Tamas Kiss Hungarian universities 1956 - Szeged
A lot has been written on the role of Hungarian universities, university and college students in the 1956 revolution from many different points of view. Still, the detailed exploration has not been achieved yet, although we are still in time to record the events as thoroughly as possible in order to give a chance to unbiased evaluation.
As János Molnár put it in his book, Counter-Revolution in Hungary in 1956 (published in 1967): ’AHUCS came into being in Szeged during an assembly of the University of Szeged on 16 October. The AHUCS – though this organisation caused the decline of the Petőfi Circle – was not an organisation with perspective, but rather an ad hoc one. It did not play any role after the 23 of October, it was only mentioned rarely. The AHUCS was the organ of demonstrations. Not an ideological (this was the Petőfi Circle), but a political organisation, an organisation of uprisal. Student leaders with a right wing disposition played an important role in the university movement initiated under the aegis of AHUCS. Illegal organisations directed by Cistercian monks took an especially outstanding part in the rebirth of AHUCS.’
After the Ministry of Agriculture had ordered an enquiry during the spring of 1957, the Silviculture College of Sopron made a report on 8 July, 1957 for the sake of credible clarification of "counter-revolutionary events". The report assesses in its part II/3-4: ’the students of Sopron got information about the youth movements of Szeged and Budapest from Szabad Ifjúság (contemporary youth magazine). The thought of agreeing with the initiatives of these students generated the assembly of 30-40 on 21 October in the youth hostel in Dimitrov square. The pattern of the decisions made during this assembly was the behaviour of the Szeged students. As a result of the preparatory assembly a meeting was organised in SOTEX Culture Center on Monday, 22 October, 3 p.m.’
Gyula Mészáros assesses in his writing, Revolution and War of Independence in Veszprém: ’the newspaper of SYA (Students' Youth Alliance), Szabad Ifjúság reached Veszprém on Sunday, 21 October. It contained the appeals of the universities of Szeged and Budapest and the proposal for founding the AHUCS. The appeal caused a huge trepidation among the university students […] here they decided to form the Veszprém department of AHUCS and to put down their claims.’
The party committee of the University of Pécs organised a university parliament on 22 October, 1956. Before the meeting ’several students of the grade raised the issue of forming AHUCS in the afternoon and some students were appointed to formulate a memorandum in the name of the third grade. Owing to the remarks, the members seceded from SYA and we formed AHUCS with public acclamation. One of the talkers was the envoy from the University of Szeged’. (1956 in Baranya, Károly Péter, 1997).
The brochure titled Gödöllő 1956 (Róbert Septán, 1999) says the followings about the student assembly kept in the University of Agriculture of Gödöllő on 22 October, 1956: ’the SYA committee organised a forum for students under the name Táncsics Debate Circle on 22 October, in order to decrease tension and to clear the questions left unanswered. The gathering ran from 7 p.m. to midnight and students from all faculties took part. The criticism towards the local SYA beacame harder as the excitement grew and finally the students formed the local organisation of AHUCS, they even drew up political and economic claims beyond educational reform.’
Imre Lázár, a former university student calls back the beginnings in a study titled Revolution in Debrecen 1956 (Tibor Filep. 1990): ’The news about the movement of the university students of Szeged reached us during the week before 23 October. Then their envoys arrived and asked us to form an independent organisation for college and university students. Our claims were forming rather slowly but quite coherently concerned not only university autonomy, but also more and more politics. The people being at present in the youth hostel in Benczúr street decided to form AHUCS in the evening 22 October.’
In 1958, the political investigation department of Budapest Police made a summarizing report about the events that happened in the autumn of 1956 at Budapest University of Technology. His report states that ’a lot of students took part in the sessions of Petőfi Circle but significant movements could not be observed till the middle of October. Political life started to stir when – in the middle of October 1956 – the destructive movement of the university students of Szeged - the students resigned from SYA and AHUCS was formed - became public. The envoys from Szeged visited every university in Budapest and called upon the students to follow their example’ (TH V-150/384/1).
A detail from the introduction of a work (Amiről kevés szó esett. ed. Mária Pogány, 1992) containing documents and reminiscences about the events of October 1956 at Budapest University of Technology: ’an unexpected event exploded into the public life which was pretty stirring anyway. Katalin Nemes, the organising secretary of the university party committee called István Marián on phone: she was informed that the students would keep a spontaneous assembly in the youth hostel on András Hess Square. […] A student informed her that they were preparing for the evening gathering because – said the student – AHUCS had already been formed in Szeged while nothing was happening at the University of Technology.’
Another detail from The University's White Book: ’a smaller assembly was kept in the youth hostel of the engineering faculty on Béla Bartók Road during the evening 20 October, at which students from Szeged took part as well. They decided to organise a general assembly for the sake of discussing the current issues. The assembly planned by SYA for 25 October must be advanced for 22 October’ (ZH V-150/384/1).
‘The runoff [of the famous University of Technology gathering on 22 October] had already showed counter-revolutionary character. Groups were formed and they tried to silence the honest talkers already at the beginning of the assembly with their choir «Let's hear Szeged!»’ (BRFK Politikai Nyomozó Osztály Összefoglaló Jelentése TH V-150/384/1).
György Sámsondi Kiss dr. evoked the assembly in 1992: ’the famous evening student assembly lives in me as a wonderful, euphoric experience. It seemed unbelievable that the delegation from Szeged arrived and then came the emerging choir of «Go home!» – referring to the Soviet troops.’
A part of the interview with Sándor Szabó who was the conducting president of the general assembly 22 October appointed by the party leaders: ’Mária Pogány: Several people recall the envoy from Szeged. Have you got any memories? – Sándor Szabó: Yes, there was an envoy from Szeged, indeed, he seemed to be our peer and he took the floor and said that they had already been getting up in the terms of the new Szeged thought. He said something else, I do not remember. – Pogány: But he raised the issue of forming AHUCS. – Szabó: I cannot remember who raised that issue but it is possible that he did it, indeed.’
Let us see the thorough description of Béla Lipták: ’the assembly began as usual. They said their stuff as in a theatre and we did not even pay attention. They talked, we remained silent. Gillemot is talking, the Vice Chancellor, the SYA secretary, the party secretary, the dean is talking, everybody who should. There is a fray at the rostrum. I represent the Szeged AHUCS, let me go to the microphone! Then Mrs. Orbán, the party secretary says something dizzy that there is no need for AHUCS and the new Szeged thought. Silence – tension can even be touched when I hear the voice of János Danner from the gallery: let him speak. The hall sinks into chaos. The party representatives are white with fear around the rostrum. The party secretary rushes away to make a phone call; the dean shouts hysterically into the microphone, then we hear that voice again: I represent the AHUCS of Szeged, let me speak. Then he reads up their claims … It was around 5 o'clock p.m. when our assembly carried their claims by acclamation and joined AHUCS.’
And, in the end, an excerpt from a testimony made only nine months after the events: ’Question: Tell us what kind of activity did the envoys from Szeged follow at the Budapest University of Technology. Answer: The president of the assembly held on 22 October 1956, Herczeg, the secretary of SYA's executive committee from the Faculty of Building Industry declared that the deputies from Szeged had just arrived. The members of the assembly cheered them and pressed the leaders for letting them speak out of turn. Then a 170-centimeter-or-so-tall, brown haired, oval faced, slim person, around the age of 20 and 24 raised his voice. There were shouts: «Tell us what happened in Szeged.» He said that there had been gatherings for days, they had announced the dissolution of SYA and formed AHUCS. They did not let be kept on a leash. He mentioned that they had worked out a proposal concerning the rules and regulations and the programme of AHUCS and they had sent them to the student parliament. He also said that they had had a public assembly where they had formulated their claims. He read them up. I can recall the following points:
1. Acclaiming the formation of AHUCS and the dissolution of SYA.
2. Clarifying the Soviet-Hungarian relations on the basis of parity.
3. I think he referred to the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, so one point contained the withdrawal of the Soviet troops.
4. Publishing the secret external trade and economic treaties.
5. Declaring new parliamentary elections.
6. Calling Mihály Farkas and his mates to account on a public trial.
7. Declaring Kossuth-blazon as an official one.
8. University autonomy.
9. Facultative education of foreign languages.
10. Decreasing the number of military education lessons.
11. Annihilating political screening on the field of economic life.
12. Decreasing the number of Marxism lessons.
In the end he called on the participants of the assembly to join them. He mentioned that they had sent the rules and regulations, the programme plan and the political claims of AHUCS to the other Hungarian universities.
The whole speech took about 20-25 minutes and the majority of the participants approved of what he had read up. A part of the proposals was put in the declaration of claims accepted by the assembly of the University of Technology and Building Industry.’ (CsML Szegedi Megyei Bíróság B. 1249/1957. p. 89.).
This assembly decided to organise a demonstration the following day and during the afternoon of 23 October the university students started their demonstration in order to confirm their political demands in Budapest – and almost the same time in Debrecen. The regime’s answer was a bloody fusillade, and then the revolution broke out.
What had happened in Szeged during the autumn of 1956 till 23 October?
The more than ten-month-long process of police investigation during 1957 and '58 against the participating students, the records of the one-month trial, the testimonies of the more than forty witnesses, the agent reports, the different materials gathered by secret agency methods, the remained contemporary documents, newspapers, tape recordings and photographs made during the general assembly for the police help the detailed and exact exploration of the events happened nearly fifty years ago.
The arrested and later sentenced university students and the witnesses considered denial senseless, they just – at the most – tried to decrease their role at the expense of those about whom they were sure had left the country.
An excerpt from a secret, so-called prison cell bugging report (tape record) made in September 1957, when one of the organisers of AHUCS talks to his cell mate: ’after the first hearings, when the investigation went on, lots of things that previously had not been mentioned by him turned out. Then he took the responsibility only for such things which could be testified by 3 or 4 witnesses because in these cases it was no use denying’.
In fact, everybody knew what was going on during 13 and 23 October, 1956 at the university.
Both the arrested people and the witnesses knew that they were carefully observed by the SYA, the party and the State Security Authorities (SSA) even during the events because those people whose task was to inform the authorities also took part in the public conversations and assembly so the sued students frankly spoke out their intentions and aims during the interrogations.
A quotation from an interrogation record: ’after the assembly the provisional council of AHUCS decided to deal with political cases too if they seemed to be truthful claims. The following questions were concerned after hearing the members: the uranium ore, resuming Imre Nagy and György Lukács to the government and the central leadership of the party, publishing the trade treaties, education of Russian language, withdrawal of the Soviet troops, restoration of the Kossuth-blazon, calling Rákosi and Farkas to account, decreasing the number of Marxism lessons, decreasing the quantity of turning in. Our aim was to keep some of these claims and to initiate a political debate with the leaders of the government and the party in order to make them be aware of these claims. We thought the students forming a unity in AHUCS represent such a caliber that they could force the party and governing organs to think it through and give way to our claims.’ (CsML B. 1249/1957. p. 250.)
During the court process, the arrested university and college students felt not guilty for their acts before and and during the revolution, they only took some responsibility for making and dissipating fly-sheets against Kádár after the suppression of the revolution.
Till 13 October, 1956
Following the events in the capital, in the summer of 1956 the Szeged group of the Pen Club organised debates on 29 June and 6 July in order to ’discuss the real problems’ of literature, ’to maintain the purity of Marxism-Leninism and the partisanship of literature’. There could also be heard some objection during these debates to the literature's party-based directing and against organs and persons determining the cultural life of the city. The universities and students did not take part in these discussions – because of the schoolbreak.
The "result" was the following sentence in a Délmagyarország (regional newspaper) article (1 July 1956): ’All speakers deeply disagreed with those attacks against the people and the party which could be heard during the last debate of the Budapest Petőfi Circle’.
On the 4 July conference of the city party committee, first secretary Benedek Ladányi firmly rejected every assault against the party; ’every hostile manifestation, attempt for perturbation must be considered as an attack against the power of the working class being in partnership with the working peasants and must be rebutted firmly’. The participants of the conference criticised even certain articles published in the party newspaper, Szabad Nép, and what is more, they firmly condemned their so-called "not really pro-party and firm" intonation.
The county and city leaders of the Hungarian Workers' Party (HWP) held power still safely, the SSA, the police and the agent network operated trustworthily, which was also necessary because of the nearness of the Yugoslavian border and the state of foreign affairs considering the previous years.
Teaching started at the universities and colleges in the middle of September 1956.
