Military Wiki
Ernő Gerő
General Secretary of the Hungarian Working People's Party

In office
July 18, 1956 – October 25, 1956
Preceded by Mátyás Rákosi
Succeeded by János Kádár
Personal details
Born (1898-07-08)July 8, 1898
Terbegec, Austria-Hungary
Died March 12, 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; July 8, 1898 – March 12, 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.

Life and 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.

Ernő Gerő was a member of Hungary's High National Council (provisional government) between January 26, and May 11, 1945. In the November 1945 elections, 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, although he was able to designate Gerő to succeed him as party leader. Even before the October uprising, Gerő and András Hegedüs in Budapest requested that Rákosi be detained in the USSR since they thought he would only complicate matters if he returned to Hungary. Meanwhile Rákosi continually tried to contact his Budapest colleagues from Russia.[1] Had János Kádár or Imre Nagy succeeded Rákosi in July 1956, rather than Gerő, the entire Hungarian revolution might very well have been avoided altogether. In truth, the Hungarian Politburo members disliked Gerő, but were too timid to admit this to their Russian comrades. They described Gerő as "rigid" [zhestkii], "impatient," and "very austere in his relations with the people." They said, "He does not tolerate criticism, does not follow the advice of comrades…[and] does not love the people."[2]

Soviet Presidium members Anastas Mikoyan and Mikhail Suslov visited Budapest on October 24 - during the first Soviet military intervention - to assess the situation. Gerő informed them that "the arrival of Soviet troops in the city has [had] a negative effect on the disposition of the inhabitants, including the workers."[3]

The Soviet envoys finally forced Gerő to resign on October 25, 1956, during the second day of the Hungarian Uprising, after he gave an unduly harsh speech that enraged the people. He 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.



  1. Johanna Granville,The First Domino: International Decision Making During the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 Texas A & M University Press, 2004, p. 33.
  2. Granville, The First Domino, p. 34.
  3. Johanna Granville, "Soviet Documents on the Hungarian Revolution, 24 October - 4 November 1956", Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 5 (Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC), Spring, 1995, pp. 22-23, 29-34.
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
Succeeded by
János Kádár

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