THREE THOUSAND YEARS IN PRISON
Rumanian Communism takes revenge on the Transylvanian Hungarians
The Hungarian Freedom Fight of 1956 gave hope to all the Hungarians in the entire Carpathian Basin. In Transylvania too, people were enlivened, particularly the young people. As a result, the Transylvanian Hungarian Youth Organization was established, along with the Szekler Youth Association and a group from Szászrégen which adopted the infamous name of the Black Hand. The members of this group were mainly High School and University students. During the first exuberant days of the Revolution and later, after the Freedom Fight was crushed, the retaliation of the police went beyond that driven by the ideological weapon (of the Daco-Roman theory) and the hatred for Hungarians became increasingly evident.
It is true that thousands of anti-communist Rumanians were also imprisoned or murdered. Several thousand Hungarians became the victims of this revengeful campaign and many of them were executed. On this 50th anniversary we should remember them too.
After 1945, the Communist
dictatorship was imposed on Rumania and Hungary and also Transylvania, which was
taken away from Hungary for the second time. The Hungarians, who were
persecuted because of their ethnicity by the Rumanian Communist Party led by
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, suffered the most, but ten thousand Germans from the
territory of Bánság also suffered retaliation and deportation. At the same
time, the Rumanian aristocrats and the upper-class, citizens with right wing
views and Greek Catholic Rumanians were also suppressed and persecuted.
In Hungary, it is a little-known fact that the former Rumanian political class suffered more at the hands of the Communists than did the Hungarian political class. The Soviet cult flourished among the party leaders in Bucharest and, while in Hungary it was forbidden to mention Trianon, in Rumania it was taboo to talk of the territory which the Soviets took from Rumania.
During the few years after the death of Stalin – similar to the situation in Poland, Hungary, East Germany – the intellectual life was renewed in Rumania and quietly began to blossom. However, in Rumania, there was no leader in the Rumanian Communist Party, who could have proposed reforms like Imre Nagy did.
The only person in Rumania, who was of the same political stature as Mátyás Rákosi in Hungary, but was ideologically opposed to him, was Lucretiu Patrascanut, who was imprisoned in 1948 and executed in 1954. After his death, arrests and imprisonments continued regularly and also the mock trials of the „kulaks” and trials of the so-called Zionists. At the same time Gheorghiu-Dej carefully tried to begin to distance himself from the Soviet Union because he feared that the reforms of Khrushchev would reach Bucharest. He began to impose tighter controls on the rights of the people of the Autonomous Province of Maros-Magyar, which were already very limited and he began to change the Communism in Rumania into Rumanian National Communism.
To this end, the Rumanian National Academy reinstated in its ranks the well-known, nationalistic Constantin Daicoviciu, who was one of the originators of the Daco-Roman legend.
The Hungarian Uprising and Freedom Fight caused particular anxiety among the Rumanian Communist party leaders. They feared the danger of “Communist revisionism”, although Rumanians also took part in the Rumanian movements and organizations, and there were “conspiracies” especially among the students and even the Greek Catholics, who were previously forbidden to practice their religion, began to show signs of life. They circulated a petition to change the laws to allow them to practice their religion. On August 12, 1956, in Kolozsvár, several thousand Greek Catholics held a religious ceremony in the open air. This was followed by retaliation, many were arrested and imprisoned as a result of their bold action but the genie had escaped from the bottle.
At the same time, Aladár
Szoboszlay, the Roman Catholic parish priest of Magyarpécska near Arad, started
a revolutionary movement. The goal of the leaders was to incite an uprising in
Budapest and Bucharest, and later to create an Austrian-Hungarian-Rumanian
confederation. It is worth mentioning that there were also Rumanians among the
leaders of this secret organization. At the encouraging news from Hungary that
the Revolution was victorious, the Transylvanian Hungarian Youth Organization
and the Szekler Youth Association were established and in the Partium, the
Association of Youths desiring Freedom began its movement. In Érmellék a small
group was formed and in Szászrégen also the youths were beginning to organize
movements. These were naturally in the form of conspiracies and among their
goals was the autonomy of the Transylvanian Hungarians, which has still not come
In the end, these independent organizations did not result in a revolution, the “conspiracies” burned themselves out in their mutual deliberations, plans and recitation of patriotic poems. The Rumanian Communist power, which was already fired by chauvinism, wiped out these movements with brutal mercilessness. The dictatorship retaliated against Hungarians in greater numbers, along with the far-right Rumanians considered to be reactionary.
