next up previous contents
Next: Home at Last Up: The eye witness - Previous: The Liberated Debrecen   Contents

A Meeting with the Members of the Provisional Government

The way I recall, I had four days to complete my mission in Debrecen. The first day was a Saturday and I looked up Gyöngyösi at his home. I was given a warm welcome. He had numerous questions about the Budapest situation, my family, my friends and Dr. Oszkár Szamek. How can he help and what were my plans for the future? I asked him about his appointment at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He told me the whole story. On the sixth of October, the Red Army drove out the fascists from Békéscsaba. This important event was commemorated in the Alföldi Népújság (The People's Journal of the Lowlands. Marshall Malinovszky was revered for having liberated Békéscsaba and the county of Békés from Horthy's rule. The article appeared in French and Slovak. It pleaded for understanding and compassion toward its peace-loving people, who even in the midst of war showed no ill will or inhumanity towards its enemy aid called upon the large Slovak population whose language and spirit were Slav, like the Russians, for their co-operation.

Two days later an armoured truck stopped in front of Gyöngyösi's house and a high-ranking officer stepped out. His orders were to take Gyöngyösi to the commander at the Ukrainian battlefront. He could not understand. Gyöngyösi's wife trembled with fear. The officer was very polite and told them not to worry. It was only upon arriving to Debrecen that he learned that they wanted him to edit a booklet in Hungarian - "The Political Battlefront". This happened early October. It was during this period that he met Zoltán Vas in Békéscsaba and then in Szentes, Imre Nagy.16.1 It was decided that the provisional government's headquarters be established in Kossuth's16.2 Debrecen and not Horthy's Szeged. Gyöngyösi played an important role in bringing about the coalition. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Small Holders Party. A month before he accompanied János Vörös and István Balogh to Moscow where the armistice pact was signed (June 20, 1945). He recalled how only Marshall Vorosilov was present among the allied powers. The three had been authorized to sign this historic document on behalf of Hungary's provisional government, which in fact became a declaration of war against Hitler's Germany.

I asked about what was on the government's agenda. Apparently there was to be land distribution under Ágoston Valentinyi, the Minister of Justice together with two lawyer friends of mine from Szeged, Béla Burger and László Koch. (Both changed their names to more Hungarian sounding ones - Dr. Ernő Béla Bojta and Dr. László Réczei. They are advisors to the ministers and are instrumental in preparing the documents for land distribution. This was to be its second most important legislation. The first was a ministerial decree regarding procedures in civil tribunals.

I knew nothing about all this and was amazed to learn what was happening. Gyöngyösi thought I came to Debrecen because of political ambitions, but when I explained my assignment, he was very obliging. The problem was that he had an appointment in Csaba (Békéscsaba) and would only be back on Monday. We arranged to meet again on Monday.

After this I ran into Béla and Laci. I congratulated them on their appointments as advisors to the ministers and on their historic mission together with Gyöngyösi. It was lunchtime and they took me to the special dining room at the Gambrinus. This was reserved for the members of the cabinet. I was introduced to Father Balogh, the state secretary. He was seated opposite to us at this long table. As it was Saturday, they did not have to go back to their office. We walked about and stopped for coffee at the famous pastry shop across the way from the House of Finance. We just chatted and chatted.

There were many stories, the hardships and the dangers that we miraculously survived. Laci's bravery was truly incredible. A classmate of mine was appointed Szeged's district court judge for land registration. We used to sail together in the regattas on the Tisza River. He too had his share of hard times. He was the manager at Miskolc's munitions plant. He offered his job to Laci and went underground. Laci was then sent to forced labour camp. At the time he was involved with the Social Democratic Party.

When the Red Army reached Szeged he was back and then changed of his name to Réczei out of sheer happiness. Next day was Sunday and I had an invitation for lunch. Laci and I went for a walk on Péterfia Road to the Great Forest. It was all so familiar. On August 31 in 1940, I happened to be in Debrecen on the day of my "Conscription to Transylvania". Thanks to Éva, I was demobilized I was at the barracks on the outskirts at the end of Péterfia Road, not far from where Oszkár Szamek and Sanyi Révesz were billeted, both dentists. Together they were assigned to barbarous "military manouevers."

