Skip to main content

Full text of "Recollections of Soviet Labor Camps, 1949-1955 : oral history transcript / 1971"

See other formats


University of California Berkeley 

University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office 

Nicholas M. Nagy-Talavera 

An Interview Conducted by 
Richard A. Pierce 

Copy Number 

1971 by The Regents of the University of California 

Miklos Nagy 
Grand Canyon - Summer 1958 

Istvan Borbas (left), Miklos Nagy 

Resheti, Krasnoyarsk region (Central Siberia) 

Left to right: Istvan Borbas, Kazis 
(Kasimir) Zilenas, Miklos Nagy 

July 1955 

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a 
legal agreement between the Regents of the University 
of California and Nicholas M. Nagy-Talavera, dated 
May 5j 1971- The manuscript is thereby made available 
for research purposes. All literary rights in the 
manuscript, including the right to publish, are 
reserved to the Bancroft Library of the University of 
California at Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may 
be quoted for publication without the written 
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of 
the University of California at Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication 
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 
^-86 Library, and should include identification of the 
specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the 
passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with Nicholas M. Nagy-Talavera requires that 
he be notified of the request and allowed thirty days in 
which to respond. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS Nicholas M. Nagy-Talavera 





World War II 2 

At Auschwitz/Birkenau 3 

Return to Hungary ^ 

Arrest and .Trial "by Smersh 5 

An N.K.V.D. Prestige Operation 9 


Camp Life I** 

The S-pecial World of the Criminals 26 

Women Prisoners 37 

"Reform" Measures After Stalin ^0 


Kolyiaa 55 

IV CENTRAL ASIA (1953) 6^4- 

Karaganda 6^ 

The Revolt at Dzhezghazghan 69 

To Frunze, Stalinabad. and Tashkent 7^- 

V SIBERIA AGAIN (1955) 77 

An Atomic Test 77 

Into the Taiga 31 




California-Russian Emigre Series 

The following interview is one of a series of interviews with Russian 
emigres sponsored by the Center for Slavic and East European Studies and 
produced by the Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library. 

Although numerically a small proportion of the population, the Russian- 
Americans have for a long time been a conspicuous and picturesque element 
in the cosmopolitan make-up of the San Francisco Bay Area. Some came here 
prior to the Russian Revolution, but the majority were refugees from the 
Revolution of 1917 who came to California through Siberia and the Orient. 
Recognizing the historical value of preserving the reminiscences of these 
Russian refugees, in the spring of 1958 Dr. Richard A. Pierce, author of 
Russian Central Asia, 1867-1917, (U.C. Press, Spring 1960) then a research 
historian at the University working on the history of the Communist Party 
in Central Asia, made the following proposal to Professor Charles Jelavich, 
chairman of the Center for Slavic Studies: 

I would like to start on the Berkeley campus, under 
the auspices of the Center of Slavic Studies, an oral 
history project to collect and preserve the recollections 
of members of the Russian colony of the Bay Region. We 
have in this area the second largest community of Russian 
refugees in the U. S., some 30,000 in San Francisco alone. 
These represent an invaluable and up to now almost entirely 
neglected source of historical information concerning life 
in Russia before 1917, the February and October Revolutions, 
the Civil War of 1918-1921, the Allied intervention in 
Siberia, the Soviet period, of the exile communities of 
Harbin, Shanghai, Prague, Paris, San Francisco, etc., and of 
the phases in the integration of this minority into 
American life. 

The proposed series of tape-recorded interviews, as a part of the 
Regional Oral History Office of the University of California Library, was 
begun in September 1958 under the direction of Professor Jelavich and with the 
assistance of Professor Nicholas V. Riasanovsky of the Department of History. 

At that time Dr. Pierce conducted three interviews and arranged for a 
fourth. Each interview lasted several recording sessions, was transcribed 
and if necessary translated, edited by the interviewer and the interviewee, 
and then typed and bound. In addition he began assemblying papers to document 


the California-Russian emigres. In 1959 Dr. Pierce left to become Assistant 
Professor of Slavic History at Queen s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 
but returned in the summers to continue his research in recent Russian history. 

In 1966 a second unit of the series was undertaken by Boris Raymond, 
who conducted three interviews, prepared a bibliography of Russian emigre 
materials in California, and arranged for the establishment of the California- 
Russian Emigre Collection in The Bancroft Library. He subsequently left 
to become Assistant Director of the University of Manitoba Libraries in 
Winnipeg, Canada, but returned in 1970 to conduct one more interview. 

A third unit of the series was authorized in the spring of 1969 by 
Professor Gregory Grossman, chairman of the Center for Slavic and East 
European Studies, with Professor Nicholas Riasanovsky serving as chairman 
of the committee in charge of the series. The unit included three interviews 
conducted by Richard Pierce, one by Boris Raymond, and the continuing collec 
tion of papers for the California-Russian Emigre Collection. A listing of 
all interviews done under the series follows. 

This series is part of the program of the Regional Oral History Office 
to tape record the autobiographies of persons who have contributed signifi 
cantly to the development of California and the west. The Office is under 
the administrative supervision of James D. Hart, director of The Bancroft 

Willa K. Baum, Head 
Regional Oral History Office 

15 April 1971 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 



Miklos Nagy-Talavera, a Hungarian emigre, survived 
the infamous Nazi death camp of Auschwitz only to be 
seized by the Soviet secret police in Vienna in 19^9* 
tried for espionage and sentenced to 25 years at hard 
labor. During the next seven years, he traveled from one 
end of the Soviet Union to the other, from the western 
border to the Pacific, and from the Arctic to Central Asia, 
amidst unremitting hardship and privation, until he was 
released under a post-Stalin amnesty granted foreign 
prisoners. To survive this ordeal required unusual 
endurance, and an indomitable spirit. His vivid description 
of the infamous regime of the Soviet slave labor camps gives 
a side of Soviet life that is little known in the West 
certainly unmentloned in any Intourist brochure and 
scarcely spoken of in the U.S.S.R. to this day. 

The account was tape-recorded in five interviews during 
the summer of 1958, in my apartment in Berkeley. At the 
time I had hoped to include the series with several other 
accounts of emigres from Russia which I was to do for the 
Regional Oral History Project of the University of 
California Library, but a rule-bound administrator in one 
of the higher echelons of the Library saw fit to strike 
this series from the list, evidently on grounds that Mr. 
Nagy was not a Russian. 

I considered compiling the interviews in a book, but 
other commitments forced both Mr. Nagy and me to leave off 
the enterprise, and the tapes remained unedited until now. 
During that time various memoirs and analyses of the Soviet 
labor camps have been published, but this is a vast and 
complex part of Soviet life and this account will be found 
valuable for facts not to be found elsewhere, and for the 
narrator s own particular point of view. In order that 
this account may be preserved and available for use by 
interested researchers, I am turning it over, with the 
narrator s consent, to the Oral History Project. 

At the time the interviews were made, the narrator 
was still only three years away from camp life. He spared 
precious time from studies, as he was taking, with special 


permission, to expedite completion of requirements for the 
B.A. degree, an unheard-of 28 course units (15 is considered 
a normal load). He obtained the B.A. , and the M.A. , and 
Ph.D. followed. His dissertation has been published and 
he has been teaching Russian history for the past several 
years in the Department of History of Chico State College, 
Chi co, California 

Richard A. Pierce 
Professor of History 

May 1971 

Queen s University 

Kingston, Ontario, Canada 


Nagy: I was born In Budapest, Hungary, on February 1^, 
1929. My parents had a furniture factory and 
three big department stores where they sold 
furniture made in the factory. Originally we were 
a land-owning family in Transylvania, but after 
World War I that region came under Romanian rule 
and because my parents had very strong Hungarian 
feeling and the Romanian agrarian reform and other 
administrative measures caused us much trouble, 
they decided to move to what was left of Hungary. 
The furniture business was very prosperous at this 
time, so we quickly expanded and after a few years 
became very well known not only in Hungary but in 
surrounding countries as well. 

I received the education which was usual in our 
class; it meant that although we were not aristocrats 
I received an education corresponding to the 
aristocratic classes. At the age of two I had my 
German fraulein, a sort of governess; when I was six 
she was replaced by a French madame; when I was ten 
years old, just at the beginning of the war, we 
brought an English governess educated at Oxford.. 
So, by the time I was fourteen I spoke the three 
most important European languages. 

My youth was passed in the manner usual in our 
class. In the spring my parents went to the Riviera 
and then to Grado on the Mediterranean, in Italy, 
the Adriatic Sea, etc. At Easter they came home and 
picked us up with my fraulein. The factory ran itself; 
It didn t require too much attention from my parents; 
it was well advertised and an atxtomatic thing. In 
the summer we had long tours; in autumn we went hunting 
on the old estate or at least on what was left of it 
after the agrarian reform in the park or hunting 

Nagy: ground around the castle. In the winter came the ski 
season. It was the same, one year after another, 
the great summer tours, the spring tours, all over 
Europe. Even though I was only a child, I remember 
quite a bit of it. 

I went with my parents sometimes, and sometimes 
with ray aunt if my parents wanted to go separately, 
sometimes with my educator or my governess. Part of 
the family lived in Romania because they were married 
there to a Romanian officer, to the great desolation 
of the Hungarian part of the family. 

World War II 

Nagy: Then came World War II. Naturally travel was already 
restricted. There came the first minor restrictions 
on the Jews; we were not affected by it. 

My family are Sephardic or Spanish Jews. They 
came to Hungary after the expulsion from Spain in the 
16th century, so we belong to the really old, old 
families in Hungary, many in military service, and 
these old families were more or less respected. 

But in 19*l4, when at 1^ I was in the fourth 
year gymnasium, the Hungarian government made a very 
ill-considered attempt to conclude a truce with the 
allies. The Hungarian government was full of spies, 
Nazi sympathizers, Fascists who denounced the armistice 
in preparation to the Germans. Hitler occupied the 
country overnight with his army in the style of the 
1956 crushing of the Hungarian revolt by the Russians, 
overthrew the government and put in power a marionette 
puppet quisling government which was completely 
subservient to the Germans, and delivered all the 
Jews without any restriction or precaution in the 
Nuremberg fashion. When you couldn t prove four 
Ghristain grandparents then you had to wear the yellow 
star, and soon, although they were very much pressed, 
the deportations began also. The allied armies were 
approaching and they wanted to finish this glorious 
task before the allies arrived. Out of 800,000 
Hungarian Jews they succeeded in doing away with 

Nagy: My parents were hiding with one of their 

Christian employees, and I was also with them, but 
because my parents were very well known in Budapest 
I had to go out to buy and fetch food for them, so 
they wouldn t have to go out. But unfortunately I 
was also very well known because once in July 19^ 
in the market they came to ask for my documents. I 
showed them the false documents, but it didn t help. 
They told me my name, and I was taken in a police 
car and immediately, without further question, added 
to the transport of Jews prepared for deportation, 
and was sent to Auschwitz/Birkenau. 

At Auschwitz/Birkenau 

Nagy: In Auschwitz I was relatively lucky, because Dr. 

Mengele, the chief physician, somehow took pity on 
me and got me a better job in the camp. I spoke 
German perfectly and this helped because he was a 
Transylvanian, and I was also. Who knows what his 
motives were? But as a matter of fact I got a 
relatively better and easier job and good food. But 
naturally I had to witness the whole thing that was 
going on in Auschwitz, the work of the gas chambers. 
I was working in Krema-3, that is, Crematorium 
No. 3. 

Then in January 19^-5 > after opening the Vistula 
offensive, the Russians approached Auschwitz. We 
were evacuated just before their arrival. They were 
already shelling the camp with artillery. And then 
I left Dr. Mengele and was in the death march to 
Ratibor, Lower Silesia, the last line of the railroad 
where the Germans could, organize any transport at all. 
There we were put in wagons, and there followed four 
days with no food at all, with very low temperatures, 
in which we were transported to Austria, and then 
unloaded. There fortunately the people with whom I 
had been working in the camp found me. 

In Austria, in the spring of 19^5, there was 
complete disintegration. I was already only nominally 
in the prison camp because we were just overnight in 
it. My job was to go around the surrounding country 
side with the Germans and to load and unload trucks. 
They were saving the furniture of the SS officers 

Nagy: belonging to the different camp administrations, in 
territories that were endangered by the approach of 
the Russian and the American troops. They wanted to 
organize a last resistance somewhere in central 
Germany, in the Alps, but nothing came of it. In 
doing this job I was one day in the Elbe line, on 
the western front, and would hear the American guns, 
and the next day I would be on the Hungarian front 
area and would hear the Russian guns. On April 16 
I was in Berlin for the last time when the Russian 
heavy artillery began to shell the city. It was very 

And then in 19^-5, on April 29, Munich fell, and 
then the two SS people told me I should try to get 
out from the camp, because I must expect that before 
the collapse the Germans might make a last attempt 
to exterminate everybody and I would not escape. 
This was in Ebensee, Upper Austria. I should take 
refuge with one of their girl friends in Salzburg. 
So we ran to this grande dame, one of the lowest 
prostitutes on earth. But they were very nice to me; 
they were against the Nazis and they were hiding the 
boys. I was not so much in danger, but they were of 
military age and there were always military patrols. 
And so we waited. And finally after different things 
the happy day came when Patton s Third Army entered 
Salzburg and I was liberated. This was May 5> 

Then I worked for the Americans for awhile as 
an interpreter, because of my English. It was hard 
to obtain a permit from the Russians to return to 
Hungary in the Russian zone. 

Return to Hungary 

Nagy: Finally I solved this by returning through 

Czechoslovakia, where the Russians had no authority 
at all, and from there entered Hungary, and nobody 
bothered me. 

I saw my parents again. r* There was great 
happiness. They had already been under Russian rule 
since December when their district of Budapest fell. 
They lost quite a bit in the war, but there was 

Nagy: freedom at this time in Hungary, and we could somehow 
start our work again. But then the Russians began 
operating through the Hungarian Communists, falsifying 
the free elections, splitting the opposition, making 
terroristic arrests, and fabricating show trials, 
charging with treason everybody who opposed them. 

I became a member of an underground group. We 
contacted the United States military attache in 
Budapest, offered our services, and informed the U.S. 
of Russian troop movements of the organization of the 
secret police, economic tactics, and political 

Arrest and Trial by Smersh 

Nagy: Ours was naturally the fate of every such group. In 
September, 19^8, we were denounced, discovered and 
arrests began. I escaped for a while, because they 
began with others. When my best friend was arrested, 
I fled to Vienna. There I tried to hide, thinking 
that if I was not in my apartment, they would leave 
me alone and would not find me. 

I registered at the University of Vienna and 
studied there for a while. Occasionally a Hungarian 
refugee came to me, asking aid, getting my confidence, 
I helped too many people. We were something like an 
island in the Russian zone, so everybody wanted to 
get out to the main American and British zone, which 
was a hundred miles away. It was very dangerous to 
leave Vienna and go through this hundred miles of 
Russian ruled territory. 

I helped many people through. Through my 
connections, I recommended them to the Americans, 
and they left via the Mozart Express, a train which 
the Russians couldn t control. I helped so many to 
do that that I was not suspicious when someone came 
to ask my help. But I should have been because this 
man was a Russian agent. He made an appointment with 
me to pick him up with his family in a cafe. When 
we stepped out from the cafe, the Russians kidnapped 
me. Three people stepped out of a car at a gate and 
surrounded me. They overpowered me and kidnapped me 
in the center of Vienna on January 27, 

Nagy: Then I was brought to Baden, where the Investiga 
tion began, conducted by Smersh. 

Pierce: What was Smersh ? 

Nagy: This was the war-time Smert Shplonaxa, the counter 

intelligence agency of the Russians. I know, because 
I was arrested by the Smersh and tried by Smersh* 
No. 28,118, this was the group that investigated, 
examined, and tried me. 

Pierce: How did that time go? 

Nagy: It was a very bad period. Hopelessly bad. 

Pierce: What were the means of extracting information? 

Nagy: Most varied threatening, threatening harm to family 
members, promising you everything, trying to promise 
you that they will use you as a counterspy against 
the Americans. Naturally they were lying! I was too 
old for this sort of thing. 

They try to tell you that if you prove your 
loyalty then you are a very valuable man and then 
they will use you, but the idea above all is to get 
you to confess, and when you do, you are lost. 

You can t cash the check that they give you. 
They use any method, torture, etc. They always 
observe you a bit before by a whole committee of 
officers, a week or two weeks if necessary. 

They try to be master psychologists, but the 
main trouble is that, in general, they don t under 
stand European psychology too well. They are used 
to Soviet psychology. But if they see that the case 
is more important they get specialists in European 
psychology too; they get everybody who can be of use 
in this. 

A committee of officers observes this and what 
category you are in and then you return and get the 
investigation fitting to you. The more important 
you are, the more carefully it is selected. They 
used very good methods, 59 days and nights of torture. 
I still have scars from this torture burns. They 
used every trick they had on me. They wanted more 
names. I was then 18. 

Nagy: Then I was handed back to the Hungarian secret 
police for a little more treatment. To impress me 
with what they wanted, they informed me that my mother 
and father had been arrested and kicked out of their 
apartment . 

The prison in Baden was very primitive, but very 
carefully done, in a former sanatorium-hotel, with a 
basement. Upstairs were the investigation cells with the 
officers, and they put you down in the basement when 
the examination was over. Very poor these fellows, 

The cells were of various sizes, but always over 
flowing. Regardless of how big or small they were, 
there were always more people than there were supposed 
to be. 

The trial was a farce. It was in an ordinary 
room. The windows opened on the street and you could 
see the streetcar going to Vienna, reaching the 
American and British sector, and standing by the 
streetcar line were beautiful girls in skirts and 
the boys in Austrian costumes. And it was spring and 
I knew that I would go to Siberia and these girls 
were going to Vienna. I felt very sad and worse, 
when I notified the guards that I was hungry, I got 
a wiener. 

In the meantime the judges on the tribunal were 
sitting down. The table was covered with red cloth 
and on the wall were pictures of Kalinin, Stalin and 
Lenin and some slogans about Soviet justice. Two 
guards with machine pistols were standing in the room 
at all times, and I was in the box. And this box 
where the prisoner had to be was in fact the most 
horrible. There were things written on it in four 
languages, in German "Gott hllft mir" and "Gott steh 
mlr bei," because they were giving death sentences 
here also, and in Rumanian and Hungarian, "Goodbye, 
my mother, forever," etc. They should have put it 
in a museum. 