Zoltán Tófalvy, writer and journalist, who researched the events of 1956 in Transylvania and the subsequent retaliations, wrote about the documented trials and the judgments which resulted from them. He stated that the Rumanian government was merciless in its justice in order to set an example, terrorize the Hungarians as a national group and annihilate the intelligentsia so that they would not have leaders in the future.
The most famous trial was that of the Reverend Szoboszlay which was the hallmark of the retaliation. During this trial, 57 people, most of them Hungarians, were brought to court charged with conspiracy against the state. Eleven of them were sentenced to death, ten were actually executed. May their names be stated here, so that later generations may remember and revere them: Ábrahám Árpád, Roman Catholic parish priest of Torja; Dr. Alexandru Fintanar, lawyer from Arad; Baron Huszár József, former landowner; Dr. Kónya István, lawyer from Kézdivásárhely, Lukács István, merchant from Magyarpécska; Orbán István, farmer from Csíktaploca; Dr. Orbán Károly, lawyer from Marosvásárhely; Tamás Dezső, representative from Csíksomlyó; Tamás Imre, teacher from Csíksomlyó és Szoboszlay Aladár.
At the trial of the little group in Érmellék 31 people were convicted of conspiracy against the State. Among them the following were executed: Dr. Hollós István, teacher and Sass Kálmán, the Protestant pastor of Érmihályfalva; in 1959, Szíjgyártó Domokost. There were some who died from torture at the hands of the Securitate: Kertész Gábor and Nagy József. Their “crime” was that, with the help of a lawyer, they outlined a memorandum that they sent to the United Nations, describing the atrocities committed against the Hungarians in Transylvania. Demeter István died in one of the hard labor camps of the the Danube-Delta and Tordai János, an ironworker died in prison. Soon after they were freed, many people died from the torture they were subjected to in captivity: Adorján Dezső, Bocz Ádám, Böjthe Sándor, Csatlós Csaba, Protestant pastor, Deák Géza, Grósz József, Kolumbán Bendegúz, Molnár Béla és Nyitrai Sándor. Dr. Csiha Kálmán, who later became a Protestant bishop, was sentenced to ten years in prison, dr. Dobai István international lawyer, was sentenced to life imprisonment, Fülöp G. Dénes, Protestant pastor from Marosvásárhely, eleven years; Kacsó Tibor, armed freedom insurrectionist and persecuted leader of the Csikszereda group received twenty-five years of hard labor; Mózes Árpád, who later became a Protestant bishop, eighteen years; Veress Sándor, leader of the Kis-Küküllő organization received twenty years.
There were some too, who wanted to flee to Hungary, so that they could join the Freedom Fighters. Bíró Benjámin from Csikszentdomokos, Kovács János and Moyses Márton from Nagyajta, as well as Józsa Csaba from Bibarcfalva, all three 16 year-old students from the Barót High School, on November 9, 1956, wanted to cross the border but the two boys from Nagyajta got lost and remained behind. Bíró Benjámin and Józsa Csaba succeeded in crossing the border but were not able to join up with the Freedom Fighters. In March, 1957, they were captured and handed over to the Rumanian authorities. They had to suffer for many years in prison for their bold attempt. Their friends were not better off; they were captured as they attempted to flee. Moyses Márton, the child-hero of the Szeklers, was freed at the beginning of 1970; in that same year on February 13, together with Ján Palach from Prague and Bauer Sándor from Budapest, they doused themselves with petrol and burned themselves to death in front of the Communist Party Headquarters in Brasso.
