|General Secretary of the Hungarian Working People's Party|
July 18, 1956 – October 25, 1956
|Preceded by||Mátyás Rákosi|
|Succeeded by||János Kádár|
July 8, 1898|
|Died||March 12, 1980
|Political party||Hungarian Communist Party,
Hungarian Working People's Party
Ernő Gerő [ˈɛrnøː ˈɡɛrøː] (born Ernő Singer; July 8, 1898 – March 12, 1980) was a Hungarian Communist Party leader in the period after World War II and briefly in 1956 the most powerful man in Hungary as first secretary of its ruling communist party.
Gerő was born in Terbegec, Hungary (now Trebušovce, Slovakia) to Jewish parents, though he later totally repudiated religion. An early Hungarian communist, Gerő fled Hungary for the Soviet Union after Béla Kun's brief communist government was overthrown in August 1919. During his two decades living in the USSR, Gerő was an active KGB agent. Through that association, Gerő was involved in Comintern—the international organization of communists—in France, and also fought in the Spanish Civil War. He directed the campaign against Trotskyist groups in the International Brigades and earned the epithet of "Butcher of Barcelona".
The outbreak of the Second World War found him in Moscow again, and he remained for the duration of the war. After the dissolution of the Communist International in 1943, he was in charge of propaganda directed at enemy forces and prisoners of war. Gerő was among the very first communist functionaries to return to Hungary in early November 1944. Ernő Gerő was a member of Hungary's High National Council (provisional government) between January 26, and May 11, 1945.
In the November 1945 election, Hungary, the Hungarian Communist Party, under Gerő and Mátyás Rákosi got 17% of the vote, compared to 57% for the Smallholders' Party, but the Soviet commander in Hungary, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov installed a coalition government with communists in key posts. The communists staged a sham election and took full control in 1949, with Rákosi as party leader, prime minister (and effective head of state). Gerő and Mihály Farkas were Rákosi's right-hand men.
Rákosi's authority was shaken in 1953 by the death of Stalin, when the Soviet Union insisted on Imre Nagy taking over as prime minister, but Gerő was retained as a counterweight to the reformers. Rákosi, having managed to regain control, was then undermined by Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech in early 1956 denouncing Stalinism, and forced to leave office on 18 July 1956 by Anastas Mikoyan, although he was able to designate Gerő to succeed him as party leader. Even before the October uprising, Gerő and András Hegedüs in Budapest requested that Rákosi be detained in the USSR since they thought he would only complicate matters if he returned to Hungary. Meanwhile Rákosi continually tried to contact his Budapest colleagues from Russia.
After Rákosi stepped down, Gerő was instated as party leader in his stead. Gerő had been Rákosi's close associate since 1948, and was fully implicated in the purges, the industrialization and collectivization of Hungary. Gerő led the country for a brief period, known as the 'Gerő Interregnum', from 18 July 1956 to 24 October 1956, just over three months.
In that period, Gerő was not committed to reform, unlike the people of Hungary, but was for collectivization and the war against the intellectuals or the intelligentsia. Unlike what had happened in Poland, Gerő had been changed in accordance with Soviet wishes and not in opposition to them. With bitter dislike of Gerő by the intelligentsia, several demonstrations took place in the following three months. Imre Nagy, a former leader of Hungary, heightened the public awareness of the purge trials of a century earlier, led the most powerful and fatal demonstration toward the leadership position of Ernő Gerő.
Had János Kádár or Imre Nagy succeeded Rákosi in July 1956, rather than Gerő, the entire Hungarian revolution might very well have been avoided altogether. In truth, the Hungarian Politburo members disliked Gerő, but were too timid to admit this to their Russian comrades. They described Gerő as "rigid" [zhestkii], "impatient," and "very austere in his relations with the people." They said, "He does not tolerate criticism, does not follow the advice of comrades…[and] does not love the people."
Soviet Presidium members Anastas Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov visited Budapest on October 24 - during the first Soviet military intervention - to assess the situation. Gerő informed them that "the arrival of Soviet troops in the city has [had] a negative effect on the disposition of the inhabitants, including the workers."
Later life and death
The Soviet envoys finally forced Gerő to resign on October 25, 1956, during the second day of the Hungarian Uprising, after he gave an unduly harsh speech that enraged the people. The central committee met and agreed that János Kádár should be made party leader and Imre Nagy be made prime minister, marking the end of the Gerő interregnum. Gerő fled to the Soviet Union, but after the revolution was crushed, the more moderate Communist regime of Kádár initially refused to let him return to Hungary.
He was finally allowed to return from exile in 1960, but was promptly expelled from the Communist Party. He worked as an occasional translator in Budapest during his retirement. His character plays a central role in Vilmos Kondor's 2012 novel Budapest Noir and the whole series. He died in Budapest in 1980 at the age of 81.
- Eric Roman, Austria-Hungary and the Successor States: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Infobase Publishing, 2003, p. 478.
- Johanna Granville, The First Domino: International Decision Making During the Hungarian Crisis of 1956. Texas A & M University Press, 2004, p. 33.
- Granville, The First Domino, p. 34.
- Johanna Granville, "Soviet Documents on the Hungarian Revolution, 24 October - 4 November 1956", Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 5 (Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC), Spring, 1995, pp. 22-23, 29-34.
- Almendros, Joaquín: Situaciones españolas: 1936-1939. El PSUC en la guerra civil. Dopesa, Barcelona, 1976.
- Chacón, R.L.: Por qué hice las checas de Barcelona. Laurencic ante el consejo de guerra. Editorial Solidaridad nacional, Barcelona, 1939.
- The First Domino: International Decision Making During the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 Texas A & M University Press, 2004, p. 33.
- Johanna Granville, "Soviet Documents on the Hungarian Revolution, 24 October - 4 November 1956", Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 5 (Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC), Spring, 1995, pp. 22–23, 29-34.
- Thomas, Hugh (1976). "Historia de la Guerra Civil Española". Círculo de Lectores (in español) (Barcelona). ISBN 84-226-0873-1.
|Minister of Finance
|Minister of the Interior
|Party political offices|
|General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party