Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

tated to the radical wing of the party and established close relations with the underground Communist party of Hungary, led by Ferenc Donath. In 1944, in Debrecen, Erdei was present at the establishment of the Provisional Government under Soviet auspices. The following year he had a brief stint as minister of the interior, a sign of his close affiliation with the communists. It was during his tenure as interior minister that the communists took control of the regular police apparatus and began building the dreaded secret police with Soviet KGB advisers. In 1948, when the Stalinization of Hungary began, the Erdei-led National Peasant party simply became a front organization for the Communist party. It remained in existence throughout the communist era as a transmission belt of communist policies toward the rural population.

Erdei was an eager collaborator with Matyas Rakosi (see Rakosi, Matyas) and his entourage in turning Hungary into a Soviet colony. During the height of the Stalinist terror, Erdei was minister of state without portfolio. He retained his post during the first premiership of Imre Nagy from 1953 to 1955 (see Nagy, Imre). By then, Erdei had changed his views and supported the moderate course embraced by the Imre Nagy government (see Nagy, Imre). When Nagy was ousted and Rakosi returned to power in 1955, Erdei was elevated to the vice presidency of the council of ministers. He remained in that post for one year.

After the Revolution of 1956 (see Revolution of 1956), Erdei was a completely discredited politician. Although he once again became a turncoat and pledged his allegiance to the counterrevulotionary government of Janos Kadar (see Kadar, Janos), the new dictator wanted nothing to do with Erdei. In 1964, however, he was appointed president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, a highly politicized post, and he remained in office until 1970.


Bibliography

Aczel Tamas, and Meray Tibor, The Revolt of the Mind ( London, 1961); Held Joseph, "Hungary on a Fixed Course," in Joseph Held, ed. The Columbia History of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century ( New York, 1992), pp. 204-228; Kovrig Bennett, Communism in Hungary from Kun to Kadar ( Stanford, CA, 1979).

Expulsion of Ethnic Germans. Ethnic Germans living in Hungary were collectively made responsible for the excesses of the German Nazis. The truth was that some of them did collaborate with Adolf Hitler's minions, but the majority of them had remained passive. The Allies nevertheless agreed that the ethnic Germans would be removed from Eastern Europe after the war.

In 1945, after the war was over, Hungarian authorities collaborated with the Red Army in rounding up about 65,000 ethnic German civilians, mostly young men and women, who were then deported to the Soviet Union for "reparation works." More than half of the ethnic Germans never returned; they died of starvation and ill treatment in Soviet concentration camps. The survivors were permitted to return to Hungary in 1950 and were promptly arrested by the Hungarian secret police. They were interned until 1956.

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