THE SOVIETS AND THE HUNGARIAN COMMUNISTS HAD MADE their point: no one was immune from the "conspiracy." To eliminate anyone who opposed them, the Communists had merely to announce in their Press that he had been implicated in some "confession"-imprisonment, torture, death, or at best exile, were the rapid consequences. For the sake of temporary appearances, the Communists found men in the other parties who were either utterly intimidated or of limited attainments and ridiculous ambition who would serve them as figureheads. In this way, they replaced Ferenc Nagy with another Smallholder Prime Minister who was but a puppet. The Smallholder President of the Parliament, Monsignor Bela Varga, surely the next on the list for elimination, disappeared - we learned only weeks later that he had escaped to Austria. He was replaced by Imre Nagy, a Communist, since the battleground now shifted from the Cabinet and Government to the Parliament, where opposition still existed.
Shortly after my return I met with Sam, and told him that for the time being I would have no radios for him. I still had hopes that my headquarters would shortly see things in a different light. He was disappointed, but urged me to press the matter. He then told me that Edmund was working on a series of reports for me about the A.V.O., but, it being too dangerous to meet with me, they would be passed to me through Sam. I received the first of the series that day. In due course I had the complete report; it came to several hundred pages setting forth in detail the brutality, treachery and corruption which was the Soviet version of "liberation." I confess it made me feel neither confident nor comfortable.
In January, 1945, while Budapest was still under siege, Gabor Peter, a Hungarian who had been a Soviet agent working with the Red Army during the war, established the Budapest headquarters of the Political Police - a branch of the newly-reorganized National Police. Peter's liaison to the Soviets was a man named Janos Kovacs, a Hungarian major and simultaneously a Soviet colonel. The ostensible purpose of this organization, proposed by the Communists and agreed to by the other parties of the Hungarian Front, was to uncover and bring to prosecution the Hungarian Nazis. About one month after getting into operation, Peter and his men in Budapest caught one Janos Kessmenn, head of the Hungarian Nazi organization charged with exterminating the Jews. (Even during the siege of Budapest, when it was no longer possible to ship them to Germany for extermination, the Hungarian Nazis continued to round up Jews; they were lined up on the quays of the Danube by the hundreds and shot, their bodies falling into the river.) The Political Police promised Kessmenn not only his life, but freedom from prosecution, if he would show them the hidden cache of property confiscated from the Jews. Kessmenn produced about $90,000 in foreign exchange, some 1,500 karats of diamonds, and more than 10,000 different gold pieces. This became the Political Police secret fund. All during 1945 the Political Police added to this by simple robbery, theft and extortion-mostly from small shopkeepers. They did not hesitate to murder, and countless innocent persons disappeared during this period. In the confusion of the time it was impossible to tell whether a person who had disappeared was a victim of Russian looting, Russian deportations for forced labour, the settlement of grudges or the Hungarian Political Police. None the less, Edmund's report contained quite a list of those known to have fallen into the latter category.
During 1946 the Political Police worked closely with the Soviet M.V.D.; as often as not, someone arrested by the Hungarians was turned over to the Soviets for interrogation. In such cases it was rarely that he was ever seen again. In 1946 it would appear that the Soviets concluded their tutelage had produced satisfactory results; in September the Political Police were reorganized out from under the National Police and established as the State Security Authority - A.V.O. - with Gabor Peter responsible in theory to the Minister of the Interior. The A.V.O. was, of course, directly' responsible to the authority of the senior Hungarian Communists; but, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, it became an integral part of the Soviet secret operations apparatus. It was a specially qualified local arm.
In the new A.V.O. the coalition received lip-service in the form of a Smallholder Deputy to Gabor Peter, one Janos Gyurics, and a Socialist Deputy, Istvan Bittman. Neither of these two Deputies exercised any authority whatsoever, Of the fourteen, later nineteen, Budapest districts, only three were under the command of Socialist A.V.O. officers - and their authority was purely nominal. Of the seventeen divisions which comprised the A.V.O. organization, only one was headed by a Socialist.
