Alone, with my second doubts
Károly Király, as National Salvation Front Vice-President, was now mainly occupied in Bucharest. But then on January 9 – on account of his grave facial neuralgia complaint – he was removed even further from us, to Budapest, where he was operated on and nursed until January 25.
This was how I suddenly found myself in deep water. I shall try to indicate the torments involved in the gradual disappearance of the illusions I still entertained at that time.
In the aforementioned euphoria of those days, I found it a bit strange that not more publicity was given to the large amount of humanitarian aid with which Hungary assisted as one man – assisted Romania. As an example, I quote the December 26 issue of Adevărul, which published my article about Tőkés. Presenting the “humanism without frontiers” it popularised the aid transports of six countries (Austria, Soviet Union, France, etc.), but did not mention Hungarian transports at all. Of course, the saying “a leopard never changes his spots” generally fits the set of journalists who had so faithfully served Ceauşescu. All honour, therefore, to the exceptions.
Today I no longer find all this strange, but have come to the conclusion that it was an intrinsic part of a well thought-out strategy. The trap into which the Hungarian Foreign Ministry fell at this time fitted into the same strategy. In the first days of January, Budapest’s Kossuth Radio read Foreign Minister Gyula Horn’s statement in which he called on those Hungarians travelling to Romania to refrain from interfering in its domestic affairs.
The implication: Hungarians do not so much bring aid, but interfere in internal affairs. From here, the repetition of the accusation of separatism was but one further step. To Romanian ears, this meant that the Hungarians wanted to detatch Transylvania.
But before this very charge was first heard from the mouth of President Ion Iliescu himself on January 25, various things had happened.
On January 12 the whole country remembered the victims of the December revolution.
In Târgu Mureş, an ecumenical service was celebrated from the steps of the Greek Catholic church. On behalf of the county leadership I spoke, in Hungarian.
I said that the memory of the six victims would stay with us forever because their spirit which had achieved the beautiful and longed-for liberty through the common sacrifice of blood lived on among us.
This spirit teaches us as follows: that a singular historical opportunity is being offered here and now, and to everybody.
I said that this is the command of increased responsibility: the empty words which had been mouthed over so many decades and words silenced by violence, the effaced words: testvér – frate – Bruder [“brother” in Hungarian, Romanian and German] can be restored to their rightful places, each to the cathedral of their mother tongues.
After the observance I hurried to the Mureş Inn, where we had to prepare with Géza Domokos and his colleagues the second national meeting of the Hungarian Democratic Association, the RMDSZ.
At 20:30 (while the television broadcast an anti-government demonstration in Bucharest) I was called from the Inn with the message that a large crowd was demonstrating at the town hall. Their grievance was that democratisation had been stopped and that the Securitate men were not being called to account. General Scrieciu asked me to speak to the demonstrators in Hungarian.
The text of my rather hectic speech was:
I have never addressed a popular meeting in my life and I don’t want to speak now either unless you want to hear what I have to say.
I understand the difficult situation we are in. We must not forget that in this country there were 3,800,000 Party members and 70,000 Securitate men. In this country for the first time in history, the phenomenon occurred that the driver had already died but the machinery continued to kill!
Exactly in order to avoid unnecessary victims, the supreme leadership was forced to make the decision that the Securitate should be placed under the control of the military. Nobody told me this, this is my private opinion. I am not the hireling of anybody; I am the prisoner of my own conscience. I accepted the defence of László Tőkés. While I nearly dirtied my pants – I was so afraid – I would have been ashamed not to accept it,
The crowd: Thank you, thank you!
Unfortunately it must be understood that the Securitate men have not been touched – I am still afraid of them!
The crowd: Hear! Hear!
I was happy to hear that those among these outstanding warriors who had passed the age of 50 would be pensioned off. Though in my opinion a limit should be put on their pensions, otherwise we will be paying to give them the good life for all their remaining years, and against this we protest.
The crowd: To the mines with them!
In vain would we send them to the mines, because they would be so clumsy that on their account a number of honest miners could die. In the mines honest workers are needed, not Securitate men. They are no good for that either.
The crowd: Hang them!
[Comment: after the Bucharest days of June 1990 – when Iliescu called the miners to the capital to violently suppress pro-democracy agitation – all this sounds a bit bizarre. EK.]
I have always said, and dare to say it now, that there is no more a contemptible idea than collective guilt. This was invented by the dear old losif Visarionovich Dzhugashvili, whom history nicknamed Stalin. It has been applied since then, too. You know how much the Kulak (rich Russian peasant class) children had to suffer, indeed all those whose family tree was not entirely healthy. What I mean is that somebody can be called to account only for what he is personally responsible.
The murdering Securitate men, the policemen who maltreated the people and beat the freedom fighters, have no place in the police forces! This is as clear as two-and-two.
The crowd: Hear! Hear!
Feeling this support of the masses, I shall propose at tomorrow’s leadership meeting that the list of those police and Securitate men who beat the freedom fighters on December 21-22 should be published.
The crowd: So be it!
I consider it revolting that this has not yet happened! Unfortunately, this did not depend on me.
The crowd: On whom?
Life is not unequivocal. There are people who want change, and there are those who are capable of anything so that there should be no change. In any case, those people who killed or beat the freedom fighters have no place in the police forces, but should be in prison!
