INT: Did you at this time expect any intervention by the West?
BK: No. And I tell you, I have even, I can't prove it completely, but indirectly. On November the Fourth, before the declaration of neutrality, an old, but very distinguished journalist visited my headquarters. He was McCarthy. Not the Senator McCarthy. He was the permanent residence of the New York Times in Vienna. He came to me and asked this question. And he told me, look, tomorrow it will be the first page of the New York Times that the commander in chief of the National Guard asked the West to send troops. Can I print that? Do you want troops? And I told, no sir. I don't want Hungary to be incinerated. Because if American troops will appear in Hungary, it will be World War Three. If it is World War Three, it is an atomic war. If it is an atomic war, Hungary will be the first target. And instead of liberation, we will be incinerated. No. America has to know other ways to persuade the Soviet Union not to continue this aggression which was going on. In other words, these hot-headed things of freedom fighters who shouted in radio reports etcetera, where are the Americans, etcetera, why don't you come and help us with troops?
I was not of the opinion that American troops would have been the solution. I knew that the Suez thing was already on. No, the Suez thing was on only, it was on already. I remember ... ... referred to Suez thing in the Buda mountains of November the fourth. So that it is a very complicated world affair, if Russia, if American troops will come into Hungary in combat gear, it might be World War Three, and we will not get ... ... so that is what I told on November the fourth, first to, to McCarthy. And that is still my opinion. The, America and the West might have done ... serious threat, or economic boycott, etcetera, but military affair was not what would have solved the problem.
INT: Radio Free Europe was of course, very active ... bro... Hungary, what did you hear about Radio Free Europe?
BK: The last thing what Iheard of my ... there was there a retired colonel, lieutenant colonel in the general staff who send on November the fifth morning, or November the fourth morning a proclamation for me, that you, Bela Kiraly, you national hero, and that kind of nonsense, now, everything is in hand, fight the Russians, surely you will not be let alone, and that kind of thing. But I took it then, like I took it since, as a very irresponsible thing, the guy was sacked after that, because it was a completely unauthorised, for a moment I thought that it was the message of the American government, but I was clever enough to came to the conclusion, it can't be the American government, because I had all the right to ... ... after all Radio Free Europe was a private organisation, whatever nobody know, ... ... not absolutely Europe. So Radio Free Europe did a grand, not only Radio Free Europe, but the organisation, Free Europe Committee did a grand thing in maintaining the resistance spirit up to the Revolution, but during the Revolution it did not do a good job. I only told you earlier that from my prison window sometimes in the summer of fifty six, I even see with naked eye, a balloon which was flying over ... this balloon programme was tremendously effective, that is how Hungary knew about the 'secret speech' of Khrushchev. The balloon, through it the Western Hungary was full with Khrushchev's speeches, they were prizes by the government that it should be collected, and they paid for the collection, but that even increased the interest in what is it that the government is so interested to collect it. In other words, up to the Revolution, Radio Free Europe was, did a very magnificent job, and after that it did, during these crucial days, tremendous mistakes were committed, it was, many people might have considered American government message, what they sent, over-confidence was what they tried to pour into the hearts of the freedom fighters, and many took it at face value. The case is that is an important part of the truth too, that after the Revolution in 'fifty seven, all these leading staff members were sacked there, because of that behaviour, unauthorised kind of comments, and messages.
INT: What is the importance of the Hungarian Revolution?