The proportion of the almost 2000 university and college students is nearly the same as that of the admitted first-year students in September 1956, for example at the Medical Faculty: 60% worker-peasant, 27% intellectual, 10% employee and 3% other from the 180 freshers.
During the first meetings and friendly conversations after the break – quite irregularly – youngsters already talked not only about learning and entertaining, but also about the news of political "melting". The students exchanged information caught previously in parental environment; they discussed the internal affairs, the "resignation" of Mátyás Rákosi, the exclusion of Mihály Farkas, the events in Poland. They talked about the articles of Irodalmi Újság, about the news of Petőfi Circle sessions, and what is more, sometimes even about the news heard in Radio Free Europe. The party committee and the SYA made a decision to form the József Attila Circle, probably under the effect of the new circumstances. The aim of the Circle was ’to create a city debate forum for the worker-peasant-intellectual youngsters and adults of Szeged, where they can discuss the current questions of these days and can form a correct, pro-party opinion’.
The leadership of the József Attila Circle – all of them were members of the HWP – declared the date (19 October) and the contents ("The state of intellectuals in Szeged and the party declaration about intellectual policy") of the first debate on 29 September. It is characteristic that the local press, Délmagyarország reported the event only in short news on 10 October.
On 6 October – the day of the reburial of László Rajk and his mates – the university and college students who had spent two weeks in a building camp in Mohácssziget to help the rebuilding of the inhabitants’ houses after a flood returned to Szeged.
At the camp the youngsters arriving from various universities of the country – making use of their plenty of free time and the new acquaintances – exchanged news, experiences and sometimes their opinions, too.
Then we reached 13 October 1956.
Saturday, 13 October, 1956
A sophomore law student learning in Szeged, Helmut Alaksza, received a letter from his friend attending the faculty of arts in Budapest, in which he sent an appeal dated to 10 October starting with the sentence: ’Hungarian students!’ (document 1). This appeal states: ’this educational system brings up intellectual cripples. We are forced to act! First of all, Russian language has to be reduced into a facultative subject! Take into consideration that the present state of Russian language is the consequence of Russian chauvinism, fed by Stalinism. We summon you to go on strike with us on 22 October, 1956, in order to reduce Russian language into a facultative subject.’
First Helmut Alaksza showed the letter to the SYA secretary of the grade – who rejected the appeal's proposals – then he gave it to his grademate, András Lejtényi. During that afternoon Lejtényi showed the letter to his friend, Tamás Kiss, another sophomore law student, who agreed with the initiation. They went to the sublet of Tamás Kiss and typed three or four copies of the text to dissipate them among the students. They completed the signature of the appeal with the phrase "law students of Szeged".
During their conversation the issues of claiming other reforms beyond the question of Russian language other disadvantageous educational questions and the improvement of the students' social situation emerged, so they decided that – beyond organising a strike – an organisation must be formed to represent the students' interest for prompt and efficient realisation of student demands.
Though both of them were the members of the official youth organisation, SYA, they saw clearly that SYA was inconvienent to reach their aims.
They immediately shared their ideas with their friends. Around 7 and 8 o'clock they went to to Imre Tóth, a friend of Tamás Kiss, a third-year law student. They showed the appeal and talked about their intentions. Imre Tóth, who had already known the essence of the letter, describes the events in his testimony as follows: ’András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss law students visited me after 10 October, 1956 and said that they would have liked to form a new organisation defending the students' interests. They stated in front of me that it was their idea. I myself agreed with them’.1
According to another interrogation record, to the question whether they had talked previously about the formation of that organisation he answered: ’Yes, we had such a conversation in my flat, Szücs street 7, Szeged, in the company of Tamás Kiss and András Lejtényi. Actually Tamás Kiss raised the issue of forming a student organisation representing their interests. Here we decided to go to the University of Medicine the following day’.2
They decided to start their campaign the following day and to attend all youth hostels and share their views with their friends and acquaintances.
János Aszalós and Zoltán Lengyel from the Faculty of Natural Sciences also took part in the meeting but they did not want to get involved in the organising yet, though both of them agreed with the appeal and the further plans.
In the evening they went to a woman from their grade who later testified the followings: ’Around 13 October, as far as I can remember, that was a Saturday evening, my grademate, Imre Tóth and Tamás Kiss, a sophomore law student and Zoltán Lengyel from the Faculty of Natural Sciences visited me at my place and dictated me a typed appeal and I made 2 or 3 copies on white sheets of paper. As I can evoke, the appeal contained: the mandatory status of Russian language subject is the consequence of Russian chauvinism and Stalinist oppression’.3
The university leaders of SYA were informed about the appeal sent from Budapest on the same day. As the SYA secretary of the Faculty of Natural Sciences testified: ’First I heard about it in the Canteen 2 from József Görög, an art student, in the evening of 13 October, 1956. He said that a fly-sheet made by an illegal strike committee which came into being after the Rajk reburial in Budapest circulates among the students and it calls for a strike against attending Russian lessons on 22 October’.4
Sunday, 14 October
During the day more and more people talked about the appeal and the plan of forming a student organisation. A medicine student recalled the events during the interrogation as follows: ’Question: Where, at which university did Tamás Kiss organise AHUCS? – Answer: First at the Faculty of Law, then around 12 and 14 October he came to the faculty of medicine youth hostel, Vörösmarty Road 4, with two other law students, András Lejtényi and Imre Tóth and they entered every room, and then urged the students to join AHUCS and to go to the first student assembly’.5
The organisers also visited the faculty of arts youth hostel then the student club on Dugonics Square – the place where they met, talked and discussed during the following days – where they described their plans to the students.
The majority agreed with the issues of the organisers, though some students shared only a part of their views.
Early afternoon Imre Tóth informed one of the SYA secretaries from the Faculty of Natural Sciences in the street that they would fix up a strike concerning the teaching of Russian language and they would institute a new university organisation. When the SYA secretary raised objection to the new organisation, Imre Tóth replied that ’he is «willing» to talk to the university party and SYA representatives in the student club on 16 October 5 p.m.’.6
In the evening Imre Tóth, András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss met in Virág confectionary and discussed their plans considering the set up of the new student organisation.
Imre Tóth testified the followings during the interrogation: ’We worked out the temporary rules and regulations in Virág confectionary. These contained approximately the followings: it is an organisation defending interests (we did not give a name to it then), it deals with academic, social and cultural problems of the students. It would operate beside SYA. It would be constructed by general elections. Its highest organ is the Uiversity Student Council without any decision-making right, just an executive organ. Then follow the faculty councils, representatives of grades and the learning groups. We planned decision-making rights for the student general assembly, the faculty and grade assemblies’.7
Later there could also be heard proposals concerning the name: "Student Alliance" or "Attila József Alliance".
Monday, 15 October
The students of the university and the College of Pedagogy gathered into groups in lesson breaks throughout the morning and argued and exchanged information.
This went on so much without fear that even the vice-dean of the law faculty, József Perbíró dr. and the president of the university, Dezső Baróti dr. were also informed by the organisers.
Some sentences from the interrogation record of József Perbíró: ’Tamás Kiss played a great role in the organising work of AHUCS beside András Lejtényi. He was a member of all the three delegations which visited me, the leader of the faculty from the middle of October till 20. At the first occasion Tamás Kiss, András Lejtényi, Imre Tóth and Iván Abrudbányai announced that they would have liked to travel to Budapest for the sake of gathering personal experiences about the state of the new youth movement. When I asked them what kind of youth movement that was, they behaved very unresponsively, they only said that a new youth organisation was under construction instead of the SYA and they did not want either to miss the events or to overtake them. I told them that in my opinion that was not just the concern of the youth of the Faculty of Law but of all students of the university so I could not give any money for that matter from the social fund of the law faculty. I advised them to visit the Chancellor because he had the right to make a decision in such a case. I also spoke with the party secretary of the faculty, László Németi in connection with the financial assistance (travelling expenses) who approved of my rejection.’8
During the interrogation, to the question what signs could be sensed among the students before 23 October 1956, Rezső Baróti dr. answered the followings: ’I apprehended nothing irregular among university students until 12 October 1956 […] Next Monday the aforementioned law student visited me with two of his mates who also came from the Faculty of Law. They announced that they came on behalf the law students. Referring to the Saturday conversation they brought on that the SYA was inconvienent, it was unable to solve the professional problems of the university's youth and they would ask permission to form an organisation which would be able to discuss their problems. They did not mention then that they wanted to form an organisation completely independent from SYA, nor about AHUCS. Besides asking me to permit their organising activity, they also asked for my advice. I did not reject the issue of starting such kind of an activity at the university. I said giving permission was beyond my authority but I would travel to Budapest and would answer their questions after coming back. We made an agreement not to do anything until I would come back on Thursday. I travelled to Budapest on 15 October to meet Vice Secretary Sőtér in the ministry of education. We talked about the problem of certain subjects and he gave forth that the matter was discussed on other forums, too. We were not concerned with the question of the university movement during the conversation.’ 9
The SYA secretary of the Faculty of Natural Sciences recalls the events happening that day in details in his testimony: ’In the meantime I was informed that typed sheets of paper circulated from hand to hand at every faculty of the university, at the College of Pedagogical Studies and on the Medical University which called upon a strike against the teaching of Russian language and forming a new university alliance, the «Attila József Alliance». I read both fly-sheets already on that day. Question: What were these fly-sheets about? Answer: One started with the sentence «Hungarian Students» … their first step was to fight against the mandatory status of Russian language ... The fly-sheet came out in various forms, some were only signed by art students from Budapest, but there were others in which the cooperation of students from Szeged was mentioned. The other fly-sheet said the followings in connection with the Attila József Alliance: first of all it attacked SYA, which did not represent the interests of the students and was not able to solve their problems, in their opinion, and because the members of SYA lost their confidence in the organisation, a new organ should be instituted. In the followings the fly-sheet dealt with the attitude and aims of the new alliance. The organisation would be named after Attila József, would be independent from SYA and the party, an autonomous organisation, free from politics, whose aim was to solve the problem of the defence of student interests. SYA could have sent an observer into the leading board of the new organisation. Question: What do you know about the origins of these fly-sheets? Who made them and where, who dissipated them? Answer: The Russian language fly-sheet came from Budapest and surely the leaders of AHUCS typed them and dissipated them. The Attila József Alliance fly-sheet and the alliance itself were created in Szeged.’ 10
During the enquiry the investigators asked the organisers: ‘As lawyers, did you know when you set up and formed AHUCS that such kind of an activity is against our Constitution and is punished by our laws? Answer: ‘We knew it, but in order to confirm our point of view, Tamás Kiss and me, and maybe György Kiss went through the Constitution in the university library on 14 and 15 October 1956. Even after that we came to the point that our organisation could be formed, considering the given political situation.’ 11
During the afternoon and in the evening hours more and more people took part the student club debate. Especially Iván Abrudbányai law student, László Székely from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Pál Vezényi (Faculty of Arts), István Sersli and Róbert Hegyi (medical students) took an important part in the conversations and the organising.
During that period there were still several students who saw the situation the way as Miklós Vető, a third year law student did. (He left Hungary at the beginning of 1957. He was afraid of being arrested due to his activity during the revolution.) He evokes that day in his letter sent from Paris in 1995: ’On Sunday 14 October 1956, when I came back to Szeged from Budapest, I found a sheet of paper on the door of my room. It said that Tamás Kiss and János Aszalós wanted to have a chat with me. Next day it turned out that they were looking for me to discuss how a new, non-communist organisation could be formed. In the end they started to set it up without me. I admit I did not really believe in it, so I remained in the shadow because I was known as a rather 'reactionist' person and I did not want to compromise the movement with my class-alien, clerical and reactionist persona.’ After 23 October, Miklós Vető also became a brave member of the revolution.
The participants in the student club discussed the results of the visits at the leaders of the university and the plan of the rules and regulations made in Virág confectionery on the previous day, then they accepted the "Student Alliance" label temporarily. Here arose the suggestion that the students of the given faculties should elect three persons each in the following days (the Faculty of Law, Arts, Natural Sciences, Medicine, Pharmacy and the College of Pedagogical Studies) and the committee consisting of the 18 elected persons should formulate the final version of the rules and regulations and the programme.
They came to an agreement that they would gather again in the student club the following afternoon and continue the debate, especially because Imre Tóth invited the leaders of SYA for that time.
