Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya • ISSN 2075-7999
peer-reviewed • open access journal


Rév I. Reconstruction reconsidered: an examination of police philology. The case of László Rajk [Full text]

Russian version: Рев И. Исследование реконструкции: анализ полицейской филологии. Дело Ласло Райка
Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

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In 1969 the department in charge of counterinsurgency activities in the Ministry of Interior, initiated a strictly secret reexamination of the Rajk trial of September 16–24, 1949. The investigation revealed, that in February 1961, on the order of the Central Committee of the party, all the documents of the original trial were shred, and in April of the same year, even the audio recordings of the proceeding at the Hungarian Radio (which, in 1949 broadcast the trial live) were burnt.
The examination of 1969 had to rely on the reconstruction of the review of the trial back in the summer of 1954, as a result of which Rajk became rehabilitated, and reburied on October 6, 1956 as a prelude to the 1956 revolution. The 1954 review could still make use of the original trial proceedings, however those documents did not survive the 1961 order of destruction. In 1989 the last Communist government set up a committee of historians in charge of reexamining the show trials of the Communist period. The Committee, in lack of original documents, had to make use of the surviving files of both the 1954 and 1969 reviews; the latter could be considered as a reinterpretation of the 1954 process.
The paper aims at reconstructing the logic and working method(s) of the philological activities of the (secret) police; considering the text as real text in which exist the relationship of the different versions to the canon of the show trials. In article is examined both form and meaning of the police language; the changes of the concerns in the different layers of the texts; and argue for the futility to find the 'original' version.

Keywords: police philology, text reconstruction, police language


"Today they shaved my head, although I shouted with all my might that I did not want to become a monk. But then they began to dip cold water on my head and everything went blank. Never have I been through such hell…Some indications make me wonder whether I haven't fallen into the hands of the Inqusition…No, I have no strength left. I can't stand anymore. My God! What they're doing to me! They pour cold water on my head…Why do they torture me so? What do they want from me? What can I give them? I haven't anything to give. I have no strength, cannot bear this suffering, my head is on fire and everything goes around me in circles. Save me! Take me away from here"! cries Axenty Ivanovich Poprishchin in the monologue of the King of Spain.

In 1994 Peter Halasz, the founder of the Squat theater in New York, one of the most important experimental theaters in the 1970s and 1980s, performed Nikolai Gogol's "The Diary of a Madman" at the Amsterdam summer festival. He asked his former wife, Anna, co-founder of the Squat, to join him, fly to Amsterdam, to take part at the performance, but he warned that the text would deeply surprise her. Mad Poprishchin/Halasz was locked in a sharply illuminated cage, while Halasz' former wife read the monologue: "my mother-in-law signed sentences of death" – and Poprishchin, with wide gestures imitated signing the documents – "this is what led, tormenting years later, to her killing herself with her own hand". This is when Anna, who was forty-seven years old at that time, heard for the first time about the probable, although, even at that time quite improbable sounding cause of her mother's suicide twenty-six years before.

I knew Anna Koos. One of the earliest dramatic memories from my early childhood is connected to a Sunday afternoon visit, probably in 1957. A family came to visit us with two children, a boy, somewhat older than my younger brother and a girl, a few years older than I. Already at that time, Anna had performing ambitions, as she suggested to stage a marionette show in the children's room, while the adults were chatting in the other room. After the rehearsals, we opened the door and invited our parents to watch the show. We hid behind a cupboard with a glass door and wanted to move the marionette figures behind this stage. A jumping rope was secured to the door, perhaps in order to hold it, but the moment when we were ready to start, with the rope, we somehow turned the cupboard around. Even today, I hear the sudden and frightening sound of the broken glass that immediately ended the first theatrical performance of my life [Koss, 2006].

In the first half of the 1950s, Vera Soos, originally Vera Weisz, Anna's mother had worked, together with my mother, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. My mother started working in the ministry in 1948, at the time when Rajk – having been demoted from his post as minister of the Interior, this was the beginning of his ascent from the informal number two position of the party leadership – became minister of Foreign Affairs. Anna's mother was transferred to the ministry later, after she finished her work, contributing at Rajk's interrogation and the preparations of his trial in 1949 at the AVH, the Hungarian State Security Authority. But until the early 2000s, Anna was not aware of the role her mother, and to some extent her father had played at the Stalinist show-trials in Hungary. She returned from New York to Budapest in 2002, and decided to look for herself at the still available, but still mostly locked-up sources, to find out why her mother had killed herself with her father's gun in October 1968, less than two months after the Hungarian troops, together with the armies of the Warsaw Pact, crushed the Prague Spring. In the Archive of the Former Secret Services, she found a handful of documents, including her mother's confession at her trial, the minutes of her interrogation from 1953, and scattered references to the role of her mother among documents of other trials. On the basis of the fragmentary and incomplete sources, in 2006, she published a morally courageous book, in which she tried to reconstruct the road that led to the suicide of the forty-two year old woman. There is no word either of the marionette-show or about my mother in the book [Koos, 2006].

My mother mentioned to me more than once that two weeks before László Rajk's arrest in May 1949, the minister called a staff meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The issue the minister wanted to present to the staff was the need to be even more alert than had been the case during the previous months, when members of the high clergy, representatives of the former coalition bourgeois parties, foreign businessmen, tens of thousands of working people and peasants had already been tried in court or at so called police tribunals. "The enemy uses highly sophisticated, barely noticeable methods" – warned the former Minister of Interior. "When I fought in Spain, during the Civil War, we had a comrade, fighting with us in the International Brigades. He was an exceptionally courageous man, who always volunteered to fight in the first line. Nevertheless, every day, when lunchtime arrived, and this man tasted the soup, with a theatrical gesture, he poured out his soup, and declared: it is inedible. Years later, only after the defeat of the Republicans, in an internment camp is France, did we find out that this man was an agent provocateur, and his only task was to undermine the moral of the fighting internationalists. The enemy uses very sophisticated methods, comrades, you should never loose that from sight" – recalled Rajk's words from May 1949, my mother.

Naturally, Rajk was not alone in his conviction that the enemy uses barely undetectable methods. In 1936, working at the foreign language editorial house of the Comintern in Moscow, Endre Sik, an expert on Africa, who would become Rajk's successor as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the early 1960s, was told by two "red professors", who worked as ideological supervisors at the editorial house, that a book by a certain Yureniec, a Check philosopher, teaching at the Moscow University, could not be published because of his "ideological deviation". "When I asked them to enlighten me about the nature of those deviations, the professors told me that they were not in a position to point to concrete textual proofs, as the philosopher was such a sophisticated and uncorrectable deviationist that he managed to write a text without a single trace of his mistaken and harmful views" [Sik, 1970, p. 13]. Endre Sik's name was specifically mentioned as (one of) the possible star defendant(s) at the beginning of October 1948, in one of the several memoranda that Georgi Maximovich Pushkin, the Soviet ambassador sent to different leaders of the Hungarian party. The Soviet ambassador, echoing and repeating Stalin's accusations that the Hungarian party leadership was "too conciliatory and soft on former Trotskyites, like Endre Sik", demanded firmer actions [Varga, 2000]. At the end, instead of Sik, it was László Rajk, who got the leading role in the dock.

It seems that László Rajk was born almost exactly a hundred years ago, on 8 March, 1908. However, it is probable that on the first day of his trial, on 16 September, 1949, when answering the question of the presiding judge, he said that he was born on 8 May, 1909.

"We are not in the position to reconstruct in an exact way, the answers Comrade László Rajk gave to the questions of the President of the People's Court, concerning his name, and his date of birth, as all the documents related to the Rajk case – because of its 'conceptual' nature – we destroyed on the order of police Colonel Jozsef Galambos, following the 1959 decision of the Politburo of the Hungarian Socialist Worker's Party. The original documents of the investigation and the trial were burnt on 19 August, 1959, the records originally in the possession of the Hungarian Radio, containing the voice recording of the trial were smashed on 12 April, 1961 [HASSS V – 142/673]. At this moment only the so called 'Blue Book', published in 1949, László Rajk and his accomplices in front the People's Court is in our possession, together with the documents produced in the course of the supervision of Comrade Rajk's case and the documents of the retrial" – reported twenty years after the trial, the officers from the Ministry of Interior to the Secretariat of the Party. "We went through page by page in a very careful way of all the presently available documents, and we came to the conclusion that it is highly probable that on the question of the President of the Court, Comrade Rajk did not give the truthful answer, as if signaling that what was happening with him in court, did not match reality" [HASSS][1].