We wish to build up the rule of law. In a democratic state where there is the rule of law there is no room for collective guilt or for individual vengeance.
The crowd: There is no room for the Communists either!
My opinion is that the true Communists were those who let themselves be beaten half to death at that time for a dream.
The crowd: Like Károly Király!
That is like the old Károly Király. Because the Károly Király of today no longer believes in Communism, because he has discovered that this was a grave error of history.
He is an honest man who knows what Fascism meant – that old repression, which we have already forgotten about. When an English lord boasted to Prince Esterházy in London that he had 40.000 sheep, Esterházy answered that he had 40.000 shepherds. So there were times like that, too. Do not let us forget that either. Those honest men [old Communists] risked their lives for a creed about which turned out 20 or 30 years later to be a dead end, one of the grave errors of the 20th Century. I still respect these people. I dare to say that I respect the old honest Communists.
The crowd: You are right (with interjections in Romanian – I promised to sum up my remarks at the end in Romanian).
It is not with the Communists that we should waste our time. There aren’t any Communists any more in this country – the poor wretches only sit at home by the stove and warm their sciatica.
Those who served the regime...
The crowd in Romanian: Death for death!
The vendetta, revenge, the death sentence is no solution... I do not even know them personally, only from the television. It seems to me that they are intelligent European people, whom we should allow to get on with their work. Perhaps they can do something good, and if we see that they can do no good, then they must be removed. But we certainly must not make the mistake of kicking them in the pants before they have even started to work.
It is not the death sentence that we should discuss; how beautiful it would be if in this country, after the beastly dictator, it would no longer be necessary to shoot anybody. How much more the criminals suffer in jail anyway, in the cold, on prison food than if they escape it all through a quick death...
Interjection in Romanian:- Hear! Hear!
I do not interfere with this. This is the task of the legislators and of the judiciary. We do not decide this here at a popular meeting in Târgu Mureş.
Let us not mix up what has to be done and when.
My address in Romanian:
Now I begin to speak in Romanian. What I do want to say, very briefly, is:
You are right if you believe that the changes are too slow and that the National Salvation Front has been changed into a national front for people to save their positions.
The crowd in Romanian: Down with them!
I am a solicitor and have stood until now on the other side of the fence and have tried to fight the powers-that-be. I accepted this new office with a heavy heart. I only accepted it in these troubled times so that I could try to help the country find the right road.
We can find this right road only with your help.
If you are able to formulate your demands as a platform which can be presented to the supreme leaders of the country, I shall be pleased to take it to Bucharest Monday night and show it to the supreme leadership.
I have understood that everybody agrees that radical measures should be taken, that we should no longer be afraid of the Securitate men, nor of the policemen who maltreated the freedom fighters; these militia men... (the crowd: the police...) No, no, I do not want to abuse the word ‘police’; every society needs them. [Comment: the militia were renamed police after the revolution.]
Well then, those militia men who knew what had happened in Timişoara and in Bucharest in the morning and who were nevertheless able later to maltreat the freedom fighters of Târgu Mureş, they should be removed not only from the police forces but should also be put before a tribunal, arrested, and their hair should be shorn off.
The crowd: Condemn them!
Everybody who knows and can prove who the Securitate and militia men are who maltreated the freedom fighters, who murdered them, should make a complaint at the military attorney’s office. It is the legal duty of this office to find out the truth. If they do not find out the truth, then these attorneys must be removed from the military attorney’s office.
The crowd in Romanian: How can you trust them?
This cannot be known, but if they do not find out the truth, like in the Aurel Dan affair, they must be removed. [Aurel Dan was a senior administrator who stole from the aid transports, and was caught.]
The crowd in Romanian: Down with them!
We demand that the attorney who tried to cover up that pilfering matter be kicked out. [Since then he has been promoted!]
The question of the murdering volley (of shots against local protesters) is a very complex legal question. It must be established who issued the command, and afterwards, who did the shooting. Those who were shooting will certainly say at whose command they did it.
I promise that if the investigation is not correct, I shall let you know in every possible way – through the radio, through television.
The crowd in Romanian: And here!
Yes, here, too.
The crowd in Romanian: Thank you! The truth, the truth!
Köszönöm! Mulțumesc! Dankeschön! [“Thank you” in Hungarian, Romanian and German].
After I had delivered this, my first public speech, on January 12, the attacks started against me in the undeclared Vatra Românească mouthpiece, Cuvîntul Liber [Free Word]. Attila Jakabffy also received an ample share of attacks – although he had done no more than fulfil his duty as the chairman of the Nationality Committee of the National Salvation Front.
It should also be added at this point that – as I indicated when I told the crowd of my suspicions – the new Romanian leadership did indeed place the Securitate from the beginning under the protection of the army.
And further, that in Târgu Mureş, where on the night of December 21-22 the Securitate and police beat or shot more than 50 people, nobody was arrested for the six dead and 50 gravely injured. Those victims still living were set free by the revolutionary crowd on the afternoon of the 22nd.
In the first days after the revolution, the Securitate men trembled, but then they again found the courage to walk the streets. The old Party leaders too found that they were not going to be called to account for their activities.
These facts carried within themselves the seeds of the regression that was soon to follow.