The students from the Hungarian High School in Szászrégen were also very enthusiastic about the Hungarian Revolution. Characterized by romantic, childish naiveté, they organized themselves into a group under the name of Black Hand.
Their activity consisted in writing anti-Communist slogans on walls. They were planning to flee to Hungary to fight but the after the Securitate hearings, they had to give up this idea. Later, when the Hungarian High School became a Rumanian school, they objected against this and demanded that all the Hungarian schools be reinstated. If this did not take place – they stated – then they would demand the independence of Transylvania, even its re-annexation to Hungary. In 1960, the members of the group were arrested and because it was an armed organization, they were sentenced as follows:
Ambrus Hedvig 1 year, Bara Lajos 15 years, Bartis János 8 years, Bíró Károly 6 years, Bedő Gedeon 10 years, Czimbalmos Balázs 22 years, Czimbalmos Károly 20 years, Dezső Katalin 1 year, Fülöp Ákos 10 years, Fülöp Antal 8 years, Gáspár Domokos 15 years, Hadnagy István 8 years, Ilyés Alajos 18 years, Keresztes Ignác 15 years, Kertész András 16 years, Kolcsár Géza 10 years, Kovács Pál 10 years, Páll László 16 years, Palotás Árpád 23 years, Papp József 12 years, Vass Julianna 1 year.
The Szekler Youth Association was established by the members of the Szekler Mikó College in Sepsiszentgyörgy. Their activities included hiking, target-shooting and physical fitness in order to prepare themselves for fighting. They even pledged blood-brotherhood. One of the later accusations against them was that, on March 15, 1957, they secretly placed a wreath on the monument commemorating the 1848 Freedom Fight, in Sepsiszentgyörgy and that they repeated this “crime” one year later.
The Securitate quickly investigated this matter and the courts, in mock trials, sentenced them to unusually severe terms of imprisonment: Bordás Attila and Gyertyánosi Csaba 12 years, Gyertyánosi Gábor and Jancsó Csaba 10 years, Jancsó Sándor 8 years, Molnár Béla 6 years, Sándor Csaba 7 years, Szabó Lajos 15 years, Szalay Attila 18 years, who later died in prison.
The Kossuth Circle was also established in Sepsiszentgyörgy. Here the members held open discussions about the problems of society. This was enough for Csákány Zsigmond to be sentenced to 12 years in prison, Erőss János 15 years, Nagy László 20 years, and Tompa Edit 7 years.
The Transylvanian Hungarian Youth Organization was the most popular organization in Transylvania in 1956. Its members were primarily High School Students, and also some Reformed Church and Unitarian pastors and Roman Catholic priests. They declared their solidarity with the Freedom Fighters in Hungary, and their main goal was to restore the rights of the Transylvanian Hungarians. They diligently collected the complaints of the villagers in the Szekler land region (Székelyföld) about the enforced collectivization and moreover, they attempted to support the nurturing of the traditional life and the use of the Hungarian language and held an imposing, notwithstanding illegal, commemoration ceremony on March 15, 1957, at the monument in Fehéregyház, topped with the Turul bird.
