An inveterate liar: Mária Schmidt’s celebrated freedom fighter

Today’s story is a sad commentary on the gullibility of some of the leading supporters of Fidesz. It’s the tale of a man who among his colleagues is known to be a habitual liar but who, over the past 30 years, has managed to fool an awful lot of people.

Pathological liars are not rare. I myself have encountered at least two. But most of us sooner or later realize that the stories they tell don’t add up. And we certainly don’t defend the truth of these stories in the face of evidence to the contrary. Here, however, once hard facts proved that our man had been lying through his teeth, Mária Schmidt, the chief organizer of the sixtieth anniversary of the 1956 October Revolution and allegedly a historian, came to his rescue. She attacked the media for trying to ruin her precious event and besmirching the halos of the “pesti srácok,” youngsters who fought on the streets of Budapest.

The man I am talking about is László Dózsa, an actor whose career has not been distinguished. He currently directs plays staged in the Újpest Színház, which doesn’t strike me as much of a theater. Yet shortly after Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz won the election in 2010, he was awarded the title “érdemes művész” (actor of merit). Admittedly, as far as awards in the theater world go, this one is fairly lowly. Even so, in one of his interviews a reporter asked him whether anyone had ever suggested that he received the award not so much for being an actor but rather for being a “freedom fighter.”

It would seem that his alleged activities in 1956 are central to his self-identity. In his Wikipedia entry, which most likely he wrote himself, he is described as “1956 freedom fighter, actor, director, actor of merit” in this order.

This year Dózsa made it as the freedom fighter of all freedom fighters. A painting based on a Life Magazine photo, depicting a young man with a rifle and captioned László Dózsa (1942-), was plastered all over Budapest. He must have felt on top of the world. But soon enough his world collapsed. It turned out that the boy in the picture was Pál Pruck (1941-2000). Once Pruck’s family learned that Dózsa had assumed his identity, they decided to act.

dozsa

It was high time to put an end to Dózsa’s outrageous stories about 1956. Dózsa was always known to tell tall tales. When after 1989 he began regaling people with his exploits during the revolution, his friends didn’t unmask him even though they figured the stories were lies. They thought the lies were harmless.

After a while the media became interested in the adventures of this extraordinary man. One of the first of these interviews, “The man who has three lives,” appeared in the October 2005 issue of Hetek, the fundamentalist Assembly of Faith’s weekly. This story was repeated over and over in several more publications, with new embellishments. It is difficult to create a coherent story from Dózsa’s recollections which were, I assume, purposefully vague, but there are a couple of fixed points: he joined a group that gathered around the Divatcsarnok at the corner of Rákóczi út and Szövetség utca and he joined the group after November 4.

According to his story, once the fighting was over the Russians made them, about 30 young boys, stand against the wall of the Rákóczi movie theater and killed everyone except him. He escaped with his throat half destroyed by a bullet. He was then taken to a prison hospital where he was interrogated and was so badly beaten that he was eventually pronounced clinically dead. He was taken, together with other dead bodies, to the cemetery on Kerepesi út and thrown into a common grave. They even poured lime on the bodies. The gravediggers, however, discovered that he was alive and returned in the darkness of night. They took him to the Jewish Hospital on Szabolcs utca where two professors operated on him. These two good men hid him until it was safe to return “from the dead.” Because of “international pressure” he was not prosecuted.

On its face the story is bizarre and unbelievable. And, after reading an interview with László Eörsi, the historian who has written scores of books on these small fighting groups, one can be pretty certain that not a word of Dózsa’s story is true. Eörsi describes himself as an “event historian” (eseménytörténész). I have several of his books, which are basically minute-by-minute descriptions of the activities of these groups. Eörsi interviewed Dózsa at one point but came to the conclusion that his stories were bogus because they could not be corroborated. No one had ever heard of the murder by the Russians of 30 people in the center of the city. Dózsa claimed that the Russians bombed the Divatcsarnok when in fact they didn’t resort to air attacks. He talked about firing squads against civilians at the Nyugati Station, but that occurred only on December 6.