The trial begins. My trial was something of a 
mess because I first asked that they should tell if 
Hungary was a sovereign country and why I should be 
tried here instead of by the authorities of my own 


Nagy: "We know why!" was the answer. 

"But I have also the right to know it!" 

"We know why. Be quiet! We have the right to 
try youT" 

But I still didn t believe them. And then they 
took out the receipt by which they had handed me over 
to the Russians, giving the Soviet Union the right 
to investigate and to punish me. So this part was 

And the next didn t take long. I knew very well 
what my sentence would be, and the rest was only 
hypocrisy, going over the material. And then the 
judges went out, supposedly to confer, but everything 
was planned in advance. They went out to eat, and 
when they came back, this swine had one part of his 
mouth still covered with fat, and another judge had 
a bag of cherries the first ones, I don t know how 
they got them but anyhow the Red Army got it. So 
there they were eating cherries. They asked me if I 
regretted anything I had done. I said I regretted 
only what this had done to my parents, and told them, 
"If you have any conscience, then sentence me with 
conscience, and if you don t have any, then sentence 
me without conscience." 

And that was all. They didn t make a fuss about 
it particularly, arguing with me. And they sentenced 
me to 25 years of slave labor. 

Pierce: What was the Indictment? 

Nagy: Helping the Americans was the main charge. I was 
sentenced on Paragraph 58 Article 6. 

Then I was taken back to a special cell until 
my sentence could be carried out. They cannot mix 
people who are sentenced with those who are not yet 
sentenced. Naturally this was a nice aftermath. I 
had made it up with my former people in the cell that 
if I get ten years I remain silent; if I get 15 years 
I cough so, and if I get 20 years, so, and if I get 
25 years I would have a storm of coughs. So when I 
went back to get my clothes I couldn t speak but I 
could do this. So I did. But one of the people had 
told them all these secrets, a rotten Hungarian gypsy, 
and they knew very well what this coughing meant. 

An NKVD Prestige Operation 

Nagy: An incident during my stay at Baden may illustrate 
how the NKVD, the great materialist, which does 
almost everything for material interests, sometimes 
also acts purely for prestige. 

Thus, in 19^9, in the prison at Baden we had 
Just heard that the North Atlantic Treaty had been 
signed. Newly arrested people always brought such 
news in, because we couldn t get any news... 

So afterward the door flew open in our room, 
because it was always a little dark (there was only 
one window) and a young fellow was in the usual way 
kicked in. And he stood there, naturally coming in 
from the light. His eyes didn t get immediately used 
to the darkness but after a while he began to tell 
his story. He had American type clothing, naturally 
with no tie or shoelaces and buttons cut off and 
taken away. You can always tell them the shoes, 
shirts, etc. And he looked around. We were all 
foreigners, Including myself. 

"Does someone speak Russian? 
po-russkii?)" Silence. 

(Kto to govorit 

I spoke a little Russian, but I didn t want him 
to know that I did. 

Then, "Does anyone speak Spanish? (....habla 
espanol?)" Again silence. 

Finally, "Who speaks English?" So then I said, 
"I do." 

And he sat down and told the following story. He 
was evacuated by the Germans from Rostov during the 
war, for slave labor, when the Nazi took the people 
away. He came to Dortmund, in Germany, worked there, 
went through the usual privations. He found out that 
his mother and- father had been arrested in Russia. 
They wanted to repatriate him to Russia. He got 
advice pro and con, and finally refused. And then, 
there were some rich Russian emigrant families in 
South America who were looking for Russian children 
in these camps. And accidentally a rich Russian family 
from Venezuela took him under their wing, brought him 


Nagy: to Venezuela, and educated him like their son; he 

learned Spanish in school. They were very rich people, 
with a large estate, and the boy had a grand future 
before him. 

Then came the turning point. A big limousine 
stopped before the hacienda. "We are from the Soviet 
consulate in Caracas." They came in, very pleasant. 
"You have a little compatriot here; we have just 
brought him some Soviet literature." Some journals, 
periodicals, etc. "So that he won t forget his 
fatherland." And they went on their way. What kind 
people they seemed. And they came again, in a week 
or a month; they didn t do it very soon; they were 
tactful, so as not to seem provoking or tiresome. 
"And how is our little countryman?" 

The Russians are great patriots, so they 
stressed the great achievements that were being made 
in the Soviet Union. Everything was wonderful, rising 
from the ruins, everything was being built up. "We 
are now the strongest country in the world." And 
everyone was joining the camp of socialism the 
Romanians, the Poles, the Hungarians, even in China 
the victory of socialism was assured. Again they 
brought newspapers, and in the newspapers and 
periodicals everything was so beautiful. And they 
went away. 

After two months they came again. "We have some 
beautiful films. If you come in to Caracas we shall 
be very happy to see you in the building of the 
consulate; we shall project the pictures for you. 
You shouldn t forget that you are a Russian." This 
was the main operation, you see, knowing very well 
that the Russians are very proud to be Russians. You 
shouldn t forget that you are a Russian and that the 
fatherland does not forget you, either. 

And really the child became a little bit tempted, 
and the next time they went into Caracas they went 
to the Soviet representation. (He was at this 
time about 20 or 21; he had been taken away from 
Russia in about 19^2.) 

He looked at the pictures, and came home, and 
then after a couple of months they were prepared for 
the next step. "Well, we have a wonderful job for you. 
You speak English, Spanish and Russian, and German. 


Nagy: You will be an interpreter, a wonderful job with 
6,000 rubles monthly, in one of the international 
hotels in Moscow. You will have free food, a 
wonderful room, international atmosphere, allowances, 
etc. You shouldn t miss this opportunity, think it 
over. " 

The boy went home, and he began simply to think 
about it, and to discuss it with his stepparents. 
The stepparents warned him, "You fool, you will 
regret it a thousand times, don t go anywhere near 
them. There is an air of ruin around this building 
(the consulate). You don t know them; you lived 
there only as a child; you couldn t see things as 
they really were! " 

Then they came again, and he visited them again; 
he was welcomed with open arms, and visited them more 
and more. And finally, he took the offer. They paid 
his way, everything, to go back to the Soviet Union 
to get the wonderful job. Six thousand rubles a month 
as an international interpreter in one of the great 
Moscow hotels. 

So he took the plane. The stepfather was not 
even speaking to him, but his stepmother was crying, 
talcing him out to the airport. He took the plane 
from Caracas to another city. At the airport he met 
two other adopted boys, one from Cuba and one from the 
United States. They made the flight, everything in 
a very gay mood Casablanca, Algiers, Rome, to Milan. 
In Milan airport a Soviet consul accepted them, 
because the next stop was the Soviet airfield at 
Baden, in Austria. They were greeted warmly. "You 
are on your way to the fatherland! " They were given 
a bottle of vodka, and then boarded a plane provided 
by the Russian military mission from Rome for Baden. 
They landed. One of them said, "See the soldiers in 
blue uniforms (the MGB troops). What are they doing 
here? Why aren t there regular troops?" 

When the airplane set down, they got out with 
broad smiles, ready to greet their compatriots. But 
the compatriots were standing like statues, with 
tommy guns in their hands. Then when they came out 
from the planes they began to smoke, they were ordered 
roughly: "Hands behind your backs! Throw away your 
cigarettes! It is forbidden to smoke! Where do you 
think you are?" 


Nagy : "But tovarishchU " 

"Hands behind your backs!" And they were thrown 
into a black prison van without windows, for special 
prisoners, which was waiting for them, and a half hour 
later he landed in our cell, and was telling me the 

Why did they get this special treatment? They 
were not American GIG or CIA representatives; they 
were not endangering the Soviet Union. The answer is 
prestige, to show that the NKVD could pick up anyone 
they wanted. One must understand their psychology. 
They are materialists, but sometimes they want to 
prove that they can pick up somebody, even in 
Venezuela, and he had come voluntarily. This was the 
biggest triumph of all. 

This was in the prison at Baden. I don t know 
what happened to him after that. And his people in 
Venezuela heard nothing more from him, and probably 
concluded that he had a good living, and didn t write 
because he was not interested in contacts with 



Nagy: Prom Baden we went to Neunkirchen to the transport 

prison, from May 10 to August 23, 19*1-9. Every three 
months a transport of ^500 was leaving. 

In Neunkirchen there was much trouble; 
they struck. They suppressed It; there were some 
traitors. The food was bad, they refused once to 
eat, they made a strike. 

Pierce: How much could you talk? 

Nagy: Everyone would tell his whole roman it gets on your 
nerves; I never did it, they tell everything. They 
lie, adventurers, there is much trash gathering 

Then the transport Italian cars, remade. Doors 
in the middle, European fashion. Prisoners were put 
into the two ends of the car. The doors were always 
kept open. You could see only soldiers like an 
Innocent military transport. Because they were 
separated from the prisoners by barbed wire. 

There were 22 prisoners on each end, separated 
from the center compartment by barbed wire, or iron 
bars. We were not allowed to speak, and we were so 
pressed together that we had to sign with our hands, 
from one side to the other that we were turning over. 
And miserable food. Beaten up terribly. This lasted 
for nine days. 

We were quickly taken through Austria and 
Hungary but in Chop, on the border station we waited 
eight days till we got cars with broad rails. This 
was already on Soviet soil. The door was open and a 
person could stand before the car and see some soldiers 

Nagy: and think this was an innocent Russian military 
transport. Camouflaged unbelievably. 

Once over the border, we were unloaded into 
Stol.ypin.skie vagony and taken to Lemberg (L vov). 
The Stolypinskie type are only for short transportation. 

At Lemberg we were unloaded into regular rail 
road cars, with watch towers built on them and 
telephone lines and soldiers running on the tops. 
Control every few miles, so they don t try to open 
the floor. Prom Lemberg I was taken to Siberia. 

I went there in the usual prison transport, in 
the usual crude way, and usual people dying during 
the transport. There were the usual remarks when we 
complained, that they should not deal out such treatment 
to valuable state property such as cattle. The most 
polite remark was usually "Gde rubliat les letaet 
shchepki," When they cut the forest, branches are 
breaking. There was the usual transportationdogs 
and with hammers and the beatings, and swill water 
that we got to drink. 

Camp Life 

Nagy: Central Siberia was a most interesting area. 

Completely restricted; off limits even to Soviet 
citizens. Perhaps it is not open even today, with 
completion of the Taishet-Lena railroad. I built it. 
It goes through Kirensk to the Lena R. 

Where there are no railroads, everything is 
transported on the rivers. Now that they have a 
railroad, they bring things there, then load them on 
ships and they are brought to Yakutsk and the Arctic. 
It is a very important area. There are hidden 
military deposits and stores in the jungle (taiga). 
Most of their atomic experiments are performed there. 

That was in 1950, but I was once again in that 
area, in 1955, after the revolt at Dzhezkazgan-Kingir. 
This is what I would like to point out to some dumb 
Americans what a change had taken place. I didn t 
recognize it when I went back, after five or six years, 
It was unimaginable what they had done there, and the 


Nagy: whole Siberian railroad had changed in the years 
between. Rebuilt new. Incredibly built. The 
railroad was incredibly modernized, with everything 
automatic and electrified. When the new power 
stations, which they are building everywhere, are 
ready Angara and Irkutsk, OB & Irtish & Novosibirsk 
& Omsk they want to- electrify the whole Trans- 
Siberian railroad. 

Transport in Russia is mostly by rivers and 
railroads. Road transport is very poor. There are 
good roads only around cities. (Paved streets, except 
in large thoroughfares in main cities, mostly end at 
the Urals.) But the railroads are wonderful. 

We stayed first in a couple of camps on this 
mystery railroad between Taishet, Bratsk, Kirensk 
and Ust-Kut all along the railroad. I was rather 
often thrown from one camp to another because I refused 
to work and nobody wanted to keep such good material. 
When there was a transport possibility the commander 
was very happy to get rid of me. And I was not against 
it because when we came to a new camp, we could always 
try out new tricks against work that they didn t know 

Anyhow every day it was a frightful existence. 
It was something terrible. 

Gamps were alike and unlike. Maybe camp areas 
were alike; it depended on what work was done there. 
It depended on the person of the commander very much; 
he could improve a lot or he could make it a lot 
worse. It made a terrific difference if he was a 
good man, an indifferent man, or an evil fellow. If 
he was a good man, he could make life more or less 
tolerable and with not such a great percentage of 
fatalities. Naturally he couldn t cure basic things, 
as for instance if Moscow was not providing medicines, 
if Moscow gave for instance instructions that invalids 
were not to be cured in hospitals, only people who 
are worthwhile because they can work. 

Someone could die of TB without a drop of 
penicillin or streptomycin. It was out of fashion 
till 1955. In whole TB colonies, of 250 people 80 
might have an open form of TB, spitting blood and 
everything, and not a gram of streptomycin or 
penicillin. If someone got it from home in parcels, 


Nagy: then they gave it. Those who didn t get it were 
dropping dead. 

But when it was an evil commander he sent these 
open forms of TB out to work. That he should have 
a big percentage at work. They found out that TB is 
not an illness. 

"Why shouldn t you work in the fresh air?" 
(A ty na vozdukh ne rabota li?) 

But in the fresh air there should be entirely 
different conditions; you should have a choice of 
work, entirely different food, entirely different 
medicine and care. 

The camp commander was called Grazhdanin 
nachal nik. But every little warden, every little 
nadziratel* liked to call himself grazhdanin 

naohal nik. 

The camp commander, however, did not have such 
great power as the oper-upolnomocheny * , the political 
officer. The camp commander couldn t do anything 
without the signature of the political officer on 
the document. So the real power, even when the 
commander was a major or a colonel of the MVD and 
the political officer was only a lieutenant, the 
final work was his in everything, in liberation from 
work, in putting somebody in the kitchen to work, in 
putting someone in the medical sanchas to work, or 
making someone a brigadier, or in putting someone in 
the camp prison (izoliator). Everything lay with him, 
sanctified, and the commander couldn t change it. 

This changed somewhat after the destallnization, 
but not very much. The political officer was still 
an important personality. 

And with the third type of commander, the 
indifferent ones, then the criminals took over. This 
was the most disgusting of the whole situation, the 
criminal rule. Because the commander was interested 
mainly in getting the percentage of work, and that 
people did not escape. As a matter of fact the whole 
administration was interested in this. That was all. 
But what went on inside the camp in the so-called 
zona in the lager, about that they did not care, and 
the criminals took over completely and they established 


Nagy: such a regime there that I shall never forget for 
the rest of my life. 

This was the worst of the whole experience. We 
always called it the second punishment (vtorol 
nakazanie) Well just concerning the Russian 
criminology, the criminal mir, a special session is 
worthwhile for the west doesn t know anything about 
it. It is a special caste. They call themselves 
urkl. vory (thieves). They have connections with 
free thieves and murderers and they are in one group, 
in and outside. 

Their great patron was Stalin, vrho was also 
something like a half criminal element in his youth, 
and so he had sympathy for this element and he didn t 
allow any strict or drastic measures to be taken 
against them. While he lived any order of the MVD 
or ministry of justice was impotent against them 
because Stalin was their patron. To him a murderer 
or a vor could have a clear conscience, but a 
capitalist or bourgeois element could, not, for the 
former committed a crime against only one person, but 
the latter a political crime against 200,000,000. 

With such sophisticated, theories this rabble 
established, themselves as somehow proud, and when 
political prisoners arrived in criminal camps 
sometimes there were only criminals they greeted us 
with t.vrki tools used for breaking stones and loma 
breaking irons and they wanted to kill us, shouting 
that the Fascists are coming fascists such as myself, 
a Jewish fascist. 

And that become worse because of anti-Semitism. 
They made our life impossible in general. They were 
murdering each other, causing fights every day, they 
were for anti -discipline, homosexuality, whatever you 
want. Homosexual raping of young boys or anything. 
They had no taste, compunction, or feeling of decency 
at all. 

It was not unusual to have sexual intercourse in 
the middle of the barrack. Some people would be 
playing cards, some quarreling, some sleeping, and 
there on the side of the table on these koikls. these 
navy beds, two or three high, some people would be 
openly having sexual intercourse. Perhaps he would 


Nagy: be drunk and couldn t get a climax, and you would 
hear the poor woman say, "Enough already, how much 
can you?" (Nu ay Sasha ne khvatit, naskol ko mozhno?) 
And he: "Shut up bitch! "TMolohi sukal Molchi 
pizdat ) , beating her and continuing his efforts. 
Such things were going on, and this was nothing. 

But the women were no better, for I get disgusted 
even today when I think of what they were doing. 
They were worse than the men. Because women were, 
for instance, raping men. This was the atmosphere. 
And then fights among nationalities. The MVD on the 
principle of divida et impera used with pleasure 
everything possible to make fights. 

And inside this thief caste there are two castes, 
the vors and the sukas. The thieves (vors), are 
remaining thieves, and the sukas (bitches) surrender 
to the commander and cooperate. As a rule when these 
people see each other they kill immediately. Because 
if a suka does not kill a vor when he has the chance, 
the other sukas will kill him for letting the other 
live. When transports arrive they are divided 
strictly between suka camps and vor camps, for you 
cannot keep them together it s a mutual massacre. 
Sometimes a transport arrives and as they know each 
other the suka may see a vor so he says "I don t go 
in this camp." The commander doesn t let him come 
in the camp, but lets him wait outside till the next 
train comes, and then sends him to a thief camp. 
Same thing when a suka arrives in a thief camp. 

It was something unbelievable, and it was 
remarkable that the high command tolerated such 
circumstances. More than 15,000,000 slave workers 
all over the USSR, and 10,000 camps, and it was 
everywhere the same. And the guards had very good 
relations with these murderers and criminals. 

And when the criminals came in this was the 
most remarkable they took away immediately from the 
other prisoners the good clothing, good food, etc. 
If someone got a parcel it was only his if the 
nadziratel* gave it to him at the gate. Inside it 
was immediately taken from him. And they knew such 
curcumstances. Criminals began in criminal camps to 
make money. They simply took away half of what you 
had, saying "It was owed to us." (polozhenoi u nas.) 
And when we protested it was hopeless; they beat you 


Nagy: to death, or they stifled you, urinated in your 
mouth... it was hopeless. 

The commanders knew about it but they were 
powerless. They were not interested because they 
made a very good business with the criminals. The 
clothes of the prisoners were sold for high prices 
outside because in the Soviet Union there is an 
unimaginable shortage of clothes. Naturally the 
high commander took part of what they could make for 
it outside, and then they smuggled in exchange vodka, 
better food or anything that they wanted. 

