15: No More Comrades
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No More Comrades(1)
I saw freedom rise from the ashes of Communism in Hungary: a freedom that flickered and
then blazed before it was beaten down -but not extinguished- by masses of Russian tanks
I saw young students, who had known nothing but a life under Communist and Russian
control, die for a freedom about which they had only heard from others or from their own
I saw workers, who had been pushed to the limit of endurance by their hopeless
existence under Communism, lay down their tools and take up arms in a desperate bid to win
back freedom for our country.
I saw a girl of fourteen blow up a Russian tank, and grandmothers walk up to Russian
I watched a whole nation, -old and young, men and women, artists and engineers and
doctors, clerks and peasants and factory workers- become heroes overnight as they rose up
in history's first successful revolt against Communism.
With my own eyes and my camera's eye, I saw Hungary's Freedom Revolution.. [9/15]
As representative of the Hungarian news agency (M.T.I.) I have been on the streets
since morning with my camera. In the early afternoon I join the student crowds at Petofi
Square and Museum Boulevard, on the Pest side of the city -the right bank of the Danube.
As we march the few blocks to the Petofi Monument, our group grows in size every
minute. More and more students join us and then some of the bystanders on the sidewalks,
who have been waving and cheering, also begin to get in line.
At 3 P.M. there are 25,000 of us at the Petofi Monument. We weep as Imre Sinkovits, a
young actor, declaims the Nemzeti Dal ("National Song"), Sandor Petofi's ode to
Hungary and our 1848 "freedom revolution." With tears in our eyes, we repeat the
refrain with Sinkovits:
"Eskuszunk, eskuszunk, hogy rabok tovabb nem leszunk."
("We swear, we swear, we will no longer remain slaves.")
The student voices are tense with feeling. No policeman or Communist official is in
sight. The young people are keeping order on their own.
The moving and peaceful demonstration at the Petofi Monument ends, but we have not had
enough of the unaccustomed taste of free expression. Six abreast, we march across the
Chain Bridge over the Danube to the Buda (western) side of the city. We head for the
statue of Joseph Bem, the Polish general who in 1848 led the Hungarian patriot army
against the Hapsburg rulers, and then against the [15/18] Russian troops who finally
crushed that earlier revolt.
By the time we arrive at the Bem statue we have swelled to some 60,000. Someone grabs a
Hungarian flag and cuts out the hated hammer and sickle that the Communists had placed at
One after another of the purified Hungarian flags appear. Suddenly someone remembers to
put the old Kossuth(2) coat-of-arms on the flag, in place
of the Communist emblem.
We have created a new flag of freedom!
Meantime we all sing the Szozat, Appeal to the Nation, and the Hungarian
National Anthem that begins "God Bless the Magyar"- both of which
had been banned under the Communist rule.
We cannot get enough. The actor Ferenc Bessenyei recites the National Song
again, and follows once more with Appeal to the Nation. Peter Veres, the head of
the Hungarian Writers' Federation, leaps to the top of a car equipped with a loudspeaker.
He reads the Hungarian writers' demands for more freedom-many of them the same as those in
the fourteen points of the students.
The day is ending. We begin to march toward the Parliament Building. The crowds are
peaceful, marching in orderly lines. We carry the new Hungarian flag.
As we march we are joined by workers leaving their jobs. By the time we arrive in
Kossuth Lajos Square there are at least 150,000 of us, in front of the Parliament
Building. On the square, all traffic stops. [18/21]
Although still orderly, the crowd begins demanding the appearance of Imre Nagy
-the only prominent Communist for whom the people still have some personal feeling.
Suddenly, in the twilight, the Red Star on top of the Parliament Building -the symbol
of Moscow's control over our country- is lighted. The crowd begins to roar, "Put out
the Red Star!" And as suddenly as it came on, the light is turned off.
We hear a weak voice from the balcony in front of the building: "Give us twenty
minutes. Comrade Nagy is on his way, and the loudspeaker is being set up.
It gets darker. Various cars with loudspeakers are among the crowd, but we are not sure
whether they are manned by friends or by Communists, so we don't let them talk.
The twenty minutes are up, and there takes place a typical Communist trick. Instead of
the promised appearance of Nagy -which might have quieted everything down- the street
lights in Kossuth Square are abruptly turned out. One hundred and fifty thousand people
stand together in the dark.
Suddenly everyone makes torches of newspapers, and lights them. It is a marvelous
spectacle -ten thousand torches burning in the Square before the Parliament Building.