The structure of the A.V.O., quite apart from the vicious brutality which was its chief characteristic, was an interesting example of a painstakingly conceived and executed broad secret political operation. Against such a comprehensive and realistic-and ruthless-machine, ordinary political and diplomatic manoeuvre and negotiation - the mainstays of American policy at the time - stood not a chance. A study of this structure showed a notable disregard for administrative balance: from the point of view of American professional administrators, such a structure would appear dispersive, unwieldy, even sloppy; it would be difficult to reduce to the charts and graphs favoured by business administration schools and Government bureaucracy. In fact, however, it was designed to perform with maximum effectiveness a special and precise function: to this end, the factors of administrative balance and of theoretical organization were completely subordinated to the specific requirements of the mission. It was "bad administration," but it was a flexible and effective organization - even without rapine and murder.
As established in September, 1946, the A.V.O. had seventeen divisions, each with a special function to perform within the national life. Of these seventeen, the existence of only three was publicly acknowledged. The divisional functions were described and designated on the basis of what actually confronted the Communists, not on the basis of what they wished Hungarian national life to be. That came later, and only when it was achieved in fact. It should be borne in mind that beyond this A.V.O. structure there also existed the overt political entity of the Communist Party, likewise politically trained - and, of course, behind both the menace of the Red Army.
The task of Division I was to infiltrate and ultimately to dominate Hungarian political life. Its Director, Sandor Horvath, was a Moscow-trained Communist. Infiltration was accomplished in two ways - each for a different purpose. The first was the recruiting of informers in all the non-Communist political parties and their related organizations. Bribery was sometimes used - a principal Smallholder speech-writer who had a single session at A.V.O. headquarters and thereafter submitted daily reports was one such case - but the favourite method was simply intimidation. Taken from their beds in the middle of the night, maltreated, threatened with a worse fate, then released on the condition of reporting, with the express threat of instant punishment for any disclosure, most people did as directed; suicide seemed the only available alternative for many, and such cases were not unknown.
The other form of infiltration was the introduction into the other parties of active agents. In the case of secret Communists, no lure was needed; for the rest, entire "left-wings" of the Smallholders, Socialist and Peasant parties were made up of men who, as political opportunists, as victims of blackmail, or as recipients of various forms of bribery, deliberately worked tinder Communist instructions. At the highest level, two of them - Istvan Dobi of the Smallholders and Szakasits of the Socialists-were ultimately rewarded in a fully Communist Hungary with the Presidency of the Republic, Dobi first from 1952 and then again under the post-1956 Kadar regime.
As a part of its political responsibilities, elections in Hungary also fell within the competence of Division I - with final disastrous consequences for Hungary in 1947.
Division II of the A.V.O. was charged with infiltrating all foreign missions in Hungary - the Soviets obviously excepted. I noted one day to Mark that the receptionist at the American Legation seemed upset and on the verge of tears. "She's picked up every night after midnight, and is interrogated until the morning," he said. "She's exhausted from lack of sleep and plain terror, but they won't let her quit her job here, and for us to dismiss her would only make them suspect her of a double-cross." The target of Division III was the Churches. One of the traditional Church activities in Hungary had been the support and direction of youth organizations, both Catholic and Protestant. These organizations were of considerable social significance, and were a prime obstacle to Communist aims for weakening Church influence and dominating the youth. In the summer of 1946 two Russian soldiers, engaged in a gun battle between themselves on a main street of Budapest, were killed. Within twenty-four hours the A.V.O. - still then the Political Police - fabricated a story that a young Catholic boy had done the shootings from a nearby roof-top. He was never seen again, and, according to Edmund, his body was burned. Before his death, however, the name of a Catholic priest, Father Szalaz Kis, was extracted from him; Father Kis was killed in the 60 Andrassy-ut headquarters of the A.V.O. and all the young Catholic men who were close to him were arrested, and disappeared. (Among them was a Smallholders' Party employee, which fact was used as an extra dividend to try to implicate the Smallholders as well.) On this basis, the Minister of the Interior banned and dissolved all religious youth organizations. Thereafter, the question of religious youth organizations came under Division IV, in charge of youth.
Division III also pursued infiltration of the Churches, and achieved some success in the Catholic Church because of differences within the Church itself. Cardinal Mindszenty, notwithstanding his merits as a churchman, was no politician - although he took an active interest in politics. His inflexible line had resulted in the failure in 1945 to form the authorized Catholic Party, and a temporary agreement had been reached whereby the Church would support the Smallholders, and the latter would represent Church interests in Parliament. As the Smallholders began to disintegrate, the disputes among Catholic politicians and within the Church began again; a group of Jesuits emerged in political opposition to the Cardinal, and with a political programme of their own. Division III capitalized on this schism, and, obtaining, among other favours, a charter for a Catholic youth organization for the Jesuits, proceeded to infiltrate them.
