AFTER THE POGROM: EVIL COMPOUNDED
After much confusion, it was later tentatively established that five people died in the events of the night of the 20th: three Hungarians and two Romanians. Two Hungarians were killed in villages on the approach to Târgu Mureş when they tried to stop Romanian trucks carrying armed peasants. The third was hit by a Romanian truck crashing its way into the town centre. On the Romanian side, one died from injuries received when the truck mentioned above, and in which he was a passenger, crashed into the stone steps of a church in the town centre. A second was found wounded in another part of town with no explanation of how or why he received his wounds. He died later in hospital.
In addition to these five dead, several hundred people were severely wounded. But here the figures were tampered with and are unreliable. The tendency was to only register the Romanian wounded, while many Hungarians were too afraid to go and seek treatment for their wounds anyway.
Doctors belonging to Vatra tried to make documents about the pogrom disappear. Dr. Brătişteanu, for instance, confiscated from a video-cameraman the cassette on which some of the injured were recorded and which also showed the first two dead, then still unidentified. These were the two elderly Hungarians, Antal Csipor and István Gémes, struck by the Romanian trucks on the way into town.
Having said that, one further thing must be mentioned: the solicitor Nicolae Juncu, Mureş county leader of the National Peasant Party, visited all the Târgu Mureş hospitals on the night of March 20-21, and reported to General Scrieciu and also to me that both the Romanian and Hungarian doctors treated the Hungarian and Romanian injured in an absolutely correct way, loyal to their Hippocratic Oath. In discussions held on March 22, Dr. Silviu Olariu, Honorary President of Vatra Românească, stressed the same.
But I can only say the same about these gentlemen as I said about the teacher Matei, (the Romanian deputy headmaster of the Bolyai Lyceum): Why did they not also tell this truth in public? Why did they permit Hungarian doctors to subsequently be slandered by the extremists’ claims in the Romanian Press that they had mistreated the Romanian wounded?
Similarly, on the subsequent evening of March 21, I asked the police to interrogate the prisoners. They answered that it was late. It seems that the day of justice (and of its administration) has still not yet come. Nobody from the Romanian assault on the Hungarians is – as yet – in jail.
Further, all through the day of the 20th, about 60 young Hungarians belonging to the MADISZ youth Organisation defended the headquarters of the Vatra Românească in the main square, so that nobody seeking revenge should damage it.
Come the Romanian assault, these young people also fled. After the attack had been repulsed, the enraged crowd broke into the Vatra office. I was able to look at the seized documents for a few moments. It was then that I read their handwritten minutes, which showed that this political organisation masquerading as a cultural one was established as early as December 27!
Mr X. who had the chance to study the documents coming from the Vatra Românească headquarters at greater leisure, told me that in addition to their secret political programme, he also found correspondence between the Vatra and President Iliescu. And he also found the list of police officers, who were Vatra members (300!), plus lawyers, etc. And the contract with Cuvîntul Liber, according to which this “independent democratic daily” undertakes to publish the propaganda of the Vatra.
Vatra also possessed photocopies of all the documents which I had signed as a county National Salvation Front Vice-President. It is with some satisfaction that I note they found nothing exceptionable in my work.
Perhaps one other discovered document should be noted. According to (Transportation) Order No. 1008., the Vatra Românească requisitioned already on March 15 – well in advance – some of the vehicles which would be needed to transport the armed attackers to the pogrom.
After 6:00 on the 21st, I went home to get a few hours’ sleep. It turned out that my flat had been guarded by young Hungarians all night.
Before I returned to the town hall that morning, I told in a 30-minute Romanian-language interview what had happened in Târgu Mureş. This interview was not broadcast by Bucharest Television.
After 9:00, together with three young people accompanying me, I tried to enter the headquarters of the Provisional Council of National Unity, guarded by the military and the police.
A non-commissioned police officer asked one of the people accompanying me to show his identity, and told me I had no business at the headquarters, since I had resigned. And incidentally, he added in Vatra fashion: “We have received sufficient beatings on account of you.”
I went home, but was soon told over the phone that I was expected, because the county leadership of the Provisional Council of National Unity was holding an extraordinary meeting.