So, let’s turn to Pál Pruck. Once the Pruck family found out that Dózsa had assumed the identity of the deceased Pruck, they complained. Dózsa, after the story broke, magnanimously agreed to take his name off “in reverence” to the deceased’s relatives. But he still maintained that he was the one who appeared in the Life Magazine photo despite convincing evidence to the contrary. Tamás Pruck, Pál Pruck’s son, remembers his father telling him that he had been sent by the guys of Corvin-köz (Corvin alley) for bread when a foreign photographer stopped him and took a picture of him. “But he never spoke about being such an important freedom fighter.” He was just a “srác interested in guns.” Apparently, he never received any decoration but he never asked for one either.

The Life Magazine photo

The Life Magazine photo

Yesterday I was sure that Mária Schmidt would remain quiet. The evidence against Dózsa was far too strong. I was wrong. Today Schmidt called the poor deceased Pruck a criminal and insisted that Dózsa was an outstanding national hero. At the same time she launched an attack against the opposition media, which insists on debasing the memory of the ’56 revolution and its heroes.

The photos Pál Pruck and László Dózsa at the time

Photos of Pál Pruck and László Dózsa at the time

Her defense of Dózsa stretched the limits of logic. 444.hu summarized it well. (1) Dózsa is credible because he received a lot of decorations for the heroism he demonstrated in ’56. (2) In 2007 Dózsa himself wrote that this was a photo of him, something that nobody questioned. (3) Normally photographers don’t identify their subjects in a wartime situation or they give them phony names. That’s why the photographer gave an existing person’s name to a photo depicting Dózsa. (4) This is not the first time that the wrong name is attached to this photo. (5) Dózsa years ago in a video taken at the House of Terror identified himself as the boy on the picture. (6) Nothing is known about Pál Pruck’s activities during the revolution. (7) He himself said in a television interview that he doesn’t know how the photographer got his name. (8) Pál Pruck was a criminal who was in jail several times. He was also used by the Kádár regime’s propagandists to discredit the revolution. (9) The relatives of Pruck didn’t come forth although the photo was widely known. (10) It is suspicious that Pál Pruck didn’t suffer any reprisals after the revolution.

This is the best that Orbán’s court historian could come up with. Pitiful and embarrassing. But, I said to myself, isn’t it also embarrassing that Dózsa received the Officer’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit in 2006 during the Gyurcsány government? At least this is what I read in his Wikipedia entry. Well, I checked the list of recipients and there is no sign of László Dózsa. He even lied about that in his Wikipedia entry.

On the other hand, he has been richly rewarded for his faithful service to right-wing causes since 2010. I already mentioned his becoming an “actor of merit” in 2011. But the big prize came this year, on the sixtieth anniversary of the revolution. He became an “honorary citizen” of Budapest. Apparently, Mayor István Tarlós and the Fidesz majority’s choice was Dózsa while Csaba Horváth (MSZP) argued for László Nemes Jeles, director of the Oscar-winning Son of Saul. Tarlós put an end to the discussion by saying that “László Dózsa is our son of Saul.” What a gift. Tarlós, Schmidt, and the rest can now contemplate how to rescue Dózsa for posterity.

November 3, 2016
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Member
Member

comment image?quality=85&w=377

Not published in LIFE. “Street justice” meted out by rebel fighters during the Hungarian Revolution, 1956.

http://time.com/3878232/the-hungarian-revolution-of-1956-photos-from-the-streets-of-budapest/

Member

Not published in LIFE. A reaction to carnage in the streets of Budapest, 1956.

comment image

Member
Istvan
Guest

Tappanch your collection of photos of the Budapest uprising from 1956 bring back horrible memories for me. Panama City December 1989, https://goo.gl/images/HyVkfo
or scenes of devastation I saw in 1972 in Vietnam at the Battle of An Lộc https://www.google.com/search?q=photos+of+Battle+of+An+L%E1%BB%99c&rlz=1C9BKJA_enUS618US618&oq=photos+of+Battle+of+An+L%E1%BB%99c&aqs=chrome..69i57.10892j0j8&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#imgdii=8TdlBb1YTWhlAM%3A%3BmdVT-RjlJ5T0XM%3A%3BmdVT-RjlJ5T0XM%3A&imgrc=mdVT-RjlJ5T0XM%3A. I am seen in one slide as an assistant to a commander giving out field awards to US advisers to Vietnamese forces.

