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article imageHungary moves towards opening Communist spy files, 23 years on

By Christopher Szabo     Dec 2, 2013 in World
Budapest - Twenty-three years after the end of Communism in Hungary, the country has taken a tentative step towards opening the secret files of the era to the public, the last former East Bloc country to do so.
Justice minister Tibor Navracsics said in parliament that a new bill would cater for the creation of an Committee of National Memory, which would make it possible for individuals who were spied on or otherwise victimised by Communist informers or agents, will investigate these activities. Hirado.hu says the victims will have the choice of making the identities of those who informed or spied on them public.
Politics.hu says the creation of the Committee would give a better understanding of how people lived under Communism. The subject is not taught in schools and people under 30 years of age have little idea of what their parents went through.
Politics.hu reports that during the parliamentary debate, deputy president of the ruling coalition Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP), Bence Rétvári said the government was making efforts to compensate victims of the previous (Communist) regime, both morally and financially.
Neither the liberal LMP nor the ultra right-wing Jobbik were satisfied with the terms of reference of the new bill, arguing all the names could be revealed at the stroke of a pen, if the government wanted to.
However, Bence argued, according to mno.hu that this way the victim would be in charge of the process and not again be a victim as previously. LMP joint president, András Schiffer, called for the immediate release of all the files.
Historians have had access to the material for decades, but those affected now have hope that they can find out who violated their rights under the Communist regime.
It should be noted that unlike in Western countries, the end of WWII did not mean the end of the killing in these countries.
Hungary, like Poland, Austria and Germany, suffered most under the Soviet regime, but with Soviet troops withdrawing from occupied eastern Austria, the suffering ended. However, in Poland, some 2 million people were deported, in Hungary over 600,000 and a vast number from Germany.
In an in-depth article, Cynthia Horne of Western Washington University, writes:
Even people who weren’t active collaborators with the secret police could be considered passively compliant and therefore ‘complicit. Vaclav Havel, the revered Czech dissident and former President of the Czech Republic, described how the systemic complicity forced citizens to “live within a lie”.
While Hungarian society has been one of the slowest in facing its Communist past, none of the former East Bloc nations have had it easy. It is generally thought that Poland and the Czech Republic addressed the issue in a timely manner and also actually compensated victims.
Romania and Bulgaria, along with the former Soviet republics, have not done well either. Russia, the legal successor of the Soviet Union is still in denial, with any wrongdoing on the part of mass murderers like Lenin or Stalin being swept under the carpet.
Hungary is hardly better. People are interested not in what they see as the distant past, but in their daily problems and with the EU, of which the country is a part, in constant crisis since 2008, this is not surprising.
The PB Blog, in an interview with Dr György Gyarmati, director of the Historical Archive, revealed that much is known and could be revealed to the victims or their descendants immediately.
Gyarmati said:
Looking at the current state of the investigation of documents, the Historical Archive could offer close to a million people information compensation, if those, or their legal descendants, who were really spied on/persecuted came forward.
Meanwhile, a promising film has been released on Soviet rapes committed against Hungarian women during the "liberation" of the country.
So it seems, the country is slowly and painfully, beginning to face its Communist past, a period which killed some 350,000 people between 1945 and 1989.
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