I told my caller what had happened on my first attempt to enter the building, whereupon a military command car was sent for me and an adequately armed escort was provided. My neighbours asked whether this meant I was receiving protection – or was it indeed the opposite.
Over the next two days, I commuted between my flat and the headquarters in the same way. Of course, I did not sleep at home, but in a flat the address of which was kept secret.
During these same days, the leaders of the Vatra Românească slept inside the army garrison. Did they get protection there, or did they provide guidance there?
In this context, I was asked by Patrick Claude, the reporter of Le Monde, whether I was sleeping at home. I said that I was not. Why? Because I had fallen out with my wife. To which he impishly asked: “And when will you sleep again at home?” My answer:”When we have made peace, but currently I am not thinking of my wife.”
On March 21 the Provisional Council of National Unity called on the people of Târgu Mureş to end their demonstrations at 15:00 and go home. As a result of our long work persuasion, the Hungarians abided by the deadline. The Romanians continued to demonstrate very aggressively for several more days. In the afternoon the government commission charged with investigating the events of Târgu Mureş finally showed itself and started its sounding-out discussions. In order to assist, the Romanian writer of Cluj, Augustin Buzura, intervened and called on the Vatra Românească to be good enough to sit down at the negotiating table.
On the morning of March 22, when I sat down at my office desk, I noticed that it had been forced open. (The building had been guarded by the military!) I complained about this to Attila Verestóy, the Hungarian member of the governmental commission, and he returned with Romanian Vice-President Gelu Voican Voiculescu, the man who three months earlier – while still incognito – had sentenced Ceauşescu to death in that dramatic kangaroo court encounter.
For at least 40 minutes we talked with the owner of the famous beard, and told him of our complaints.
I asked how, despite our protests, Bucharest Television could have presented only the previous evening such a tendentious, false picture of the recent events. What do they want? Another bloodbath?
I stressed that the television had displayed its pictures in such a way that it did not at all show that on the 20th armed Romanians had attacked unarmed Hungarians. It was impossible to know who was beating whom. The truck which arrived carrying armed Romanians ran into the steps of the Greek Catholic church much earlier in the sequence of events than the broadcast claimed. Those pictures which showed armed Romanian peasants lying in the truck and jumping down from it with their supply of iron bars were not broadcast. The report also failed to mention the fact that the driver, before he tried to run over the Hungarian demonstrators, had driven more than 300 metres ‘in the red’ (for it is not permitted to drive a truck into the main square), etc.
The driver, Marin Preda, crushed “only” the Hungarian Zoltán Kiss to death. And among the armed aggressors lying on their stomachs in the truck, the Romanian Teodor Rusu suffered such a grave injury in the crash that he died a few days later. Of course, Vatra propaganda has talked about him as a victim of the Hungarians ever since.
I asked why they had not shown a video-recording of the siege of the Hungarian Party headquarters on March 19, so that the Romanian TV viewers would have understood why the unarmed Hungarians had gathered to protest on the morning of the 20th.
I told Voican Voiculescu what had really happened. He partly believed and partly disbelieved what he heard.
Then the teacher Peter Theil, headmaster of the Joseph Haltrich Lyceum of Sighişoara, interjected. Theil said he was a German, an ancient rock who had stayed here in Romania. He had been here right through these days, he said, and could testify that everything had happened as I had just described. (Others present also interjected here and there.)
Theil also asked Voican Voiculescu: “Do you want to turn Târgu Mureş into a Beirut? For if I were a Romanian, I would already be sitting on a train headed for Târgu Mureş to teach the Hungarians a lesson. This would be the only action I could take after having seen yesterday’s TV broadcast!”
Peter Theil’s words absolutely convinced Voican Voiculescu, who behaved correctly and objectively for the rest of the negotiations. Following Theil’s intervention, Voican Voiculescu telephoned Prime Minister Roman and demanded that material about Târgu Mureş should only be broadcast if it had been vetted and approved by his visiting government commission. Unfortunately, he was not listened to.
(The following June, having been warned by Vatra not to make a nuisance of himself over restoring the Joseph Haltrich Lyceum as a German school, Peter Theil fled to Germany with his family.)