Chapter Seven

Justice East – Justice West

Each of the accused in the Mindszenty trial behaved according to his background and character. If Mindszenty surprised everybody by his weakness, by not appearing as an accusing Dimitrov of the Church as had been expected in the West, it was because few people knew anything about the character of the man. He had been built up purposely in the Western press on the sole ground that he was known as an uncompromising opponent of the progressive government. He was pictured as a twentieth century Savonarola, a man that would goto the stake for his beliefs. But he had never been put to a real test. When Szalasi's government arrested him in 1944, he behaved just as he did when the Republic arrested him. He wrote cringing letters trying to get out of the gaol into which he had been thrown for protecting his property rights. In court he did not even have the courage to stick up for his convictions as a Monarchist.

Very different from the Cardinal's display was that of the aristocrat, Prince Paul Eszterhazy. His crimes were mainly connected with large-scale black-marketeering, but he admitted that he paid Mindszenty above the normal black-market rate for dollars because he knew the Cardinal was engaged in a conspiracy to restore the Hapsburgs and needed money for the work.

Rather languid, stooping slightly, he gave his evidence in an aloof way and gave the impression that he was annoyed that he should be forced to discuss sordid money matters in a People's Court. His pale and rather beautiful wife sat in the Court, huddled up in a fur coat. She was usually the first to enter the public gallery and prayed for a few minutes before the trial started each day. The Prince told the court that before the 1945 land reform laws, he owned 250,000 acres of land and that at the time he was arrested he estimated his fortune at 3,000,000 forints, about a quarter of a million dollars. He was, however, rather hazy about how much he owned or even the number of employees on his estate.

When Judge Olti asked him how he had tried to adjust himself to the new life in Hungary, Eszterhazy replied, "Until now I was busy with the liquidation of my fortunes. I have an office at 41 Jozsef Korut, where I have an employee and a legal adviser, and from time to time we come across another small part of my property which can still be sold..."

He explained that when he was managing the estates, he employed 160 clerks and accountants to help him, but the estimates were so vast he had no clear picture of the total number of peasants or farmhands. "As the statistical reports on the estate are not at hand I couldn't recite them by heart."

Prince Paul was rather vague too, when it came to the dollars he had bought from Mindszenty and other sources.

Olti: You saved a certain amount of foreign currency during the siege? How much was that?

Eszterhazy: I couldn't say off hand...

Olti: About how much? You don't have to give an absolute, exact figure.

Eszterhazy: The indictment says it was 11,000 dollars.

Olti: Well, it seems evident that you must have mentioned that figure otherwise they wouldn't have put it down.

Eszterhazy: Unfortunately it wasn't I who handled this sort of thing but my secretary, Dr. Horvath.

Olti: Anyway you think this is the right figure?

Eszterhazy: If he says so I accept it.

Olti: You instructed your secretary Horvath in the autumn of 1945 to purchase further sums of dollars on the black market, after decree 8400/1946 was issued forbidding the purchase of foreign currency except through the legal channels of the National Bank?

Eszterhazy: Permit me to say in my defence that a great part of my fortune in Hungary was lost.

Olti: A great part. But there was still much left. I don't think anyone in this room would even dream of possessing three million forints. This is a tremendous fortune. Did you intend to liquidate your fortune in Hungary and move abroad to your estates in Austria or Bavaria?

Eszterhazy: Theoretically I thought of this, but in practice I thought the time was not ripe.

Olti: Ever since the autumn of 1946, your secretary, Dr. Horvath, was buying dollars on your instructions?

Eszterhazy: Yes.

Olti: At the end of 1947 Horvath reported he could buy cheques to the value of several thousand dollars from Jozsef Mindszenty? Is that true?

Eszterhazy: It is.

Olti: Did you know Jozsef Mindszenty personally? Did you know he was a Legitimist?

Eszterhazy: I thought he was.

Olti: Are you also a Legitimist.

Eszterhazy: I don't want to offend the existing form of government, but in my heart of hearts I must confess to being a Legitimist due to my ancestral background.

Olti: In case of a Hapsburg restoration you could hope for much more favourable conditions for yourself than under the People's Democracy?