Nagy still has not shown up, and we begin to get impatient. "Let's go to Stalin
Square," someone shouts, "and not to recite poems. Let's pull down Stalin's
But finally, Imre Nagy appears on the balcony. "Comrades!" he begins, but the
crowd interrupts him with a roar: [21/23] "There are no more comrades! We are all
The crowd is now cold toward Nagy, whom we have formerly trusted. First, he is two
hours late. Then he addresses us by the hated Communist term, "Comrade." Someone
says, "Let's have some light on Imre Nagy," and three flashlights shine on his
face as he speaks.
While Nagy is calming us and saying that the students' and workers' demands are
justified, another voice is speaking over Radio Budapest -the voice of a man hated by the
entire Hungarian nation: Erno Gero, Secretary and boss of the Hungarian Communist Party.
Gero says that any rumor that Hungary wants to loosen its "close and friendly
ties" with "the glorious Soviet Union" is "a barefaced lie, hostile
slander without a grain of truth." He calls the demonstration a "fascist
putsch" and the students a "fascist mob and gang of bandits."
Word of Gero's radio speech runs through the crowd. We are enraged. At the very moment
that Nagy is speaking to us, Hungary's Communist overlord contradicts what Nagy is saying.
The crowd grows still bigger, and we head for the Stalin statue. Now the demonstration
has spread so large that it is going on simultaneously in three places: at the Parliament
Building; in Stalin Square, where the crowd is trying to pull down the huge Stalin statue
with tractors and ropes; and at the building of Radio Budapest, where part of the crowd
has gone to demand the right of patriots to be heard over the air.
I go with the group that heads for Stalin Square. Some of [23/25] the workers have got
hold of acetylene torches. They and the students are trying to cut down the dictator's
twenty-five-foot metal figure. At the edge of the crowd the first Russian tanks appear,
but at the moment they are only onlookers. The crowd pulls hard at the cables that have
been attached to the Stalin statue. It leans forward, but is still held by its boots -a
symbol, we feel. The cables are now being pulled by tractors, and the men with the torches
work feverishly. The statue, though still in one piece, begins to bend at the knees. The
crowds burst into cheers.
In the midst of the cheering we hear the ominous report: there has been shooting at
Radio Budapest. We start by truck for the Radio building. Looking back from Dozsa Gyorgy
Street, we watch the Stalin statue, cut off at the knees, fall to the ground with a
When we get to the Communist-controlled Radio building in Alexander Brody Street, we
find out what has happened. A youth delegation tried to get in the door, in order to have
their "14 demands" broadcast over the radio. Without warning, the security
police guarding the building opened up on them with tear-gas bombs.
Suddenly shooting breaks out from all sides. The security police -the A.V.H.- are
firing into the crowds. In minutes, the streets are strewn with the dying and wounded.
News of the A.V.H. attack spreads. All over Budapest the workers and students are battling
the hated A.V.H.
The peaceful demonstrations of the youth and the workers have been turned by Communist
guns into a revolution for national freedom. . . . [25/30]
During the night scores of Russian tanks have reached the city proper, and linked up
with those that we saw yesterday in Stalin Square. But when we gather in the streets this
morning -firing had quieted down at the moment- we see that our Freedom Fighters have
already captured some of them. They are planting the new Hungarian flags on them, and then
heading them toward Kossuth Lajos Square and the Parliament Building.
I rush ahead to the square, which I reach at noon. A sickening sight meets my eyes. The
open square is filled with the bodies of wounded and dying. Shocked and terrified
survivors tell us what has happened. [30/33]
A few minutes before, thousands of un armed workers and students had gathered
peacefully in the square, before the Parliament Building, to present a petition to the
government. A few Russian tanks were drawn up carelessly around the edges. Suddenly the
A.V.H., stationed on the roof of the Ministry of Agriculture building at the opposite side
of the square, fired into the backs of the crowd. The Russians, apparently not sure where
the firing was coming from, started shooting into the square from their tanks. An
estimated six hundred persons were lying dead or wounded on the pavement. My
sixteen-year-old assistant, Peter Gardos, who was there to take photographs, is among
those who are dead.
Now the enraged workers, as well as the students, begin to get arms. Some of the
weapons are distributed by the Hungarian soldiers at the Kilian and Bem barracks; some are
brought by workers from the Matyas Rakosi steel plant on Csepel Island in the Danube, and
from the Danuvia munitions factory. Others come from what the Communists used to tell us
was a lamp factory -but which we knew turned out munitions for the Communist armies.
By afternoon the quickly organized units of patriot Freedom Fighters are facing the Red
Army troops, tanks and armored cars and the A.V.H. all over the city. The official radio
cheers us by denouncing "battling groups armed with automatic pistols, machine guns,
hand grenades and other weapons."
