The return of the gendarmerie?–written by S.K.

I want to thank my friend S.K. for writing this post on the historical role of the Hungarian gendarmerie.
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There is no reason whatsoever to be surprised over the fact that the Hungarian ultra-right is busy trying to resuscitate all the odious institutions of pre-war times, including the gendarmerie. For those who need to be introduced to, or just reminded of, this tough specialized police force, it was originally created to keep "order" in the countryside and soon enough acquired a reputation for ruthlessness and freewheeling violence. When the time came, it was also the gendarmerie who carried out the deportation of Jews into the arms of their executioners in Auschwitz and other destinations. Also, they were the ones who attempted a coup against Governor Miklós Horthy in July 1944, from which only a tank division of the military could dissuade them.
 
But back to our time! Enter Zsolt Lipusz. This unusual name belongs to a successful and respected high school teacher of history in the city of Nyíregyháza. He moonlights as the deputy chief of the local organization of Jobbik and is also the author of incredibly vicious articles, where else, but on www.kuruc.info.hu and of course Szent Korona Rádió (the Radio of the Sacred Crown). Lipusz also advocates the re-establishment of the gendarmerie because, as all ultra-rightists believe, only a super hard organization like that can restore "order" in a country riddled with "Gypsy crime." He nostalgically tells the story of how a couple of gendarmes scared a whole village of Gypsies into submission by just threatening them. None of that fancy-schmancy due process for those gendarmes! He even supplies  pictorial support for his assertion, and indeed the picture speaks for itself:
Gendarms1
 
No wonder the word "gendarmes" was often hyphenated with "terror": "csendőr-terror." But Lipusz, in keeping with Jobbik's highest desires, calls the picture "heartwarming."
 
The gendarmerie was not only an instrument of terror in the villages. They were also key players in the Hungarian Holocaust. As an arm of the state, they collected all the worldly possessions of the dispossessed Jews before shepherding them into the ghettos. They made sure that the Jews got no food, water, or any other "comfort" before they were forced into the cattle cars.
  Gendarms2
  Gendarmes escort the deportees in Nagykőrös
 
Gendarms3
Gendarmes lead the Jews to the railroad stations
 
 
Gendarms4 

They bring the Jews of Kiskunmajsa to the wagons

 
Gendarms5
 
 And they deliver these children from Transylvania to Auschwitz

If all these "heroics" of the gendarmerie were not enough, one of the highlights of their activities was the occupation of Northern Serbia, particularly Novi Sad (Újvidék), in the winter of 1942. In order to establish a reign of terror that was unknown in those lands before, in only two days in April they murdered several thousand people, male and female, without respect to age or ethnicity. The number of victims was never firmly established; some estimates are as high as 12,000, but even the lowest is 3,000-4,000. Some victims were rounded up on the frozen river Danube, in which openings in the ice were created by grenades, and the people were shot and tossed into the water through these holes. This was also the work of the gendarmerie:
 
Gendarms6

Novi Sad in 1942
 

And of course, they were not without a sense of humor. For amusement they humiliated the local rabbi, forcing him to wash their car:
 
Gendarms7
 
The Jobbik and with them the entire right-wing of the Hungarian political class, with the support of the Catholic Church, is enthusiastically campaigning for the resurrection of the gendarmerie. They believe that this is the only way to restore order to the country. In the meantime, to accomplish that goal, they don't hesitate to break the law and they work feverishly to overturn the present regime at every opportunity they find, because, they claim, the present order is not order. To them only the gendarmerie's order is the true order.
 
So far this politics has garnered the approval of 15% of the Hungarian electorate and it is rising.
 
