FAMILY STORY

"Rajk (Sr.) is not a simple symbolum; his death and his afterlife is the regime itself. " 
(László Varga, historian)

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László Rajk, Sr. (1909-1949), Hungarian Communist leader. After fighting in the Spanish civil war of 1936-39 he was interned (1939) in a French camp for Spanish Loyalists. Rajk returned to Hungary in 1941 and became first secretary of the illegal Communist party. He participated in the Hungarian underground movement during the German occupation in World War II and was imprisoned for a time by the Gestapo. After the war he was made minister of the interior. In 1948, after being deposed as Interior Minister in Hungary's post-war Communist government, Rajk became the victim of one of the first notorious Stalinist show-trial in Hungary (in which the later Prime Minister of Hungary, Janos Kadar was his interrogator). He was executed in 1949 and became a 'non-person'. However in 1956 he was reinstated and given a public burial on 6 October in Budapest in front of a crowd of several thousand people. This event is often described as the dress rehearsal of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Júlia Rajk (1914-1981) was born as Júlia Földi in 1914, in a lower working-class family with a strong communist tradition. Between 1945 and 1949, as a wife of the famous communist minister of interior, Lászlóné Rajk (Mrs. László Rajk) she was one of the leaders of the mass communist women's organisation MNDSZ. In 1949, after the execution of her husband, she was sentenced for five years of imprisonment for supporting her husband's so-called "subversive policy". After her sentence, she was released from prison as Lászlóné Györk (Mrs. László Györk). Her name, and also her son's name, were changed without any consultation to doom the name of her husband into oblivion. She used her unquestionable and uncontested moral power as a widow of the innocently executed hero of the Hungarian communist movement to force the communist party leadership to rehabilitate political prisoners, and her husband was buried with all possible official honour on 6 October 1956. The photo of the widow and her son taken at the funeral became famous through the world as symbols of victims of Stalinism. After the reburial of her husband László Rajk she regained her name as Lászlóné Rajk and the son as László Rajk jr. On 4 November when the Soviet Army occupied Hungary she asked for a political refugee right at the Embassy of Yugoslavia together with Imre Nagy, and the members of his cabinet. Mrs. Rajk was also kidnapped to Romania by the Soviets together with Imre Nagy and she spent there two years till she was given the permit to return to Hungary as Julia Rajk. After 1958 she became a real 'institution' who always protected the weak against those who are abusing their power, she was negotiating with the party leadership to protect the anti-communist intellectuals. She organised the first NGO in Hungary after the ban on associations in 1951: a dogshelter. She also organised signatures for supporting the Charta 77, campaigned against strengthening the abortion law. She offered the compensation she received for the loss of her husband for a fund supporting talented university students when individual charity was not an accepted value. She died in September 6, 1981. (Source: Andrea Peto: Rajk Júlia, Balassi, Budapest 2000)


 Selected Bibliography:
Duncan SHIELS: The Brothers Rajk. (Buchet Chastel, Paris 2006.)

Duncan SHIELS: Die Brüder Rajk (Zsolnay Verlag, Wien, 2008)

REV, Istvan: Retroactive Justice: Prehistory of Post-Communism, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004

The interrogation of Laszlo Rajk, 7 June 1949 - A transcript of the secret recording  (The Hungarian Quarterly, Volume XXXVII No. 141 Spring 1995)

Vincent Savarius (Bela SZASZ): "Volunteers for the Gallows"(W.W. Norton, New York, 1968)

The interrogation of Laszlo Rajk, 7 June 1949 - A transcript of the secret recording (The Hungarian Quarterly, Volume XXXVII No. 141 Spring 1995)

Christian DUPLAN- Vincent GIRET: La vie en rouge (Seuil, Párizs, 1994)

                                                               © Rajk 2017