Eszterhazy: Well, maybe I would have been given back part of my fortune.

Olti: Yes. Well, when you heard that Jozsef Mindszenty had dollar cheques to the value of several thousand dollars and wanted to sell them, did you instruct your secretary to buy them?

Eszterhazy: The matter was, mentioned and I gave instructions.

Olti: Was the price mentioned?

Eszterhazy: It probably was but I don't remember.

Olti: Do you remember whether the dollar price was higher than the black-market rate in those days?

Eszterhazy: I suppose so.

Olti: Why do you suppose so? Either you know it or you don't. On what do you base your supposition? Please explain.

Eszterhazy: Foreign currency sold illegally is always sold at a higher price than the National Bank rate.

Olti: I didn't ask you whether the price you paid was higher than the National Bank rate, but whether it was higher than the black market rate at that time?

Eszterhazy: I think it was higher.

Olti: You think it was higher. Now tell me, why should you have wanted to pay a higher price to Jozsef Mindszenty than you would have paid to a person unknown to you also engaged in selling dollars on the black market? Did you intend to assist Jozsef Mindszenty in this way?

Eszterhazy: I thought that eventually the difference would be used for Legitimist purposes.

Olti: Tell me, please, how many dollars in cheques did your secretary buy on your instructions?

Eszterhazy: Even in my statement made to the police I was unable to give an exact answer to this. Then we reconstructed this with his help and if I remember well, it was 8,000 dollars.

Olti: Yes, 8,000 dollars. That was the figure in the deposition.

Eszterhazy: I received a warning indirectly that it would be advisable to send the cheques abroad.

Olti: Was there an endorsement on the cheques?

Eszterhazy: Yes, the signature of the last owner.

Olti: Who was the drawer of the cheques?

Eszterhazy: On two of them I believe it was Spellman, Archbishop of New York. The drawer of the third was someone else, an American clerical...

Olti: An American clerical personality. You don't remember his name. And besides these did you have dollars brought from other sources than Jozsef Mindszenty? How many dollars in cheques and banknotes did you buy up and later send abroad?

Eszterhazy: 11,000 dollars after the liberation, 18,000 before that, 29,000 altogether.

Olti: 29,000 dollars. How did you send them abroad?

Eszterhazy: Packed in a suitcase and with the help of a man who was in my employ and another one who is still in my employ, but they knew nothing about the dollars.

Olti: Was it a double-bottomed suitcase specially made for this purpose?

Eszterhazy: Yes. I had it specially made for the purpose.

Afterwards one of Prince Paul's employees testified in court that he had taken the suitcase over the frontier. He was obviously discomfited at having to give evidence against his former princely employer. Asked by the Judge if it were true that he had taken a suitcase abroad, he replied: "If you please, sir, not abroad, only to Austria." He was still living in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

When he was asked if he did not know the suitcase contained dollars, he said he did not and Prince Paul got to his feet and said: "He and his family have served my family for generations. I order and he obeys. He was told to take the suitcase to Vienna and he did so. He knew nothing of the contents and I accept full responsibility for his actions."

Of the other three accused only Dr. Bela Ispanky, dean of a Catholic college, contributed really interesting evidence. Sleek and sly, he did his best with Jesuitical cunning to deny his guilt, but he was branded as a cheap spy, who spied not for particular hatred of the regime in Hungary, but because he w:as paid in dollars for spying. His career, however, was not a long one. He was quickly found out and arrested. He was recruited by a French woman, Mme Pomrelot, who said she was an agent for the British Secret Service, and worked with Mihailovich, Mindszenty's Hungarian agent in Rome. She arrived in Budapest in September, 1948, on the pretext of visiting the Autumn Fair. Her instructions were to contact Ispanky, and with his help recruit two agents, George Eszterhas, a member of the Catholic Action Society. Eszterhas refused to have anything to do with the project. Nagy accepted. Mme Pomrelot also brought the materials necessary to conduct secret correspondence, as Ispanky described during the questioning, when he told of a packet which Mme Pomrelot left with him.

Olti: What happened next, what was in the package?