Laszlo was the ninth of the eleven children born to the bootmaker Jozsef Rajk. (He changed his name from Reich after his marriage in 1890. After the Rajk trial the judge noted that it had come to him as a complete surprise that Rajk was not even Rajk, but came from the Jewish sounding Reich family. The Rajks / Reichs were not Jewish, but belonged to the so called Sabbatists, a religious minority in Transylvania.) The Rajks lived in Szekelyudvarhely, one of the centers of the land of the Seklers'. Following the post-World War I the peace treaty, Transylvania became part of the Romanian Kingdom; the Rajks found themselves in the position of oppressed minority, and economically devastated. Some of the children, most prominently the boys, moved to Hungary, Gyula and later on Endre, to Budapest – both of them (to be more precise, certain elements of their biographies) would play fateful roles in the destruction of their brother, Laszlo. In 1924, Endre, who in 1944 would become a state secretary in charge of public procurement in Szalasi's Arrow Cross government, took Laszlo with him to Hungary. Having finished high-school, Laszlo moved to another brother, Gyula, who had a good position in the English-Hungarian Bank. Gyula had a brother-in-law, Lajos Bokor, a police inspector, with whom they maintained close family connections. Laszlo enrolled at the Budapest University, majoring in French language and literature, and in 1929 received a scholarship to Besancon.

In the midst of the evolving Great Depression, László Rajk became confronted with worsening social conditions and an atmosphere of left-wing radicalization in France. After his return to Hungary, in 1930, he sought out left-wing students at the university; befriended Francois Fejto, the future historian, the author, among other works A History of the People's Democracies, who emigrated to France in 1937, became the press secretary of the Hungarian Embassy in Paris in 1945, and resigned in 1949 as a protest against the trial of his former friend László Rajk.(Fejto returned from his self-chosen emigration for the first time in 1989, for the reburial of Imre Nagy, the executed Prime Minister of the 1956 revolution. The set of the reburial was designed by László Rajk, Junior, son of the executed Minister of Foreign Affairs.) Another friend from the same time, with whom Rajk founded a Marxist reading-circle, was Bela Szasz, a future co-defendant of the Rajk trial, the only one among the accused, who did not give in to the physical and psychological tortures, and who would write his memoirs, Volunteers for the Gallows; Anatomy of a Show-Trial, in his post-1956 emigration. (The book, one of the best analyses ever published on the mechanism of the show-trials, served as an important source for Anna Koos, when writing her book on the life of her mother).

Rajk was arrested for the first time in 1931. Next day, his brother, Gyula, asked his brother-in-law, the police inspector, to intervene on Laszlo's behalf. Rajk was freed, after allegedly having signed a piece of paper, promising that he would give up his political activities. That fateful note has never been found. Lajos Bokor, the police inspector, was the first witness called into the Great Hall of the headquarters of the Iron Workers' Union, the dramatic set of the trial of "Laszlo Rajk and his criminal accomplices". The text, on that small sheet of paper, according to the distant relative of the accused, stated that Rajk would secretly report to the infamous political department of the policy, every plan and incident related to the efforts to spread bolshevism or the Communist revolution in Hungary. Right before and after the trial, Bokor shared a prison cell with Bela Szasz[2].

Rajk joined the illegal Communist Party in 1931, next year he was arrested once more, and a relatively lenient sentence – a few months in prison, which was not much different from the punishment of his fellow students – served as yet another proof of the fact that he had become a police informer during his previous arrest. He dropped out of the university, worked as a construction worker, took an active role at the organization of the construction workers' strike in 1935, – his dedication in organizing the strike would be presented at the trial as proof of having been an agent provocateur – and was arrested for the third time in 1935. As he still carried a Romanian passport, he was banned from Hungary [Szasz, 1971, p. 171–174].

In that year, Endre, the future Arrow Cross state secretary, who at that time, worked as a high-ranking official at a cooperative federation, visited his brother, Laszlo. This was their first encounter after almost a decade. The Communist Laszlo and the radical right-wing Endre agreed on one thing: after the deep and protracted economic crisis, there was need for a new world order. This new order would be created by National Socialism, argued Endre, and not by the Bolshevik world empire led by Moscow, and supported by his brother, that would be the greatest danger that threatens the world [Shiels, 2006, p. 50]. Both of them searched and hoped for a radical solution – although in diametrically opposite directions – that would completely change the world.

In October, 1937, László Rajk arrived to Spain, and joined the Rakosi battalion of the International Brigades in Albecete, about a hundred miles from Valencia. He took part in the fighting at the Ebro River, got wounded, returned to the front wounded, but his party-membership was suspended as the result of a protracted disagreement with a Hungarian instructor, who accused Rajk of Trotskyism. The accusation, as a proven fact, naturally resurfaced at the trial. (According to the records of Rajk's rehabilitation supervision in 1954, the accuser turned out to be an agent provocateur.) Although wounded, he took part in the devastating rearguard fight of the Civil War, trying to slow down the advance of the Francoist forces. In February, 1939 he crossed the French border and ended up in the Le Vernet internment camp, together with Arthur Koestler, who was arrested in Paris, while working on his Darkness at Noon. This is where, according to the 1949 indictment, Rajk was recruited by the French secret services.

As a result of the so called second Vienna decision, in August, 1940, Hitler gave back North Transylvania to Hungary, and in this way László Rajk became entitled to get back his Hungarian citizenship. He contacted the Hungarian embassy in Vichy, and expressed his wish to return to Hungary. The embassy, having discovered that Rajk had fought in the Spanish Civil War, suggested instead to turn to the Mexican embassy, and ask, similarly to other internationalist veterans of the Civil War, asylum in Mexico[3]. After nine months, as there seemed to be no end of the legal process, Rajk figured out that the only way to get out of the camp and return to Hungary, was to volunteer to work in Germany. Recruiters of the SS regularly visited the camp in Le Vernet, to persuade inmates from countries allied with Germany to go to work there. Rajk became a construction worker for a month, near Leipzig, then by the help of the illegal German Communist party, he went to Vienna, from where Austrian communists smuggled him into Hungary. The German connection, with references to the Gestapo and the SS figured prominently in the indictment.

Laszlo's brother, Endre got to know Szalasi, the leader of the Arrow Cross movement in 1936, and "it is undeniable that I was greatly impressed by him" –wrote Endre in his half-private memoirs in 1949 [Shiels, 2006]. "When I had the opportunity to know his economic and social program in more details, I became one of his followers. I have known several illustrious members of the Hungarian political elite, but none who was able to see the fateful problems of the nation as clearly as he did" [Sheils, 2006, p. 81][4].

Laszlo was arrested not long after his return to Hungary, and remained in internment camps and prisons until September, 1944, when one of his comrades, Bela Koos, Anna Koos' father, Vera Sos future husband, working as a scribe in the prison office, forged a document to effect his release. Next day he went illegal, moved to an illegal apartment together with Janos Kadar, his friend and good comrade, later on the godfather of his son, his successor as Minister of Interior and his interrogator in the captivity of the secret police. He became one of the most important leaders of the illegal party, organizer of the armed resistance, but in December of 1944, already during the siege of Budapest, while writing the text of a proclamation to the inhabitants of Budapest, inciting to armed resistance, was captured, together with his wife, and with the withdrawing Szalasi government was taken to Western Hungary, near the Austrian border, the last, temporary seat of the Hungarian fascist government.

Endre Rajk, the Arrow Cross government plenipotentiary in charge of public supply of the besieged and starving Budapest, followed his government as well, and ended up in the same town where Laszlo, his brother was held in the captivity of the Arrow Cross [Duncan Shiels, 2006]. Lajos, a third Rajk brother, fleeing from the siege, arrived with his family amidst thousand of desperate refugees, to the same small border town, originally not suspecting that two of his brothers, although on opposing sides, one in prison with his wife, waiting for their death sentence, the other serving the remnants of the fascist authorities sitting in judgment, would be there. Lajos was the foster father of Zoltan Rajk, the youngest son of Jozsef Rajk, the eldest of the Rajk brothers, who died in 1936. Zoltan also followed his family and was in Sopronkohida, when his brother Jozsef Junior, who had been drafted to the army arrived with his unit as well. In a strange sense, Sopronkohida, the infamous location of the execution of the leaders of the anti-fascist resistance, was the site of an unusual Rajk family reunion [Shiels, 2006, p. 96–99].

It was Lajos, who first heard the news of Laszlo's fate, and managed to visit him in prison. Most of the members of the anti-German opposition kept in the Sopronkohida prison were sentenced to death, and were already hanged by the time. Lajos alerted Endre, and begged him to intervene, to save the life of their brother. Endre was hesitant; he feared for his own life if trying to save his communist brother from the gallows. He wanted Laszlo to sign a document, promising not to meddle in politics for the rest of his life. But Laszlo – although his life depended on the decision – refused, and made it clear that he would rather not ask for his brother's help. "Although it hurts me not to help, under these circumstances, I am not able to help" – stated Endre, when he received the news of Laszlo's refusal. "With this decision of his, he made it absolutely clear that he sided with the communists against the interest of the nation. I, on the other hand, if fate allows me, will stand on the side of my nation, even without him or even against him" said Endre to his other brother.

