Labour Camps..

Labour camps in Hungary

Eastern European overview (kitekintés)

After the 2nd World War in every Eastern European country (being?) joint to the Soviet Block – as well as in our country – there were labour camps settled. Initially the inhabitants of the camps were from the Nazi party and the different organizations supporting it. Or those belonging to a minority of a country waiting for the relocation, like the Germans and Hungarians in Czechoslovakia. The opponents of the Communist system, who made a bigger and bigger, but non-determined group, were collected to the prisons and camps after that. Every camp differed to each other not only at the level of countries, but inside them, first of all in point of the work dealt by the prisoners and the abuse of them. The everyday life was affected mainly by the quality and quantity of nutrition, the overcrowding and the standard of health care. There was a big difference in the size of publicity, too, which expanded between the Southern Buda Camp known by anybody – with some jokes mentioned by the civilians –, and the top secret Recsk Camp. The renewed Communist system of the ‘50s eliminated the majority of the Eastern European labour camps. First in Eastern Germany, then till 1956 in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania and Hungary. However the camps in the Balkan were operated further, which in cruelty overcame the camps earlier mentioned. In Yugoslavia despite the bad relationship to the Soviet Union the camps were also settled. The total authority of camps was created, which meant the prisoners organized the education and physical punishment of their mates. The Bulgarian and the Albanian camps survived for the longest time. The Bulgarians till the ’80s, but in Albania 14 working camps were operated still in 1990.

Labour camps in Hungary

At the beginning more and more prisoners had to be placed in prisons in Hungary, but then the places and the forms of punishment extended. Beside the prisons the relocation to some farms of Great Plane, the internment to Tiszalök, Kistarcsa, Kazincbarcika or Recsk as well as to the working camps countrywide appeared. The settlement of the opened (végrehajtási) places or so called working camps solved two problems in one time: decreased the crowding of prisons and served working force for the mines, buildings or farming works. The means of employed prisoners were served by new institutes and statutory rules. Three organizations leaded employing the prisoners: Economic Department (Igazgatóság) of the Ministry of Law, the Department (Igazgatóság) of Works of General Interests and the Authority of State Security. After some time (?) all of these institutes were lead by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The most important point of view was the security by the settlement of a new camp, so watchtowers to the four corners and doubled barbed wire fences around were built. In the space closed around by the barbed wire fence only the most needed buildings stood, like the huts, a canteen, the bathroom and some store houses. The number of arrested people increased continuously to more thousand in Hungary. By the amnesty in 1953 it decreased, but after the relay (?) of the Prime Minister Nagy Imre it started to increase again. On 1st may 1956 26 876 persons were arrested, between them 18 042 persons worked in the prisons and the working camps.

The working camp of Csolnok

At the border of the village Csolnok in Komárom-Esztergom County for the exploitation of big quantity and outstanding quality of coal mined locally a working camp was settled in spring of 1952. The judged people mined brown coal here with the lead of local experts. One part of the judged people spent their punishment for committing (köztörvényes bűncselekmény), but most of them got to the camp by political reasons. The number of them was 80, but till summer of 1956 they overcame the level of a thousand persons. In the camp there was a member of all social and political classes. In some of the wells of coal mine the judged people was employed, where the headquarter of labour leading and the huts stood. These people lived in these five huts, which were built of concrete. The meals eaten by the prisoners adapted to the need of mine work. In contrast with the prisons people got meals with more nutritional value, which was essential for the continuous exploitation of coal. The staff of the labour camp of Csolnok was more than 70 professional guards, among them more guards being trained by Authority of State Security. During the common work the prisoners were getting in good relationship, sometimes in friendship with the civilian miners. So those miners brought the news about outside world to the camp. One of their methods was to wrap their meal with fresh newspaper that they always waited with a big interest. Those miner-relationships worked as a post to the family members. However there was an official opportunity to send mail, and the prisoners could met the relatives at a time of speaking (beszélő). In the mine the prisoners worked in system of 3 shifts. They didn’t have an off day, because they worked also on Sunday, mostly maintenance works. After the shift their spear time was free, and to spend it useful they invented more games, like creating a theatre company. The news of revolution in 1956 got inside the camp with the help of civilian miners, too. The prisoners joint the revolution to start to make a hunger strike in the deepness of the mine, and wanted the authorities to reconsider their affairs. After 4 days they got a great opportunity. From Budapest prosecutors arrived at the camp, who started to fill up the temporary passports of freedom. On 31th October 1956 the camp of Csolnok became empty. Some of the prisoners emigrated to abroad after the release, and some joint to the revolution of 1956. Who stayed in the country mostly was taken back to the prisons. After the crush of revolution the labour camps were not opened again, the prisoners were employed only at the prisons. However after their final release the years being spent in the labour camps determined their life.

Adrienn Marshal