Naturally the Rumanian authorities came down heavily on them and the following sentences were imposed: Aczél Ferencz-Károly 17 years, Ady Béla 5 years, Albert Mihály 18 years, Ambrus János 20 years, Balázs Géza 15 years, Bálint Mihály 15 years, Balogh-Sipos Mihály 20 years, Bede István 5 years, Bedő Gábor 13 years, Bencze József 10 years, Berecz Gyula 6 years, Bibó László 9 years, Biczó János 12 years, Biró Károly 15 years, Bódi János 10 years, Borcsa Mihály 20 years, Deák Géza 20 years, Deák Gyula 15 years, Dobay Szilveszter 15 years, Dudicska Albert 12 years, Erzse Imre 10 years, Erzse István 3 years, Fazekas Sándor 12 years, Ferencz Tibor 18 years, Fosztó Zoltán 15 years, Gáll Tibor 15 years, Gergyai Mihály 12 years, Hadházi Béla 10 years, Kajcsa András 5 years, Kajcsa István 15 years, Kántor Gyula 15 years, Kelemen Csongor 15 years, Kelemen Imre 15 years, Korbuj Péter 17 years, Kósa Bálint 3 years, Kósa Mihály 12 years, Kovács Ferenc tizenöt évet, Kölönte Tamás tizenöt évet, Krivorik Máté tizenöt évet, Lay Günther 15 years, Lay György 18 years, Lay Imre 20 years, Máthé József 6 years, his relative also Máthé József 18 years, Mátyás Ernő 20 years, Nemes József 18 years, Nyitrai Levente 7 years, Olosz Vilmos 9 years, Orbán László 20 years, Opra Benedek 20 years, Ördögh Dezső 18 years, Patakfalvi János 12 years, Préda Imre 5 years, Sebestyén Géza 17 years, Simon
Márton 15 years, Simon Gyula 15 years, his relative of the same name, Simon Gyula 12 years, Sós Fitori Sándor 10 years, Sós Lajos 20 years, Szabó Dezső 10 years, Szacsvai György 12 years, Szász Gergely 6 years, Szőcs József 12 years, Tana József 6 years, Tiboldi Dénes 16 years, Varga Sándor 12 years.
The independent Hungarian Bolyai University became victim of the Rumanian retaliation. Today we are still struggling and negotiating to have it returned to the Hungarians. The students of the Institute of Kolozsvár regularly gathered together during the Hungarian Uprising and listened to the news on Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America and discussed what they heard. The only day they took action was on November 1, 1956, when they placed flowers and candles on the graves of the following famous Hungarians in the cemetery at Házsongárd: Jósika Miklós, Brassai Sámuel, Bölöni Farkas Sándor, Apáczai Csere János, Dsida Jenő, Kriza János, Reményik Sándor. Bartis Ferenc, who died in June 2006, recited Reményik Sándor’s poem, Eredj ha tudsz at the poet’s grave.
Of course the Securitate was watching the commemoration with eagle eyes and, on the basis of the photos they took, they arrested those who attended. They later arrested more university students, among them Páskándi Géza, who became a famous poet. Among the accusations, they were also accused of separatism, since some of the Hungarian students of Kolozsvár embraced nationalist and socialist views and expressed a desire for the autonomy of the university. Therefore these students were sentenced to long prison sentences. In addition to this punishment the Rumanian authorities took over the independent Hungarian Bolyai University and they began to reduce the size of the Maros-Magyar autonomous territory, which several years later, under Nicolae Ceausescu, completely lost its autonomy.
In the light of all this, the statement of Kállai Gyula, one of the members of the Hungarian delegation sent out by Kádár János, in February,1958, at Marosvásárhely, is particularly cynical and unfeeling. He stated: „We have always known and highly valued and now we experience personally, that in the People’s Republic of Rumania, the national minorities enjoy equal rights in the fields of politics, economy and culture.” The Hungarian Communists stated this at the time that, in Rumania and Transylvania, more than 28,000 people were brought before the courts that have power over life and death. Among them were about 6.000 Hungarians. Unfortunately we have to report that the Chief Justice at the court of Marosvásárhely, who sentenced most of the Hungarians, was Macskássi Pál, who was a tailor whom the Communists appointed to his position.
Those who were sentenced were sent to hard-labor camps in Szamosújvár, Zsilava and the Danube-Delta. Among the Hungarians, about 60 died in the camps as a result of the inhumane torture and, in the course of trials named above, about 120 people received in total almost three thousand years of prison sentences under the Rumanian Communist Dictatorship. On this 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, let us also bow our heads for the Transylvanian martyrs and heroes.
(Source: Erdély-ma; 1956, a Magyar Demokrata Special Edition, 2006. október 17)
Translator’s note: The Freedom Fighters in Hungary in 1956, the University Students in Transylvania and the Demonstrators today in Hungary should not be called hooligans and fascists because they were just demanding their basic freedoms and human rights and a basic standard of living.