April 1988 Print

He Deserves Prison!

He Deserves (To Be Put In) Prison!

Part VII

He Deserves (To Be Put In) Prison!

by Father A. Krupa, O.F.M.
(Translated by A. Igriczi Nagy)

I do not remember how I learnt that the next session in the courtroom was going to be my last one, the final rendezvous, when the verdict would be given, however, I knew. I, therefore, asked the prosecutor to allow me to write down what I wanted to say in my final statement. He, not without difficulties, permitted me to do so. They put me into a cell, stationing a guard in front of it. This statement wasn't so much a defence as the reiteration of my innocence, stressing the fact that I acted in the capacity of a conscientious priest, serving God, justice and our people. I was surprised when the guard took the papers from me. I protested. However, he laid the responsibility of the orders on the prosecutor and promised that I would have my papers back for the trial.

The night before the verdict is more or less a reply of Gethsemane for the accused in prison. This may be the first or the last night of his days of suffering. Is there any of us who would not like to be free, to go on living? Who would not exclaim, "If it be possible, let this chalice pass from me!" especially if he had six months to learn about the thousand burdens of life in prison. Who would not want to go on with his life in God's service? However, the priestly soul bows as his Master's did. If henceforth thou wants me to serve in handcuffs, let thy will be done!

Fortunately, however, I had the chance to strengthen myself. I was allowed to say Mass. I could have said the Mass of Saint Veronica who became laudable through the marks of suffering of Our Lord or the Mass of Saint Pius I who defended his Church with his lifeblood; but I still chose the Votive Mass of the Holy Cross, because I could not possibly begin my last Mass with any other Introit but:

"Nos autem gloriari oportet in Cruce Domini Nostri Jesus Christi in quo est solus vita et resurrectio nostra. "

In the Epistle of this Mass, Saint Paul sounds his horn: Brethren, Christ was obedient, even unto His death by crucifixion. (Factus obedient usque ad mortem mortem autem crucis) (Gal. 6:14)

After such a Mass, it becomes easier not only to read but to recite, as part of saying "Goodbye" the inscription on the picture above the altar:

Pater si vis transfer calicem istum a me: verumtamen non mea voluntas sed tua fiat. (Luke 22:42) (Father if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will but Thine be done).

And in the end, to rise in readiness to learn, saying it in the words of Our Lord:

Surgite, eamus ecce qui me tradet prope est. (Mark 14:42) (Rise up, let us go. Behold, he that will betray me is at hand).

My companions in the cell were saying their goodbyes with emotion, and they wished for me, with all their hearts, that they should not meet me again with myself as a prisoner.

Again, the courtroom was crowded. They gave me back my previously confiscated draft of my final comments; the prosecutor knowing in advance what I was planning to say. The judges were in their places. I sat down on the hard bench of the accused for the last time, because the repeatedly subpoenaed investigator was really and truly there, standing in front of the judicial bench accompanied by the contemptuous glances of the spectators, and began to speak:

"On my word of honour, I would like to state that I have not acted unlawfully towards anybody!" for a good Communist does not swear by God since he does not believe in Him. Instead, he replaces God's name with his personal honour, and what that is worth it is not necessary to analyse, but for the judges, it's worth its weight in gold. In comparison, the statements, nay even the oath, taken on the Bible by others is only fluff, bits of rags or weightless aluminium, not even heavy metal such as iron, copper or lead; but his, the interrogator's, are accepted as gold. With such dissimilar weights, it's not even possible to weigh these statements on the same scale! The scales of justice were irrevocably tilted. Every letter of the indictment is proven and the immobile rock on which it stands is the word of honour of their very own bloodhound. What kind of laws are in force in our land that slap on the face, threaten, constrain witnesses being interrogated from going home, but are not unlawful acts if committed by the investigator? Will the judges now punish those who swore to lies? If the investigator told the truth, then these others must have been lying and false and misleading testimonies incur severe punishment in the democratic legal system. Something did not quite fit. I waited to cry out in protest, but the Presiding Judge was already speaking.

"Since it became certain that there were no coercive measures used during the investigation, the Court considers the points of the indictment justified. Incitement to rebellion, rebel rousing, disseminating false information, agitation against the democracy. Comrade Prosecutor, if you please!"

Whilst Prosecuting Counsel was frothing against me, the words of the 72nd psalm were resounding in my ears:

So pride adorns them as a necklace, as a robe violence enwraps them.