Ispanky: The package contained two sheets of paper treated with chemicals, one for Dr. Eszterhas and another for Mr. Miklos Nagy.

Olti: What was in it?

Ispanky: Some chemical substance for developing the writing, two tubes of it.

Olti: I see, two tubes of developing material, and what else?

Ispanky: There were 200 dollars.

Olti: 200 dollars. Did you open the packet while the lady was there?

Ispanky: She opened it and gave it to me. She told me that if the two above-named gentlemen should come to see me, I was to tell them to use the chemically treated sheets...

Olti: Louder please...

Ispanky: ...which had been simply treated with wax, so that writing leaves no visible marks on it; they may cover the sheets with writing and if they make a chemical solution of the pills in hot water and rub the sheets with the solution, the writing will become apparent.

Olti: They were instruments used in secret writing, weren't they?

Ispanky: Yes.

Ispanky decided himself he would become a spy as Eszterhas was unwilling. He opened the letter intended for Eszterhas.

Olti: Let us go on.

Ispanky: I found the letter of Mihailovich was most confusing, sometimes he would mention the Americans and then again the British, and at times he spoke about his intention of organising a news agency himself.

Olti (who had the original letters in front of him): It is all clearly stated there if you read the letters; he wanted a part of the news for the office where he would deal personally with them, to provide slanderous bits of news to the foreign press. But he also refers to another line, doesn't he?

Ispanky: I don't remember.

Olti: He intimated where the money for these news items came from and that there was another source which paid generously for useful information. They would pay any price. Is that so?

Ispanky: As I merely glanced through the letters I cannot remember such details.

The Jesuit Dean eventually admitted sending out reports but tried to minimise their importance and to brush off the question that he sent them out under another name, written in secret ink and sent to a dummy address in Rome.

Olti: So you forwarded the reports to Mihailovich, written with chemical ink, in a clandestine manner.

Ispanky: This process was so simple...

Olti: Simple, yet effective. To conceal secrets, just plain spying, I would call it. An honest person would only hear about such things except in criminal trials.

Ispanky: This was certainly no secret to the authorities for...

Olti: To authorities dealing with spies, certainly not, but to the prefect of the St. Imre College, it certainly was. How did you send the reports abroad?

Ispanky: By regular mail.

Olti: By regular mail, but written in chemical ink.

Ispanky: To be exact, on waxed paper.

Olti: On waxed paper, so that if anyone looked at it, they merely saw an innocuous text under which the real, hidden text would be produced by the process described by the lady.

Ispanky: If some official organ should have checked it and found it suspicious, it would have been enough to draw a line across the letter with any kind of dye or acid solution, and the writing would have been discovered.

Olti: Do you think they do that, drawing lines across every single letter? All right! Did you write your name on the letters as sender?

Ispanky: I wrote another address.

Olti: You wrote another address. In this manner you sent off seven reports. Who prepared these seven reports?

Ispanky: I prepared them, mostly from the news given to me by Laszlo Toth.

Olti: You wrote them on an ordinary sheet of notepaper with some innocuous text on it. Did you write the ordinary text as well?

Ispanky: I did.

Olti: For instance what?

Ispanky: Family matters...

Olti: "My dear friend, grandmother is well," something like that, unimportant sentences.

Ispanky: Neutral texts.

Olti: To whom did you address them?

Ispanky: I had received two neutral addresses in Rome.

Olti: Did you know the people personally?

Ispanky: No, I did not.

Olti: You did not know them. Obviously they were the local members of a network of spies, is that a fact?

Ispanky: The fact is that Mihailovich did not want to give his own address and that...

Olti: Who gave you the addresses?

Ispanky: The lady gave them to me before her departure.

Pressed to give an answer as to why he allowed himself to be recruited as a spy, why he had accepted the letters, chemical ink and dollars, Ispanky replied: "Please, Your Honour, the lady forced me to accept these things."

Olti: How is this possible? How old was the lady?

Ispanky: 45 to 50.

Olti: You are a young man, how could she have forced you to take them? Why didn't you pick up the telephone and ask for the police “to protect you from a secret agent who was forcing you to do things?"

Ispanky did not apparently know that some of the reports had fallen into government hands. In court he pretended that they dealt only with Church matters, but Olti was able to prove otherwise.

Olti: Did you write the report in your own hand or on the typewriter?

Ispanky: One could only write them in handwriting, with printed capital letters.

Olti: With printed capitals only. I see. Would you please let us know some facts? For instance, what kind of information did you forward?

Ispanky: The bulk of it referred to Church policy.

Olti (reading): Then there were also facts like this, "All men up to the age of 48 will be called up for military service." Is that a Church matter?

Ispanky: Laszlo Toth had told me that on November 1st, they would call up every man up to the age of 48.

Olti: But you just said that you had supplied information on Church policy and on matters concerning the Church. I dare say the Church does not draft soldiers... Let us go on. "Several divisions of the armed forces were supplied with Russian arms." Did you write that?

Ispanky: Yes.

Olti (picked up a document and started reading from it): "Among others, I reported on the basis of my own activity that in the Vertes mountains they were searching for radio-active materials. A new runway was built in the Ferihegy airfield. In Magyarovar they were manufacturing shell fuses."

Ispanky: In this connection last summer I heard someone explain when offering cigarettes and striking a lighter that it was made in Magyarovar. It was a fuse lighter. He mentioned also that the Magyarovar factory was making such peacetime products for reparation deliveries.

Olti: But why did you have to write all this abroad?' Tell the Court why. Why did you report data concerning the cellulose requirements of the country and possibly military arrangements here? And you, a man with a doctor's degree, who spent years abroad on scholarship. Why, anybody would know that such information cannot be transmitted abroad. You also knew it, didn't you?' Did you know that you were not supposed to pass it on? That by doing so you were acting disloyally to your country? Did you know it?

Ispanky: I knew it.

The Americans to whom most of this information was eventually going must have been disillusioned in the quality of their informants when they read Ispanky's evidence. Lighter flints become shell fuses. False reports on mobilisation, false reports on Soviet equipment for "several divisions" of Hungarian troops!

I have quoted at considerable length from the evidence of the main accused to disclose not only its substance but the way in which it was extracted. Hate campaigns were whipped up against Hungary abroad, by people who had not been near the courtroom. Accused were pictured as stumbling into the trial, bereft of their senses, reading prepared confessions at the top of their voices. They were supposed to have been prepared by drugs and injections beforehand, and if there was any break in their evidence, they were said to have been rushed from the room for another injection before they could carry on.

Actually in this trial, as in several others I have attended in Eastern Europe, the accused admitted just as much they knew was already known to the prosecutor. No trial has aroused such passions as that of Mindszenty and his accomplices. Mr. Truman denounced it as "infamous" and said it was held in a "kangaroo" or mock court. Mr. Bevin forgetting Britain's traditional hostility to any attempt at political intrigues by the Catholic Church and that Catholics in England were banned from sitting in the British Parliament from the time Cardinal Wolseley was executed in 1530, till the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1823, rushed to the defence of Mindszenty and his colleagues, denounced the trial as a farce. Mass meetings were whipped up in New York and London, where Mindszenty was pictured as a martyr second only to Jesus Christ himself.

In an action almost unparalleled in the history of British foreign secretaries, Bevin sent a message to a meeting in the London Albert Hall, in which he said that not Mindszenty but the Hungarian government was on trial. It took the official organ of the Vatican, "Osservatore Romano," to squash some of the wilder comment of the trial by repudiating the stories of drugs and tortures and saying that Cardinal Mindszenty had "admitted what was true and denied what was false." Mindszenty had denied also much that was true. Hungarian papers were accused of having prejudged the trial by attacking the Cardinal before the case came to court. British and American papers, however, had certainly prejudged the trial and published fantastic reports of tortures and drugs beforehand.

A new sinister drug was used on the Cardinal, they claimed. Aktedron, the "truth drug." In fact, as I discovered the day I arrived for the trial, Aktedron can be bought at all chemists shops in Budapest without prescription. It is the Hungarian version of Benzedrine. Three tablets helped me sit out the first long day in court, after having travelled for three days to reach Budapest from Berlin.