Division V, the only one commanded by a Socialist, had the duty of infiltrating the circles and activities of former aristocrats, Army officers and politicians.
Division VI, using the same techniques as Division I, was charged with applying them to the Government and the entire apparatus of the State. They were singularly effective. The suicide of one young official in the Prime Ministry rather than become an informer was one testimonial. Another was the reorganization under Communist dominance of the Defence Ministry, even in the presence of a Smallholder Defence Minister. In 1946 large-scale reductions in the Civil Service were undertaken for economy reasons. Those to be dismissed were put in category "B", so that the whole procedure became known as the "B" List. Making up the "B" List was obviously of great political importance to the parties. In each Ministry a commission composed of a representative of the Prime Ministry, a representative of the Minister involved, and a representative of the trade unions prepared the list. The trade-union man, being an appointee of the Trade Union Council, and not of the individual unions, was always either a Communist or a complaisant Socialist. In the Defence Ministry, the Prime Minister sent a Smallholder Deputy, and the Minister delegated a trusted aide, a Colonel Daroezi, thus ensuring a majority over the trade-union representative. Division VI, however, had reached Colonel Daroezi, and he voted all the way down the line with the Communist, thereby turning the Defence Ministry over to the Communists. Another notable success was achieved by Division VI with Jozsef Bognar, former Smallholder Party Secretary for Budapest. Even while Minister of Information, Bognar was secretly arrested by Division VI, shortly after the arrest of Bela Kovacs by the Soviets within a few hours Bognar went free, still a Minister, but now one of Division VI's chief informants.
Division VII, headed by a former Hungarian Nazi, Gyula Princz, was charged with surveillance and kidnapping. Surveillance was, of course, a service function for the other A.V.O. divisions. Kidnapping - as in the case of Laszlo Filler, a Smallholder member of Parliament, who was abducted and turned over
to the Soviets, never to be seen again - was most often a service function for the Russians, to hide the Soviet hand or interest.
Division VIII was one of the publicly acknowledged activities of the A.V.O. Ostensibly its function was to track down remaining Hungarian Nazis; it was, in fact, a cover for the other activities of the A.V.O.
Division IX was occupied with establishing and maintaining files on the entire population, for such later use as might become necessary. Under Soviet theory and practice, any information about anyone is of possible value. The result is history's most enormous dossier system - of which Division IX was the Hungarian branch - but which often turns out to be highly useful. One high Government official, for example, occupying a post which could effectively block Communist plans, was discovered by Division IX to have been an illegal abortionist at one point in his early career; thereafter he was no obstacle to Communist aims. (The late John MacCormac of The New York Times, present in Budapest during the 1956 Revolution, claimed that one of the gravest errors of the Revolution was the failure of someone in authority, while the enraged populace was killing any A.V.O. man caught in uniform, to destroy, systematically and thoroughly, the A.V.O. files.) At least some reservoir of undischarged guilt feelings, no matter how subconscious, are acknowledged by psychological sciences as existing in almost all adults. The Communists recognize this too; they seek to know exactly what it is that every man is feeling guilty about, and, when necessary, to what usable degree.
Division IX also was charged with arranging false identities for A.V.O. agents when necessary, and with the related function of forging documents. The microphone and wire-tapping services were also a part of this division, Mark told me later that an examination of his small office in the American Legation showed eight microphones in the walls and ceiling; but such installations were by no means confined to foreigners; they were everywhere. One of the more striking ironies of the situation was that this equipment in Hungary was all secretly manufactured by Communist workmen in the plant of the local subsidiary of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation - the same American company once lauded by Fortune magazine as an outstanding pre-war model of successful American investment and operations abroad.
Division X was another overt group. It was charged with official documentation, including the issue of identity cards, and it maintained the legal personal files on the population, as distinct from the secret files in Division IX.
Division XI was related to Division VIII. Its ostensible function was to assist in the prosecution of former Nazis before the courts. As such, it was located in special quarters at the Marko-urca Prosecutor's Prison, but this was also a cover since it ensured continued A.V.O. hold over prisoners who had been legally transferred from the A.V.O.'s custody. Division XI was also charged with the preparation and conduct of show trials.
