|Witnesses to Cultural Genocide|
A few weeks after my final departure from Rumania, I came across a copy of the HUNGARIAN HERALD. After reading the announcement for the essay contest, I felt that through divine providence the occasion, the opportunity had practically fallen into my lap that upon my arrival in the free world, immediately, putting all my other work aside, I expose to the public all that which burdens my soul. Of the generation of intellectuals in Transylvania which grew to maturity following World War II, I am perhaps the only one who has successfully departed to the West in recent years. All that which I saw, experienced and lived through entitles me, I feel, to testify about all that which has happened to the Hungarians of Transylvania after 1945. I was an eyewitness to that refined, underhanded, completely thought out and deliberate process of nationality oppression, whose objective is the slow, gradual annihilation of Transylvanian Hungarian culture and art.
I lived in Transylvania for thirty years. The representatives of intellectual-artistic activity in Kolozsvar, Marosvasarhely and Sepsiszentgyorgy were practically all personal acquaintances of mine. I was employed for years by Hungarian universities in Transylvania (while they still existed) and the Hungarian sections of museums. I was an outside contributor to all of the Hungarian newspapers and periodicals which appeared in Transylvania. I gave several hundred presentations on the Hungarian-language program of the Rumanian radio station, thereby gaining thorough exposure to the backstage secrets in this area as well.
For years, I was tied by bonds of friendship to those who lost their lives. I was among those to whom Laszlo Szabedi bid farewell with a final handshake at the piano concert of Gyorgy Halmos. We did not know, but he already did, that on that same night, the wheels of the Bucharest express train would do away with him. I had ties of personal friendship with Istvan Nagy, the illustrious pupil of Zoltan Kodaly, who made an unsuccessful attempt at suicide in 1957. I also had occasion to follow at direct, first hand range, the calvary of Gabor Gaal and the tragic fate which befell Lajos Jordaky. Domokos Szilagyi, the author of BARTOK 1N AMERICA and many other outstanding poems, who hung himself in the Hoja forest, was my daily table companion for years. Maria Foldes - with her nerves shattered, she succeeded in leaving Rumania, but was unable to bear the shock of emigration and committed suicide in Israel - had been a good friend of mine since 1947. I mixed in the same company with Eva Balogh, the actress from the Hungarian Theater of Kolozsvar, who threw herself in front of the train before my emigration. The aesthete Laszlo Forro he and I attended the same university for years - chose death by gas inhalation in Marosvasarhely.
In my essay, I will deal primarily with those questions which pertain to Rumanianization as it relates to policies on education and religion, and its general cultural/artistic dimensions. With regard to these questions, I have had occasion to gain thorough insight. I do not feel equally qualified to discuss the problems concerning management of the economy, efforts to resettle the population, and domestic and foreign policy. I am aware that the material presented below is far from exhaustive regarding this subject matter and that in actuality, the problems touched upon here will serve only as a source of guidance for researchers of tomorrow. At this point, I also ask the Reader's forgiveness if, parallel to the objective, scientific research data assembled in my essay, he will also encounter occasional shows of emotion. The Reader should keep in mind, however, that all of these brilliant personalities, the standard-bearers of Transylvanian Hungarian culture, who will pass before his mind's eye in the following pages, were personal good friends of mine and died as heroes on the barricades in a tragic struggle which rages on to this very day.
POLICY ON EDUCATION
In the area of policy on education the years 1946-1947 were characterized by two seemingly contradictory but in essence closely interrelated and complementary factors. The Rumanian administrative organs at the highest level were constrained to grant far-reaching concessions to the Hungarian population. At the lower and local levels, however, the most open and brutal manifestations of chauvinism were given complete freedom to vent themselves.
The policy of the Rumanian government in this regard had well-founded reasons. It is common knowledge that when Rumania "pulled out" (of the war) on August 23, 1944, one of its demands was that the three great powers guarantee the annexation of Transylvania to Rumania. Actually, this desire was ratified by the September 1944 agreement signed in Moscow. The Soviet troops however - witnessing the outrages and systematic anti-Hungarian acts committed at every turn in Haromszek, Gyergyo and Kolozs Counties by the Maniu gangs - were reluctant, through 1945, to hand over full authority in Northern Transylvania. Only after March 5, 1946, when Soviet tanks lined up in front of the royal castle in Bucharest and King Michael, influenced by the ultimatum, appointed the Groza government, did the Russians see - above all, in light of the personal prestige of Groza and his friendly ties with the Hungarian people - sufficient guarantee that the Rumanian government would be able to not only practice real, administrative and executive authority in the Northern Transylvanian territories reannexed to Rumania, but also counterbalance the mistrust of Budapest and Western public opinion.
