Late afternoon: invasion
The Romanian demonstrators did not disperse, although it seemed that they had achieved their goal: I had resigned. Their staying together was no accident, for armed and drunk peasants from the Reghin district soon arrived. The crowd received them with the slogans “Hodac e cu noi” (the village of Hodac is with us); “ Minerii sunt cu noi” (The miners are with us!?). The photograph has been seen around the world in which a non-commissioned police officer enthusiastically greets the driver of a bus transporting the terrorists.
These peasants armed with “traditional working tools” (quoting later Vatra claims) originally wanted to beat the striking Hungarian students of the Medical and Pharmaceutical Institute. But since the students had already suspended their strike that morning, they found nothing to do in the building of the university.
First of all, therefore, they arranged “house cleaning” in the main square and central streets of the town, knocking down all street signs with Hungarian names, tearing down all Hungarian inscriptions and posters. Even Tolstoy Street fell victim to their anger (written in the Romanian way, Tolstoy ends with an “i” and they therefore thought that he was Hungarian too). At the National Theatre, a Romanian actor tried to stop the destruction of Hungarian posters, but he was beaten up.
It was after all this that this sorry company was led to the headquarters of the RMDSZ; until then they had not known where it was. In a characteristic way, they had shouted that Sütő, Kincses, Király and Bolyai should be hanged. (The RMDSZ headquarters was on Bolyai Street.)
My brother Elemér, standing on the corner of Bolyai and Köteles Sámuel streets, was listening in shock to this when a former Securitate officer asked him whether he wasn’t afraid, being a Kincses. My brother replied: “Why should I be afraid given that these guys have no idea who Kincses is?”
The peasants sent from the Gurghiu Valley to Târgu Mureş also attacked villages which had a Hungarian majority: Dumbrăvioara, Ernei and Sângeorgiu de Mureş. The inhabitants of Sângeorgiu de Mureş pushed a tractor with a trailer across the national road, stopping and controlling traffic. After a while, a tank arrived, which was welcomed by the locals and greeted with “the army is with us”. The answer of the military was “you will see how we are with you...” The tank pushed the tractor and its trailer off the road. The next day, on the morning of March 20, the tank disappeared to open the road for the new aggressors!
What I am writing from now on is based on what the writer, András Sütő, told me.
A few minutes before the arrival of the Romanian demonstrators, Sütő also went to the headquarters of the RMDSZ. He urged the dispersal of the group of 150-200 Hungarians who had spontaneously gathered there to press for my restoration to office and to protest in general against the depredations committed by Vatra that day. Over a loudspeaker, Sütő declared that we did not recognise the forced resignation of Előd Kincses, and that we shall demand his restoration to office. But he said this question must not be discussed now in the street. He said we would inform Hungarians on the morning of the 20th how the county branch of the RMDSZ intended to fight for the correction of the injustice which had been committed that day.
Part of the crowd wanted an immediate answer and gave vent to their dissatisfaction. Finally however it was possible to persuade most of the people to disperse. A group of 50-60 may have been left in front of the headquarters when the armed group of several hundred Romanians arrived. These later grew to approximately 1,500 through the planned transportation of demonstrators to the scene.
The Hungarians fled into the building and barred the entrance. The breaking down of the strong door of the main entrance required approximately one hour, but finally it yielded to their axes. This time was used by the 77 Hungarians on the first floor of the building (including Sütő, the engineer István Káli Király, County Vice-Chairman of the RMDSZ, and the economist László Borbély, County Secretary of the RMDSZ) to alert the County Council for National Unity, the police headquarters and the military command.
They asked for assistance, but entirely in vain. They talked to the colonels Gambra and Judea, who promised help but did nothing.
In the crowd surrounding the RMDSZ headquarters, there was a good number of uniformed military officers, enlisted soldiers and policemen. The true status of some of the civilians there has not been clarified by detectives. Or rather, they never tried to find out.
During the time of the flight into the building and the breaking down of the main door, András Sütő, Sándor Zolcsák, chairman of the Târgu Mureş branch of the RMDSZ, and a few older people, including two women, ventured into the back yard and up to the property’s fence. A policeman standing there encouraged them to climb over the fence and escape. The two women and the older man would not have been able to climb the fence. Sütő – who could have been able to do so – therefore did not leave either. He said later: “How would it have looked if I had run away and left the other Hungarians to their fate.” He paid with the sight of his left eye for this act of solidarity.
After having broken down the main door, the enraged and drunken mob ran to the first floor. But they were unable to break through the entrance door to the RMDSZ office which was blocked with wardrobes. They therefore broke into the office of the National Liberal Party which is on the same floor. Passing through, they ravaged those premises, and pushed into the meeting room used both by the RMDSZ and the National Liberal Party. From this direction, they invaded the offices of the RMDSZ.
The Hungarians fled to the attic. To their luck, they found a big cast iron tub, with which they blocked the way behind them. Only enough room was left beside the tub for one person to squeeze through at a time, and of course that single person was easy to drive back.
Below, the mob completely destroyed the installations, furniture, typewriters, Xerox machines, and documents in the RMDSZ offices. Seeing that they could not get to the attic, they set fire to the wooden stairs leading up there and tried to smoke out the Hungarians in that way. Twice, it was possible to put out the fire with sand poured from above.
The people driven to the attic tried to keep the arsonists away by throwing broken tiles. This fact was later distorted by elements of the Romanian Press, which claimed that during the disturbances Hungarians had bombarded Romanians with roof tiles while they peacefully walked in the streets.
The trapped Hungarians only threw tiles at those invaders on the first floor of the building. They didn’t take the roof apart to throw tiles into the street. Obviously, no one inside wanted to further enrage the armed mob outside. Seeing the grave danger to their lives, the Hungarians also drew up a list of the names of the company present so that it would be possible subsequently to ascertain swiftly who had been killed.
When the mob failed to set fire to the attic, it thought of using the power cables of the building to introduce electric current into the iron tub, to shock the Hungarians crowded behind it and finish them off that way!
In the meantime, the Hungarian programme on Târgu Mureş Radio broadcasted repeated appeals (in Romanian) to the police and army that they intervene to save Sütő and the others.
Attila Jakabffy, who had stayed at the telephone in the County National Unity Council headquarters, constantly called the Romanian leadership at the national and county level. He called Iliescu, Interior Minister Chiţac, county police commander Gambra, and county military commander Cojocaru, pleading that they take steps to save the people trapped in the RMDSZ headquarters. He stressed each time that the prisoners included the Herder Literature Prize laureate author, András Sütő. These people did nothing to save the 77 souls in the attic.
The Hungarians of Târgu Mureş, trusting that the lawful authorities would intervene and heeding the earlier call of the RMDSZ not to assemble, did not go out onto the streets.