Home > Uncategorized > The Hungarian far right and the national security forces:      The case of Zoltán Bosnyák

The Hungarian far right and the national security forces:      The case of Zoltán Bosnyák

July 22, 2012

A few days ago I received a letter from a fellow Hungarian-American who regularly publishes in Hungarian newspapers. He is an excellent researcher who was struck by the ease with which László Csatáry and, before him, Sándor Képíró, another war criminal, managed to settle in Hungary. Both men, it turned out, were assured that no criminal proceedings would be brought against them. Képíró returned from Argentina where there is no record of his entry into the country, so one must assume that he was able to return to Hungary in 1996 with a Hungarian passport. Csatáry was stripped of his Canadian citizenship, and thus again one must conclude that he returned to Budapest as a Hungarian citizen with a Hungarian passport. Thus, my friend suspects, the Hungarian government in the ’90s when these two war criminals returned to Hungary was renewing these people’s citizenship without much checking. Or, it is even possible that the Hungarian secret service actually knew all about these people and for one reason or other  decided to give them a safe haven.

János Széky, a journalist for Élet és Irodalom, addressed the same concern my friend had in a fascinating article that appeared in Parametera Slovak Hungarian-language Internet paper. His conclusion is that the composition of the secret service of the Kádár regime didn’t change that much with the regime change. And its methods also remained the same. Thus, says Széky, it is worth returning to an old story from the 1970s and 1980s that might help us understand the communist secret service’s relations with leading members of the extreme right from the 1930s and 1940s.

Zoltán Bosnyák, sitting at his desk in his Institute and reading his newspaper Harc/Battle, holokausztmagyarorszagon hu

The example he comes up with is the case of Zoltán Bosnyák. As it turned out, by the late Kádár regime practically no one knew who Bosnyák was although in his day he was a well known man, mostly as a result of his anti-Semitic writings that appeared from 1930 on in far-right newspapers. Eventually he became the editor-in-chief of several of these papers. In 1942 he came up with the idea of an institute devoted to the “Jewish question.” Anyone who’s interested in this institute should read an article by Patricia von Papen-Bodek devoted exclusively to institute’s history.

In 1946 Bosnyák, who was hiding with relatives of his wife in Romania, was condemned to death in absentia in Budapest. He spent his days in the attic and descended only at night. He wasn’t careful enough, however. Through intermediaries he began corresponding with fellow Arrow Cross sympathizer Lili Muráti, the actress, who immediately after the war was working for the Hungarian broadcast of the Spanish Radio. It looks as if the Hungarian-language Spanish Radio was quite a haven for former supporters of the Szálasi regime.  József Nyirő was also employed by the same radio station.

In any case the Romanian authorities arrested him and eventually he was given over to the Hungarians. Before he was executed in October 1952, an execution that was not made public, he offered his services to Rákosi’s secret service. He even suggested the establishment of another institute, this time an anti-fascist one. The paradigm of a principled man! He was actually used by the security services to some extent. They asked him to write both his memoirs and pamphlets against fascism and in praise of socialism. He didn’t finish any of these projects except for a 30-page piece called “my confessions and mistakes” which is unfortunately lost. We have only a three-page summary written by his interrogator. Among the proposed topics was one that apparently greatly interested the security apparatus: “The real causes of antisemitism in Hungary.” Loránt Holtzer in Beszélő in 2003 speculated that this interest on the part of the security officials had something to do with Rákosi’s plan for an anti-Jewish purge imitating Stalin’s plans at the time.

And now let’s move to 1971 when Gizella Kutrucz, a devoted old-time communist journalist and high-level employee of the party apparatus, rented a small plot of land in Csillebérc in District XII of Budapest. The complicated story can be read in great detail in Filmvilág (1989). Why in a film magazine? Because Kutrucz’s ordeal and her dogged search for the true story of Zoltán Bosnyák was eventually related in Judit Ember’s 1985 documentary entitled “Allow Kutrucz to Speak.” Why the fascination with Bosnyák? Because it turned out that the plot of land Kutrucz rented and on which she built a house officially still belonged to Zoltán Bosnyák and his wife. The contract she signed stipulated that if the owners are found within 30 days she will have to demolish the house. She who knew that Bosnyák was a war criminal who had disappeared wasn’t worried: it was unlikely that they would find him, she figured. But ten years later she received an official letter stating that Mrs. Bosnyák, who was living in Brasov, Romania, was willing to sell the land.