 

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Mark
Guest
It is undoubtedly for their role in the Holocaust and other atrocities in the Second World War that the Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie was disbanded. But, I don’t think it is either the best, or the most pertinent way to dismiss Jobbik’s suggestion. Indeed, I think it plays into their hands. And as an argument it really misses the point in so many ways. We really have to ask what a gendarmerie is? The standard definition is that it is “A body of soldiers, mounted or unmounted, employed as police” (OED). In other words it is a nationally organized force with policing responsibilities, a hierarchical command structure under the ultimate operational control of a responsible minister (in some countries the Minister of the Interior, in others the Minister of Defence), its members can be expected to lay down their lives in the conduct of their duties. It is normally contrasted with the police which is “The civil force of a state responsible for maintaining public order and enforcing the law, including preventing and detecting crime; (with pl. concord) members of a police force, police officers; the local constabulary.” (OED) I’d suggest that if you look at how the current Hungarian police… Read more »
Sandor
Guest
Indeed Mark, you are correct making the distinction between the national, or federal police force as opposed to the local, or municipal police. As it happens however, in Hungary there is no local police, the institution is national in a hierarchy organized alongside the jurisdictions in general and indeed under the command of the Minister of Interior. This is exactly why the idea of an additional gendarmerie is a hair-brained and superfluous nonsense. The purpose of creating one is not that there is a need for it, but to recreate the extrajudicial terror that they represented and direct it against those whom are irritants in the eyes of Jobbik. The Jobbik is not yearning to see more respect for the Law, on the contrary, they intentionally breach it all the time. What they are yearning for is a terror organization of their own, under their own command, so they can unleash it on any segment of society that is in their way. In fact they are seeking a second tier, or “other tier” force to do their bidding against their opponents, such as for example the police that resists their encroachment on civic life, or homosexuals they find distasteful. Even… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Éva: “the name of the former has a very bad ring in Hungary for historical reasons”.
Of course, and that’s part of the point. Jobbik’s suggestion is a provocation, more than it is a serious proposal – they know it will cause uproar on the left. And then they can say that as both Austria and Romania (not to mention France) have a gendarmerie with no problems, the left put their “politically correct” concerns above those of people’s security. I think it is better not to fall into that trap, especially as the Rendőrség is now, on any definition, a gendarmerie anyway. There is at least then the chance of exposing this suggestion as empty populism pure and simple.
What Hungary actually lacks is a civil police force. This has been what has lain behind some of the problems of policing in recent years. Most countries with a force organized on paramilitary lines, have a civil force that exists alongside it.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark quoting me: “the name of the former has a very bad ring in Hungary for historical reasons.”
Of course, and that’s part of the point. Jobbik’s suggestion is a provocation,more than it is a serious proposal”
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This is what I’m not sure of. I have the feeling that they are dead serious. I’m also not as sure as you are that these ignorant people know anything about the situation in Austria or in Romania.

Mark
Guest

Éva: “This is what I’m not sure of. I have the feeling that they are dead serious.”
Let’s hope we never have the occassion to find out. For the moment though they are not going to be able to put their “proposals” into effect. Until that point it seems appropriate to concentrate on pointing out that they have no constructive plans to solve Hungary’s problems, rather than engage in “culture war”-type battles which will only play into their hands.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark: “Let’s hope we never have the occassion to find out. For the moment though they are not going to be able to put their “proposals” into effect. Until that point it seems appropriate to concentrate on pointing out that they have no constructive plans to solve Hungary’s problems, rather than engage in “culture war”-type battles which will only play into their hands.”
Sure, no one says that they have any constructive plans or that at the moment they have the slightest chance of putting them into practice. What worries me is that such primitive “ideology” (if you can call it that) managed to get that large a following.

whoever
Guest

Eva, why do you think they’ve gained such a large following?
You’ve covered the education system, and the current political climate, economics, cultural factors. But what would be the most important in your opinion?
It’s just that I have a nagging suspicion that with the application of liberal free-market economics, much of Hungary doesn’t have the capacity to support itself. Perhaps there is only the productive value for 5 or 6 million people here, rather than 10. Particularly in the East – cities such as Miskolc, Nyiregyhaza, Debrecen – would then revert to being towns of 60,000 people or so. Meanwhile the West would support larger settlements simply by the fact of its proximity to Austria – a miniature recreation of the Habsburg days.
In this sense Jobbik represent a frantic thrashing around looking for a way out from the seemingly inevitable. I’m not sure whether to feel sorry for their supporters, more than anything.

