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The native form of this personal name is szentegyedi és czegei gróf Wass Albert. This article uses the Western name order.
Count Albert Wass
Born 1908
Válaszút, Kolozs County, Hungary
Died February 17, 1998
Astor, Florida
Nationality Hungarian
Fields Novelist, poet,
Institutions University of Florida
Hungarian army
Notable awards Baumgarten-prize

Count Albert Wass de Szentegyed et Czege (Hungarian gróf szentegyedi és czegei Wass Albert; Válaszút, Kingdom of Hungary (now Răscruci, Cluj County, Romania), 1908 – Astor, Florida, February 17, 1998) was a Hungarian noble, forest engineer, novelist, poet, member of the Wass de Czege family. After WWII, he was condemned as a war criminal by the Romanian People's Tribunals. In spite of support to these accusations from the Wiesenthal Center, United States authorities refused to extradite Wass to Romania claiming the lack of solid evidence.[1] He has five sons Vid Wass de Czege , Huba Wass de Czege, Miklos Wass de Czege, Geza Wass de Zege and Andreas Wass von Czege

The works of Albert Wass first gained recognition within Hungarian literature from Transylvania in the 1940s. In 1944 he moved to Germany and later in 1952 to United States of America, and lived there till his death. During the communist regime his books were banned both in Hungary and in Romania. Part of his works were published in Hungary after the change of political system in 1989, however, before this time, his works were unknown to Hungarian public.

The critical processing of his works is still under way. He is popular among the Hungarian minority in Romania[citation needed] and has a growing popularity in Hungary. In 2005 in a public assessment (Nagy Könyv), he was found to be one of the most popular Hungarian authors, his book A funtineli boszorkány (The Witch of Funtinel) was named the 12th most popular book; two more books were named in the top 50 ranking, including the family saga Kard és kasza (Sword and Scythe).

Contents

Family origin

The Wass family has traced its descent from the age of Árpád, and is one of the oldest noble families in Transylvania[2]. The family has received the title of count from Maria Theresia in 1744.[3].

His grandfather, Béla Wass, was a parliamentarian and Lord Lieutenant (főispán) of Szolnok-Doboka county[4]. His father was Count Endre Wass (1886–1975), his mother Baroness Ilona Bánffy of Losonc (1883–1960).

Youth

Albert Wass was born in Válaszút (today Răscruci) at Bánffy castle. His parents divorced early, and was mostly brought up by his grandfather, Béla Wass [5]. He received his baccalaureate from the Reformed Church Secondary School in Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár) on Farkas Street and subsequently earned a diploma of forestry from the Academy of Economics in Debrecen, Hungary. He continued his studies of forestry and horticulture in Hohenheim, Germany and Sorbonne, France, where he received additional diplomas. He returned to Transylvania in 1932, as his father fell ill, then he had to attend obligatory military service in Romanian Army, later settled to run the family estate in Mezőség.

His first wife was his cousin Baroness Éva Siemers (1914–1991) of Hamburg. "Due to pressure from my family, I had to marry my cousin in 1935 (...) this was the only way to avoid bankruptcy of the family lands", Wass wrote later.

He had six children (Vid, Csaba, Huba, Miklós, Géza, Endre); Csaba died at age 3. Huba Wass de Czege, born in 1941 in Cluj,[6] had a significant career in the U.S. Army, achieving rank of brigadier general. He is known as a principal designer of the "AirLand Battle" military doctrine.[7], and took part in the planning of Desert Storm against Iraq in 1991.

Wass started to write poems, short stories and articles. His first books were published in 1927 and 1929 in Cluj. In 1934, his novel Farkasverem (Wolfpit) was published by the Transylvanian Guild of Arts. In 1935, he was accepted member of the Transylvanian Guild of Arts, and at the same time he was the first young Transylvanian to be awarded the Baumgarten Prize.[citation needed]

After the Second Vienna Award (1940 30 August), northern Transylvania was re-annexed to Hungary, so in 1941, Wass was nominated as primary forest monitor in the Ministry of Agriculture for the area near Dés. Soon he became the editor of newspaper Ellenzék (Opposition) in Cluj-Napoca.

During World War II

From May 1942 he took part in military training of Cavalry of Hungary as reservist officer, achieving rank of ensign. In May 1943 he became chief editor in Ellenzék as his boss was drafted to the army. In the memoirs of Wass, he writes:

two soldiers of Gestapo entered the editorial, showing the order they have to monitor the newspaper. I simply left the building, and walked up the mountains. Two weeks later, my father sent me a message that the Germans are looking for me. To avoid conflict, General Veress, the commander of military troops in North Transylvania has given me a uniform, and as master sergeant he sent me to Ukraine with 9th Hungarian Cavalry, from which I returned only at Christmas.

