The Modern Inquisition. Hugo Dewar 1953
Since over all these trials loomed the sinister shadow of Anglo-American imperialism, it must have often occurred to the producers that the cast of players assembled was incomplete. What an excellent stroke it would be if an American or an Englishman could be induced to play the part of spy in one of these shows! Representatives of every shade of opinion opposed to Soviet policy had recited their set pieces, but so far no genuine citizen of America or Britain had been found willing to beat his breast in public. Realising the educational value such confessions would have, the organisers looked around for suitable performers. But they searched for some time without finding the right material. British and American citizens were arrested, questioned for more or less lengthy periods (for instance, in the case of Mr Jacobson, US director of the American Joint Distribution Company, for as long as twenty hours without a break), found unsuitable, released and ordered out of the country. The most noteworthy example of this activity was the arrest of two employees of the oil company known as MAORT, in Hungary. These two men were Paul Ruedemann and George Bannantine, American citizens, respectively president and vice-president of the company, which was formerly American owned. They were arrested on 18 September 1948, after Hungarian employees under arrest had been ‘persuaded’ to make statements involving them in sabotage. Ruedemann and Bannantine, held incommunicado, were interrogated separately, shown the incriminating depositions of the Hungarians, and threatened with dire consequences if they refused to admit ‘the truth’. They took these threats sufficiently seriously to sign statements admitting that oil production had been deliberately retarded out of ‘political considerations’. However, no trial resulted. The charges could not be expanded to include espionage as well as sabotage, and the Hungarian authorities were not at all sure that these two men would adhere to their ‘confessions’ in a public trial. So they contented themselves with making what propaganda use they could of the statements extorted from them.
On 17 October the US Department of State issued a bulletin in which it was stated that:
With regard to the so-called ‘confessions’ which have been attributed to them by the Hungarian authorities, Mr Ruedemann and Mr Bannantine have affirmed that these statements were, in fact, prepared by the Hungarian police, that the contents of the documents are wholly false and that they copied and signed these ‘confessions’ only under duress. The two men were placed separately in solitary confinement in underground cells for the first four days and were subjected to long periods of questioning at all hours of the day and night. On various occasions they were required to stand with their faces against the wall and arms upraised until they collapsed. During this time, they were permitted very little food and drink.
These men were subjected to part of the technique now familiar to the reader. The treatment was of short duration, the interrogators apparently being satisfied that they could not get any more out of Ruedemann and Bannantine. The whole affair was in the nature of a try-out (the facsimile reproduction of their confessions contains a number of elementary mistakes in English — see Report of the Hungarian Ministry of Home Affairs on the MAORI Sabotage, Budapest, 1948). The difficulties confronting the stage managers when handling citizens of the West will be appreciated if one remembers that such persons have a government behind them concerned with their welfare, that it is not usually possible to bring economic pressure to bear on them or to threaten reprisals against their families. The field of selection — so vital in these affairs — is thus greatly narrowed. The number of Westerners living in the countries concerned is small in the first place, and in the second place few, if any, have the right background, that would give a charge of espionage a certain plausibility, and also the personal circumstances that would make it possible to bring all the pressures to bear on them. It was therefore no easy matter to find one or two persons with all the right qualifications; one essential qualification being intimate friendship with someone whom the authorities could handle in any way they liked.
After many tentative efforts and failures two suitable actors were at last found in Hungary. Robert Vogeler, 38-year-old employee of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, an American citizen; and Edgar Sanders, employee of this firm, a British citizen, born in Leningrad [sic — MIA] in 1906, were arrested on 18 and 21 November 1949, respectively. Long and careful study of the personalities of these two men, and of their relations with Hungarian citizens then in the hands of the secret police, had convinced the authorities that they could be broken. And even if they should prove wrong in their calculation, no particular harm would have been done by these arrests, since they had arrested others before and then released them without evoking any reactions that they were not prepared to risk. As events showed, however, they had not calculated incorrectly: the men could be broken.