The atmosphere of these days was exactly put down in an agent report made for the Szeged Police Department on 26 April 1957, which was about the unfolding of a "counter-revolution" at the universities. ’Helmut Alaksza, a sophomore law student, received a letter from the Budapest Faculty of Arts. The letter caused quite an upheaval among us. We came to the point when we had to act. Students started to tear into groups, some of them agreed, others rejected the appeal coming from Budapest. The whole case was gradually taken up by two sophomore law students, Tamás Kiss and András Lejtényi, they took the lead of the opposition. I went home around midnight next Sunday, after the letter's arrival and as I was walking along Jégkunyhó confectionery, I saw Kiss and Lejtényi stepping out the door. They did not recognise me and before saying farewell to each other they went on talking for a few minutes while I was looking in through the confectionery's window. I heard about AHUCS first during that short chat. So probably the issue of organising AHUCS came up on that day in their minds. On Monday, the following day (15 October) they shared their plan with us when we had just arrived at the faculty." (TH V-145-252/1/a)
Tuesday 16 October
At the end of the lessons the organisers were really surprised to see in the university canteen that a handwritten appeal which called to a student assembly on that day 7 p.m. was pinned up everywhere (document 2)
As it was not them who initiated a student assembly in the great hall of the Ady Square building – because they had an agreement with the Chancellor the previous day that they would not keep a general assembly – they started the dispute with the leaders of SYA in the student club.
A police report made on 23 August, 1957 said the followings about the birth of the above mentioned appeal: ’Concerning the assembly kept on 16 October, Comrade Görög also said that originally they wanted to hold it in the student club (Dugonics Square) with a restricted number, but so many people wanted to join that the club would not have been enough. The party and SYA organs of the Faculty of Arts decided to announce a general assembly in the great hall of the Ady Square building on placards as they were afraid that a major number of youth would get out into the street and turn the event into a demonstration. The 3 or 4 placards were made by Vilmos Földi, the SYA secretary of the arts faculty and Mária Bukovinszky arts student and these bills were set on various places. Comrade Görög also remarked that some party members and SYA functionaries decided to try to keep the assembly's course on the correct path with comments. But it did not work because their speakers were browbeaten and hissed.’ 12
The SYA leader of the Faculty of Natural Sciences gave the following answer on 26 August 1957: ’As I mentioned earlier, Imre Tóth informed me on 16 October around 5 p.m. when we could meet those students who set up the strike and the new organisation. But I was already informed in the morning that far more serious things were going to be prepared; the fly-sheets mentioned in the record could have been seen at every faculty pinned up on the doors. In that atmosphere the organisers could direct students into the student club to keep a gathering. With that crowd they could force their will on us, could declare the dissolution of SYA and then march into the great hall at Ady Square where their issues could have been accepted by a general assembly. We saw it clearly that if they would manage – knowing the mood of the crowd excited by them – that would burst into street demonstrations. In order to avoid this we announced on bills a general assembly into the great hall of Ady Square building to separate the mass from its leaders and form a common standpoint before the assembly, which would be transmitted towards the public of the gathering.’ 13
But the common standpoint expected by the SYA leader did not go through at the meeting of the organisers and the SYA leaders in the student club during the afternoon.
The leaders of SYA strictly rejected (in a quite understandable manner) the thought of a youth organisation independent from SYA, while the decisive majority of the organisers insisted on the original issues. The SYA leader of the Faculty of Natural Sciences said the followings about the inefficiency of the talk: ’During the conversation kept at 5 p.m. 16 October 1956, the SYA was represented by Miklós Kuszin city SYA secretary, Géza Sipos organising secretary, Sándor Ábrahám SYA committee secretary and me. AHUCS was represented by about 20 students from every faculty of the two universities; I can name András Lejtényi, Tamás Kiss, Imre Tóth, Pál Vezényi and Iván Abrudbányai. András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss described their point of view in connection with Russian language and Attila József Alliance during the talk. They stated they wanted to institute the new youth alliance on that day. They raised the issue of naming organisation Attila József Alliance or AHUCS. We declared that we agreed with the correct claims of the students and in our opinion we were able and ready to solve the problems since that kind of activity had been going on for months within SYA. However, as that kind of anarchistic form could bring youth into trouble and could be the starting point of a Poznan like counter-revolution, we protested against it and rejected it on the ground of feeling responsible for socialism and proletarian dictatorship. Finally, we called their attention to the severity and the consequences of the case for which they had to take responsibility. Despite the previous messages, they secluded themself to form a common point with us and they threatened us with the crowd. In the end they, especially Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss, intercepted any further communication with us, the AHUCS representatives stood up and left to the words of Lejtényi: 'come on lads, masses are waiting for us'. They went to Ady Square, where the larger part of the youth of the university had been waiting for them for some time.’ 14
During the student club meeting, the organisers had an argument whether the new organisation should operate beside or within SYA. Finally they decided with a 75 percent majority to form an organisation beside SYA. Here they also decided to suggest the formation of Association of Hungarian University and College Students, AHUCS instead of Student Alliance.
They also discussed that in case of getting the opportunity they would take the lead of the Ady Square student assembly, Tamás Kiss would be the directing chairman, András Lejtényi and Imre Tóth would describe the aims and structure of the new organisation according to the previously discussed rules and regulations. The so-called presidency would consist of Dezső Gönczöl, Imre Tóth, János Ambrus, Pál Vezényi, László Székely, Ferenc Csonti and a medical student, Károly Hámori.
When the organisers reached Ady Square, the Auditorium Maximum had already been full of at least a thousand students, who were waiting for the beginning of the assembly.
The teacher's desk on the platform was still abandoned. Then the organisers made a quick decision. As it had been discussed in the student club, they went to the platform and sat down as the representatives of a "presidency". Tamás Kiss opened the assembly. He acted as directing chairman and shortly proposed their ideas. Then András Lejtényi and Imre Tóth gave full details of the scheme of the rules and regulations of AHUCS. The participants voted about the scheme, then separately about getting free from SYA and that AHUCS should formulate political claims. Finally they declared the birth of the new organisation. The participants of the assembly also approved of the proposal that the formerly mentioned executive committee of 18 to be established later should make the rules and regulations and the programme of AHUCS final, and then should present these towards the new student assembly held on 20 October.
László Farkas, an art student, raised the atmosphere of the meeting with reciting his poem written on that day titled Before the Great Journey (document 3).
Some months later, during the investigation, the events were recalled by the SYA leader of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, who had taken part in the assembly: ’After the student club meeting I rushed to the university party committee to inform the comrades, then we went to the meeting together. When we arrived, the assembly had already been started by Lejtényi and his mates, and there was such a huge crowd that we could hardly get into the hall. At my arrival I heard Lejtényi taking the floor. He told the people that they were those altruist patriots who dared to take the risk for the nation to start that movement and form the new alliance of university students, AHUCS. Lejtényi introduced the new alliance, then Imre Tóth propounded the scheme of the rules and regulations of AHUCS. He stated that AHUCS would be a non-political organisation, free from the party, the government and other organisations, here the people started to hiss and they claimed that AHUCS had to deal with politics. Tóth withdrew his words and started to explain the aims of AHUCS in harmony with the mood of the crowd and he considered AHUCS as a replacement of the communist SYA. Meanwhile a man named Székely (as I can recall) from the Faculty of Natural Sciences read up the university reform programme, formerly worked out by the faculty SYA leaders as the programme of AHUCS, not even mentioning that it was made by SYA. Furthermore, our former conversation was rather falsely transmitted towards the students, as if we were the obstacles before even the realistic requests. So was created quite an anti-SYA atmosphere and finally those who would have liked to make a speech not only about the mistakes but also about the results of SYA were not allowed to speak. The meeting ended up in a rather right-wing, nationalist, anti-party mood.’ 15
After declaring the formation of AHUCS came the formulation of the programme (first of all the so-called academic and social claims): reducing the national defence lessons, liberating Marxist education from dogmatism and proposals to improve the living standards of students, such as the problem of youth hostels, student welfare committees, public transport discounts etc. At the beginning there were suggestions which clamoured for the right of making free theoretical debates, the abolishment of political screening; they pressed for the substantive reform of the newspaper of the university, Szegedi Egyetem, so that it could actually become the free forum for students. As the atmosphere rose, more and more daring political claims were formulated by the university and college students to correct the mistakes of the "Rákosi-Gerő" leadership.
An art student, Tivadar Putnik (who was removed from his home and was excluded from the university during the 50s because of his Serbian origin) even claimed the withdrawal of the Russian troops.
László Székely, who was appointed to write the minutes of the meeting by the organisers, made the following testimony: ’I sat beside Tamás Kiss during the assembly of 16 October. I made the record. Tamás Kiss was also in the presidency. The questions that were raised during the assembly were the ones which were formerly discussed in the student club. Tivadar Putnik read up a list of 10 wild, far-right claims and demanded that the AHUCS should accept them. The presidency did not share these points but we could not break the way of the assembly because they threatened us that they would march to Dóm Square, so rather we transformed the assembly into a general mass meeting. In most cases it was the law student participants of the presidency that made different proposals concerning the further direction of the meeting. The atmosphere was so overwhelming that several counter-revolutionary claims were accepted during the voting:
1. The withdrawal of the Soviet troops
2. Public trial for Mihály Farkas and his mates
3. Imre Nagy to leadership
4. Reconsideration of commercial treaties
5. Secession from the Warsaw Treaty and neutrality.
Beside these other claims were also approved but I cannot recall them.’ 16
Another member of the presidency, Imre Tóth evoked the events in his testimony made on 11 August 1957 as follows: ‘We also went to the general assembly, which started at 7 p. m. When we got there, the hall was already full of people but the presidency members were nowhere to be seen. We went to the platform and sat down at the desk, then Tamás Kiss, the member of the presidency, opened the session as chairman, he stated that they wanted to create an organisation defending the interests of the students, the rules and regulations of which were read up by Lejtényi. Then a feverish debate evolved whether the organisation should operat beside or within SYA. About 98% of the voters decided to operate free from SYA. There was another argument whether the AHUCS should involve itself in politics or not. When I rose to speak, I required a non-political organisation. The students temporarily accepted the rules and regulations with some modifications. Then the presidency resigned since we considered the meeting closed. But we stayed at the desk and with Tamás Kiss as directing chairman, the students' general assembly continued with speeches and claims. Question: What kinds of claims were formulated? Answer: Some pressed for solving the economic and social problems of the students. But there were some raher nationalist, counter-revolutionary political claims as well, such as the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, bringing Rákosi and Farkas to justice, restoring the coat of arms of Kossuth, clearing the problem of uranium ore.’17
At the end of the assembly a student raised the issue of the unjust peace treaty of Trianon and he recommended adding the revision of borders to the list of political claims. During the following days the so called committee of 18 decided not to add this claim to the programme of AHUCS. Despite the above mentioned facts, the prosecutor formulated the followings in the indictment (during the offset against the participants) in 1957: ’During the general assembly revisionist claims were also raised. They pressed for the reunion with Bácska, Transsylvania and Felvidék but it is characteristic that the revision of Austrian Burgenland was not even mentioned.’
Certainly, the regime knew about the spontaneous general assembly and the happenings there. One of the leading workmates of the local organisation of the Hungarian Workers' Party made the following testimony at the trial of József Perbíró dr. in 1957: ’The next important event in October (I do not know the exact date) was the formation of AHUCS at the university. One morning, as I went into the PC [political committee] I heard the news. Comrade Németh, comrade Ábrahám, Varga and Kovács from the county appeared because they wanted to investigate the case. The whole apparatus made a session, the university party and SYA secretaries were there. They brought the proclamation of AHUCS and comrade Németh warned us to be careful concerning the proclamation because it shows counter-revolutionary tendencies. There was a constituent assembly of AHUCS on that evening on the faculty of arts, I wanted to go there but there were people even on the corridors, I could not get in so I went home.’ 18’
After the assembly, during the night hours the leaders of AHUCS formulated an appeal and made some copies which were sent to their friends and acquaintances learning at other Hungarian universities on the following day (document 4).
The appeal titled "Student Brothers!" stated: ’We, the students of the University of Szeged, Medical University of Szeged, College of Pedagogical Studies of Szeged and the College of Music Teacher-Training formed our own university youth organisation on 16 October 1956, the Alliance of Hungarian University and College Students. Our aim is the freedom of thought, to brush off the burden forced on us by Stalin and Rákosi [...] We, the students of Szeged made the first step, we call you to join us!!! Let's spread AHUCS to a nationwide organisation.’
