INT: Imre Nagy declared Hungarian neutrality and a desire to leave the Warsaw Pact, I think about the first of November, do you regard that as a wise step, or do you think that was rather provocative under the circumstances?
BK: Ha, ha, I love even the wording of your question because I have to recognise that that was the most controversial and the most misunderstood, and the most misinterpreted phase of the Hungarian revolution. I recall a big meeting on the tenth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, which is nineteen sixty six, in San Francisco University and I remember that first rate Kremnologist came up and pointed at me, you Kiraly, y, and, your friends made a big mistake by this debecause that is what a great power like the Soviet Union can't tolerate, you lost the Revolution because of this. And I got up and told, for heaven's sake, I already presented documents, please not only speak, read too, and I listed again the dramatic event. On October the thirty and thirty first, during the night, when we created the organisations of consolidation, organisation of peace, organisations of reconciliation of the Soviet Union, the Soviet invasion started, the Soviet aggression didn't start on November the fourth, the Soviet aggression started on October the thirty, thirty-first, but we instructed the Hungarian army forces not to shoot if we would have tried to defend ourselves against Soviet ... ... would have to start shooting, systematically shooting during night of October thirty, thirty-first ... ... ... We had record of all the movement, from our military, from city organisation, from freedom fighters groups, and just like in World War Two, the French Maquis had the best information about Nazi major movement from the railroad men, you know, because, we got tremendous information from the railroads, how the Russians moved in Hungary. The Soviet invasion was on, the Soviet aggression without shooting was going on since the night of October thirty to thirty first. Now, thirty first, we reported to Imre Nagy precisely what ... ... whole tremendous troop movement is coming towards Budapest, step by step. The Hungarian government started it protests. It protested to Soviet Union, it protested all the members of the, permanent members of executive council, to the United Nations that, heaven's sake we have an armistice! With the Soviet, and the Soviet is putting new troops into Hungary, please stop them. We didn't get an answer from anywhere. Since when on November the first, even the city of Budapest was already surrounded. When all the airports were already captured by the Soviet Union, not, there was only one single literally, airport near to Budapest, ... ... which still was in our hand. That is when the Hungarian government having no response from anywhere, great powers, ... ... council member, United Nations, Soviet Union, like the man who is drowning in the water and reaches even for a piece of little branch of wood, that was the declaration of neutrality the Hungarian government came to the conclusion that if it don't do anything, we are a member of the Warsaw Pact, an ally of the Soviet Union, the world ... ... look it, alright, that is a family quarrel, we don't interfere with Warsaw Pact internal affairs. But if we are independent, neutral country, probably the world would say, that we don't permit. Now, in other words, ahem, the declaration of neutrality on November the first was not a cause, but an effect of the revolution, by the way, Khrushchev on November the first was already in Bucharest, he was ... ... first he met with local Communist leaders in Warsaw, then went to Bucharest where Bulgarian, Albanian, I don't know, Communist leaders were there, and he was on his route to ... only to meet Tito.
In other words, the, Khrushchev already informed the other Communists that, we will start on the third or four of November to put back the Communist regime in Hungary. In other words, if someone seriously look at the documents, it would be crystal clear that the declaration of neutrality of Hungary was not the cause, but the effect of the already Soviet declaration in the making. November the fourth, the defence was that that is when they started to shoot. Until November the fourth, they did not shoot.
INT: You were appointed area commander of all Budapest.Did you reckon that you had a serious chance of being able to defend the city against the Soviets?
BK: That was my third hat, you know, in the Revolution, in addition to chairmanship of the revolutionary council of national defence and national organisation, commander in chief, National Guard, commander of greater Budapest region. First of all I have to say why. Because the case is that Budapest is an extraordinarily large city compared to this population of Hungary. Out of ten million, two million lives in Budapest. So what happens in Budapest, happens in the country. And in Budapest a lot of Hungarian troops were drawn by the old regime. It was full with military, police, tremendous amount of freedom fighters. Imre Nagy believed they must be coordinated. And he selected me to be the coordinator of these troops. Not to wage a war against the Soviet Union, but to continue the consolidation that we should never give a reason, an even an excuse to the Soviet Union to interfere in order to put an end to anarchy. We wanted law and order in the proper democratic sense of it. That was my mission. Not a preparation of war against the Soviet Union.
INT: Of course ...
INT: I want to take you back now to the night of the third and fourth of November nineteen fifty six when you're hearing about the movement of Soviet troops into Budapest. You had a conversation with Imre Nagy, could you tell me about that?