Pierce: Was it usual to have a mixture of men and women 

Nagy: Not everywhere. In the political camps they were 
not mixed at all, but they were in the criminal 
camps. In the so-called "other" camps, special 
closed political camps (osobenyyi zakrytie _rezhimami 
lageriami ) , where I was at first, there was none of 
that kind of mixing. They could come together in 
hospitals, or at work, or in persylkas in the trans 
portation camps. 

Pierce: Were children born in the camps? 

Nagy: Sure, and howl And this was the real tragedy I 

witnessed such cases. Because they left the child 
with the mother for approximately six or seven months. 
Then after a period prescribed by law it would be 
separated from the mother and taken to a detskii sad, 
or nursery. Then you can imagine what a fight there 
was with the mother. Sometimes all the women got 
together and drove out the guards, with hot irons 
and brooms and poured urine and fecalia on them 
this was the solemn reception but finally naturally 
the guards got them because they held back food and 
the mother couldn t give milk for the child and that 
was all. 

But it is a long story and I could give many 
such pictures of it. It is a special world. If 
you can imagine, seven or eight percent of the Soviet 
population was living in such circumstances. It 
would be very strange if a similar percentage of the 
United States population would be sitting in camps. 
It is remarkable that the free world doesn t know 
anything about this and not even enough. And it is 


Nagy: so peculiar and so unique; you find nothing like it 
in any other penal system anywhere in the world. 

Every criminal world, of course, has its own 
traditions, but that in Russia is unique because 
there they created it; they made crimes in order to 
get working power needed for the five year plan. 
People in the Soviet Union are not in jail but in 
camps, because the emphasis is not on punishment but 
on work. 

For a time there were the special camp areas 
for the political prisoners, but after five years 
they were abolished. One of the so-called "other" 
camps was in Europe, in the so-called Mordovian 
republic, a second was the notorious Vorkuta, a 
third was Norilsk, a fourth was Kolyma, in the Arctic 
north in Magadan area, and the fifth was Karaganda. 
These were the centers, for to every such point 
belong 90 to 100 camps. A sixth was somewhere in 
the Altai region, and a seventh was Taishet. Then 
later they raised the number to 11. There was a 
camp in Kazan, another in Mongolia, in Central Asia, 

The katorzhan list a special way of punishing 
from Tsarist times. Not only hard labor but a whole 
way of punishing which was introduced again during 
the war. They abandoned it in 19^?. But what is the 

The tough life began in 19^8. Then they began 
to pick out the political criminals. It was decided 
in Moscow. Not everyone with a poltical paragraph 
was picked out, only they supervised a certain 
commission, all the formuliars and the lichnoe delo. 
the ordinary crimes Iprostye prestupleniia) . and then 
they decided to pick it out and it was not too 
liberal? Many people with political crimes remained 
even after this spets kontingent rule, remained in 
ITL, the regular camps j( JLspravi tel * trudovye 
lager ei ) corrective labor camps, and many of the 
political prisoners, and harder criminals those who 
had murdered eight or nine times these people came 
over also, to make us happy there. Par. 59 > point 3, 
attempted murder, and also not everyone, only those 
who were disturbing too much. There is a great 
consequence how they are doing things. The NKVD is 
the single organization that knows what it does. 


Nagy: (Of course it is no longer the NKVD but the MVD, but 
the memory lives on because of the trials that made 
it notorious, and everyone even today calls it the 
NDVD. ) 

Pierce: What was the MGB? 

Nagy: The MGB was the main group, the former MKGB. The 
MGB officers came to spy on the MVD officers, and 
in every camp the MGB officers had their own sukas. 
denouncers, spies, and they were spying on the 
oper-upolnomocheny * . The officers, with their blue 
shoulder plates, came to the camps every two weeks 
to receive their special spies, and then the commander 
and the other prisoners and the political officer 
wondered what they would report about them. 

Pierce: What could these prisoner-spies report? 

Nagy: To denounce someone is a privilege In the Soviet 
Union not denied to the lowest criminal, or the 
lowest enemy of the party. This is holy, an 
inalienable right. It was really remarkable that 
criminals were spying on officers who were supposed 
to run the camp. It is even more remarkable than 
the fact that the political officers were doing 
business with the prisoners, with the murderers, etc. 
Selling for them what they were robbing in the camp. 
Crime takes uniform and is the state, as the 
Europeans state. 

Pierce: Did you ever see anyone of any prominence among the 
prisoners in the camps? 

Nagy: I met some of the Moscow doctors in the alleged 

doctors plot. Then I met Kovacs Bela, the Hungarian 
peasant party leader who was kidnapped and accused 
and was later repatriated. He took part in the 
Hungarian Revolution as a minister of the government. 
I don*t know what became of him later. He d disappeared. 
I saw some generals, and some very prominent Jewish 
personal! ties. 

I was together with only one of the Moscow 

doctors, Dr. K . A very nice man, highly 

intelligent; he spoke French and German. A product 
of the tsarist St. P. Medical School. He told me 
very interesting things, of the new class, as he 
called it, of the dynasty of Kaganovich. His wife was 


Nagy: a famous singer in the Bolshoi theater. Naturally 
she was immediately deported to Novosibirsk, and 
there she was in the opera theater when he was 
arrested. He told me about Shostakovich, and 
Khachaturian, Prokofief, Muradel, and all these 
musicians, because he belonged to one society and 
especially when the "cosmopolitan" thing came out, 
what a fright and horror there was. People were 
going around like living dead, frightened. 

He told me a very long story, but I wouldn t 
like to state his name, because he was later released. 

I know that people behind the Iron Curtain 
never refrain from using something when it gets in 
their hands. It was that way during the Hungarian 
revolt. LIFE magazine helped to bring about many 
deaths when they printed pictures of the lynching of 
secret policemen; it was a great sensation, they 
didn t cover the people s faces and afterward they 
were identified. I have read in a Hungarian news 
paper how many got eight or ten years or hanging or 

I was with many people thousands who had sat 
since 1935, 1936, 1937, even 1930, all Trotskyists, 
when the great purges began. They told me quite a 
bit, and many of them and most of the political 
prisoners in the Soviet Union come from the Ukr 
and Lith and Esthonia, Latvia and Central Asia. 
Not so many Rxissians are against the regime; it is 
seldom that you see Russians among the politicals. 
They are mainly there on the criminal paragraphs. 
The majority who are on criminal paragraphs are 

Most of the Russians were there for wartime 
offenses, when they deserted by the mass defection 
of the Red Army. The Russians have a special way of 
sentencing people. You could fall in German hands 
as wounded, unable to retreat and they sentenced you 
because you were taken prisoner. They often sentenced 
not individuals, but whole units, looking at maps and 
the history of the war and noting especially cowardly 
behavior in one area, or lack of resistance. They 
would sentence everybody who was in the unit, not 
with relation as to whether the individual was 
responsible, but by unit. This seems strange, but 
there is nothing special about it in a country which 


Nagy: disregards individuality. You disobeyed the order of 
your commander and surrendered to the Germans, so 
you and your entire unit got 25 years. 

The people repatriated after the war were treated 
likewise. They were left alone one and one-half or 
two years and then they were picked up almost 
entirely. Armenians who returned home from the West, 
Russian emigres from Shanghai. It is a very sad 
story. Sometimes they brought along their wives who 
were not even Russian citizens, who did not speak a 
word of Russian, and they left them with young 

Popov- Vy rodov, for instance, a Russian aristocrat 
from Paris, left young children and his French wife 
in a kolkhoz in the Kuban. She was not even allowed 
to write him in that camp. He was very ill. I do 
not know what became of him. Many people died. 

Those Red Army men who had been prisoners of the 
Germans, if sentenced before the death penalty was 
outlawed in 19^7 got ten years. Afterwards they got 
25 years. 

Most of the Vlassov people were shot in 19^5* 
and the rest were all sentenced. Those who escaped 
repatriation should be very happy they don t know 
what they missed. 

Pierce: Did you work on any airfields in Siberia? 

Nagy: I don t know of many of them. In general I can 

state that the airbases there are very modern, along 
with their weather stations all over the Arctic and 
Kamchatka. They have there simply wonderful things, 
and they are completely ready and able to strike at 
any moment. Since my departure these bases have 
undoubtedly become even better, because they are 
constantly building them up. And even then it was 
remarkable what they had done. 

Pierce: What did they do about winter conditions? 

Nagy: The hangars are mostly underground. They lift up 
the planes, only the air strip is on the surface. 
And they are tremendous installations. For this 
there is no limit of money. They are spending as 
much as necessary. Most important, it is not easy 
to steal from the buildings, for everything is under 

Nagy: military rule, and stealing from the installations is 
regarded as treasonable and you can be shot. 

But they do steal of course, though not so much. 
On an average building site 2$% of the material is 
already considered in advance as being lost by theft. 
Officially, but they steal a lot more. They give 
out the material three or four times, but everything 
melts away like snow. Because nobody is interested. 
Most of the workers in the Siberian region for example 
are from ssvlka. deported. And so what, they are 
working there, while living in lachugas, in dirty 
holes, in earth dugouts, covered with wood, and 
building these modern apartment buildings for the 
party officials and the NKVD and for workers that 
come from Russia, and they are building these for ten 
years before they can get an apartment. So they 
steal material and then you see the same material 
appear in the form of private houses around the new 
district, from materials that they have stolen. 

Everybody knows it. Russian public morals don f t 
condemn stealing from the state as a crime. You 
steal from the state: "Good fellow! You are 
wonderful. You can make a living for yourself." 
( Molode t s 1 umeet zhit* ) They even praise you. But 
when you steal from an individual the public opinion 
is very much against it, because other people are as 
poor as you are, and stealing from them is much 

But if you are caught stealing from the state, 
it has another opinion, the state reverses the thing. 
The state is less interested about stealing from 
individuals. You can get four years for stealing 
an apple or two kilograms of potatoes from a kolkhoz. 
They have to do it, because otherwise people would 
steal everything. 

Pierce: Would things have changed with the abolition of the 

Nagy: I was already away, but this should make a tremendous 
difference. Khrushchev is very interested in 
agriculture, and had this funny view of agrogoroda 
agricultural cities. But you see you can improve or 
add or take away, but the basic thing, the forced, 
labor in these kolkhozy, the kolkhoz system remains 
still the achilles heel of the whole Soviet system. 


Nagy: People try to escape from the kolkhoz, and life there 
is still miserable. 

Not many of the Russians have been sent up as 
political prisoners. It is mostly the nationalities, 
and. of the nationalities, very exactly definable 
groups the Baltic and the western part of the Ukraine, 
the Polish Ukraine, and some from Central Asia. But 
not so much there, because there is a great deal of 
oriental oonformism and submission there. Orientals 
are generally conformists. The orientals look much 
differently on many things. Sometimes they are 
disgustingly cooperative. Because for them the 
Bolsheviks are just a kind of giaours, impious. To 
deliver or sell out a giaour is nothing. They don t 
do this with each other, but they sell out with 
pleasure a Christian or a Jew. 

But really these are not the most vital areas 
of the USSR. The real backbone is the RSFSR. In 
their propaganda they are always emphasizing that 
the great Russian people or nation is the backbone, 
the leading power of the Soviet Union (velikii 
Russkii narod rukovodiashohii sil Sovetskogo soiuza) . 
And so it is. Even Stalin recognized all this. He 
flattered and patronized the Russian people. 

Jews have always been a very sad target in the 
last years, since 1950* And a very great number of 
Jews, proportionally, are sitting for political 

Stalin started this campaign about 1950, and 
it continued till Stalin s death, on a very large 
scale. Khrushchev made many changes from this openly 
anti-Semitic policy, and Madame Purtseva (Minister of 
Culture) is a leading anti-Semite. As a matter of 
fact, the Jews are very much restricted in education 
and working opportunities, and are considered 
officially as cosmopolitan and anti-party, and not 
even as second-rate citizens. This remains, even 
after Stalin s death. I had very good information 
that the school restrictions, and military officer 
restrictions, military and air force academy all 
these still stand. No Yiddish theaters were reopened, 
no Jewish newspapers have reappeared since Stalin s 
time. Birobidzhan was disbanded and all the leaders 


Nagy: This is, of course, not on the statute books, 

and the open attacks of the time of the cosmopolitan 
campaign and the doctors trials are not now present, 
but there are veiled hints in the local press as to 
who is meant, and the people know who is meant. They 
know exactly what is meant when the fatherland and 
cosmopolitanism are compared. 

I read in the New York Times recently a statement 
by Madame Furtseva in an interview with a New York 
Times correspondent and when such a thing is said to 
the leading newspaper of the city with the largest 
Jewish population in the world, it is said with a 
purpose that they recently discovered that more than 
half of the employees of one of the ministries in 
Moscow was Jewish. They discovered this! Like a 
plot! And they were dispersed. I know how they 
disperse in the Soviet Union. They do not give them 
a passport. 

No contact with any relative outside the Soviet 
Union is allowed. Contact with Israel in any way 
whatsoever is taboo. Zionism is taboo. And the Jews 
even like to get away from strongly Jewish inhabited 
places; they like to move away and submerge. Thank 
God there is no compulsory religion or nationality 
there you can say that you are Russian and that is 
all. So they go to less Jewish inhabited areas. 
Siberia, Ural, and there they try to submerge. I met 
many of them. At least when I was there they could 
do it. But it is not always so easy, for sometimes 
they Just Indicate their nationality, and to do this 
they must indicate eyrei and for this reason it is 
not so easy. 

The Special World of the Criminals 

Pierce: You have said that the criminal element in the labor 
camps merits a separate treatment. Can you speak of 
it today? 


Nagy: I shall speak first of the Russian criminal world 

in outline, and then we can perhaps go into it deeper. 

The Russian criminal world, as I told you already, 
is a special world, because it differs so much from 


Nagy: the criminal worlds of other countries outside the 
Soviet Union. First, because of the number of 
criminals, which is far bigger than in other countries. 
Second, the Russian people s attitude on crime is 
entirely different from other countries. One of the 
products of the Soviet system is the lack of a general 
morality, and of inhibitions such as faith or religion, 
and family life. The traditions of a thousand years 
of respect for the father and mother were replaced 
in many by the teaching of the state that you should 
denounce your brother or parents. This made the 
general conditions for the broad way of crime in the 
Soviet Union. 

Naturally, it would be ridiculous to speak about 
this question without telling the real reason for it, 
the economic reason. The economic reason is not a 
depression but a living standard dictated by the 
government from very cynical points of view: in this 
state they simply don t want people on a very high 
living standard, and if they did want it, they 
couldn t have it. 

They do it just to force everybody to work; it 
is a simple thing; they put down the wages so that 
mothers of the children the women are forced to 
work. The man cannot support the family alone. This 
is the basic thing. They know that money is power 
and they take the power out of people s hands. The 
children are supposed to be taken care of in these 
children s homes (detskie iasly), youth organizations, 
Pioneers, etc., but this is not the home, and they 
are mixed with children coming from different types 
of homes. Children are always looking for something 
new, for freedom from discipline, so rather than the 
good influencing the bad, it is the wickedest punks 
who are from the earliest youth influencing the other 
children in a bad way. 

So the normal basis is created by the two factors 
I have mentioned the godlessness and loosening of 
the family ties, and the economic misery and the 
general situation, of people being reared out of the 
control of parents. And the most important is the 
senselessness somehow of life. They have taken away 
everything in life that is beautiful and have made 
people into robots. And people see that the social 
injustices in the Soviet Union are so big that people 
who are closest to the Party or the NKVD or who can 


Nagy: can conform in any way are making money. So people 
have no faith in the social order, and if, meantime, 
they see that everybody steals, and who gets along. 
So all of this together, and the knowledge that 
honesty is not enough, that you can t make an honest 
living for yourself, this may be the worst thing now. 
An honest worker simply can t make it. 

Life isn t as it is depicted in the socialist- 
realist novels everybody laughs about it in the 
Soviet Union. They don t dare to say it loudly, but 
in their heart they don t believe in it. So, to 
steal something from the state isn t counted as a 
crime in public opinion, everybody has to steal to 
survive. When you steal from a private individual 
that is considered worse, although not too bad it 
depends on who you steal from. If you rob the 
apartment of a party official, everybody laughs 
about it and they are very happy about it. Or some 
youngsters from better families this is the tragedy, 
the sons of colonels, or of party officials sometimes, 
they form hold-up gangs in the outskirts of Moscow, 
or Rostov or Odessa or Leningrad (these four cities 
are the worst) . 

Naturally, this did not improve in recent years, 
but was very far from being complete. This is the 
main reason for the development of crime. Now in the 
camps the criminals are forming mainly in two groups 
there are the thieves, the vor, the blatnye . In the 
Moscow argot, to have blat means that someone has a 
protection, so blatnoi means protectionist. 

khoroshii blat he has a good position in the communist 

But in the camp, as far as the criminals who are 
ruling are concerned, they are not going to work and 
they get special food from the kitchen, and they are 
not doing anything. In the camp they call them the 
protectionists. So the blatnoi were picking on the 

The vory are divided into two main groups, the 
so-called vory the thieves and the sukhi . literally 
bitches, but having the same meaning as bitches in 
English; not women, but a very derogatory name in 
Russian for thieves who work for the NKVD or MVD 
inside the camps. Because the vory have a very 
strict law. They are supposed to be where they can 


Nagy: keep their laws, but everything Is conditional on a 
very honest organization. Their first law is that 
they are not to work they must not work in the camp. 
No work at all, and once the commander succeeds in 
driving them out to work that is a shame and ruins 
their status completely as vory. They can redeem 
themselves later [but for the time being] their 
status as vory is ruined completely. 

In the meantime not only they don t have to work, 
to do camp work, or any work, or for the commander, 
but they have not the right to take the slightest 
work for the commander. Sometimes because the inmates 
have a horrible reputation; the commander takes 
pleasure in having them organize the slave work, 
but the vory have not the right to take it. If he 
takes it then he becomes sukha. The principal 
difference is that it is the vory who are criminals 
nothing political and thieves, and never had to 
serve the NKVD inside the camp, and the sukhi are 
also criminals but are bowing before the NKVD and 
serve them. 

Pierce: Were there any other groups? 

Nagy: The vory and sukhi I consider as one group. A second 
group were less important criminals who were convicted 
on a criminal paragraph but were not professionals. A 
third group was the political prisoners. And the 
fourth group are the katorzhany, those with a special 
sentence. The katorga was from the old Tsarist times, 
abolished by the Soviet Union and during the war they 
reestablished it a special criminal group. They are 
also political but very special. 