Dezső Gönczöl made a testimony about making the appeal on 17 June 1957: ‘Besides the programme scheme we made the appeal aiming the other universities of Hungary on 16 October 1956. We stated the formation of AHUCS and suggested that they should also initiate the formation of the organisation at their universities. As I can recall, the appeal contained the formerly worked out points of our programme. The appeal sent to the other universities of the country was formulated by András Lejtényi, Tamás Kiss and Abrudbányai law students.’ 19
The same night (taking the accepted modifying proposals into consideration) the organisers reformulated the rules and regulations and the programme scheme.
Testimony record, made on 21 August 1957: ‘On 16 October 1956, in the Gyula Juhász Youth Hostel at 11 p. m., I heard the sounds of a typewriter in the reading hall. I went in to have a look what is going on there and I saw that Tamás Kiss, András Lejtényi, Imre Tóth, Iván Abrudbányai and others (I do not know their names) were typing the rules and regulations and the programme scheme of AHUCS. They made several copies. I picked up a copy and read it then I left. These rules and regulations were presented to the participants of the envoy electing AHUCS meeting of the law faculty during the following day.’ 20
Two days later (18 October 1956) only the local press, Délmagyarország reported shortly about the student assembly: ’General assembly of the students of Szeged. The university and college students of Szeged held a general meeting in the great hall of the Ady Square building on Tuesday evening. About one and a half thousand students took part in it. As a reasult of the debate they formed a new youth organisation, the Association of Hungarian University and College Students, AHUCS and its local body, which operates beside SYA. Then the constituent assembly turned into a mass meeting. The youngsters criticised the present forms and system of foreign language, marxism-leninism and national defence lessons and they decided to transmit their claims towards the leaders of the country, also concerning some aspects of the political life. Among other claims they they demanded the abolishment death penalty, a public trial for those who proved to be guilty in some trespasses, first of all in the Rajk-case, proportioning salaries, regulating the salaries of people having low income, alliance with Yugoslavia and improving communication.”
Wednesday 17 October
On that day the students organised meetings at the faculties, where they discussed the new and partly accepted proposals of the general assembly held on the previous day, they elected their envoys, three persons from every faculty into the committee of 18 and they formulated further proposals, concerning the educational and political programme of AHUCS.
The Faculty of Arts elected Pál Vezényi, Tivadar Putnik and Antal Juhász.
The vice dean, József Perbíró dr. made the following testimony about the law faculty student meeting on 14 August 1957: ‘The second case happened at 10 a.m. 17 October, when András Lejtényi, Tamás Kiss and Imre Tóth asked me to announce a dean-break from noon to 13 o’clock, because they wanted to congregate a student assembly where they would discuss the problems of youth and elect the law faculty preparing committee. I asked the party secretary concerning this question, too. He objected to giving a dean-break in a teaching period but he agreed that they would hold their meeting during the afternoon. Albert Kónya, the Secretary of Education arrived at 10 a.m. and had a meeting Dezső Baróti dr. where I was promptly asked in.’ 21
Dezső Baróti dr. (who was in Budapest at the Ministry of Education) answered the following concerning the reasons of the secretary’s visit on 10 June 1957: ’Sőtér Deputy Secretary told me that there was an uprisal in Szeged and Secretary Kónya would come and investigate the case.’ 22
József Perbíró dr. recalled the events as follows: ’The deans of different faculties, the party and SYA leaders were at present in the Chancellor’s office and Secretary Kónya told us he came to Szeged because he wanted to deal with the problems of the youth. He heard in Budapest that there were also problems in Szeged and he wanted to get a clear picture of it. About half past eleven I asked him how I should have handled the situation at the Faculty of Law, concerning the planned student assembly at noon, what kind of answer I should have given to the students. Kónya answered that he would think it through. I urged him several times during the conversation; finally, at five minutes to noon, he said that the meeting should be kept – in his presence. Then I left a notice for the law students that the meeting could be held and we went with Kónya to the assembly, where I said some kind of introduction then Kónya greeted the youth. Here Tamás Kiss, András Lejtényi and the law students also paricipated and they asked questions and Kónya answered them. During the meeting Tamás Kiss and András Lejtényi (I cannot remember properly) gave a short detail of the aims of AHUCS. We left and, as I know, they elected the AHUCS deputies of the law faculty.’ 23
Here the Secretary promised that all student claims concerning university reforms would be soon examined and a decision would be made about them.
In the second part of the meeting the 300 students elected the three deputies of the Faculty of Law on the basis of nomination: Tamás Kiss, Imre Tóth and Attila Fedor, a fourth year student. Although András Lejtényi did not receive enough votes, he took part in the set up.
During the afternoon and the evening the committee of 18 already confirmed by election had a “regular” session. A copy of the first part of the hand-written record has survived in the police files (document 5).
On that session only the elected envoys had the right to vote.
They discussed every detail and made a decision about every point of the rules and regulations. They included a sentence on the basis of a modifying proposal that ’a party operating in the spirit of true Marxism-Leninism should direct the country’. They also stated that ’we have to require, not ask. Maintain the revolutionary atmosphere’. And the last note in the remained record: “Programme. That is what the crowd is interested in. Concrete proposals. A university student image must be created.
1. Sovereign university
a/ Abolishing political screening…”
Unfortunately, further parts of the record have not been explored yet.
István Sőtér, the Deputy Secretary worked out a proposal for the sake of giving responses to some crucial questions emerging in higher education. These documents were published by Zoltán Ólmosi in an article titled University Edifications (Magyar Nemzet, October 1990, p. 10). This proposal was countersigned by the member of the political committee, György Marosán, who wrote the followings on the document: ’Theoretically I agree, but awareness is needed for fear of turning the university pimps’ mood into an assault against communists and soviets’ (see also the article of László Bálint in Magyar Fórum, 21th October 1999).
’The claims of the students of Szeged were echoed by the whole country within a few days. So it is no wonder that György Marosán, when he was sent to Szeged by the party leaders, saw the only solution in violent oppression: ‘I did not obviate the charge, I will go there if it is necessary but in one condition, if I would get a licence to command fire in the name of the party and the government’ (Frigyes Kahler: Fusillade In Szeged. in: Szegedi Műhely, 1-4./1998, p. 17).
During these days a party delegation led by Ernő Gerő had negotiations with Tito in Yugoslavia. Those party leaders who stayed at home were quite uncertain so the proposal of Marosán concerning the fire command was not accepted by the Secretary of the Central Management of HWP, Lajos Ács.
Thursday 18 October
There was a college meeting at the College of Pedagogical Studies on that day.’Among the teachers Gyula Pálfi assistant lecturer assisted in organising the college assembly. The meeting of the university students on 16 October stimulated our students. During this meeting the mistakes of SYA were thoroughly discussed and the issue of establishing an independent university and college student organisation was raised. They formulated their requisitions and accepted them’ (The Summarising Assessment of the October Events, 1 April 1957).
The College of Pedagogical Studies elected Dezső Gönczöl, Vilmos Ács and Gábor Jancsó. They suggested the restoration of the Kossuth coat of arms, urged the bringing back of the prisoners of war and pressed for the retransmission of the noon bell on the radio.
The AHUCS committee of 18 appointed Imre Tóth, Róbert Hegyi medical and Pál Szabó natural science students to travel to Budapest and invite Imre Nagy to their planned general assembly on 20 Ocotber and get some information from the authorities concerning the possibilities of the legal permission of the operation of AHUCS. The appointed persons travelled to Budapest.
Imre Tóth and Róbert Hegyi made the following testimony (8 March and 16 August 1957) about the events that happened in Budapest on 19 and 20 October during the enquiry: ’On 17 or 18 October, after the general assembly, I travelled to Budapest with Pál Szabó natural science and Róbert Hegyi medical students to Imre Nagy to invite him to our next student meeting in Szeged. He was not at home; we talked to his wife who suggested that we may have come back the following morning because he had had to go for a talk. Then we went to the editorial board of Szabad Ifjúság to get some information what they published about the session of AHUCS of Szeged and where could we go concerning the problems of organising.
They advised us to go to Béla Szalai, the member of the Central Management of HWP, who was the former Chief Secretary of AHUCS. So we went to the residence of the Central Management where they had already known about us since they got a phone call from the editorial board about our soon arrival.
We found Béla Szalai there and we had a conversation with Péter Hanák, the leader of the Department of Universities. We talked about what kind of relationship AHUCS should have with SYA. Szalai and Hanák suggested that AHUCS should operate within SYA and later a youth parliament shuld be established. Then the following day we visited the Central Management of SYA and spoke with József Szakali and other members of the management in the presence of Péter Hanák. Here the role, mistakes and the false structure of SYA were mentioned and and also the layer-organisations to be made and organisations representing the interests of peasant-worker students. The name of the organisation had not been declared yet, only the AHUCS as an organisation defending student interest was stated. We came to an agreement that it would be the task of the youth parliament to solve the structural problems and if the other universities of the country would find the operation of AHUCS to be correct then every university could form the local body of AHUCS. After leaving the residence we travelled back to Szeged by car.’ 24
’Imre Tóth found it important to go to the Faculty of Law where he wanted to make steps by asking for some help from a friend of his. On our way there we visited the College of Drama and Film where Imre could not find his acquaintance. I do not know what he did there. Later we got a telegram from them. He sketched the aim in a small meeting on the law faculty, asked for some help and advised them to form their local AHUCS organisation. The students accepted our proposal. We went to the editorial board of Hétfői Hírlap, to Iván Boldizsár, the editor in chief to gain some publicity for AHUCS. We informed him about our plans and asked the address of Imre Nagy, he gave it to us. He called Szabad Ifjúság and Imre Tatár, one of the editors invited us for the afternoon. Till then we went to the flat of Imre Nagy in Pasarét but we could not find him. His wife said that he was busy and he probably could not travel to Szeged to the assembly. We asked her to leave us a message through Hétfői Hírlap about when he could meet us.
We received the answer at 9 a.m. that he could meet us. Previously we had read up our programme to his wife and she had promised us to pass it to her husband. Because of the coincidence with the talk at the Central Management of SYA we could not meet Imre Nagy. Imre Tóth asked the people at Szabad Ifjúság not to ignore the problem of AHUCS but to write about it with an open heart. I suggested that we should go to the party centre because the party secretary of the law faculty asked us: 'Do not you worry about getting jailed because of this organising?'
That is why we wanted to go to the party. We went to Béla Szalai, Central Managing Secretary, who formerly was the president of AHUCS. Imre Tóth read up our programme. Béla Szalai disagreed; he said it would undermine the unity of the youth. He talked about the experiences of the old youth working movement. He mentioned that we should not lead the crowd out to the streets because 'one Poznan' was far enough. He told us to visit the Central Management of SYA. We went there and spoke with József Szokoli, the First Secretary, Ervin Hollós, Béla Kelen and László Orbán. Imre Tóth described our plans to them. We were refused as by Béla Szalai. But they admitted their mistakes and submitted the renewal of SYA. Imre Tóth said that he had no right to get into such negotiations. They said that the second general assembly had been announced in Szeged and János Gosztonyi would be at present from the Central Management of SYA. They brought us back by car. János Gosztonyi talked with the leaders of AHUCS of Szeged and warned us not to speak about his presence.’ 25
Throughout the afternoon the members of the AHUCS committee of 18 and the leaders of SYA started negotiations in the university building of SYA. The leader of the SYA delegation made the following testimony about the contents and the negative outcome of the two-day-long negotiations on 26 August 1957: ’Our aim was to form a common point of view and to lead the movement towards the right direction. At the beginning it seemed to work because – in words – they were willing to cooperate with SYA and to reject the extremities of the assembly held on 16 October. However, when a common declaration was formulated which could have turned the direction of the events, they withdrew from their position and were not willing to sign the declaration.
Then the debate was about claims, I can recall the followings.
1. Reducing the status of Russian language into a facultative subject.
2. Marxism should be taught in seminaries and its grade mark should be ignored considering the average of the marks.
3. Reducing the number of national defence lessons and its grade mark should be ignored considering the average of the marks.
4. Abolishing political screening in every field of economic life.
5. Abolishing monstrous salaries.
6. Electing Imre Nagy and György Lukács into the Political Committee of the HWP
Besides these there were some right wing claims but I cannot evoke them. There was a serious discussion about the general assembly planned to be held on 20 October and their rejection considering the leadership of the party. Accepting the principles of the 20th Congress – no, they just pretended. In the end we could not come to an agreement after two and a half days of negotiating.’ 26
Another member of the SYA delegation said the followings on 21 August 1957: ‘We had discussions with the deputies of AHUCS on 18-20 October 1956 concerning the problems of university students, especially the activity of AHUCS.