The Groza government did, in fact, take serious measures. A Hungarian medical college came into being in Marosvasarhely, and the "Bolyai University of Science" was established along side the Rumanian "King Ferdinand" University in Kolozsvar. The Catholic Hungarian schools and teachers' colleges were able to continue functioning with government subsidy. A Szekely theater was formed in Marosvasarhely, a Hungarian theater in Nagyvarad, and a Hungarian music and drama college in Kolozsvar. In all places throughout Transylvania wbere Hungarians lived and flourished, bilingual signs and inscriptions were mandatory. In his speeches in Marosvasarhely, Kolozsvar, Nagyvarad and Sepsiszentgyorgy, Prime Minister Peter Groza took care to always specially address the Hungarians in the audience in eloquent Hungarian.
The nationalistic elements brought up for decades by the Rumanian "historical parties" in the most savage chauvinistic, Iron Guardist spirit, did not sit by and observe all of this in idle passivity. During these early years, the legally sanctioned rights of the Hungarian population were already systematically circumvented, and the Rumanian authorities acknowledged the manifestations of chauvinism without taking any counter-measures. This was especially striking in Kolozsvar where the students, Rumanians and Hungarians alike, had strong organizations. It was useless to establish the (Hungarian]) REFHOSz (Rumanian National Association of College and University Students) parallel to the [Rumanian] UNSR (National Union of Students in Rumania), because the Hungarian meetings were regularly broken up. The Hungarian gatherings organized in the Bolyai University Assembly Hall were systematically disturbed by Iron Guardists and Maniu elements, and the performances of Istvan Nagy's concert choir were sabotaged. Indeed, attempts were made even up to the last minute to block the opening performance of Kodaly's Missa Brevis held in the Matyas Church in 1947 by cancelling the permit forthe concert. The Rumanians' seemingly spontaneous, but in fact very highly organized program of action boldly manifested itself in the other areas of everyday life as well. The "result" was the internal isolation of the Hungarian population. In this setting, for a short time the Hungarian population could assure its own internal unity and organization, because the Hungarian schools, universities, cultural institutes and institutions still existed. In addition, the Catholic Church still represented a significant force.
It was at this time that the government decided upon the educational reform, which was actuaily instituted only in l948 after it was officlaliy prociaimed by the Rumanian People's Republic. The reform had two noteworthy characteristics:
(1) introduction of mandatory teaching of the Rumanian language in all schools, including the Hungarian universities, and
(2) the radical reinterpretation, or "reorganization" of history books and education in the field of history.
The Hungarians of Transylvania reacted with understandable sensitivity. It was in vain that the Rumanian Party activists and their Hungarian footsoldiers tried to explain away the intent of these measures as actually serving the cause of Rumanian-Hungarian fraternity. Resistance was especially open at the Hungarian universities. At meetings, professors and students stood up and said: "All right, we approve of the measures in theory. After all, we live in Rumania and we must know the language of the country. But in Transylvania, teaching of the Hungarian language to Rumanians should also be introduced." The Transylvanian section of the Social Democratic Party, which still existed at that time, went even further. A task force consisting of Party veterans drew up a memorandum whose main point was that in the Transylvanian school system - given that Transylvania is a tri-national geographic region - the teaching of all three languages, Rumanian, Hungarian and German should be mandatory.
The uniform history books printed during the 1948-49 academic year provoked unprecedented confusion, because even the Rumanian historians were unable to formulate a unified, official position. The so-called "great Rumanians" continued to argue in favor of the Daco-Rumanian theory, while the apostles of the official and still operative Communist line - clearly at Muscovite prompting - explained the origin of the Rumanian people through emphasis on Slavic elements, thereby thoroughly cutting down the prestige of the "Curentul latinist" camp. But this is not what was offensive to the Hungarian and German minorities. The Hungarian families and Hungarian community anxiously watched over the passing down to their children of the ancient history of the Hungarian people, Hungarian traditions, the ancestral homeland and the original settlement of Hungarians in that homeland. The Saxons and Swabians the two groups which comprise the German minority had proudly advertised to their children the identitv of those who 800 years ago gave them a home in Transylvania. Beginning in 1948, children leamed little or nothing about all of these facts, but studied all the more about the origin of the Rumanian people and their 'indisputable rights" with regard to Transylvania. All of this led to endless arguments in the faculty rooms and brought parents into uncomfortable situations at home. But above all, this signified the first carefully considered sowing of the seeds which later grew into the plants of Rumanianization.