The official system on the other hand had only 
two categories: .sjets and not spets. that means 
dangerous political crimes, and others, and bytovye 
stat ia* For instance, not every political criminal 
got in the spets contingent, or special contingent, 
and they were getting some very dangerous criminals 
also in the spets contingent incorrigibles. 

Thus, the four category system is the realistic 
or actual classification, made by the prisoners. 
Many political prisoners were in the spets category 
who were easier cases, of political crimes or 
political actions. Some very dangerous criminals 
murderers, etc. were brought over with the politicals, 


Nagy: so the politicals were considered as very dangerous 

Pierce: Were there homosexuals? 

Nagy: There were homosexuals, but not too many, a very 

small group; I didn t meet many. There is a great 
deal of homosexuality inside the camps but people are 
not sentenced because of homosexual crimes. Homo 
sexuality is considered as a crime in the Soviet 
Union. In most places they get five years for it, 
but in the Central Asian regions and in the Caucasus 
they are greatly infected by homosexuality because 
of their Moslem traditions; there they give eight 
years for it, because the authorities want to persecute 
it more. 

Inside the camp it is a crime sometimes when 
they have nothing else to do and somebody is caught 
they give him a second sentence for it but I haven t 
met more than two or three such cases. 

Pierce: But was it not a useful means of exchange between 

Nagy: It was. In a certain way yes, but in the main people 
didn t care too much about it, they were too tired. 
They knew of many people who were homosexual in the 
camp, and they were accepted in society; they didn t 
bother too much about it. It is not as it is in 
American prisons. 

It is interesting that in the Soviet Union 
outside the camps it is very rare. They are somehow 
not as decadent as in the West. It is very rare that 
you hear of it there except with regard to the Central 
Asian and Caucasus regions, and that is habit. But 
inside the camp naturally it was very acute. People 
of all classes had 25 year terms and they were going 
for this. The criminals are also very prone to 
homosexuality because they have no moral inhibitions 

The [other prisoners] were simply not interested 
in it from a social point of view. Sometimes they 
would not interfere, but if someone tried to rape a 
young boy they would sometimes take action, but if 
[the perpetrator was a person of influence] no one 
would dare do anything. But on the other hand 


Nagy: sometimes a whole barracks would beat the guy and chase 
him out of the barracks, throw his mattress from the 
barracks, etc. And then some other cases, especially 
during the transportations, when you had no friends 
around you, then you could be raped very easily. 
Then the criminals fought you with knives, it was 
really bestial. 

So these were not as in American prisons; these 
were the main groups. The real professional criminals 
were the vory and sukhi. and the ciniinals made by law, 
the politicals, and the katorzhany, who were also 

So again about the organization of the vory and 
sukhy. The yor laws are very strict. As I said, 
they were never to work. They must not perform any 
service for the NKVD and the commander. They must 
not pay for anything which is available inside the 
camp, and they have such an authority that if they 
get anything outside the camp, they have to pay only 
money for things, and they always have money. 

They take anything they want from you, and like 
the Japanese samurai, they have the right to kill you 
always. The only thing they have not the right to 
take is your daily food ration (dnevnvi r>oe*k). the 
food that you get from the administration; they have 
not the right to touch it. They have not the right 
to take away your clothing without giving something in 
return. They can take good clothing and give you rags 
for it, but they must always supply something. 

When they regain their freedom, they must 
immediately resume thieving. This is the only way 
that they can live; they can never go to work in 
freedom either. If after five years you have not 
been arrested again then it is suspected that you 
cooperate with the NKVD, and you go through a thorough 
investigation. They have contact with each other all 
over the Soviet Union. It was remarkable that when 
we arrived, for instance, from Kolyma at the jail in 
Omsk, to go to Central Asia the criminals arrived, with 
us at five o clock, and at seven o clock in the evening 
the duty warden (dezhurnyi) came in with a big bunch" 
of cigarettes and canned food and fruit and white 
bread and cakes and everything. The criminals of 
Omsk immediately brought in a full transport because 
they knew they were coming. And I saw the same in 


Nagy: Moscow and everywhere else. 

Then what else? So after five years they can 
investigate you. When you get in the camp they 
immediately surround you, and if you have not been 
arrested in five years it s "Pavla, where have you 
been in these five years, you bitch (Pavla, gde ty 
sukha byl?) , what have you done?" For it was 
impossible that you could always steal and in five 
years not be arrested. You could only have gotten by 
by being a provacateur for the NKVD. It was logical. 

Then they have a certain moral code; they are 
responsible for every killing. They have always in 
every camp a so-called senior avtoritetnyi. or 
ataman, the chief. They must blindly obey him. He 
is the boss. Inside every camp they elect him in a 
very democratic way themselves. Not by votes, but 
by public consent; and it is very democratic, every 
body can tell what he has against him, but this 
democracy is only for the thieves. 

Like in Greece, everyone is considered garbage 
(musor) outside of the vory class. Except for sukhys , 
they remain sukhys the enemies. Political prisoners, 
or anybody else you can be a university professor, 
a general of the army, or kolkhoznik (collective 
farmer) you are musor. They are the aristocracy. 
The whole world is reversed; what was on the bottom 
before comes to the top. They cannot take part even 
in plays that are organized in the club, or theater 
ensembles, activities ( samo-deiatel nost* ) of the 
different camps because this is also degrading; it 
is not for an aristocrat. They support culture, like 
Maecenas. They gather money even from their own 
sources; they buy clothes for the artists, and they 
look for plays, and they give all support to every 
cultural activity in the camp; they rent films, for 
example, from their own pocket to show pictures when 
they want to see them, they are really generous, but 
they have not the right to take part in anything. 

If they murder somebody, even not a vor, they 
must give a strict account for every human life taken. 
If it is not approved, they must be punished. When 
they play cards, they must pay their debts immediately. 
When they play cards it is not for money, it is for 
clothing. If they do not pay their debts at that 
time, they lose their status as vory and they can be 


Nagy: In an argument a vpr shouldn t let himself be 

offended by any mufior. I have seen with my own eyes 
an argument with a new camp inhabitant, who didn t 
know this law yet, he was a Lithuanian and these 
Baits are very honest and they were very much concerned 
about this life that was going on, they didn t want 
to recognize it, and they had an argument, word by 
word, and he said, "Shut up! (Zamolchlt ) Shut up, you 
whore!" and worse. And the Lithuanian talked back 
in same manner saying some words and grappled with 
the yor. And he went down, and two vor.v jumped 
immediately to help him and put out the Lithuanian s 
eyes. I witnessed this thing. 

So, he must keep his authority. Sometimes they 
are playing cards and have nothing else to pay for, 
and there is some wicked commander or commissar, or 
oper-upolnomocheny * ( political officer), and they play 
for his life, ^hey are put on the card, and if you 
lose then you will zarubit* ego, you will cut his head 
with an axe. This could be the camp commander or the 
nachal nik rezhima or warden or anybody. And he must 
do it. I was in such a camp where the nachal nik 
rezhima s head was cut in two. He survived the whole 
war as a partisan in the rear of the German army and 
then he was assigned to this camp. He was a very strong 
man and very successfully fighting against the 

For instance, the criminals put taxes on everybody 
else; they simply come to you and you must give up 
half or all of your salary. And if somebody gets a 
parcel, he must take it first to the criminal and he 
takes out from the parcel whatever he wants and the 
rest is yours; you can t even open this parcel; he 
opens it. It is hopeless to resist; you can make only 
trouble for yourself. 

They are terrifically organized. They get 
contributions from the kitchen; they get whatever 
they want from the prisoners, special food, everything. 
Zalozhena. When they come to the barracks they can 
go to anybody and get them up from bed because they 
are sleepy and want to occupy a good place. They have 
an absolutely homogeneous, strong and efficient 
organization. When they are four or five they can 
terrorize five hundred people, and it is the old 
principle that organized violence can do anything 
against an unorganized majority. It is the best proof. 

Nagy: We were unorganized; they were organized. It is 
the best proof for me; the whole communist system of 
Stalin was similar, and he learned very much from 
them; he was a great patron of them; it was impossible 
to do anything against them when Stalin was alive. 

They have constant fights, and they are killing 
people; they are forbidden to carry any sort of fire 
weapon; but they can carry knives or an axe. 

They could be of any age, from 1? to 60. 
Authority doesn t depend on age; it depends on what 
you have done outside, and they know your activities. 
The life of a thief, a life of violence, how many 
people you have killed, who you have killed. If you 
kill a guard that meant you did such a great service 
for your fellow prisoners that you were exempted for 
the rest of your life from working in the camp. And 
if you killed a political officer that was the highest 
possible thing. In principle they are the greatest 
enemies of the system; they hate communism and they 
are against the whole thing. It s something like an 
automatic but a very ill considered revolt against 
the Soviet system. 

Now the sukhys are considered to have been 
formerly criminals, and they have all the evil and 
recklessness of the criminals, but they have not their 
laws. So the Russians say that Vors are 25 times shit, 
and sukhys are 100 times shit. (Vor dvadsat* plat* 
raz govno sukha sto raz govno.) This is the difference, 
because they have all the recklessness, ruthlessness, 
experience, strength, organization, and cruelty and 
inhumanity and insanity but they are not restricted at 
all. The sukhys are serving the commanders, they are 
the brigadiers most were brigadiers they are killing 
people, they are oppressing people, taking every 
parcel, denouncing people, whatever you want. 

For the sukhy no law exists, only one law that 
they are afraid of the vqry because if the vory met 
sukhy they began immediately to fight. If war is 
declared and two hostile vessels meet at sea, they 
have to start to shell one another, they can t bypass 
each other. And so there are such cruel fights as I 
can recount, that I have seen and that I know about 
massacres, mass murders that they are officially 
separated by law, by the directive of the MVD. When 
you form a camp you have to declare it principally a 


Nagy: sukhy camp or a vory camp, and you can never send a 
vor to a sukhy camp and you can never send a sukhy 
to a vor camp. And if one should come by accident, 
you have to keep him separate in solitary confinement 
in the camp jail until he is taken away the next day, 
giving him armed protection in taking him in or out 
of the camp. They don t even go in; if they look in 
and say, "There is the hunchback Nikolai" (0 tarn 
Nikolai Khramoy) . whom they know very well, they refuse 
to go in, and then they declare that they are sukhys 
and they are taken away. 

When some commanders have wanted to eliminate 
them mutually, they let them into the camp. Such a 
case occurred in a camp between Krasnoiarsk and 
Kemerovo, there was a massacre in the bath house. 
They wanted to get rid of the vory. The sukhys were 
out at work and they came in and he informed them 
actually by "accident"; they left open the 
instrumental *ka. as they always do when they want to 
do such a thing, where the axes and all the tools for 
work are kept. The instrumental * ohik got the order 
from the commander just before closing that he must 
do a half hour work somewhere else. They were informed 
already what was going on, even that the instrumental ka 
would be open. So they came in, armed with axes, and 
you can imagine it, with these naked people, standing 
in the shower, and they went in and slew, I think, 
32 or 35 > I don t remember which. You can imagine 
that they were defenseless and helpless, washing them 
selves in the shower, and suddenly the sukhys stormed 
in with axes. 

So the vory are not always the most powerful. 
The terrible fights usually take place in the 
peresyl ka, the transit camps, where they can t 
separate them. Then they make a vor zone and a sukha 
zone, etc., and there are other lower groups, the 
tsvetnye. the polutsvetnye. the urk i These are 
groups under the yory_ or the sukhy The tsvetnoi 
means colored, it means that they have something to 
do with the vory. they help them, for not everybody 
can enter this aristocracy class; if you help them 
then you get titles for it. Polutsvetnoi means a 
little cooperation, ul ki are the young thieves, of 
17 to 2b. And then you can work your way up, but a 
vor must be a real vor. You can t be accepted in the 
vors from the camp. You must be a vor in freedom, a 
thief. You can help them, and get more respect; they 
are grateful for any help. 

Pierce: How can you tell one from another? 

Nagy: They know each other very well from outside. They 
have no signs; they are well informed from freedom; 
they check immediately when you come in, who you are. 
If you are from Moscow or Leningrad, and people are 
sitting [in prison] everywhere; they ask who you 
know from Moscow, or from Leningrad, and if they try 
to lie that means certain death. You can cooperate, 
you can help them, and they are grateful, as I said, 
and these are the tsvetnye and polutsvetne.v 

Besides these and the urki there are the 
bezzakonnyi, also a kind of vor. who are not working 
for the commander and not creatures of the movement, 
but they don t keep the laws very strict^; they 
sometimes violate the laws. Of course, not the 
fundamental laws, such as not to cooperate and not 
to work. 

Pierce: How do they get away with this? 

Nagy: The commanders are incapable of stopping them, because 
they are organized. When there are 30 or *K), or even 
20 or 10 in a thousand slave workers, they can raise 
the whole camp in rebellion if they want, so they 
leave them alone. 

Pierce: Then while everyone else is out working this little 
group is always around the camp doing nothing? 

Nagy: Sure, always! They can go out to work; they are 

always changing laws temporarily; before it was that 
you could not even go outside the camp, but now they 
can go out but they must not work outside; they can 
sit down beside the fire or koster. The commanders 
in other days supported them because they made good 
business with them; because they could sell only 
through the commander the things which they were 
getting inside. Sometimes the commanders are against 
them; but most they cooperate. 

Pierce: Are they hated by most of the rest of the prisoners? 

Nagy: Mostly they are hated and held in contempt, but the 
others are unable to do anything because they are 
well organized. 

Pierce: Even if there are only five out of 500? 


Nagy: Nobody dares to touch them because they are organized 
not only In this camp but in others. You can defeat 
them in this camp but when you go in another camp 
they simply would chop off your head. Because they 
send orders to another camp that this man is coming 
who was doing this and this. Incrediby quick; and 
you don t know how. Because they are connected with 
free people and they are able to send letters 
illegally, and you can arrive in another camp and 
five years later they chop off your head for a thing 
that you have done there. The punishments are always 
for 15 or 25 years and you always have time to see 
them again. 

Pierce: So actually it isn t only five out of 500, because 
they have these other categories of helpers. 

Nagy: Even if they are only five, they are terrifically 
organized all over the Soviet Union. 

Pierce: How many tsvetnoi would there be? 

Nagy: This is the trouble, naturally. The tgvetnoi are 
many, sometimes 50 or 60, and they are allies 
serving allies. The very can count on them and they 
can count on the commander and they can count on the 
cowardice and disorganization of the other prisoners. 
Mostly this is the main thing, unfortunately, that 
they can surely count on. 

Women Prisoners 

Nagy: And the same organization exists among women. The 
woman thieves are exactly the same. And it is a 
very interesting thing, if a woman of the thief 
aristocracy class meets a man of the corresponding 
class the woman has immediately to give him sex. 
This is the law, but you have not the right to give 
sex to anybody else, only to thieves. Immediately. 

For instance, when you are travelling on the 
train, you know the Stolypinskie vagony (Stolypin 
cars) they are divided in little cells, sometimes 
mixed together. They can put in the political with 
the vory because they don t care about each other. 
Otherwise there is a sukhy vagon and the vorys living 


Nagyz together with the politicals, and mixed, but little 
cells, with a corridor, and then the guard inarches 
on the corridor. Then you hear voices, and the 
thieves begin to call out: "Girls, girls!" ( devki . 
devki ) . 

And you hear them answer. "Are there zhuchki 
among you?" (U vas tarn zhuohki est*?) Zhuchki 
beetles is the name of the women thieves. 


"How many?" 

The guard says Shut up! (Zamolchlt) They reply 
with insults, calling him garbage, telling him, "Get 
out of here!" When he sees that, he can t shoot; he 
is singlehanded, so he leaves them alone. 

"So there are zhuchki among you?" Then the 
conversation begins again. 


"When are we going to f k?" 

"When we arrive at the camp! There is no 
possibility in the train! " 

And then, "What is your name?" 

Answer: "Natal ia" or "Tania," etc. "Do you 
know us?" 

"The one I know is an old whore, I f d her 

in the Vorkuta camp two years ago. The other one is 
a new piece of meat." And so it goes on. 


Once I observed between Dzhezkazgan and Karaganda 
a very noble scene. Because there are two kinds of 
transports, where you are in a big vagon all the way, 
completely free a freight wagon and you are guarded 
only from the outside, and there is the shorter 
transport, a zak vagon. or zakliuchennyi vagon . with 
a corridor, and the cells separated, and in the 
corridor the guard is marching, and in the cells 
there may be 10 or 20; they are supposed to have a 


Nagy: maximum of ten people but there are sometimes ^-0. 

They are not supposed to travel in these longer than 
two days because there are impossible conditions, 
for instance, no facilities to do your needs, etc. 
They let you out principally in the corridor, but 
sometimes the best way is to piss in your shoes and 
to pour it through the window, because they don t 
let you out. 

But this scene that I was telling about; the 
girls were separated and not allowed to speak to the 
men, and what happened? They were asking the way out 
to the toilet, and the one soldier is standing in 
the corridor, guarding, and the other is standing by 
the door of the toilet, only he is not going in with 
you when you go inside. In fact he is always keeping 
the door open when you go inside. And there was this 
girl, a very nice gracious woman, and she lifted her 
skirt, and it was diarrhoea, and all over the boots 
of the soldier, a gracious move! And he was stinking 
for the rest of the week. He called her a string of 
names, but what else could he do? 

Pierce: He couldn t punish her? 

Nagy: What could he do? He has not the right to touch 

anybody during a transport. He can give a note to 
the guard who is taking her over, but it doesn t mean 
anything. He can call for handcuffs to be put on but.. 
They are hopless cases to deal with. This is the 
difference between men and women. The guards hate 
women prisoners because they are inconsiderate to 
them. A man, you know what he may do, he may attack 
you with a knife or hit you with his fist, but a 
woman she will find out something else; she will pour 
a plate of shit over you, or press you down to the 
ground and piss in your mouth. If they are united, 
and 20 or 30 jump you it is hopeless. 

We were going away from one camp I shall never 
forget it and women were supposed to come instead 
of us in the camp, and the commander was out of his 
mind, saying, "I got along somehow with the men, but 
now they bring these whores to me, what shall I do?" 
He knew very well that there would be a great deal of 
trouble for him. ( 

Pierce: Do the women have the same sort of organization as 
the men? 

Nagy: Not identical, they belong to the same organization. 
Pierce: They are the molls, then, as with gangsters? 