Wass became the aide-de-camp of General Lajos Veress in 1944. As the war was drawing to the end, the Soviet (and later Romanian) troops were drawing forward into Transylvania, as an officer, he did not wait for the reoccupation of North Transylvania, but on the Easter of 1945, crossed the border and chose emigration.

WWII sentence for war crimes

In May 1946, both Wass and his father, Endre Wass, were sentenced to death in absentia by a Romanian tribunal for ordering the killing of Romanian peasants from Sucutard and Mureşenii de Câmpie and their possessions were confiscated[6][8], by Romanian People's Tribunal, a tribunal set up by the post-World War II government of Romania, overseen by the Allied Control Commission to try suspected war criminals, in line with Article 14 of the Armistice Agreement with Romania.[9][10]. The tribunal were to a large extent set up on the model of the Nürnberg International Tribunal[11]. They accused for events that happened in September 1940, during the march in of the Hungarian forces to North Transylvania, when a Hungarian lieutenant, Pakucs, arrested six inhabitants (a Romanian priest and his family, and his Hungarian servant, and Romanian peasants, and a local Jewish merchant and his family) of Sucutard (Szentgothárd), and then shot to death four of them in Ţaga (Czege), when they attempted to escape.[6] Albert Wass was also accused for, as the alleged instigator, for the shootings at Mureşenii de Câmpie (Omboztelke), when Hungarian soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gergely Csordás, killed 11 Jews.[6] Wass himself defended himself as not present at the killings.

Romanian authorities tried several times to extradite him to Romania, however in 1979, after several revisions, the U.S. Department of Justice refused the petition due to lack of evidence. This was confirmed even after the Wiesenthal Found denounced him, as he was among the people who were accused of killing Jews. After the analysis of the case, U.S. dropped the charges against him.

Albert Wass claimed several times that the secret police of Communist Romania, the Securitate, was trying to assassinate him, but he was not able to prove it. In 1996, he shot a film on bullet marks allegedly trying to kill him, but no solid evidence was found to link it to Securitate. The two perpetrators of that attempt had been captured by American police, they were released on account of their Romanian diplomatic passport.

In 2008, his son, Andreas Wass, appealed the Romanian courts to annul the sentence, but the Romanian courts of justice found that no new evidence was presented and as such, the sentence was upheld.[12]

Emigration

First traveling to Sopron, he then moved onward to Bleichbach and Hamburg, Germany, and lived there till 1952, where the family of his first wife, Éva Siemers, had been living. He found a job as a night-watchman at a construction site.

In 1951, Wass emigrated to the United States, together with four of his sons (Vid, Huba, Miklós, and Géza).[6] Due to pulmonary disease, his wife was unable to receive approval for emigration from the US administration and was subsequently left behind in Germany with their other son Endre. Wass later divorced from her.

In 1952, he married Elisabeth McClain (1906–1987).

He settled in Florida, and became professor of German, French, European literature and history at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He founded the American Hungarian Guild of Arts, managing its academic work and publishing activities, and editing its newsletter. He launched his own publishing house, the Danubian Press, which published not only books but English language magazines of the American Hungarian Guild of Arts, too. The Transylvanian Quarterly dealing with Transylvania and related issues, then the Hungarian Quarterly undertaking the general problems of the Hungarian nation became the most important anti-Bolshevik forum of Hungarian exiles.

Wass's application for naturalization in Hungary was first refused by the government between 1994 and 1998, as his death sentence in Hungary had not been revoked, then impeded by a reply that the naturalization certificate of the 90-year-old author would have been valid for only a year from the date of issue.

Wass was swindled out of the copyrights to his novels. He decided to end his life on February 17, 1998 at age 90 in his Florida residency after long struggle with bad marriage and medical condition. His final wish was to have his remains placed in the garden of Kemény villa in Brâncoveneşti, Mureş County (Marosvécs), next to the tomb of János Kemény.

Statue of Albert Wass in Harkány, Hungary.

Citizenship and rehabilitation attempts

It was a long debate in the Hungarian press that Albert Wass has not received Hungarian citizenship, nevertheless of his several application, with an explanation that he became again Romanian citizen after Paris Peace Conference.

