LETTER FROM THE PRISON / Miklós Rékai
“My case is political, what they accuse me of is (not) dishonour…”
My father wrote this letter in pencil on a sheet of toilet paper from the prison in Fő Street to my mother, in 1950. Hoping that only the addressee would read it, he entrusted the message to an inmate released. Years ago, when the writing was still visible, I rewrote the calligraphic letters fading out. The stories hidden in the message have numerous branches, mostly war and Holocaust stories, some of which still continue, taking new and new forms under the pressure of other stories trying to oppress them; whoever conceals them, will die of them – and whoever relates them, will die of that. I cannot avoid telling our stories.
My father was at a loss when he was arrested, just like the agents arresting him had no clue regarding the purpose of their action, either. The interrogation began with torturing him, referring to details omitted from his biography, but as soon as the second session was over, the charge based on feigned statements started to take shape. Finally, he was found guilty of hiding weapons, neglecting military training as an officer, and of the careless treatment of classified documents. As, decades later, a party leader put it, the aim was to “replace the military officers’ corps”.
My father’s confessions as well as his indictment document skip those 3 months which he spent in 1943 at the Eastern Front as the commander of a labour service unit. What he did then can only be guessed on the basis of fragmented narratives and recollections. The political aims of the Communist system lifted him from the status of a perpetrator to that of the victim.
In his letter, the words of a husband in love and worrying for his family do not reveal any of that, nor the fact that my Jewish mother faced life threat in 1944 just like my father did six years later. But their fears have a far more ancient origin. Both of them were orphans, in multiple ways, and the terrors of war were familiar to them. That might be one of the strongest bonds between two people: love born in the moment of fatal danger.
The military officers’ trials in the 50s regularly skipped the investigation of war crimes. The viewpoint of justice did not coincide with the aims of the dictatorial power, because the former may have easily made some of the liberating forces end up on the culprit’s seat. Overlapping stories and mutually exclusive systems of values block recollection and render it impossible to take moral stands unambiguously. For the second generation, it is risky to judge their parents’ deeds. Doing so, they would only enhance the conspiracy of silence, because, feeling ashamed, both the perpetrator and the victim are interested in that.
It is difficult for me, too, to speak about my family without making judgements. It is difficult to think about my parents not only as victims. I would like so much to see them clean! But I could produce such an image only at the cost of blurring it. At my father’s trial, the false charges covered up actual crimes, too. The reality constructed for the sake of political objectives was at the same time the negation of former stories. The Shoah did not end with the liberation of the country. It was still present at the show trials, in the “consolidation”, in our fake political systems.
What do I have to do with all that? I would like to avoid the task. But it is impossible because the controversial fate of my parents puts me at a crossroad. Which of them should I take sides with? Who was “right”? One cannot circumvent these questions, because what is at stake is whether I make a conscious choice or just float with others, like many people in my generation.
The shared life of my parents was constructed on the love of a Jewish girl trying to break free from her roots and that of a man giving the wrong political answer to his being an orphan. I was born out of that. That is it.
Köszönet a tárgykölcsönzőknek és történetmesélőknek:
FISCHER ÁGOTA ÉVA
FÜLÖPNÉ WELTZ MÁRIA
HÁTSZEGI GÁBORNÉ, JULIKA
HELLER MÁRIA (RÓZSA PÁL)
HELLER SÁNDORNÉ, MÜLLER ANIKÓ
KÁNAI GYULÁNÉ PEREDY GIZELLA
LEÁNYFALVINÉ GORDÁN ILDIKÓ
TERÉNYI ISTVÁNNÉ SULLAI VINCENCIA
TÓTHNÉ RUDI MARGIT
Köszönet a kiállítás létrejöttéhez nyújtott segítségért
TÓTH GERGELY MÁTÉ
ELEVEN EMLÉKMŰ CSOPORT
HERITAGE CONTACT ZONE
HUMÁN PLATFORM EGYESÜLET
OPEN SOCIETY ARCHIVES
Castrum Peregrini, Amszterdam
Asociatia Timişoara Capitala Cultural Europeana, Temesvár
Eleven Emlékmű / Humán Platform, Budapest
Etz Hayyim, Hanía, Kréta
European University Institute, Firenze
Culture Action Europe, Brüsszel