Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

Maleter, Pal (1917-1958). Maleter became one of the martyr heroes of the Revolution of 1956 (see Revolution of 1956). He was born in a small town in Czechoslovakia. His father, a teacher in a local school, was an ardent Hungarian patriot. Maleter wanted to be a professional soldier, but not in Czechoslovakia. But this was not possible. Therefore, he went to Charles University in Prague and studied medicine. When Hungary regained parts of Slovakia in 1940, Maleter went to Budapest where he joined the officers' training academy. He studied military science for three more years. In 1942, he graduated valedictorian of his class and received his commission as lieutenant in the Hungarian army. When the First Hungarian Army was mobilized to fight against the Soviet Union in 1944, Maleter was sent to the front. In May, he was captured. While in a prisoner of war camp, he was persuaded by a Hungarian exile communist leader to become a Soviet officer.

Maleter received further training at the Soviet military academy at Kiev and, during the second half of 1944, he fought in Transylvania. He received medals for bravery from the front commander, General R. Ia. Malinovski. After the war had ended, Maleter remained a professional soldier. He was stationed at Balassagyarmat with the rank of captain of the border guards. In 1948, he was already a member of the Republican Guard entrusted with the security of the country's leaders. As a major, he also served as a liaison officer in the ministry of defense. But his new masters did not fully trust the lanky soldier. Although he was promoted to colonel, he was moved to a group entrusted with formulating the training manual of the Hungarian infantry. In 1953, his private life was also disturbed; he was divorced from his wife.

During the first prime ministership of Imre Nagy (see Nagy, Imre), Maleter's fortunes began to change. He was appointed commander of the army's labor service battalions. Maleter remained in this position until 1956. During the revolution (see Revolution of 1956) in October, Maleter was sent by his communist minister to the Kilian barracks in Budapest in order to maintain order. When Maleter entered the barracks, the revolution was already in full swing, and Maleter experienced the enthusiasm of the people of the capital for change. Maleter followed his conscience. He joined the revolutionaries and defended the Kilian barracks against Soviet attacks. On October 31, Maleter was appointed deputy minister of defense in Imre Nagy's revolutionary government. He was also promoted to the rank of colonel general. On November 3, he led a high-level Hungarian delegation to the town of Tokol, where they were to meet Soviet government representatives to discuss the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary. Instead, the delegation was treacherously arrested by Soviet KGB General S. Serov, acting on Nikita Khrushchev's orders.

In January 1958, Maleter was tried by a secret tribunal of the Kadar regime, separately from other members of Imre Nagy's cabinet. Maleter was sentenced to death, and he was executed following day. He was rehabilitated and reburied in 1989.


Bibliography

Kiraly Bela K., The First War Between Socialist States. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and its Impact ( New York, 1984); Meray Tibor, Thirteen Days That Shook the Kremlin

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