Efforts made by both the British and US governments to have access to the imprisoned men were unsuccessful. On behalf of Sanders the British government drew attention to the ‘widely accepted principle that where a foreign national is arrested it is an obligation upon the government of the arresting country to grant him facilities of access’ to his consular authorities (The Times, 17 February 1950). So seriously did the British government view this matter that it was prepared to suspend trade negotiations with Hungary until its demand had been acceded to. On 19 December trade negotiations were therefore suspended. In a letter dated 24 November, Mr Berei, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had promised that he would give his close attention to the case, and that ‘when the visit of His Majesty’s Consul to Mr Sanders will be possible you will be informed without delay’. But such a visit never became possible. The same attitude was adopted to a similar demand made on behalf of Vogeler by the US government. In his case also no contact with the outside world was permitted. Every request to see them was refused on one pretext or another. Even when the preliminary interrogation had terminated, with the publication of the indictment, the situation remained unaltered. Both Sanders and Vogeler were thus held incommunicado for a period of some eighty days. This attitude of the Hungarian authorities adds one more weighty piece of evidence to that already advanced in proof of the fact that a special technique is employed to extort confessions and maintain the accused in the right frame of mind. Their anxiety lest anything should interfere with the ‘conditioning’ of Sanders and Vogeler is quite understandable.
On 25 December it was announced that Vogeler, Sanders and fourteen Hungarian citizens were being held on charges of forming ‘a large-scale espionage organisation’. Of the fourteen Hungarians, however, only five were due to appear as accused; the remaining nine were scheduled for the role of witnesses.
The British and American governments now made strenuous efforts to obtain the Hungarian government’s permission for independent lawyers to attend the trial on behalf of Sanders and Vogeler. Again they met with refusal. And again the attitude of the Hungarian authorities confirms our argument that a confession show cannot be properly staged without the full and harmonious cooperation of all members of the court, working together for a common purpose in accordance with a prearranged plan of action.
This question of independent counsel for the defence is worth dwelling on at some length, because in the other trials, where only subjects of the country concerned were on trial, it could not possibly arise in such an acute form as in the Sanders-Vogeler trial. The great anxiety displayed by the Hungarian government over this matter disclosed in a direct fashion what hitherto had been to some extent camouflaged, although it is true clumsily and not very effectively: that the organisers of these spectacles cannot afford to have any ‘uninitiated’ person present who might jeopardise the smooth running of the show.
An entry visa for a British counsel was refused by Mr Berei. Vogeler’s employers also retained a lawyer to act for him, but he, too, was refused a visa. This refusal to allow an independent lawyer even to appear in the courtroom contrasts unfavourably even with the attitude of the Nazi authorities on the occasion of the Reichstag Fire Trial, at which the Bulgarian Communist, Georgi Dimitrov, was the chief defendant. Dimitrov’s protest against the refusal to allow him foreign counsel of his own choosing has already been mentioned in a previous chapter. His defendants outside Germany at that time — among whom his fellow Communists were not the least vocal — quite rightly made considerable play with this, justifiably characterising it as a very telling admission of the weakness of the Nazi case against Dimitrov and his co-defendants. However, although continuing to adhere to the letter of the law in respect of counsel for the defence, the Nazis did yield to the extent of allowing non-Nazi lawyers to be present at the trial, to send communications to the court and to publish communications. The Hungarian authorities, however, would not relax their ruling even to this extent, because they were afraid of the effect the presence of such lawyers might have had upon Sanders and Vogeler.
The US State Department made the following comments on this aspect of the matter:
In the light of the theory and practice of justice which now prevail in Hungary, as well as of the duties towards the Communist regime now imposed on Hungarian lawyers and judges, there is grave doubt that, in the absence of American legal counsel, Mr Vogeler will be properly defended and his right adequately safeguarded by a Hungarian lawyer. [Mutatis mutandis, the same argument used in regard to Dimitrov’s situation at the Reichstag Fire Trial — author.]