Kiss was one of those who stood for the direction of AHUCS. He claimed firmly the independence of AHUCS from SYA. He agreed and promoted the execution of the claims read up by the AHUCS deputies. They pressed for:
- Abolishing political screening.
- Regulating the facultative education of Russian language.
- Reducing the lesson number of Marxism, it should be taught only in seminaries and ignored in the result of an exam.
- Reducing the number of national defence lessons and they should be ignored in the result of an exam.
- Holding and cancelling a general assembly on 20 October (Saturday), there were a lot of discussions about it.
We, the envoys of SYA refused the claims except for the facultative status of Russian language and could not form a common point of view in the end.’ 27
Friday, 19 October
The local press, Délmagyarország reported about the founding and the aims of AHUCS in a long article written by József Appor in the morning (document 5).
The article states that: ‘They wanted and want to do for their own case which is coincidentally a vital, important case for future intellectuals and for the whole country.
AHUCS was established in Szeged in the Auditorium Maximum of the university throughout frantic and brave theoretical debates. The atmosphere of the assembly was given by the criticism of the masses. They criticized the educational system of the university, and then the constituent assembly turned into a mass meeting where they discussed political questions.
The student assembly showed that the new organisation has such forces on which they can stand.’
The members of the AHUCS committee of 18 continued the negotiations with the leaders of SYA throughout the morning, about which a member of the SYA delegation said the followings on 23 August 1957: ’Iván Abrudbányai law student also took part in the debates of 18, 19 and 20 October between AHUCS and SYA in Szeged as an AHUCS deputy. He was definitely more serene than Lejtényi and Kiss, however, he also firmly stated that AHUCS agreed with the political direction of the party theoretically but in practice they were independent from the party, the government and other bodies. They did not let any kind of person and organisation regulate their cases. He firmly stated that they needed an organisation defending interests completely free from SYA which would deal with the cases of university and college students.’ 28
During the afternoon and the evening the AHUCS committee of 18 formulated the final version of the mass meeting announced for the following day. They asked József Perbíró dr., the vice-dean to direct the meeting and he undertook the task. Dezső Gönczöl was appointed to open the meeting, András Lejtényi to unfold the final version of the rules and regulations and Tamás Kiss to read up the programme scheme. They only had a debate around setting up the political programme.
Dezső Gönczöl said the followings about that part of the story on 22 August 1957: ‘We had a debate at the set up uf the programme scheme. Because of the Polish events we thought that the claim of the withdrawal of the Russian troops should be omitted. We could not see the Polish situation clearly, because we thought communication was really flat in that matter. So we did not confess this claim on the assembly of 20 October, the audience booed – why did we change what had been accepted once?’ 29
In the evening Róbert Bohó arrived at Szeged from Budapest, introduced himself in front of the committee of 18 as the deputy of the Petőfi Circle. He tried to convince the participants in the student club not to form a new, independent youth organisation, but to stay within the framework of SYA. László Székely recalled the events as follows: ’The deputy of the Petőfi Circle talked to the students and offered to form a local Petőfi Circle instead of AHUCS.’
As the leaders of AHUCS ’did not even want to hear about staying within SYA’, Róbert Bohó suggested to Lejtényi and Kiss that they should meet the leaders of Petőfi Circle in Budapest.
A secretary of the Central Leading Board of SYA said the followings in 1957, concerning the appointment of Róbert Bohó and his two mates: ’These men were appointed by the CLB of SYA and sent down to Szeged, but we agreed with Ervin Hollós secretary at the CLB of SYA in Budapest that they would present themselves in Szeged as the envoys of Petőfi Circle, so they would have a bigger influence on the youth (so this was a tactical step of the CLB of SYA).’ 30
The invitation to Budapest and the conversation with the leaders of Petőfi Circle was not rejected by the committee of 18, so András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss travelled to Budapest on the following day.
Throughout the evening the Attila József Circle of Szeged, formerly established by the local party and SYA bodies, kept its first session, a debate about the situation of the intellectuals. The president of the circle was Dezső Baróti dr., the Chancellor and its secretary was Béla Csákány, an SYA secretary.
According to a summarising report – made on 17 July 1957 by the political investigations' department of Csongrád County Police – a hand-written appeal which urged the people to promote the claims of the students.appeared in several factories
The leaders of the local party bodies ostensibly did not feel the seriousness of the situation yet, despite the fact that they knew about every little step within a few hours. It is characteristic that Károly Németh, the First Secretary of the party's county committee said the followings during "the debate of up to date political questions" in the free party event of the medical university on the previous day: ’we agree with the university events and the questions claimed by the youngsters, but do not do it heedlessly … He especially stressed the appearance of unhealthy nationalism which distorts the expression of the true love of our nation towards the Soviet Union’ (Délmagyarország, 20 October 1956).
Saturday, 20 October
According to the decision accepted on the constituent assembly (16 October), the organisers of AHUCS made preparations in the Auditorium Maximum of the Ady Square building for keeping the mass meeting. The students set up a microphone and an amplifier, speakers in the stairway and the corridor because they expected more visitors than the capacity of the great hall, since the citizens of the city already knew about the happenings of the constituent assembly, and as – although it was a weekend – the students did not travel home to their families.
Dezső Gönczöl depicted the atmosphere before the mass meeting on 27 July 1957: ’I went in at 14 p.m. and I saw there was no need to worry: they set up the speakers in the stairway, too. The assembly started at four p.m. and we, Tamás Kiss, Iván Abrudbányai, Vilmos Ács, Gábor Jancsó, two men and a woman from the Petőfi Circle and two envoys from a university of Budapest (I cannot recall their names), met before it and had a short conversation in the neighbouring room.
Lajos Gosztonyi represented (sic!) the SYA centre, there was a medical student and me. There was no sessionlike talk. I heard there that professor Perbíró would direct the meeting instead of Imre Nagy, the radio was there and a journalist from the Hétfői Hírlap and several universities sent greeting telegrams. There was feverish miling, small groups gathered around the members of Petőfi Circle and Gosztonyi. Gosztonyi was harshly criticised that the SYA took the wind out of our sails and «Free Youth» announced a student parliament in Budapest though it would have been our right as initiators. Despite these harms he was invited, but he did not come as I know.’ 31
During the conversation (before the meeting) János Gosztonyi, secretary of the Central Leading Board of SYA informed some members of the committee of 18 about the SYA secretary session planned on 22 October by the SYA CLB, on which they wanted to fix up a student parliament and they wanted to invite the SYA leaders of all Hungarian universities. He also invited the envoys of AHUCS. They came to an agreement that András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss would travel to Budapest – they had already accepted the invitation of Petőfi Circle the previous day – and would take part on the session.
The mass meeting of AHUCS started somewhere between 15 and 16 o'clock.
The members of the presidency were: József Perbíró dr., vice-dean, who was asked to be directing chairman and the appointed members of the committee of 18, Tamás Kiss, Dezső Gönczöl, Pál Vezényi, Vilmos Ács and József Vörös university and college students, a girl from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and András Lejtényi, who would introduce the rules and regulations.
Dezső Baróti dr., the Chancellor and professor Gábor Fodor sat there in the first row.
The leaders of SYA and the party neither took part in the presidency nor took the floor as the representatives of their organisations. The regular form of address, "comrade" was omitted, the participants used "friends, dear friends, Mr. Chancellor" instead.
The Hungarian Radio was represented by György Garai – due to the invitation of Gyula Pálfi, an assistant lecturer – who recorded most parts of the assembly. The press was represented by Péter Halász, the journalist of Hétfői Hírlap, Tibor Markovics, the editor of Délmagyarország and others.
The great hall got overcrowded, there was nowhere even to stand. Lots of people gathered also in the stairway and the corridor and here stood citizens of the city, high school students and adults too.
Later (during the nineties the photos of Béla Liebman were revealed) a photographer from Szeged made pictures of the presidency and the participants and these photos were used by the police during the investigation (folder No. TH O-12797).
The workmate of the weekly newspaper, Szabadság, Sándor Ács also made some pictures, because the cover of the journal's next edition (23 October 1956) was his photograph titled Arguing Youth.
Several envoys arrived from the universities of the country and the organisers received greeting telegrams to the following address: AHUCS Szeged.
József Perbíró dr. opened the assembly after singing the national anthem, then Dezső Gönczöl took the floor.
Dezső Gönczöl read up the scheme of the rules and regulations of the independent university youth organisation (founded on 16 October) which was made by the committee elected by the students.
He also mentioned that the organisers got in touch with the other universities of the country. He called attention to the matter that ’the participants should remain calm and placid in order to introduce and talk through the scheme in a democratic way.’ He stressed that ’before stepping forward we owe the workers and peasants in the name of the university youth and intellectuals. So we promise that we help them to make their problems public and back up their claims’.
After his speech the tape record began and it was continuous.
Then Tamás Kiss read up the greeting telegrams, first the telegram of the University of Agriculture then the greetings of the SYA Committee of the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering.
Then András Lejtényi introduced and explained the scheme, they made a debate concerning the proposals and finally József Perbíró directed the vote point by point and in general. At the end the assembly accepted the rules and regulations of AHUCS (THO-12797).
The following points need to be stressed: ’Chapter I The character and task of the alliance: AHUCS is the organisation of the masses of the university and college students which include the whole spectrum of youngsters learning at higher education. […] The principle of AHUCS is democracy concerning the widest range of it. Considering this principle and in order to avoid the one person leadership, we only can make decisions by the majority vote of the members. For the sake of keeping off the harmful system of instructions coming from over, only the members can make a decision. […] 5. The aim of the alliance is that the highly educated people who are dedicated to represent the mind of the nation should not be an indifferent, passive crowd, a layer of coward, supple and mean ones, however a mass fighting bravely and soulfully for the nation, the country and for a merrier future. These people should not be afraid of talking about the truth, but rather they should serve the nation and the country with their skills, knowledge and ability (huge applause). […] Explanation: the system of Stalin and Rákosi brought up intellectual cripples and sycophants. They used merciless and inhuman tools against those who dared to raise their voices in the name of rationality and humanity against their brutality and failures. They tried to teach us rough selfishness, unprincipledness, repression and how to make a leg with some success. They wanted to tread down the desire of freedom coming from our souls, they wanted to turn us servants accepting their perfidies obediently. The spirit of the 20th congress swept these intentions away. A free, fruitful atmosphere came into being, but the remains of the past still hamper us in unfolding. The aim of our youth organisation is to sweep these remains away from our consciousness to the perfection of our nation, country and ourselves (applause). […] Complement of the 5th point: AHUCS should also represent the interests of the worker and peasant youth on every occasion. […] Ferenc Mihalik, medical student: I suggest that the acknowledged and accepted rules and regulations and the decisions should be multiplied and given to the members and then we send them to our worker and peasant friends in every part of the country to let them know that we stand beside them concerning the serious representation of interests. (That is true!) And I would like to see it being realised within a few days. […] Complement of the 1st point of Chapter IV: the university council should send liaison persons into the factories. And, joining the previous speaker, these liaison persons should popularize our claims and the rules and regulations in the factories. […] The leaders of the university stand by the formation and aims of AHUCS in their speeches. Dezső Baróti dr., Chancellor: I consider it vital that AHUCS should state its solidarity with worker-peasant youth […] I de facto admit the formation of AHUCS and I consider this democratic mass the representative of the youth of Szeged. […] Gábor Fodor dr., member of the academy: Dear Friends! I deeply agree with those democratic aims which were mentioned here and I am really impressed by the moderate, sober voice which characterises every point of the rules and regulations and their justification. The main problem is, as I see it, how can we let the worker-peasant youngsters and high school students know that you feel solidarity towards them. I think the press, for example the papers of Budapest, as the Chancellor has promised it, is going to deal with this question, it would be correct to appoint the leaders as a result of this general assembly – certainly this is only a proposal, I do not want to get involved into the matters of the youth – to formulate a declaration in which they state their aims, the basic principles of the rules and regulations as solidarity with worker-peasant youth (huge applause).’
During the debate they read up a telegram coming from the students of the University of Technology and another from the College of Agricultural Engineering, which resulted enormous enthusiasm.
The representatives of the press also took the floor.