It is really impossible to summarize Kutrucz’s ordeal following her receipt of this letter. She got contradictory pieces of information, outright lies, and eventually serious threats if she didn’t abandon her research into the Bosnyák case. Finally, the devoted daughter of the party was stripped of her decorations and was expelled from the party. Judit Ember’s film was banned and was not shown until 2002.

János Széky’s conclusion is that Gizella Kutrucz got too close to the well kept secret that the ÁVH of the Rákosi period used the far right for its own purposes. Also, it became clear as a result of Kutrucz’s probing that there was a continuity between ÁVH and the Ministry of Interior’s secret service of the Kádár period which was also using the members of the far right, then still in emigration.

Széky also claims that the relationship between the Czechoslovak and later Slovak and the Hungarian security forces was close, and he is certain that they exchanged information on László Csatáry at the time of his application for the renewal of his citizenship. That supposition is somewhat supported by the information Csatáry gave to Magyar Hírlap that he had asked both the Slovak and the Hungarian authorities about his status. It is also likely that the Hungarian authorities were aware of Csatáry’s address already in 1997. After all, in Hungary everybody must report his permanent address to the authorities. It is also impossible to assume that the Hungarians didn’t know the details of Csatáry’s activities in Kassa/Košice. After all, the minutes of his superior’s trial in which Csatáry is mentioned are available in the archives in Hungary. The minutes of Csatáry’s trial in absentia are also available in the Slovak State Regional Archives situated in Košice. Moreover, as far as Zoltán Balassa, a historian from Košice, knows, the Slovak material was received by the Hungarian prosecutor’s office earlier.

Thus Széky’s conclusion is that the Hungarian authorities knew everything about Csatáry already in 1997 but they decided to do nothing. Now when the man is 97 years old it is far too late, and in Széky’s opinion any move against him only arouses the hatred of “the overgrown legalized post-Arrow Cross underworld.” Széky’s claim is that “the communist state security forces are still present today in Hungary” and until their past activities are completely revealed the dirty tricks will continue.

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  1. petofi
    July 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm | #1

    Is there any wonder why past documents won’t be revealed?
    Are we surprised why Pinter and Kover are in the government?
    Should we guess who really runs the country?

  2. petofi
    July 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm | #2

    “Now when the man is 97 years old it is far to late..”

    What on earth do you mean?
    Man like Csatary should have justice visited upon them at any time. No rest. Ever.

    I continue to marvel at modern inanities about
    ‘civilized’ ways to mete out justice. Nonsense. The Bible had it right: an eye for an eye. I might add that I’ve read nothing in the Bible that age is a mitigating factor.

  3. July 22, 2012 at 9:50 pm | #3

    There is a word in Hungarian, the “kisnyilas” (“little arrowcrosser”). These are the guys who didn’t leave the country in 45 and nobody proved that they participated in any killings. So they got away with it. The little arrowcrossers were “forgiven”. Very likely the forgiveness meant cooperation for many of them presumably without pressure. People say many of the torture specialists’ careers started in the Horthy era secret service and went all the way to the Kadar era. See? In some professions the expertise was always important in Hungary.

    I love conspiracy theories. I’m thinking what if the secret service leaked Csatary’s whereabouts so the Orban government can earn some extra marshmallows for prosecuting ex-nazis?

    Here is a part from the movie Witness with a “little arrowcrosser”. It’s so typical. This mindless, dumb singing. Pelikan recognizes the ex arrow cross party member who gave him up in 42 and now again in the 50s. Pelikan goes: “What if I tell a few things about you to the police? Like you were wearing this this big fat armband with the arrow cross on it?” The guy goes: “I was only a little arrowcrosser. All had been forgiven to those …”.

