Ernő Gerő, ( 1898–1980)

Gerő was born into a shopkeeping family in Terbegec (Trebušovce, now in Slovakia), where his father was also a tenant farmer. After secondary school, he obtained a place in 1916 at the Budapest Medical University, but never completed his studies. In 1918, he became a member of the Communist Party of Hungary. During the First World War, he worked at the Federation of Socialist Young Workers, and during the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, at the Federation of Communist Young Workers. Although he volunteered for the Red Army, he was not sent to the front. After the defeat of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, Gerő fled to Vienna and became involved in the Landler faction of the emigré Hungarian communist movement. Initially, he worked in the offices of the Communist Youth Federation. Later he was involved in establishing Slovak and Romanian young workers’ federation. In 1922, he was sent back to Hungary to direct communist recruitment at home. He was soon arrested by the Hungarian authorities, receiving a 15-year prison sentence in May 1923. However, he was sent to the Soviet Union in the following year, under an exchange of prisoners. There he worked in a factory to start with, but in 1925, he was sent to France to direct the activity of emigré Hungarian communists there. Returning to Moscow three years later, he attended the International Lenin School, and in 1929, took over leadership of its Hungarian and French section. In 1931, Gerő joined the Executive Committee of Comintern and did party work in France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. He then took part in the Spanish Civil War as a Comintern instructor, and from 1939 to 1941, represented the Hungarian Communist Party in Comintern, while also editing a party journal. After Comintern was dissolved, Gerő came under the control of the Red Army, directing agitation and propaganda in the enemy armed forces and among prisoners of war. In November 1944, he talk part in the talks in Moscow with the Hungarian ceasefire delegation. He then returned to Hungary, where he was elected a member of the National High Council in December 1944. He was the top man in the communist party until the return of Mátyás Rákosi in February 1945, a member of the Central Committee and Political Committee, and from the end of 1945, head of the party’s ministry and state policy department. In May 1945, he became minister of trade and transport, and on November 15, 1945, minister of transport. He became a member of the joint Political Committee of the Communist and the Social Democratic parties in 1948 and served on the organizing committee for the fusion. At the first congress of the HWP, Gerő became a member of the Secretariat, and at the Central Committee meeting in November 1948, he was chosen as assistant general secretary. A month later, he was appointed finance minister, while remaining transport minister until February 1949. In June 1949, he became president of the National Economic Council. He was elected an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1949. On November 15, 1952, he was appointed a deputy prime minister. After the June 1953 talks in Moscow, Gerő was dismissed as assistant general secretary of the HWP, but remained a member of the Political Committee. He then served as deputy prime minister and interior minister in the first Imre Nagy government, until July 1954. In May 1954, he became a member of the committee dealing with rehabilitation of victims of show trials. At the end of July 1954, the Economic Policy Committee of the Central Committee was established with Gerő as chairman, and became a political base for attacks on the economic aims of Nagy’s economic aims. The July 1956 plenary of the HWP replaced Rákosi with Gerő as general secretary. Gerő left for Yugoslavia on October 15, 1956, at the head of a party delegation, and only returned to Budapest on the evening of October 23. That night he made a speech on the radio and appealed to Khrushchev on the telephone for Soviet troops to intervene. His radio statement, while emphasizing his patriotism, spoke in vague terms of chauvinists, anti-Semites and reactionaries, and contributed greatly to the spread of the uprising. On the proposal of Mikoyan and Suslov, who had arrived from the Soviet Union, Gerő was dismissed from his post as first secretary at the HWP Central Committee meeting on October 25, 1956 and recalled from all his other posts. On October 28, he was taken to Moscow with his family. The Provisional Executive Committee of the HSWP passed a resolution in February 1957 ruling that Gerő could not return to Hungary for five years. In the event, he returned early in 1961. The HSWP Central Committee held him responsible for illegalities, during the period of the cult of personality, and excluded him from the party in 1962. An application to rejoin the HSWP in 1977 was rejected.

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This page was created: Wednesday, 3-Dec-2003
Last updated: Wednesday, 3-Dec-2003
Copyright © 2003 The Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

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