In 2007, Hungarian members of parliament István Simicskó (KDNP, Christian Democrats) and Mihály Babák (Fidesz, Young Democrats) have asked president László Sólyom to grant Albert Wass citizenship as posthumus but were replied that this is not possible for several reasons, for example, he has already received citizenship in 1997, so the writer has died as Hungarian, [1], however, the certificate of citizenship was valid only for one year and was offending him so he refused it.[13]

In recent years, some representatives of the Hungarian minority in Romania and his family attempted his rehabilitation. His son's request for a re-trial of the case was rejected by the Romanian High Court of Cassation and Justice in 2007.[14] A statue of Albert Wass was unveiled in Odorheiu Secuiesc bearing no name, only the Hungarian inscription "Vándor Székely" (Wandering Szekler). There are two other statues of him that have been moved to the interior of the Hungarian churches in the cities of Reghin and Lunca Mureşului.

Even if Romanian law forbids the cult of those condemned for "offence against peace and mankind or promoting fascist, racist or xenophobe ideology"[15][16], it should be noted that a statue of Romania's wartime leader and Hitler's ally,[17] Marshal Ion Antonescu, is located in Iasi's Letcani military cemetery, which is called the Marshal Ion Antonescu Cemetery of Heroes.

His life has never been examined thoroughly on court and there is no interest from Romanian politicians to examine it well, so as a consequence it is a predominant view among Romanians that Albert Wass is a criminal, responsible for the murdering of Romanians and Jews and his condemnation by the Tribunal is just. The rehabilitation attempts are seen as immoral particularly by relatives of those murdered[18]. The root of the conflict is different: Wass was writing novels about his "beloved mountains" (i.e. Carpathian Mountains) and he is writing "the water runs, but the rocks remain", which is about longing for the Transylvania; this is thought to be hurting the integrity of Romania.

Novels, publications

In his 1939 work Farkasverem (Wolfpit), he described how the Trianon generation found their feet again: the unity of the presentation of social reality, the quest for meting out justice in history, together with ancient language, music, rhythm conquered the hearts of many readers in Hungary. In 1939, he was elected member of the Transylvanian Literary Society and the Kisfaludy Society. In 1940, he was awarded the Baumgarten Prize the second time.

His writings were patriotic but did not exacerbate the tensions between the Romanian and Hungarian population during the reunification of Northern Transylvania as a consequence of the Second Vienna Award. His works are not chauvinistic but always tending to be neutral, criticising Hungarians too.

In 1942, he received the Klebelsberg prize and in the same year on a memorable round tour in Hungary he represented Transylvanian literature together with three of his peers. As a reward for his military front work, he received a second class then a first class iron cross. He was even elected member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as appreciation for his knowledge in forestry.

  • 1934 Farkasverem (Wolfpit)
  • 1940 Csaba
  • 1940 Mire a fák megnőnek (For the time the trees will get grown)
  • 1940 Jönnek! (They are coming!)
  • 1943 A kastély árnyékában (In the castle's shade)
  • 1943 Egyedül a világ ellen (All alone against the world)
  • 1943 Vérben és viharban (In Blood and Storm)
  • 1944 Tavaszi szél és más színművek
  • 1945 Valaki tévedett (Somebody made a mistake)(novellák 1945-49-ből)
  • 1945 A költő és a macska (The poet and the cat)(elbeszélések)
  • 1947 A rézkígyó (The copper snake)
  • 1949 Adjátok vissza a hegyeimet! (English edition: Give back my mountains to me!, 1970, Eric Massey)
  • 1951 Ember az országút szélén (English edition: Man by the side of the road, 1984)
  • 1952 Elvész a nyom (The trail perishes)
  • 1953 Tizenhárom almafa (Thirteen apple-trees)
  • 1958 Az Antikrisztus és a pásztorok (The Antichrist and the shepherds)
  • 1959 A funtineli boszorkány (The witch of Funtinel)
  • 1964 Átoksori kísértetek (English edition: The purple ghosts of Damnation Row, 1964)
  • 1965 Elvásik a veres csillag (English edition: The red star wanes, 1965)
  • 1967 Magukrahagyottak (English edition: Forsaken are the Brave,1967)
  • 1974 Kard és kasza (Sword and scythe)
  • 1978 Halálos köd Holtember partján (English edition: Deadly fog at Dead man's Landing)
  • 1982 Eliza and the house that Jack built: historical novel (in English)
  • 1985 Hagyaték (Inheritance)
  • 1989 Te és a világ (You and the world)(novellák)
  • Igazságot Erdélynek! (Justice for Transylvania)
  • Józan magyar szemmel I-II. (With an eye of sobre Hungarian)
  • Karácsonyi üzenetek – A temető megindul (Messages from Christmas - the cemetery starts to move)
  • Magyar pólus (Hungarian pole)
  • Népirtás Erdélyben (Genocide in Transylvania)
  • Hűség bilincsében (In the chains of fidelity)
  • Hanky tanár úr (Professor Hanky)
  • Se szentek, se hősök (Neither saints nor heroes)
  • A szikla alatti férfi (The man below the cliff)
  • A sólyom hangja (The voice of falcon)
  • Csillag az éjszakában (Star in the night)
  • Black Hammock
  • Magyar Számadás (Hungarian accounts)
  • Nem nyugaton kel fel a nap (The sun does not rise from the West)
  • Voltam (I was/I have/had been)