Division XII was the A.V.O.'s own supply department. Apart from the usual supply functions, it was also charged with the raising-by any means available-and disbursement of secret funds. It also supplied apartments, furniture, clothing, cars and luxury goods to the A.V.O. high officials. The information thus obtained by this Division was later used by the A.V.O. against its own officials when their liquidation became politically necessary.
Division XIII, also overt, was the Hungarian Passport Office. From the spring of 1947 it was directed by a Russian officer, Antal Weller. It provided a cover for the activities of other divisions.
The personnel department of the A.V.O. was Division XIV. This Division was also responsible for surveillance and security of A.V.O. personnel. The Division's standards of performance might be described as utterly ruthless. Edmund emphasized to me the story of A.V.O. First Lieutenant Mihaly Kovacs, an aide to Horvath, Chief of Division I. Kovacs was discovered to be working for the British. Both he and his wife were arrested and subjected to torture in the cellars of the A.V.O. Headquarters at 6o Andrassy-ut. Ultimately, Kovacs was killed-with his wife forced to watch his murder. Only then was the hapless woman herself put to death.
Division XV conducted surveillance of all high State officials. To this end, they appeared most often in the guise of "bodyguards" from the National Police.
Division XVI comprised the A,V.O. sub-headquarters in the districts of Budapest. Originally these district offices had the power of arrest, but from 1946 on they were deprived of them, and functioned as the eyes and ears of the Headquarters. The establishment of informer networks was their responsibility, and on the basis of the information thus obtained they were required to prepare black lists of anti-Communists and "dangerous or hostile elements." These offices operated in the classical style, and preferred a number of single key informers, whose responsibility was then to create their own larger networks of informers. In this manner they had, by 1947, 1,500 informers at the Budapest industrial complex of Csepel Island alone.
Division IA performed the same function for the rest of Hungary as Division XVI performed for Budapest. By the autumn of 1947 there were, throughout the entire country, some 70,000 to 80,000 informers out of a population of 9 million.
This, then, was the "opposition." The relentless effort and the horrendous human cost which had gone into the A.V.O.'s organization showed this to be more than a mere cover to hide the Soviet hand: what had been constructed was a major line of defence so that if the Peace Treaty, or if other diplomatic negotiations with the West, forced a Soviet retirement from Hungary, the nation would still be left, thanks to the A.V.O., firmly in Communist hands and tied to Moscow.
Following the forced resignation of Ferenc Nagy, the fragmentation of the opposition to the Communists was pushed with ferocious haste. Leo came to see me one evening in June. He knew that he was marked for arrest for his role in pressing the Parliamentary investigation of the "conspiracy." He had decided to escape, with his wife and two children, I was deeply concerned about the risk, but he assured me he had arranged it satisfactorily. I was dubious, and told him I was merely awaiting authority to establish an escape operation. "No," he said. "I thank you, but now one can escape, with a little care and ingenuity. But in a few more weeks, or at most a month or two, it will become impossible. You will see. I must go now, while we still can." He left me his political papers, which I agreed to send on to him when he should let me know, writing under a false name, where he was. Four weeks later I had word from him giving a Paris address. In due course he received his papers, but I felt shame that I could not have rendered more vital help.
Shortly after Leo's departure, Mark was confronted one day in his offices by a Member of Parliament whose immunity had suddenly been lifted, and who had taken refuge from the A.V.O. in the Legation. Mark told me the man was verging on hysteria - but Mark was forbidden to give him asylum. He had been obliged to turn him out into the street - with only the advice, which he had heard from me, to seek refuge with the Dominican friars, and at all costs to avoid the Jesuits. (An exact reversal of the situation which had prevailed during the German Occupation, when the Jesuits had distinguished themselves in rescuing those in danger, and the Dominicans had often refused help.) The Deputy had left, never to be heard of again. Mark was sick at heart from this incident.
I remembered it ten years later as I watched, with bitterness and sympathy, the rending strain undergone by one of my colleagues in Vienna, whose orders and role required him to answer to the pleas of Hungarian Freedom Fighter delegations from Budapest for bazookas and ammunition to fight the Russians.
