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Ernő Gerő

General Secretary of the Hungarian Working People's Party
In office
July 18, 1956 – October 25, 1956
Preceded by Mátyás Rákosi
Succeeded by János Kádár

Born July 8, 1898(1898-07-08)
Terbegec, Austria-Hungary
Died March 12, 1980 (aged 81)
Budapest, Hungary
Nationality Hungarian
Political party Hungarian Communist Party,
Hungarian Working People's Party
The native form of this personal name is Gerő Ernő. This article uses the Western name order.

Ernő Gerő (born Ernő Singer) (July 8, 1898 - March 12, 1980) was a Hungarian Communist leader in the period after World War II and briefly in 1956 the most powerful man in Hungary as first secretary of its ruling communist party.

Gerő was born in Terbegec, Hungary (now Trebušovce, Slovakia) to Jewish parents, though he later totally repudiated religion and supported the persecution of Jews under Stalinism. An early Hungarian communist, Gerő fled from Hungary to the Soviet Union after Béla Kun's brief communist government was overthrown in August 1919. During his two decades living in the USSR, Gerő was an active KGB agent. Through that association, Gerő was involved in Comintern -- the international organization of communists -- in France, and also fought and committed war crimes in the Spanish Civil War, where he became infamous as the "Butcher of Barcelona".

Ernő Gerő was a member of Hungary's High National Council (provisional government) between January 26, and May 11, 1945.

In the November 1945 elections, Hungary, the Hungarian Communist Party, under Gerő and Mátyás Rákosi got 17% of the vote, compared to 57% for the Smallholders' Party, but the Soviet Commander in Hungary, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov installed a coalition government with Communists in key posts. The Communists took control in 1948, with Rákosi as party leader, Prime Minister (and effective head of state), with Gerő and Mihály Farkas as his right-hand men. Rákosi's authority was shaken in 1953 by the death of Stalin, when the Soviet Union insisted on Imre Nagy taking over as prime minister, but Gerő was retained as a counterweight to the reformers. Rákosi, having managed to regain control, was then undermined by Khrushchev's secret speech in early 1956 denouncing Stalinism, and forced to leave office on 18 July 1956, although he was able to designate Gerő to succeed him as party leader. Even before the October uprising, Gerő and András Hegedüs in Budapest requested that Rákosi be detained in the USSR since they thought he would only complicate matters if he returned to Hungary. Meanwhile Rákosi continually tried to contact his Budapest colleagues from Russia.[1]

Had János Kádár or Imre Nagy succeeded Rákosi in July 1956, rather than Gerő, the entire Hungarian revolution might very well have been avoided altogether. In truth, the Hungarian Politburo members disliked Gerő, but were too timid to admit this to their Russian comrades. They described Gerő as "rigid" [zhestkii], "impatient," and "very austere in his relations with the people." They said, "He does not tolerate criticism, does not follow the advice of comrades…[and] does not love the people."[2]

Soviet Presidium members Anastas Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov visited Budapest on October 24 - during the first Soviet military intervention - to assess the situation. Gerő informed them that "the arrival of Soviet troops in the city has [had] a negative effect on the disposition of the inhabitants, including the workers."[3]

Gerő was finally forced by local envoys of the Soviet Politburo to resign on October 25, 1956, during the second day of the Hungarian Uprising, after his unduly harsh speech enraged the people. He fled to the Soviet Union, but after the revolution was crushed, he was prevented from returning from Moscow by the counter-revolutionary regime of János Kádár until 1960, when he was stripped of his Communist Party membership. Back in Budapest, Gerő worked as an occasional translator during his retirement.


  1. ^ Johanna Granville,The First Domino: International Decision Making During the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 Texas A & M University Press, 2004, p. 33.
  2. ^ Granville, The First Domino, p. 34.
  3. ^ Johanna Granville, "Soviet Documents on the Hungarian Revolution, 24 October - 4 November 1956", Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 5 (Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC), Spring, 1995, pp. 22-23, 29-34.
Political offices
Preceded by
Miklós Nyárádi
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
István Kossa
Preceded by
József Györe
Interior Minister
Succeeded by
László Piros
Preceded by
Mátyás Rákosi
General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
Succeeded by
János Kádár


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