Journalist Kati Marton pored over the files that the Hungarian secret police had kept on her parents, and now reveals the stunning details she discovered in her moving new book, 'Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America.'
The Cold War-era arrest of her parents - who were themselves journalists - is described in detail, as are the hardships the family faced in Communist Hungary.
Read an excerpt of the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.
"It would be better if you came alone this time," Dr. Katalin Kutrucz, the head of the Hungarian Secret Police Archives, suggested on the phone. The last time we met I had been accompanied by a friend, a lawyer who knew his way around the Archives. Then, Dr. Kutrucz had been all business: crisp, impersonal, bureaucratic. An oldstyle apparatchik, I had assumed, simply allowing me to see -- as was my right under the laws of post-Communist Hungary -- the secret police files on my parents. Now her voice sounded different -- more human, more compassionate. Her new tone made me anxious.
Just a short while earlier, one of Hungary's most respected writers had been given his father's files -- and discovered a history of breathtaking intrigue and betrayal even of his family. The foremost historian of the AVO, the Hungarian secret police, had warned me that I was "opening a Pandora's box," when I first applied for access to the files. But I wanted to know the truth about my parents, about what had really happened in Budapest, in those distant Cold War days, when my sister and I were children. My parents had glossed over large portions of our history -- even though my father was a celebrated journalist of his era, who won awards and recognition for his coverage of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. "You are an American," Papa would say, "you cannot ever understand what it was like under the Fascists and the Communists."
That night I slept fitfully. What did I fear most? I suppose evidence of some act of compromise or betrayal that would shatter forever my image of my parents. The risk was real. From Günter Grass to Milan Kundera, secret police files from the Gestapo to the KGB continue to disgorge the debris of half a century of such betrayals. I understand why so many people do not want to learn about the past; let sleeping dogs lie, they say to me. But I want the truth, even if it is painful.
Eyes burning from a sleepless night spent wondering about the archivist's changed tone, I climb the grand staircase of an Italian Renaissance palazzo, the birthplace, in 1946, of the AVO. The building had been the scene of some of the terror state's worst crimes. By 1950, the palazzo couldn't contain the work of thousands of uniformed and nonuniformed agents and their vast network of informers whose job it was to infiltrate every corner of their fellow citizens' lives. So the AVO requisitioned other choice bits of real estate on and around the elegant Andrassy Boulevard, which had been renamed Stalin Boulevard. Today, the building flies the European Union's blue and gold banner and shares the block with two health spas.