Poems, fables, narrations

  • 1927 Virágtemetés (Flower burial) (poem)
  • 1943 Tavak könyve (Book of the lakes) (fable)
  • 1947 Erdők könyve (Book of the woods) (fable)
  • 1947 A láthatatlan lobogó (The invisible flag) (poem)
  • 1970 Valaki tévedett (Somebody is mistaken) (narrations)
  • 1972 Válogatott magyar mondák és népmesék (Assorted Hungarian legends and folk fables)
  • 1978 A költő és a macska (The poet and the cat) (narration)

Award

Balint Balassi Memorial Sword Award

References

  1. ^ English - Hungarian News Agency Corp
  2. ^ Archives of Wass family in Cege Copies from Antal Valentiny, in András W. Kovács, Az Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület kiadása, Cluj-Napoca, 2006
  3. ^ Béla Várdy: Wass-kor
  4. ^ Magyar Országgyűlési Alamanach on the parliamentary sessions of 1897-1901
  5. ^ Ernő Raffay - Mihály Takaró - Károly Vekov: Wass Albert igazsága [Truth of Albert wass], Szabad Tér, 2004, ISBN 963 217 477 1
  6. ^ a b c d e András W. Kovács, "The History of the Wass de Czege Family", Hamburg, 2005
  7. ^ "Brigadier General (Ret.) Huba Wass de Czege"
  8. ^ Jurnalul National (in Romanian): The Transylvanian War Criminals in court. http://old.jurnalul.ro/articol.php?id=47804
  9. ^ References RICHR: Ch.12 - Trials of the war criminals, page 5
  10. ^ The Armistice Agreement with Rumania in Avalon Project at Yale Law School
  11. ^ Zoltan Tibori Szabo Transylvanian jewry during the postwar period, 1945-48 (Part 2) "The People's Tribunals, Intra-Community Accusations and Inquiries" Radio Free Europe Details on the Northern Transylvanian People's Tribunal in Cluj
  12. ^ "Wass Albert nu a fost reabilitat", March 11, 2008, Monitorul de Cluj
  13. ^ Habár a hegyeit nem, de magyar állapolgárságát megkaphatta:Wass Albert magyar állampolgárságának visszaállítása | EuroAstra Internet Magazin
  14. ^ (Romanian) George Roncea (2008-10-30). "Ambasada Ungară atacă la baionetă ziarul "Curentul"" (in Romanian). Bucharest: Curentul. http://www.curentul.ro/index.php/Actualitate/Ambasada-Ungara-ataca-la-baioneta-ziarul-Curentul.html. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  15. ^ (Romanian) George Roncea (2008-11-01). "Statul maghiar, interpelat pentru susţinerea unui criminal de război" (in Romanian). Bucharest: Curentul. http://www.curentul.ro/index.php/Actualitate/Statul-maghiar-interpelat-pentru-sustinerea-unui-criminal-de-razboi.html. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  16. ^ (Romanian) Romanian Parliament. "Law 107/2006" (in Romanian) (PDF). Romanian Parliament. http://www.cdep.ro/proiecte/2005/100/80/3/leg_pl183_05.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  17. ^ Deletant, D. Hitler's forgotten ally: Ion Antonescu and his regime, Romania 1940-1944. ISBN 9781403993410. http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/12923. 
  18. ^ (Romanian) Eduard Pascu (2008-05-22). "Scriitorul Albert Wass ramane condamnat la moarte si prin decizia Inaltei Curti" (in Romanian). Bucharest: Gardianul. http://www.gardianul.ro/index.php?pag=nw&id=114363&catid=11&p=scriitorul-albert-wass-ramane-condamnat-la-moarte-si-prin-decizia-inaltei-curti.html. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 

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