I want to thank my friend S.K. for writing this post on the historical role of the Hungarian gendarmerie.
There is no reason whatsoever to be surprised over the fact that the Hungarian ultra-right is busy trying to resuscitate all the odious institutions of pre-war times, including the gendarmerie. For those who need to be introduced to, or just reminded of, this tough specialized police force, it was originally created to keep "order" in the countryside and soon enough acquired a reputation for ruthlessness and freewheeling violence. When the time came, it was also the gendarmerie who carried out the deportation of Jews into the arms of their executioners in Auschwitz and other destinations. Also, they were the ones who attempted a coup against Governor Miklós Horthy in July 1944, from which only a tank division of the military could dissuade them.
But back to our time! Enter Zsolt Lipusz. This unusual name belongs to a successful and respected high school teacher of history in the city of Nyíregyháza. He moonlights as the deputy chief of the local organization of Jobbik and is also the author of incredibly vicious articles, where else, but on www.kuruc.info.hu and of course Szent Korona Rádió (the Radio of the Sacred Crown). Lipusz also advocates the re-establishment of the gendarmerie because, as all ultra-rightists believe, only a super hard organization like that can restore "order" in a country riddled with "Gypsy crime." He nostalgically tells the story of how a couple of gendarmes scared a whole village of Gypsies into submission by just threatening them. None of that fancy-schmancy due process for those gendarmes! He even supplies pictorial support for his assertion, and indeed the picture speaks for itself:
No wonder the word "gendarmes" was often hyphenated with "terror": "csendőr-terror." But Lipusz, in keeping with Jobbik's highest desires, calls the picture "heartwarming."
The gendarmerie was not only an instrument of terror in the villages. They were also key players in the Hungarian Holocaust. As an arm of the state, they collected all the worldly possessions of the dispossessed Jews before shepherding them into the ghettos. They made sure that the Jews got no food, water, or any other "comfort" before they were forced into the cattle cars.
Gendarmes escort the deportees in Nagykőrös
Gendarmes lead the Jews to the railroad stations
And they deliver these children from Transylvania to Auschwitz
If all these "heroics" of the gendarmerie were not enough, one of the highlights of their activities was the occupation of Northern Serbia, particularly Novi Sad (Újvidék), in the winter of 1942. In order to establish a reign of terror that was unknown in those lands before, in only two days in April they murdered several thousand people, male and female, without respect to age or ethnicity. The number of victims was never firmly established; some estimates are as high as 12,000, but even the lowest is 3,000-4,000. Some victims were rounded up on the frozen river Danube, in which openings in the ice were created by grenades, and the people were shot and tossed into the water through these holes. This was also the work of the gendarmerie:
And of course, they were not without a sense of humor. For amusement they humiliated the local rabbi, forcing him to wash their car:
The Jobbik and with them the entire right-wing of the Hungarian political class, with the support of the Catholic Church, is enthusiastically campaigning for the resurrection of the gendarmerie. They believe that this is the only way to restore order to the country. In the meantime, to accomplish that goal, they don't hesitate to break the law and they work feverishly to overturn the present regime at every opportunity they find, because, they claim, the present order is not order. To them only the gendarmerie's order is the true order.
So far this politics has garnered the approval of 15% of the Hungarian electorate and it is rising.