The Deputy refused refuge was a member of the Freedom Parry, an opposition party led by Dezso Sulyok which had received in late 1946 an authorization from the Soviets, largely at the instance of Prime Minister Nagy, to form and engage in political activity. Nagy's theory was that there ought to be an opposition in Parliament, and he probably hoped in this manner to ease some of the Communist pressure on the Smallholders. In this he was not successful, and, as the Smallholders disintegrated, the Freedom Party gained in strength. The Party had even attempted to publish a newspaper, but its instantaneous success had led to a refusal by the printers to set type for it. (Sam had told me the story of how this was achieved by the Trade Union Council. The Council had issued the order to the printers, who, favouring the paper themselves, had refused. They were then threatened with expulsion from the union-meaning also their jobs-and that was that.) Now the Communists were pushing through Parliament a Bill for new elections. With the Smallholders in disarray, strong opposition to features of the Bill was coming from the Freedom Party. Its Deputies were consequently under constant harassment. A few days after Mark had been visited by one such Deputy, Sulyok announced the dissolution of his Party. Edmund reported that the A.V.O. had quite simply informed Sulyok that when Parliament was dissolved for the new elections, all of his Parliamentary members, then without immunity, would be arrested en masse, Rather than expose his followers to this danger, Sulyok had given in; shortly thereafter he left the country.
We were doing pretty poorly. Not only was I without any effective political line in the circumstances, but even my proposal for an escape operation was still unanswered. While terror had silenced many, there still remained a number of politicians and leaders who were determined to fight the Communists in the forthcoming elections. At least some of them were going to require our help - and to earn the right to it. I therefore arranged to see Peter in Vienna. Since my return I had visited Vienna regularly, always going by car, in order to familiarize myself with the roads, the countryside, and to have continually in my possession a valid Soviet pass, the eternal propusk, without which one could not get by the Red Army road-blocks between Budapest and Vienna.
Vienna was still grim and grey, but by now my feelings had changed noticeably from the contrast so favourable to Budapest I had noted a year earlier. Arrival in the Western sectors of the city invariably produced feelings of relief, relaxation and security. In an office where I didn't have to worry about microphones, I told Peter how rapidly the situation in Budapest was deteriorating, and emphasized the fact, which I found shameful, that I had been unable to be of any real help to Leo. I asked Peter to press Washington for the authority I had asked for escapes, and for a political decision on which I could base some activity during the election campaign - which I pointed out might still result in a clear rebuff to Communist pretensions that they were assuming power legally and on a popular basis. It was my belief that such a rebuff might, at best, slow down the Communist time-table; at worst, it would still make clear to the world by what methods the Communists had achieved power in Hungary, a point which could be of great political value in future years if dramatized now. To my satisfaction, I found Peter in full agreement with my arguments, and there followed one of those typical conversations in which those working in the field commiserate with each other on the stupidity and myopia of headquarters.
Encouraged, I asked Peter to give me temporary authority to arrange a minimum number of escapes, pending word from Washington. He insisted on pinning me down to an exact figure: I finally asked for ten outstanding political leaders, and fifteen others as necessary, the latter to include members of the network. Peter agreed to this. I then pointed out that assuming I could get my escapees over the Hungarian border, I could do nothing from Budapest about getting them safely through the forty-odd miles from the border to Vienna, nor through the 125 miles from Vienna to the American Zone of Austria. I asked for assistance from my opposite number in Vienna. Peter again agreed, and shortly I found myself introduced to our Vienna agent, who was operating under the guise of an Army Colonel. The Colonel appeared eager to help, even while obviously studying the problem coldly and objectively behind a front of affability.
The Colonel's problem, it turned out, was bureaucratic, and bureaucracy won the day. He could help escapees from the Austrian border to Vienna, but from Vienna to the American Zone the facilities were in the hands of the local C.I.G. (Central Intelligence Group, successor to the O.S.S., and predecessor of the C.I.A.) representative. To split the operation this way would risk revealing to the C.I.G. representative both that our own intelligence agency was operating in Austria, and the identity of the Colonel. I was stunned at this hapless example of wartime inter-organizational rivalries living on into another age, but the Colonel, supported by Peter, could not be moved. However, neither he nor Peter had any objection to my approaching the C.I.G. man - Hugh - provided that I maintain my cover with him, and not reveal any member of the network to him as being such. In brief, I could appear to him as a lone official of the Government who wanted to help some people in danger - a friendly but completely private secret operation. I accepted this way of doing it, being reminded in so doing of the German gesture of scratching the left ear with the right hand reaching behind the head, intended to describe either a deliberately complex brain or bureaucratic red tape. It was, of course, precisely this kind of bureaucratic conflict and artificial obstacle, markedly different from the innate, organic conflicts of secret operations, described in Part I, which the later creation of the C.I.A. was designed - successfully - to eliminate.