On the radio Gero and his spokesmen defend the use of Russian troops and says that
Hungarians must "welcome [33/34] our friends and allies with love." A curfew is
announced, and a state of emergency together with martial law throughout Hungary. A decree
has set up special courts that can pass death sentences against persons found guilty of
"rebellion, or possession of arms."
It is rumored that Soviet Deputy Premier Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov, the Kremlin's
expert on the captive nations, have arrived to try to regain control. In a late broadcast,
the Communist radio attempts another deception: "More and more factories are starting
to work. . . . Restoration of streetcar service. . . . Further bloodshed is senseless. . .
. The Government is master of the situation. Let peaceful, constructive work start in as
many places as possible, in factories, enterprises and shops."
On my way home I see the National Museum burning, set ablaze by Russian tank fire. At
the corner of St. Stephen Road I almost step on the bodies of three unarmed demonstrators
murdered by the Russians. On Ulloi Road their tanks and armored cars have blasted a
Thursday, October 25
The government is confused. One hour it declares a curfew and warns everyone to stay
off the streets and inside their homes behind locked doors. The next it appeals to
everyone to get back to their jobs.
In fact, what has become a general strike has spread and continues uninterrupted. The
factories and nearly every office are empty. Schools are closed. Streetcars are at a
standstill. [34/36] There has been much damage to the power and light equipment.
The radio continues to broadcast government threats of the death penalty on those who
continue fighting or who even keep arms. But the authority of the government is vanishing.
Today I have seen many Hungarian soldiers tear the Communist badges off their caps and
demonstrations that are becoming a revolution. We hear that thousands of the soldiers
of the Hungarian Army are joining the units of Freedom Fighters, and turning weapons and
ammunition over to them.
As I pass the Kilian Zalka Mate barracks, soldiers are passing guns and ammunition
through the windows to civilians outside. All over Budapest Freedom Fighters are tearing
Red Stars down from the buildings and burning Red flags. They have taken over the building
of Szabad Nep, the official Communist Party newspaper, and pried the huge Red
Star from its top. [36/44]
There is no automobile traffic on the streets today because the Freedom Fighters,
helped by unarmed patriots, have built barricades on nearly every street. They have ripped
up streetcar tracks to make tank barriers, and overturned streetcars and buses at
strategic points. Many streetcars stand motionless, with shattered windows, where their
motormen have abandoned them to join the Freedom Revolution.
Food is getting scarce. There are long lines of people waiting at the stores for hours
to buy potatoes, milk or a loaf of bread. But there is a bright spot in the food supply.
From the villages around Budapest the peasants have begun to send in carts and trucks
with food for the patriots in the city. Much of it has been hidden away from the Communist
authorities and the system of compulsory deliveries. Now they are distributing the food
free at street corners; the peasants permit the Freedom Fighters as much as they need. The
housewives and small children are becoming a supply service for the new patriot army that
is rising out of the Freedom Revolution.
Moving around the city today, I have seen many of these free food deliveries. At one
corner a bearded peasant and his wife toss out potatoes like balls in a game. In another
street, a truck pulls in loaded with fish that were still alive. They throw them out, and
many of them slip through fingers to the sidewalk, where they jump around as if just
The curfew is now officially in force from 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon,
but no one pays attention. The [44/47] Freedom Fighters are out at all hours. Others go
out to get food, or on other errands, or just to see what is happening.
Some of them are shot. I see a Russian armored car fire without any reason at three
women and four men passing by -all unarmed. Their bodies still lie in the street as I get
In Buda our forces now occupy a number of positions. Workers from the Ganz factory hold
Szena Square and Szell Kalman Square. By mid-afternoon, however, the Russians have seized
the most important communications points: Margit bridge, the western railroad station,
Rakoczi Road, Kossuth Lajos Street.
But we hear today that an entire Hungarian armored regiment, with its tanks, has come
over in a body to our side. In fact, almost the entire Hungarian army is swinging behind
the nation. Mimeographed leaflets appear on the streets, urging the people to join
together "for the liberation of our country from the Russian yoke." Shop windows
are plastered with slogans: RUSSIANS GO HOME! A FREE ELECTION WITH U.N. SUPERVISION!
Our youngsters are teaching us the meaning of courage. They build tank barricades out
of paving stones. I watched boys and girls of fourteen or fifteen crawl up to Russian
tanks and put paving stones in their drive chains. The tank starts, the stone forces the
caterpillar tread off the wheels, and the machine is stopped.
The young people have learned about the tanks' blind spots, and how to get close with
Molotov cocktails-bottles filled with gasoline and with a fuse of gasoline-soaked rags.
[47/52] They are destroying tanks by the dozens. The gasoline flames force out the
Russians, and they are shot from the windows of the surrounding buildings.