Monday morning I went to the House of Finance Building for my meeting with the Minister of External Affairs to present the Swiss Embassy's request and to renew peacetime diplomacy. This had been endorsed by Gyöngyösi. Then I was directed to the Ministry of Supplies, in the same building. With Gyöngyösi's introduction, I was promptly received by the Minister, Gábor Faraghó. Previously he had been Lieutenant General in the police force. Under Horthy, he delegated to go to Moscow for the peace negotiations. I could hardly believe that Horthy's man, who had been in charge of the gendarmes, could ever be a delegate for establishing Hungary's new democracy. But this was his goal and it signified his sincerity.

I was unaware of the conflicts and some questions were brought up. "In the present situation the government cannot assume responsibility for this community. How many employees does the embassy have?"

He did not even wait for the answer and opened his desk for his writing pad to take notes.

"Well, I'll see what can be done. Come back in a couple of days."

As I am writing, I come across another diary for 1945 and it brought back these memories.

There was an entry on February 13, a Tuesday when I boarded the first passenger train from the Nyugati station and I came upon two documents related to this Debrecen sojourn.

"I certify that Dr. György Kiss, Budapest resident at Szabadság tér 12, is an employee of the embassy and is being treated for bronchitis and colitis at Hatvan Street no. 6 in Debrecen." signed and sealed Debrecen 1945. III. 7. Perényi.
The seal was that of the "Royal Hungarian University, Surgery Clinic."

The second document was from the Ministry of Supplies, a purchasing and transporting permit, for 80 kg. of flour, 60 kg. of potatoes, 60 kg. of lard and meat products.

During labour camp years and ghetto days and later when I was in hiding, I became accustomed to hunger. Arriving to a liberated Debrecen, I had no problem adjusting to the joys of regular meals. But I had a reaction and came down with a contagious Ukrainian disease. I had a high temperature and could not sleep at night. Next day I collapsed at the Erdei's. My temperature was running between 39 and 40 degrees and I remember stumbling about the Eredei's house with no one home. That's when I discovered my monogrammed hankies, which were supposed to have disappeared with the Soviet looting!

A Russian medical officer came to see me and arranged for a car to take me to hospital. My temperature would not go down. Laci Réczei kept checking up on me and was a regular visitor. He arranged to send a letter and a parcel to my mother. After about the fourth day I was beginning to feel better, but I was very worried about my family.

Ileft the hospital at the beginning of March and headed to Csaba to check things out.

A couple of days before I left the hospital, Laci Réczei and Béla Bojta came to see me. They felt that the time had come for me to make plans for my future. Réczei, as Minister of Justice, offered me a choice of positions one of which was chief judge at the civic court, a position which would involve rebuilding the new democracy. I was flattered, but I had other priorities and explained I wished to investigate the consequences of the intolerance and oppression brought about by Hitler's Germany. They explained that this would not be under the justice portfolio but in the department of Internal Affairs. I said that I should join the police force. Bojta and Réczei were quite surprised and thought I was in a rather aggressive mood.

"What do you mean by repression? Up to now the government has not dealt with this matter."

I was referring to the traitors who supported the German occupation, those who joined the S.S. and those who changed to German sounding names during the Second World War. They heard me out and wondered what steps I would take. My plan was to define and regulate who should take part in the restructuring. The disabled would not be penalized but I would consider their resettlement to Germany,

Béla again tried to persuade me that as a lawyer, my place was in justice. But I was rather surprised and excited about my new goal and could not be deterred.

"This is under Ferenc Erdei's jurisdiction, the Minister of Internal Affairs. It has to be discussed with him. Gyöngyösi is coming to see you. Talk to him about it."

It was only after they left, that I tried to visualize myself in this undertaking. What would it be like? I was so anxious to get out of the hospital that finally I sneaked out.

Fresh air at last! It was about noon and I headed to Gambrinus. As luck would have it, I ran into the Gyöngyösis. Mrs. Gyöngyösi said that she heard that I was to be chief advisor for the law enforcement agency.

Next day this discussion was continued with Gyöngyösi and the question of repatriation of deportees. Apparently, the government is powerless. The matter was not even brought up during the peace talks. Of course they are aware of the problem and there is a committee dealing with this. Ten thousand Hungarians are awaiting repatriation in the Katowic and Krakko districts.