BK: I would challenge a little bit the question. I would like to twenty first, even before. Because here is a series of events which are connected with ... and that is November the second at noon. November the second at noon, because all the rest is connected with that event. November the second at noon I got a telephone call directly from Imre Nagy informing me that he just received a telephone ... from the Soviet Ambassador, Yuri Andropov, who protested against the embassy being attacked by hooligans. And the ambassador concluded with a threat that if the Hungarian government is not in the position to protect the legitimate activities of a diplomatic institution, the Soviet Embassy, he will place the embassy under the Red Army's protection.
Imre asked me, you understand that. I told, yes sir, I do understand. The ambassador wishes to bring the troops back to Budapest ... He says, exactly that is the case. Please do instantly what should be done. I told, I will issue orders instantly, and said alright, please go yourself there and call me up from there, ... ... as soon as you could. I told the old man that I would have gone anyway, and I went there, and alerted in the ... ... you know even today, the police headquarters, which was our headquarters, I learned that freedom fighters of three truckloads who followed me, I went ahead in a jeep. And in the meantime I let a tank battalion be alerted to on the ... ... ... ... military barracks. And when I reached this barracks, the battalion was already in the yard, lined up and the divisional commander reported to me, is a funny guy, he was absolutely Bolshevik, but at that time we were in power, he ... carried out my order, reported the readiness of his battalion, his name was ... ... he's still alive.
He became then one of the commanders of officer brigades against the freedom fighters, and he became deputy minister of defence, chief of general staff, everything. But at that time he was lieutenant colonel under my command. And I ordered him to come to the Heroes Square, following us, freedom fighters, where I ordered everything to be stopped, and with a few persons I went ahead to the boys ... ... in which block the Soviet Embassy was located. From the corner we looked towards the embassy and we did not see any kind of siege or any sign of siege. ... I went with a small escort the embassy, knocked on the door, anyway I don't want to go all into details, I was permitted to come in. It was, the ambassador played games there. He lined up the entire embassy staff, as if a head of state would have visited, introduced everybody, killed the time, and always looked at me like a boa constrictor on the rabbit before he swallows it. My impression gradually became that as they looked for some political collaborators like Kádár, he might have looked for collaborator, I don't know. That was my speculation. And finally, we went upstairs, we went upstairs to his room. A French televiscrew found the man who was interpreter on this walk upsta, he is now an ambassador of the Commonwealth of Independent Nations, he was my interpreter, he's alive in Moscow. Now, we went upstairs, and in his room, and now he start the story with which everything is connected. He asked me to call up Imre Nagy. His phone was attached into the most secret Hungarian government system, at the Soviet embassy. Number one, ahem, and without centre or secretary, Imre Nagy picked it up. The ambassador told me to enquire whether Imre Nagy received his written note, which proposed to Hungarian government to sit down at the earliest possible time to negotiate the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary. Yuri Andropov asked me, will you ask that, would you like to ask, and what is the reply if they read the memo. I thought, with very great pleasure, I will tell it to Imre Nagy. And first of all Imre Nagy picked up the phone, I reported to him that I am in the study of Ambassador Yuri Andropov. Everything is in order, there is no siege, that still when I leave I will leave a very strong guard around the embassy, to be sure, and that is the message. Do you, did you receive the note? And he says, yes, we receive note, and all is, ... replies, please tell to the Ambassador, is positive, we are ready to meet them this afternoon. We suggest that the first place of meeting the office of the Prime Minister, in the parliament building. And told then, rush here, because you are a member of this delegation which will negotiate. And I told all of this to Andropov, and then we took ... he walked very diplomatically, he walked me up to the door, shook hands, and we departed. I sent everything back, left a strong guard around the block and rushed to Imre Nagy. When I arrived, he instantly informed me they were, practically it was a minister of council sitting there and Imre Nagy told me, look, I don't want any gossip to reach your ear, you are not after all a member of the negotiation team, but I want you to know exactly why not, so that you should not be hurt ... etcetera. He says, a, there was a view that you scarcely came up from the prison as a former ... prisoner, I know that you were innocent, but not everybody knows it, definitely Soviet does not. And they might take offence that one of the negotiator is a recently released prisoner, and they insist, the Soviet, I mean, insist that it must be ministerial delegation ... ... ... ... two, three ministers were in the delegation, including the minister of defence. Now if ... ... I must have you at my elbow if I need advice. That is it, I thought, I'm more than happy, I would have co