Moreover, in view of Mr Vogeler’s present situation and the treatment experienced by other American citizens who have been detained by the Hungarian police, there is serious doubt that he is in a position to make free choice of Hungarian legal counsel for his defence...
Further, in United States courts the Constitution is interpreted to permit choice of counsel by the accused even outside of the bar of jurisdiction. It is in accordance with international comity, especially where the defence of basic human rights may be involved, for the court to permit a foreign lawyer to appear pro hac vice...
The government and people of the US are deeply concerned and indignant at the intolerable attitude and behaviour of the Hungarian government in the case of Mr Vogeler. They take an increasingly serious view of the treatment of this American citizen, wherein the Hungarian government has violated both its specific international obligation and generally accepted principles of humanity. (US Information Service, 16 February 1950)
The trial opened on 17 February 1950. All the accused pleaded guilty to having, ‘on the instructions of the intelligence service of the US, established a network of spies operating against the Hungarian People’s Republic’ and carrying out ‘acts of sabotage against the Hungarian planned economy’ (R Vogeler, E Sanders and their Accomplices before the Criminal Court (Budapest, 1950), p 8).
In these trials no one is charged with espionage alone; the accused always do a little sabotaging on the side, though this must make exposure almost inevitable. Thus they are not only spies, but always very stupid ones into the bargain. However strange this may appear, there is an explanation for it: the authorities concerned cannot let slip any opportunity to blame others for economic shortcomings.
It is here appropriate to recall the words of the defence counsel of one of the British engineers in the Metro-Vickers Trial in Russia in 1933. Speaking on the meaning of espionage, he said ‘what we in our country, in the land of planned economy, in the country of state trade, call economic espionage is, in the capitalist world... the ordinary, everyday, perfectly usual phenomenon of the competitive struggle within capitalist economy’. In the Iron Curtain countries the distinction between ‘economic’ espionage and espionage has been entirely obliterated. Espionage is nowadays so elastically interpreted there that the word ‘information’ is often used as a synonym. The following examples, taken from trial reports, of what is now regarded as spying, well illustrate this point:
* The number of patients in hospitals.
* The number of pupils in schools.
* Profit and loss account of an enterprise.
* All ‘concrete’ facts relating to commercial affairs with foreign countries (especially with the USSR).
* Information about Zionist organisations.
* State of mind of minorities.
* Events in connection with the Orthodox, Catholic and Uniate churches.
* Information on trade union activity.
* Mood of the population.
* Information published in a state Gazette (on sale to the public).
* Communist Party preparations for forthcoming elections.
It would be therefore no surprise to learn (the nerves of the authorities in these countries have become so jumpy) that disclosure of an outbreak of influenza is regarded as giving espionage information to the enemy.
With the above conception of what constitutes spying, it is not difficult to see how Sanders and Vogeler were, during the three months of ‘conditioning’, induced to accept their inquisitors’ viewpoint of their activities in Hungary, and confess to being spies. It is in this respect significant that Sanders was even made to describe his perfectly legitimate work as a member of the Allied Control Commission as espionage. Nothing better illustrates the weakness of the case against Sanders. Why did the Hungarian government feel it necessary to attempt to bolster up the case with such obviously irrelevant material? As pointed out by Major-General (retired) OP Edgecumbe, former British Commissioner of the Control Commission in Hungary:
Sanders was one of my staff officers with the British element of the Allied Control Commission in Hungary during the armistice period. He belonged to the military section of my mission, and it is untrue that his work was to organise espionage. One of the principal duties of the military section was to collect information for me regarding the Hungarian armed forces and also about the general situation throughout the country. This was necessary in order that I might endeavour to cooperate with the Russian and American elements of the Control Commission in ensuring that the terms of the armistice were being carried out... This whole matter in simplified form resolves itself into the question of ‘information’ as opposed to illegal ‘espionage’. It can be easily appreciated how a defendant accused of the latter can be ‘persuaded’ by prolonged police interrogation to admit that the seeking of information was ‘espionage’. (Letter, The Times, 20 February 1950)
A further important statement has been made by Mr JS Moggridge, who was Administrative Officer of the British Council in Budapest from October 1946 to August 1947. Writing to The Times newspaper he said:
In your story of the trial of Edgar Sanders... you quote Zoltán Radó, one of the Hungarian accused, as saying that he used to hand reports on political and economic matters to a Mr BS Mowbridge of the British Council... From the similarity of this name to my own, I have little doubt that I am the person referred to. I met Edgar Sanders a number of times in a social way, but I did not know him well enough to vouch for him. But I can state that I myself had absolutely no connection with intelligence or espionage of any kind; that nobody called Zoltán Radó ever had any dealings with me at all; and that statements attributed to him are the wildest fabrications. Is it not more than probable that the charges against Sanders and his fellow ‘spies’ are equally baseless? I cannot help feeling that had I still been in Budapest, I, instead of the unfortunate Sanders, might now have been suffering imprisonment and indignities at the hands of the Communist Hungarian police...
