that in the
fall of 1956 he openly sided with the enemy.

Jozsef Szilagyi

He is the least known personality in the trial. According to
reliable private information, Szilagyi was an economic expert
and the economic advisor to Imre Nagy. It was believed he would
have become a deputy minister in the Nagy government if the
revolution had been successful.


A police officer, in 1953 he became deputy police commander of
BUDAPEST. In the 1953 election he was elected to the National
Assembly and in 1954 he also became a member of the BUDAPEST
Town Council. In April 1955 he was promoted police commander

During the revolution KOPACSI became a member of the revolutionary
military committee and deputy commander of the National Guard.

He always took an active part in Party work and after the
dissolution of the Hungarian Workers' Party he was a member of
the preparatory committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers'

After the crushing of the revolution he was imprisoned and his
revolutionary role was widely publicised in the third volume of
the White Book on the uprising published by the regime. He was
held responsible for the undermining of the police and for the
attitude of the police during the revolution.

Dr. Ferenc DONATH

He appeared on the political scene in 1945 as one of the favorites
of RAKOSI. His first major job was that of Under-Secretary of
State in the Ministry of Agriculture. Around 1948 he was appointed
to the head of the secretariat of RAKOSI. After the Rajk trial,
however, DONATH was arrested along with Janos KADAR and Gyula

During his detention his wife was held in an internment camp.
Both were released in 1953 but official rehabilitation of DONATH
only took place in July 1956 after the demotion of RAKOSI. Prior
to. the revolution he was deputy director of the Institute of
Economic Sciences.

It is probable that his friendship with Geza Losonczy brought him
into the friendly circle of Imre Nagy with whom he maintained close
connections throughout the revolution.

Dr. Ferenc JANOSI

He is a former military chaplain of the Reformed Church who was

[page 5]

- (4) - Biogr Aphical Background F-68


taken prisoner-of-war in 1943. There he established contacts
with the Muscovite Hungarian emigrants, studied at an
antifascist school and returned to Hungary in 1945 as a Communist
Party member. He was immediately admitted with the rank of colonel
to the Hungarian army and was charged with the direction of the
education section of the Ministry of Defense.

After his return from the USSR he married Gizella NAGY, daughter
of Imre Nagy. When Nagy formed his government in 1953 JANOSI
was appointed first deputy to the Minister of People's Culture.
In October 1954 JANOSI became secretary-general of the Patriotic
People's Front. He occupied this position until May 1955 when he
resigned and became director of the Petofi Literary Museum.

Little is known, about his particular activities during the
revolution but it is obvious that he was among the advisors of
his father-in-law, Imre Nagy.

Zoltan TILDY

"Born in 1.889, he studied at the PAPA Theological Academy of the
Reformed Church and in the Assembly College of BELFAST. In 1930
TILDY was one of the founders of the independent Smallholders'
Party. He was elected Member of Parliament for the first time
in 1936.

During the war TILDY was one of the leaders of the anti-Nazi
resistance movement. He became Premier in November 1944 and on
1 February 1946 first President of the Hungarian Republic. In
August 1948 he had to resign from the Presidency because of
trumped-up charges against his son-in-law, Viktor Csornoki, who
was executed.

After his resignation TILDY spent several years under house arrest.
He emerged only in September 1956 to take an active part in public
Life. On 27 October 1956 TILDY was appointed Minister of State in
the first Nagy government and was one of the political leaders of the
revolutionary period.

After the crushing of the revolution he was left free for a time and
was arrested in May 1957.


In 1945 he became a staff member of "Szabad Nep". At the beginning
of 1951 he gradually moved over from the RAKOSI group to the
Nagy group. In the summer of 1953 Imre Nagy appointed him deputy
head of the State Information Office, After the ousting of Nagy,
VASARHELYI was demoted from this position and was also excluded
from the Communist Party as a rightist deviationist.

On 12 October 1956 VASARHELYI was readmitted to the Party. He
was on very friendly terms with Geza Losonczy and during the
revolution, as disclosed by Communist sources, he was head of the
State Information Office.

[page 6]

- (3) - Biogr Aphical Background F-69


A number of press attacks against VASARHELYI in 1957 made it probable
that he would have to stand trial.

x x x

It should be pointed out that the communiqué on the Nagy t.
does not mention some others who also sought asylum in the
Yugoslav Embassy along with Nagy. They were:

Zoltan SZANTO;
Gyorgy LUKACS;
Peter ERDOS;
Zoltan VAS;
Julia RAJK;
Ferenc NADOR;
Szilard UJHELYI; as well as 15 women and 17 children.

ZSANTO, LUKACS, ERDOS, VAS and NADOR left the Embassy on 18
November 1956 -- four days before the rest of the group which
was subsequently kidnapped by the Soviets.

Only the whereabouts of Gyorgy LUKACS of these people is known;
on 19 April 1957 Radio Kossuth broadcast that his return had been
authorized by the government.

On the fate of the others nothing was officially disclosed.
However it was believed that they were held along with the whole Nagy
group in Rumania. After this "liquidation" of the Nagy case it
seems unlikely that these other persons should be kept outside


  OSA / Digital archive / Background reports / Subjects / Browse / Search