Ernő Gerő

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Ernő Gerő
Ernő Gerő 1962.jpg
Ernő Gerő in 1962
General Secretary of the Hungarian Working People's Party
In office
18 July 1956 – 25 October 1956
Preceded by Mátyás Rákosi
Succeeded by János Kádár
Personal details
Born (1898-07-08)8 July 1898
Terbegec, Austria-Hungary
Died 12 March 1980(1980-03-12) (aged 81)
Budapest, Hungary
Nationality Hungarian
Political party Hungarian Communist Party,
Hungarian Working People's Party

Ernő Gerő [ˈɛrnøː ˈɡɛrøː] (born Ernő Singer; 8 July 1898 – 12 March 1980) was a Hungarian Communist Party leader in the period after World War II and briefly in 1956 the most powerful man in Hungary as first secretary of its ruling communist party.

Early career

Gerő was born in Terbegec, Hungary (now Trebušovce, Slovakia) to Jewish parents, though he later totally repudiated religion. An early Hungarian communist, Gerő fled Hungary for the Soviet Union after Béla Kun's brief communist government was overthrown in August 1919. During his two decades living in the USSR, Gerő was an active KGB agent. Through that association, Gerő was involved in Comintern—the international organization of communists—in France, and also fought in the Spanish Civil War. There he performed purges against Trotskyist groups in the International Brigades, as a result he became known as the "Butcher of Barcelona".[1]

The outbreak of the Second World War found him in Moscow again, and he remained for the duration of the war. After the dissolution of the Communist International in 1943, he was in charge of propaganda directed at enemy forces and prisoners of war. Gerő was among the very first communist functionaries to return to Hungary in early November 1944.[1] Ernő Gerő was a member of Hungary's High National Council (provisional government) between 26 January, and 11 May 1945.

In the November 1945 election, Hungary, the Hungarian Communist Party, under Gerő and Mátyás Rákosi got 17% of the vote, compared to 57% for the Smallholders' Party, but the Soviet commander in Hungary, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov installed a coalition government with communists in key posts. The communists staged a sham election and took full control in 1949, with Rákosi as party leader, prime minister (and effective head of state). Gerő and Mihály Farkas were Rákosi's right-hand men.

Rákosi's authority was shaken in 1953 by the death of Stalin, when the Soviet Union insisted on Imre Nagy taking over as prime minister, but Gerő was retained as a counterweight to the reformers. Rákosi, having managed to regain control, was then undermined by Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech in early 1956 denouncing Stalinism, and forced to leave office on 18 July 1956 by Anastas Mikoyan, although he was able to designate Gerő to succeed him as party leader.

Gerő interregnum

After Rákosi stepped down, Gerő was instated as party leader in his stead. Gerő had been Rákosi's close associate since 1948, and was fully implicated in the purges, the industrialization and collectivization of Hungary. Gerő led the country for a brief period, known as the 'Gerő Interregnum', from 18 July 1956 to 24 October 1956, just over three months.

Later life and death

The Soviet envoys finally forced Gerő to resign on 25 October 1956, during the second day of the Hungarian Uprising, after he gave an unduly harsh speech that enraged the people. The central committee met and agreed that János Kádár should be made party leader and Imre Nagy be made prime minister, marking the end of the Gerő interregnum. Gerő fled to the Soviet Union, but after the revolution was crushed, the more moderate Communist regime of Kádár initially refused to let him return to Hungary.

He was finally allowed to return from exile in 1960, but was promptly expelled from the Communist Party. He worked as an occasional translator in Budapest during his retirement. His character plays a central role in Vilmos Kondor's 2012 novel Budapest Noir and the whole series. He died in Budapest in 1980 at the age of 81.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Eric Roman, Austria-Hungary and the Successor States: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Infobase Publishing, 2003, p. 478.


Political offices
Preceded by
Miklós Nyárádi
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
István Kossa
Preceded by
József Györe
Minister of the Interior
Succeeded by
László Piros
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mátyás Rákosi
General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party
30 June 1956–25 October 1956
Succeeded by
János Kádár