Would the court have accepted a request, had an independent foreign counsel been there to make it, that a duly notarised statement of Mr Mowbridge to this effect be admitted as evidence? To pose the question is to answer it.
Details of the ‘evidence’ relating to sabotage need not detain us. The basis of this charge was simply the not unnatural fact that the American owners of the concern for which Vogeler and Sanders worked did not view with a kindly eye the Hungarian government’s proposals with regard to its future. Since nationalisation could be foreseen as inevitable, it is very probable that the American owners were anxious to get all they could out of the business beforehand. The Sanders-Vogeler trial was in part used by the Hungarian government to justify nationalisation of all foreign-owned concerns.
Nationalisation of enterprises in the ownership of foreign capitalists is vitally important in the interest of the undisturbed development of our nationalised socialist industry. We must prevent these enterprises being used for undermining activity, spying and sabotage directed against our People’s Democracy.
Said Mr Gero, Minister of State Planning (speech of 28 December 1949). On 29 December a decree was passed nationalising all enterprises employing ten or more workers, or having foreign capital. The decree excluded enterprises handed over to a foreign country under the Peace Treaty (thus safeguarding the interests of the Soviet Union). Previous nationalisation measures had excluded foreign enterprises from their scope, but it was now made clear, said Gero, that most of these had been used by foreign imperialists ‘to mask their spy organisations and sabotage activities’. Gero’s words also show that the case against the accused had been prejudged. However, in regard to Vogeler’s participation in sabotage, his defence counsel was compelled to admit that not even ‘confession proofs’ had been advanced by the prosecution. Yet Vogeler was regarded — as his higher sentence showed — as the real ringleader, to whom Sanders was subordinate. Since the sabotage charge was, so far as Sanders and Vogeler were concerned, something in the nature of a little additional ballast, the admission of Vogeler’s defence counsel made no difference to the final issue, and, on the other hand, it gave him a chance of saying something in his client’s favour without running any risk.
The espionage case against Sanders and Vogeler had no other real basis than their confession. As Sanders’ defence counsel said, ‘his sincere confession including every detail of the case... sincerely exposed not only his own acts, but, one could say, the whole complex of the case’ (Trial report, p 265). This is advanced as a mitigating circumstance and is not, of course, meant as any reflection upon the strength of the case for the prosecution. Vogeler’s ‘contrite confession’ and his ‘manly statement which... showed sincere repentance’ were also pleaded in mitigation of his ‘criminal act’. Thus the usual Moscow Trial model was faithfully copied.