  4. wolfi
    July 23, 2012 at 2:26 am | #4

    A Tanú: Still my favourite Hungarian film …

  5. July 23, 2012 at 4:03 am | #5

    Well, as France commemorated yesterday the infamous anniversary of the 1942 Paris round-up, reading this entry reminded me that none of its three main French organizers had a really hard time afterwards. Two of them were simply dismissed from the administration (one of whom maintained a close friendly relationship with a future President of the Republic) and made successful careers in the private sector, albeit mostly abroad for a while.

    The third one, who led the French “Jewish question Institute” (which if I read Mz von Papen-Bodek well was one of the models for its Hungarian equivalent), was sentenced to the capital punishment. He had fled to Spain, from where no French Government ever asked for his extradition until 1978, two years before his death of natural causes.

    More than particular networks and complicities, this is about the very essence of the political myths over which a Nation recovers after such periods. For France, these new founding myths were that of the Resistance (nationalists, christian-democrats, socialists and communists alltogether) and of the ‘Vichy parenthesis’ (the Republican legitimacy had been suspended, and the Republican State apparel would not be held accountable).

    Once the purges of the immediate aftermath had finished, the myths took over for the reconstruction era. Prosecuting people who had slipped through the net wasn’t desirable, for there was a risk that trials would undermine the founding stories.

    But once the national myths have been debunked, or at least severly nuanced by Historians and a few long-after-the-fact trials, a society may find itself short of foundations upon which to build its future. France has been facing such an identity crisis for years (concerning both its WWII and colonial history), and I guess this is also the case for Hungary.

    The question being, among others, can democracies be re-founded over a wide consensus, without initial catastrophies ?

  6. Jano
    July 23, 2012 at 6:08 am | #6

    This was a pretty interesting read, I still don’t understand one thing nobody seems to mention. When his war criminal past surfaced in Canada, why wasn’t Csatary immediately apprehended there? Where was the Wiesenthal institute back then? This is way too stinky for me, unless Canadians were just wipeing off the issue from their table not giving a flyin’ about it’s importance

  7. July 23, 2012 at 6:29 am | #7

    petofi :
    “Now when the man is 97 years old it is far to late..”
    What on earth do you mean?
    Man like Csatary should have justice visited upon them at any time. No rest. Ever.
    I continue to marvel at modern inanities about
    ‘civilized’ ways to mete out justice. Nonsense. The Bible had it right: an eye for an eye. I might add that I’ve read nothing in the Bible that age is a mitigating factor.

    Occasionally people get mixed up who says what. In this post I’m reporting on what János Széky says. He thinks that it is too late not me.

  8. halad-az-ember
    July 23, 2012 at 9:07 am | #8

    kis nyilas, kis kommunista??

    Is anybody accountable for any crimes?

    Let us be equally not anti-communist, not anti-bourgeois, not anti-capitalist, just enlightened.

  9. Jano
    July 23, 2012 at 10:14 am | #9

    “He thinks that it is too late not me.”

    Well, it depends, it’s definitely too late to do real justice, he lived 97 years relatively undisturbed, maybe even happily. On the other hand it’s not to late to demonstrate – at least symbolically – that some punishment reaches the guilty. Also, it’s a matter of principle, this is not shoplifting or carjacking. It’s not something that you do when you are young and now you’re probably wiser so why don’t we just let it go. This is about crimes against humanity. I deeply agree with any of you who would argue that the murderers of the communist era still alive should be hunted down as well, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t strike down this particular Nazi to give some final justice to his victims

  10. July 23, 2012 at 10:27 am | #10

    After WW II, a modus operandi developed that war criminals are to be tried where they committed the crime. That was the basis of returning Hungarian accused to Hungary and for the turning over of the Ujvedek crime leading personnel to Yugoslavia. Based on the last example, the legal way is to turn over Csatary to Slovakia and let them try him. I read somewhere that the Solvaks now don’t want him.

  11. July 23, 2012 at 10:30 am | #11
  12. An
    July 23, 2012 at 11:18 am | #12

    Mutt Damon, thanks, very funny!
    I just checked if they really have that on their website, and yes, they still do. Wonder how long it takes them to fix it..
    http://www.kozgep.hu/en/kapcsolat.php

  13. Tyrker
    July 23, 2012 at 11:28 am | #13

    The story is indeed fascinating. It shows just how immoral the Hungarian Left has always been – ceaselessly fighting “fascism” on the surface but happily cooperating with the shadiest characters of the extreme right behind the scenes.