Péter Halász: ’Dear friends, first of all let me do welcome You. I would like to secure you that tomorrow the public of the country will get a clear picture about this assembly in the following edition of Hétfői Hírlap.’ His speech received noisy approval.
The editor of Délmagyarország: ’Délmagyarország absolutely agrees with the claims of the university youth of Szeged. It is true that there was only a short article about the previous assembly. The editorial board decided to publish the whole list of claims and proposals of the university youth of Szeged in the tomorrow edition.’
After accepting the rules and regulations, the programme scheme made by the committee of 18 was introduced.
Tamás Kiss read up the claims concerning the social situation of the students and the questions of the schedule first and these were backed and accepted.
Then he introduced the political claims:
- We press for bringing those into justice who are responsible for the crimes of the last era and the trials should be public.
- We press for the free press; the press should comment everything in full details.
- We press for reelecting Imre Nagy and György Lukács into the Central Leading Board.
- We claim a salary reform. The upper limit of income coming from the state should be announced and the improvement of low salaries should be accelerated.
- We press for abolishing death penalty concerning political crimes.
- We press for a refounded, free, democratic system of elections.
- We claim that university youth should play a greater role in directing the political and other matters of the country.’
Every announced political claim was approved noisily, with long applause, with "That's it!" shouts, in addition some speakers suggested the following additional claims:
- The Kossuth coat of arms and the national celebration of 15 March should be restored.
- Russian troops should be withdrawn.
György Halász, fourth grade medical student: ’I would like to complete the political claims. I think one of the strongest desires of every Hungarian people is that the tens or the hundreds of thousands of Russians should be withdrawn from the country.’ This proposal was rejected by the directing chairman but it was soulfully backed by the mass.
- The mandatory delivery of peasants’ surplus should be abolished.
- University autonomy should be announced.
Later the assembly accepted the advanced programme by voting.
At the end of the meeting the participants raised the issue of a demonstration in Dóm Square, however, József Perbíró dr. did not agree with it and persuaded them to "stay within the walls".
The meeting was closed by singing Szózat and József Perbíró dr. recalled the atmosphere following the assembly in his memoires: ’There was hardly any possibility to move in the crowd streaming home. The claims of the university youth were argued in a feverish manner in the street. When I reached home, my landlady said that she had just been informed through the radio about the university youth meeting in Szeged.’
Délmagyarország reported thoroughly about the assembly and the political claims apart from the withdrawal of the Russian troops the following day, 21 October (document 6).
After the assembly the Chancellor invited the members of the presidency and several other people to his office where "Chancellor Dezső Baróti, the vice-chancellor, journalists, members of the radio, the leaders of AHUCS, András Lejtényi, Tamás Kiss, Iván Abrudbányai, László Székely, Vilmos Ács, Ferenc Csonti, Gábor Jancsó, me and several envoys of other universities were at present. […] I went into the chancellor's room later because I was in his office. Tamás Kiss, László Székely, Vilmos Ács and Iván Abrudbányai were there. We talked about fixing up delegations from Szeged to other university cities. Tamás Kiss told us to send envoys to other universities the following day. They had to carry the rules and regulations and the programme with them’ – testified Dezső Gönczöl.32 Dezső Baróti made the following testimony concerning the event: ’After the AHUCS assembly of 20 October the members of the presidency came up into my room. Some journalists were also there, like Péter Halász from Hétfői Hírlap and someone from the radio […] Halász said that he would report about the AHUCS assembly in his newspaper. I asked him to be careful and added that some "dumb" speeches should be omitted. He promised that.’33
Imre Tóth testified the followings on 29 April 1957: ’We went into a room after the meeting, me, Iván Abrudbányai, Ferenc Csonti from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Tamás Kiss law student, Károly Hámori and János Ambrus medical students, Miklós Vető law student, Chancellor Dezső Baróti, professor Gábor Fodor, a person called Gönczöl from the College of Pedagogical Studies and several journalists and the workmate of the radio. Dezső Baróti agreed with the facultative status of Russian language. He rejected the view of the immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops, though. He argued that was not the task of the youth, the Warsaw Treaty was still valid and it was our concern, too. The Warsaw Treaty may have been supervised only on the basis of more formal aspects.’ 34
During the afternoon a delegation of four SYA leaders travelled to Budapest – and later (throughout the night) so did András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss – by the car of Róbert Bohó.
Sunday, 21 October
Dezső Gönczöl reported about the events of the day as follows: ’We met in the student club on Sunday morning, Iván Abrudbányai, Vilmos Ács, Gábor Jancsó, László Székely, Ferenc Csonti, a girl called Csöpi, József Vörös and other medical students and me. During the talk we appointed the envoys to the university cities. Gábor Jancsó went to Debrecen, Iván Abrudbányai and Vilmos Ács to Pécs, some medical students to Veszprém, Sopron and Győr, I cannot recall their names. Someone was also sent to Miskolc. They departed throughout the afternoon. Everybody chose a city on his own will.’ 35
Beside Gábor Jancsó János Ambrus also went to Debrecen, István Csete and Károly Hámori medical students to Miskolc and Attila Kádár to Veszprém.
Abrudbányai travelled to Pécs with the car of the Chancellor and Vilmos Ács by motorbike. There are no data about the trips of the other envoys, these questions can only be answered after the research of the events that happened on 22 October in the given university cities.
András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss arrived in Budapest around dawn and they met the leaders of the Petőfi Circle in the afternoon. Róbert Bohó evoked the events during his testimony made on 30 August 1957: ’It was not me who talked with Lejtényi and Kiss in the given period of time, but Gábor Táncos, the secretary of Petőfi Circle, András Hegedüs, the member of the secretariat and others I did not know. During the conversation Táncos tried to persuade them to cooperate with SYA. Then I left so I do not know who talked about what.’ 36
Even the leaders of the Petőfi Circle could not persuade the members of AHUCS to break the set up of their organisation and to go on only in cooperation with SYA and following the instructions of them.
One of the deputies of Szeged evokes the event as follows: ’When we said farewell to each other Gábor Táncos noticed ‘Pals, you may be right’.’
Szabad Ifjúság also reported about the events on that day, though the short article was quite careful and the essence was ignored.
Szabad Európa Radio was in turn a more precise informer: ’Now comes the news service of the voice of Free Hungary. One-sentence summaries of the latest important news. There has been a break within SYA. The radio of Warsaw still talks about democratisation. Khrushchev and his accompaniment travelled back from Warsaw to Moscow. Negotiations in Zagreb between the Hungarian and Yugoslavian delegations. And now the details. Budapest. There has been a break within SYA. According to the information of Szabad Ifjúság, three thousand university students seceded from the organisation and formed a new, autonomous youth organisation called AHUCS. The students of the Faculty of Arts of Szeged have been arranging meetings for days, at which they have been claiming the foundation of a new, autonomous youth organisation, the realisation of university reforms, orders and socialist democracy. They also decided to form AHUCS during these meetings. Albert Kónya, the Secretary of Education promised to think the claims over. He announced that they would introduce the facultative education of languages. The new university organisation, called AHUCS, stresses in its assembly decrees that SYA could not lead the movement of students, did not fight consequently for their true claims. The journal called Szabad Ifjúság judges the impatience of the students to be just. […] We transmit the column of Gallicus, Reflektor. The today Reflektor is about the revolution of the youths of Szeged. There is a storm in Szeged, a devastating storm; we could hear it on the official mouthpiece of Budapest. There is a storm in Szeged, indeed, though it is due not to the forces of nature but to the elemental uprisal of young souls. But why do they call it devastating? It is likely to be devastating for the system but may be or surely it is purifying and improving for the nation. So there is a storm in Szeged, an almost revolutionary storm. A storm of not only words and ideals, but also of actions because those youngsters who marched on to the intellectual barricades in the metropolis along river Tisza marched out of SYA as well and created the Association of Hungarian University and College Students all of a sudden. Let us just think it over what this turn means. Namely SYA was the corral in which the system (not regretting any kind of sacrifice, not boggling at any kind of terror) wanted to force in and did force in youth. Future is ours – they announced. This future has torn down the harness in Szeged and elsewhere, this future left the red corral disdainfully and is waving the same flags with the same slogans on them which were flirted by the youth of 1848. We lost a battle but not the war, said Admiral De Gaulle at the tragic moment of the treading out of France. The young soldiers of the intellectual barricades say the opposite: they won a battle but not the war. […] Here is the daily news. Our today programme is completely dedicated to the western reactions of the Hungarian student movements. We review the irregularly bulky reports and comments of the large western papers concerning the Hungarian youth events. We read up the account of Gergely Vasvári. Hungarian and Polish words have been catching the eyes of passer-bys on foreign paper stands. Readers can see the events of Warsaw, Szeged and Pécs among the first-page political news. The demonstrations, claims, feverish organising work and the break with SYA of the Hungarian students are considered to be an event of enormous importance and commented in an irregularly bulky and friendly way.’
Gergely Vasvári quoted from the larger American, English, French, Italian and German papers, which stated that: ’the movement of youth is a dramatic one, the students press for better standards of living, rights of freedom and national independence not only for themselves but also for the whole nation. […] The news of the uprisal of the youth broke through the iron curtain.’ The programmes were called back on 23 October 1998 on the basis of the original tape record in Kossuth Radio in the programme called Forum In The Mirror of Time, The Week of Momentum.
Throughout the evening the new edition of Hétfői Hírlap came out in Budapest, in which Péter Halász reported about the meeting of Szeged on the third page titled Among Twenty-Year-Olds. The author wrote the followings in his letter about the circumstances of the publication to editor László Péter on 17 September 1998: ’Some hours after the assembly I drove back to Budapest. The next day, on Sunday morning, I went into the editorial board, sat down to the typewriter and wrote an 8-10-page long article as I can recall. At noon I did still not hear about my writing so I went to Boldizsár (Iván Boldizsár, the editor in chief) to ask his opinion. I could not get in. His secretary, Erzséber Forgyács whispered to me that Lajos Ács, who was the member of the secretariat of the political committee of the party, had arrived at the editorial board an hour earlier. Ács ordered Boldizsár to get the writing or its impression brought back from the printing house, because he was informed that a workmate of the journal had been in Szeged and the political committee wanted to know what was written about the assembly of the university students. Boldizsár did not change my article but Ács clamoured for some deletions and inserts, so my writing was tamed (in a moderate approach), «general secret election» turned into «democratic election» and somewhere the emphasising of «marxist-leninist» principles was inserted. So the harsh political report turned into a «colourful account»’ (Szegedi Műhely, 1999/1-4., p.108.).
Monday, 22 October
School went on without any disturbance, but the next memoir characterises the altered atmosphere really precisely: ’I can recall one thing sharply. Everything was torn down from the information board, there was only an article pinned up on it: Now we enlive history…’ (Lóránt Czigány: Where I Stand, Where I Go, p. 380.).
Lóránt Czigány went to the editorial board of Szegedi Egyetem in the afternoon and – referring to the declaration of the previous assembly – forced them to accept an announcement in which they stated: ’The editorial board – after reconsidering its work – decided to continue its work along basically new principles … it will consequently fight for dealing with the questions, askings and claims of students’ (ibid p. 308.).
Meanwhile the negotiations started in the residence of SYA in Budapest. The SYA leaders of Szeged who knew András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss testified the followings during the investigation in the spring of 1957: ’There was a negotiation in the central leading board of SYA on 22 October where Lejtényi and Kiss represented the AHUCS of Szeged. While I was at present they did not take the floor in the debate. Then they left the building and went to a university (of economics) and they only came back around noon. I do not know anything about their further activities because I travelled back to Szeged in the afternoon.’ 38
’We formed a committee to outline the rules and regulations and another to formulate the political programme scheme of the student deputies of the countryside and Budapest to the proposal of the SYA CLB. András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss were in the rules and regulations committee. The two committees had two separated rooms with one hall where there was a telephone. I can remember clearly that Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss made phone calls frequently, which shows their close contact with different universities.
In the morning of 23 October one of them informed me that they went to Gödöllő on Monday evening and took the floor on the general assembly of the University of Agriculture and according to them they received standing ovation.’ 39
The service report made with the third SYA leader on 23 August 1957 contains the followings: ’Comrade Görög said that he and Árpád Árvai law student of the fifth grade travelled to Budapest to the SYA CLB where they had negotiations concerning the establishment of a new youth organisation. The AHUCS envoys of the different universities like András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss also took part in it. They were divided into two groups. The first group outlined the rules and regulations and the second the programme scheme. Lejtényi and Kiss were sent into the first group with comrade Görög. Kiss and Lejtényi went into the city shortly after the beginning of the work to visit different universities. György Ziaja, student of the University of Technology, who lived in Budapest can also provethat Tamás Kiss and András Lejtényi took part in the assembly held on the University of Technology.