Had these two men withdrawn the depositions extorted from them during the preliminary interrogations and pleaded not guilty, there would have remained only the testimony of witnesses who had themselves confessed, accusing themselves in accusing others. Far from doing this, however, they acted as all accused always do in these trials (with the few exceptions we have noted). To all outward appearance calm and composed, both Sanders and Vogeler acted in a completely unnatural way. It was not simply that they were peculiarly eager to convict themselves, but that they were in addition so unhesitatingly willing to support the propaganda purpose of the trial. Into the recital of their ‘crimes’ they dragged the names of everyone they could think of from among the personnel of the British and US legations in Budapest, from the directing personnel of the company that employed them, and from the British Council, etc, picturing all these people as subordinate instruments of the British and US intelligence services. The company for which they worked was according to them no more than a cover for espionage; the entire vast industrial enterprise had its policy dictated by the US General Staff. The only occasion on which either of them made any attempt to spare anyone was when Vogeler said that the Countess Edina Dory (one of the Hungarian accused) had played only a minor role in the espionage network.
Did this outward composure of theirs correspond with their inner feelings? One may be permitted to doubt it very strongly. It is unreasonable to suppose that these two men suffered no inner turmoil in such circumstances. In the case of Sanders, at any rate, the officially published report offers evidence, in the frequent incoherence of his sentences, of an inner conflict. The very calm and composure with which they both rejected everything that had made them what they were, with which they both damned the policies of their countries’ governments and dragged the names of their friends and associates in the mud, suggests that they were repeating parts learned by heart. The very language used by Sanders is out of character with the picture of him presented by the prosecution. He uses phrases one would expect to hear from the lips of a Stalinist propagandist, but not from the lips of a British spy. He speaks of ‘right-wing reactionary parties’, of ‘the democratic government as led by the Communists’, of the ‘plot in 1947 against the republic’, of the ‘Anglo-American policy of war’. Vogeler also says that ‘our policy was to assist the reactionary elements’, speaks of America’s ‘aggressive policy’, and in his final plea expresses his ‘sincere sorrow for the subversive activities’ he had carried on, ‘especially as I was sent from a big country, America, to Hungary, a small country, to interfere and undermine its efforts in rebuilding and rehabilitating itself from the effects of war’. All this is quite out of character; it in no way corresponds with the role they allegedly had in Hungary. The convictions of a lifetime are not fundamentally altered in three months of ‘political schooling’. On the other hand, in those three months a man can be taught to play a part.
Remember that for three months these two men were held in complete isolation from the outside world. They would at first try to contact the representatives of their governments; the Hungarian authorities would ostensibly forward these requests, but in fact do nothing about them, and then they would inform the prisoners that their governments were not interested, had washed their hands of them, that they did not want to recognise spies that had been exposed. Sanders and Vogeler would have no way of knowing that this was a lie. And when they at last entered the court-room there would be no counsel from abroad to let them know that this was not true, that on the contrary the British and American governments were making every effort on their behalf. Day after day it had been hammered into them that they were without a friend in the world to whom they could turn for aid. They were admittedly hostile to the Communist regime, by the nature of their work they were the servants of Big Business, they naturally associated with members of the dispossessed class in Hungary, they had during the war worked for Army intelligence, they had welcomed every sign of opposition to the new regime in Hungary, passed on gossip to others and so forth... Out of this general background material a picture of a vast espionage network is somehow put together by the introduction, for example, of the following kind of material:
Prosecutor [says to Sanders]: ‘In your statement you made mention of the fact that at Lieutenant-Colonel Bisdee’s office you saw a map.’
Sanders: ‘Quite right.’
Prosecutor: ‘What was the purpose of those markings on the map which you mentioned you had seen?’
Sanders: ‘Well, at that time the Anglo-American policy was, as I said before, it was a policy of war and for that purpose naturally they wanted to find out the leading places such as telephone exchanges and radio transmitters for bombing raids. (Trial report, p 110)
The map in question was one that hung in Wing-Commander Bisdee’s office in full view of anyone entering it, including the Hungarian charwoman who came to clean it every morning. It was marked to show those air-lines open and those prohibited to civil aircraft. But the prosecutor wanted something more sinister than this — so...
Prosecutor: ‘How were these targets which were to be bombed, marked?’
