Ferenc Münnich ( 1886-1967)

Born in Seregélyes, Fejér County, into the family of a pharmacist, Münnich studied law at Eperjes (Preąov) and gained his doctorate in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) in 1910. During the First World War, he served with an infantry regiment stationed at Máramarossziget (Sighetu Marmaţiei), receiving a decoration for bravery and promotion to major in 1915. However, he and his unit were captured by the Russians in October 1915. At Tomsk prisoner-of-war camp, Münnich took part in organizing the socialist movement among the prisoners. He joined the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party in May 1917 and later the Tomsk branch of the Russian Communist (Bolshevik) Party. He then fought in the Russian Civil War as commander of an international unit consisting of prisoners of war. He was appointed a regimental commander in 1918, but returned to Hungary in November that year, where he became a founder member of the Hungarian Communist Party. On February 20, 1919, he was arrested, but freed again on March 21. During the 133-day Hungarian Soviet Republic, Münnich first headed the Organization Department of the War Commissariat. On April 19, he became political officer to the 6th Army and took part in the northern campaign, before being appointed war commissar for the Slovak Soviet Republic. After the fall of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, Münnich joined the Béla Kun faction of the Hungarian communists in Vienna. In March 1921, Comintern sent him to Germany to take part in the communist 'March Action' . After its failure, he was arrested and deported from Germany. He lived in the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1936. In 1922, he was appointed chairman of the National Oil Syndicate Audit Committee. In 1930, he joined the board of the emigré Hungarian communist paper Sarló és Kalapács (Sickle and Hammer), of which he was editor from 1931 to 1933. During the Spanish Civil War, Münnich served in the International Brigade, rising to be a divisional chief of staff and reserve brigade commander. After the defeat, he fled to France in February 1939, where he was interned. He was released in 1941 after a Soviet diplomatic intervention and returned to the Soviet Union. After the attack on the Soviet Union by Germany, he became a partisan training officer and later fought at Stalingrad. From November 1942 to 1945, he headed the Hungarian Department of Radio Moscow, where he came into contact with Mátyás Rákosi, Ernő Gerő, József Révai and Zoltán Vas. He returned to Hungary in September 1945 and was appointed high sheriff of the city of Pécs. From May 1945 to 1949, he was chief of police in Budapest, where he made major organizational changes. From 1949 to 1956, he held diplomatic posts as envoy in Helsinki (1949-50), Sofia (1950- 54), Moscow (September 1954 to August 1956) and Belgrade (August 8 to October 15, 1956). From 1949 to 1953, he was also a member of Parliament. He was chosen in September 1956 as a member of the committee preparing for the reburial of László Rajk and his associates, whose prosecutors he described at the funeral as 'sadistic criminals crawling into the light out of the bog of the personality cult.' He was co-opted onto the HWP Central Committee on October 24, 1956 and served on its Military Committee on October 25-7. On October 26, he also became a member of the Directory. He served as interior minister in the Imre Nagy government from October 27 to November 3, and on October 28, joined the Presidium of the party. However, he secretly left for Moscow with János Kádár on November 1, where he took part in the CPSU Presidium meetings on November 2- 4 and in the formation of the counter-government. He returned to Szolnok by Soviet military plane on November 4, when he became minister for the armed forces and public security in the Kádár government. On November 11, he joined the Provisional Executive Committee of the Kádárite HSWP. He helped to organize the special forces and later the communist Workers' Militia. Münnich served as first deputy prime minister from February 28, 1957 and as head of state from 1958 to 1961. From 1961 to 1965, he was state minister. He was a member of the HSWP Provisional Central Committee and then Central Committee from November 1956 to 1967, and until 1966 of the Provisional Executive Committee, later the Political Committee.

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This page was created: Wednesday, 23-Aug-2000
Last updated: Wednes, 12-Sept-2001
Copyright © 2000 The Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

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