Nagy: The same. But the women are different in the homo 
sexual business than the men. The women have a 
special homosexual organization; they are somehow 
more shameless than the man, because when a man is 
homosexual he tries to hide it somehow, he doesn t 
flaunt it, but the women are not ashamed of it at all, 
and they are united in a homosexual group, the kobl y , 
the whores for women. And they dress in men*s 
clothes, openly; they cut their hair and they put on 
these Leningradskie kapkl, these little Russian caps, 
and boots, and they bind down their breasts, and they 
are thus trying to be completely like men, aping the 
attitudes of men, smoking, cursing. But this is only 
in the slave labor camps. Outside there is nothing 
about it. And these kobl y make a terrible mess in 
the camp; it is the worst thing. What do they not 

"Reform" Measures After Stalir. 

We must not forget that now after the death of the 
criminals* patron, Stalin, the situation of the camps 
Is somewhat different. He was their patron in the 
sense that he made impossible any decisive moves from 
the communist party and the NKVD against them, because 
they were simply demoralizing and affecting badly the 
work of many camps, with their terrorism and anything 
else. The NKVD didn t like that and wanted to move 
against them several times and crush them, but it 
was impossible because of the old gentleman. 

After his death immediately there was an ukaz 
issued that so-called camp banditism (lagerriyi 
bandi ti zm ) was punishable by martial law and by 
death by shooting. And that meant very much, although 
they immediately found that camp banditism is when 
you kill somebody; it doesn t apply when you put out 
his eyes or make him a cripple. For something like 
that they got five days of solitary confinement or 
were sent to another camp. 

So this was the first step. And they were 
beginning to pick out the most notorious cases and 

Nagy: transport over to closed jails ( zakry tyi tiurmi ) for 
very strict punishment. And this they didn t like 
because they can exist in the camp, and they can get 
a wonderful life in the camp, like a king, and be 
aristocrats, but when they put you in solitary 
confinement and give you black bread through the 
window and salt fish, etc., you don t know what kind 
of way out you have. I have been there, for short 
periods. And the treatment is very harsh, especially 
for them. But it was a great problem because naturally 
they had to build some jails for them Verkhne-ural sk, 
Novosibirsk, to enlarge the Aleksandrovskii tsentral . 
the old one, in Irkutsk, and in Yakutsk there is a 
very notorious jail all over and they are now filling 

But this doesn t concern unfortunately the 
sukhys. and the sukhys are more dangerous and more 

fierce: Have they no comparable organization? 

Nagy: The sukhys also have an organization, as far as all 
sukhys hold together wonderfully. They also have an 
ataman, an av to rite tnai a sukha. Every sukha camp has 
one. The same thing. Only that they have no laws at 

Unfortunately, it is the tragedy that sometimes 
too many yorys are gathering, and then they have no 
way of existence and they must offend people because 
of their high living standards, etc. The kitchen is 
the main issue, because they take away the best 
products. And unfortunately because they are criminals 
and have no morals basically, vor law is very flexible, 
even for vorys. They do anything, they kick over all 
of their laws except for the basic constitutional 
ones, the rights, the inalienable things. But they 
begin by saying that "We are honest thieves; we don t 
touch the food that you get from the administration; 
that s the law for us, we eat only what is in the 
parcels." But when the parcels are already eaten 
then it s "We ll take only your sugar portion," and 
when it was a bigger hunger, then they took away black 
bread as well, and soups and everything. The vory 
are not responsible for things that they do in 
emergency; there is a clause. There are many 
consitutlonal debates between them. There are often 
congresses when they get together with the avtoritetnyi 
and determine and make different demands, etc. 

Magy: For instance, there was a special group. You 

know the "Rokosovshchina, " that Rokosovskii gathered 
during the war from criminals fron all camps, a whole 
army group from volunteers. They were released by 
the hundreds and thousands in 19^1 to make an "honest 
fight for the Fatherland to pay for the crimes that 
they had committed." This was the most insidious 
gang that ever entered Europe. And the famous 
Rokosovskii, sitting also in a slave worker camp, 
sitting because of disciplinary measures because as 
a Polish general in the Hed Army he attacked the 
Germans near Brest-Litovsk, and was given ten years 
in a slave worker camp. And then he was released 
and he was the chief of this Rokosovshchina. organized 
from criminals, vor divisions, and armies and army 
groups. There were so many. 

And now these people naturally you can imagine; 
I don t go into details what they did when they came 
into Europe, it was fantastic, unbelievable. Vienna 
and Budapest and Belgrade and Prague for them it was 
the same to be in a Czech city which was an ally, as 
in a German city which was an enemy, raping and robbing 
and killing. Fantastic! They told the stories in 
the camps. When they were demobilized naturally they 
began to rob again, because this is something which 
is somehow in the blood; they never leave this life. 

It may have been a carryover in part from the 
pre-Communist era, but the Communist system, as I 
told you, introduced these new factors, furthered it. 
So they immediately began to rob again, and then 
they got back in the slave worker camps. Now they 
had violated the basic rule that they took firearms, 
and they went in the government service. So it was 
a grave constitutional issue, how were they to 
receive this Rokospvsh china . 

One party that was vigorous considered that if 
they took arms in their hands, they worked for the 
government in some form, so they were to refuse. 
And the other people said that anyhow they took arms 
in their hands to defend their fatherland Russia, 
not the communist system itself, because this is the 
system of the secret police (ohekist.v) . because 
these are the main enemy. (Even today, when it has 
changed from Cheka to OGPU to NKVD to MGB to MVD, 
they call them even today Chekisty. ) So the other 
party said they were just fighting for mother Russia, 

Nagy: and then in case anybody had any doubts, they 

redeemed everything; they had begun to steal again, 
so they were complete gentlemen again, and here they 
were again. It was a great issue, a great debate, 
and they were never completely reestablished in their 
rights. When I left the debate was still going on. 
There were some regions, as in the north, where they 
were refused completely. Noril sk and Vorkuta and 
Kolyma refused them. Karaganda and Mongolia and 
Altai accepted them. Siberia was between. 

Pierce: How does a camp where there are suk.v differ from the 
camps where there are the vory? 

Nagys The suky have a terror regime, unbelievable swinerys 
are going on unrestrictedly if the commander is not 
an honest man. And it is very rare that he is. 
Unimaginable things are going on, and there is 
complete outlawry. There is a wonderful feeling of 
mass psychology. When there were Banderists 
Ukrainian partisans they were united because they 
were many, because they felt such an affinity for 
each other, and sometimes they took action against 
the criminals. 

Pierce: This would be the only group that could stand out 
against them? 

Nagy: The only group that ever stood out against them! 
United as a group. Banderists were Ukrainian 
nationalists who fought against the Soviets for two 
years so after the war, until they were crushed. 
Most of them were sent to the camps. The main thing 
is that they were standing strictly on a political 
basis, and that means that they were rendering help 
to any political prisoner. And they were outspokenly 
against any kind of criminals, because the criminals 
were principally Russian. 

There is no prejudice at all in the criminal 
world. You can enter it as a Jew, a Russian, a 
Ukrainian, a Kazakh, a Kirgiz, a foreigner, anything. 
You must just have a good record as a murderer or 

The vory sell things to the commander the s.ijkhy 
do too but this is the only way that they cooperate 
with the commander. Cooperation is denouncing; they 
deal with the commander personally to make him rich 

Nagy: "because he helps them, but not with the system. The 
commander in fact is strictly forbidden to have such 
transactions; there is a special paragraph in the law 
about contact with the prisoners (sviazy s zakliuchennyml) 
They are not supposed to have any contact w atsoever 
except in their official duties. 

Pierce: You mentioned entertainments, can you describe those? 

Nagy: There were, but not in the so-called spets kontingent. 
The spets kontingent is another story, from the ITL 
camps, or trudovy e lageria, the other camps. The spets 
kontingent are a different story. They are mostly 
politicals, and very few murderers or vpry. and they 
are rather good psychologists. They survey the 
situation, and if they are in a minority they never 
provoke; they go over to autocratic behavior only if 
they feel that they can take over. 

Pierce: Then the vory don f t rule in the stats camps? 

Nagy: They have a great authority but not such an absolute 
and unchallenged rule. The stats camps are full of 
Ukrainians and banderovtsy, but they realize they are 
not in authority; they get certain privileges anyhow, 
but they don t force their authority. 

The entertainments are not in those camps but in 
the ITL camps. 

Pierce: What does the entertainment consist of? 

Nagy: It depends on what kind of kontingent gets together 
and how difficult the work is, because when the work 
is very difficult everybody is drawn into the work, and 
they have no time for rehearsals, etc., and there are 
many invalids and they can form from the invalids 
anyhow a good brigade. 

The programs are mostly propaganda, and some 
musical instruments. Violins, guitars, balalaikas, 
one act pieces, three act pieces even. I was in a 
camp with former Russian emigres from Shanghai, 
including Count Segedi, the son of the former governor 
of Orl province and the intendant of the Russian 
theater in Shanghai. They put on very nice pieces of 
Ostrovskii and Griboedov. 

Pierce: What was he in for? 

Nagy: He had voluntarily repatriated himself from Shanghai 
when the Russians gave this amnesty for the emigres, 
and then he came home, but after two years he was 
arrested for nothing, or for having joined an emigre 
organization 20 years before. 

Pierce: Do most of the camp inmates feel that they belong 
there ? 

Nagy: For the vory the camp is the birthplace (rodnoi dom) 
where they expect to be. There are the teenage 
criminals (the maloletkas) . who are also in camp; 
these are the special group. For these it is a school 
of crime. 

Pierce: These are the bezferizornyi (homeless waifs)? 

Nagy: Bezprizornyi. yes. It is unbelievable what is going 
on. There are mass sex parties between vorys. 5 r 
60 at once, in the barracks, catching a guard, jumping 
on him, pissing on him when they hold him down, etc. 

Pierce: What happens? 

Nagy: Nothing! The children have a great deal of privilege. 
I saw the following in Lemberg (L vov): They asked 
12 or 13 year old punks if they would add some 
mahorka (tobacco) to their quota of food. Not even 
the older people dared make such a request; tobacco 
is not a necessity of life. The commandant refused 
them. He saw the gendarmes through the window. And 
there was a wonderful new roof, just after the 
reconstruction of the barracks, that the Germans had 
destroyed. And they began to throw down the tiles, 
one after the other, from the roof. 

And the commander called out, "What are you 

"Are you giving us the tobacco or not?" 

Naturally the guard couldn t shoot because they 
were inside the camp and the whole population was 
outside watching. (This was a peresyJLJ^ka, a transit 
camp, in the center of the city, in former barracks.) 

And the commander stood there calling, "Stop it! 
Stop it! You re doing damage to the nation! " 

Nagy: "Nation? You are doing damage to the nation! 

We the Soviet Union, the greatest and biggest country 
in the world. So rich I We won the war against the 
Fascists! We are the victorious power, and you are 
depriving us of a little mahorka. We shall destroy 
the whole building if you don t give it! We ll not stop 
the bombardment of the tiles till the evening, and 
if you give us the tobacco we shall keep quiet and 
not destroy the rest of the building." 

And he gave it to them. 

Pierce: Then in a way the camp commander doesn t really have 
a lot of power. 

Nagy: Well, what should power mean in this case, it is 
the power to shoot everybody. It is not the case 

Pierce: Why couldn t he put them in solitary? 

Nagy: There aren t too many solitaries, unfortunately, and 
they also make a mess. These are such reckless 
people that you can only discipline them with the 
strongest possible punishment, to shoot them. 

Pierce: Couldn t they extend their sentence? 

Nagy: They don t give a damn about it. They are already 

under sentence of 20 or 25 years, what can you extend? 
If there should be an amnesty it would involve them. 
But short of that, five days of solitary would mean 
more to them than a 5 year extension on their sentence. 

Pierce: Then in a way it wasn t as harsh as the Nazi camps? 

Nagy I No, it was only harsh in the sense that it was 

hopeless to get out of it because of the carelessness 
of the commander. They didn t kill you, but they let 
you die yourself. The worst was the criminals, who 
robbed and murdered. Ninety-five percent couldn t 
act this way, so for them it was very hard, especially 
for the political criminals who had no legal protection 
whatsoever. Not everybody can do what they did, to 
fight his way through, and murder to get a piece of 

It was 95$ of those who were politicalsthe biggest 
percentage were criminals, but criminals in the sense 

Nagy: that they stole a pound of apples, or were found ten 
rubles short in their accounts, and were sentenced. 
Therefore the biggest part of these people were not 
professional, but the professional criminals rule the 

Pierce: How many were political? 

Nagy: Not too many. Ten or fifteen percent. Maybe twenty. 
It is difficult to estimate. You can t call most of 
the others criminals; they are products of the Soviet 
economic system. 

I got along with the criminals; you have to if 
you want to exist. You can get along with them if 
you have nothing, and I had no parcels, so they gave 
to me rather than taking from me. They never injure 
indifferent people if you don t get in their way. 
They are mostly against traitors, and I was having a 
very firm behavior and they respect those things. 

Sentences run from four, six, eight years, to 
twenty-five. I knew a Tatar boy from Novosibirsk, 
Mukhammedov. He was a 19 year old boy, a very good 
looking, intelligent kid; we met in the hospital. 
He was in for gullganstvg, (hooligan behavior), the 
paragraph concerning it. 

"What did you do?" I said. 

"I was drunk, and while going home in Novosibirsk 
on the streetcar I smashed the window with my fist 
three years I" So he got in the slave worker camp when 
he was 1? years old and in those inhuman conditions 
he was spoiled for a whole lifetime. 

Pierce: You mentioned that in the Lemberg (L vov) incident 

the guards did not shoot because they were inside the 
camp. Is there a rule about that? 

Nagy: You can t shoot inside the camp. At least the 
commander s zvod can t, because there are two 
completely different organizations in the camp, the 
camp administration and the political service, under 
the command of the commander and the political officer. 
And the guards in the tower are the zvod,. 
armed soldiers, of the MVD. Nobody gets arms besides 
them. You can t bear arms inside the camp; it s a 
regulation, a precaution. They are always independent, 

Nagy: and sometimes the kommandir zvod is arguing many 
times with the commanders. There are very rarely 
good relations between the zvod (troop) commander 
and the camp commander. 

So the komiaandir zvod has to give a certain 
permit agreeing to introduce armed soldiers inside 
the camp. And you can t do it immediately. But, 
when you are trying to escape from the camp their 
duty is immediately to open fire. But to shoot in 
the camp requires a permit. 

Pierce: What means would they take to quell a riot among the 

Nagy: In case of a riot they would immediately introduce 

injunctions. It is simply that inside the camp, .lust 
because the commander that wants it does not mean 
that they have the right to open fire. 

Pierce: But what kind of punishment can they use? 

Magy: They have very nice punishment, don f t worry! First, 
there is solitary confinement, when you are sitting 
for five days with a piece of black bread and a glass 
of hot water. They can t keep you there more than 
five days, but of course when you get out, they can 
give you immediately another five days, and this can 
go on for thirty days. And then sometimes they put 
the cuffs on you, and sometimes tighten it almost to 
the point of death. You have to sleep and do every 
thing in them, and you can imagine how cold the iron 

Then if that is not enough they put the rubashka 
(shirt) on you, a strait jacket. The political 
officer can put this on you, but only in the presence 
of the oper-upolnomo cheny * and a qualified physician, 
because it is a terrible experience. They put your 
legs and hands together and pull. And the physician 
must immediately watch your heart. They do it once, 
twice, and three times. They break you so thoroughly 
that you are never a human being any more. And if 
the physician says to stop they must immediately stop. 
It s a terrifying experiment I can tell you. 

I never had it done to me, but was twice on the 
edge of it, but the physician forbade it. But the 
whole camp had it done. I weighed only ?2 pounds, and 




I had a heart condition and tuberculosis. Principally 
they can do it only to the first category of health, 
and there must be certain junctional crimes inside 
the camp. 

They had classifications according to health? 

1, 2, 3, and 

(invalid). I was all at various 

When are you not allowed to work? 

This is absolutely terrible again. Mainly only the 
first and second categories were obliged to work 
outside the camp, in projects, but sometimes in the 
camp they drive out the tuberculars and the invalids. 
And the third category does the work inside the camp 
and the fourth category doesn t do anything the 

Pierce: What is done if an inmate refuses to go outside? 

Nagy: The first measure is solitary confinement, cuffs, and 
deprivation of food. 

Pierce: Do the guards inside the camp all carry guns? 

Nagy: Prohibited. They carry nothing, not even a truncheon. 

Pierce: Then how can they move you about? 

Nagy: Because they have the authority! Of course, I have 
been in camps where nobody cared to come in. They 
lowered the food down from the watchtower. They went 
to the corner of the camp under the watchtower and 
handed it over because they knew that every commander 
and every free person s life had been played away in 
cards in advance, and that they had only to come in to 
the camp to be killed. I was in such a camp. The 
prisoners were such a law unto themselves that they 
ruled the camp, and they took over the food and they 
distributed it. Prom the camp nobody went to work- 
They were mostly vory. Sometimes they burned down the 

Pierce: Did they wreck the camps very often? Here as a protest 
measure they sometimes break the windows, etc.? 


They do. 



Did all the prisoners know each other? 

Did many rumors 





Always. Rumors about whether there would be salmon 
or herring for the evening meal, or whether there was 
fighting between the commander and others on the 
outside; always the expectation of amnesty, and whether 
someone would be released or not, or a new commander 
bad news, good news, new Instructions to the NKVD, there 
is a transport going away or a transport coming, whether 
we will go to work here or there, Improvements or getting 
worse, who has homosexual connections, whether you 
heard them or saw them, are they bringing parcels or 
not, because every two weeks they are going to the 
post office and it is far away sometimes. I never took 
part in this; I Just got nervous when I heard it. 

Did you make any close friends? 

I was sent out together with my underground movement 
with whom I was arrested, and we were always so lucky 
that one or two were around me. There were usually 
some of them in most of the camps we were in, because 
our group was very big. 

I had some very good friends also, besides these, 
mostly among the Orientals, as a matter of fact because 
they were the most honest Japanese, Koreans and 
Chinese, specially the Japanese. Koreans were also 
very nice. The Japanese were mostly former army 
officers. The Kwantung army. When the rest of the 
Japanese were repatriated those who had been in 
counter-intelligence were sentenced as anti-Soviet 
spies, and fitting war crimes on them, the most idiotic 
things, Just to keep them from returning. Murderers. 

Can you tell something of the criminal Jargon, the 
blatnoi iazyk? 