Sanders: ‘He was marking them with... (omission or hesitation points in the report) some of them which I saw had rings round them with a blue pencil and some of them had little flags on them. What the difference was I am afraid I don’t know.’
It is a simple matter to deduce from the above how the pieces are selected and fitted together. No matter how normal and innocent an incident may be, it can be given the interpretation required by the prosecution. (There was a map in his office, wasn’t there? — they would know this from the charwomen or someone else who had had occasion to go to the office in question. Bisdee was marking the map, wasn’t he? Wasn’t he marking bombing targets? But he could have been doing this, couldn’t he? How do you know he wasn’t? Did he tell you he wasn’t? Well, then, he could have been doing that, couldn’t he?) It all sounds so childish, so easy to refute, to withstand... but imagine it going on for five hours, ten hours, twenty hours... and day after day... The horrible thing about this interrogation technique is that it does not aim at separating the innocent from the guilty, it aims at manufacturing guilt.
The Hungarian press and radio were instructed to soft-pedal propaganda against the accused during the trial, as a small concession to judicial appearances, since there were two foreigners on trial. None the less, on the very day the trial opened, Szabad Nép announced that: ‘... all of them are guilty of espionage and have committed acts of sabotage against the Hungarian People’s Republic.’ The case against the accused was as usual proved before they stood trial. An excellent appreciation of how the case was built up out of the flimsiest of materials will be gained from the following extracts from the testimony of the ‘witness’ Mrs György Zádor, who worked as secretary in the Budapest office of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, and who is described with unconscious irony as ‘not prejudiced’, in spite of the fact that her testimony could have been used, had the authorities so desired, to place her in the dock with the accused.
Asked if she happened to notice that Sanders and Vogeler were engaged in espionage, she replied: ‘In the course of my work in the office I soon became convinced that the American and British representatives succeeding each other used their activities concerning the business merely as a pretext to disguise their acts of espionage and sabotage.’ How did she so convince herself? The answer is given in the following exchange between Mrs Zádor and the president. The latter asks her: ‘Did you, for example, type reports on the capacity of Hungarian industrial plants, and the number of workers employed?’ And she replies: ‘Yes, I typed various espionage reports.’ [Author’s emphasis] This satisfies everyone concerned. All that Mrs Zádor is required to do is simply to put the adjective ‘espionage’ before the word ‘reports’, and the president turns with a smile of triumph towards the prosecutor whose works he is aiding, and the counsels for the defence throw up their hands in despair. Impossible to refute such solid evidence! After all, Mrs Zádor is an ‘unprejudiced witness’. What has she to gain by thus qualifying the reports as espionage reports? Nothing at all — except the approval of the authorities.
Then there was the matter of the sealed envelope given to Mrs Zádor by Vogeler in October 1949: ‘He pointed out to me that it contained some important material, and I was to keep it carefully. He added that if it was liable to get into the hands of the police or some other authority, I should destroy it.’ Vogeler is here made to behave like the villain of the piece in a cheap film, making quite sure that the not too intelligent audience realises that he is up to no good. After this the president’s next question — ‘Did he tell you what was in the envelope?’ — seems superfluous. However, it is all part of the script. No, she didn’t know then. But there is no need to worry; by hook or by crook the audience is going to learn from the lips of this ‘unprejudiced witness’ exactly what the envelope did contain. So the next extremely helpful series of questions is:
What happened to the envelope? Did it contain the layout of the Tungsram factory, that the American Air Attaché had given to Vogeler at the American legation with the request that he should mark on it the separate workshops of the factory? You say, you did not know what it contained?
Once more the final question appears a little unnecessary. Still, it must be borne in mind that the witness, however cooperative she may wish to be, might forget to mention certain things if not prompted beforehand. Mrs Zádor is undoubtedly grateful to the president for these ‘questions’, but for the time being she answers only the last one: she repeats that she did not know what was in the envelope. Then comes the following:
President: ‘Who else was there, when this happened?’
Mrs Zádor: ‘Edgar Sanders, too.’