    But I would also like to draw attention to the ignoble side remark about Lili Muráti’s alleged Arrow Cross sympathies. It was a fairly common Commie practice after the war to spread slander about the most popular actors and actresses of the interwar period – even Katalin Karády, the sensuous femme fatale of Hungarian cinema in the 1930s and 1940s – who had been arrested and tortured by the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of Hungary – was dismissed as a fascist collaborator. Lili Muráti – one of the most popular Hungarian actresses of all time – was a great deal more fortunate than the poor Karády, able to remain on stage right until the start of the siege of Budapest – which is one of the reasons she was charged with having Arrow Cross sympathies after the war. Another reason was that her husband, János Vaszary, could be seen on a 1944 newsreel giving the Nazi salute to Szálasi during an infamous banquet that got even Antal Páger – Hungary’s best 20th century actor, bar none – into trouble. What few people knew was that even during that banquet, Muráti and Vaszary were hiding several French PoWs, who had escaped from various German camps, in their theatre. (The couple owned a theatre in Andrássy út, which is where Muráti played.) Everybody knew about Vaszary’s Nazi salute but few realised it was intended to avert suspicion and save the misfortunate Frenchmen.

    Of course this is an old story – and one that says more about the dirty practices of the Communists than about Muráti herself. The actress eventually returned to Hungary and the Hungarian stage in 1994, after a very successful career in Spain (she had been invited back by the director of Karinthy Színház, Budapest’s longest standing private theatre, and her return was a great sensation). It’s all the more astounding, then, to find the Arrow Cross allegation surface again, in 2012, on a historian’s blog of all places. What’s even more striking about this is that Muráti is not even mentioned in Széky’s original article. Her name can only be found in a linked transcript of Ember’s documentary, in which her connection to Bosnyák is mentioned as nothing but a rumour (Kutrucz uses the word “állítólag,” which translates into English as “allegedly”). Yet in the blog post above it is presented as fact. Unbelievable!

  14. gdfxx
    July 23, 2012 at 11:29 am | #14

    An :
    Mutt Damon, thanks, very funny!
    I just checked if they really have that on their website, and yes, they still do. Wonder how long it takes them to fix it..
    http://www.kozgep.hu/en/kapcsolat.php

    They will fix it as soon as they learn to spell. Right now they are probably wondering about what’s wrong…

  15. An
    July 23, 2012 at 11:43 am | #15

    An :
    Mutt Damon, thanks, very funny!
    I just checked if they really have that on their website, and yes, they still do. Wonder how long it takes them to fix it..
    http://www.kozgep.hu/en/kapcsolat.php

    Ok, they have corrected it by now…

  16. July 23, 2012 at 11:49 am | #16

    Tyrker :
    What’s even more striking about this is that Muráti is not even mentioned in Széky’s original article. Her name can only be found in a linked transcript of Ember’s documentary, in which her connection to Bosnyák is mentioned as nothing but a rumour (Kutrucz uses the word “állítólag,” which translates into English as “allegedly”). Yet in the blog post above it is presented as fact. Unbelievable!

    Well, if it’s unbeliavable then you should contest the Hungarian Wiki article about Bosnyak that also mentions his correspondence with Lili Murati. By the way why is it a problem that Széky’s article doesn’t mention it?

    http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosny%C3%A1k_Zolt%C3%A1n

  17. 1qaz
    July 23, 2012 at 12:50 pm | #17

    Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :

    More than particular networks and complicities, this is about the very essence of the political myths over which a Nation recovers after such periods. For France, these new founding myths were that of the Resistance (nationalists, christian-democrats, socialists and communists alltogether) and of the ‘Vichy parenthesis’ (the Republican legitimacy had been suspended, and the Republican State apparel would not be held accountable).

    De Gaulle once made reference to the 80 million French (war-period population). One of his aides immediately pointed out that France at that time had only a population of about 40 million, to which De Gaulle answered indeed: 40 million collaborators and 40 million resistants.