Mark
Guest
Éva: “What worries me is that such primitive “ideology” (if you can call it that) managed to get that large a following.” There is an old political adage that “if you stand for nothing, you will beaten by anything”. So far, this vote is an expression of rage and frustration at the impact of the economic crisis, and a set of political parties who are not listening to anybody. We know from Central Europe in the 1930s where implementing budget cuts in the middle of a recession leads. Whoever: “It’s just that I have a nagging suspicion that with the application of liberal free-market economics, much of Hungary doesn’t have the capacity to support itself” I’ll put my principal worry about the future on the table. Hungary has highly unfavourable demographic and labour market dynamics. Economic crisis and long-term unemployment will further reduce the pool of employable labor. Budget cuts will intensify the depression and hinder the recovery so it will be much slower than western Europe. Consequently, as western Europe recovers young, educated workers will emigrate, leaving Hungary trapped in a vicious circle of decline. Hungary will continue to be subject to single-market rules, what is left of its… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest
The origins of the Gendarmerie (with one exception-the RCMP) was that of a provost force to enable the Government to control the military. Later they were also used to help control the control population. The RCMP was formed by merging the R.N.W.M.P (originally the N.W.M.P) with the Dominion police to form the R.C.M.P. The French translation of the word police was ‘Gendarmerie’. As far as I know that whilst sometimes heavily armed neither the N.W.M.P/R N.W.M.P nor the R.C.M.P have ever acted in a ‘Provost’ role. I am concerned that with the raising of such a separate force Hungary would return to the days of the AVO (or AVH). There is one odd point that when ever I mention the fact that there are six nation states in Europe who ARE FORBIDDEN to allow any form of ‘far right’ –National Socialist- organisation, association, society or political party to exist. Hungary is one of those nations. The voices of support for the far right fall silent. I suppose they do not want to draw attention to this fact. Jobbik, MEIP and the Magyar Guard cannot therefore be allowed to exist. If they are not disbanded and suppressed Hungary is in clear… Read more »
Malmomonster
Guest

@Odin’s lost eye
“There is one odd point that when ever I mention the fact that there are six nation states in Europe who ARE FORBIDDEN to allow any form of ‘far right’ –National Socialist- organisation, association, society or political party to exist. Hungary is one of those nations.”
Can you please tell me, what is this law that you refer to?

Sandor
Guest

Odin’s, as usual you do give again an unexpected and perceptive contribution: how right you are mentioning the AVH! That is an other excellent comparison to show to those blockheads what a stupid idea this is. They would deny it, but nonetheless the analogy is bang on.

Sandor
Guest

@Malmomonster
It must be the Paris Peace Treaty, concluding WWII.

Mark
Guest

Sándor: “It must be the Paris Peace Treaty, concluding WWII.”
It is indeed, but one has to ask the question of how seriously the former allies take this stipulation. Italy is another of countries that signed such an undertaking. Until it merged into Silvio Berlusconi’s Il Popolo della Libertà party early this year, the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale party had been a partner in all of Berlusconi’s governments stretching back to 1994. Its leadership admittedly has distanced itself rhetorically from its heritage in Mussolini’s regime, however, one only has to at some of the policies the Italian government has pursued towards its Roma population its influence is pretty clear – and some of the parallels with Hungary are fairly marked.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Mr Sandor – You are quite correct, except that the Austrian treaty was not signed until 1955 (May) in Vienna. This was one of the reasons why the Warsaw Pact came into being (May 1955). This allowed Russian forces to remain in Hungary when they withdrew from Austria. They could only remain in Hungary to secure their supply routes to their troops in Austria.
What will be the endgame I do not know? The old allies U.S., Britain, Russia are at the moment pre-occupied elsewhere. In the main the Eastern ‘Rabid Right’ is a bit of a Ruritainain comedy (the Prisoner of Zendor, Merry Widow and White Horse Inn etc) and only a slight irritation.
The danger for Hungary is that a gendarmerie will be formed and whilst it is notional under Government control its real chain of command leads back to the top levels of Jobbik. This is similar to the ‘thing’ created by Rajk (the AVO). I will say some more in the article on “The first two days: Hungarian extremists in the European Parliament”.

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