Preface || 1: "Those Heroic Days"
"The times of that superstition which attributed revolutions to the
ill-will of a few agitators have long passed away. Everyone knows nowadays that, wherever
there is a revolutionary convulsion, there must be some social want in the background
which is prevented by outworn institutions from satisfying itself... Every attempt at
forcible repression will only bring it forth stronger until it bursts its fetters."
"The Hungarian Revolution is already history; this fact, however, does not exempt
mankind from its moral obligation to solve the Hungarian problem." These words of
Imre Kovacs explain why we offer this text to college students. The Hungarian Revolt is
important historically and ideologically-important because it is a sample, a symbol, an
epitome of the individual human resistance to tyranny in our time. On one level the
Hungarian Revolt is a great and terrible moment of Hungarian history; on another, it is a
gallant if abortive strike by a captive people against Communist oppression; and on still
another, it is a magnificent revolt of the individual against collective dictatorial
machinery. No matter how an American college student looks at the Revolt, it has meaning
for him. If it does not, more than a revolt has been lost.
Mind you, no Hungarian Freedom Fighter admits that his Revolt is over, that it has been
lost. And speaking to these veterans or reading their writings, one believes with them.
This is the difficulty about doing research on such a topic: one gets involved
emotionally. Research writing must be based on fact and cold-blooded evaluation. It is
especially important in using this source book that the student weigh evidence carefully
and consider its source. He should remember that many of the reports were made by men
under stress, amid savage street fighting, who saw the Revolt only in part. He should also
remember that much of the reporting was politically biased. But of such material scholarly
analyses are made; it is the raw material of historical research writing. You will have at
your disposal in this volume what we believe is an equitable representation (we could not
hope to include all) of the available primary material on the Hungarian Revolt.
Represented here are radio broadcasts, newspaper and magazine articles, and portions of
books on the Revolt, all of which record what viewers of the Revolt saw, heard, and
believed during the thirteen days.
Since the body of available material is large and because we wanted to cover the events
in Hungary in sufficient depth for research writing, it has been necessary to limit our
scope to the key days of the Revolt, from October 23 to November 4, 1956-from the outbreak
of armed conflict to the day on which the returning Russian troops regained general
control. Naturally there is a long prelude to the October 23 uprising-the long story of
Communist rule. After November 4 there is more fighting, and there is the bloody history
of punishments and renewed oppression under the Kadar regime. The aftermath continues to
this day, and it is important. There is the United Nations debate on the Hungarian
problem, with its many pages of printed testimony, both during and after the Revolt. Also
there are the reactions in many countries outside Hungary, all of which are relevant to
what was happening and had happened in Hungary. But, for reasons of space and student
research time, the editors have concentrated on the vital thirteen days of Paradise
Regained-and lost again in Hungary.
At the end of the book there are suggested topics for controlled research and sources
and topics for library research. It is our hope that the present text will be but the
beginning of your interest in the Hungarian Revolt. There is much more to know about the
subject, and it continues to be fascinating.
The details of the Hungarian Revolt are not pleasant reading. There is much horror,
blood, fear, and pain. There are reprisals and atrocities; a children's hospital is
machine gunned, twelve-year-old children blow themselves to pieces to destroy Russian
tanks, men and women are slaughtered in the streets, men are deliberately burned alive.
And all these things are described without restraint in this book. But we do not
apologize, for these events are what this Revolt was, what it cost. You need to learn of
these incidents, and you need to learn of them from eyewitnesses if you are going to study
the Hungarian Revolt for research writing. How the Hungarians died illuminates why they
died. The horror will not be lessened for you by this, but you need to note it: the
Hungarian people realized what their Revolt would cost them, and they dared it with this
We hope that you will realize as you read that these people are very much like you.
They are not professional soldiers; they are shopkeepers, businessmen, housewives,
laborers, farmers, school children, and college students. Most of all they are human
beings who want to be free more than anything else.
We have been told that this subject is too grisly, too controversial for undergraduates
in American colleges. To this we can reply only that we disagree, that we believe it is
time for you, even if you are a college freshman-no, especially if you are a college
freshman -to encounter the problems raised by the Hungarian Revolt. If the problems
disturb you, so much the better.
Arrangement of material has been a problem in editing this book. Doubtless strict
chronological progression would have been more readable, but in research one does not find
material in chronological sequence. Therefore, we have grouped the material according to
kinds of sources, as one would encounter them in library research. Within this framework
we have tried to maintain chronology and readability.
A note on accent marks: the Hungarian use of accents is a complicated business which
sources in this text further complicate by their inconsistency. We advise students to
avoid the use of accents, except where the quotation of a source demands their inclusion
For assistance with this book we thank the following people: Miss Nora Hegedus of the
Kossuth Foundation for sending us a great deal of material on the Revolt and for her
helpful advice; the Free Europe Committee for generous cooperation; Miss Catherine Nelson
of the Ohio University Library for supplying source material; Misses Suzanne Cavanagh,
Mary McKnight, and Mary Mills, our undergraduate assistants at Ohio University for
research aid; Professor Robert F. McDonnell of Ohio University, who presented us with the
idea for the book and did preliminary research on it; and Mrs. Florence Morris for
assistance in preparing the manuscript.
Athens, Ohio R. L. & W. F. M.
June 16, 1960
This book is respectfully dedicated to the
Hungarian Freedom Fighters
R. Lettis and W.E. Morris