No. 734

264.1111–Vogeler, Robert A./4–2851: Telegram

The Minister in Austria (Donnelly) to the Secretary of State 1


2516. Robert Vogeler met at Hung border this morning by Consul Arthur Tower, Allied Secretariat Director Halvor Ekern, chief interpreter Alexander Bloomfield and Leg chauffeur, who understands minimum English. His physical condition appeared relatively good, despite forced lack of sleep last two nights and nervous tension attendant release announced to him only this morning. Mentally alert, considering 17 months solitary confinement.

During two-hour drive from frontier to Vienna, Vogeler talked almost continually about trial and confinement, despite efforts to divert him from these topics. Detailed report will be despatched Monday.2 Following are highlights of experiences and emotions [Page 1459] poured out unsolicited in confidence in his first friendly conversation since his arrest.

Immediately following arrest, he was interrogated continuously for 72 hours, then placed in wet cell with inadequate clothing and no heat for ten days, then in court jail with police agent cell mate until trial, then in solitary confinement newly converted jail for remaining period. All jails in Budapest. Received no physical beating but all kinds of mental pressure and forced write and sign scores of statements. Procedures markedly similar those described Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. His request see American Legation rep refused. Hand-picked lawyer saw him only once, and not at trial, merely told him what to say and what sentence wld be. During confinement had reasonably adequate food, daily solitary exercise, many interferences with sleep, and continual indignities. Principal conditioning before release was being required all penultimate night read white paper on his trial and receiving lecture most of next. Prior to release he was told not to tell tall tales as it wld be worse for Sanders and any more American prisoners.

Emotionally he is naturally upset, worried about opinion of his employers and of public, whether he still has a job.

He reverts continually to his conduct immediately before arrest, wondering whether he cld have escaped by acting differently. He was unaware of Korean war and other world events since arrest. However he still has sense of humor. Our impression one of highest admiration for his courage and bearing. His immediate reaction to suggestion of immediate flight home was unfavorable preferring ocean trip but still hope persuade him leave Monday.

Vogeler met press collectively this afternoon and gave them general picture his detention. He intends avoid further contact with press before his departure. Both he and Mrs. Vogeler reiterated gratitude to Dept and to Legs Budapest and Vienna.

  1. Repeated to Budapest.
  2. The detailed report was transmitted in despatch 1166 from Vienna, May 1. (264.1111–Vogeler, Robert A./5–151)