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HUNGARY: The Merry Warden

2 minute read

Every day during the trial of Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty (TIME, Feb. 14 et seq.), a dapper, trimly uniformed officer, with a slightly dreamy look in his eyes and spotless white gloves on his hands, sat at the defendant’s right. Every day as the session opened, the officer stopped before the judges’ bench and formally reported that the accused was present in the court. Last week, Lieutenant of Prison Guards Imre Szipzr, 32, warden of the Marko Street House of Detention in Budapest, was himself in the prisoner’s dock before a Budapest criminal court. He was under charges, together with six subordinates, of having accepted bribes from relatives of prisoners under his charge.

There were, moreover, aggravating circumstances. “Lieutenant Szipzr,” said the court, “impaired the reputation of the country’s first house of detention by being responsible for the bad spirit which prevailed in the prison for a certain period.” As usual, the Communists were talking upside down: actually, the “bad spirit” was an excess of high spirits.

Szipzr, who had it tough during the war (he spent several years in a Nazi concentration camp), seemed determined to make up for lost time. Attractive wives and daughters of prisoners often came to him to ask for special treatment of their relatives; the lieutenant, who appreciates feminine charms, usually granted these favors—in return for considerations.

Szipzr would not deny his prisoners the advantages which he himself enjoyed. For fat fees he would provide bored, wealthy prisoners with women visitors, who frequently stayed overnight in the cells. There were nights when the corridors of the Marko Street House of Detention sounded just like one of Budapest’s livelier nightspots. Drinks were sold by Szipzr and his assistants, and only the gypsy band was missing.

The court last week sentenced Lieutenant Szipzr to loss of his office and four years in prison. He would have a duller time than his former charges.

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