  18. July 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm | #18

    An :

    An :
    Mutt Damon, thanks, very funny!
    I just checked if they really have that on their website, and yes, they still do. Wonder how long it takes them to fix it..
    http://www.kozgep.hu/en/kapcsolat.php

    Ok, they have corrected it by now…

    Simicska the Superman! Man of Steal!

  19. July 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm | #19

    Marcel de: France has been facing such an identity crisis for years (concerning both its WWII and colonial history), and I guess this is also the case for Hungary.”

    There are very good writings about nation myth creating issues by Marcel Detienne and Slomo Sand.

  20. Karl Pfeifer
    July 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm | #20

    @Louis Kovach@, Fidesz and Jobbik MPs participate at a summer camp of EMI (Hungarian Youth Transylvania). The purpose of this camp is to cultivate a healthy national consciousness*. I just returned from Budapest and almost on every institute one can see the word “nemzeti” national.

    A lot of young Hungarians leave Hungary just when Hungary has a “national” government.
    Probably they are not buying the nationalist rhetoric?

    * “egészséges nemzeti tudat”

  21. July 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm | #21

    “In the evening at 6 a “nemzetinel…..” not so new :-)

  22. July 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm | #22

    Dear Mrs. Balogh,

    you write:

    “He is an excellent researcher who was struck by the ease with which László Csatáry and, before him, Sándor Képíró, another war criminal, managed to settle in Hungary. Both men, it turned out, were assured that no criminal proceedings would be brought against them.”

    Is there any evidence that there was some kind of “assurance”? Who made it? When?

  23. petofi
    July 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm | #23

    Louis Kovach :
    After WW II, a modus operandi developed that war criminals are to be tried where they committed the crime. That was the basis of returning Hungarian accused to Hungary and for the turning over of the Ujvedek crime leading personnel to Yugoslavia. Based on the last example, the legal way is to turn over Csatary to Slovakia and let them try him. I read somewhere that the Solvaks now don’t want him.

    I’m tempted to say, ‘you read wrong’, but I’m not sure.
    What I read, and heard on tv, was that Slovakia was ready to try him.

    But, can you imagine that Viktor Orban the First, the hero of the ‘Szabadsag Harc’, would
    gainsay his sworn duty to Hungarians (living or dead) to protect one and all…would surrender a national to foreign jurisdiction?

  24. petofi
    July 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm | #24

    Mutt Damon :
    Off-Off Topic. Epic Freudian slip from the Kozgep homepage:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=368757323193790&set=a.167358826666975.41609.162344823835042&type=1&theater

    Truth is stranger than fiction-

  25. petofi
    July 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm | #25

    Mutt Damon :

    An :

    An :
    Mutt Damon, thanks, very funny!
    I just checked if they really have that on their website, and yes, they still do. Wonder how long it takes them to fix it..
    http://www.kozgep.hu/en/kapcsolat.php

    Ok, they have corrected it by now…

    Simicska the Superman! Man of Steal!

    They haven’t corrected it on Facebook.
    But what do they care? They’re packing away hundreds of millions of euros (not forints, silly); and clearing away for the
    fresh, developmental funds, or, perchance, the 30 billions in the National Bank. Those boys are BUSY!

  26. petofi
    July 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm | #26

    hungarianvoice :

    Dear Mrs. Balogh,
    you write:
    “He is an excellent researcher who was struck by the ease with which László Csatáry and, before him, Sándor Képíró, another war criminal, managed to settle in Hungary. Both men, it turned out, were assured that no criminal proceedings would be brought against them.”
    Is there any evidence that there was some kind of “assurance”? Who made it? When?

    This is typical, Orbadismal, insolence. It echoes Fidesz/Orban
    questioning of the EU complaints. “Show me where and why”: on the attack and parsing the opponent while side-stepping the issues. Neat trick, but we’re used to it by now.

  27. July 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm | #27

    hungarianvoice :

    Dear Mrs. Balogh,

    you write:

    “He is an excellent researcher who was struck by the ease with which László Csatáry and, before him, Sándor Képíró, another war criminal, managed to settle in Hungary. Both men, it turned out, were assured that no criminal proceedings would be brought against them.”