Out of their crossness comes iniquity, their fancies overflow their hearts.

They scoff and speak evil; outrage from on high they threaten.

They attack heaven with their mouths and their pronouncements roam the Earth.

As if the crowd would shout through his mouth in front of Pilate's judicial seat:

"He deserves prison!"

The judge permitted me to comment on the closing speech of the prosecutor. This is what I said:

"How many times have I heard during this trial that I am an enemy of the people and how many times have I asked — The people are here, in this courtroom, ask them, let them reveal their feelings in front of the judges!— But nobody asked the people. At any rate, I also agree that there is no need to do so now, for right there, in the rows reserved for the officials, sits a person who can testify what kind of public enemies we were. Through several years, including those when times were the hardest, we took hundreds of children for excursions into the great woods near the city, providing them with lunch and snacks free of charge. As the time for lunch was approaching, the children, who were getting hungry, were beating a tattoo on their plates and tins with their spoons:

"Give out the lunch, start lunch" — and among them, beating her plate with the spoon, was the selfsame lady, who now sits among you in her capacity as a newspaper reporter!" and I pointed to a somewhat plump young lady. She was the daughter of the mayor who had turned the hoses on the people praying on the streets during the trial of Father Ottmar.

The young woman mentioned was sitting beside Prosecuting Counsel. In earlier years, she was also a frequent visitor on our playground. Perhaps she came to the trial in an attempt to erase the previous blots on her conduct through a condemnatory report. On hearing my speech, she had almost turned her chair over. She was screaming hysterically, This is not true! It's a lie!

The people were amused, enjoying the scene.

They shouted back "But yes, it's true! It really happened that way. We know her. She was there!" The judges did not know whom to calm first, the people or the young woman. Prosecutor and judges gathered around the hysterically crying girl. "Jucika, please don't cry! Take no notice! We don't believe those things! What insolent talk!" It was not easy to calm the girl. She still was snivelling when the Presiding Judge, Dr. Deak, nodded to my court-appointed defending counsel to begin. The latter stood up, looking exceedingly humble and deferential, as if to say— may it please the Court, I'm sorry for daring to exist — mumbled something such as — "I ask for a more lenient sentence."

The prosecutors now called for my appearance by the right of the last word of the accused.

I stood up and started to read off my speech from the paper. However, the chief tormentor began shouting at me, almost straight-away:

"Put that paper down! It is forbidden to read your speech! Recite it by heart!"

Anger flooded me at this manifestation of human depravity. Don't they even bother to preserve appearances? What would be the meaning of any words here? I restricted my statement to the following:

"I do not feel myself guilty! I have carried out my priestly obligations! I ask for the dismissal of this case!"

I sat down. The judiciary was departed to deliberate — to render judgement — or to be more accurate, for writing up the verdict. A farce, for the verdict had been decided a long time ago. The judges smoked a few cigarettes, drank some coffee and were back soon. We had to rise for the announcement of the verdict. Here it is, word by word. I'm only leaving out the paragraph numbers:

In the name of the Hungarian People's Republic! The Extraordinary Council of the People's Court finds Sandor Krupa guilty. Hereby he is sentenced to four years in prison, ten years of suspension from his job and from the exercise of his citizenship right, confiscation of one-fifth of his assets and a fine of 505 Fts and costs. Justification:

The accused denies saying the statements attributed to him, which were pan of the indictment, or that he used expressions in the manner in which the prosecution said he did.

Besides the denial by the accused, the testimonies of witnesses at the trial, namely Mrs. Istvan Erdely, Mr. Ferenc Krejcsi, Mr. Andras Kecseti, Mr. Gabor Csuta, Mr. Andras Juhasz, Mr. Ignac Kreiter, Mrs. Zoltan Farkas, Mr. Zoltan Koncz (and so Mr. Koncz was not only the investigator but a witness as well? So he was there in church during the incriminating sermon), the testimony of the accused and other evidence were also taken into account and the Court's findings are as follows:

On the Sixth of June, 1948, the accused was conducting a religious service in the Catholic Church at Vamospercs. During the course of this, he had read aloud the encyclical of the Primate of the Church after which he said the following:

"If we look around a bit now, or listen to the radio or read the newspapers, what we see and experience is that they want to deprive us, the Catholic faithful, from our spiritual freedom. They want to take our schools from us so as to prevent us from educating our greatest treasures, our cherished children, in the true faith and have them raised as pagans, turning them against God and ourselves. If they nationalize the schools, the same thing will happen as in France where the schools were also nationalized. As the result of this, children were raised as pagans which led to situations such as a man having two wives or a woman two husbands. They live together, there are no children and they would not even be wanted." (You can read this in the Catholic weekly "Uj Ember" I recommend that all read this paper.)

