One of the guys Geoffrey went to school with was Lazlo Fejos, who now, as Les Fejos, sells Real Estate in Auckland. His brother Steve does likewise in Wellington.  Their parents were among the nearly 250,000 who escaped from Hungary’s totalitarian regime in October 1956, ending up in NZ.  Like most people from Eastern Europe, they were strongly anti-Communist and would never vote for the Labour Party.

The uprising in Hungary was a result of over 11 years of brutal Communist repression and was the most notable post-World War II demonstration of where systematic government attacks on civil liberties like those underway by Jacinda & Co. will lead if they are not strongly opposed.

Although Hungary was a German ally in World War II, its experience of totalitarianism began in March 1944 when the Nazis moved in and occupied the country.  In October after the Nazis forced President Miklos Horthy to go, the local fascist Arrow Cross Party, with Nazi support, became the government; but didn’t last long.  That month the siege of Budapest began when the Red Army moved into Hungary, which was defended by two Waffen-SS divisions and Arrow Cross militia.  The siege ended after 102 days of fierce fighting (the third longest siege of World War II after Leningrad and Stalingrad) with about 120,000 dead and 80% of the city in ruins.

Following the end of Nazi Germany, Hungary became a satellite state of the Soviet Union whose Bosses selected Matyas Rakosi to front the Stalinization; Rakosi de facto ruled Hungary from 1949 to 1956. His government’s policies of militarization, nationalization, collectivization and war compensation to the Soviets led to a severe decline in living standards. In imitation of Stalin’s NKVD (from 1953, KGB), the Rakosi regime established a secret political police, the AVH, to enforce Communism. In the ensuing purges approximately 350,000 officials and intellectuals were imprisoned or executed from 1948 to 1956. Many freethinkers, democrats and Horthy-era functionaries were secretly arrested and incarcerated in domestic and foreign gulags. In all some 600,000 Hungarians were deported to Soviet gulags, where at least 200,000 of them died.

Unsurprisingly, by 1956 Hungarians wanted the Communist regime overthrown.

After a massive number of Soviet troops were sent to crush the rebellion, its leaders were dealt to as expected; nevertheless, there was a slow liberalisation in the following years which brought about an accompanying slow improvement in living standards and more freedom.

In 2002 the former Headquarters of the AVH at 60 Andrassy ut (Ave) in Budapest was made into a Museum dedicated to the methods and victims of Fascist and Communist brutality: the Terror Haza (Terror House) — website


When in Budapest, this museum is a must-visit (our photo from 2010).