There is an especially disturbing document in the Rajk files [HASSS V-142/673]. On 11 October, 1954, in the process of the supervision of the Rajk trial, a fellow prisoner from Sopronkohida, Istvan Varga, who had been sentenced to death by the same Arrow Cross court that saved László Rajk's life, testified in front of the State Security Authority(AVH). Varga had known Rajk from the time of the construction workers' strike in 1935, and they worked together in organizing the illegal resistance movement before their arrest in December, 1944. Varga was sentenced to death (but the Arrow Cross had no time to execute the sentence) on 16 December "and after that I was the witness to the following conversation. We were allowed a short walk in the courtyard of the prison, Bajcsy-Zsilinszky [the leader of the non-communist armed resistance movement, sentenced to death and executed in Sopronkohida] was followed by Rajk, and I walked behind them. Rajk told Bajcsy-Zsilinszky that he had been offered to make a statement that would save his life. Bajcsy-Zsilinszky responded immediately that if he were to survive, he would not be able to face people, while those whom he had recruited into the movement had perished. He asked Rajk whether he had made that statement already? Rajk remained silent for a while, then said that one can go until a certain limit, perhaps till the limit of dishonesty…After that we were locked in the same cell….Rajk was preoccupied by the possible implications of those actions by his family that aimed at saving his life. He asked me, how I saw the issue from the perspective of communist morality? Can he avoid, is it permissible to avoid the death sentence, in a way that would not compromise the party?..At a certain point it became clear that Endre was willing to intervene only on Laszlo's behalf, for saving Julia, Laszlo's wife, would endanger the outcome of the maneuver…I quoted to him Bajcsy-Zsilinszky's words, to the effect that if he were saved but Julia was executed, how would he look in the eyes of people? Rajk tried to argue that his life was more valuable for the party, because he was a more important cadre for the movement. I argued very strongly that if he accepted his brother's help under such conditions, he would become a less valuable cadre for the party as well. I should say that we had very fierce disagreements, at one point I even threw my shoes at him"[5].

The Sopronkohida trial took place on 23 March, 1944, just a few days before the liberation of Hungary; Laszlo's Wife Julia was praying for the arrival of the Russians, the noise of the withdrawing German military vehicles filtered through the window of room, where the attorney asked for the death sentence in Laszlo's case. Unexpectedly, Endre, in Arrow Cross uniform, wearing all his medals and decorations, entered the room, and testified in support of his brother, who, according to the Sate Secretary was a good patriot, and despite the appearance, had not been writing a proclamation but a private letter addressed to him. He saved Laszlo's life, whose case then was referred to a civilian court, which already did not exist. According to Julia, Laszlo's wife, whose case was also sent to the civilian court, "when the proceeding was over, the judge allowed Endre to have a word with his brother. Endre took Laszlo's hand, hugged him, put his head on Laszlo's shoulder, and started to cry. The meeting between the elder brother wearing the ugly uniform and his younger brother, looked as if it had not been a meeting between brothers but between two Hungaries"[ Shiels, 2006, p. 99][6].

The remnants of the Arrow Cross guard took the prisoners to Austria, where they arrested by the Allied forces. Endre escaped to Germany, where he was arrested, taken to an American prisoners of war camp, where he stayed for two years The Hungarian authorities – at the time when Laszlo was Minister of Interior, in charge of deciding the fate of war criminals – decided not to seek his extradition. Endre married for the second time in West-Germany, where he died in 1960. The two brothers never met again.

According to the 1949 indictment, László Rajk revealed at the Sopronkodhida trial that he had never been a Communist, instead, since 1931 he had been an informer of the political police, reporting on communist activists. His arrest in 1944 was the consequence of the fact that the military intelligence that arrested him was unaware of his services provided to the political police. His brother, – according to the indictment – the Arrow Cross state secretary, confirmed at the trial that Laszlo had been employed by the secret police from 1931, and he was continuing his informer activities even during the Arrow Cross rule. The two brothers served the same masters[7].

"It deeply hurts me that during all the four and a half years I have spent in prison so far, I was not able to make use of my several decades-long experiences from illegality" – complained Gabor Peter on 25 March, 1957, according to the records of his retrial[8]. Gabor Peter had been the head of the AVH, the secret police, already at the time when just parts of Budapest had been liberated, in January 1945 [Gabor Peter's 1956 petition in prison, 2007, p. 2]. As his first official function he arrested the leader of the most important local communist fraction, a hero of the anti-fascist resistance, Pal Demeny, who was accused of having been a police agent and of fractionalism. Demeny remained imprisoned until October, 1956, the eve of the revolution, and was rehabilitated only in 1989 after the collapse of Communism. In 1990, he became a socialist member of the Parliament, and he died during a plenary session, in Parliament. (In December, 1945 Rajk wrote a report to the Central Committee, in which he suggested not holding a public trial or discussing the Demeny case publicly, as there was not enough proof against him[9].) Peter remained the head of the AVH until January 1953, when he was arrested by Rakosi's bodyguards in the bedroom of the Secretary General of the Party. First, he was assigned the leading role in the planned Zionist trial that would have closely followed parallel Soviet developments – Vera Sos, Anna Koos' mother was arrested at the same time, also as a possible defendant of the Zionist trial. (This was not the first time the Hungarian Communist leaders flirted with the anti-Semitic card: According to Gabor Peter, when going over the list of possible defense lawyers for Rajk's trial, Rakosi ordered that "Rajk's lawyer should be an ugly Jew"[Gabor Peter's 1956 petition in prison, 2007][10].

Following Stalin's death, the Zionist concept was dropped, Peter and his co-defendants were sentenced at a closed trial. Peter was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against the people, disloyalty, assault, leading to death, embezzlement, etc in December, 1953. Following appeal, the Military District Court slightly changed the accusation, emphasizing embezzlement and crimes against state assets. Following the 1956 revolution, as an effort to half-heartedly distance the restored regime from its predecessor, Gabor Peter was tried once more, and following another closed trial at Supreme Court, he was sentenced to fourteen-year in prison, for abuse of official power, false accusation, deadly assault and embezzlement. He was freed in January, 1959, and died at the age of eighty-six, after the changes, in 1993.

It was before of his 1957 retrial that he complained about wasting his rich illegal experiences, which could be used for the benefit of the Party [New York, International Publishers]. In all his petitions and memoranda sent to the Party, the Soviets, the legal authorities, the most important issue, he has never failed to emphasize was his underground activity in-between the wars, especially during the time of World War II and the German occupation in Hungary. Illegal past was the most important pedigree; the proof of initiation, the diploma from the school of life and the movement, the basis of entitlements, the evidence of loyalty, the stigma of the martyr. The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) Short Course made it clear: "During the years of reaction, the work in the party organizations was far more difficult than the preceding period of development of the revolution….Lenin pointed out that in such moments revolutionary parties should perfect their knowledge. During the period of the rise of the revolution they learnt how to advance; during the period of reaction they should learn how to retreat properly, how to go underground, how to preserve and strengthen the illegal party"[The History of the Communist Party … , 2008, p. 132]. However, the world of illegality, the terrain of resistance at the time when reaction ruled, was the dark world of the underground; populated with dangerous figures, members of the secret police, secret and double agents, informers, people with more than one identity, hiding behind false names with false pretences and secret agendas. Anna Koos [Koos, 2006] quotes an old family member, who wrote that the world of illegality was the terrain of constant danger and self-sacrifice. "The man of illegality is constantly in battle; somebody is constantly after him. He could be surrounded in the street in any moment, and taken away or the door of his apartment could be broken down even during the most intimate moments" [Koos, 2006, p. 49].

Among the defendants of the show-trials between 1949–1953 it is almost impossible to find a single person who was not accused later on of having been recruited by the secret police of the old regime, who was not accused of having committed treason by having given up his or her comrades, who was not accused of having behaved in a cowardly way when confronted with his fascist investigators. At the end of the process of rehabilitation, by which time most of the defendants of the show-trials had been already rehabilitated, the Minister of Interior still warned the Politburo of the Party: "We still have to find a solution of how to handle the registry of those 650 Communists who, during the time of the old regime, either confessed or implicated their own comrades with the police"[11].

Work and existence in the underground created a dangerous proximity between the illegal activist and the police. It was this dangerous proximity, the ever present possibility of giving in to pressure, physical or psychological torture that defined the illegality, that created the narrow, precarious space, where the retrospective narrative, and myth emerged about the illegal world [HAFSS 101-3-878/1/54]. "The central issue during the Rajk interrogation was his having been recruited by the police. This is what they [the people supervising the case in the Party] desperately wanted him to confess" – confessed one of the interrogators after his arrest in 1954[12].