I decided to await approaching Hugh until I had something definite in mind, and returned to Budapest. It was fortunate that I did. A week later Mark handed me a slip of paper bearing a name and a number. A man who said his name was Janos Majoros had called to see Mark at his office, and had given him this much-worn scrap of paper. Majoros explained that he was a flyer, that it was he who had secretly flown Hungarian negotiators and the British Colonel to Italy in 1944, and that an O.S.S. officer, whose name and number were on the paper, had told him to use it at the nearest American diplomatic office if ever he were in danger or needed help. Majoros said he was now in danger of arrest and needed funds to arrange his own escape. I told Mark I would look into the matter for him, and then checked with Henry. Henry confirmed that there was indeed a flyer named Janos Majoros, a genuine hero, but this, of course, didn't insure that the man who had come to Mark's office was in fact Majoros.
This was my opportunity to contact Hugh. I went to Vienna and called on him in his office. An intelligent and decisive man, Hugh was fully co-operative, and went immediately to the core of any problem. He checked the Majoros story, found it correct, and gave me the requested funds. Then he settled back to ask me a favour.
The Navy was interested in six Hungarian scientists, and had, many months before, secretly signed contracts with them in the course of a Navy officer's visit to Hungary. The Navy was now extremely worried about their departure, and the scientists and their families, twelve persons in all, needed money and some assistance. Would I disburse $5,000 to them, and if necessary help to arrange their departure? I could have looked on this request as a suspect gambit by Hugh to recruit me; instead I chose to regard it as a heartening example of inter-organizational co-operation within the U.S. Government. When I left Hugh and I were in business together: I had funds to disburse for him, 'but I also had the names of contacts in three Austrian border towns who would convey escapees to Vienna, and an address in the American Sector in Vienna where they would be housed before being taken on to the West by air. (Highly personable and sensitive, Hugh's later career took an unusual turn, For some years he rendered most competent and effective, even distinguished, service in secret operations, but suddenly, while still in his early forties, he became sated and disillusioned with the world of politics and power. Renouncing his past for what he intensely felt was a wider, and more profound, perspective, he spent a year in a Trappist monastery, and then went to Italy, where, in a small seaside village, he devotes himself exclusively to work in ceramics. This kind of reaction among intelligent and sensitive men to the intense pressures of secret operations after some years is not infrequent, but few carry it as far as Hugh. However, I visit him from time to time, and of the many real and enduring friendships which this strange work none the less brought me, I value his highly.)
Majoros and his money turned out to be a lesson in patience and relative values. Mark gave him the money and he disappeared. We heard nothing further from or about him. Six months later I apologized to Hugh for the loss of the funds; he dismissed it as part of the cost of doing business. But five years later a Hungarian airliner suddenly appeared one day over the Munich Airport, asking permission to land. When it did, some fourteen of the passengers aboard requested political asylum in the West. One of them was Janos Majoros; he and another flyer had taken over the plane while it was en route to Prague, and had flown it to Munich. When asked about his disappearance five years earlier Majoros said he was then being too closely watched. "I had to revise my plans. They took longer than I expected," he said, but with the confident air of a man who has worked hard to achieve his goal.
My own goal was far from being achieved. No one in the network was in a position to operate the kind of sure escape chain I had in mind: they were all tied to the city of Budapest by their work, and they had no forms of transport. I thought of Edmund; an escape chain operated by the A.V.O. itself would be the kind of tour deforce to make any agent 5 mouth water, but I rejected it as being much too dangerous and too susceptible to penetration. Both Eugene and Louis had told me of cases where the Russians themselves had arranged escapes. However, these were for money - the price was steadily rising - and the Russians involved were black-marketeers who were always in danger of being caught by their own troops or betrayed by rival Russian profiteers. Further-more, these Russians were happy to take money from "capitalists," but would fear involvement with escapes of hunted political leaders.
