In my previous article I described how a people’s prosecutor was mired by scandal, but it was not only prosecutors who had to contend with Communist judgement. In October 1946, the People’s Judge Márton Frisch was suspended and arrested. One newspaper hastily wrote that ‘even though he was one of the persecuted’ – that is, a Jew – he was an ‘active member of the [Arrow Cross] squad.’ The journal Demokrácia was also ready to orientate its reader: for certain judges, ‘it was not uncommon to acquit some guilty ones.’ The message was that any People’s Judge, even a Holocaust survivor, could be accused of aiding fascism.
According to the indictment, Frisch, along with other Jewish prisoners, entered the trust of the staff of one of the Arrow Cross headquarters of Budapest during the siege of the city, and then took part in the search, guarding, torture and execution of other Jewish prisoners, mostly young women. The whole case was revealed by the fact that Frisch was a judge in the case against the staff of the Arrow Cross House, where two other Jews, Jenő Stern and Sándor Balázs, were also indicted. During the case, Frisch was once named by Stern as an assistant to the Arrow Cross.
Even before Frisch was involved, the case was quite perverted in the sense that the testimonies of mass murderers were used against Holocaust survivors. Gábor Csiszár, an Arrow Cross-man, for example, testified that Stern was ‘rude’ to the Jewish prisoners, and that he was robbing the looted clothes of the ‘unfortunate Jews’. ‘Stern constantly claimed how great an “Arrow Cross-man” [i. e. Nazi] he was.’ It is worth noting that here the same Csiszár was given space to slander a Jew, of whom Gendarmerie András Gyenes-Dienes, who was active in the resistance, gave the following description: when they met on the banks of the Danube during the siege, Csiszár bragged to him that he was ‘culling the Jews’. There were bloodstains around Csiszár in the snow – ‘many small stains, children’s footprints.’
Frisch was still only a witness in the case in February 1946, but by November, he was charged with illegal execution or torture under Section 11 of the People’s Court Act. Born in Nagyvárad (Oradea), a tinsmith, he was taken to the Arrow Cross House, and then, according to the documents, the Arrow Cross recognized his usefulness and “employed him” as a mechanic. He claimed to have been beaten by the Arrow Cross. Sándor Balázs, who initially named Stern as the main collaborator of the House, remembered a year later that it was in fact Frisch. He claimed Frisch boasted that he fought as an Arrow Cross-man against the Russians on the front – a rather unlikely story for a Jew. He said Frisch forced Stern to take part in the search of bodily cavities of Jewish women, and that Frisch had a submachine gun. According to him, Frisch was also involved in the abduction, rape, and execution of two Jewish girls: one night he appeared on the side of an Arrow Cross-man, both of whom stated that they ‘wanted to fuck and’ wanted to take the two women from their cells. The prison guard first protested, but later released them […]. Frisch and Fürst took the two women. In Frisch’s own testimony, he denied all charges, highlighting his own past as a Holocaust survivor.
In such trials, confessions made at the Political Police were generally the most unreliable
Frisch’s lawsuit was headed by Judge Gusztáv Tutsek on May 23, 1947, while the People’s Prosecutor in the case was István Gyarmathy. As a former judge, Frisch immediately signalled certain irregularities: eight days had not elapsed between the handing over of the indictment and the day of the main trial, so he could not properly prepare for the trial. Nevertheless, the trial was held. In the People’s Court, Frisch clarified that he had not concealed his Jewish origins from his captors, that he had been tortured by the Arrow Cross, and eventually proved his usefulness to his detainees during the fixing of a gas leak. At this point one of the judges indicated that there was no gas supply in Budapest at that time, and Frisch corrected it for ‘damage to the canal’. In such trials, confessions made at the Political Police were generally the most unreliable, followed by confessions made at the People’s Prosecutor’s Office: finally, the most reliable confessions were made before the People’s Court, with many onlookers, mainly because of the confrontation of witnesses and the swearing of oaths. Yet Frisch’s lawsuit shows a reverse process.
Stern testified that he and Sándor Balázs were tortured by the Arrow Cross, but that they spared Frisch. Frisch was described by him as an informant to the Arrow Cross, who forced him with a gun to search women. When Stern refused, smashed his head from behind. But this only preceded one of the most absurd confessions in the Frisch case: Stern said that Frisch injured his own hand while killing the remaining Jewish prisoners during the evacuation of the Arrow Cross House. According to Stern, this was prevented by a certain Arrow Cross-man called György Tál, by shooting the accused’s hand. Sándor Balázs essentially confirmed Stern’s story. The two witnesses therefore tried to have the audience believe that a Jewish prisoner (Frisch) not only possessed a gun, but in fact it was he who was massacring Jews during the siege of Budapest, and not the Arrow Cross-men.