Gabor Peter was not saved either from confessing his cowardice and treason [HASSS V-150028/4]. "In December, 1935 I gave myself up, when at the police, I wrote the following text on a sheet of paper: "He who is sick should not take part in the working class movement". And the treason he was forced to reveal was all the more horrendous, as he gave up his own wife, another illegal Communist, who after the war went to become the head of Rakosi's secretariat: "In April, 1940 I exposed my wife, Jolan Simon, when in the course of confrontation with the police, I told to her face that it was she who had typed the letter at issue during the investigation. I did this, as I knew that this fact had already been revealed by others, but Jolan Simon was not aware of it, and I knew that she would never confess it even if it could save her life in this way. I just wanted to save her, and to prevent further torture"[13].

Mihaly Farkas, Minister of Defence, member of the so called "trojka" of the secretariat, who oversaw the political trials, could not avoid his fate either. He was arrested still before the revolution in 1956, as one of the culprits, responsible for the trials [HASSS V 150019/1]. During his interrogation, where he tried to put the blame on Rakosi, he came forth with a comprehensive explanation of the trials: "Stalin was very reticent with Rakosi, and he was aware of this. Why was Stalin so reserved with Rakosi? Stalin knew full well that when Rakosi returned to Hungary to work illegally, and was arrested [in 1924 and was exchanged with the Soviets only in 1940] he did not behave in a way that is expected by a Communist, although he behaved in an exemplary way at his trial. The Presidium of the Comintern passed a resolution about Rakosi in 1941, that described the way he behaved at the time of his arrest. I had to sign the resolution, as at that time I was a substitute member of the Presidium. This is why Rakosi was at pains to seek Stalin's favor. And with the Rajk trial, he succeeded in turning Stalin around. When he traveled to Stalin with the indictment, Stalin was seemingly satisfied not only with the indictment but with the whole development of the Rajk case. And it happened at this time that Stalin presented to Rakosi an autographed volume of his collected works"[14].

Those who went underground, who had relations only with a single "upper" or "lower" "contact", who had to deal in the shadow, following strict but never properly adequate conspiratorial rules, could not avoid doubtful situations, dealing with suspicious figures. These figures were not necessarily members of the police or the secret service; it was enough that the "contact" had been recruited, became a double agent, and agent provocateur, or that on the basis of certain signs, appearances, coincidences, the "contact" later on, was accused of having been an informer in the old regime. In the dark, it is always difficult to explain appearances in a clear way, for nobody follows normal rules, everybody tires to make use of opportunities; there are always surprises, unforeseen circumstances, uncountable developments. In the 1930s, trade union leaders had to report every planned demonstration personally to the police; it was enough for an arrested illegal party member, when he was escorted to the police station, to see a comrade coming in and leaving unharmed the police headquarters, to suspect – as was the case with Arpad Szakasits, the leader of the Social Democrats, the organizer of the 1935 construction workers' strike, who, allegedly bumped into Rajk at the police station – that the comrade became an informer, this is why he was able to leave unharmed and free.

Those who once entered the world of the underground placed their fate in the hands of those who later on had the power to force meaning on past actions. There was barely an underground activist, dead or alive, whose dealings in illegality were not open to retroactive questioning. It was not only out of chronological accuracy to start the investigation of the political trials with questions related to the recruitment of the accused into the ranks of the "fascist" political police, but in order to render the accused uncertain and defenseless. The accused himself has never been in the possession of all the relevant facts; the logic of illegality provided only partial, fragmentary information always open to doubt, not only for the investigator but for the interrogated as well. He could never be absolutely sure, he could not clearly answer all the questions, all his previous acts could be presented under a new description. Almost at the moment when the accused entered into dialogue with his accusers about his illegal past, he became a lost person; there was no escape anymore from the perverted logic of the interrogation.

The original sin predestined the lost person for all the subsequent treasons and crimes; in the indictment the first act led to all the following sins. For the traitor there was no way back. He who entered once into the world of the dark, could be suspected of having remained there; his life on the surface serving only as the cover of his real, illegal activities.

According to Bertold Brecht's Exile Dialogues [Palmier, 2006], "Switzerland is a country famous for the freedom everybody enjoys. As long as they are tourists". And Alexander Polgar, writing for the Prager Tageblatt in 1938 compared a refugee who tried to reach Switzerland, to a drowning man, whom people see from both banks, and would be ready to help as long as he doesn't reach their side of the river. Nevertheless, Switzerland was also "the very image of a country of asylum and exile" [Ibid. P. 154], already from the 18th century on. Switzerland was the preferred destination of radical East European emigration; Bakunin stayed there from 1843, Kropotkin from 1872, and although he was expelled in 1881, he managed to return. From September 1914, Lenin stayed first in Bern, then in Zurich, and one of the best known émigrés, Joseph Conrad's Razumov, in Geneva. After 1933 Switzerland introduced changes in its law and practices when dealing with asylum-seekers: it became immensely difficult for those "whose customs were too different from the Swiss", for Communists without papers, increasingly for Jewish refugees to get asylum; they became undesirable. After 1938, a special stamp marked the passport of the Jews, and "for fear of being deprived of German coal, Switzerland paralyzed all antifascist activities on its territory" [Ibid. P. 155]. Still, during the time of World War II there was an important and sizable East and Central European refugee community in Switzerland. George Hodos, perhaps the last surviving defendant of the Rajk trial, the author of one of the few comprehensive monographs of the East European purges, was also a member of the Swiss émigré community[15]. It was no accident that Kastner's famous and infamous train too, with more than sixteen-hundred Jewish refugees, mostly from Hungary, who were allowed to leave in exchange for the enormous ransom paid to Eichmann, was destined for Switzerland [Hodos, 1987].

Perhaps it is not irrelevant to mention here that Binjamin Wilkomirski, a true-born, orphaned Swiss citizen, the author of the weird, famous and false Holocaust memoirs, Fragments: Memoirs of a Childhood, 1939–1948, claimed that he had been born to Jewish parents in Riga, Latvia, was deported by the Germans to Majdanek and Birkenau, and then adopted by Swiss foster parents. When the city of Zurich awarded Wilkomirsky a prize, he said: this is "a sort of rehabilitation through the Swiss government. The time of writing Fragments in Zurich, coincided with a heated debate about the role Switzerland played during World War II; it was a crisis of national self-assessment" regarding Switzerland's wartime history [Wiedmer, 2002, p. 267]. On the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day, at the time when Wilkomirski's book was published, the Swiss president became the first to officially apologize for the Swiss refugee policy during the war: "To me, it is beyond doubt that we incurred guilt with our policies regarding the persecuted Jews" [Whitehead, 2002, p. 9]. Writing about Switzerland of the 1990s, Wilkomirski observed in his book: "The camp's still there – just hidden and well disguised" [Wilkomirski, 1997, p. 150]. As if responding to this allegation, a former Swiss president, Jean-Pascal Delamuraz remarked in an interview: "From the way certain people talk, I sometimes wonder whether Auschwitz isn't located in Switzerland?" [Wiedmer, 2002, p. 472].

It is obvious that there cannot be any direct relationship between an imagined autobiography published in 1995, based on invented events of one's life, its reception and the beginning of a secret police investigation that led to one of the best-known show-trials in post-World War II Eastern Europe. Switzerland of the 1930s and 1940s was not only in the minds of paranoid Communist party henchmen and in their secret police operators. The fact that the book was written and published in Switzerland that it generated or contributed to a passionate and sometimes self-searching debate in the country, demonstrates that Switzerland of the interwar years and during World War II provided fertile ground for the imagination. Alice Miller, the noted and notorious psychotherapist, herself a Jewish emigrant from Poland, the most famous expert of so called recovered memory stated that her personal acquaintance, "Beinjamin Wilkomirski [is] the author of a harrowing and intensely illuminating book about his childhood in the concentration camp" [Miller, 1998, p. 2].

The neutral state in the very heart of war-torn Europe, behind the high mountains, became an obsessive fixture, especially in East and Central European speculations. The country was not only the haven for refugees but also a paradise for spies and intelligence organizations. The Hungarian Alexander Rado, alias Dora, one of the most successful military intelligence agents during World War II, lived in Geneva from 1936. On the persuasion of the Germans, the Swiss authorities decided to uncover Rado's network; arrested the members of his undercover staff and forced him to flee. On his way to Moscow, knowing already what could await those who spent the interwar years in whatever capacity in Switzerland, he escaped during a stopover in Cairo, asked for asylum, and when his request was denied, he attempted suicide. He was saved, extradited to the Soviet Union, where, without a formal trial, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for espionage. After Stalin's death he was released from the Gulag, returned to Hungary and taught cartography at the Karl Marx University of Economics. His office was a few doors from mine at the university, where Rado taught until his retirement at the end of the 1970s.

Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA during almost a decade of one of the worst periods of the Cold War (1953–1961), was stationed in Berne, Switzerland during most of World War II. He was the station chief of OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor organization of the CIA. Dulles, an ardent anti-communist, a typical Cold War warrior, was involved in the establishment of the CIA; he played an important role in "Operation Paperclip", transferring former Nazi scientists, like Werner von Braun, in a clandestine way into the US, sometimes even without the consent of the administration; he helped in setting up MK-Ultra, the "mind-control" program at the Chemical Division of the CIA, led by Sidney Gottlieb – who came from a Hungarian orthodox Jewish family – that aimed at finding the "truth serum"[Representations, 2002, p. 62–98][16]; he was involved in clandestine operations removing or assassinating foreign leaders, etc. The East European propaganda machinery transformed Allen Dulles into the embodiment of the US, thus Western clandestine operator, the secretive archenemy of Communism, of peace, of mankind.

Even as late as in 1973, Soviet television produced a highly popular television miniseries, Seventeen Moments of Spring, about a Soviet spy in Nazi Germany, who successfully tries to prevent a secret peace agreement between Karl Wolff, Heinrich Himmler and Allen Dulles, the spy-chief residing in Bern, in order to stop the expansion of Bolshevism in Germany. The Soviet television series was exported to almost all the East European countries; it was popular in Hungary too. I remember television quiz-shows from the 1970s and 1980s, where questions related to the Seventeen Moments of Spring featured prominently. Dulles, in fact met SS Obergruppenfuehrer Karl Wolff, High SS and Police Leader of Northern Italy, secretly in Lucerne, Switzerland in March, 1944, and the negotiations led to the surrender of the North Italian German forces on May 2, 1944. Allen Dulles himself wrote a book, The Secret Surrender in 1966, in which he recounts the story of the secret negotiations [Dulles, 1966] "Operation Sunrise" that grew out of Dulles' secret negotiations, was no secret for the Soviets: Dulles' negotiations were reported by Soviet agents to Moscow, where the secret talks with the SS leaders were interpreted as US efforts to prevent Soviet expansion in Germany and Northern Italy.

For a time, Wolff was Himmler's Chief of Staff, the third ranking SS officer. Obviously – despite some of Dulles' claims in his book – he was not only well aware of the extermination of the Jews[17], but he was personally responsible for the rounding up and deportation of thousands of Italian Jews in 1944, and he took part or was present at the execution of partisans and prisoners in 1941 in Minsk[18]. Although Wolff was not a defendant at the Nuremberg trial, he was tried in 1948 but was released already in 1949, from which time he allegedly worked for the CIA. The alleged but also close relationship between the American intelligence chief and the SS commander contributed to the superhuman proportions of Dulles as the personification of secretive evil in communist propaganda that aimed at shaping public perception.

The Rajk case, at least on paper, started with a piece of paper that came in 1948 from Switzerland. An agent of the Hungarian military intelligence, code named I-b/2, Edmond Ferenczi, who had lived before and during the war already in Switzerland, sent a report to Budapest that mentioned – in an unspecified way – that Tibor Szonyi, who during the war was the leader of the Hungarian National Independence Front, had been in contact with a certain Noel Haviland Field in Switzerland. According to the "Blue Book", the official version of the trial for public consumption, "In 1946 Dr. Tibor Szonyi became subordinated to [Rajk]. On the order of Allan (sic!) Dulles, the head of the American spy organization, OSS in Switzerland, recruited a spy-cell from among the Hungarian Trotskyites, residing there"[19]. The indictment claimed that in Switzerland, Szonyi "found connection to Noel H. Field, one of the leaders of the American intelligence service, then with Field's superior, Allan Dulles, the European head of the USA intelligence organization, Office of Strategic Service (sic!) (OSS). Field's specialty was to recruit spies from so called "leftist" elements, and he ran Swiss emigrant spy-cells recruited from among different nationalities"[Ibid. P. 17–18.].

All later testimonies, in the course of the supervision of the Rajk trial, the documents of the retrial, notes and memoirs related to the case, unanimously claim that the investigation, the arrests, the interrogations had started with that innocent looking note [HASSS V-142-675/1][20]. Ferenczi, allegedly sent a second document, which could be interpreted as if Field had been in contact with the American military intelligence, the Counter Intelligence Corps in Munich.

There is one document in the Field investigation file that in fact mentions Dulles by name. In April 1945, Field sent a letter in French to a certain Max Horngacher (whose identity has never been investigated by the Hungarian political police), in which he mentions that he "attaches the letter to Mr. Dulles". The attached letter has never been found [Varga, 2002, p. 6]. Only a few days were needed for Rakosi to remember Field already as Dulles' employee, "a sort of working-class movement expert in Dulles' office" [Rakosi, 1997].

There is no need to recapitulate here the sad story of Noel Field [Lewis, 1965], the silent American, who was born in London, grew up – where else – in Switzerland, but was an American citizen, became a Communist in the 1930s, worked at the State Department, had a close relationship with Alger Hiss [Schmidt, 2004, p. 215–245][21], most probably became a Soviet agent, moved to Geneva, worked at the League of Nations, then became the representative of the Unitarian Service Committee, helping European Communists, among them Hungarian Communist émigrés in Switzerland. At the end of the war he helped – in a fateful way, by American assistance – the Hungarian Communist to return to Hungary – in the light of later accusations, tragically, via Yugoslavia. After 1945 he provided humanitarian aid to the East European countries, including Hungary, where the USC opened an office. In 1949 he was kidnapped in Prague, brought to Budapest, and although never tried he was kept in prison until 1954. His wife, brother and foster daughter were also kidnapped, imprisoned or sent to the Gulag. On the basis of the accusations related to Noel Field's alleged activities in Switzerland, five hundred people from all parts of the world were dragged through the mire, the name of 12,600 people were included in criminal and intelligence registries [Hodos, 1987, p. 168–169; Charney, 1968, p. 219–221][22].

Among the countless interrogations he was subjected to, Bela Szasz describes a relatively peaceful dialogue that was not accompanied by either physical or psychological torture: " 'How did you come back from America? Tell me in detail.' I told him that it was because of visa and passport difficulties that I had remained in Argentina until 1946. In order to return home, I had to get permission, issued in Hungary from the Allied Control Commission. To obtain this I corresponded with my friends in Budapest. I made no secret of it that I had written to László Rajk. However, this did not seem to interest the Colonel. 'By what route did you return home?' 'I went to France by ship, from there by train.' 'Through Switzerland, perhaps?'. 'Yes, through Switzerland', I replied. My interrogator was so pleased with my reply that his face brightened. 'Well', he cried, 'then the whole thing is simple. Field was in Switzerland at that time. When you were passing through Switzerland, Field boarded the train and recruited you as his agent" [Szasz, 1971, p. 46].

In 1990, Christian Boltanski, the French visual artist exhibited an archival installation, entitled "The Dead Swiss". Boltanski collected obituaries, newspaper clippings form a Swiss regional paper. According to tradition, the obituaries were accompanied by photographs, snapshots or studio portraits of the recently deceased Swiss. Boltanski cut the photographs, reshot, enlarged them, and exhibited the hundreds of photos, installed as if an archive, without commentary. When asked about the intention behind the seemingly unremarkable work, Boltanski said: "Before, I did pieces with dead Jews but 'dead' and 'Jew' go too well. Together. There is nothing more normal than the Swiss. There is no reason for them to die., so they are more terrifying in a way. They are us" [Alphen, 2000, p. 55].

Joseph Starobin, in his book on the history of American communism gives an account of a meeting with Rakosi in Budapest in 1951, "where the Hungarian communist leader accused a top American party functionary, Louis Weinstock, of being a government agent. When asked for evidence, Rakosi explained that Weinstock visited Hungary in 1949 and, soon after, his wife came to Hungary as well, and that there was an old Hungarian saying: 'When you don't have a horse, send an ass" [Starobin, 1972, p. 218–219; Quoted by Hodos, 1987, p. 169].

Although this seems to be a simple and silly anecdote, which is difficult to take seriously, nevertheless, I would like to argue that this dialogue on the margins of history exemplifies the logic of how the political trials were scripted. Whenever there was the chance to make a connection between an individual and imaginable incidents involving that particular individual, the person under suspicion and the incident became tied to each other by the help of a particular type of linguistic formula that could be presented as if it were a natural kind. The meaning of the word (or the expression) is not simply defined by its use – as Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations would have said it – but by its repeated, crystallized, traditional, commonsensical, widely accepted use. The expression, as if in a natural, direct, unmediated way, stood for the way the world is. After Weinstock's departure, his wife visited, and as it was possible to find a Hungarian saying (correctly: if you do not have a horse, an ass would do) that could reframe the incident – if one wished so – in a particular context, then an ideologically and/or legally relevant connection could be formed. Why did Weinstock's wife come? Weinstock, who wanted to or was assigned to come, reasoned Rakosi, was not able to come. What does one do in such a situation? It seems that it would have been important for Weinstock to come, he was desperate to come, otherwise, he would not have sent his wife instead. To send the wife, obviously, seemed to be the next best solution, and we know this from the old Hungarian saying that is solidly rooted in the reality of folk wisdom, which highlights the logical sequence and the causal chain of the story. Folk wisdom, rooted in the traditional experience of ordinary people, is taken not as a reflection on, but rather as part of the world.

