of the Gulag
The third rule for survival
The third rule is harder to explain because it concerns the political prisoners. Political prisoners suffer from a professional disease: they always think they’re innocent. I had fellow prisoners, killers from the Arrow Cross Party [Hungarian fascist movement] who worshipped Szálasi [their leader], who massacred Jews, but they did it out of fanaticism and they considered themselves innocent. So the expression, “Me, an innocent man, who those armed bastards want to destroy” made no sense out there. There were four watchtowers with machine guns pointing inwards, we were 2,500 kilometres from our homeland. We couldn’t escape anywhere. We had to forget the division between the innocent and the bastards. And move on; it wasn’t easy. But in ten years, we had the time. Whether we were small and weak or big and strong. When the military court in Budapest sentenced us, we were nobodies, we were the vanquished and they were the victors. I’m not saying that the criterion of truth is the machine gun, but they were the victors and they crushed us. And I said to my fellow, “You guys. All that is settled… If I’m on a path in the forest, I don’t look under my boots to see if I’ve crushed an ant. Why would I? It’s so small. But I don’t agree with being an ant opposite these armed soldiers, so in these circumstances and this situation I must show that I am better, have more value and am nobler than them. That is what mobilises the necessary energy to survive, these small pleasures. So it was terribly important.