He then discussed the story of Pocspetri in his sermon. Afterwards he added the following comments to the encyclical:

It is said that we have a democracy. Very well, let it be a democracy and the authorities should turn the question of nationalization of the schools over to the people. Let's have a plebistice on this! But they won't allow this because they know that in the case of plebistice on this issue, the votes for the nationalization of school would not even fill a hat! Do not support the nationalization of the schools because the Catholic Church will not permit it, regardless of what kind of violent coercion or legal statutes are forced upon Her. "

In weighing the evidence the Court wishes to emphasize that during the process of investigation, the witnesses testified to these facts. During the trial, however, Mrs. Istvan Erdely, Mr. Ferenc Krejcsi, Mr. Andras Kecseti, Mr. Gabor Csuta and Mr. Ignac Kreiter withdrew their confessions made in the course of the investigation in pan or, rather in some cases, totally; but none of the witnesses could give a reasonable explanation as to why they modified their original testimony in Court, for their statements that they made their original confessions under duress and after being beaten, were definitely contradicted by the investigator, Mr. Zoltan Koncz.

For this reason and also taking into account the clearcut testimony of Mr. Andras Juhasz (the police sergeant), the testimonies of other witnesses during the investigative process and weighing the significance of testimonies heard during the trial, the Extraordinary Council of the People's Court accepted the facts stated above as true and proven.

In examining the degree of culpability and possible harm to the common good, the Extraordinary Council considers that the statements made by the accused, bearing in mind their content, their force of attack and the circumstances in which they were said, possess the power to cause a disturbance. Not only do these utterances have the potential to arouse feelings of aversion and hatred against the democratic state machinery, but also by making these statements to the congregation, the accused was publicly spreading false rumours, designated to disturb public order and peace.

In the absence of any reason precluding penalties and with no evidence to indicate that the accused was not fully aware of his actions, the Extraordinary Council finds the accused guilty and sentence has been passed. In deciding on the penalty, the Court considered in mitigation the previous absence of any criminal activity and the clean record of the accused, whereas, the accused's higher educational level made the magnitude of his offence greater.

With full consideration of the circumstances of the crime and in proportion to the culpability of the subject and gravity of his deeds, the accused is condemned to four years in prison and statutory penalties.

In spite of the protestations of the defence, the Extraordinary Council of the Court asked the witnesses Andras Kecseti, Andras Juhaszui and Zoltan Koncz to swear to the truthfulness of their testimony because there were no legal obstacles to this.

The Extraordinary Council of the Court rejected the defence's plea for introduction of additonal evidence because it considered the facts of indictment proven and could see no benefit from hearing further evidence.

Dated in Debrecen — 11 July, 1949.

Reading this over carefully, it becomes evident what despicable games are the Communist Courts playing worldwide. What was the reason for the four years? They knew the baseness of their action, and this is why they dressed it up as attractively as possible; but even so, they tried to hide these things from the rest of the world. I, myself, did not read this document until prison transport took us to Vac and I had the chance to open my bag unobtrusively. One was not allowed to keep documents of this kind on one's person, they had to be desposited with the prison authorities.

During the process of obtaining my Immigrant Visa to the USA, the American embassy had asked me for the copy of the verdict — the authoritieis were not willing to provide me with one. They were giving me various excuses for weeks on end — that I should come now, then, a few days later, yet again some other time when the appropriate AVO personnel would be in the office. Finally, when I came face to face with the right persons, they asked me in a rather annoyed manner:

"What do you want with it?"

"I? Nothing! But the US Embassy wants it because I'm emigrating."

"Oh, we know what they want with it!"

They thought the document was wanted mainly for the purpose of making propaganda, to show the world how the People's Court were running and for what reasons they put people behind bars.

"Let me tell you, you never will be given it" and true to their word, I never got it. I smuggled out the original, hiding it in my shoe, below the sole of my foot. As long as I live, I'll never forget how I worried until the train reached the other side of the Iron Curtain.