There was one escape chain already operating through Budapest, and tolerated by the Soviet High Command. This was the Jewish underground originating in Rumania, which ran through Hungary and then alternatively by Austria and Yugoslavia to Italy. From there refugees were loaded on to ships for transport to Palestine. This operation had the tacit blessing of the Soviets, since it contributed to British discomfiture and general unrest in the Middle East. In Hungary the operation was run by the American Joint Distribution Committee, the American Jewish organization set up for welfare work among the European Jewish survivors of the German slaughter. They were efficient - at a later stage they were reportedly running seventy-five persons a day through Budapest - but they categorically refused any non-Jews. In addition, Simon had obtained for me some time before several sets of the A.J.D.C. confidential monthly accounts, which showed sizable donations to the Communist Party in several districts of Budapest. I sympathized with their operation, and admired the single-mindedness with which it was conducted, bur it offered no possibilities for me. Even if I could persuade the A.J.D.C. to take some non-Jews, which was highly doubtful, it was not likely that they would risk their own people for the sake of defying Soviet and Communist political objectives, and the tacit cooperation of the Soviet and Communist authorities meant too great a risk of penetration.
While I was mulling over these problems, I gradually accumulated, in an unused garage in my building on the Var, a number of packing cases obtained from the American Military Mission, together with several tarpaulins and large sheets of the waterproofed, insulated paper used for packing large overseas shipments. To ship people out in boxes in the American Army trucks which regularly ran between Budapest and Vienna with supplies was not my idea of a discreet or desirable operation; but an emergency might necessitate something like it. I little knew how right I was.
In early July I went to dine at Guy's. I had not dropped him since his unwelcome offer to make me rich; I enjoyed his company and his wit, but I maintained a certain alert when with him. This particular evening we dined on the balcony of his apartment, overlooking a small, tree-lined public square. The people walking in the square, the summer air, and the night hum of the city hid the struggle and anguish which marked the day's reality. Guy, for the first time, spoke much of himself; I noted that, apart from a few sallies for their own sakes, he had dropped his cynicism.
He told me how he had resigned from the Police. The increasing Communist control had made him decide to leave, he said, but he knew that if this were to be interpreted as a sign of dissidence, he would only be putting himself in danger. He had therefore told Rajk, the Interior Minister, that he had to find some work which would pay him better while he awaited the award, under the land reform, of the 200 acres to which his Resistance record entitled him from a larger estate he had previously held. According to Guy, Rajk had intimated that he should act for the Communists in the Peasant Party to which he belonged, to which Guy had responded with a criticism of the Peasant Party which sounded at the same time like a eulogy of the Communist Party. He finished by saying how much he looked forward to working his land - obtaining a little bit of capital for this being the purpose of his looking for better-paying work. He then parted in most friendly fashion from Rajk, who told him to drop in to see him from time to time,
Guy paused here. "He's a murderer, you know," he said. I nodded agreement. Edmund had told me through Sam only a few days before that he had gone to see Rajk personally, on the basis of their Resistance work together, to intervene for another wartime comrade who was being tortured by the A.V.O. Rajk was expansive and assured Edmund that he could speak freely, as an old companion. When Edmund explained the purpose of his visit, Rajk's manner turned cold. Edmund reminded him of the man's wartime services, Rajk merely glanced at Edmund and, turning back to his papers, said, "The situation has changed."
Guy went on: "I didn't want Rajk hostile, and he was not, but that alone would not save me." For the ensuing two weeks, therefore, Guy had inserted anonymous personal want-ads in the main papers, asking on each occasion if anyone knew the whereabouts of some ten or a dozen people. All the names Guy used were those of persons kidnapped or killed in the course of Political Police looting and robbery during 1945. He had then put the complete lists of these names, together with the date and manner of their liquidation by the Political Police-information he had carefully gleaned during his two years in the National Police - in a safe hiding-place. He then resigned. Guy's idea was that if arrested, he would simply state that the lists detailing the fate of these people would be published if he did not reappear within twenty-four hours - he having arranged this with a friend - and that his proof of his threat would be the want ads. I could only admire Guy's imagination and his careful execution of his plans.
"So what happened to you and the West Orient Corporation?" I asked him. Guy laughed. "They came to me about a month after my resignation," he answered, "I decided to accept the offer," he continued, "because I assumed Rajk was trying to be helpful and to ensnare me, of course. But even a month or six weeks of that would have given me enough to leave the country and live abroad.