When the AVH arrested Rajk, at first they did not know what to do with Julia, his wife. For some time she was left to stay under house arrest but eventually, Rakosi gave orders to arrest her, and send their six-month-old son, Laszlo Junior into an orphanage under a new name (for five years he lived under the name of Istvan Kovacs.) "When Rakosi gave the order to arrest Mrs. Rajk, I was hesitant" – wrote Peter – "and told Rakosi, we did not have serious enough factual evidence that would prove her criminal behavior. Rakosi then came up with the following argument to convince me: 'Look, this Rajk is a handsome person, but his wife is an ugly woman. Still, Rajk stays with her. And from this, it is obvious that she knows something about Rajk's behavior at the time before the liberation. He does not want to divorce her, because he fears that the woman would, out of revenge, start spreading these things. So we have reasons to arrest her" [HASSS V-150028/4, p. 12][23]. Back in the middle of April, 1949 Rakosi told Peter: "You know, Peter, such tall, slim, Mephistopheles-type figures like Rajk, are vicious, dark-spirited, and evil. A Greek philosopher, called Aristotle, has made such a remark already a long time ago" [Gabor Peter's 1956 petition in prison, 2007, p. 5][24]. The folk saying, the pedestrian, commonsensical reasoning, the words of one of the best known Greek philosophers, all meant to ground the phantasmagorical assumptions on self-evident, almost natural, unquestionable reality; the folk repertoire of linguistic expressions is a distillation of the world lived, of things being what they really are. Relying on common sense, tradition, sayings that go without saying, meant to bridge the epistemological gap between the murderous fantasy and the legally unsupportable assumption. Suspicion became supported by familiar linguistic formulae, known and accepted by everybody, even by the incurable doubters. This is the way the "concept" was formed.

(Show-trials in Hungarian are called, "conceptual trials", and the word "concept" was frequently used by the script-writers of the indictment, by the interrogators, by the leaders of the Party and the AVH. The term, "concept" had nothing shameful or derogatory to it. When Rakosi finished writing the official indictment of the Rajk case, he proudly told Peter: "Every attorney would be proud, if he were able to come up with something like this". The "concept" was not a sign of cynicism, but an accepted and well-regarded way of constructing a legally and ideologically acceptable natural story in the obvious, objective, and necessary lack of incriminating material evidence. Erno Szucs confessed in 1950: "I warned the employees of the Investigation Department that writing false interrogation reports necessarily should be based on just a tiny piece of truth. Although the reports could not be hundred percent true, there were always a grain of truth in them, around which the story could be built, and that made the reports hundred percent acceptable" [Reports about the rehabilitation cases, 1955]).

The head of the AVH, whenever – and this did not happen to often – had doubts about either arresting his friends, torturing the accused, watching the execution of his former comrades from illegality, reminded himself: "I have learned that all babies come to this world covered by blood" [Ibid. P. 5]. The folk saying transfigured Peter's inhuman experiences, led them back to the well-known real world folk wisdom, and lent the air of familiarity and inevitability to the exceptional.

After his arrest and before he, together with his innocent brother were beaten to death, Erno Szucs, Peter's deputy, an officer of the Soviet MVD, one of the most bestial AVH officers wrote: "I felt that whenever an opinion came from above, there was a need for it [sic]. That is why, whenever the assumption seemed to be plausible and we were able to produce facts supporting it, I gave orders to the interrogators to shape the interrogation reports according to the assumptions. I know, that in this way, part of reality remained hidden, and this made it possible for the prisoners to hide some of their real acts and save their accomplices. In the case of Marosan [a former Social Democrat leader, later on, member of the Politburo] there was a continuous urge to produce a record about his past activities as a police agent. On my orders, we had discussed a hypothesis, which then became corroborated by the facts of the interrogation, and Marosan confessed the particular accusation. After his confession, together with Major Szendy [another exceptionally brutal interrogator, a former illegal member of the German Communist Party, who during the time of the Arrow Cross rule, dressed in SS uniform, saved hundreds of Jews in Budapest] we had the feeling that what he had confessed was not the real thing, that there should be another incident, which would really prove that he had been a police agent. Still, despite our misgivings, we sent the record up to the Party" [HASSS V-150028/4][25].

Vera Sos, Anna' mother worked at the AVH as Szucs's personal secretary and confidant. In her forty-two-page handwritten note, dated on 1 June, 1954 she recalled what she had learnt from Szucs: "Szucs has emphasized several times that he who is arrested by the AVH, cannot be anything but an enemy…'Everybody should start with the assumption that each and every person arrested by the AVH is a crook, a spy, a police agent, a Trotskyite.' Szucs knew that in the case of quite a few people there was no evidence that would have proved their criminal activities, still because 'it is certain that they belong to the enemy', he ordered the interrogators to make this clear in the minutes of the interrogation, and the accused should accept it. Szucs made it clear that the Party needed those minutes, this is why one should include more in the records than what the accused would voluntarily accept, since the accused would deny those crimes that they had in reality committed anyway, and in this way we had no opportunity to learn about those crimes. In the course of a concrete case I made reference once to facts, when he said: 'do not let yourself be influenced by the fact', and remarked in a forceful way that compared to the facts we know about these people, it is much more important that these people are our enemies. This is why we should use whatever means available to demonstrate this. He stressed several times that we should physically eliminate the enemy, 'it cannot be supposed that anyone of them is innocent"[26].

In 1937 George Lukacs published The Historical Novel in Russian in Moscow. The book appeared in Hungarian only a decade later, in 1947, on the eve of the great wave of the show-trials. In the book, Lukacs formulates a devastating critique of the disintegration of realism, as he calls it, in the imperialist period. "…The disintegration proceeds in twofold and seemingly contradictory fashion. On the one hand there is an ever greater disbelief of knowing social reality and hence also history. ..On the other hand, the presentation of history is of maximum exactness with regard to individual facts, torn from their proper context…the subjectively honest writers of the imperialist period consider themselves faithful to history… but this faithfulness is restricted to the observation of individual facts. In the case of Flaubert, it took the form of decorative archaeologism. There develops in the imperialist period a new cult of 'facts'. This is to be seen in the naturalism of the pre-war period and later in the neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity). … The basis of these belles letters is a synthesis of mystical psychology and isolated 'facts'…" [Lukacs, 1983, p. 251–252] (Italics are mine, however, the quotation marks around "facts" come from Lukacs – I.R.). Insisting on the apparent fact is a fallacy, leading to "false objectivity". This is, as Lukacs calls it, "the cult of the facts", the echo of which reverberates in Erno Szucs' warning: "do not let yourself be influenced by the fact".

For Lukacs, the classic historical novel succeeded in becoming authentic because it reflected and illustrated the main trends of historical development, distilled not from isolated, misleading facts but from deep familiarity and deep self-identification with popular life. In ridiculing Doblin's position, he claims: "Doblin dismisses the imagination, the creative faculty of something purely subjective, not only in art but in science, too. "If we look at the writing of history, we see that only chronology is honest. Once dates are ordered the maneuver begins. To put it bluntly: one makes use of history". … Here Doblin succumbs to the widespread naturalist prejudice which sees photography (and the newspaper) as being truer to life than the embodiment of reality in artistic images… A truthful conception of reality and active participation in events constitute for most writers an insoluble dilemma. How is this dilemma to be solved? Obviously through life itself, through the writer's connection with the life of the people. The writer who is deeply familiar with the tendencies at work in popular life, who experiences them as if they were his own, will feel himself as simply the executive organ of these tendencies, his rendering of reality will appear to him as simply a reproduction of these tendencies themselves, even should he render every individual fact differently from the way he found it… Lenin rightly objected to Struve who wished to smuggle the bourgeois concept of dead 'scientific objectivity' into the revolutionary working-class movement… But the history of literature proves that if a writer is deeply rooted in popular life, if his writing stems from this intimacy with the most important questions of popular life, he can, even with 'false consciousness' , plumb the real depths of historical truths…And the objectivity of artistic imagination is associated with this 'partisanship of the active man' in the most intimate way. It becomes objective by continuously altering the immediate 'facts' of life so that the great objective laws, the really decisive tendencies of historical development may achieve expression" [Ibid. P. 274–276] (Italic is mine. – I.R.).