If only Éva would be among them. Perhaps I ought to go there, rather than to Csaba. But they say it is not possible - fighting is still going on in that area. Gyöngyösi sets up a meeting for me with Erik Molnár, Minister of National Welfare. He deals with the deportee problem.

It was rather surprising to be greeted in the communist minister's waiting room by a woman dressed in servant's uniform complete with the maid's bonnet - "I shall tell Her Excellency". Mrs. Molnár appears and accompanies me to her husband's office. He had been a lawyer in Kecskemét and addressed me as "my dear colleague" rather than comrade. As we drink our coffee I realize that Gyöngyösi had brought up the subjects that were of great concern to me - the victims who had been abused and the deportees' immediate repatriation. The difficulty was that these problems would only be dealt with when he government is re-established in Budapest.

I am back in hospital - there is a question of jaundice. One friend visits me - who had been in labour camp - György Faluhegyi. He deserted in Germany. Many many young people were killed by the Hitlerjugend (Hitler's Youth). Can this ever be forgiven?

It is Saturday, March 3. I am at Gyöngyösi's and I learn of my appointment with Erdei for Monday. I mail a little parcel with butter and yeast along with a letter to my mother - registered. On Monday, finally, I leave the hospital. I go to Father Balogh's talk: "What I Saw in Moscow" - his observations and perceptions during the peace talks. The lecture was well attended, but the content was rather superficial.

March 5, Monday, I meet with Erdei in the morning. I wear navy blue suit which is so shiny, I can almost see my own reflection. He was very friendly. He knew about me and wondered what I meant by victims of German oppression. Apparently this had not been brought up but he felt that it should be dealt with. I was to put forward a proposal and would be appointed advisor to the law enforcement commission. This would require a few weeks when the government moves to Pest. When the government transfers to Budapest, I was to contact Erdei.

I tell him that this would be quite convenient as my mother and grandmother are in Pest presently, but I had planned to go to Békéscsaba to make arrangements for their return. Then I could go back to Pest to accompany them to Csaba. I mentioned that I would need a relocation permit. Erdei smiles.

"Well, I should have known. Gyöngyösi put in a good word for you because you're from Csaba. That's great: Now I am going to ask you for a favour and there will be no strings attached."

"Of course, Mr. Minister."

"What is going on in Békéscsaba is not good. Filipinyi, the chief of police, does not go by the rules. The comrades in Csaba are fanatics. They are opting for an Independent Soviet Republic! You must have connections in Csaba and could look into this. I would like you to take over and have him removed. Please consider this as a favour to a friend. I assure you that this would not reflect on your appointment at the ministry. Because this is such a delicate situation, I cannot give you any official authorization on this matter. Comrade Szobek, chief administrator for the county of Békés, is a good friend of Filipinyi and so turns a blind eye to his machinations."

(I should mention that in 1946, during the First Hungarian Soviet Congress I was a delegate and Mátyás Rákosi16.3 had a reception. When he learned that I was from Békéscsaba, he reprimanded me: "What are you people doing, you leftist separatists, trying to form a Hungarian Soviet Republic?")

Perhaps I ought to bring this memoir to its conclusion and let my readers decide its ending. Did I follow through Erdei's request in the Filipinyi matter, or did I merely wait for my appointment at the ministry to work on the repatriation project? These were tough times, you never knew what was going to I shall continue.

I went back to János Gyöngyösi and discussed my talk with Erdei. Gyöngyösi disapproved Erdei putting me in such a hot spot.

"You are not a member of the Communist Party and you don't know the situation in Csaba. Without authorization from Erdei, no one will talk to you."

He persuaded me to look up Erdei next day and request a written authorization - otherwise it would be a useless undertaking and he will introduce me to András Szobek who will be driving to Debrecen. I would be able to get a ride to Csaba and discuss the Erdei matter. Before saying goodbye, I brought up the deportee situation. He reiterated that at this point nothing could be done.

Next day I looked up Erdei and mentioned Gyöngyösi's qualms, but he stuck to his position. Well, I'm ready to go. I had bought a nice loaf of bread and asked Mrs. Gyöngyösi if she could have it delivered to my mother in Pest. Szobek never did show up and so I didn't get the ride. The train to Csaba via Várad was not considered safe - I headed toward Szajol.

next up previous contents
Next: Home at Last Up: The eye witness - Previous: The Liberated Debrecen   Contents
Kiss Tamas 2003-04-23