The 1948 reform in the field of education was followed by the 1950 reform in fine arts instruction. This was the first radical educationa] reform which affected the Hungarian institutions of higher education. Prior to this, however - obviously in order to temper somewhat the impact of the measures to be instituted in 1950 - the Ministry of Fine Arts had already implemented a provisional reform during the 1948-49 academic year it dissolved the Hungarian Music and Drama College of Kolozsvar and established the Hungarian Fine Arts Institute of Kolozsvar, with three Hungarian and one Rumanian faculties. But parallel to fhis measure, it also created the Rumanian Fine Arts Institute in Kolozsvar, giving it four faculties as well.
The reform in fine arts instruction instituted in 1950 had a strong, negative impact expressly on Hungarian cu]tural and artistic life. To begin with the Hungarian Fine Arts Institute of Kolozsvar was liquidated. In place of the music faculty, the "George Dima" Conservatory was created in which a "Hungarian section" was also established. In the same way, the "Ion Andreescu" Drama School received a Hungarian section. The faculty on choreography was dissolved completely, and a dance school was created in its place - with no Hungarian section. But a small piece of candy was also tossed to the Hungarians: the "Istvan Szentgyorgyi" Drama School came in to being in Marosvasarhely. Isolated almost completely from the cultural bloodstream of the country, this school was suited exclusively to the purpose of insuring that the Transylvanian Hungarian Theater could be supplied with a minimum number of new personnel.
This was followed by a period of relative calm. Time was needed for the seeds which had been sown to take root. Further more, the regime needed time to install politically appropriate individuals in appropriate positions at the schools and universities. The situation which developed after the liquidation of the Social Democratic Party had to be normalized, and order had to be imposed in the UTM Youth Organization which had survived as the only youth group after the youth organizations were dissolved in 1949. The Stalinist cadre policy had to be implemented, "inappropriate elements" had to be weeded out of the faculty staffs, and purges had to be executed among the student population as well. Time was needed for all of this. In fact, all these acts would have been systematically executed had something not occurred which the Rumanians did not anticipate: on October 23, 1956, the revolution broke out in Budapest.
After the revolt was crushed and its sympathizers in Rumania were neutralized, the Rumanians saw that the time had come for the decisive blow. According to the official explanation, separate Rumanian and Hungarian-language instruction at the college level did not serve the cause of Rumanian-Hungarian fratemal cooperation. On the contrary, it nourished isolationist tendencies. The Party established a working group which had to draw up proposals by the end of the 1957-58 aacademic year for merging Rumanian and Hungarian university instruction. The group was also responsible for working out the relevant administrative measures, including the expulsion from universities of all those who did not agree with the Party line.
CONCENTRATED ATTACK ON THE
As it later tumed out, the Rumanian central organs had executed a well-prepared, concentrated attack against a selected group of representatives of the Transylvanian Hungarian population. Regardless of philosophical/ideological differences, this group had still arrived at a common denominator with regard to one question: the roots of the ethnic affiliation of the Hungarians in Transylvania are sacred and immutable, regardless of whether this group is labelled "of the Rumanian land", or a "Carpathian ethnographic community", or is defined by any other phrase. During those years, numerous articles were written about this subject, especially by Gabor Gaal, Laszlo Szabedi and Edgar Balogh, the Transylanian Hungarian press
These were the chosen victims of the assault.
Gabor Gaal was the first to be accused. In view of the enormous amount of published material which has accumulated since that time and is now publicly available, I will write only briefly about the case of Gabor Gaal. First, the Party assigned a numerically small group to publicly denounce Gabor Gaal in the Transylvanian Hungarian press. Following this, he was dismissed from the university and removed as editor-in-chief of the literary joumal UTUNK (Our Road). Next, at the recommendation of the "Csehi Group", he was expelled from the Party. By this time, his complete isolation was mere child's play. (Fifteen years after his death he was rehabilitated by the Party. His correspondence and unpublished manuscripts - which his wife and daughter had preserved - were published in three volumes, and Sandor Toth wrote a two-volume, more or less authentic monograph about him. To soothe their guilty consciences, the Rumanians published this monograph - in a very limited number of copies - in the Rumanian language as well. A commemorative plaque was placed in Gabor Gaal's last apartment in Kolozsvar, and in 1975 a street was also named after him. Thus, the Gabor Gaal "finished off" after 1956 became a martyr in 1976.) The essence of the resolutions urged by the Partyó - and of course unanimously endorsed - was the following:
(A) The Hungarian "Bolyai University of Science" in Kolozsvar will be dissolved.
(B) A Rumanian university, under the name of "Babes Bolyai", will be created in Kolozsvar, with Hungarian sections.
(C) The Hungarian medical college in Marosvasarhely wil] be dissolved.