Yes, the blatnoi are commonplace words, with special 
meanings, but there are sometimes more Interesting 
things too, Just as with a language. They use some 
gypsy expressions, and some real underworld expressions. 

Is this slang formed within the camps, or does it come 
from outside? 

It comes from Odessa, Rostov, Moscow, Leningrad from 
the underworld of these four cities. It is a special 


Pierce: Was there much difference between the Soviet camps 
and the Nazi concentration camps that you were In 

Nagy: Yes. Naturally the Russian camps were entirely 

different in organization, and in aim, in every way. 
Firstly, in the Nazi camps the basic difference was 
that there was a war on. Naturally there were many 
brutalities in Dachau, for instance, in 1936 and 1937 
and 1938 but no gas chambers and no mass executions. 
And besides the Russian camps were principally not 
aimed to exterminate the people. They let people 
deliberately die, whom they couldn t .use, but those 
they could use they tried to keep up, because the whole 
slave worker system which at its peak embraced 1^ or 
15 million of the Soviet people was not aimed at 
killing those numbers, but to have them as a labor 
reserve which they knew that they had and could put 
them to work on any of the five-year plan objects 
regardless of their will, regardless of their material 
needs, or anything else. And it was quite useful 

The Arctic riches were enormous coal, oil, gold, 
nickel, etc. and naturally to do something there you 
had to first make preliminary living facilities so 
that human beings could live there and produce because 
there had been no population at all in this tremendous 
region except a few primitive nomads. To make those 
primary conditions of life you needed only slave 
workers to build houses and factories and railways, 
because nobody went there. 

They tried at first, offering good salaries and 
allowances and six hour work and two or three months 
leave, but nothing helped, because people preferred 
lower living standards in the Ukraine or the Caucasus 
or any place else, because the conditions are incredibly 
inhumane. Naturally now when they have built big cities 
like Magadan or Norilsk or Igarka and the conditions 
are better now, people are going there and they can 
use free labor, though still not completely. But to 
make the first conditions in these places, 2,000 or 
3,000 miles distance from the nearest city, as they 
did for instance at Noril sk, Anadyr, Magadan, etc. 
is another matter. 

Conceive, for Instance, of unloading the ship 
on the Enisei, or unloading the train, as they did in 


Nagy: Vorkuta a thousand times. They built the railroad 

to the region where the coal mines were, and when the 
train came in with people everything was covered with 
snow a meter high. The commander went out, stepped 
up to his waist in snow, and put sticks .( prikholki ) 
in the snow: b sticks, and a 5^h in the middle. 
"This will be the fence around, and this will be the 
watchtower at the entrance, the gate. Cut the wood 
and make your barracks and we ll have the camp." 

You can imagine how many people died because they 
had only tents and constant fire. Naturally the 
stronger people fought their way near to the fire, 
and then you could see exactly who was the weaker and 
who was the foreigner and who was not a criminal the 
politicals they were always around, more away from the 
fire. Hundreds of people died while these camps were 
being built up. They established thousands of camps in 
this way. This was in 1936 and 1937; I was not there 
but the people told me. And then it happened also in 
my time in 19*4-9 and 1950. 

All the Japanese, for instance, told the same 
story about this railroad when it was built it is not 
even marked on your map. Almost all the cities were 
built in this way Komsomol sk-na-Amure they call it 
Komsomol ks as if it was built by the Komsomols 
Komsomols like me! And all the big projects. 

This was the real reason for the slave labor camps, 
and this is the most awful truth about it. You shouldn t 
imagine that the Russian NKVD officials are sitting 
and deporting to the slave worker camps and deporting 
political enemies to the camps. No, this is a misunder 
standing of communist theory. On the contrary they 
reformed their whole jurisdiction, reformed their whole 
code of law to create for ridiculous little offenses 
very great and long term punishments, so that it would 
be worthwhile to transport the men aways, to get the 
men and achieve other objectives. First they discipline 
enormously the NEP was a very undisciplined period 
they had to get this idea out of them, and secondly 
they got a cheap and mobile huge working force on which 
they could rely. This is the essence of the thing. 
Most of the prisoners are not political prisoners; most 
of them are not even horrible criminals. "I stole a 
pound of potatoes from the kolkhoz" four years this 
kind of thing. 


Pierce: You mentioned the figures of lA and 15 million. I ve 
heard all the way from five million to 20 million. 

Nagy: Fourteen million. Fifteen million in the period Just 
before the death of Stalin. I saw a comparative study 
of it in Khabarovsk, a directive for the MVD organs, 
with statistics. Not for publication. In Russia that 
is one of the things that everybody knows and nobody 
speaks about. 

It s only now, in the novel Not by Bread Alone 
that they dare to touch the question, and then only in 
a very feeble way. He told about the trial only in a 
sentence. Khrushchev brought it up carefully because 
there could have been such a violent outbreak of anti- 
Stalinist reaction. There was not a single family 
that didn t have someone in the camps, so when they 
touched the whole question a volcano would erupt. 

Pierce: The reaction abroad seems to be that slave labor is no 
longer a factor since Khrushchev took power. Is that 

Nagy: I don t think it can be said that it isn t a factor 

at all, but in the meantime they have seen two things 
that the slave labor is not very efficient, and besides 
they have created everywhere the primary conditions, 
so that they don t need it actually. 

Already in my time they began to reduce as many 
of the slave labor camps as possible, but it doesn t 
mean that they have been abolished. I think that even 
today four or five million people are in slave worker 
camps. They can t exist wihout slave work, from 
economic or political reasons, only then they released 
many political prisoners who were almost absolutely 
innocent, and they don t sentence people so much for 
stupid trivial political crimes as they did before. 

Moreover, they drastically disciplined the criminal 
elements, because they are incorrigible and were 
terrorizing the workers. They adopt a level of 
production which they must meet, and they simply shoot 
them when they do anything inside the camp after this 
ukaz about which I told you or, they transfer them to 
Jails where they can t Influence and they can t 
demoralize, because their effect was so tremendously 
demoralizing. The main is that Stalin is dead; the 
main father; they didn t dare touch the question of 
criminals in his time. 

Pierce: Did anyone ever escape? 

Nagy: Escape was almost impossible. I saw some escapes and 
I saw the results. Ninety-nine per cent were brought 
back dead or alive, but if he was dead this was the 
better for him. 

Once at Colony No. 20, immediately after arrival 
in 19^9, on the Taishet railroad I saw a Lithuanian 
brought back alive. He was not brought back on foot 
he was creeping on the ground. They called us out to 
take a look at him. He was just crawling. His backbone 
was broken; and. his skin was like a rainbow, all colors 
from the beating he had had. He was groaning, and 
moaning as he crept along. The next night he died. 
This was a warning. Many times they were brought back 

Some tried out of sheer desperation. Everybody 
hopes he can get away. Dogs? Sure. Everywhere. Wolf 
dogs. Even when they took us to work they always had 

In Far North, escape is almost impossible. But 
they have the same number of guards and dogs. They are 
determined by law and are everywhere the same, even 
when there is no hope of escape. 

At every camp there is an obligatory dog house 
(pitomnik) where there are always two or three dogs, 
trained and kept all the time. It belongs to the 
installation. It is systematic. The trainer is part 
of the set-up. 

Pierce: How do they train them? 

Nagy: They train them always with meat. I wish we could 
have got the food they had. Almost a pound a day. 
I never had a pound of meat in seven years in the 
whole Soviet Union. They are trained to accompany 
convoys and to attack. Sometimes a man couldn t go 
to work fast enough, and it was always very bad to be 
at the back of the convoy, because they were setting 
the dogs on you. Tearing your clothing, nipping your 
feet, it was humiliating; we were like slaves. 




Nagy: Prom Siberia we went to Outer Mongolia, to build a 
railroad. From Outer Mongolia to Vladivostok and 
the Arctic gold mines, and building an air base 
there. Not really Vladivostok Vladivostok is very 
closed for security reasons next to it Bukhta-Vanya 
is the port of embarcation. 

In 1951-1952 I was in the Kolyma region. This 
is the most horrible part, the horror of horrors, and 
the saddest part of all. The climate conditons are 
not balanced by human treatment, so it*s terrible. 

There were two big groups of this type: the 
Norilsk group and Vorkuta. The latter is famous 
because of Jimmy Noble, the American. Norilsk is in 
the Eenisei area. Yet get there only by river when 
it is not frozen. The Krasnoiarsk per es ilka into 
Norilsk is something horrible. 

You reach Kolyma by sea, by plane, or by road. 
The road to Kolyma is through sopki, low hills. Often 
there were purga , sleet, even in summer. It was 
windy and the wind was penetrating, very hard on our 
undernourished bodies as we were on the truck. 

Kolyma has wooden buildings. It is miserable and 
monotonous. Street paving mostly ends at Urals. 
There are only slave workers there and those who come 
for the lone ruble, dlinnaia rubl* adventurers and 

Pierce: What did you wear on your feet there? 

Nagy: Everybody wore those felt boots, valenki . They were 
everywhere, but in Kolyma it was somehow not enough. 
They were supposed to give us sone more clothing, but 

Nagy: though they gave out some shubas (overcoats) and felt 
stuff, it was very bad quality. Very few people got 
back from Kolyma without a frozen finger or frozen 
leg or amputated hand or something. And with the 
machinery it was also technically dangerous. The 
working conditions were so unsafe that the workmen had 
many accidents that could so easily have been avoided. 

Pierce: How big was the camp you were in? 

Nagy: The same size, maybe a little bit bigger than in some 
other camps. These camps, you know, are all built 
on an average plan of the MVD. Almost all are between 
600 and 1,000 men, on an average. Every camp has a 
kitchen connected to a dining room (stol6vaia) and 
in ITL camps (not in political camps) a club, too. 
Then there is a bath with immediately beside it a 
disinfection place by great heat ( prozharka ) . They 
produce there more than 100 Celsius of hot dry air. 
They put in the clothes, and this hot air is supposed 
to kill all germs. It is not a steam bath or sauna. 
But it ruins the clothes completely and doesn t kill 
the germs. 

So it is very primitive, so that when you take 
your bath they also try to disinfect your clothes by 
this means. 

Pierce: How often could you have a bath? 

Nagy: Once every ten days. No oftener. There is a schedule. 
Of course sometimes it is longer. Perhaps sometimes 
only once in four weeks. When you came into a camp 
that was half ruined, disused for eight or ten years, 
with walls collapsed, etc. then you had to build up 
everything before you could have a bath. And moreover 
it was harder in the winter. 

Pierce: What were the buildings made of? Logs? 

Nagy: At Kolyma? They are mostly of wood, dug in. Wooden 
buildings generally because if they tried to build of 
stone at Kolyma,, they would have to make the walls 
one and one half yards thick. 

Pierce: Double windows? 

Nagy: Yes, the typical Russian windows, just a rama or frame. 









In summer time they take down one. All windows have 
small panes, and you open one from a little frame. 

What was being done there? 

Construction work and gold washing. The latter was 
the main work, for the slave workers. 

That of course couldn t be done during the winter, 
could it? 

And how it s done! And how it s done! With hot 
streams. Only your hands are freezing and you get 
rheumatism. So what does it matter? And how it is 
done! It never stops. It doesn t matter to them how 
cold it is. They give the order, and to give the order 
is very easy. 

Hot streams? How do they heat the water, with wood? 

No, no. Good coal, anthracite. They had very good 
coal from Sakhalin. Since I was there they have 
adopted some modern procedures also. I heard that 
from some Hungarians who came back in 1955 They told 
me that it was more modernized, but the conditions 
were still very inhuman. 

Was this hydraulic mining, as we call it here in 
California? Where they have a high pressure jet of 
water directed against a bank, which washes it down? 

That s more or less it. But they have a basin which 
is perforated, so that the gold will remain. 

Are these rich gold fields? 

Very rich. For instance, some of the brigades had a 
daily norm of ^00 grams worth of gold for JQ people 
and the people starved. They had to produce that in 
one day, so you can imagine how rich they can be. And 
more. Sometimes the people tried to smuggle out gold, 
and were very much persecuted for it. But sometimes 
they succeeded, but it was not a happy success, 
because when the criminals discovered it they simply 
killed you for it. 

Pierce: What could they do with the gold, though? 





Nagy: They sold, it to the free people dentists, etc. who 

needed it. 


Pierce: But how did they get in touch with them? 

Nagy: Oh, they were already in touch with them. The 

commander bought it also, the doctor in the hospital, 
the free people. They made all sorts of deals with the 
slave workers. It is very much persecuted, but anyhow 
their living standard is so low they seem to risk it. 

Pierce: Was this the place where you told how they were 
starving people. 

Nagy: They are always starving people! 

Pierce: No, but you told of that one terrible incident of the 
professor who ran into that pool of sewage after 
stealing someone s food. 

Nagy: Oh this pool, that was at Kolyma. There was such 

permafrost that during the summer they couldn t pour 
out this fill and urine and everything couldn t 
penetrate the ground. Only a half a yard or a yard 
and then it s permafrost. Such a thing was unique 
because mostly they would catch anyone who tried to 
steal before he ran away and killed him. He was lucky 
that he could get there. 

Pierce: Were there many such cases where they did kill each 

Nagy: Oh, this happened all the time. It was something 
terrible. This was always the way. Where these 
criminals were present it was always a constant fight. 
The criminals the vors and the sukis, the two parties- 
killed whoever they didn t like."" 

Pierce: There was never a chance for the politicals to gang up 
or form their own group and hold their own? 

Nagy: Sometimes, very rarely, as when the West Ukrainians 
were present, because they were very tough and 
political. Mostly however when you were political you 
were not tough, and where you were tough you were not 
political. But the Ukrainians were both. And if they 
were in a sufficient number, then it was possible. 

I remember for Instance one thing in the Karaganda 
peresylka, Stantsia Kara bass, an unforgetable scene. 
You know these blatnoi ruled the camp as an aristocracy. 
And they for instance reserved several rights. When 


Nagy: you arrived with clothing on you which was more or 
less decent, they had the right to go and Take it 
off!" (Snimail ) You must take them off then and hand 
them over. It could be a pair of boots, or a shirt, 
or whatever it should be. And the Western Ukrainians 
are always coming in whole transports, full trainloads, 
from jails in Lvov, etc. And they came in you know in 
their good civilian clothing right from the Jails. 
When the transport came in, they knew that they were 
coming. The commander would have notified them, 
because they were dealing with the commander in 
advance: "We will take the clothes, and you will take 
half and sell it outside for us." 

So they were hand in glove with the commander. 
He couldn t take the clothes, but if they took them 
he could take half and sell them outside in the city, 
and there was a very great lack of clothing, and then 
they would divide the dividends. 

This was very common, this was the way they did 
it. When they came in the gangsters surrounded them 
with sticks and with knives. They were only 30 or 4-0 
because the commander let them in only in such groups 
so they could be overcome. I saw it all in an hour 
I had, thank goodness, nothing that they could take 
away from me. In an hour I saw them already measuring 
the pants, trying on the hats, trying on the jackets, 
until it was cleaned up completely. Just measuring 
already, trying on, like Macys, Florsheims, City of 

Well, naturally when the Ukrainians came together, 
they were 250, they found out what was going on, they 
were not stupid, and they were divided in brigades. 

Now, it is the great tragedy of the political 
criminals that when they come in the camp [they don t 
know the system]. It took us a year till we found out 
what "Sanohast * " (the medical part) means, what the 
"Qper-upolnomochenv * " (the political officer), where to 
go, how to turn around, and we were really helpless. 

So, the Ukrainians were divided into brigades 
and they went out to work, and the life was miserable, 
also the food, because the chief of the kitchen was 
also a criminal, and had It arranced together with 
the commander that the commander put in the list many 
different foodstuffs from the sklad (magazine) v:hich he 


Nagy: never gave to the camp and the kitchen chief signed 
for it, that he had taken it over, and the commander 
sold it in the free market. So for the population, 
there was a great lack. Thus it was going on, very 
well organized. 

The Ukrainians were helpless till they found out 
what was going on, and then they went to the commander 
one evening, and said "Look, commander, the kitchen 
chief, not even his breath should be in the zone any 
more. You should fire the nachal *nik banyak, all this 
corrupt gang, and fire the brigadiers and clean up 
the criminals from the camp, etc. etc." 

The commander laughed. "Ha, ha! Take account of 
it where you are. What do you think, that you can 
give me the orders. Do you realize where you are?" 

They didn t argue with him. They went away. 

"So you don t do it! You will be sorry that 
you didn t fill it out!" 

In half an hour I saw what reminded me of the 
time of the breakthrough, when the American troops 
were arriving in Salzburg, when they liberated me from 
the German camp. It was "Hurrah, hurrah!" (ura! ura! ) 
and all 250 of the Ukrainians were running with knives 
and tearing up the water pipe lines, tearing up the 
fences, on the way they could get bricks, stones, the 
fences, the water pipe lines, knives, axes, and they 
were storming the criminal barracks, and the fight 

Well, the commander realized the situation. 
Naturally fire was immediately opened from the watch- 
tower but he was a very old commander, a very routine 
commander, with great experience, and he opened the 
gates and formed a line of guards around the gates, 
so that any of his criminal associates who were in 
danger could run out from the camp and really one 
after another the criminals were running out of the 
camp, that is anyone who was alive yet, and. who was 
not wounded. Whoever was wounded was trampled to 
death and cut in pieces. And so they cleaned up the 
camp from the criminals. They took 35 or ^-0 of these 
murderers and thieves and gangsters away and the 
Ukrainians took over the camp. 


Nagy: After this life was better. We could get normal food, 
etc. but the commander was very unhappy about it, and 
the criminals could, take no clothing with them, so 
everything was taken that was not already sold in the 
bazaar in Karaganda. 

Pierce: Was there any chance to inform against the commander 
when there was an inspection? 

Nagy: In principle yes, but in practice it worked out that 
way only when a Moscow commission came. When someone 
came from the inter-camp area (the camps were located 
in districts), perhaps he also got dividends from this 
job, or was the friend of the commander so when you 
made any complaint you only made trouble for yourself 
because the commander had you in the palm of his hand. 
You see, when you made a just complaint, naturally 
this gangster was the inspector s friend; he knew how 
really just the complaint was, but he gave it officially 
back to him for investigation (na issledovani) , and 
the complaint was so investigated that a guard would 
shoot you the next time you were at work on the excuse 
that you were trying to escape. 

In case a Moscow commission came they did take 
steps, but you couldn t get a letter to Moscow out 
because all mail was officially censored, through 
the commander . 

