Their Traces | Part 5

National Archives of Hungary

Centuries - Personalities - Signatures

World War II
Peace treaties that brought World War I to an end, brought new problems to life. The objectives and possibilities of Hungarian leadership were set on a path that ended with political and moral defeat. What led the country to this direction?
Extradition agreement between the Hungarian Kingdom and the German Reich, in which the two countries agreed that legal assistance would be created between them, and the offenders would be mutually extradited to the other country.

Signed by Adolf Hitler and Joachim von Ribbentrop from the German side.

Adolf Hitler’s dedicated portrait, around 1940

Prime Minister Pál Teleki’s farewell letter to Regent Miklós Horthy, in which he warned him about the moral loss and political problems would occur with the attack of Yugoslavia.

The Germans required Hungary, as an ally, to provide territory for the German military operations. Additionally, Hungary was promised to get certain territorial gains, which was of high importance for it. Teleki, however, realized that it was an impossible situation to resolve, and since he could not make a moral and political decision, he committed suicide on April 3, 1941.

Letter from László Bárdossy, ex-Prime Minister, to Miklós Horthy, in which he thanked for the Grand Cross with the Holy Crown of the Hungarian Order of Merit, and expressed his hopes that Horthy will soon be welcoming him for a private meeting.

His successor, László Bárdossy made a swift decision: Hungary joined the military operation launched against Yugoslavia

Letter from Minister of Defense, Károly Bartha to the Minister of Interior, Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer on implementation of the Act of 1939 nr. 2. on the National Defense.
Rákosi's cult of personality
Not long after the destructions of the war, a new, Soviet-type state was established under the leadership of Mátyás Rákosi and his circle. He had the absolute power in Hungary, meanwhile served the Soviet interests.
The Act No. 20 of 1949, the Constitution of the Hungarian People’s Republic. The law determined the government form of the state of Hungary, its social structure, the system of state administration and the judicial organs, which was authenticated by Árpád Szakasits as President of the Republic, and instead of the Prime Minister, Mátyás Rákosi, Deputy Prime Minister.

The document was celebrated as a Constitution until 1989, the story of its signing gives us an insight into the mechanism of the era. According to law, Rákosi did not have the right to sign this document, but as the real possessor of power, he thought he has all the rights to do so.

Order of Gábor Péter, the Head of the State Protection Authority about the appointment of Antal Beszédes, to Commander of the Border Guard, József Mázi to the Head of the Political Department of the Border Guard, and József Korompai to the Logistics Commander of the Border Guard.

The most characteristic pictures of the era are the arbitrary and brutal operations of the state security organs under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, the Department of State Protection (ÁVO), which was later renamed to State Protection Authority (ÁVH). The methods and tools of the authority, led by Gábor Péter, and its men, reminded the people of the terrors of the Arrow Cross Party in 1944–45.

Order of Ernő Gerő, Minister of Interior, issued on July 24, 1953, which, according to the decision of the Presidential Council of the People’s Republic and the Council of Ministers, orders the appointment of people with various police and state security degrees.

The person who took a leading position in the era in the party and in the state dministration as well, was Ernő Gerő. As a politician he enjoyed the confidence of Moscow with the same degree or even more than Rákosi. His decisions were not criticized, his reports were not corrected by Rákosi. It can be assumed that in reality he was not the second person in the Rákosi Regime, but the most important right-hand man of the Kremlin in Hungary.

1956, Freedom fight and punishment
One of the most decisive events of 20th century Hungarian history began with the peaceful protest of university students and ended with bloody fights. It was followed by nation-wide retaliation, in which Prime Minister Imre Nagy fell victim as well.
The politically re-enforced Mátyás Rákosi wanted to close out Nagy Imre from the Hungarian Workers’ Party, due to Nagy’s aims to further democratize the government. Imre Nagy in his letter, in December 1954, maintained his earlier opinion, but justified his absence from the meeting of the Political Committee on grounds of his illness. In March 1955, the political attack against Imre Nagy continued, and on March 4, the Central Committee called him for self-criticism.

András Hegedüs, Lajos Ács, and József Mekis repeatedly called on Nagy on March 25, to announce his promised self-criticism, which Nagy accepted in his letter of March 28, but asked for his opinion to be written after healing from his illness.

Subsequently, Imre Nagy asked again for his dismissal from the office of the Prime Minister's Office as a result of the published Central Committee’s resolution.

Imre Nagy’s letter of December 14, 1954 to the Political Committee of the Hungarian Workers’ Party, announcing that because of his illness he cannot attend at the meeting of the Political Committee.

In his letter, he explains that he does not agree with the proposal of the first item on the agenda, which seriously criticized the policy of Imre Nagy and wanted to return to the former Stalinist line.