    Is there any evidence that there was some kind of “assurance”? Who made it? When?

    Well, if the words of Csatári and his lawyers are worth anything then we must believe that both the Slovaks and the Hungarians assured him that there was nothing in his background that warranted any investigation. Because this is what he said. See http://www.magyarhirlap.hu/belfold/amugy_nem_volt_kellemes_feladat.html

  28. July 24, 2012 at 3:46 am | #28

    Dear Mrs. Balogh,

    thanks for your quick repla. Well, I only found this statement:

    “(…) amikor 1997-ben hazaért, mind a kanadai nyomozók, mind egy budapesti ügyvéd – aki kérésére kiterjedt vizsgálatot folytatott ügyében idehaza és külföldön – egyértelműen kijelentette, nem vádolható semmivel.”

    I don´t think you schould speak of any “assurances” here. All they seem to have told Csatárys lawyer in 1997 was that (at this time) there was nothing they could accuse him of. At that time there seem to have been (in my understanding) a lack of evidence.

    Going back to Képíró: Who gave him assurances of any kind? He who did wasn´t able to keep word, as Mr. Képíró was accused for war crimes in 2010. By the much criticised “Orbán-prosecutors”. I wonder that nobody raised his voice before 2010, when the proceedings against Képíró (who was acquitted in 2011) already took for years – have you any explanation for that?

    Best regards

  29. July 24, 2012 at 6:40 am | #29

    hungarianvoice :

    Dear Mrs. Balogh,

    thanks for your quick repla. Well, I only found this statement:

    “(…) amikor 1997-ben hazaért, mind a kanadai nyomozók, mind egy budapesti ügyvéd – aki kérésére kiterjedt vizsgálatot folytatott ügyében idehaza és külföldön – egyértelműen kijelentette, nem vádolható semmivel.”

    I don´t think you schould speak of any “assurances” here. All they seem to have told Csatárys lawyer in 1997 was that (at this time) there was nothing they could accuse him of. At that time there seem to have been (in my understanding) a lack of evidence.

    Going back to Képíró: Who gave him assurances of any kind? He who did wasn´t able to keep word, as Mr. Képíró was accused for war crimes in 2010. By the much criticised “Orbán-prosecutors”. I wonder that nobody raised his voice before 2010, when the proceedings against Képíró (who was acquitted in 2011) already took for years – have you any explanation for that?

    Best regards

    Well, if someone is said officially that he cannot be accused of anything to me it means pretty much of an assurance. But you can nitpick if you wish.

    As for Képíró, ask János Széky because it was him who stated that and not I.

  30. Sandor
    July 24, 2012 at 9:46 am | #30

    As usual you are too charitable, again, to Bosnyak. He was a most pernicious anti-Semite. The Harc, his paper, was not simply arrowcross, but was mostly dedicated to the annihilation of Jews. The 4-5 samples I had the “pleasure” to peruse in the Budapest Collection of the city library of Budapest were exclusively devoted to reporting the capture and concentration of the Jewish professionals, including photographs of their humiliating roll calls in the local concentration camps. These “articles” also published running accounts of each professions and the numbers of the captured on that day and the totals.

  31. CharlieH
    July 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm | #31

    London Calling!

    (Yes, back in London to heal my mosquito bites!)

    As usual Tryker lights blue touch paper and retires – only to give his point of view.
    As usual, Mutt – he won’t hang around to be challenged.
    As usual Fideszbikkers do….

    (O/T – Conclusions about Győr this time? I like the way late night traffic lights flash on amber to allow ‘on demand’ traffic flow; I hate the Hungarian health service: My partner’s mother had to endure a more-than-eight hour ‘ambulance’ journey in extreme pain to see a specialist – but hey, the return journey was only five hours. Incredible. Arrogant doctors – lying ambulance administrators who said she would be in plenty of time for her 11am appointment – she arrived at 13:50hrs (Having started at 5:45hrs) – and they said they had to cancel the appointment. Only a mega-fuss saved it. The ‘ambulance’ didn’t break down – another lady had an appointment at 9am – it’s just the way they do things in Hungary.

    Such callous, appalling chaos.)

    Regards

    Charlie

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