Traitors: Suspicion, Intimacy, and the Ethics of State-Building

By Tobias Kelly; Sharika Thiranagama | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
The Man in the White Raincoat: Betrayal and
the Historian’s Task

István Rév

In the late morning of 30 October 1956, revolutionaries attacked the headquarters of the Budapest Party committee, next to the City Opera in the eighth district of the city. Most probably, it was not a well-planned, premeditated siege; the attack was triggered by unsubstantiated and never-confirmed rumors about the existence of underground prisons and torture chambers with hundreds of prisoners, women and children among them. The Ministry of Defense sent six tanks to assist the communist defenders, but the head of the unit and the driver of the leading tank were both unfamiliar with that part of the city. The tanks, which had come to Budapest from a location sixty kilometers away, mistakenly started shelling the party headquarters, from whose windows the defenders were shooting at the attacking crowd. In the process, they completely ruined the City Opera, while the insurgents in their turn stormed and occupied the party headquarters, brutally killing the parliamentarians who had been sent out under a white flag to negotiate a ceasefire. “We fucked up,” said Major Gallo, the head of the unit, summarizing the results of the unlucky expedition at his post-revolutionary trial in 1957 (Eörsi 2006, 80). Altogether 26 communists were killed in what turned out to be the bloodiest anti-Communist atrocity during the thirteen days of the 1956 revolution. There is speculation, even today, that the Soviets eventually decided to come back to defeat the revolution by military might as a consequence of the bloodbath on October 30. Several Western photographers and photojournalists were on the square at the time of the siege. George Sadovy sent a photo report to Life, which was reproduced all over the world. A number of film crews documented the events, and after the defeat of the revolution, the photographs and the footage of the fighting were used by the Communist courts that tried

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