In many ways urban warfare is the same horror worldwide, civilians come out in the middle of hell, look around places that were once familiar and now transformed forever. I suspect Eva has such visual memories -they stay with one forever. I am sure it’s the same horror in Mosul as I write this.

I have brighter thoughts right now, Chicago is having a victory parade for our beloved Chicago Cubs, now World Champions, we expect between 2 and 3 million people to be present along the route which stretches a good part of the City.

Guest

Personally, I’ll never forget this one as I became educated in ’56. Part of a roll shot by a journalist on the scene. These guys (AVO) never had a chance as they are receiving bullets in retribution for their ruthlessness against their own. It was there that I became familiar with the rage inherent in the population.

comment image

webber
Guest

Horrible, but sometimes necessary.

Member

On this photo shot on October 30, you see some of defenders of the Party headquarters executed after they had surrendered. They had been drafted probably a few weeks before, I doubt they did anything “ruthless”.

Guest

Then it would have to be they took the bullets for those who were. For vengeance was the thought of the day.

Member

The photos were made by photographers Michael Rougier (born in England in 1925) & Erich Lessing (born in Vienna, 1923)

Tyrker
Guest

Such lynchings are, unfortunately, par for the course in revolutionary times. Just remember the American Revolution when American patriots regularly mobbed and lynched Loyalists. Or the terror and counter-terror during the French Revolution. Yet none of these historical moments are judged by the extent of street violence.

Member

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
Quote from Alice in Wonderland.

Nothing ever is what it seems in Orbanistan, the land that logic (never mind time) forgot.

The land where a referendum turnout of 40% becomes a 98% endorsement of the regime; a land where The Dear Leaders private train set gets priority over hospitals; a land where a semi-literate racist thug qualifies for one of the states highest cultural prizes.

In such a barmy landscape the fantasy world of the “historian” Ms Schmidt actually makes sense.

Guest

And it appears Mr. Dozsa indulges in fantasies as well. Another example of creating historical fiction and narrative this time with focus on the individual and his or her relationship to events.

Not sure what the penalty would be if someone was caught impersonating a high ranking Magyar general. I’d think prison time would be warranted. It appears the role of imposter cannot exist when it comes to ‘freedom fighters’ as Dozsa continues on. Strange in that ’56 and those who fought in that lost and courageous fight are all embedded in the national concsiousness. They are deep now in the national psyche. Yet no penalties for impersonation? Yes, such a ‘Wonderland’ which lets Dozsa go shuffling along as a man seemingly who has no conception of personal integrity.

Member

DrMáriás: “Viktor Orban inspects the sculpture “Equality and Justice” modeled after him in the Budapest City Park (Városliget).”

comment image

Ferenc
Guest

Here’s HIR TV 2016.Nov.03: http://hirtv.hu/videok/166986
Seems Laszlo Dozsa received “something” from a former president of Hungary (forgot his name) in the presence of Gyurcsany.
But most importantly Pruck Pal wasn’t a criminal and never been in jail, so dr.Maria Schmidt should publically appologize to the family for her deliberate but completely false accusations.
Regarding recent cases (requesting 1956 not to be used for political purposes and doing the opposite herself, interview with quotes about Nagy Imre and the statements about the use of this posts’s picture of Pruck Pal) by Marika Schmidt, she comes out as a very very poor historian, completely unfit for her current post of Hungarian Government’s court historian and therefore has to step down from her post.
Unfortunately Pruck Pal and the photographer (Michael Rougier) can’t tell their side of the picture anymmore.

The picture is from Life Magazine 1956.Nov.12 page 36: https://books.google.com/books?id=vkEEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA36
For more Life Magazine pictures and articles about 1956 see issues 1956.Nov.05/Nov.12/Nov.19/Nov.26/Dec.03/Dec.17
For another used picture check this http://maimanohaz.blog.hu/2012/10/23/vagn_hansen_billed_bladet_1956

ambator
Member

Considering all those lovely posters, ”posterity” is the word.