Pierce: So the commanders were just as criminal as anybody 

Nagy: Not always but mostly. 

Pierce: But these Moscow commissions then were more in accord 
with the law or with the intent behind, the law? 

Nagy: There was always something cynical about it, to show 
by an example that Moscow was still in existence but 
there were so few cases where they really interceded 
or did something. 

For Instance, once there was a shooting in the 
camp, and when the commission investigated, they found 
they had killed the son of a colonel, a very important 
one. He was one of the greatest criminals and he had 
defied the authority and killed the nachal nik rezhima 
with an ax. Then they had opened fire, and he was shot. 
Then they got interested and investigated, but if he 


\ T agy: had been anyone else they wouldn t have bothered. 

There was such social equality that sometimes there 
were sons of high officials of colonels, of generals. 
In the carnps I have met such. 

Pierce: You mentioned mail, how many letters were you allowed 
to send out? 

Nagy: Until 195^ the foreigners could send no letters at all. 
The Russians, twice in a year. In the political camps 
I mean, the other camps. Then later after the 
destalinization, it was reformed. 

Pierce: You could write then to your parents after this time? 

Nagy: Oh no. I could write to my parents, but only two of 
my letters got through. One to my parents, and one 
to Vienna. The censorship was so polite that they 
corrected the German grammatical mistakes which I made 
in the letter. They used another type of ink. Moreover, 
we did not have the right to get the letters back. 
They always went to the Moscow post box, so that we 
didn t even know when we couldn t get an answer. 

Pierce: Did your parents know you were still alive? 

Nagy: My parents knew nothing about me until 195^- From 19^4-9 
to 195^ five years. Once I succeeded in getting out 
a letter from the Carpathian Ukraine, with a protestant 
priest who had been in the slave worker camp, just a 
notification to my parents. He was considered as in 
the Soviet Union, and he wrote directly from civilian 
life to Hungary. 

Pierce: Where did you go from Kolyma? 

Nagy: From Kolyma into the interior of Chukotka. These are 

absolutely naked hills, without any vegetation. A very 
sad region. This was the saddest period of my prison 
time, in the sense that it was the worst. 

In Chukotka, as in the rest of the far north, 
there is scarcely any civilian population. Some of 
the natives, the Chukchi, went across to America in 
the winter, not spying, but trading, and they got 
sentenced for this. Some were in the camps where I 
was. They spoke Russian very primitively. 

Pierce: Were the Chukchi the most primitive people you saw? 


::agy: No, the Central Asians are the most primitive morally. 
Culturally it is the Tungus, Yakuts, Chukchi, and 
Samoedy (now called Nentsy). 

Pierce: Were you ever in Kamchatka? 

K T agy: There are many camps there. I wasn t there but I knew 
many people who were, and I had a bad impression of 
it. The climate is very severe. 

At Sakhalin they have some bytovychnaia camps, 
but not many. It is a border zone ( pograni chnaia 
zona) , so it is off limits. 

A border zone requires a special entry permit to 
travel there. There are three zones, the 1st, 2nd, 
and 3rd. Zone No. 1, 500 meters around every border, 
is off limits for everyone except border guards 
( pogra.nichniki ) . Villages in this zone are demolished 
and the people deported. The second zone is about one 
mile (1-1/2 km). You can enter it with a special 
permit. The third zone is 30 kilometers. Here you 
need a special permit. If you are caught in this zone 
once without a permit, they warn you; the second time 
you can be sentenced. 

Everywhere it is the same; along the borders of 
the peoples democracies, it is less. Against 
hostile borders Japan, Iran, Turkey it is more. A 
whole island like Sakhalin is declared a border 
( pogranishnyi ) Maritime Zone, and the ports are closed 
off. You can t enter them anywhere. Vladivostok is 
the same. It is surrounded with barbed wire. 

I went past Sakhalin by boat, through the Tatar 
Straits, which separate it from the mainland. The 
sea was stormy. Sakhalin doesn t have much on it. 
The Japanese did more with their half. 


Nagy: In October 1953 we were thrown back from Siberia to 
Central Asia. We were a good two or three weeks in 
Omsk and then went to Petropavlovsk and Karaganda by 

The railroad to Karaganda is quite modern and 
very good. I can only describe this one, because 
going down as far as Usr>enskii, it then branches, 
and one branch goes to Balkhash and the other to 
Dzhezghazghan, and Kingir. It is double tracked, to 
Karaganda. Steam trains. The main line (magistral) 
is electrified only in the Ural mountains and around 
Novosibirsk and Tomsk, but there are preparations to 
extend it in the Kurgan and Petropavlovsk and Omsk 
lines too, because when the power stations on the 
Irtysh and Ob are ready they will have the energy for 
it. But in Karaganda there is no energy except from 
coal, and steam generating plants (teploelectrocentrals) , 
not water power; so this is too expensive, so they 
don t even think about it. 


So the first camp I was in in Central Asia was 
Karaganda, not exactly in the city, but outside. It 
was not a big camp, but there are many hundreds of 
such camps. In every camp there are 300 to 500, 
perhaps 800, a maximum of 1000. It is not as it was 
in Germany, where they had much bigger camps. There, 
I believe, there were in all only 180 camps, but in 
Russia there are thousands. They are more effective 
that way. There are some bigger camps too, but they 
are the transit camps (peresylkas) . Every oblast, 


Nagy: according to law, has to have a peresylka. Because 
the traffic and the turnover (oborot) is so big. 

The camp was typical in the Central Asian sense, 
which means that the barracks were not of wood but of 
brick and sometimes not even that; they needed brick 
for building. So they dug a big trench and covered it 
with corrugated iron or a stove and put in beds also 
of iron and then when there was a great shower everything 
poured in, and we had to go on stepping stones, as 
bricks, to get to our beds. They were little valleys; 
we made jokes about it. 

Principally the camps are organized in the same 
pattern whether there are brick barracks, or wooden 
barracks, or tents, as in many cases, temporary 
quarters. You can freeze to death in the meantime, 
but they don t give a damn about it. 

Our duties at Karaganda were mostly in Churban 
Ura, a suburb 20 kilometers outside of Karaganda. 
There is an Ura river outside a town, running close 
to this area, from which it gets its name, so in this 
area there were new houses two or three floors high, 
standard, with eight apartments in every house, and 
we worked on these. Each had one room and a sleeping 
room, and a primitive little kitchen and a bathroom, 
actually a shower. It was anyway better than before 
the war. The standard houses were not very beautiful 
from the outside, and had one kitchen for ten apartments, 
and one bathroom for 20 apartments. Anyhow it s 
progress. Whether they would get water piped in is 
a more difficult question. 

The flush toilets in those apartments were very 
poor and very primitive, but in Soviet conditions they 
show a tremendous progress, only there are so few of 
them that this hardly counts. Only a drop in the sea. 

The countryside around Karaganda is absolutely 
bare. Like Nevada or Arizona, but not like Mojave or 
Death Valley, not so bad. Not so hilly, an endless 
steppe, with some vegetation, grass, but no sandy 
parts . 

Our camp had only a few hundred, but we constantly 
met people from other camps at work, so I have a good 
and clear impression of the entire region. These 
camps surround the town and are in the town. Everywhere. 


Nagy: Karaganda is a typical confinement ( zakliuchennyi ) and 
deported (vysilka) area. 

Karaganda is not open to visitors at all. It 
really is a prison town. Mostly deportees and slave 
workers and controlling MVD administrative personnel. 

Karaganda is an immense big city, though not in 
the western sense. There is something like a civic 
center with the Gosugolpromyshlennost , new buildings, 
the NKVD, the Party, some schools, and new apartment 
buildings, and Panfilov Street, Timiriazev Street, 
Lenin Street, and Lenin Square. This is the center of 

But there is also a Kazakh Karaganda, the original 
one, a kishlak, (a village of adobe houses). And then 
there is the new settlement of Karaganda where most of 
the deported people are living, very widely and 
generously studded with slave worker camps everywhere. 
The usual sight in the city a group of slave workers 
going to work especially in the morning hours. And 
the coal mines are in the middle of the city, sometimes, 
immense black mess around. But the most striking 
sight are the holes or caves in the ground. You 
wouldn t think human beings were living there. Outside 
you see only the chimneys. You dig a cave in the ground, 
make some steps and then you cover it with some wood, 
or, as there isn t too much wood in Karaganda, with 
some aluminum or canned food tins pieces of tin cans. 
It is miserable, and this sight for miles. 

They have naturally bus transportation and some 
halfway cleaned up paths, because they want to get 
these people also to work, but that is all that they 
do for them. And the children are playing around in 
this mess, and really hundred thousands of people are 
living thus. This is the greater part of Karaganda. 

These people are free laborers; the slave laborers 
live in camps, and their conditions are even worse. 
The others are mostly deported persons. Quite a few 
Caucasian people were deported to Karaganda; there are 
many Chechen and many Ingush there. It is very 
interesting to see the man walking before and the 
woman two or three steps behind. There are many Volga 
Germans there too. That is characteristic of all 
Central Asia by the way Novosibirsk also has many. 
There are Baits Esthonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians. 


Nagy: And Moldavians from Bessarabia. Most of the population 
is thus. They are restricted to the Karaganda area; 
they cannot go beyond a radius of 30 kilometers , and 
they have to report every two weeks at the NKVD (MVD). 

The food supply is very bad. Sometimes certain 
items are missing for months. Everything is imported. 
They may have some agriculture when the virgin lands 
program is developed, but so far nothing. They don t 
have much meat; most of the animals were killed or 
died during collectivization and the herds have never 
recovered. There are no fruits around Karaganda; it 
is desert and makes a miserable impression. 

When a streetcar passes a gang of slave workers 
someone sometimes cries out "Salute to the Fascists 
death to the chekists!" (Privet fashistam smert 
chekistam! ) meaning death to the guards. Knowing that 
probably everyone around them was of deported people 
and no one would give them up. However, the NKVD has 
a very tight network of spies everywhere. 

This is, of course, much different than the 
picture of Karaganda which you see in the Soviet 
journals the impressive new public buildings in the 
Gorki street style the new Soviet architecture, with 
columns. When one of these buildings is going up 
they photograph it from all sides, but they don t show 
the surroundings in which they are situated. Slums, 
incredible slums. I have seen the slums of the Near 
East, and after the war the slums that the Germans 
were living in, but never such slums as these in the 
Soviet Union and especially in Karaganda. 

The MGB was mainly in control at Karaganda during 
my stay there. It had more control there than the MVD 
and was hated by everybody. 

It is very bad to feel the presence of an omnipotent 
organization. Once, while I was not there, there was 
the famous terror in Karaganda. They yielded to their 
distrust of the many deported people there, and took a 
map of the city and visited every three or four 
habitations, taking people away at night so that no 
one should know. This is of course a key tactic and 
conception, that people will not know the others were 
taken away and they will be afraid to speak even to 
each other. It was to make them stop their agitation, 
as there was a great deal of complaint against the 
state bonds, the "voluntary" bonds, a terrible oppression. 


Nagy: These, then, were the deportees, distinct from 

the workers In the slave labor camps. If the deportees 
were rounded up in such a manner as the above they 
were put in slave worker camp. If the deportees went 
out without permits from their areas they could also 
be sentenced to eight years. Many times also the 
deportation is a sort of preliminary arrest, they take 
them out in that status, and then the local MGB looks 
once more through their formuliar and considers that 
this personality should not be allowed to go around 
even with such limited freedom, and then he is picked 
up. There are many countless cases like this. 
Naturally a deportee must take a thousand times more 
care than anybody else for he can very easily be 
arrested. He has to report every two weeks to the 
police. If he misses it, that is also a cause for 

The conditions in the whole area are very bad, 
especially as everything is very expensive, in the 
sense that you can t get necessary things. There is 
no private enterprise, so for a city of 50 000 which 
under capitalist economy would have ^ or 5000 stores, 
which would compete and go everywhere to pick up the 
best, there are only ^0 or 50 big department stores. 
So, nobody is interested, store managers are appointed 
for their party connections, and not because of any 
interest in making the enterprise run well. So what 
happens? Sometimes four or five months go by with no 
sugar in the city. When I was there, you couldn t get 
a razor blade anywhere in the city. Sometimes margarine 
disappears and then it may come, they bring three or 
four wagons of margarine for 500,000 people; then the 
people queue up before the stores from morning to night, 
and during the night In preparation for the next day. 
Everybody gets a pound, a half kilogram, and then 
there is no more for two months. Everything else is 
the same. You must sign up for bicycles, or radio sets 
six or seven months ahead. 

Churban Ura is the new city built near Karaganda. 
We were engaged in building the standard apartment 
houses there. 

There is terrible drunkenness and. prostitution in 
Karaganda. There is movement in the city during the 
night. They told us that the slave workers should be 
happy that they were behind the fence, because it was 
unimaginable what was proing on. Gangs of the Chechen- 


Nagy: Ingush, savages from the Caucasian mountains, were 
roving about. The criminal world was terrible. 
There was really a sort of frontier atmosphere there, 
like Dodge City or the Sheriff of Cochise. 

The militia is weak. They care about the MGB 
more than the police. The MGB is more the political 
control, looking after the property and public order. 
The militia disappear during the night. They were 
afraid for their own life. It isn t for your money 
that you need fear, because nobody needs the money; 
this is the Russian way of robbery it is for the 
clothes. When they waylay you, they leave you in 
your shorts. They have a beautiful expression for 
this razdevat* nakhui I don t go into details as 
to the translation of this. 

The Revolt at Dzhezghazghan 

Nagy: Prom Karaganda I went to Dzhezghazghan. It Is even drier 
than Karaganda, with low flat hills around. The camp 
was in a hillside location. 

There are two towns, Kingir and Dzhezghazghan, 2-1/2 
kilometers apart. We were in Kingir. There are many 
camps all around. It was the same story elsewhere in 
Kazakhstan. Maybe in the Dzhezghazghan area there are 
more Kazakhs than in the Karaganda area. And many 
Ukrainians, Baits, Chechen, Ingush, etc., etc. and many 
slave workers. 

Dzhezghazghan had the famous copper mines. They 
were British. It was said that the British blew them 
up or flooded them before they gave them over in 1928. 
I don t know if it was true or not. When the Ukrainians 
(the Banderovtsy^) went down to work, they entrusted 
them with a very precious machine to work with, and 
they wrecked it so they never let them down anymore 
with it. They did a million rubles damage in half 
an hour. 

The Banderovtsy were followers of Stepan Bandera. 
They were a very strong partisan movement until 1950- 
1951. It was so strong in 19^6-19^7 that they 
controlled full areas in the Carpathian mountains. 
They hoped at that time that there would be a war and 


Nagy: they would get complete support, but after Korea they 
saw that the United States and other countries would 
make no effort to liberate them, especially when the 
United States took this slap in the face. It depressed 
these people very much, because this was a true strong 
resistance movement. There was one in the Ukraine, 
and another in Lithuania. The latter had no name. It 
was not as strongly organized and connected with the 
emigration as the Bandera movement. But they were very 

When these movements were broken up, not only 
the participants were rounded up and tried and sent 
to slave labor camps, but the populations of whole 
areas which had given them support. Through these 
things, and disobeying the order to Join the collective 
farms, two-thirds of the population of Lithuania and 
the Western Ukraine and even more in Esthonia, and 
Latvia (a little luckier, about one-half) were sent 

Now they have allowed some to come back thank 
them for the mercy! When these people went away their 
property was taken away, and more important their 
furniture, and their apartments, and were given to 
Russian settlers, Riga had a population of 2,000,000, 
a city that had 500,000. In Russia, it takes a half 
a lifetime to buy furniture and necessary household 
things. To get an apartment means another half lifetime. 
So they came here, settled down, found a Job, in a way 
Soviet prosperity, though with very low living standards 
by comparison with American prosperity, but anyhow you 
can exist more or less, so why should these people now 
leave these places and go back when the best they can 
do is look around? They can t settle there. Nothing 
to do. Everything is so calculated, in a hypocritical 
way. They get better wages where they are, they have 
already found homes, so they stay. 

It is the same thing everywhere in the Soviet 
Union, the same NKVD control. There was a question of 
repatriation to Gomulka s Poland, and many went back 
even after 20 years because it was a question of 
relaxation, but many away from Lithuania and Esthonia 
would not go back even after only five years, because 
it would be no improvement. 

Of the political prisoners, 90 per cent were 
Ukrainians, and most of those from this area in the 
Capathlans which the Soviets had taken over. And the 


Nagy: rest were mostly from Central Asia. A ridiculously 
small part were Russians. 

Pierce: There is quite a controversy about Ukrainian nationalism; 
the Russians say it is only in the Western Ukraine, in 
Galicia, etc., whereas Ukrainian nationalists, wherever 
they are from, say it is entire Ukraine. 

Nagy: The truth is in the middle. It is undoubtedly strongest 
in the Western Ukraine, but no one can say that the 
rest of Ukraine is completely pacified, in Russian 
hands and everything is all right there. It is 
absolutely a mistake to consider Kiev like Moscow or 
Kostroma. There is much Ukrainian feeling there too, 
but after 200-250 years of Russian rule, it is not as 
strong as in the west. 

The Banderovtsy were some of my best friends. 
You could argue with one of them, but they would never 
never deliver you to the NKVD, so they were absolutely 
beyond, all doubt politicals. This was not true of the 
Russians, not even those who had been war prisoners, 
sentenced because of their activity during the war 
the Vlassovtsy, etc. (They were the fewest, but there 
were many who had cooperated with the German occupation. ) 
That was during the destalinization, and at Dzhezghazghan 
some major riots took place. There was really a 
romantic and a political reason why it started, but the 
truth was that it started by a very prosaic way. 

It became a little easier after Stalin s death 
and we felt that some change must come and that we 
must help it along. The situation was intolerable. 
The food was abominable, medical care was nothing, we 
had not the right to correspond, we were kept in the 
greatest heat by closed windows in barracks for the 
night, and. everything smelled, the brigadiers were 
beating us; sometimes they created a case of someone 
attempting to escape, but it always turned out to be 
the rebellious element, leaking trouble for them with 
their disobedience. They were sent to another camp 
during the night and then under guise of an attempt to 
escape they were simply shot. The discontent was 
growing and growing, and finally, the ridiculous part 
of the thing, there was a fence between the women s 
camp and the men s camp not a very high fence, because 
they were interested that we shouldn t jump out. That 
meant that we could jump over this fence from the 
women s camp to the men s. And we were doing so. 