President: ‘Was Imre Geiger also there?’ [Geiger was general manager of the firm and among those in the dock.]
Mrs Zádor: ‘He was not there at the time.’
President: ‘So he was not there when they handed you the envelope. Tell me, please, what happened to the envelope?’ [According to Vogeler’s testimony Geiger had been there when the envelope was handed over, but this contradiction, like all the others, is passed over in silence.]
Mrs Zádor: ‘According to the instructions I had received from Vogeler, when I heard of the arrest of Imre Geiger, I opened the envelope, and found in it a photostat copy showing the layout of the Tungsram factory.’
President: ‘Was that marked on it?’
Mrs Zádor: ‘"Tungsram” was marked on it.’
President: ‘What did you do then?’
Mrs Zádor: ‘I realised at once that it was an important proof of Vogeler’s espionage, and therefore I destroyed it. I noticed, however, that the print was made on unusually heavy paper of foreign make, and we did not have any similar photostatic copies in the Standard factory, so that Vogeler might possibly have received it from the American Legation.’
Upon which the president, anxious to display his impartiality, says: ‘All right, this is what you presume...’ And that concludes Mrs Zádor’s testimony on the ‘important proof of Vogeler’s espionage’.
Vogeler said that he received the photostat copy of the Tungsram plan in the US legation. He was asked by the Air Attaché, he said, to identify the individual buildings, but could not do so, as he had visited the factory only once. This does not say much for the abilities of this ‘trained specialist intelligence officer of the US armed forces’. Moreover, Vogeler had not toured this factory alone; Sanders, Geiger and a certain Cook had all been with him. Yet none of these expert observers had gained the slightest idea of the layout of the factory. In addition, it must be presumed that — if the factory was of military importance — its layout would be already known to the British, American and Russian elements of the Military Control Commission, who would have had ample opportunity and every right to inspect it thoroughly. Further, why did not Vogeler return the photostat to the US legation for safe keeping? Was it not a little rash for this highly experienced intelligence agent to give such an incriminating document to Mrs Zádor, with instructions that could only serve to arouse her suspicions? Such an action might perhaps be understood if Mrs Zádor had been regarded by Vogeler as a member of the ‘network’. But none of the three agents allegedly involved in this particular transaction testified that Mrs Zádor was ‘in the know’. Indeed, the only mention of her name comes from Vogeler, who testified that, on the occasion of a ‘secret conference’, they waited for Mrs Zádor to leave the room before they began to talk. So Vogeler gives this damning document — duly labelled so that there shall be no mistake about it — to someone not involved in the ‘network’, someone, moreover, whom he does not trust, and warns her in conspiratorial manner of the danger of its falling into police hands. And when Geiger is arrested on 10 November, Mrs Zádor does not discuss this serious development with Sanders (not arrested until the 21st), who is her boss, and who was present when the envelope was handed over. Nor does she simply destroy the envelope and contents as ‘instructed’, but first opens it, for the purpose of — noticing that the paper could have ‘possibly’ come from the American legation. And she does not then destroy it because Vogeler instructed her to do so, but because she ‘realised it was an important proof of Vogeler’s espionage’. In this matter her detective instinct was aided by the fact that someone had obligingly labelled the photostat ‘Tungsram’. And to make assurance double sure, the president was good enough to remind her of what the photostat was, where it had come from, and what it was required for.
It is on the basis of such evidence that two men are sentenced to death and others to long terms of imprisonment; and on the basis of laws passed by the ‘Fascist’ regime in 1930 and 1934. The Hungarian People’s Democracy found in this nothing inconsistent with their claim to have made a complete break with the evil past.