(D) A Rumanian medical college, under the name of "Institutul Medico-Farmaceutic", will be created in Marosvasarhely, with Hungarian sections.
(E) Secretaries of the Central Committee will explain the reasons for and soundness of these measures at mass meetings convened especially for this purpose and attended by the freshly appointed faculty staffs of the newly created universities.
On the occasion of the mass meeting held at the University House in Kolozsvar, the building and surrounding streets were encircled in cobweb-like fashion by leather-jacketed Securitate men. Only those with invitations were allowed to pass through the police cordons. At the same time those who had received invitations and failed to appear, received a court summons and had to justify their absence. The meeting began at 9:00 o'clock in the morning and lasted until 11:00 o'clock at night. No one was permitted to leave the building, and all the doors were locked.
Perhaps it would not be without interest if I mentioned before all else that the Party had entrusted (the then still relatively young) Nicolae Ceausescu to preside over the meeting.
As the first item on the agenda, Vasile Vajda (Rumanian spelling) (alias Laszlo Vajda) [Hungarian spelling] briefly recited the Party decisions. A brief intermission was ordered, followed by the general discussion.
During the break I had a discussion with Szabedi. His intuition - which never failed him - suggested that something big was in the air. He said he was at a loss as to what to do. He had been ordered by the Party to comment on the decisions in a "constructive spirit". Word for word, the following is what he said: "My impression is that no matter what I say, they will find fault with it anyway." As it tumed out, his suspicions were justified-.
Even though twenty years have passed, I recall the entire scene and Szabedi's exact words: "In the name of the professors and departments of the faculty of linguistics and literature at the Hungarian 'Bolyai' University of Sciences in Kolozsvar, I wish to comment on the foregoing statements. The 'Bolyai' University of Sciences, which already has a decade of rich achievement behind it, has won considerable prestige throughout Europe and has placed a substantial list of published works into the European intellectual-academic bloodstream. In 1946, when the Groza govemment created this university. . .
"At this moment, Ceausescu grabbed the microphone and crudely interrupted Szabedi's words, yelled the following:
"You are trying to tell us, are you not, that Groza created this university in 1946 and that the reason we are here now is to dissolve it? Aren't you ashamed of yourself? How dare you stand there and spread such anti-Party, Hungarian nationalistic-chauvinistic propaganda?
"The words froze in Szabedi's throat. One could hear the sound of a fly buzzing around in the assembly hall. Ceausescu had accomplished his goal by embarrassing the speaker, who lost the train of thought to his speech. It was a pitiful spectacle as the always confident, bright-eyed Szabedi, hemming and hawing, muttered a few meaningless phrases then exercised some luke-warm self-criticism and finally, sinking completely into his own thoughts, shuffled off the stage.
After another intermission, a new bomb exploded. Daicoviciu, the newly chosen rector, handed Ceausescu a small piece of paper. The presiding members whispered briefly among them-selves, after which Ceausescu arose and, holding the slip ofpaper in his hand, stepped up to the microphone. . .
"Is Comrade Professor Ervin Dezso present?"
-"Yes," came the sound from a trembling voice in the assembly hall.
-"Is Comrade Adjunct Professor Laszlo Foldes also present?"
Ceausescu: "I request you to state before all of us gathered here, what you said during the intermission about Szabedi and Edgar Balogh."
What followed was another public "humiliation". Edgar Balogh and Istvan Nagy were then ordered to the microphone. By this time, they knew enough to exercise repentant selfcriticism for all the sins - which they never committed. They assured the Party Centrai Committee that they would be loyal followers of the Party line. After this, the presiding members' task was an easy one. For the rest of the day, until nighttime, only the yes-men, Rumanian and Hungarians, spoke. The last speaker was Constantin Daicoviciu, the new rector of the new university. (In 1939, immediately prior to the Iron Guard insurrection, he had stalked the streets of Brasso and Kolozsvar in a green shirt, with two pistols in his belt. According to the later, official explanation, he was carrying out a "Party assignment" by "infiltrating" the ranks of the Iron Guard.) Daicoviciu spoke first in Rumanian, then in Hungarian. He assured the Hungarians that he would be vigilant in protecting Hungarian nationality rights and would not tolerate any form of chauvinist manifestation.
I saw Szabedi two more times. A few days later, we met by accident one morning in front of the Astoria Hotel, and subsequently, at the piano concert of Gyorgy Halmos.
In the dressing room after the performance, he squeezed the Master's hand at great length: "Congratulations. It was beauti ful." While departing, he embraced me as well and shook by hand. He already knew then that on the same evening, he would throw himself in front of the train.
|Witnesses to Cultural Genocide|