Thursday, 27 January 2011

New law in Hungary

Friend of András Pető prosecuted

BUDAPEST, Hungary –  A former Hungarian interior minister seen as one of the main architects of repression after the country's 1956 anti-communist uprising has been charged with publicly downplaying the regime's crimes, prosecutors said Thursday.
Béla Biszkú was charged because of comments he made during an appearance on state television on Aug. 4, 2010 in which he said he had nothing to apologize for, said Gabriella Skoda, the spokeswoman of the Budapest Chief Prosecutor's Office.
Last February, Hungarian lawmakers made it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to publicly deny, call into question or minimize the Holocaust. In June, the law was amended to refer instead to crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi and communist regimes.

Read more:

Back in 1963

Béla Biszku injured his lower back, playing sport. He was then aged 39 and Vice-President of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Hungarian People's Republic. An old school-friend suggested that he should consult András Pető at his flat in Stollár Béla u., close by Party Headquarters, after which he attended Pető's State Institute seven days a week, for an hour a day, starting at 8 a.m. He was subsequently able to take part in sports again.

They talked a lot, after the 'exercises'. This was a crisis time for Pető and his State Institute. Pető told Biszku about his problems with the Ministry of Health, which was determined to discredit him. Pető explained to Biszku that his treatment was largely a matter of educating his patients but that there was a strong opinion that what he did was mere quackery that could not be scientifically proved. Pető wanted to be independent of the Health Ministry. He found the Ministry of Culture and Education rather more sympathetic and visited Party Headquarters a lot, paying particular attention to Pál Ilku, Minister of Education. The decision to transfer the State Institute from Health to Education was made at the ministerial level and gazetted on 21 December 1963, the then Prime Minister, Gyula Kállai pedantically insisting that the word 'Conductive' be dropped from its title, as insufficiently Hungarian.

Pető and Biszku became friends and, along with Mária Hári and Ilona Szekély, visited Biszku's home and became fond of the family. Biszku recalls something that he would say –

I can still remember exactly what he would say to me if I complained: 'What do you expect, do you only expect the good things in life? You are a happy man. You have a family. You have to be prepared not just for the good things in life, but for the tough times as well. One has to know that there is struggle and suffering in the world as well'.

This might seem somewhat ironical in the light of present circumstances.


Béla Biszku's recollections from the early sixties have been extracted from the transcript of his interview with Judit Forrai:

Biszku, B. (1999) Interview, in J. Forrai, Memoirs of the beginnings of conductive pedagogy and András Pető, Budapest, Új Arányhíd and Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, pp. 125-130


Biszku Béla dokumentumfilm: 1956-ról mesél és tagad a volt belügyminiszter

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Blogger Andrew Sutton said...

Previous comments on this site have suggested that as a mere Brit I shall never understand Hungarian politics.

Too true, Bruce.

I keep catching whiffs of it, but understand? No, no, never.

Friday, 28 January 2011 at 23:08:00 GMT  
Anonymous Andrew Sutton said...

Emma McDowell writes –

Dear Andrew!

An important “protector” like Biszku was of course most welcome for Pető and I cannot blame him for using this connection to save his Institute. (Arguably, also as his own power-base, but I, as a “client”, would not worry about that.)

“Protekció” was (and I am sure still is, to some extent) widely relied upon in big and small official matters in Hungary. Based on family (and party) connections, it was not regarded as “corruption”, more like a safety guard, or even the only means of getting something in an economy which was based on short supply of basic needs and services (hiánygazdálkodás). I have often tried to point out, that in my experience, and as it was well known by staff and clients alike, the Villányi-Institute was like an island in this murky sea, where treatment was offered by merit alone. Naturally, you had to keep other „iInstitute rules”, as well, such as not taking a buggy in, and take guidance about the conductive lifestyle seriously.

With my family background I had little or no insight into what went on in secretive party circles, before and after I became a conductive parent. The very names of the so called leading politicians were targets of mockery; to take them seriously was below contempt. My father – although he would have been expected to – never read the Szabad Nép, or later the Népszabadság. He had a good friend and colleague (re geographic literature) in one of the non-party-member editors of the Magyar Nemzet (non-political columns!) and since this good friend (called Gyula Antalffy) survived into the late 80-s, I availed myself of his help to get an article published in his paper, about the Pető Institute... Family connections. Not necessarily a sin.

Dr.Ákos was more familiar with pre-change Hungarian politics than me, and during our long conversations he and his wife Magda „dropped” names and pieces of information that I (by then) was very interested in. In these „heroic” CE years I gradually built up a picture in which my own personal knowledge and experiences fitted. What he told me about Biszku was about the same as was described in your Blog, Andrew. What Pető may have had to „give” for the protection he ulitmately enjoyed was probably no different from what was expected from everybody in positions of power, – „or else”..! Biszku was probably able to protect him even in this respect.

What Biszku did OTHERWISE is of course none of my business, as it was none of Pető’s, either. Chinese monkies? (See no evil, hear no evil...)



Monday, 31 January 2011 at 17:18:00 GMT  
Anonymous Andrew Sutton said...

What a very strange world, what a (to most of us) alien crucible, it was that CE passed through on its way to here and now, from wherever and whenever.

How very alien, long past and far away this must all seem to young parents in the West today, and yet how very close it must remains to the mostly young conductors who serve them and are probably rather more aware if this through their parents and their cultural heritage).

Quite a gulf to bridge... but it can be done, if people try.


Monday, 31 January 2011 at 19:17:00 GMT  

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