Evening: “Start the treatment”
The siege began at 16:00. New transports of armed Romanians continued to arrive and by the end there were perhaps 1,500-1,600 of them. After dark, at around 20:00, a civilian with the appearance and accent of an intellectual, though claiming to be from the rural Hodac community, came to the fore and called on Sütő in person to leave the attic. He promised him immunity. But this man was told that – if he were so able – he should send a message to Colonel Judea and General Scrieciu, asking them to come to the building. Soon after when Judea arrived, he also called on Sütő to leave his attic refuge. Sütő said he still wanted Scrieciu as well (the County First-Vice President of the Provisional Council of National Unity) to come to the scene. Scrieciu soon arrived; Sütő asked both men for a military truck – and one with a hard roof, not a tarpaulin-covered vehicle. In the time before the arrival of the truck, Judea popped up in several places, calling on the Hungarians to leave (!), warning that the mob was becoming more and more angry, and saying that he would not take responsibility for the life of those trapped in the attic.
General Scrieciu returned and told Sütő (the spokesman of the trapped Hungarians) that the requested truck had arrived and that a cordon of his men would ensure that everyone could leave the building safely.
Despite these assurances of a Romanian General, some of those trapped in the attic opted to stay, saying they did not trust Scrieciu (or Judea). In order to persuaded these doubters to leave the attic, Sütő told Scrieciu that the mob was obviously capable of mass murder and that it should first be dispersed by the police and the military. (The mob was shouting: “Bring them out so that we may hang them.”) Sütő also asked for a fire-engine to be brought because of the mob’s attempts at arson.
News had by then reached the attic that the would-be arsonists had procured petrol from the drivers who had brought the armed peasants to the scene. Scrieciu did not reject these new requests, but didn’t give a definite promise either. Then the Hodac person of the intellectual bent, mentioned above, reappeared and again appealed to Sütő to leave, stressing that he had only good intentions. These efforts at persuasion were continued by Judea, who stressed that if the Hungarians did not leave the building, there was no guarantee the mob could be stopped from setting it on fire.
First, Sütő descended, followed by eight or ten others including the woman, Ilona Juhász. She would also be assaulted.
Judea waited at the foot of the attic stairs. He then set out at the front of this column, followed by Sütő and then the other Hungarians. In this way, the column crossed the wrecked offices on the first floor. A line of soldiers formed a narrow protected path. Behind the soldiers was part of the mob that had invaded the building. In the gaps between the soldiers, the mob kicked and struck out at the Hungarians. Seeing this, Judea called out several times: “Well, well, my sons, what are you doing..?”
At the ground floor entrance, Sütő and his party had to wait for approximately 30 minutes in the company of Scrieciu, Judea and police chief Gambra. The Hungarians were told that, allegedly, the path to the truck could not be cleared of demonstrators and they could not therefore proceed.
It was a distance of four to five metres. Seeing how few soldiers and police were concentrated there, Sütő asked Scrieciu to call at least a further 100 soldiers. This he said he could not do. Scrieciu recommended to Sütő that he should agree that the mob be told that the Hungarians were under police arrest and were being taken away as arrested persons. Sütő rejected this as a humiliation.
Finally, Judea said that they could proceed. The party set out from the building. Judea walked beside Sütő. But after a few steps, Judea disappeared. Major Vasile Ţîra was heard to call out: “Start the treatment.”
One man standing at the side of the entrance struck Sütő on the ear – probably with a metal object. Sütő was floored with such violence that he slid approximately one to two metres along the ground.
The crowd shouted: “The old man has come out”, indicating that Sütő had been awaited according to a plan. At this spectacle, the majority of the Hungarians behind Sütő took fright and ran back into the building. Only two or three Hungarians got up into the back of the truck. They carried Sütő with them. There was one soldier posted in the back of the truck.
Sütő had, of course, requested a hard-skinned truck. The Romanians tore down the tarpaulin off this soft-skinned truck, jumped up onto it, and tried to hit and kick Sütő and his two or three companions from every side.
The solitary soldier in the back of the truck tried to protect Sütő and the others, but due to the blows he too received, he fell down between Sütő and Mrs. Juhász.
A group of seven or eight other soldiers – perhaps inspired to save their comrade – jumped onto the back of the truck and began to push away the mob while shouting at the driver to get going.
After its settling of accounts with Sütő outside the Hungarian party headquarters building, the armed mob left. And so the 60 or more Hungarians remaining inside were able to leave in safety.
The truck set out for the hospital emergency department. But the doctors there were afraid that the mob from the Hungarian party headquarters would follow Sütő and descend on them too. They therefore asked that the injured man be transferred to the vicinity of the army barracks. The officer in charge there refused this, saying that he could take no responsibility for Sütő’s life.
In the early hours of the next morning, Sütő was flown to Bucharest. In the military hospital there, he was visited by President Ion Iliescu. Iliescu expressed his regrets to Sütő’s wife, Éva. He assured them that the perpetrators of this attack would receive exemplary punishment. With the assistance of available films, an investigation would be carried out and the culprits identified.
Apart from his other injuries, Sütő was left permanently blinded in one eye. When Sütő returned to Târgu Mureş after futile visits to clinics in several world capitals, he was told that following the attack upon him in the back of the truck, a certain individual had gone up to Colonel Judea and reported that they had finished off Sütő, that they had beaten him to death. Judea put his hand over the man’s mouth and told him to shut up.
Most of the Romanian media reported the events of the night of March 19 in a couple of sentences. After the full-blown pogrom of the following night, they acted as though nothing had ever happened on the night of the 19th.
The Cuvîntul Liber of Târgu Mureş – mouthpiece of the Vatra – was the exception. An article in this newspaper said that the Romanian peasants who had been transported to town from the countryside around Reghin had nothing to do with the attack on Sütő and the others. They had dispersed a long time before certain “unknown persons” had manhandled other “unknown persons” outside the Hungarian headquarters building. This whitewash placed even Colonel Judea in an unpleasant situation. For if the perpetrators of the violence were not “from Hodac” (Hodac is one village in the Reghin region and is used as a generic term by Romanians and Hungarians alike – the mob was transported from about ten villages), then somebody else must have been criminally responsible.
Perhaps it was Colonel Judea or General Scrieciu!
In these circumstances, Judea was forced to try to defend himself and his own role that night. An article by Judea was published in the Hungarian Népujság, a newspaper of Târgu Mureş. Judea was trying to counter published versions of the events of that night that had white-washed the “Hodac peasants”, but not him. Despite the conventions on the right-of-reply in the media, even Romanian-language Press rejected this article by Colonel Judea!
He had written: