Seven Days of Freedom : The Hungarian Uprising 1956 by Noel Barber
London : MacMillan, 1974. First British Edition. Hardcover. 268 pages ; photographic illustrations ; 23 cm. $3.95 dust jacket with foxing and browning to dust jacket. Pages have scattered foxing and toning. No markings within. Binding is firm.
On Sunday 28 October 1956 Imre Nagy, the Hungarian Prime Minister, broadcast to the nation that Khrushchev had agreed to withdraw his troops. It seemed that a miracle had occurred: Hungarian civilians —including school children-had fought the Red Army tanks in Budapest, and they had won. That night people danced In the streets; political prisoners were freed; suddenly people had about twenty uncensored newspapers to choose from; Radio Budapest told the truth for the first time in ten years.
The Soviet troops had indeed retired, but now they were concentrating on the Romanian border. On Sunday 4 November, having encircled Budapest, they once more attacked the capital-this time in force. After a week of euphoria the Hungarian dream was shattered-although isolated groups of freedom fighters fought on. A horrified West was impotent to help, except to become hosts to 200,000 refugees...
In his remarkable book Noel Barber, who was in Hungary throughout the Uprising as the Daily Mail correspondent,* tells the story of their heroic struggle. It is the story of a nation shackled by secret police, which finally reached a moment of destiny when death with honour was preferable to slavery under the puppets of the Soviet Union: from the first page, when the first Hungarian is killed, to the last when Imre Nagy is sentenced to death by his Soviet judges, it is the story of the men, women and children who became involved in the struggle.
There is Anna Gabor, the young secretary who threw up her job to fight; Lazlo Beke, the student with a pregnant wife, who manned the barricades; Thomas Szabo, a schoolboy who fought to the end in the barricaded Corvin Cinema; the swashbuckling ex-Captain Mark Molnar, forced by the Stalinist regime to become a coalman, who, with a handful of teenage boys, attacked the Soviet headquarters in the heart of Budapest; there is Dora Scarlet, a dedicated British communist living in Hungary, who slowly and painfully became disillusioned by the bloodshed and brutality, especially by the hated secret police.
Against this background Mr. Barber weaves the story of incredible political intrigue, with the sinister hand of the Soviet Union everywhere, so that even when Nagy, the hero of the hour, became Prime Minister, he was kept a prisoner for two vital days and even forced to broadcast at gunpoint.
Readers of Noel Barber's previous books — Sinister Twilight, The Black Hole of Calcutta, The War of the Running Dogs and Lords of the Golden Horn - will find this the most gripping of them all. He has done a vast amount of research and talked to scores of people who were involved. Employing all his many skills - in particular his unmatched sense for the dramatic - Noel Barber has given us the most vivid account yet written of an epic struggle of modern times.
NOEL BARBER 7 DAYS OF FREEDOM
Noel Barber's book is in the splendid tradition of such bestsellers as Walter Lord's A Night to Remember, Is Paris Burning? by Collins and Lapierre, with one essential difference: unlike the other authors of successful hour-by-hour reconstructions of momentous historic events, he was an actual eyewitness to the Hungarian uprising. He got through the Russian lines during the night of 24-25 October 1956, saw the massacres in Parliament Square, witnessed the killing
of 84 innocents by the secret police in the village square of Magyarova, lived through the Russian attack on Zena Square, and helped bury two children he saw slaughtered there. He interviewed the military leader of the uprising, Pal Maleter, and the political leader of the Hungarian dissidents, Prime Minister Imre Nagy. On the sixth day of the uprising, Mr Barber was shot in the head and got out of the hospital in time to flee from the country before the Soviet Army closed all escape routes.
Noel Barber's story of the Budapest uprising has the advantage not only of his faculty for meticulous research but of a lucky opportunity: he was in Hungary 10 days before the uprising and through the British Minister met Nagy. When the revolution began, he telegraphed Nagy, who was able to arrange for Mr Barber's admission to Hungary when most other foreign writers were unable to get visas. Thanks to that encounter, we now have 7 Days of Freedom.
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