According to Lukacs, reliance on "individual", "isolated", "apparent" "facts", "torn from their proper context" leads to the concept of "dead scientific objectivity", to the so called bourgeois "cult of the facts". To escape the dilemma of "ever greater disbelief of knowing social reality", on the one hand, and the supposed need "to faithfulness that is restricted to the observation of individual facts" it is imperative to get firmly connected with the real life of the people, to be familiar with the tendencies of real life, and above all, to be able to see, to be aware of "the great objective laws". For those who are fully aware of the "the really decisive tendencies of historical development", it becomes not only possible but necessary, inevitable to "continuously altering the immediate 'facts' of life in order to arrive at objective assessment, a realist understanding of real life. As history has already revealed its own reality, it provides the framework in which the facts and particular individual phenomena could be fitted. This larger revealed reality provides the clue of how isolated facts should be rightfully regarded and interpreted. Being fully aware of common sense, knowing the intimate knowledge of real people, relying on their traditional wisdom provide insight into the familiar tendencies of popular life, and serve as a check of reality.

It would have been difficult to prove or ascertain even the individual, isolated facts in the course of the interrogation of the accused of the show-trials. "The Trotskyites are the most stubborn enemies, who sneak into the Party, and deny the charges until the very last minute in order to do harm to the Party even with their denial. Denial is an essential part and also the proof of their evil intentions" – confessed Gabor Peter in March 1957 [HASSS V-150028/4, p. 13]. Vera Sos, Anna Koos' mother wrote in her handwritten notes: "Szucs warned me that we should always write more and more explicit and damaging records than what is confessed at the interrogation, as the accused deny most of their crimes anyway, and this is why we will never be able to find out their real crimes. The truth is more important than all the facts we manage to learn from the accused" [Koos, 2006, p. 277–278]. Quoting Lenin, Lukacs writes: "(M)aterialism includes so to speak the element of partisanship within itself, since it is obliged at every assessment of an event to represent the standpoint of a certain social group directly and openly" [Lukacs, 1983, p. 275].


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Schmidt M. Noel Filed – The American Communist at the Center of Stalin's East European Purge: From the Hungarian Archives // American Communist History. 2004. Vol. 3, N. 2. P. 215–245.

Shiels D. A Rajk fiverek (The Rajk Brothers) / transl. by M.Peto. Budapest: Vince, 2006.

Sik E. Vihar a levelet…(As Storm the Leaf…). Budapest: Zrinyi, 1970.

Starobin J. American Communism in Crisis, 1943–1957. Cambridge, 1972.

Szasz B. Volunteers for the Gallows; Anatomy of a Show-Trial / transl. by K.Szasz. London: Chatto and Windus, 1971.

The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) Short Course. N.Y.: International Publishers, 2008.

Varga L. A Rajk-per hátterében. Ferenczi Edmond és Noel Haviland Field // Évkönyv VIII. Budapest, 2002, 1956-os Intézet.

Varga L. Rákosi fél (Rákosi is afraid) // Élet és Irodalomvol. XLIV/40 6 October, 2000.

Whitehead A. Telling Tales: Trauma and Testimony in Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments // Discourse. 2002. 22 December.

Wiedmer C. Bordering on the Visible: Spatial Imagery in Swiss Memory Discourse // Levy M. (Ed.). Remembering the Future: The Holocaust in and Age of Genocide. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002.

Wilkomirski B. Fragments: Memoirs of a Childhood, 1939–1948 / transl. by C.B.Janeway. N.Y.: Schocken Books, 1997.

[1]Note on 15 December, 1969. Ministry of Interior, III/2. Department. 64-334/1969. Budapest. P. 1. Historical Archives of the State Security Services (further as HASSS) V-142/673.

[2] "At the suggestion of his interrogator, Lajos Bokor wrote a letter to his wife in which he asked for his navy blue suit, a matching tie, a white shirt, black shoes and socks. At dawn on September 20th, the day when the witnesses were being questioned, Lajos Bokor was shaved… Late in the afternoon Bokor retruned. He said that they had taken im in a car to Magdolna street, the trade union headquarters of the iron and steel workers. ... Before the hearing started, Lajos Bokor and two women were led from the room and told to stand at the entrance of the courtroom. The woman were given handbags to hold… apart from those in the know, not many people could have guessed that Bokor and the women had not come here form their homes, with a formal summons in their pocket of handbag. But under strong escort, and since their disappearance, their families hadn't even heard from them. A few minutes before the beginning of the hearing, a squat man with curly grey hair appeared in the corridor. He was wearing a well-cut, double-breasted navy blue suit. When he reached the group standing at the entrance, he broke into a friendly smile and then, as if unexpectedly coming upon an acquaintance, he waved to Bokor as if in surprised greeting. "Ah, Herr Advocat…" he cried enthusiastically in Geman… Bokor smiled back from the ring of the AVH-men, and the living ring siled back with him, for the squat, curly-haired man was none other than Fedor Belkin, the Governor [the regional MVD chief, in charge of Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, with headquarters in Baden bei Wien]. Dr. Peter Janko (ONGYILKOS LETT????) ["Suicide????" – ed. note], the presiding judge, summoned the 'Herr Advocat', as the first witness before the People's Court… when he was led back into the room, his interrogator congratulated him and assured him once more that he had deserved his release which would soon take place. It was after such preliminaries that Bokor was brought back to the cellar. He paced up and down the cell with increasing impatience. He refused dinner, saying that he would have his at home, sitting at his own table…Next day Bokor asked for a hearing, and next and the next. He did not get it. Not only hours, but days and weeks, almost two months wnt by until in November, he was led before Coloner Decsi. The trial, Coloner Decsi declared, had created a greater sensation than expected, therefore Bokor must not take it amiss that they had not released him; on the contrary, they would have to keep him a little longer in seclusion. But in appreciation for his readiness to help, they were giving him the opportunity to choose for himself between two possibilities. They would either intern him or sentence him of failure to lodge information against Rajk… Bokor thanked Decsi for his benevolence and chose prison, because he figured that they might still put him on trial for withholding information even after he was released from the internment camp. The Coloner immediately dictated a deposition and a few days later my cell-mate was taken away. I learned that it was not, after all, for his failure to lodge information that he was sentenced, but on some fictitious charge, and not one but to eight years' imprisonment He was last seen by his fellow prisoners in the yard of the Vac penitentiary, during the few brief minutes allowed for exercise. Bokor suddenly stepped out towards one of the yard gates, at frist with hesitant steps, then tottering, as if he were a little drunk. Halfway to the gate he collapsed and never regained consciousness. He died in the prison hospital of Vac". Bela Szasz, Volunteers for the Gallows;Anatomy of a Show-Trial. Trasl: Katleen Szasz. London, Chatto and Windus, 1971, p. 171–174.

[3] In the summer of 1982 I visited George Citrom in Mexico City. He fought with Rajk in Spain, but instead of going back to Hungary, he went to Mexico. After World War II, he returned, together with his American wife, who got a job as a secretary at the US embassy in Budapest. In 1948, Andras Tompe, a fellow veteran of the Spanish War, at that time the person in charge of the political police in the headquarters of the Communist Party, later on one of the chief Soviet residents in New York, who played a not-quite-konown role in the Cuban revolution, and who committed suicide by shooting himself after the Hungarian involvement in crushing the Prague spring in 1968, invited him to one of the best restaurants in the city. Over dinner, he advised Citrom, to leave as soon as possible, before he would be arrested on charges of espionage activities. Next day, as George Citrom told me, he left with his wife, never returning to Hungary.

[4] Duncan Shiels, op. cit., p. 81. Endre Rajk received the "faithful ring of the Arrow Cross Party, the highest distinction of the party".

[5] Istvan Varga's testimony, In ist In Investigation Dossier in the case of Laszlo Rajk. (HASSS) V 142/673.
Varga insisted on his story. According to a report written by the chief investigator of the supervision, dated on December, 2, 1955, "Istvan Varga has complained that while back in 1949 the investigators had insisted in changing his testimony and include in the records of the investigation that Laszlo Rajk had been a police informer, this time the investigators insisted on the opposite, and consciously left out his remarks about Rajk's behavior in Sopronkohida".
At this point the chief investigator included the story about the conversation with Bajcsy-Zsilinszky on the courtyard, and the fierce debate between Rajk and Varga in their prison cell about Communist moral and the possible fate of Rajk's wife. The record of the 11 October, 1954 testimony of Istvan Varga, which is in front of me, does not include these two incidents. The story, however, is included in an undated document, the record of Varga's testimony on an unspecified date, that precedes the report of the chief investigator.

[6] Julia Rajk's reminiscences. Quoted by Duncan Shiels, 2006, p. 99.

[7] Kiertekelo jelentes Rajk Laszlo kivegzese ugyeben (Evaluation report in the case of the execution of Laszlo Rajk) 9 July, 1954. By The Investigation Department of the Ministry of Interior. In ist Investigation Dossier in the case of Laszlo Rajk. (HASSS) V 142/673.