However, the trial still held surprises. László Balázs, a relative of one of the executed Jewish girls and himself also an ex-prisoner of the Arrow Cross, made the mistake of not confessing against Frisch. According to him, “Marci,” was a “mechanic,” who had no role in kidnapping the girls – and he didn’t have a gun. He made another mistake at the main hearing: when asked by the presiding People’s Judge, he mentioned that he had joined the Hungarist Youth Legion (Hungarista Ifjúsági Légió) to save his own life. People’s Prosecutor Gyarmathy immediately arrested the witness for participating in Fascist crimes and for trying to help Frisch in some way with his false confession, although the minutes did not make it clear why László Balázs’s testimony was false. (László Balázs was sentenced to 6 months in prison at first and then acquitted by NOT during a separate trial). ‘A witness of the defence was arrested during the trial of the Arrow Cross-aligned People’s Judge’ – so went the headline of the newspaper Szabadság. ‘It turned out that he was a member of the Hungarian Legion in spite of his Jewish origins’ – so explained another journal.
Frisch was finally sentenced to 15 years of forced labour on July 19, 1947, based on the confessions of Stern and Sándor Balázs. Frisch appealed, but it was rejected, as was his application for a reconduction of the trial. Shortly afterwards, Stern and Sándor Balázs also filed a reconduction application. Their case was dealt with together, where Stern claimed that neither he nor Sándor Balázs were informants and that they were both tortured by the Arrow Cross. Sándor Balázs, on the other hand, still testified that Stern beat a woman with a rubber truncheon. The Budapest court upheld the first judge’s verdict on June 27, 1950, largely because of the testimony of a new witness, Gyula Zoltán, who said Stern had forcibly taken him to the ghetto, armed with a grenade. Stern was obviously expecting something else, so he staged a scene in the courtroom. Unfortunately, it is not clear from the record what he said, but the verdict mentioned that he had ‘faked disturbance’ during which he “slandered” the presiding judge of the trial. The presiding judge happened to be the same Gusztáv Tutsek who had previously convicted Frisch.
Although the story above seems rather chaotic, in fact a brief chronological overview reveals a classical corrupted show trial. Jenő Stern and Sándor Balázs were sentenced in October 1946 to 10 and 15 years in prison and forced labour as “collaborationist Jews” involved in the case of the Arrow Cross House. In their confessions at that time, they do not yet know about the important role of Márton Frisch in the house. Yet in the summer of 1947, they were already key witnesses in Frisch’s case, at which point they smeared everything on Frisch. In the lawsuit, only the young, naive László Balázs tried to save Frisch, but he was taken to the prison right from the witness’ bench. Frisch received 15 years of forced labour in the summer of 1947, and on March 21, 1950, his sentence was combined with his punishment received for an earlier misappropriation case. In June 1950, however, the earlier convictions of Stern and Sándor Balázs were upheld. It seems clear from this that Frisch had become politically uncomfortable at some point between the initial trial of Stern and Balázs and his own trial, and it was therefore necessary to remove him.
Only the young, naive László Balázs tried to save Frisch, but he was taken to the prison right from the witness’ bench
His involvement in the Arrow Cross House, and the fact that he was a Jew and a people’s judge, promised a juicy scandal for the Communists. They probably promised Stern and Sándor Balázs that if they blamed everything on Frisch this time, their readmission application would be considered positively. After the confessions were made and Frisch was convicted based on their testimonies, the witnesses were found guilty again in the readmitted case. Stern got angry at this and spoke out during the trial about the details of the deal, accusing presiding people’s judge Tutsek of lying to them. But the cell doors were closed, and the deceived Holocaust survivors began serving their remarkably harsh and ruthless sentences. The reliability of the testimonies given to the police also spark concern here. Stern made it clear at the trial that ‘my confession to the police was untrue because I made it out of coercion.’ Sándor Balázs testified in the same way at the people’s prosecutor’s office: ‘I was beaten with a truncheon at the police.’