On that day and then the following day they left the SYA CLB several times in the company of the AHUCS envoys of Budapest. They often made phone calls to different universities as well as throughout their stay at the SYA CLB.
It could also be figured out that the AHUCS envoys of Budapest were under the influence of Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss, it seemed they led them. This assumption can be proved by the circumstance that they went out to visit the universities and they kept in close phone contact.’ 40
As it was mentioned earlier, the two AHUCS envoys of Szeged took part in the general assembly of the University of Technology (Budapest) and Agriculture (Gödöllő). They told the aims and the previously accepted political claims of AHUCS in both events and asked the students to join them.
Then the students of the University of Technology accepted the famous announcement containing the political claims, the first sentence of which is: ’We share the proposal of the students of Szeged and we formed the local AHUCS of the University of Technology, Building Industry and Traffic.’
The students of other universities also asked the envoys of Szeged to join their assemblies.
A quotation from the minutes of the University of Economics made on 22 October 1956, from the speech of Róbert Bohó: ’In the name of Petőfi Circle I would like to welcome the student assembly of the University of Economics. Another message: I have been just asked on telephone by the AHUCS envoys of Szeged staying in Pest to give their greetings and good wishes. They have so much work to do that they cannot come here (applause).’
In order to fulfill the invitations ’Tamás Kiss phoned me from Budapest on 22 October to ask me to travel to Budapest with someone and find him at the address 8 Lenin Bld., where two student friends of Kiss lived. I went to Budapest alone by train on that day because there was nobody to join me. I could not find him at the given address. The flat owner said that he had not even been there. There was another youth there who was waiting for Kiss, Pál Szabó from Szeged, from the Faculty of Natural Sciences. Later, as I was informed, Tamás Kiss stayed at the meeting held on the University of Technology. I remained in the flat with Szabó to spend the night there. Throughout the same night, around midnight the two students arrived at the flat who had also visited that assembly. They informed us that Tamás Kiss got a place in a youth hostel and the students of the University of Technology would be preparing for a huge demonstration on 23 October’ (A detail from the testimony of Imre Tóth). 41
It can be clearly stated from the declarations, events and contemporary documents that the following statements are true considering the events on the universities of Szeged between 13 and 23 October 1956.
- The issue of an independent university youth organisation was raised by some young students of their free will, without any outer stress. It was initiated neither by the power nor by a "reactionist" organisation.
- For three days (till 16 October) the aim of the organisation was formulated as a particular youth organisation defending their interests, though they dealt not only with educational and social but also with other claims such as the right of arranging free theoretical debates.
- Three days after the initiation the political claims suggested by the students were also enlisted in the programme and when they formulated their appeal towards the other universities on 17 October, in which they urged them to join AHUCS, it had already been decided that AHUCS would also represent political claims.
- AHUCS as an organisation – in contrast with the political system – was based on the principle of classical, direct democracy securing the members' freedom of thought, opinion and decision. They could not even imagine one-person leadership and leadership "kept away from masses".
- The political claims suggested on 16 October and accepted on 20 October consisted of those ones which were formulated two days after (22 October) on other universities of the country.
- The "points" departing from Szeged consisted of claims like the independence of the nation, restoration of national symbols, introduction of free, democratic election system, bringing the guilty ones of the last era into justice and reentering Imre Nagy into leadership.
- The deputies of Szeged visited almost every university meeting on 22 October, they introduced the programme and the principles of the rules and regulations of AHUCS and proposed to join them.
Considering these aspects, the following detail from the indictment written on 22 November 1957 and the justification of the judgement of the Highest Court sentencing a legally binding imprisonment in 1958 against the leaders of AHUCS cannot be said to be an overstatement or a distortion: ’The university students of Szeged instituted the so called organisation AHUCS. The bodies of AHUCS appeared as the ghostly facsimile of the so called «thought of Szeged» in the arena of political life. They hitched the university and college students into the cart of counterrevolution successfully with their chauvinist, nationalist and pseudosocialist slogans. […] The accused persons basically initiated and started a movement when they raised the issue of establishing AHUCS […] the aims, the political claims and the programme of AHUCS soon turned against the basic establishment of the state. The movement started by the accused persons was an intellectual forerunner of the nationwide counterrevolutionary acts and emerged into counterrevolution. The accused persons acted intentionally because their consciousness considering their political skills definitely apprehended that their political claims could lead to the dethronement of worker dictatorship.’
Tuesday, 23 October
Lectures were still kept at the colleges and the universities of Szeged and another AHUCS meeting was planned at the college.
The AHUCS envoys of Szeged took part in the demonstration in Budapest, András Lejtényi and Tamás Kiss got on the lorry of the Petőfi Circle equipped with speakers because they met the leaders of Petőfi Circle they had got aqcuainted with a few days earlier. They marched from Bem Square to the Parliament, then to the Radio. In the meantime Kiss went to look for Imre Tóth, who had arrived in Budapest earlier on that day. Then they walked together to the building of the Radio.
Meanwhile, the students of Szeged started to fix up a demonstration instead of a meeting because they got information about the events going on in Budapest – the issue of a demonstration had already been raised during the assembly of 20 October but then the leaders of the university had dissuaded the students successfully. They started to set it up in the Gyula Juhász Youth Hostel around the early evening hours.
Zoltán Volosinovszky law student took the lead of the demonstrators around half past seven, and then they started to march towards the centre of the city through Dóm Square. Throughout the march the students coming from various youth hostels or walking on the street also joined them and in Dugonics Square there was a national flag at the lead of the march. The first slogans hurrahed the Polish then came the "If you are Hungarian, join us!" sentence. The number of demonstrators grew gradually; the inhabitants also joined the students.
In the meantime the leaders and the teachers of the university took part in a concentrated party assembly in Auditorium Maximum. A witness of the party assembly made the following testimony during the trial of József Perbíró dr.: ’During the evening, around 5 o'clock there was a concentrated party assembly led by Gábor Fodor at the university on 23 October, we had to go there. The meeting was about the alteration of the personal compound of the university's political committee. Mainly comrade Béla Karácsonyi and comrade Lajos Székely were attacked. But during the debate someone suddenly broke into the great hall and announced that AHUCS was about to start a demonstration and they gathered in Dóm Square. Then the participants unanimously decided to join the students and try to soothe them there.’ 42
More and more people joined the demonstrating students in the centre of the city and when they reached the theatre, Tibor Bitskey, an actor, welcomed them by telling the poem titled Nemzeti dal. Then the demonstrators turned into Lajos Kossuth Avenue. Dezső Baróti Chancellor joined them at Anna-well. ’He went up to the front of the marchers and walked with them on Lajos Kossuth avenue then they turned into Nagykörút and they marched together to Marx Square.’ 43
When they reached the building of the State Defending Authority, "Down with the SDA!" could also be heard and the demonstrators marched towards the factories. Under the influence of the "Worker-student alliance!" watchword the workers also joined the march at the end of the shift and they went back to the theatre of which balcony had already been decorated by a Kossuth coat of arms. Then they walked to the Kossuth-statue where they read up the previously accepted political claims of AHUCS and some worker speakers added their claims then the demonstrators went home peacefully after singing Szózat. Around 23 o'clock the county party committee was congregated where ’Baróti and Fodor talked about the demonstration as a glorious, nationwide movement’. 44
The next edition of Délmagyarország reported the followings about the demonstration: ’More than two thousand students started to march from Dóm Square in the early evening hours, singing revolutionary songs, saying revolutionary slogans. The tune of Marseilles turned into the invigoration of the Polish … then, after singing the national anthem, a young member of AHUCS unfolded the aims of the demonstration and the events that happened in Budapest … A university student made a speech from the balcony of the theatre towards the demonstrators urging a worker-peasant-student alliance … The demonstrators – feeling free – marched away in a disciplined manner.’
Throughout the day there were no violent acts in the city since the local and state party leaders ruled only a smaller amount of police and army units.
Between 24 October and 6 November
During the revolution and the war of independence the nationwide initiating and leading role of the students of Szeged and AHUCS vanished and their activity was restricted to Szeged.
But the university, the university leaders and professors – through their authoritative positions – had still a great impact on the events going on in the city.
On 24 October the students – being conscious of the events of Budapest – did not visit the lectures. The university leaders also decided to cancel lectures and direct the students coming from the countryside (80-90% of the enscripted students) home; however, they did not really manage. Due to the difficulties of public transport and their will to take part in the events most of the students did not travel home.
A part of the university and college youths tried to get in touch with the workers in the factories, others watched the Russian tank troops going towards Budapest on the main routes and on the bridge over Tisza, in turn the majority gathered for a new demonstration – they planned a silent one – in front of the main building of the university in the early afternoon.
The police was certainly informed about the demonstration and they (together with the local party committee) warned the university leaders that the martial law had been announced and what is more, some police officers called the gathering youngsters upon to scatter. However, these instructions had no effect.
In the afternoon small groups of students came from the Irinyi Youth Hostel then more and more people started to demonstrate. At the beginning their aim was to announce solidarity with the revolution of Budapest and pressing university and college students for seceding from the martial law.
Some university lecturers tried to stand in the way of the students, but their efforts remained unsuccessful and, what is more, the citizens of the city joined the students soon. They formulated new slogans and demanded the removal of the red stars from public buildings.
The demonstrators went to Kenderfonó factory around 7 p.m. to summon the workers to join them.
During the afternoon of the previous day there was a youth parliament in the cultural hall of this factory and older workers also visited the meeting. The representatives of the young workers agreed with the political claims accepted by the AHUCS assembly of 20 October, and completed them with the claim of raising the living standards. The envoys of AHUCS also took the floor on this worker assembly and said that: ’Let us not realise the applaused, but the real beauty’ (Délmagyarország, 24th of October 1956, p. 5.).
Here the "Hungarian worker, join us!" and the "Russians go home!" slogans could be heard. A group of the demonstrators wanted to get into the factory as a delegation, but the leaders informed the armed forces, who were strengthened by new army troops arriving from the neighbouring basis of Szeged. The armed forces started to disperse the mass with violent acts, first they used water cannons, tear gas, then alarming shots and when these proved to be inefficient, they used beating. The demonstrators fled into the nearby youth hostels. József Perbíró dr. said the followings about it on his trial on 9 December 1957: ’I heard shooting so I ran into the stairway and 10-12 matted, bloody students, boys and girls ran in through the gate chased by 5 SSA gunmen. They stood them to the wall, cursed them and shot into the wall to threaten them.’
A group consisting of medical students fled into the Youth Hostel on Vörösmarty Street and they had a clash with the armed personnel.
This demonstration was only reported on 4 November in Szegedi Néplap: ‘The armed forces dispersed the demonstrators in front of the Kenderfonó factory. The students and the workers went towards Gyula Juhász Youth Hostel in a hurry. The steward wanted to lock the gate when 3 SSA gunmen came running, invaded the hall and shot into the floor. They went to the windows of the ground floor, stack the barrels of their guns out of the windows and stood dr. Perbíró to the wall. "Why could not you teach these bastards?" They shot over the beholders. […] The students living in Jancsó Youth Hostel arrived at home around half past seven. The SSA arrived at 8 o'clock. They shot into the wooden stairs shouting "Dogs, counterrevolutionarists!"
The demonstration of 24 October was basically an act of university and college students, the organisers of AHUCS started these demonstrations, but more and more people, citizens, workers, intellectuals and high school students joined them.
Despite the fact that martial administration was installed in cooperation with the local party and city council leaders, so the armed units occupied the public buildings, the main squares and routes, the workers and the citizens fixed up a new demonstration on 25 October. They wreathed the statue of Kossuth, marched to Széchenyi square and removed red stars from several public buildings, then they walked to the building of the party committee. In order to calm down the crowd the party committee announced that they would set up a mass meeting on Széchenyi square the following day.
In the meantime Chancellor Dezső Baróti and Professor Gábor Fodor obviated in the party committee because of the violent acts of the armed units in various youth hostels. The council of the University and the University of Medicine kept a common session and stressed the importance of cooperation of the two universities.
On that day a lot of students living not too far travelled home.
