The Holocaust Historiography Project

Book review

Uprising! One Nation’s Nightmare: Hungary 1956

  • by David Irving. London, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1981. 628pp, $13.50, ISBN 0-340-18313-6

Reviewed by Charles Lutton

No less a figure than A. J. P. Taylor has described British historian David Irving as “a patient researcher of unrivalled industry and success.” Since the publication of his book The Destruction of Dresden in 1963, Irving has written or translated over a dozen books, a number of which have been bestsellers in several countries. Visit any well-stocked bookstore in the United States and you are likely to find at least one or two Irving titlesin the “history” or “military” sections. With millions of readers worldwide, who eagerly anticipate the next results of his often amazingly productive research efforts, it is not going too far to state that the appearance of a new book by David Irving constitutes a publishing “event.”

Irving has done well for himself — his London flat is located in a posh area near the U.S. Embassy off Grosvenor Square — and certainly for his agent and publishers. So, when his study of the 1956 Hungarian revolt was published in Britain in Spring 1981 by the distinguished house of Hodder & Stoughton, with publication as well in France, and serialization in the large-circulation West German weekly Der Spiegel, it was right to assume that Uprising! would shortly appear in this country. But going on four years since it hit bookstores in Western Europe, Uprising! has yet to find an American publisher. There are clearly people here who do not want their fellow Americans to read this book. We shall soon see why.

It has been nearly thirty years since the people of Hungary rose up against the vicious Communist regime that had been imposed on them by Stalin. During the Second World War, thousands of Hungarians fought and died fighting the Russians on the Eastern Front. “Liberation” from the “Fascists” took place in typical Soviet style: over 600,000 Hungarian males were deported as slave laborers to the USSR while, as Irving points out, “for many of Hungary’s beautiful and lissom girls the first useful Russian phrase was one that anguished parents taught them: 'I've got syphilis and TB.' Workers grimly joked that their country had now known three disasters — their defeat by the Tartars, their conquest by the Turks, and their liberation by the Russians.”

As we know, at Yalta in 1945 that champion of universal brotherhood and democracy, Joseph Stalin,affirmed with his fellow champions Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill “the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.” Elections did take place in Hungary in November of that year, with the local Communists and Social Democrats obtaining only seventeen per cent of the votes. (The people of Hungary had not forgotten the short-lived Communist regime led by Bela Kun ["Cohen"] that had drenched the country in blood before being overthrown by popular forces in 1919.) Failure at the polls in 1945 did not faze the Reds, who set aboutto undermine the Hungarian Republic. After all, as the author reminds his readers, “the whole Communist advance is based on conspiracy and intrigue, and Party members relish and revel in it.” By the end of 1947, the Communists, backed by Stalin’s Red Army, aborted the fledgling Republic.

To run his Hungarian satrapy, Stalin picked one Matyas Rakosi (born “Roth"), described by Irving as an “ugly Jewish dwarf"who had “the tact of a Kosher butcher.” Irving, not one to fear an awkward truth, discovered that the Communist regime and its terror machinery was viewed by the Hungarian people — and, it turns out, the U.S. State Department — as being almost entirely in the hands of Jews. A “Jewish Quartet” ruled the country: Rakosi, Ernest Gero (born “Ernst Singer"), Michael Farkas ("Wolf") the defense minister, and Joseph Revai, minister of propaganda. The AVH, dreaded Hungarian equivalent of the NKVD, was headed by a creature who went under the name of Gabor Peter, but had been born as “Benjamin Auschpitz.” Peter (sic) staffed the AVH with fellow Jews. Irving points out that “The regime’s high Jewish profile caused deep resentment.” He cites the work of an American sociologist, Jay Schulman, who interviewed many Hungarian refugees after the events of 1956 and found that “the Communist leaders were perceived as Jews by almost 100 percent of the people we have seen.”