BK: Well I believe that it was the beginning of the end. I remember I met in 'fifty seven ... ... in person, he spoke very good English. I spoke with him at Columbia University, he had lectured, and after that we met on a, at a friend's. And he told me, you are the reason I was in prison, he told me, of course, in a friendly manner. Because I stood beside you, I had to go to prison. Anyway, he wrote a book, he knew what Communism is, he was the number two man in Yugoslavia, he was who was a general in this Titoist partisan army from the part of Montenegro against the Nazis, and he fought like a lion all during, in other words, not by words of mouth, but by, by deed he fought for the establishment of Communist through, after that, he practised in peacetime, in other words, he knew, what he was talking about, he was not just an outside scholar. And in his book, there are of course, two famous books, there are several, but ... conversation with Stalin, and the other, his memoirs, what is the title of it, the other main book in which he described the Hungarian Revolution, in which he says, again I try to be verbatim, but I will not succeed like in the case of Imre, that the avenue the Hungarian freedom fighters, burnt into the Soviet system never would heal. Sooner or later the Hungarians will be followed by the other suppressed nations, and the system will collapse. In other words, we knew ... in nineteen fifty seven he predicted what was to happen three decades later. ... ... two decades later, it happened. In other words, he particularly, liberal and left wing, Camus, Albert Camus, and many French Communists, disappointed Communists, don't forget the cream of the cream of the French Communist party broke with the Communist Party as a result of the Hungarian Revolution. The Communist Party headquarters was burnt. Now, I am not for burning, I am just saying that, who really knew Communism, who tried to collaborate. Sartre, for example, with Communist before, turned the back on Communism. In other words, the case is that what ... ... described so vividly that the revolution was the beginning of something in which the Soviet system will collapse is true. I would not say that the history could not have happened in other direction, but the Hungarian Revolution was an inspiration for resistance against Bolshevik rule, resistance against Soviet imperialism, and a kind of it, it, it opened many peoples' mind that after all we are... in other words, the Hungarian Revolution had greater effect on the mind of those who believed in Communism before, than who never believed in Communism. I believe it is a world event which had to be treated as such.
INT: I'm going to take you back to the Second World War, Hungary was an ally of Germany and fought against the Soviet Union until, towards the end of the war. What was Hungary's situation at that time, how could it steer a course between Germany and Russia, and how did it succeed or how did it fail?
BK: Er, I am just, you know, I am a publisher in my spare time, and I am just getting a reprint of a book which appeared first in nineteen forty seven, Montgomery, an ambassador in Hungary during this time, until Hungary broke ... with America. And this man knew a very, ... I really recommend, we will print it within half a year, read it! It's really not Hungary, it is not a Hungarian, not a Hungarian, we did not buy him, he was the American ambassador in Budapest and a confidante of President Roosevelt. In the book there are some notes, some handwritten notes between the President and Ambassador Montgomery. I believe he caught the essence of the thing. What is the essence of the thing? Hungary had not a democratic government, but a parliamentary government. There was a long tradition in Hungary of parliamentarism, the parliament still enacted laws. Hungary still had quite a serious liberal form of treating human beings, human rights etcetera, as the Nazi pressure began to grow on Hungary then this whole thing began to deteriorate. Still Horthy who was not a very splendid brain, but in him I also have to emphasize one thing, he was a very decent guy. He was a very decent person. Hungarian patriot, who definitely tried to save Hungary from both the Bolsheviks and the Nazis. Horthy's and many of his, more liberal than Horthy, collaborators, were praying and hoping for a liberation of the Danube bridge, and not by the Soviet, but by the Allies. The Churchillian idea of the attack against the soft underbelly of Europe, in other words, through Athens, Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna, had it occurred, Hungary would have been receiving the Allies with open arms. Now Hungary had to learn the evil of Nazism. Hungary had learned much earlier in nineteen nineteen the evil of a Bolshevik regime, because for more than a hundred days there was a Communist regime in Hungary which was hated. The Communists had so little respect and effect on Hungary during the war, just because of this hundred days' rule of the Communists in nineteen nineteen, people, I know what Communism is, because they were tremendously cruel. It was a bloody regime. Now, in other words Hungary really was, was was between earth and hell. Even that is not a proper term, between two hells. Now, Horthy believing in the strength and influence of the West, rejected Hitler's demand to participate with armed forces in the solution of this Czechoslovak republic. Horthy rejected a transit route for the Germans against Poland, while Slovakia not only permitted but supported the Germans to go against the southern flank of Poland. The Hungarian-Polish border remained an escape route for the Poles, while those who escaped from Poland to Rumania, were interned, who escaped to Hungary were let loose to go through Yugoslavia to the West. The Polish legion in France wenfrom Poland through Hungary to the West, not through Rumania. In other words, Montgomery, AmMontgomery, book published in 'forty seven, 'The Reluctant Satellite' really indicates the thing. Hungary was a very reluctant satellite, but if you are occupied by German armour, you can't do very little. But, until really the very very end, Hungary tried to limit the collaboration as much as it could.