In spite of announcing the mass assembly to Széchenyi square the armed forces closed down the square on 26 October and the leader of the martial administration informed the Chancellor and asked him to direct the youngsters to the sport field of Ady Square instead of Széchenyi square. The commander also said to Baróti if the demonstrators would not obey, then he would order fire. József Perbíró asked first the party committee then the SSA leading board to call back the order of fire, but he was rejected.
The university leaders, professors and the students gathering around them stepped in front of the demonstrating crowd and tried to divert them from Széchenyi square. Their efforts had no effect, the crowd started to march towards Széchenyi square. The fusillade went off killing a worker youth and wounding several persons.
The mass scattered by the fusillade gathered later in the sport field of Ady Square and the victim of the fusillade, who was covered with a black flag, was also carried there in a national flag dipped into blood. Later they went into the Auditorium Maximum avoiding the approaching armed forces, then dispersed because of hearing about further units.
At the beginning of the demonstration a Revolution Committee was formed at the College of Pedagogical Studies. The Revolution Committee analysed the events during its sessions, they pressed for the removal of the sycophants of Stalin and Rákosi and the reappointment of the previously removed lecturers because of political causes.
The election of local factory and institution worker councils and the appointment of envoys – who later elected the City Revolution Committee in the city hall – started on 27 October in Szeged. Nearly 200 envoys took part in the session in the city hall, they presented their claims, local and nationwide ones as well. They elected the presidency, the university was represented by József Perbíró vice dean and AHUCS by Vilmos Ács college student beside the representatives of different factories and institutions. The presidency conferred with the leaders of the martial administration about the takeover and as a result of it the Revolutional National Committee was finally formed in Szeged on 29 October. The president was József Perbíró and Vilmos Ács became the member of the presidency as a supervisor of the educational department of the city council.
The Revolutional National Committee formulated a list of claims consisting of 13 points which they tried to deliver to the government by a delegation. The delegation departed on the day when Vilmos Ács was also appointed. They could only give their claims to Imre Nagy prime secretary on 30 October.
Délmagyarország reported about the memorandum given to the cabinet council in its 30 October edition. The claims included the withdrawal of the Russian troops, the renunciation of the Warsaw Treaty, the neutrality of our country, the abolishing of mandatory delivery of agricultural surplus and the liberation of the prisoners of war.
The Revolutional Council of the University of Szeged was formed on 30 October. The members of the council were: Előd Halász dr., József Perbíró dr., Béla Szőkefalvi Nagy dr. The University of Medicine also established its Council under the leadership of Károly Waltner dr. The Revolutional Council announced on its first session that they agreed with all points sent to the government (Szeged Népe, 1 November 1956).
The university revolutionary councils made decisions concerning occupational questions, the sycophants of the Rákosi-Gerő system were removed, such as lecturers, staff leaders and the Marxist departments were abolished.
There was a mass meeting in the Auditorium Maximum on 31 October kept by the students who remained in Szeged and the AHUCS envoys arriving back from Budapest – Imre Tóth and Tamás Kiss – reported about their stay, they ’talked about what they had seen in Budapest, about the massacre in Lajos Kossuth square and the mentioned that they had visited the general assembly of the University of Technology’. 45
Here András Maróti, a teacher was asked to become the leader of the university National Guard, since the city revolutionary council previously decided to form a worker and a university battalion within the National Guard. Maróti undertook the task only temporarily, from 1 November the commander of the university battalion was Barna Lazúr as first lieutenant who was a lecturer of the Department of Warfare. He removed the command base from Dózsa Barracks to Gyula Juhász Youth Hostel.
The university battalion of the National Guard got the tasks of guarding and maintaining order, such as the supervision of the SSA barrack of Öthalom near Szeged.
Szeged Népe (edition of 2 November) reported that two students who were the deputies of the Budapest Revolutionary Council had arrived from Budapest on the previous day– Páter Lantos and Tibor Balázs third grade art students. They talked about the events of the capital and they tried to get in touch with the university students of Szeged.
The next edition of Szeged Népe (3 November) was also about a university mass meeting kept in Auditorium Maximum where the deputies of the Budapest University Revolutionary Committee, Ákos S. Tóth and János Csupcsák law students told the events of Budapest. On 3 November the university of Szeged made an appeal towards all universities of the world (document 12) in which the leaders of the university asked them ’to stand by us using their moral respect in order to secure peace and the independence of our country – which are inevitable to scientific research’. The appeal was read up in the radio called Széchenyi by Gábor Fodor in English, French and German.
The next edition of Szeged Népe (4 November) published the appeal of the Szeged Revolutionary National Committee on page 3 in which they asked those students staying in Szeged or in the countryside who had not joined the national guard yet to become a member of the university battalion. ’To take part in the National Guard is a patriotic duty of every student.’
Szeged Népe also published the appeal of the University of Medicine in which they informed the students that the lectures should be restarted on 5 November, Monday morning.
Throughout the night the Soviet tank troops went through the city, occupied it and arrested the leaders of the Revolutionary National Committee.
Education could not begin ...
From 6 November
After the suppression of the revolution and the war of independence, the small number of students staying in Szeged made their following meeting on 6 November. Under the leadership of Imre Nagy, a sophomore pharmacist student – who was older than his mates, he was born in 1919 – AHUCS was reestablished and they got in touch with the worker councils. Throughout November and December Imre Nagy and Imre Tóth took part in the sessions of worker council. Their most important role was to create anti-Kádár flysheets calling for strikes. They multiplied them, made several hundred copies on a home printing machine made by Imre Tóth and spreaded them in the city. First the fly-sheets were made in the AHUCS office, which was given from the university then in a flat. Among others Ágnes Blazsó medical student, Pál Vezényi arts student, Miklós Vető and Tamás Kiss law students and János Aszalós natural science student helped to make them.
One of the fly-sheets titled "Open Letter to János Kádár" states: ’You and your government announce that you are strengthened by the confidence of Hungarian workers – however the workers express it through strikes’ and they ask the question: ’Why and where are Hungarian youths being deported and dragged away?’
They used the weapon of mockery in another flysheet titled "Political Ads": ‘We are looking for a reliable Prime Secretary suitable for any kind of service. Conditions: have a clean record, character is not necessary’ or ’I lost the trust of the nation, striker gets precious reward. Can get some hit tanks. János Kádár Prime Secretary. Address: Soviet tank No. 2745. Oil container’.
The flysheet made on 19 November called for a general obviating strike against nationwide arrests, deportations and dragaways.
In January 1957, Imre Tóth and Imre Nagy appeared once on the session of the officialy organised AHUCS in Budapest, but later, because of the experience, they quit doing any kind of activity concerning AHUCS.
György Halász and István Sersli medical students chose another way of making flysheets. They wrote flysheets with ink and glued them on street walls (document 13, 14, 15), but they were caught in the act and arrested throughout the night of 8 December.
On 14 December Éva Pusztay natural sciences student was also arrested because of spreading flysheets and she was sentenced to one year and six months imprisonment on 4 May 1957. On 13 February 1957, Tamás Grynaeus, László Ábrahám and István Kovács medical students were arrested for spreading flysheets and hiding weapons (they threw their National Guard machine guns into the River Tisza) due to an agent report. After a short trial they were sentenced to imprisonment.
On 16 January 1957, education restarted at the universities and at the college. A police report depicts the atmosphere of the opening day as follows: ’Faculty of Law: calm, rather melancholic atmosphere. No alignments or blats. Faculty of Arts: It was said that the leaders of AHUCS had gone abroad. Faculty of Natural Sciences: calm atmosphere.’
Some weeks later the Csongrád county police started to arrest the leaders of AHUCS:
Imre Tóth – 31 January;
Dezső Gönczöl – 11 May;
Iván Abrudbányai – 10 June;
Klára Kurcsa – 10 May;
Tamás Kiss (he hid from the authorities from the end of January) – 29 May.
The police found it out that András Lejtényi, Vilmos Ács, Attila Kádár, István Csete, Károly Hámori, Pál Vezényi, Tivadar Putnik, János Ambrus, Adorján Tóth and Miklós Vető "who are involved in the case of Tamás Kiss and mates No. 31-5626/57’ had fled from the country and still not returned.
The central leading board of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party made a declaration on 2 July 1957 about "Some Aspects of The Fight Against Inner Reaction" (Fusillades 1956 III. p. 93.). According to it ’the leaders and organisers of youth or other counterrevolutionary bodies who ... had excited others for counterrevolutionary acts or took part in them as organisers or instructors must be brought into justice.’
In harmony with the party declaration, the Szeged County Court (the open then closed trial lasted from 6 January 1958 to 10 February 1958) accepted the proposal of the prosecutor – who asked for the most severe judgement –, and found Tamás Kiss, Imre Tóth and Dezső Gönczöl guilty in initiating and leading a movement in order to overthrow national democratic state order. They were sentenced to eight, ten and eight years of imprisonment. The other accused persons, János Aszalós, János Tunyogi Csapó, László Soós, Iván Abrudbányai, György Csallner, István Barabás and Klára Kurcsa were found guilty in active participation in the movement and the revolution and were jailed for several years.
On 10 February 1957 József Perbíró vice-dean, the president of the Szeged Revolutionary Committee was arrested and finalyy he was sentenced to a life-long imprisonment.
On 26 April 1957 Dezső Baróti Chancellor was also arrested and sentenced to two years and six months of imprisonment on 1 October.
During the spring of 1957 the Political Investigation Department of Csongrád County Police (in cooperation with leaders of the local HSWP) presented the proposal concerning the disciplinary removals and other punishments of university teachers and workers. Disciplinary investigations started on the different faculties.
124 disciplinary investigations were run off against teachers and students with the result of different kinds of punishments. Besides József Perbíró and Dezső Baróti, sixteen lecturers were removed – nine of them went abroad according to the justifications of the disciplinary removals. Apart from these cases, twenty-five different people were taken to lower scope of activities or received written reprehension. Let us see some justifications: ’Active participation in the removal of communist lecturers’; ’Disparaging sentences about the worker-peasant government’; ’He ranked Pravda a tabloid’; ’Stated revisionist point of view’.
Those students who were considered dissidents were expelled from all universities of the country. Another 14 students expelled because of their counterrevolutionary activities ("organising AHUCS", "spreading flysheets"), 36 students received (severe) reprehension because of "joining the national guard", "organising AHUCS" or "demonstrations".
Seventeen teachers left the country from the University of Medicine, they were summarily dismissed, seven other persons received reprehension because of taking part in the revolutionary events, but they were banned from teaching. Eight dissident students were also expelled, as were eleven persons because of "counterrevolutionary" activity, nine students received reprehension or expulsion for two years.
Fifteen persons left the country from the College of Pedagogical Studies. They were expelled, as were other four persons for organising AHUCs and spreading flysheets and two persons received reprehension.
Szeged is silent, silent again...
On 20 October 1990, thirty-four years later, the participants held a meeting in the Auditorium Maximum, where Tamás Horváth writer, József Perbíró, Barna Lazúr, Tamás Kiss and Imre Tóth recalled the events.
- The documents of Szeged County Court. The trial of Tamás Kiss and associates. CSML B. 1249/1957
- ibid.p. 198.
- ibid p. 99.
- ibid p. 113.
- ibid p. 103.
- ibid p. 114.
- ibid p. 169.
- ibid p. 111.
- B. 942/1957. The trial of Dezső Baróti, p. 50.
- B. 1249/1957. p. 114.
- ibid p.251.
- ibid p. 133.
- ibid p. 115
- ibid p. 115., 116.
- ibid p. 116.
- ibid p. 119.
- ibid p. 199., 200.
- N. B. 1103/1957. The trial of József Perbíró and associates, p. 134.
- B. 1249/1957., p. 443.
- ibid p. 106.
- ibid p. 111.
- B. 942/1957., p. 50., 168.
- B. 1249/1957.
- ibid p. 18.
- ibid p. 360.
- ibid p.111.
- ibid p.106.
- ibid p.135.
- ibid p.110.
- ibid p.137.
- ibid p. 462.
- ibid p. 464.
- B. 942/1957., p. 59.
- B. 1249/1957., p. 71.
- ibid p. 465.
- ibid p. 123.
- ibid p. 117.
- ibid p. 125.
- ibid p. 134.
- ibid p. 199.
- N.B. 1103/1957., p. 135.
- B. 942/1957., judgement.
- ibid p. 122.
- 1249/1957., p. 107.