Judgment of 15 June 1958 by the People’s Tribunal of the Supreme Court led by Judge Ferenc Vida in the criminal proceedings of Imre Nagy and his associates (Ferenc Donáth, Miklós Gimes, Zoltán Tildy, Péter Maléter, Sándor Kopácsi, Ferenc Jánossi, Miklós Vásárhelyi).

In the trial, Imre Nagy, Miklós Gimes, and Pál Maléter were sentenced to death, and were executed on June 16, 1958. Ferenc Donáth was sentenced for 12 years, Zoltán Tildy for 6 years, dr. Ferenc Jánossi for 8 years, Miklós Vásárhelyi for 5 years imprisonment, and Sándor Kopácsi for life imprisonment.

The case of József Szilágyi, who opposed the judges openly, and rejected the stage play of the show trial, was separated, and he was convicted in a short time and executed on April 24, 1958.

In all the other cases the People’s Tribunal of the Supreme Court passed sentence on June 15, 1958. Imre Nagy, Miklós Gimes, and Pál Maléter were sentenced to death, Sándor Kopácsi was sentenced to life imprisonment, Ferenc Donáth was sentenced to 12, Ferenc Jánossi 8, Zoltán Tildy 6, and Miklós Vásárhelyi 5 years of imprisonment.

The decision of the Supreme Council of the Supreme Court, led by Dr. Jenő Szilbereky, on July 6, 1989, in which Imre Nagy, Ferenc Donáth, Miklós Gimes, dr. Ferenc Jánossi, Pál Maléter, Zoltán Tildy, dr. József Szilágyi, Miklós Vásárhelyi, and Sándor Kopácsi were acquitted of the charges and the Council repealed the judgments Nr. TB.Nb.003/1958/12. and TB.Nb.003/1958/18.

After the reburial of Imre Nagy and his companions, the sentence of guiltiness became unsupportable, thus on the basis of the Supreme Prosecutor’s remonstrance, it was overruled by the Presidential Council of the Supreme Court on July 6, 1989. Symbolically, the date coincided with the death of János Kádár, who condemned Imre Nagy and his companions guilty.

The Kádár era
After the revolution and freedom fight of 1956, the politics turned toward consolidation. According to János Kádár, it was necessary to offer the people a policy, in which they could find their limited possibilities. This was the so-called Goulash Communism.
János Kádár’s personal response to Mikhail Gorbachev, in which he expresses his gratitude for Gorbachev’s trust in his politics and importance of their personal relationship, which based on total trust. In the year of the letter, he has been the leader of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party for 31 years.

Gorbachev, who has been the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union since the spring of 1985, represented the younger generation, a more radical reform line and style in the history of the Soviet Union. In the spring of 1987, the economic and social reforms in Moscow, in the spirit of openness, were the basis of the reform efforts of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party.

In his letter, György Ránki informs János Kádár that he found a Gestapo report in the archives of the German Foreign Ministry, which documented the capture of Kádár in 1944. He sent the report to Kádár in a copy.
Alexander Dubček informs János Kádár about the content of his letter, he wrote to the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (Communist Party of Československa) in connection with the events of 1968.
1989-1990: Transition in Hungary  
There was a fundamental turnaround in Central and Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s. The state-socialist regimes gave place for democracies. How did this process take place in Hungary?
Boris Yeltsin disbanded the Russian Parliament by a presidential order until the parliamentary elections in December. After his speech, in the autumn of 1993, in a tense domestic political situation, the Hungarian Prime Minister, József Antall supported Yeltsin in his declaration, and emphasized the good relationship of Russia and Hungary, which formed during the regime change.
John Paul II, the “traveling Pope”, visited 129 countries. The decision to invite the Holy Father to Hungary was made in 1988, and it was approved by His Holiness in November in the very same year.

In his reply to the President of the Presidency of the Council, Straub F. Brúno, he emphasized that the visit was a great opportunity to encourage the relations between Hungary and the Holy See, and to strengthen Catholic believers in their faith. The visit took place three years later in August 1991. Apart from the visit of Leo IX in Bratislava in 1052, this was the first time that the leader of Catholic Church visited Hungary.

The Social Committee, founded for the celebration of October 23, 1956, called for the removal of the Red Star from the Parliament’s dome, on a press conference. The five-member delegation of the committee held talks with Tibor Soós, in which it was decided to turn off the lights of red star at a certain point of the ceremony and make it impossible to switch the lights back, but it will be removed only later.

In addition, the committee was given theoretical permission to announce the ceremony from the balcony of the Parliament, from which Imre Nagy spoke in 1956.

Credits: Story


This online exhibition is curated by László Sándor Németh with help of Gergő Paukovics and Ábel Takács.

The content of the exhibition is based on the temporary exhibition "Their Traces: Centuries-Personalities-Signatures", held at the National Archives of Hungary, Budapest from 15 March 2016 to 15 March 2018.
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Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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