Among the accused — each separated from the other by an armed policeman — was a woman, the Countess Edina Dory, who had also been under arrest for three months, and whose chief crime appeared to be that she was a member of the former landed aristocracy. (Like the rest of the accused, Edina Dory had been spruced up for the trial; she had even been permitted a permanent wave.) All that the state prosecutor could say of her ‘espionage activities’ was that:
The information collected by her embraced the control of the data contained in the information obtained by Vogeler’s extensive network of spies. Edina Dory collected her data partly from conversations she overheard at the bar, partly from telephone conversations she listened to when working at the telephone exchange. (Ibid, p 241)
It is highly probable, although one cannot of course prove it, that she had been instructed by the Hungarian police to inform them of anything she might manage to pick up in the course of her work as a barmaid. She had, simply in order to live, been compelled to join the Communist Party. In staging their play it occurred to the authorities that she could usefully be rehearsed for a small part; all that was needed was to change matter round. Instead of the conversations overheard at the bar and when working at the telephone exchange being passed on to the police, they were passed on to Vogeler. The absurdity of her being able to ‘control data’ did not worry the stage managers. The relative lightness of her sentence showed that she was just thrown in as a makeweight, to provide a little additional colour as the ‘representative’ of the ‘former’ landowning class.
The trial resulted in death sentences for Imre Geiger and Zoltán Rádo; fifteen years’ penal servitude for Robert Vogeler; thirteen years for Edgar Sanders; ten years for Kelemen Domokos and Dr István Justh; and five years for the Countess Edina Dory.
On 27 April 1951, Robert Vogeler was released by the Hungarian government in consideration of some concessions by the US government — in effect he was ransomed, very largely as a result of the stubbornly persistent agitation of his wife, Lucile Vogeler. In a subsequently published account of his experiences (I Was Stalin’s Prisoner, Allen, London, 1952) he confirmed in minute detail the inquisitorial technique employed to force him to ‘confess’. His first interrogation lasted some sixty-five hours:
The toxins of fatigue [he wrote, p 141] are enough in themselves, I suspect, to account for my partial breakdown at the hands of No 1. Shortly before noon on Monday, 21 November 1949, I agreed to sign the fifth of the ‘confessions’ that he placed before me. It was so much less incriminating than the other four, which I had refused to sign, that it seemed to me, in my weakened state, to be hardly a confession at all.
He shows the important part played in this technique by the moral isolation of the prisoner. His inquisitors told him: ‘You've now been our prisoner for three days... So far, we haven’t been asked a single question by the American Legation...’ It was a deliberate lie, of course, and Vogeler did not believe it, but it sowed a tiny seed of doubt, which was its purpose. As the weeks and the months went by, the seed grew. ‘On the seventy-first day I surrendered to despair... Convinced at last that I had indeed been abandoned, I told No 2 that I would sign anything if he would only cease his merciless inquisition.’ (p 183)
After he had signed his final ‘full confession’ his diet immediately improved; he had entered on the ‘grooming stage’. Numerous rehearsals of the part he was to play were held, right up to the day before the trial. On occasions these rehearsals took the form of confrontations with the other accused, in order to ensure that there were no obvious contradictions between the confessions. Just before the trial Vogeler was told by one of the examining magistrates:
Your entire future will be determined by your behaviour at the trial. If you fail to answer the president’s questions in the proper spirit, you will be removed from the court-room and taken to a special hospital. There you will be given special treatment that will make you happy to come back and answer the president’s questions. But it will also make you a cripple for life. (p 192)
Vogeler’s balanced and objective account of his treatment at the hands of the Hungarian inquisition adds one more solid piece of evidence to that which we have here assembled. Those who reject the evidence of one man as insufficient proof that the Soviet world has revived in modern guise the barbarous Inquisition of the Dark Ages cannot reject the mass of cumulative evidence adduced in this book without convicting themselves of complete contempt for truth.
Robert Vogeler was released; the Englishman, Edgar Sanders, remains in prison although innocent of the crimes with which he was charged. It will perhaps seem to many strange, to put it mildly, that in these circumstances other citizens of this country should have attended a so-called Economic Conference in Moscow one ostensible purpose of which was to increase trade between this country and Hungary. There are apparently still Englishmen eager to ‘make peace with oppression’.