[8] HAFSS V-150028/4, p. 12.

[9] Rajk's report on 19 December, 1945. Parttorteneti Intezet Levaltara (Archive of the Communist Party, PIA) 274/11/19 Dec., 1945.

[10] Gabor Peter's 1956 petition in prison. In: Betekinto, 2007, N 2, p. 2.
After Peter's arrest, Rakosi gave a report to the Central Committee that included a long analysis of the situation of the Jews in Hungary: "After the defeat of fascism, the Jews were looked at in a very sympathetic way, as everybody assumed that their horrible experiences in the concentration camps and the death-factories, would turn them into the friends of democracy and the supporters of the Soviet Union, as it was the Soviet army that liberated them in Auschwitz and the Budapest Ghetto. And indeed, at the beginning, these Jews saw that the Communists were the only real enemies of the Fascists, fighting them relentlessly… I remember that in 1945 and 1946, when petty-bourgeois Jews were applying to the Party, it was enough to say that he had been in Auschwitz or three of his relatives had been killed, to get accepted in the Party… The real changes took place at the moment when the US discovered that the People's Democracies became strong, and that America could not count on these countries anymore. The front has changed and instead of German fascism, American imperialism became the real enemy. At the same time, a large portion of the Jewish petit-bourgeoisie lost the ground under its feet, as there was no need for small-scale industry, retail commerce, small merchants anymore, and the Jews discovered that their world so perfectly compatible with capitalism, does not fit in the People's Democracies, so they turned against the Soviet Union. The greatest Zionists are in America, and what is even more important, the Zionists get their financial support from there. For the first site, it seems obvious that the most important spy-center is the Catholic Church. However, in light of the fact that the Catholics comprise a minority in the Soviet Union or in Bulgaria, but Jews can be found everywhere, besides the Catholic Church, Zionism gained real importance as a spy-organization. This already became obvious in the Rajk case; as the Comrades know, most of those who were sentenced to death, were Jewish petit-bourgeois: Szonyi, Szalai, the so-called left-wing police informers, who came back from Switzerland and England… Now, after the Slanky case in Czechoslovakia, and at the time of the 9 doctors' case in the Soviet Union, it is obvious that we too recognized these facts, and in the course of the investigation of the Peter's case, we discovered that these police informers had been either Zionist or active fascist, the men of the Gestapo… It is remarkable that we have just discovered that Stockler, who was the President of the Budapest Jewish Community, and before that had been a Gestapo spy, managed to enter the Communist Party".
Archive of the Institute of the Party (PIA) 276.f. 65/30. o. e. 1–21. Matyas Rakosi's referendum at the meeting of the Central Committee of the MDP, 17 February, 1953.

[11] PIA 276. f. 53/25 o. e. 29 March, 1955. Report by Laszlo Piros, Minister of the Interior.

[12] Marton Karolyi's handnote on 18 May, 1954. HAFSS 101-3-878/1/54, p. 8.

[13] Record of the renewal of Gabor Peter's case, 25 March, 1957. HASSS V-150028/4.

[14] Mihaly Farkas' interrogation. 19 October, 1959. HASSS V-150019/1, p. 12.

[15] George H. Hodos. Show Trials. Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe, 19481954. New York, Praeger, 1987. I happen to know well; he emigrated once more after 1956, eventually to the US, but moved back to Hungary after 1989.

[16] On Gottlieb and MK-Ultra, see my The Suggestion in: Representations. (Autumn, 2002), N 80, p. 62–98.

[17] Raul Hilberg, in his Destruction of the European Jews,published a letter by Wolff to Albert Ganzenmüller, state secretary in the Reich Transportation Ministry, in which he writes: "With particular joy I noted your assurance that for two weeks now a train has been carrying, every day, 5000 members of the Chosen People to Treblinka, so that we are not in the position to carry through this 'population movement".

[18] Although Wolff's involvement in the deportation of the Italian Jews surfaced only at the Eichmann trial in 1962, when he was tried once more and sentenced for 15 years in prison, he had already been indicted, tried and sentenced for five years in prison, already in 1948, at the time of the outburst of the Cold War paranoia.

[19] Rajk Laszlo es tarsai a nepbirosag elott (Laszlo Rajk and his accomplices in front of the People's Court). Budapest, Szikra, nd. p. 10.
According to some later testimonies and recollections, Rajk became implicated following an innocent remark by Szonyi at the beginning of his interrogation. When asked, whom was he most in sympathy with among the members of the leadership of the party, Szonyi, allegedly named Rajk. This is, supposedly, how Rajk became a serious suspect. See, Zinner, op. cit., p. 53.
The Rajk case, however, could not start with Szonyi's seemingly innocent remark, when mentioning Rajk's name. Forty-eight hours after Szonyi's confession in which he mentioned Rajk for the first time, Rakosi's article was published in the theoretical journal of the international communist movement, For Lasting Peace, for People's Democracy.The article, Yugoslav Trotskyites, the Shock-troop of the Imperialists, was the first high-level, public anti-Titoist attack. The Rajk trial, later on, was meant to validate the charges of Rakosi's article. The journal was published in Prague, in several languages at the same time. It was technically impossible in 1949 to write an article, translate it into Russian, get the consent of the Soviet party leadership, then translate it into several languages, publish it in a foreign country, and to do all these in forty-eight hours.The story of Szonyi's words, implicating Rajk, without any previous, premeditated "concept" on the part of the AVO or Rakosi, was a retrospective mythology, meant to blur Rakosi's role, and incriminating the utterly innocent former émigré in Switzerland in Rajk's demise.

[20] As an example, see the testimony of Zoltan Gat, in the course of the supervisory procedure of the Rajk trial. Gat was the head of the department at the Military Intelligence, the person, who was the first to receive the note. He was arrested in 1953, sentenced for five years in prison, but was released in 1954. (HASSS) V-142 675/1.

[21] Maria Schmidt, director of the House of Terror in Budapest, analyzed Field's files and on the basis of his statement at his rehabilitation process in 1954, she concluded that both Field and Hiss worked for the Soviet intelligence services. See: M. Schmidt. Noel Filed – The American Communist at the Center of Stalin's East European Purge: From the Hungarian Archives. In: American Communist History, 2004, vol. 3, N 2, p. 215–245.

[22] George Hodos addad the following footnote to his chapter on Field: "The waves of the Field affair reached even the United States. In the memoirs of George Charney, a former American communist, he recounts the story of John Lautner, a member of the control commission and head of the party's security apparatus in New York. 'Word had come from the fraternal Hungarian party, from Rakosi's party, that Lautner was an agent of the FBI. No facts were ever supplied to substantiate the charge, save from a veiled reference to his services in the O.S.S. during the war in Italy and Yugoslavia. The mere mention of Yugoslavia was sufficient to condemn him… The trial of Rajk… had created an atmosphere of unusual suspicion, and we were ready to believe that this heinous conspiracy had penetrated our own ranks… Lautner was interrogated daily for some time, but no futher facts were disclosed. He was in a state of shock and could only mumble incoherent answers. … After the official interrogation had revealed nothing, a rendezvous was arranged in the celler of a private home in Cleveland. Here, Lautner was confronted by three men assigned to the role of exctracting the truth by any means. Lautner was stripped naked and then was tormented with accusations, threatened with bodily injury, confronted with a deadly weapon… He was finally released, driven to another part of town, and instructed to meet his accusers on the following day. And Lautner returned! There was no one to meet him, however. The ordeal was over and Lautner was finished, cast out, damned forever, as a despicable agent". Quoted by Hodos, op. cit., p. 168–169. From: George Charney. A Long Journey, Chicago, 1968, p. 219–221.

[23] Record of Gabor Peter's retrial. 25 March, 1957. HASSS V-150028/4, p. 12.

[24] I lived here, like bubble in water. Gabor Peter's handwritten notes from prison. May-August, 1954. In: Betekinto, 2007, N 2, p. 5.

[25] Handwritten notes by Erno Szucs on 7 November, 1950. HASSS V-150028/4.

[26] MOL 288 f. 9/1962/51/A. Quoted by Anna Koos, 2006, p. 277–278.

Accepted 16 March 2009. Date of publication: 16 June 2009. 

About author

István Rév. Professor of History and Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, and Director of Open Society Archives.
Research interests: Death and dying, historical recollection, the nature of historical evidence, and the changing nature of collecting analyzing and interpreting historical information.
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APA Style
Rév, I. (2009). Reconstruction reconsidered: an examination of police philology. The case of László Rajk. Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya, 3(5). Retrieved from [in English, abstr. in Russian].

Russian State Standard GOST P 7.0.5-2008
Rév I. Reconstruction reconsidered: an examination of police philology. The case of László Rajk [Electronic resource] // Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya. 2009. N 3(5). URL: (date of access: [in English, abstr. in Russian]

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