Research Unit Politics

The Failed Anti-Zionist Show Trial against Gábor Péter in Hungary in 1953

This dissertation project’s point of departure is the show trial that was planned in Hungary from January 1953 onward against Gábor Péter, the head of the State Security Service, as well as over one hundred other Jewish politicians, functionaries, and doctors. It also affected representatives of Jewish organizations as well as some of Péter’s relatives. They were accused of belonging to a Zionist spy organization. While the persons accused in a show trial planned simultaneously in the Soviet Union were released shortly after Stalin’s death in March 1953, the Hungarian party leadership stuck to its plans until the summer of that year. However, the prosecution’s strategy changed and the charge of espionage was dropped. Instead of a show trial, a number of secret hearings were held. On 24 December 1953, Péter was sentenced to life in prison among other things for crimes against the state.

This project examines the Hungarian specificities of the planned show trial. It proceeds from the relationship between the Sovietization of Hungary and the endurance of national traditions. The tribunal is interpreted not only against the background of the Cold War but also of Hungarian nation-building and the related acculturation history of native Jews. Additionally, it focuses on issues regarding the communist treatment of the so-called Jewish question and the relationship of communist parties to their Jewish members. These issues are of special importance with regard to Hungarian history, since the proportion of Jewish members in the communist movement had already been especially high in Hungary since the short-lived Soviet Republic in 1919.

This project is funded by the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Scholarship Fund.