The Hide-and-Seek Radio Station of 1956
The settlement of Dunapentele, located 43 miles south of Budapest, had been built up in 1949 as an industrial city and was then named Dunaújváros (New City on the Danube), to house the country’s largest iron and steel works. It became the showcase of Socialist industrial development. In 1952 it was renamed Sztálinváros.
At 2 PM on November 3rd, 1956 a new radio station went on the air. Introducing itself as the ”Free Radio of the National Committee of Dunapentele”, its first announcement was the decision of the Workers’ Committee of the Metalworks to resume work at 10 pm the following day, November 4th, ending the general strike begun on October 25th.
Szabad Dunapentele Hangja (Voice of Free Dunapentele), broadcast on 36 m shortwave, on an R-40 type radio transmitter, which had been removed from the military barracks by permission. The equipment was placed in an Ikarus bus, with the broadcasting tower on a trailer behind it. It kept moving so as to avoid being located and then targeted by Russian planes or missiles. When an attack seemed imminent, the announcement would be made: ”We interrupt our program for a short period.”
When Russian tanks began a concerted attack against Hungary on November 4th, the new radio station changed its name to Rákóczi Rádió, harking back to the early 17th century leader of that freedom fight Hungary waged against Austria. That day, Rákóczi Rádió transmitted the following message:
”The perfidious occupiers have attacked Budapest and several other of our cities. Fighting is going on in Pécs, Székesfehérvár, Dunaföldvár, Veszprém. Our nation’s situation is tragic, but not hopeless. Fighting against the aggressor is ongoing on every level. Hungarians! Don’t allow Russian troops to massacre in our dear homeland! Take up arms and join, as one man, the sacred cause of the homeland! Dunapentele’s garrison holds out to the last man. Death to the Soviet occupiers!”
The anti-aircraft units joined the Revolution and surrounded the city with automatic guns, defending it against the invaders’ tanks and planes. Thus the city could hold out for several days.
On November 6th, the workers of Dunapentele suggested that the entire region around the city be declared an International Red Cross distribution center, since there was order in the area, as opposed to the rest of the country; there were sufficient warehouses, vehicles and experts, and it was easily accessible from every direction; and every factory and workshop was intact. This invitation was sent to the International Red Cross, to the UN, to all military units in Hungary, to every Hungarian and to every Hungarian Minister, and was repeated in English and in German. Part of the appeal was as follows:
”Appeal to the International Red Cross in Geneva: Despite the appeal of the United Nations, the attack of the Soviet Army against unarmed people, women and children is still in progress. They drop bombs on Red Cross institutions, hospitals and first aid stations. They prevent the distribution of medicines and bandages... and at this moment, Dunapentele, earlier called Sztálinváros, is the only city in Hungary, where there are no Russian troops, and is in the hands of the revolutionary Hungarian army. We ask that you declare this city the distribution center of the International Red Cross ...”
On the same day, Soviet negotiators called on Dunapentele city’s National Committee and its military command to lay down their weapons. They received the reply that Dunapentele was Hungary’s first Socialist city, inhabited mostly by workers, and power has been invested in them. After the victorious October 23rd, the workers elected their National Committee, sending their own delegates to it. The city’s military command closely cooperated with them. And the population had armed themselves, to defend the houses and factories they had built with their own hands. Armed workers were guarding over law and order. And most of the factories were operating...
The National Committee used Rákóczi Rádió to appeal to the International Red Cross to beg for weapons, medicines and food:
”Attention! Attention! The Soviet troops have called on us to lay down our weapons. We will not lay them down! If needs be, we will fight for Hungarian freedom with our last drop of blood! Against the foreign invaders! Attention! Attention! Take urgent action! Take urgent action! The time limit they gave us will soon be over. Then they will attack. We have prepared ourselves. We await the attack. Drop weapons, ammunition, medicines, bandages, food by parachute! Take urgent action!”
Shortly before 3 pm of the same day, Rákóczi Rádió broadcast the following:
”We speak to the conscience of the world amidst difficult circumstances. The possible loss of the Suez Canal is not irrelevant for England or France, because they requested the UN to send peace-keeping detachments into that area. A small country of the world ... which over a thousand years had sealed its freedom with much sacrificial blood, may lose its freedom? Why are only the interests of the large powers of importance, why aren’t our hospitals, schools, national treasures important, or that these may become the targets of bombs and fire? Why don’t the peoples of the world hear our murdered mothers’ and children’s cries for help? Hear the cries of help of a small nation!...
”We have seen the atrocities committed under the slogan ’Down with Fascism’! We are not Fascists! We will prove this before an independent international committee, but we will not prove it to those who respond with phosphorus bombs. Help, because they are robbing us of the last possibility of democracy with the slogan of implementing democracy.”
Further desperate calls for medicines, bandages, weapons, food and ammunition were made by Rákóczi Rádió in the following hours.
At 3 o’clock in the morning of November 7th, the renewed attack against the city commenced, from three sides.
That same morning, at 10:35 and 11:15, Rákóczi Rádió broadcast the following:
”We speak in the name of honest Hungarian people to the millions of honest people of the world! Let us cry out once more: Is freedom dear to you? – O, it’s dear to us too. – Do you have wives? Children? – We have them too. – Do you have sick people? – We too have wounded, bleeding from a hundred wounds, who have shed their blood for the sacred cause of freedom. But we have no bandages for our wounded, to bind up their wounds, nor medicines, to ease their pain.
”And what shall we give ... into the hands of our children asking for bread, when the last piece of bread is gone. For the sake of all that is dear to you, we ask you, help us!...
”Or do you want all our belief in honesty and conscience to die out forever when we are fighting for the entire world’s idea of freedom?...”
Shortly after 11 am, Rákóczi Rádió addressed this message to Radio Free Europe in München, Germany, asking them to translate it into Russian and beam it to the Russian forces:
”Soldiers! You created your state at the price of bloody battles so that you might have freedom. Today is the 39th anniversary of that revolution. Why do you want to crush our freedom? You can see that it is not the factory owners, the landowners and bourgeoisie that takes up the fight against you, but the Hungarian people, which is desperately fighting for that right, for which you fought in 1917... Soldiers! Do not take up arms agains the Hungarian people!”
At 2:05 pm, Rákóczi Rádió still reported fighting against heavy odds:
”It’s possible that our radio will also be annihilated soon. We will continue to fight in guerrilla warfare... We ask for urgent, very urgent help, armed help for Hungary!
”We ask that our call for help be forwarded to President Eisenhower... Continue to listen to our broadcast. As soon as there’s a little time, so that we might return to the radio from the firing position, we will continue our broadcast! ...”
At 2:53 pm the following message could still be made out against a background of morse code noises:
”Soviet tanks and aircraft are attacking Dunapentele! Fighting continues with unabated ferocity. We interrupt our broadcast for an indeterminate time. This is Rákóczi station, Hungary!”
It is now known that 8 MIG-17 aircraft bombed the city for 25-30 minutes, followed by bombardment with heavy mine-throwers and howitzers. By 5 pm the defense was overcome, and the Soviets occupied the city.
At 7 pm, Free Radio of Dunapentele or Budapest (this is how the Bavarian Radio sent it on), said this:
”We ask the West, President Eisenhower, whom we congratulate on his presidency, Eden (British Prime Minister) and Hammerskjöeld (Secretary General of the UN), further all responsible heads of governments in the free West, not only to speak good words, as until now, but for vigorous help and active intervention, while it is still not too late. – May God be with us, help us to save our beloved, precious homeland, Hungary!
”We ask you to forward this telegram to the General Assembly of the UN.”
In the early hours of November 8th, a barely audible message from Dunapentele was still recorded: ”Help! Help!” and then ”Don’t lay down your weapons!”
A magyar forradalom és szabadságharc
a hazai rádióadások tükrében,
1956 október 23 – november 9