Bela Kun, The Lenin Boys:

Cut Scene from Chapter 3

The editing process can be tough--you have to let go of good material for the greater good of the story. 

In my case, my editor said I had to trim 10-12k words, and that the most obvious scenes to cut were the war scenes/explainers I'd included as openers of a few chapters in Part I. I really liked giving greater context to what was going on in Hungary, but I did agree that the fat needed to be trimmed. 

This one opened chapter three ("A Deadly Flu, a Fallen Kingdom, a Foiled Plan)

By February, new head of state Mihály Károlyi was overwhelmed by the challenges facing Hungary in the aftermath of the Great War. Strikes and riots were still rampant in the cities. Most were instigated by radical Bolsheviks. Meanwhile, masses were still dying of starvation in Budapest and other large urban areas. In America, Herbert Hoover, head of the American Relief Administration, had begun talks with the United States Congress about sending food shipments to Hungary, but nothing had yet been accomplished.

It was about as bad a time as any for the second wave of Spanish Flu to hit. But for all of these calamities, the most dreadful for Károlyi was the threat of losing Hungarian territory in the Great War peace deal, yet Hungary had so far been forced to capitulate.

Its fighting forces had been greatly reduced at the insistence of the victors. Romanian soldiers still occupied Transylvania, and Czechoslovakia — a new country being formed from the armistice — was also vying for Hungarian land, as was the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. At stake was two-thirds of the country, more than half of the population, and up to ninety percent of Hungary’s natural resources, industry, railways and infrastructure.

Romania, by far, stood to gain the most land. Some Allied Powers that opposed the harsh terms called the measures “punishment” not “peace.” President Wilson said “the proposal to dismember Hungary is absurd,” yet it appeared to be happening, and Wilson appeared to be doing little to stop it. At Versailles, where Hungary was not allowed a delegation, new borders were being demarcated.

Károlyi was a pacifist who had at first seen himself as a savior to his people. He was certain he would lead them out of the ruins. But he soon became desperate. The only option he could see was to align with a wartime enemy: With the help of Russia’s army, Károlyi believed Hungary had a chance of fighting the Romanians and other occupiers and regaining Hungarian territory by force. This was despite an exhausted army.

Bolshevik and Communist Party head Béla Kun had been jailed for high treason in February, but it hardly took any time at all before Károlyi deciced to meet Kun in prison with the intention of forming a coalition government. Kun had other plans. He demanded Károlyi’s party be taken over by the Communist Party. Desperate and under duress, it was to this and other radical measures that Károlyi agreed.

On Friday, March 21, Kun emerged from prison, whereupon he was immediately sworn in as leader of the Soviet Republic of Hungary. He had walked into prison a traitor and walked out a dictator.

Kun’s first act was to “initiate the work of expropriating the robber baron system of capitalism.” He opened the jails and let convicted thieves free. Revolutionary tribunals replaced courts of law. “Nothing is to be obtained without blood,” said Béla Vago, a tribunal judge. Private homes were seized, as were private enterprises. The press, schools and banks were taken over. The Hungarian Red Army was formed. Officers of the former army were shot and replaced by agents from Moscow. The Red Guard displaced police and gendarmes.

Kun’s most faithful servants were “The Lenin Boys,” led by a young man named Szamuely Tibor. The gaunt and ghostly Tibor roamed the countryside with his twenty men in a train painted bright red. The Lenin Boys, always cloaked in their signature black trench coats, stopped in towns and villages to torture and execute fellow Hungarians. They used execrable, vicious methods. They dug out a woman’s teeth with a chisel. They sewed one woman’s tongue to her nose. They hammered a nail into a man’s head. Some victims were forced to jump from a table with a noose around their necks, straight into the graves they had been forced to dig for themselves. The victims’ families were forced to watch.

In one afternoon in Szolnok, Tibor executed twenty-four people, mostly prosperous business owners, but also the president of the Szolnok Court. After his killing spree, Tibor boarded his red train again. His black trench coat was soaked with blood. Kun’s Red Army immediately took on the Romanians, who had already made gains up to the Tisza River.

The Hungarian citizens were in a terrible position. They were being terrorized by Kun and were desperate to be saved. Yet their saviors were their enemies too, whose goal was to secure much of the country for themselves.

There was no good outcome. The fighting between the occupying forces and Kun’s Red Army ensued for months, much of it in Szolnok.

Finally, at the end of July, the Red Army surrendered at Szolnok. On August 1st, the victorious Romanian Army began its charge toward Budapest. Kun was whisked to Austria by the Soviets, and from there, taken to Moscow.

Szamuely Tibor fled, but was shot by Austrian authorities after illegally crossing the border. The “133 Days of Red Terror” were over. But Hungary was not free. The whole country was occupied. Most of the occupiers were the Romanians.