Show Trials: Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe, 1948-1954

By George H. Hodos | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 4
THE FIELD CONNECTION

The Rajk trial in Hungary was the first pure postwar show trial in Eastern Europe. It served as a model for all the satellite countries. Representatives of the security services of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany came to Budapest to study its organization and procedure.

It was in Budapest that the legend of Noel Field was first created -- the master spy from the United States who, during the war, recruited communists in exile for the U.S. espionage network and who ended up serving as liaison between the imperialists and Tito in order to undermine the east European communist parties. The fiction of Noel Field resulted in death and imprisonment for hundreds of communists in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. Additional thousands of people fell victim to the charge of being friends, acquaintances, or fellow workers with people who knew Field. 1 The Field fiction provided the initial impetus for the Prague show trials and its ominous shadows spread over those in Warsaw and East Berlin. The name of Field was used when an attempt was made to put a noose around the neck of Gomułka and in preparing the gallows for the leading East German communists Paul Merker and Franz Dahlem.

In the latter cases, however, the executioners had run out of time. The death sentences in the Slánský trial were announced on November 27, 1952. Four months later, on March 5, 1953, Stalin died, and in December his chief hangman, Beria, was executed as a British spy. From the Soviet Union, preoccupied with the struggle for succession, came the orders for Ulbricht in the German Democratic Republic and for Bierut in Poland to halt the proceedings. The Field avalanche, started in Budapest, was slowed and later completely halted, and with it the succession of murderous postwar show trials.

* * *

The story of Noel Haviland Field is part of one of the most exciting, darkest, and hopeless periods of world history. 2 He was born in London, on January 23, 1904, the son of Dr. Herbert Haviland Field, scion of a respected Quaker family in the United States and a man with an international reputation as a biologist.

-25-

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