Frisch served 9 and a half years of his sentence, before being released by the Presidential Council of the People’s Republic in May 1957, but his verdict was not declared invalid, and therefore he remained – legally and morally – an ex-convict. His sentence had been suspended, and he was released in early June 1956. We have many submissions from Frisch from prison and then from his home demanding the clarification of his name. For example, he wrote to the Prosecutor’s Office in 1959 that ‘the verdict was the result of revenge […] because, following the direction of the Communist party, I refused to carry out instructions of the Social Democratic Party to rescue fascists from justice.’ Here Frisch basically wrote the opposite of what appeared in the press here: it was that he was a strict Social Democrat following the instructions of the Communist Party, trying to send as many fascists to prison as possible. The document certainly reveals that, according to a former People’s Judge, political parties have given outright instructions to people’s judges in some cases, with the Communists being the strictest.
Frisch went on to describe his story as follows: ‘A destructive press campaign was launched against me and I was just charged with vile fascist crimes, I, who not only suffered from the persecution of the fascists, but whose relatives were all killed by Fascism.’ In addition, one of his witnesses, László Balázs, was arrested. Here, however, Frisch went a little overboard: he also claimed that his assigned lawyer did not even appear at the main hearing. If we can believe the minutes of the trial, it was not true, as his assigned defender, János Soltész, was in fact present. However, as stated above, Frisch was probably right that there could have been a bargain behind the confessions of Sándor Balázs and Stern. As a former People’s Judge, it did not escape Frisch’s attention that ‘a few minutes after the end of my trial, the head of the council read my entire sentence on 6 sheets of typewritten paper.’ It’s hard to imagine that the council came up with a sentence in a matter of minutes, and even managed to type it all down. Apparently, the verdict was ready before the trial.
‘How is it that a left-wing Jew can be called a war criminal, while according to my knowledge many people from the SS […] have received clemencies?’
Frisch even filed a petition with the Presidential Council in the summer of 1963, apparently wanting to do away with his criminal record. As he wrote, he still seeks evidence of his innocence in a ‘fanatical way’, calling his fate ‘unprecedented and cruel’ in the light of his ‘Jewish religion’. Here he merely asked for fairness and the purification of his name, as he claimed he did not have much time left. He was not mistaken in this, as he died on October 22, 1963. Meanwhile, Stern, the witness who practically sent Frisch to prison, also flooded the authorities with submissions. As he asked in the summer of 1955, ‘how is it that a left-wing Jew can be called a war criminal, while according to my knowledge many people from the SS […] have received clemencies, yet I must rot here?’
In Stern’s letters as well, details proving the conceptual nature of the Frisch trial were found: ‘[…] Prosecutor István Gyarmathy repeatedly emphasised that I was innocent and that he had to comply with the instructions at that time [… ].’ Much like Frisch, Stern sent his letters in vain: Béla Lomjapataky, Chairman of the Council of the Budapest Court, did not recommend him for pardon. This story showed how even left-wing Holocaust survivors were mercilessly used by the emerging Communist system in order to further its political goals, namely the slow destruction of a free society and the falsification of democracy under the guise of anti-fascist struggle.
According to their letters, both Frisch and Stern lived during their last years in Kazinczy street of the 7th district. Perhaps they have accidently met at some point. Both puppets of the Communist regime, manipulated for political reasons – what could have they said to one another?
 Világ (22 October 1946), 6.
 Demokrácia, 19 January 1947. 7.
 On this see Budapest Főváros Levéltára (Budapest Metropolitan Archives, henceforward: BFL), XXV.1.a.3.1947, 656a/b. Henceforward: Frisch-case, A. 88–89.
 BFL, Frisch-case, A. 122.
 BFL, Frisch-case, A. 149–152.
 BFL, Frisch-case, A. 161–162.
 For the testimonies of Stern and Balázs, see: BFL, Frisch-case, A. 291–295
 BFL, Frisch-case, A, 175
 BFL, Frisch-case, A, 299–300
 Szabadság, 25 May 1947, 4
 Szabad Szó (25 May 1947), 6
 BFL, Frisch-case, A. 396., 404., 468. and BFL, Frisch-case, B. 43
 BFL, Frisch-case, B, 393–395
 BFL, Frisch-case A, 266
 BFL, Frisch-case A, 270
 BFL, Frisch-case, A, 288
 BFL, Frisch-case, B, 59
 BFL, Frisch-case, B, 515