BUDAPEST (Jun. 19)
Six Zionist leaders and one non-Jew were last night convicted of organizing and promoting the illegal mass emigration of Israel-bound Hungarian Jews and were sentenced by a Hungarian court to varying sentences ranging from six months to three years. The other defendants were acquitted and the tenth was not tried at the same time because he was Orthodox and preferred not appearing in court on the Sabbath.
During the 15-hour trial the largest court room in Budapest was jammed with Jew who followed the proceedings attentively. No witnesses, other than the defendants, were heard. Three of the nine withdrew earlier confessions made to the police and two the men who withdrew their confessions were acquitted. The other defendants pleaded guilty, either fully or partially.
The chief defendants, Dr. Bela Denes, former vice-president of the dissolved Zionist Federation and a Mapai leader, and Sand or Kertesz, Mapam leader, were sentenced to three-year terms. Magda Weiss, 19 year old Zionist youth leader, received a two-year-and-two-month sentence; Menyner Ferd, two years and six months; Sand or Dienes, the non-Jew, and Miklos Frankfurter, two years and eight months each; and, Aladar Felkai, two years and six months. Sandor Fleischmann and Dr. Bela Schwartz were acquitted. Jenoe Fraenki, a Mizrachi leader, was the defendant who was not tried with the others.
The prosecution, headed by Gyula Alapy, chief of the Budapest office of the Attorney General, charged that the defendants had violated a law passed in 1948 which was aimed at protecting the Hungarian people from “Anglo-Saxon propaganda.” Alapy also declared that the defendants were “tools in the hands of the imperialists” and asserted that the funds used in organizing mass migration came from the same sources abroad which support “Ferenc Nagy, Zoltan Pfeiffer and the Voice of America.” (Mr. Nagy is a former Hungarian Premier who fled the country and Mr. Pfeiffer was head of the Independence Party before him, too, fled.
Finally, the prosecution pointed out that the Zionists had been in contact with foreign emissaries,” which he said was a serious situation because it gave the foreigners an “easy” source of information. The prosecutor, who called the defendants “misled,” pointed out that Zionism was not the Issue of the trial.
COUNSEL CITES HISTORY OF NAZI TERROR TO EXPLAIN DEFENDANTS’ ACTIONS
The defense asserted that the law under which the ten were being tried was aimed not at them but at “hostile, anti-democratic elements” and was not applicable in the case of any of the defendants. Defense counsel also analyzed the background of the defendants and the recent history of the Jews of Hungary as well as the history of the Zionist movement.
Under the lead of the leftists among them, the defendants pointed out that they wished to go to Israel to build socialism in the Jewish state and that the migration movement was organized for this reason. They denied being “tools of imperialism.”
Dr. Denes, who was specifically charged with aiding the illegal flight of over 100 persons of military age, pleaded partially guilty to aiding the illegal migration movement through the “spiritual leadership” of the Mapai youth movement. He denied that any Joint Distribution Committee funds had teen used to organize the youth movement, as had teen alleged. He pointed out that until the middle of last December passport had been issued to applicants headed for Israel and that after that date an extended legal discussion had left the status of these people unsettled, presenting them with no alternative but illegal flight.
DEFENDANTS EXPLAIN REASONS FOR THEIR ACTIONS5
Mr. Kertesz, a survivor of the Mauthausen death camp, declared in his defense that the Jewish youth could not be restrained, “so we endeavored to act as traffic police by organizing the groups and giving them advice,” He added that he was convinced that it would have been of no use, even harmful, to have attempted to restrain the young migrants.
Both Dr. Denes and Mr. Kertesz insisted that they were unaware that they were committing an offense because of the “tacit toleration” of the authorities for several weeks after the voluntary dissolution of the Zionist Federation, They also pointed out that they understood that a list of some 800 Zionist functionaries who had been praised visas to leave the country had been drawn up. The discussion of this list was alleged by the court to be another illegal act.
Miss Weiss pleaded guilty, in one of the most dramatic speeches heard during the lengthy trial day. She told the court of her arrest by the Nazis, at the age of 13, and of her loss of both parents in concentration camps. She also disclosed that she had teen imprisoned in the same camp as Chana Szenes, the Jewish heroine executed by the Nazis during the war. Heading guilty only in the sense of having violated the Hungarian law, Miss Weiss asserted that her future lay in Israel alone.