14. The Massacres

The Massacres

"Working men's Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators, history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priests will not avail to redeem them."
K. Marx, The Civil War in France (1871).

At a meeting of students and workers in Magyaróvár on Wednesday, October 24, it was decided to send a delegation the following morning to A.V.O. headquarters to ask them to remove the Soviet star from the front of the building. Soon after 10 a.m. on the 25th a large crowd of students and workers, including many women and children, met in the park. About two thousand people then began to march to the A.V.O. buildings. They were unarmed. The demonstration had been openly planned, and the A.V.O. had been busy during the night digging two trenches in front of their headquarters. Each trench now held two machine guns, manned by A.V.O. officers. The crowd stopped. Four workers walked the hundred yards or so and spoke to these officers. "We request you not to shoot. We are peaceful demonstrators." "All right," said one of the officers, "come nearer!" The crowd moved forward. All the machine guns then opened fire. Many people crumpled to the ground. At first, people at the back didn't believe they were being fired at. Then, starting from the front rows, from where - the bloody corpses could be seen,[63] people began throwing themselves to the ground. From the roofs of the buildings, A.V.O. men began throwing grenades into the crowd. 101 people were killed and over 150 seriously wounded, including women and children.

When this dreadful news reached Györ, a little later, a large number of 'freedom fighters' set out in lorries for Magyaróvár. They arrived in the afternoon and joined the now-armed battalions of workers and students of Magyaróvár and of the neighbouring town of Moson. The A.V.O. barracks were surrounded. The people wanted the gun crews. They got them. Some were just beaten to death. Others were hanged upside down, beaten to death and their bodies slashed. This was done by a grim, silent crowd.

In Budapest on the 25th, an unarmed crowd had begun to march slowly to the Parliament Square from Rákócziút. They carried national flags with the 'communist' emblem torn from the centre. They also bore black flags in honour of those killed. According to Charles Coutts [64], they met a Russian tank on the way: "The tank stopped. A soldier put his head out and the people in the front of the crowd began to explain they were unarmed and were engaged in a peaceful demonstration. The soldier told them to jump on the tank: a number of them did so, and the tank set off in the demonstration. I have a photograph of this."

"Entering Parliament Square they met another Soviet tank which had been sent to fire on them. This tank, too, turned and joined the demonstration. In the Square were three more Soviet tanks and two armoured cars. The crowd went right up to them and began to talk to the soldiers. The Soviet commandant was saying : 'I have a wife and children waiting for me in the Soviet Union. I don't want to stay in Hungary at all', when suddenly from the roof tops there were three salvoes of gun-fire. Some of the people ran to the sides of the Square for shelter. Others were told by the Russians to shelter behind their tanks. Some thirty people, including a Soviet officer, were left lying on the Square either dead or wounded." [65]

Who fired from the roofs? Coutts thought it was the A.V.O. Who else could it have been? Their reason was obvious - to provoke the fraternising Russians into action, to harden their seeming softness. The friendship of the insurgents towards the Russian soldiers who refused to shoot them was later shown in a resolution of the Budapest Revolutionary Council which demanded "that they be accorded right of asylum in Hungary."