"But I may have been wrong, he added. "It was perhaps just as well for me that I couldn't persuade you to give me an American truck. That at least showed I wasn't all that close to the Americans. To be perfectly frank with you, though, I was disappointed at the time. I didn't really care about this country then. I wasn't going to join the Communists, by any means, but I was sure the Small-holders weren't going to save the country, so I just counted myself out.
"So you're off to your farm?" I inquired. Again Guy laughed. "My farm," he answered, "happens to be a plot of 200 acres adjoining the Austrian border. It took me a lot of intrigue to get just those 200 acres, and not some others. People do escape now, but within a very few months they're not going to be able to. So, one day, working my fields, I'll just stumble through a bush into Austria and that will be that." I laughed with Guy, but I was seeing him in a new light. "How soon will that be?" I asked. "As late as possible," he answered. "I like life abroad, but now I have no money for it, and" - he paused - "when you're leaving for probably the last time you keep putting it off."
All that night I went over Guy's story. If he was not a Communist plant, he was the man to run the escape chain - provided he was willing. He had imagination, daring and a conspiratorial cast of mind. The next day I checked the newspapers for the period he had mentioned. There were the personals. I then checked them against Edmund's list of victims of the Political Police. All of Guy's names were on Edmund's list. I then sent off a cable to my headquarters, asking for a check on Guy, and explaining the purpose for which I wanted to use him.
The answer was both startling and encouraging. "Guy former British agent," it read in effect. "You may use him for stated purpose only provided you maintain your cover with him, and provided you satisfied he is not working with British." This was unusually generous. It left the responsibility on me to be sure he was not still working with the British, but at least his former service for them was not to eliminate him from consideration.
In about a week I invited Guy to dinner. He was unchanged from our previous encounter: always amused at some bit of irony, but more equable in temper than in the previous months. Politics took over our conversation, and I steered the subject gradually away from Hungary itself to the world situation. Guy made a number of remarks critical of the British. I responded with a defence of the British, always implying that Guy didn't really know or understand them. At last he said, "Look here. I worked with the British before and during the war. I know what I'm talking about. And I refused to work with them afterwards." He then detailed his reasons; except that he was no Socialist, I would have thought that I was listening to Sam's reasons for disillusionment with postwar Britain. I took no ostensible notice of what Guy had said, but I had what I wanted. It could still theoretically be an effort to penetrate my operation, but I felt the odds were against it. The decision was mine, as was the risk. I decided in favour of Guy.
The rest came easily. In a discussion of what could be done, as a practical matter, about Hungary now we arrived together at the conclusion that an escape operation was the most necessary item, Guy was much less sanguine than I about the possibilities of the forthcoming elections, but he was personally enthusiastic about the prospects of saving those who would show the courage to fight in them. We bargained somewhat on the terms (in the sequence of our conversation the proposal of an escape chain was Guy's, but the initiative to recruit him was in fact mine, however much it may have accorded with his own wishes): he wanted a veto on who would be taken out, and he refused to provide the names of those who would help him. The latter was contrary to the basic rules of secret operations, but to have insisted would have risked his concluding that I was a professional agent rather than simply an American wanting to be helpful. I gave in on that, in exchange for my insistence that he agree to take whoever I sent to him. Since I agreed to cover the expenses of the operation - an arrangement so obviously necessary in the circumstances that it provoked no curiosity - Guy agreed to inform me in advance of the identity of anyone he wished to transport. Finally, we agreed on occasional meetings at the same rate as in the past, but to utilize a cut-out for communications in the intervals between such meetings. He suggested a girl - Helen - a former countess now working as a barmaid in a popular bar who was known to us both as reliable. When we parted Guy's enthusiasm was unmistakable. It had much the quality of an adolescent who has found the perfect way of getting back at some hated authority. I realized that I had not seen Guy before as a lifelong rebel, someone always at the edge of his society, who welcomed an opportunity to flout that society in what was now become a desirable cause. Not at all a bad quality for the operation we had in mind. But I would be hard put even today to define Guy's motives: political support, certainly; the need for money (I realized Guy was making a small personal profit on each escape); personal rebellion - but, even beyond these factors, an important element of human decency which circumstances would bring ever more clearly into relief.
Thanks to Edmund, I knew the opposition we faced. Thanks to Guy, maybe we would give them some opposition of their own.