Certainly, court procedure is different in Hungary to that in England and America, and it may be useful at this stage to explain just what happens to a suspect arrested in Hungary. It is important to understand, however, that this is not a procedure introduced since Hungary became a People's Democracy, nor is it a procedure peculiar to Hungary. It is the normal routine of courts over almost the whole continent of Europe including France. One can dispute the merits of this procedure as compared to that followed in English or American courts, but to suggest that it is a sinister technique invented by Communists in Eastern Europe is ridiculous. Why are there always admissions of guilt? Why do defence counsels put up such a poor defence? How are confessions obtained? At least some of these questions can be answered. Methods used to obtain statements during police investigations may always be suspect, and a whole literature has sprung up about this particular subject in the United States where "third degree" methods of extracting information are regarded as normal.

An accused in Hungary, or Bulgaria or Austria, as far as that is concerned, can be legally held for questioning for an unlimited period. In an espionage case, or conspiracy, where numbers of people are involved, obviously each one interrogated may implicate others. Until all the suspects have been rounded up, none will be brought to trial. Each one arrested contributes new facts to the case, suggest fresh points for questioning those first arrested. Questioners work in teams of highly intelligent men and women with a good knowledge of psychology, a high standard of political education. In crimes of a political nature, their first task is to convince the accused of the extent of their crime against the people, they are made to feel ashamed of themselves. A picture is presented of the sufferings of the common people in the past, the ravages of war, the promising new life which is being built. The questioners are fervent believers in the new state. Part of their work is to convert the accused to their views, to get them into an emotional ashamed state of mind.

Pastor Angel Dinev, sentenced to one year's suspended sentence at the Pastor's trial in Sofia, told me that the teams who questioned him were composed of young, highly intelligent men.

"The statement I made in court about how well treated I was, was quite sincere," he told me. I was awaiting for him at his modest little home in the outskirts of Sofia, when he returned from the prison. His wife, little daughter Lilia, with a brand new ribbon in her hair, and half a dozen neighbours, were all crowded round the kitchen stove waiting for the pastor to return. They were eager listeners to his account of nearly three months in gaol – "I had been afraid of Communists previously," he said, "but they treated me well. They are honest people that I could work with.

"They didn't argue with me about politics, but they gave me lots of books to read, and their questions always followed a certain political line. Altogether I read 40 books while I was in prison, most of them about socialism."

"Were you beaten, tortured? Were you threatened that your wife's rations card would be taken away unless you talked?"

The ruddy-faced young pastor laughed. "Absolutely nothing of the sort. I was questioned for long hours on end. Once until late at night and, of course, I was reminded that under the law I would get a lighter sentence if I admitted freely what I had done."

At first Dinev was only questioned at infrequent intervals, as the questioners were building up their case against one of the chief accused, a Pastor Chernev. "If they found out something from some other accused or perhaps from Chernev himself, then they came straight to me to check it or take the point a shade further."

Once, Dinev was given a book to 'read, "Courage," by a Russian woman, Vera Kiplinskaya. It described the building of the town of Komsomolsk on the Amur River in Siberia. Japanese agents employing local traitors tried to sabotage the work. "The interrogator kept asking me how far I'd got with the book," he said, "and told me that I would reach a certain point where I would recognise myself and my own activities. I did and I felt very ashamed of the role I had been playing."

After the casual questioning was over and the case was completed against the more important accused, the interrogators concentrated in Dinev. "I did not have to add much to what they already knew about me from the other accused. I only had to explain facts which they already had in their possession and the explanation had to be accurate." After he had made his statement, he said he was given slightly better food.

“On the whole it wasn't bad at all," he insisted. "I could buy my breakfast in the prison canteen or my wife could send it in. The other two meals were mainly soup for lunch and meat or vegetables for dinner. We had meat every second day."

