The Jewish hostages of Bela Kun

More hostages were taken by the Socialist Commune in the 1919s, than we thought earlier and the regime highly preferred Jewish hostages.

Index, a leading Hungarian news site, has reported on a conference held in the Budapest City Archives, marking the 100th anniversary of the Socialist Commune, where Ádám Gellért, co-manager of the Clio Institute and Boldizsár Vörös, senior fellow of the MTA talked about the hostage taking practices of the Socialist Commune.

These hostages may number around 1.500 as opposed to 500 like we earlier believed- said Ádám Gellért. The internationally acknowledged historian pointed out that

the Hungarian Commune had specific definition about what consisted a hostage, but that definition is still unknown to us. It seems obvious that the terms “political enemy of the state”, “counter revolutionist” and “hostage” were interchangeable.

The hostage taking practices of the Socialist Commune proved to be even more unpopular than the forced drafts and the assassination practices. Hostage taking was one of the commonly used methods of phycological warfare in the First World War, for instance the Soviet government put away some fifty thousand hostages in August of 1918, people who were believed to prove useful should “the bourgeois plan and counter-revolutions”.

Béla Kun

The rounding up of hostages started during Easter of 1919 in many rural cities. There was no commonly accepted code of conduct for hostage taking during the Socialist Commune- said Gellért- therefore the methods have always been topic of fiery debate. Some of the hostages were killed while gathered, though this was not too common- he added.

The leaders of the Bolshevik regime, who were of Jewish descent, had always a peculiar way to deal with the situation:

“…they asked the victim if he was Jewish. If the answer was yes, he was taken immediately, but if the name hinted some other ethnicity, the question whether to be taken or not became very controversial.” – remembered an eye-witness after the fall of the Socialist Commune.

Nevertheless Kun was against bloodshed and unjustified killings.

“Those who want to see bloodshed here, rather than on the battlefield prove to be a deserter of the cause. […] I do not want to let go of the ideal to defend Budapest, this Soviet-Budapest.” – said Bela Kun in a party gathering on the 3rd of May.

The hostages were taken in by detectives, reds and soldiers of the red army. Manfred Weiss, a well-known industrialist, for instance, was brought in by some 20 soldiers.

The Socialist Commune ended in August of 1919; the bourgeois were let go home.

These prominent ex-hostages of had to live with these memories in between the periods of the two wars. On the last anniversary that they held, they were taken by a special streetcar to the Kozma street prison where they greeted their formal keepers and the directors of the prison.