Guest
I think that we should stop referring to M. Schmidt as a “historian” or even as Orbán’s chief “court historian.” M. Schmidt actually wears two hats, neither of which are that of a historian. On the one hand, she is a wealthy business woman running the real estate conglomerate she inherited from her late husband. Her husband largely funded her bouts of Holocaust studies at Tel Aviv Univesity and at Indiana University, which she apparently undertook with the primarily purpose of finding ways to exonerate Hungarians of their Holocaust crimes. M. Schmidt and her husband supposedly had an excellent marriage, notwithstanding her husband’s Jewish and her own Danube Swabian background. On the other hand, from the first Orbán government onwards, she became the chief propagandist charged by Orbán with falsifying the narrative of twentieth century Hungarian history by acts of overt lying and/or artful concealment and even outright suppression, so as to firmly embed in the public mind a strictly right wing, Hungarist interpretation of that narrative, and above all, to satisfy the cravings of large segments of the Hungarian public for “proof” of having been “right” in their choices through the twentieth century. In her role as chief propagandist… Read more »
Guest

As a result of some particular type of analysis going on in ‘historical’ circles such as the above I have the feeling the occupation of ‘historian’ will be a misnomer. Really if things keep going the way they are the study of ‘history’ looks to become a vestigial mode of inquiry in the Magyar nation. Historians who wish to practice unfettered when it comes to analysis may just have to get their passports out and scribble somewhere else. It could be called history with a ‘telescopic’ view.

Member

Szakály, not Szakács.

Guest

Ja.

Ferenc
Guest

my suggestion is from now on to refer to Marika Schmidt as “court hysterian”

Guest

That’s a good one!

A bit OT:
Reminds me of a story. Many years ago I was on my first business trip to the USA with colleagues who had been there before (so I learned a lot from them on the dos and don’ts …), we travelled a lot by car and every time there was a sign near the road one of them called out:

We have to stop and look at that hysterical marker!

And of course Hungary is full of them too …

Istvan
Guest

There is an interesting history to the Department of Central Eurasian Studies, often abbreviated as CEUS, is a specialized academic department in the College of Arts and Sciences at the Bloomington campus of Indiana. It was built as Army Specialized Training Program was created to provide training in several Eurasian languages, including Russian, Turkish, Finnish, and Hungarian in 1943. In the 1950s through contract program at IU the Hungarian program received continued funding from the US Department of Defense.

Because Hungary is now a NATO ally there is a Hungarian Language Immersion program for US military forces in Hungary paid for by the Department of Defense.

Observer
Guest

Lies and deceilt have been a life form for Orban and his regime, he/they would have been nowhere without it. The official term is communication and this is their second great successful, following embezzlement.
This Schmidt episobd is typically brazen , absurd and aggressive. Welcome to Orbanistan.

e-2016
Guest

Has he graduated from the “Active Measures” institute?

Member

Pal Pruck’s daughter wrote an open letter to M Schmidt, which was published at 2:53 PM on November 4.

‘Why haven’t you admitted that you made a mistake?
Instead, you denigrated my late father.
Please, apologize.’ (My summary)

http://168ora.hu/pruck-erika-schmidt-marianak-gyalazkodas-helyett-eleg-lett-volna-bocsanatot-kerni/

Guest

Hungarians, particularly those in public office, find it extremely difficult to sincerely apologize for anything at all, even for the most heinous crimes, and never mind crimes or missteps of lesser moment, primarily because they fear that an apology, particularly a public apology, is bound destroy their credibility and reputation, and therefore power position within their peer group.

This propensity has caused a lot of grief in Hungary over the course of the twentieth century, and continues to plague public, as well as private life into the twenty-first.

Hungarians seem to have no idea of the power of simplicity in a wholesome and sincerely said “I am sorry!” and then moving on. In the adult world, their fragile self-identity and sense of self-worth depend crucially on approbation by their peer group. Yet as children, they would have been often told to “Kérjél bocsánatot!” , the value of which seems lost on them once they grow up, and especially after taking public office.

wpDiscuz