The questioners hand over the result of their work to the State Prosecutor who is already provided with all documents connected with a case. If it has been decided during the interrogation that there is insufficient evidence against an accused, he may be set free without appearing before the court. He had no redress, nor has he in the West, for wrongful arrest. In England or America, of course, he must be brought before a court within 24 hours of his arrest, which, as the police admit, makes their task very difficult. Other accomplices are immediately warned when they pick up the morning papers. The work of breaking up gangs is made particularly difficult.

The Prosecutor then decides whether he has a case against the accused. If so, a special court is convened where the preliminary Enquiry is held. The facts established by the interrogators, are then examined with the accused in court. This Preliminary Enquiry is held in camera. On the basis of this hearing the indictment is drawn up and the accused are committed for trial. The accused are given the indictment at least eight days before the trial and are permitted to name their defence lawyers who have access to them at any time without any third person being present.

The Preliminary Enquiry in such cases is held in camera presumably because a great deal of the evidence cannot be disclosed in the public interest. The substance of espionage reports, military and economic data, names of contacts in other countries must be kept secret and will not be referred to by the President of the Court where the public trial is held.

By the time the public trial takes place the prosecutor has already proved his case, in the form of the indictment which usually contains the confessions of the accused. The People's Court which tried Mindszenty was composed of a president, who was a trained judge, and four lay assessors, nominated by political parties. The position of the presiding judge, in the Mindszenty case, Judge Olti, is quite different to that of a judge in an English or an American court. His task is to lead the proceedings to get on to the court record everything pertinent to the case which the accused have already admitted. Nothing which they have said during investigation or in the preliminary enquiry is accepted as such. It serves only as the basis for the presiding judge's examination. The accused can deny their confessions as Baranyai did in one minor point or as Traicho Kostov did in the famous Sofia spy trial. If a confession is denied, the new evidence of the accused goes on to the record, but the judge may also read parts of the original statement to get that on the record as well. By cross-examination and the testimony of other accused and witnesses the judge will get sufficient on the record to serve as the basis for a decision later.

After each accused is questioned; he takes his seat in court. In other words he does not hear the evidence of those that have preceded him, but does hear that of all who follow him. In a certain sense the accused are already considered guilty by the time they appear before the court. Formally they are not, of course, considered guilty by the judges, but the prosecution has already proved its case against them and they have already made their admissions. If they were not regarded as guilty, they would have been released – as often happens – during some stage of the interrogation or after the preliminary enquiry.

The defence counsels have a difficult role. Their clients have invariably admitted their guilt beforehand. Under the law of the land – and not a new law – admission of guilt and assistance given to the court are regarded as mitigating circumstances which may knock several years off an accused's sentence or make the difference between a death sentence and life imprisonment – which usually means fifteen years. The .defence counsel's main task is to advise his client how best to conduct himself in court, and during the trial look for legal points which may be used to demand a lighter sentence. He is quite certain his client will not be acquitted, because his guilt has already been established before the trial starts. He can point out mitigating circumstances to the judge and demand that the charge be classified under one paragraph of the law rather than under another.

The defence lawyer of Traicho Kostov gave an exposition of what he considered the role of a defence counsel in a socialist state. It is interesting, but it was not the role adopted by the defence lawyers of either Dr. Baranyai or Prince Eszterhazy, both of whom put up valiant defences for their clients, which would have done credit to any defence counsel in England or America.

"Wereject absolutely the bourgeois conception of the duties of a defence counsel," said white-haired old Dr. Dyukmedsiev, Kostov's counsel. "In a socialist state we reject the idea of trying to defend a man when we know he is guilty. We reject the idea of saving a man by some legal trickery, finding some legal loophole by which the law can be cheated. We believe that the role of Judge, Prosecutor and Defence Counsel are essentially the same. The aim is to establish the objective truth of a matter." He went on to explain that his role was to see that the judge was correctly informed about the facts of the case, to see that the prosecutor did not exaggerate the crimes committed, that only objective facts went on to the court record. He was to watch that the case was judged according to the specific paragraphs of the law which it merited. Dyukmedsiev's speech was, however, probably an extreme expression of the role of defence lawyers at such trials.

