Laszlo Rajk

Laszlo Rajk

Laszlo Rajk, the son of a shoeshop owner, was born in Hungary on 8th May, 1909. As a young man he joined the Hungarian Communist Party and was eventually expelled from Budapest University for his political activities.

Rajk worked as a building worker until 1936 when he went to Spain to defend the Popular Front government from being overthrown by the Nationalist Army. During the Spanish Civil War he served as party secretary to the Hungarian battalion of the International Brigades. At the end of the war he escaped to France where he was imprisoned.

In 1941 Rajk returned to Hungary and became secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee. He was arrested by the Hungarian authorities and remained in prison until the country was liberated by the Red Army in 1945.

In elections held in November, 1945, the Smallholders Party won 57% of the vote. The Hungarian Communist Party, now under the leadership of Matyas Rakosi and Erno Gero, received support from only 17% of the population. The Soviet commander in Hungary, Marshal Voroshilov, refused to allow the Smallholders to form a government. Instead Voroshilov established a coalition government with the communists holding all the key posts.

Rajk became minister of the interior and in this post established the security police. In February 1947 the police began arresting leaders of the Smallholders Party and the National Peasant Party. Several prominent figures in both parties escaped abroad. Later Matyas Rakosi boasted that he had dealt with his partners in the government, one by one, "cutting them off like slices of salami."

The Hungarian Communist Party became the largest single party in the elections in 1947 and served in the coalition People's Independence Front government. The communists gradually gained control of the government and by 1948 the Social Democratic Party ceased to exist as an independent organization.

Matyas Rakosi also demanded complete obedience from fellow members of the Hungarian Communist Party. His main rival for power was Radk, who was now foreign secretary. Rajk was arrested and at his trial in September 1949 he confessed to being an agent of Miklos Horthy, Leon Trotsky, Josip Tito and Western imperialism and admitted that he had taken part in a murder plot against Matyas Rakosi and Erno Gero. Laszlo Radk was found guilty and executed.

Primary Sources

(1) Laszlo Radk, confession (September, 1949)

It was (in 1947) that I first realised that not only Rankovic (Yugoslav minister of the interior) "and other men who had been in Spain were pursuing Trotskyist policies and that they were working hand-in-glove with the American intelligence agencies, but Tito too, the prime minister of Yugoslavia!

They failed because the government reshuffle here in 1948 rooted out all the people we had infiltrated into every walk of government life, into the public and state agencies, the army - everywhere. And the propaganda work of the Catholic reactionaries led by Mindszenty, on which Tito had also been counting, came to nothing, because the mighty central government of our People's Democracy dashed one of their most important instruments out of their hands by nationalising the Catholic schools. That was a crippling blow to the whole plan!"

(2) Tibor Szonyi, prosecuting council against Laszlo Radk (September, 1949)

Tito and his clique! In their dealings with us and their own accomplices, they dropped their mask and spoke openly of overthrowing our People's Democracy. They would have stopped short at no crime. Honourable court, I too, offered my services for these wicked plans. And my crimes are no less heinous when compared with the offences committed by the arch-criminals of the pernicious Tito gang.

(3) David Irving, Uprising! (1981)

A few weeks later, Rajk's young widow Julia sees the official Blue Book on the trial. When she reads her husband's first reply a sad smile flickers across her angular, handsome face. Ladislas Rajk has beaten the system after all. Despite the violence, the drugs, and the dress-rehearsals, he has left a clue for posterity right there in his first words.

"When were you born," the court had asked.

And Rajk had answered, "On March 8th, 1909."

But that was not true. It was May 8th. How could any man make such an error unless to leave a hidden message to the world outside that all was not as it seemed?

(4) National Communism and Popular Revolt in Eastern Europe (1956)

On October 3 the Central Committee of the HWP announced that it had reached a decision to pay "last respects worthy of militants and revolutionaries... to comrades who, as a result of political trials in past years, have been innocently condemned and executed, and who have already been rehabilitated earlier by the Party's Central Committee and reinstated in their Party membership"

On October 6, 1956, there took place the ceremonial reinterment of Laszlo Rajk, Lt. Gen. Gyorgy Palffy, Tibor Szonyi, and Andras Szalai, the chief victims of the purge trials of 1949.

(5) Report on the reinternment of Laszlo Rajk in Szabad Nep (4th October, 1956)

The silent demonstration of the hundreds of thousands of mourners was a pledge not only that we will preserve the pure memories (of the four dead leaders) but will also remember the dark practices of tyranny, lawlessness, slander, and defrauding of the people. The people stood honor guard at the biers. The silent demonstration began. Is it possible to give an account of this, on the basis of consecutive impressions of the facts, the events? It is not! No, it is not possible to speak of mourning when we describe the procession of thousands upon thousands. People were numbed not only by a deep sense of grief but by burning hatred, by the memory that these comrades, these men were executed as enemies of the fatherland, of the people! We were led to believe - and we were willing to believe - the slanders about you! Forgive us for this, comrades.