53. Telegram From the Legation in Hungary to the Department of State1

385. Legation strongly endorses Ambassador Chapin’s proposals to take advantage Rajk trial disavowals2 to force issue re Mindszenty,3 to clear US Government officials involved in those procedures and, through extension, to bring new pressure to bear to gain release all Hungarian employees of Legation still imprisoned (Deptel 243).4

In Legation’s view situation obtaining here at moment is riper for exploitation than it ever has been. Rakosi is clearly having his difficulties. Whatever his standing in Moscow, he is facing mounting antagonism from his old right wing opponents and growing opposition from some of his late followers here and, with his personal prestige probably at an all-time low, resulting situation is highly volatile. Moreover, Rakosi’s Stalinist background, his unsavory record and his current political acrobatics make him an extremely vulnerable target. A carefully prepared diplomatic offensive with coordinated propaganda exploitation could not only provide his opponents with valuable ammunition but possibly even render his position untenable in eyes of Moscow. Even failing latter objective, it would appear inadmissible for US fail take total advantage opportunities now open for exacerbating internal dissension and promoting already existing dissaffection towards Rakosi.

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On international level, Legation also believes that Hungary today offers US and west their most vulnerable target for purposes demonstrating to world at large wide contradiction between what Communists are professing and what practicing, and also real under-the-surface leaning of recent tactical shifts. Case histories of what being carried out here with left hand while right is distributing “peaceful coexistence” leaflets are so striking as to present a most convincing picture if properly exploited.

Above considerations prompted recommendations contained Legation telegrams 374 and 375.5 If moves suggested therein were closely followed by presentation notes incorporating ideas suggested by Chapin and whole offensive properly orchestrated, Legation believes that great deal could be accomplished both on internal and international levels. Legation strongly of opinion that, in any event, Rakosi should not be permitted write end to Rajk affair at point he has chosen and we hope, therefore, that Department will see its way clear to move forward promptly in effort wring advantage from opportunities which recent events have opened to US.

To be most effective, Chapin suggestions would appear require rather careful research project to provide background for selection most telling quotations, which due absence files here covering this period, can probably be best done by Department.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/4–51256. Confidential. Repeated to Tehran.
  2. On March 27, Rákosi announced that the case of Hungarian Communist leader Laszlo Rajk, who was tried, found guilty, and executed in 1949 for allegedly working for the CIA and Yugoslav secret police, had been reviewed and Rajk was being posthumously exonerated and rehabilitated.
  3. József Cardinal Mindszenty, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Esztergom and Prince-Primate of Hungary, was arrested in Budapest on December 27, 1948, and charged with attempting to overthrow the Hungarian state, treason, and currency violations. Mindszenty along with six codefendents was tried on February 3–4, 1949, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  4. In this telegram, April 6, the Department repeated to Budapest Chapin’s proposals contained in telegram 1518 from Tehran, April 3, and asked for the Legation’s comments. In his telegram, Chapin wrote: “I suggest that by extension, case could now be made for impugning entire procedure and testimony Mindszenty trial, emphasizing the complete fabrication of alleged USG involvement and calling for release of Cardinal. Stress might be put on obvious inconsistency of allegations that US was involved at one and same time in restoration Hapsburg Dynasty and working with Tito re his Balkan Federation plans. As admitted by Rajk in his trial, there might also be some propaganda value in requesting a retraction of accusations in both trials made against me as American Minister on evidence which at least in Rajk trial would seem admitted by Hungarian Government to be falsified.” (Department of State, Central Files, 746.00/4–356)
  5. In telegrams 374 and 375, April 3 and 4, the Legation suggested using recent harassment and arrest of Legation personnel by Hungarian secret police as the basis of a protest to the Hungarian Government that these actions were not in keeping with supposedly improving Hungarian-American relations. (Ibid., 120.162164/4–356 and 123–Tiedtke, Fred, respectively)