After the trial of Sanders and Vogeler, the British and American business-men intelligence agents, found guilty in a Budapest court of espionage and sabotage, there was widespread comment in the Western press that confessions would never be accepted in a Western court without strong corroborative evidence. Apart from the confessions of Sander's and Vogeler's fellow accused, and Sander's secretary who had typed the espionage reports, a translator who had translated them, copies of quite a number of the reports, copies of money orders with which Sanders had paid off one of his agents. Within two weeks of Sanders and Vogeler being sentenced after a four days' trial, Klaus Fuchs, an atom scientist, was sentenced after a 90 minutes' trial in the London Central Criminal Court to 14 years' imprisonment on a charge of espionage. The sentence was based only on Fuchs's confession without an iota: of corroborative evidence. There were no copies of reports, no dates on which he had made his reports, no names of persons to whom he had given the reports. The indictment itself was an extraordinarily vague document. The charges, as reported in The Times of March 2, 1950, were as follows:

"That on a day in 1943 in the city of Birmingham for a purpose prejudicial to the safety of interests of the State he communicated to a person unknown information relating to atomic research which was calculated to be, or might have been, or was intended to be, directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.

"That on a day unknown between December 31 and August 1, 1944, he being a British subject, in the city of New York, committed a similar offence.

"'That on a day unknown in February, 1945, he being a British subject, at Boston, Massachusetts, committed a similar offence," and

"That on a day in 1945, in Berkshire, he committed a similar offence."

The indictment itself was falsely worded. On the basis of Fuchs's statement, which was the only evidence the court had, he gave his information to agents of the Soviet Union, which in 1943, and in 1944, and in February, 1945, was not an enemy but the closest ally of Great Britain, an ally indeed which bore the brunt of the war and saved England from invasion. But that is beside the point.

The case was conducted by the Attorney Sir Hartley Shawcross who said: "His statement, in so far as we have been able to check it, is believed to be true." The security officer, William James Skardon, who conducted Fuchs's investigation was called to the witness stand by the Counsel for Defence, Mr. Curtis-Bennett. He stated that apart from the confession Fuchs had made, there was no evidence on which he could be prosecuted. The whole of the proceedings in court, apart from Fuchs's plea of "Guilty," were taken up with the reading of the indictment; of the accused's confession; the speeches of Sir Hartley Shawcross and of the defence counsel. Ninety minutes after the trial was opened, with no witnesses called or documents presented, Fuchs was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. If such a trial had taken place in Eastern Europe, there would have been outraged protests from every corner of the Western world.

What made Fuchs confess? One cannot suggest drugs or torture because he made his statement out of prison in his own home. An intelligent security officer worked on him for a long time and made him feel thoroughly ashamed of himself. At least that is the story he told the court, and it is a similar story to many of those I have heard in the People's Courts of Eastern Europe. The important point, however, is that a confession in almost any court in the world, is still regarded as the "king of evidence" and can only be challenged if the accused renounces it in open court, or his defence counsel can prove it is demonstrably false.

In Eastern Europe, after all the evidence has been heard, the prosecutor and counsels for defence have made their speeches, the accused have the right of a final statement, in which they usually put forward anything which they feel might weigh in their favour; might count as extenuating circumstances.

In the Mindszenty case, the Cardinal expressed sincere regrets for his actions and said they were a result of his education and environment. "It took half a century to make me what I am, by a strictly determined education and principles. This education, these basic principles are built into a man's life as firmly as rails are laid on the ground. These rails carry you along the track and this accounts for many things... As concerns my unintentional and unpremeditated violation of certain laws of the state, I confessed and admitted whatever had happened. I also offered to give material compensation. And I meant it."

Dr. Baranyai made a long speech in which he defended his position as a Monarchist, and said he felt the superior living standards in England, Holland and Scandinavia were due to the fact that they were Monarchies. Prince Paul declined to make a final statement, and also declined to appeal against his sentence of fifteen years' imprisonment. And so came to an end one of the most important trials in history and certainly one of the most discussed. For the first time in Europe, since the French Revolution, except in the Soviet Union, a government had the courage to bring the highest representatives of the Church and aristocracy to trial when they clearly violated the laws of the country.

Click here to go to Chapter VIII

Click here to return to the index of archival material.