The young boys and girls are also fighting with rifles and automatic guns. The weapons,
whether from Hungarian army stores or captured in the fighting, are Russian -the Russians
are being shot by their own bullets. Today one group of students with a bazooka smashed
several Red tanks. And the women are joining, some with weapons, others carrying flags and
food and taking care of the wounded.
Russian atrocities continue. I see a combined squad of Russian soldiers and A.V.H.
Hungarian traitors firing at plainly marked Red Cross workers, and at trucks, painted with
a big Red Cross, which patriot drivers, many of them girls, were using to take the wounded
to hospitals. The hospitals in Budapest are filled by now, and many of the wounded must be
taken to the villages surrounding our capital.
I also watch Red Army tanks fire at random at houses, on the off chance that a Freedom
Fighter might be inside. The fronts of many houses are being smashed open by the cannon
fire, so that one can look right into the rooms.
The Red Army throws itself into a bold destruction of property. The Red tanks use
church steeples for target practice. Without any reason they knock over light and
telephone poles and smash streetcar safety islands.
One of our free radio stations in the provinces reports that at Magyarovar, near the
Austrian frontier, Hungarian [52/57] boys were shot down by Russian soldiers when they
climbed on top of a barracks to remove the Red Star... [57/62]
Saturday, October 27
There is still heavy fighting in Budapest today. Food is growing scarce, and the
general strike continues. There are rumors that Russian tanks are coming from
Czechoslovakia to help put down our revolution.
But a curious thing is happening. Hungarians are losing the sense of fear. If a child
can blow up a tank, why should anyone be afraid of a tank? As a tank clanks by on the way
to a spot where fighting is going on, housewives stroll by arm in arm, and look it over
curiously, as if it were on exhibit at a circus. Two minutes after a battle, the sidewalks
will be crowded with people inspecting a tank that has been put out of action.
But it is just the opposite with the Russians. They are getting frightened. And they
are hungry. They can't get food from the Hungarian peasants, and their own supply systems
seem to have been broken down. The narrow streets of the old parts of town are not healthy
for a tank at night, and the soldiers would be shot if they got out of their machines. So
most of the tanks withdraw at night from the center of town into the suburbs... [62/82]
Fierce fighting rages in a number of districts, and there are bloody hand-to-hand
street battles. Our Freedom Fighters, most of them without any military training, show
astonishing skill. In their improvised units, under commanders of their own choice, they
keep strict discipline. There are no cowards, and a thousand heroes. Our girls brave the
Russian machine gun fire to carry ammunition and food.
Our beloved city is being turned into ruins. The damage in many districts is worse than
at the end of the Second World War. Whole blocks look as if they had been through a
We know from the free radios that much of the rest of the country is under our control,
with the fighting stopped in most places. But there are alarming rumors that the Russians
are sending in more tanks from Rumania, and that Mikoyan is back again in Budapest.
Red Army tanks are again attacking the Freedom Fighters entrenched in Kilian barracks,
Zalka Mate barracks, and the barracks on Bem Square. But we hear that Budapest airport is
in our hands. Today the people began rounding up an enemy who is hated even more bitterly
than the Red Army -the agents of the A.V.H., the traitorous "security police"
controlled by the Russian M.V.D. For ten years the A.V.H., more ferocious even than
Hitler's Gestapo, has filled our lives with [82/84] terror and brutality, seized our
fathers and brothers in the middle of the night, sent our sons in freight cars to Siberia,
tortured us in dark cellars, forced us to confess to fantastic crimes, fenced us in slave
camps, shot and hanged Hungarians for the crime of loving their country and the truth.
Some of the most notorious A.V.H. agents are caught and shot at once. The others are
arrested and put into prison to await trial -much fairer treatment than we ever received
at their hands.
I met a friend of mine who tells me that he saw a crowd of patriots capture a
well-known A.V.H. officer. They were ready to kill him -and he deserved killing -until
someone said: "Let him go. He is a Jew, and if we kill him they will twist the story,
and say we did it because of anti-Semitism." So the crowd let him off; he was
trembling with cowardice, and ran off as fast as his legs could manage. In Hungary's past
there have been occasional examples of anti-Semitism. Only three years ago, at the time of
the so-called "doctors' plot" in Moscow, the Hungarian Communists cooked up a
local doctors' plot that was just an anti-Semitic action in disguise. But I have heard of
no anti-Semitic acts in our Freedom Revolution. In fact, there are hardly any reports of
robbery, rape, looting or other major personal crimes. 
1. Andor Heller, from No More Comrades (Chicago: Henry
Regnery Company, 1957), passim, pp. 9-84. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
2. Louis (Lajos) Kossuth was the great Hungarian hero of the 1848
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