It is this sort of information — what the distinguished American revisionist historian James J. Martin has dubbed “inconvenient history” — that has probably delayed publication of this fascinating book in the United States. For, after years of painstaking research including the use of the testimonies of refugees taken by the CIA and State Department and deposited in American university libraries, interviews with survivors (even including the Soviet general who commanded the 1956 intervention), and diaries of diplomats and journalists who were on the scene, Irving concludes that the 1956 Hungarian uprising was a largely spontaneous revolt against what was viewed as a Jewish dictatorship. Inconvenient history indeed.

Contrary to the often self-serving claims of some refugees, among them ex-Communists living comfortablyin the West, as well as many “academics,” Irving does not feel that Hungary’s intellectuals and “liberal” Marxists played much of a role in bringing down the rotten Communist regime in 1956. Rather, he sees the compelling events as having been generated and carried out by workers and peasants, with university students taking the first step toward a rising on 15 October 1956, when three thousand students voted to leave the Communist youth organization. “The rebellion,” Irving writes, then “spread like a medieval plague, only thousands of time faster.”

What started with student demonstrations got out of hand, and Rakosi’s “Jewish camarilla” completely lost control of events.Imre Nagy, non-Jewish, an old-line Communist who had spent the war in Moscow, became prime minister — for the second time — during the hectic days of October-November, 1956. Nagy called for free elections. The AVH was officially abolished, and the citizens killed all the secret police operatives they could lay their hands on. In Irving’s words: “The real criminals had long ago donned false uniforms and escaped, leaving the small-fry for the lynching parties; often blameless recruits who had had no part in the decade of spectacular crimes of their superiors … The mob rage was primeval, primitive, and brutal. It was the closest that the uprising came to an anti-Semitic pogrom, as the largely Jewish AVH officials were mercilessly winkled out of the boltholes where they had fled.” On 1 November 1956, Nagy announced that Hungary was withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact and would follow a course of neutrality in world affairs.

For the Hungarian revolt to have succeeded, assistance was needed from the West. Unfortunately, the events in Hungary coincided with the Suez Crisis. Britain and France were tied up in the Middle East. The United States, whose CIA-sponsored Radio Free Europe had encouraged the Hungarians to resist their Soviet masters, could have warned the USSR to stay out. Instead, the U.S. reacted timidly with what Irving characterizes as “vintage Eisenhower eyewash unlikely to chill the blood of any Soviet commander.” Eisenhower went so far as to state that the U.S. was not “looking for new allies in Eastern Europe.” Khrushchev viewed this response as a green light to take decisive action free of American interference. Soviet soldiers were mobilized and sent in to quash the Hungarians. Irving explains that “President Eisenhower’s renewed disclaimer of any strategic interest in the satellite nations barely drew an appreciative belch from him [Khrushchev] now he knew that he could risk everything to recover Hungary without in effect risking anything.”

Many of the invading Soviet troops did not even realize that they were attacking Hungary; their impression was that they were headed toward Berlin to fight Fascists. Among them were Russians who “had hungry faces, and the slant eyes and Mongol cheekbones of troops from Soviet Asia. These young men in dark grey coats were killers and sadists …” The Western powers did nothing while the Kremlin set about the task of reestablishing Communism in Hungary.

Uprising! is vintage Irving. Once again, the conclusionshe draws after years of diligent research challenge critics to revise long-accepted interpretations. But the book does more than re-tell a chapter of mid- twentieth century history. The fact that in the self-proclaimed “land of the free,” where people are supposed to enjoy a “free press” and “freedom of expression,” this important book has yet to appear in print, is a powerful reminder of just how hollow this great republic is and in what genuine peril we live today.

Bibliographic information
Author: Lutton, Charles
Title: Uprising! One Nation’s Nightmare: Hungary 1956 (review)
Source: The Journal for Historical Review
Date: Winter 1984
Issue: Volume 5 number 2, 3, 4
Location: Page 411
ISSN: 0195-6752
Attribution: “Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, PO Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA.”
Please send a copy of all reprints to the Editor.