Nagy; So what happened one day they warned us, but we 
didn t care about it. We told the guards "You rotten 
characters, etc. (Ty podia, ty suka...). Your duty is 
to watch when we jump outside. It is none of your 
business what we are doing inside." 

"I shall shoot you if you jump once more." 

"Go ahead and try it!" (Akh, ty poprobui) for we 
saw that he had no authority really he had none to 
do that. Then he felt we were defying the authority 
he was the authority and the next time somebody jumped 
over it was a Polish prisoner he opened fire and shot 
him. Next day we demanded punishment, so the commander 
sent us to a warmer climate, with some ugly words. 

So, what happened, next time the women they were 
more offensive and more aggressive we caught on their 
advice a rezhim officer, a discipline officer coming 
into the camp, and we choked him we didn t kill him 
we put a string around him like a piece of steak and 
put a stone on the end and threw it over into the 
women s camp. And the women pulled him in in this 
fence area and under his body protection jumped over 
the fence again. The guards couldn t shoot because he 
was crying, "Don t shoot! I am here!" 

This was the start of the rebellion and then came 
the more serious part. A Polish colonel organized it; 
we made a list of demands. We wanted nothing to do 
with the Karaganda command. They were washing their 
hands; they were covering their crimes; we wanted a 
Moscow commission, a member of the central committee 
of the party, or the Minister of Interior Kruglov, to 
come and to see what was going on here. We were doing 
the hardest work, the most important work, for the 
five-year plan, at least we thought it was important, 
that we were very important, but it turned out that 
only our work was important, and we wanted to open the 
barracks, and to correspond many after five or six or 
ten years absence with our relatives, normal food 
so that we wouldn t starve and medical care. 

So, what happened? First they tried persuasion; 
they sent someone from Karaganda. First they didn t 
let anybody from the Karaganda command in the camp. 
We would kill them; we would, crush their heads in with 
stones, clubs, and axes, and we organized ourselves. 


Nagy: All the denouncers, the sukas, were put in jail. So 

the camp was really pleasing. And then after six weeks 
they sent in the last warning; the Secretary of the 
Dzhezghazghan party organisation came also to aersuade 
us. They said that if we didn t go out to work and if 
we didn t stop our resistance the Alma-Ata Military 
District would crush us with tanks. We didn t believe 
them because they had been lying so much in the past 
year, but the point is that when they promise something 
good, it is always a lie, and when they promise 
something bad, it is always true. 

And so it happened. We heard on the hillside the 
tanks, with open power, because they had no reason to 
close it. We had no arms to hit them. They simply 
came through the fence, crushing it, and they went 
first against the women s barrack. I was on guard, a 
prisoner guard, you know, just an observative guard, 
an alarm, a Paul Revere. I couldn t even hide myself. 
They were crushing in the women s barrack. 

There was a terrible cry, and the whole barrack 
collapsed, and they went through the ruins and the 
bodies. Coming out the treads of the tanks had women s 
hands and feet and hair on them. Then they went to the 
second barracks and came to the hospital in the men s 
camp Ttfith the ill and the wounded and killed them all 
more than 500 dead. Then we capitulated. They made 
no investigation; they were not interested in who, or 
why. The organizers were taken to a punishment camp, 
straf lager, and the rest of us were dispersed to other 
camps . 

Women, how many there were, and how they were 
treated. They suffered more than the men. They had 
one single advantage; a woman s body is built with 
fewer cells; they require less to eat; they are not so 
hungry. But I didn t envy them; I was sorrier for the 
women than for the men. 

The situation of women in the Soviet Union in 
general is really inhuman and disgusting, and they 
are taken into the slave worker camps by the millions. 
This is the worst that has ever happened to women in 
human history... 

To Frunze, Stalinabad, and Tashkent 

Nagy: After the crushing of the Dzhezghazghan revolt (May 

our group was dispersed and sent farther into Central 
Asia, never unloaded, Just sent from one area to 
another, because no one wanted to take them after the 
revolt . 

Pierce: What route did you take? 

Nagy: From Dzhezghazghan we went by rail, part of the way on 
the Mointy-Chu railroad, still with only a single 
track. They were building earthworks on one side of 
it, mostly with slave labor. 

We went to Pishpek junction, the railroad station 
for Frunze, the capitol of the Kirgiz republic. The 
town is now called Frunze, but the railroad station 
still bears the name of Pishpek. The railroad stations 
always stay the same. Orenburg for example is still 
the name of the railroad station, but the city is 
Ghkalov. Vernyi is the railroad station and Alna-Ata 
the city. 

This was the Chu valley (Chuiskaia dolina) . Here 
we were in a happier situation. There were not so 
many deported people, the climate is better. There 
are many fruits, grapes and apples in this valley, 
surrounded by high mountains beside Issyk Kul, a lake. 
It was very primitive, with Kirgiz and Uighurs, all 
around, in their national dresses, and very nice cities, 
like Tokmak, looking more European than oriental, 
rooftops, etc. It is a nice region, not so many slave 
worker camps, though there were still some. But with 
people with shorter terms, and they therefore get 
around more, they can get out of the camp and are not 
under such strict control as originally. 

From Frunze we went to Tokmal:, a small city. Of 
all the nationalities I saw the Kirgiz seem the less 
civilized. They are much more Asiatic than the 
Kazakhs. The Kirgiz are the most "dark" Asiatic type. 
This is darkest Asia. I don t know what is going on 
on the Chinese side, in Tien-Shan, Tibet and in Yarkand 
(Chinese Turkestan), but here they are the most backward. 
The Uzbeks are the most cultured. The Turkmen are not 
too bad. The Tadzhiks, well I don t like them, but it s 
perhaps personal. I was in Tadzhikstan for only a 
very short time. 


Nagy: Next I went to Stalinabad (capitol of the Tadzhik 
republic). There Is beautiful, spectacular scenery 
there. But although it is a very rich region there is 
much to be done. Everybody thinks the Soviets have 
done much there, and they have, but they haven t 
really changed the life very much; they haven t given 
high living standards, and it is nothing like American 
farms, etc., as they present it in their pictures. 
But Stalinabad is a nice city. I liked it. It is 
quite new, and there are many deported Germans in 
Tadzhikistan, and in Stalinabad. They cleaned the 
city and built the buildings. At the same time they 
are living in dugouts. 

Pierce: Why didn t you like the Tadzhiks? 

Nagy: It is a personal impression; it doesn t mean anything 
in particular. There are naturally many different 
nationalities there besides Tadzhiks. Uzbeks, 
Badakshans, and many others. The Tadzhik are sub 
servient to the Soviets. Not so much, however, as 
the Kazakhs, who are the most subservient. This is 
my impression and I think everybody s. Of course if 
there were a change, I have no doubt that they would 
cut the throats of every commissar not a Kazakh 
national. But they have a general hatred of everything 
that is western, and this I abhorred very much In 
Central Asia. The Uzbeks, however, are somexvhat more 
cultured, and are not so bad, more intelligent. The 
Kirgiz, Tadzhiks and Kazakhs are really dark Asia, the 

At Stalinabad I was doing nothing, just waiting 
for further transportation. I was in a peresylka 
there. The central Tadzhik peresylka. There are not 
so many labor camps in Tadzhikstan. They are too 
near the border. The Afghan, Indian, Pakistan and 
Chinese borders are not far, and the camps would have 
a bad propaganda effect. There is theoretically a 
possibility of escape, only a possibility however. 
There are few such cases, but they don t take chances. 

Then I left Stalinabad by Leninabad to Tashkent. 
I was there for only a few days. Going around a little 
bit to work till the transport left, sometimes in the 
peresylka. In the peresylka were also driven out to 
work, but could get in contact with the population 
and see what was going on, what the economic status 
of the city was, what factories had been built. If 


Nagy: you are there you can see a great deal. 

Prom Tashkent we were sent to Kokand, where we 
were In a camp, and from there we were finally 
transported back to Karaganda and Chuiban Ura. That 
was already in the autumn. 

We were very unhappy that they had brought us 
back to Kazakhstan for the winter. Nothing funny 
about it. Burans (blizzards). Such a buran came 
immediately after we got back to Kazakhstan. Trains 
were not heated yet because we had no coal and no wood. 
It was miserable. Rail transportation is always 
something terrible. 

At Ghuiban Ura those of us who were foreigners 
made a mess and refused to work. We heard that 
something was in the air, a change of administration, 
or amnesty, and we simply refused to work. There was 
much talk and threat of punishment, but they didn t 
dare, because in Moscow there were already instructions 
that foreigners were not to work, and preparation for 
repatriation. But the commanders wanted to suppress 
this news, to press out from us as much as they could 
for their own little needs, as long as possible, for 
there were very good craftsmen among us , but they 
didn t succeed. There were many Koreans and other 
orientals; the foreigners were all very united. 



Nagy: Finally they got tired of us at Karaganda and sent 
us back to Siberia, to the Krasnoiarsk region. 
Krasnoiarsk is in very spectacular country, where 
the Enisel breaks through the mountains, not such 
high mountains, but quite good colored and very 
peculiar nice scenery. The Enisei is a beautiful 
clean river, I love it, absolutely clean and beautiful. 
And Krasnoiarsk is also developing quite a bit. It 
has a beautiful new river port (rechnoi port) ; I liked 
it. Quite a bit of shipping, but then it is frozen 
in. I was there in March, 1955 and then it was just 
beginning. There is a good deal of shipping, because 
at the end of the Enisei, Norilsk and this whole area 
is gathering. The last rail point is in Krasnoiarsk, 
so there is a great deal to unload. It is a great 
river port (rechnoi vokzal) . 

This was in 1955 and I have already mentioned 
the great change which had taken place in the region 
in the five years since I had been there. 

An Atomic Test 

Nagy: In the Krasnoiarsk area one of the guards who had 

taken part in this experiment told me about an atomic 
explosion he had seen. He was then serving in the 
Red Army. One day they told them they were to be 
sent on a special mission, and they should write letters 
to their relatives saying that they were going on a 
special maneuver and they would not be able to write 
for four weeks. That day they took them on trucks and 
took them deep into the country. This is an immense, 
unimaginable region. They drove them around only at 


Nagy: night time, and in day time they rested, so finally 
after one week by truck over different forest roads 
( vlinevkas ) they got there on the spot and they took 
away from them all documents, all pictures, every 
thing. One lieutenant, who didn t deliver one of his 
girl s pictures, was demoted, broken, for this simple 

And then the guard told me, the experiment was a 
little later. There was supposed to be an explosion 
somewhere in the lake areas; he described it. And 
they told them all precautions they should take, that 
they should cover their tents with certain material 
against radiation. They didn t tell them what was 
going to happen, just that it was so, and they were 
to take great care. If they would sit quietly and 
not go out, for example, nothing would happen to them. 

And then a plane came. They didn t see it, but 
they were told a member of the central committee of 
the politburo came on it for the experiments. And 
then next day, in the morning, a plane dropped the 
first atomic bomb. It completely demolished this 
terrible big rock or mountain, so that the next day 
there was nothing there. 

The next day they made another explosion, under 
the water, because the whole lake simply disappeared. 
This time some people got nervous and left their 
tents, and this water splashed down on them. 

These people had to be immediately isolated from 
the others, and their clothing was taken away some 
medical personnel came and very carefully arranged it 
and these people were transported away and nobody knew 
what happened to them. And when the rest of them were 
released, they had to sign a document that they would 
not tell nobody nothing. They were warned of the 
death penalty, so they came away and that s all. He 
described to me approximately the place where this was, 
not far from Eniseisk, in the central Krasnoiarsk area, 
where the Angara flows into the Enisei. Naturally, 
the jungle stretches for hundreds of miles. 

Pierce: So close to a populated center? 

Nagy: Oh, this is not so populated. On the map these places 
appear close, but actually they are hundreds of miles 
distant. In Nevada they are closer to populated places 
than this one. 


Nagy: He said that terrible fires were raging in the forest 
after the explosion. The whole area was surrounded 
with barbed wire. 

Pierce: The troops were there then to simulate wartime 

conditions, when a bomb would be dropped. But this 
mountain which you say disappeared. 

Nagy: A mountain of hard stone. I didn t have time, 

unfortunately, to ask him for further details. I 
didn t have much time to speak to him and ask him 
more about it. 

Pierce: Did you find the guards very often informative in 
that manner? 

Nagy: At times. Sometimes they were very bad, sometimes 

nice, sometimes informative. Of course these guards 
were the MVD, not the MGB. In Russia you can be 
drafted into the MVD national army to serve your 
regular service time if you are drafted, just as with 
the air force or the navy. And so they have a certain 
selection; they have a tremendous army. 

Pierce: What about friendships within the camp? Could the 

average individual form close friendships with anyone 

Nagy: Very close and very nice friendships. And the most 
marvelous in the whole thing was that sometimes if 
you couldn t get along with your own nationals, you 
could get along in the meantime with people like the 
Koreans, or an Estonian or anyone. Yes, really 
because it was such a hard life the best in Individuals 
came out. My best friends were, for instance, Koreans 
or Japanese. I couldn t get along very well with the 
Hungarians, because many were fascists from 19^5 
sitting for war crimes. Not everyone was a political 
hero who was sitting there. They gave me a very nice 
reception when I arrived. 

Not all were hostile, but some were. When I came 
they knew that I was Jewish and they accepted me, 
nicely. You know that in Hungary there are Jews on 
the Central Committee of the party, so they said, "Ah, 
you came alsol" I had fought them, but if you are a 
communist or an anti -communist, it means always Jew. 
"Now you came also; you have arrived. Rakosi didn t 
help you." (He was not helping but sending me to 


Nagy: Siberia, but anyhow...) "You will drop dead here." 

I answered them: "I will not drop dead here, 
but I would like to know how it is that you haven t 
dropped dead here since 19^5 In Hungary we all 
think you are long dead already. It is about time 
you should drop dead. How come you are still alive 
and you haven t dropped dead yet?" 

So the conversation went. Anyhow they made 
trouble for me; they denounced me to the Secret Police, 
I mean to the commissar to the oper-upolnomocheny 
for they had already been in the camp three or four 
years and knew how to do various things in really 
effective manner and. how to make trouble at work. I 
had much trouble with them. 

Pierce: Prom your own countrymen? 

Nagy: Yes, but they were fascists. If someone is a fascist 
or a communist what does it mean if he is our country 
men or not. 

Pierce: I road today of an American priest who returned from 

China after long imprisonment there. And one sentence 
in his account impressed me very much. It said that 
you can t refer to them as Chinese, because they are 
not Chinese, they are just communists. Once you are 
a communist and you accept this you have no nationality 
anymore, you are just a communist... 

Nagy: That s right. And when the fascists beat me they 

already paid me no honors. They were terrible. In 
the meantime they were behaving so meanly and were so 
characterless in political business that they could 
so easily turn from fascist to communist, and they 
were so conforming in so characterless a manner that 
when we tried to organize a resistance or anything 
they were the first to refuse to cooperate, and when 
it was any hunger strike or any little issue they 
were always the first to go over. "It has no sense," 
they would say. They always called the others, in 
Hungarian, "the vaseline knights," because they wanted 
to protest some rotten margarine and stuff. This 
Russian margarine is very bad, something like mederlein, 
you know, and we always joked that "You want to put 
some mederlein on your bread, and therefore you refuse 
all decency and all character and backbone." 


Nagy: Really I didn t like them. As a Jew I had no 
reason to like them, "but really I hated them in the 
camps, and not only because of their anti-Semitic 
attitude, but because they were so characterless, 
and because of this opportunistic attitude. You know 
then what these two things, fascists and communists 
really mean. 

In Russia the margarine is incredibly bad. They 
don t call it vaseline, they call it kombezir (combined 
fat) because they put all the trash from sheep and 
goat fat and everything in this. It breaks like 
charcoal, and they give the cheapest sort sometimes 
to the slave worker camps. 

Pierce: What else did you have, besides this maslo or butter? 

Nagy: This was not our food, you had to buy this. We got 
only this cottonseed oil, of a very bad quality. 

Pierce: Was the cottonseed oil in solid form, or liquid? 

Nagy: We just poured it out. But sometimes it disappeared 
for months, and then when we got it, it came in such 
ridiculous quantities. 

Sometimes we had kasha (porridge). Sometimes we 
had only cabbage and no kasha. We had vegetables, 
and then it was worse because it had no calories, and 
it was hard to work on it. 

"The food," they told us, "Now it s malina 
(literally, raspberry). Now it s wonderful. You 
should have seen how it was some years before 
immediately after the war and during the war when the 
people died by the hundreds of thousands." 

Into the Taiga 

Nagy: Prom Krasnolarsk I went 200 kilometers to the east 

to the station Rizhoti, and then into the taiga, into 
the jungle. There I was not working, and I think 
every foreigner mostly refused to work. So it happened 
that they messed around, and then I came to a hospital, 
and there I was again in the jungle, a good 20 or 30 
Eiles from the railroad. There are thousands of people 


Nagy: around there and maybe hundreds of camps. Lumber 

cutting and the Derevo-Obdelochny -Kombinat. Lumber 
work, it was very very messy again. 

Pierce: Were the camp hospitals any good? One hears much of 
the cheapness of life in the camps. Did they make 
any attempt to rehabilitate a sick worker, to make 
him productive again? 

Nagy: Only in cases when he was useful for production. If 
he was in a working category they took care of him; 
when he was not, they didn t pay too much attention 
to him. There were four working categories. Anyone 
in the first and second got medical care, in the 
third, not any more, and in the fourth, not at all. 
Sometimes he was not even brought to the hospital. 
Sometimes I was first category; later on I had 
tuberculosis, and then I was classed as an invalid, 
but it was not always TB. Sometimes I followed a very 
aggressive policy, so that when they saw that I messed 
around so much they let me alone. For such a gentle 
men s agreement that I keep silent, that I wouldn t 
stir up the others, then they would leave me alone. 

I got lung TB there, but fortunately not badly. 
I came early to the hospital, forcing my way in there, 
and I was anyhow sick. I was treated there by a 
Jewish doctor. He gave me such a category, such a 
fictitious case history (istoriia bolezn) that it 
always protected me. He gave me false X-ray shots, 
and everything, and these protected me. 

But they didn t have any medicaments. The 
commanders were so conscienceless that they simply 
drove you anyhow. They were interested only In 
getting the work out of you. 

Pierce: The doctor was Jewish? He was a prisoner too? 

Nagy: Yes. Sure he was a prisoner. You couldn t have Jews 
in the prison camp who were not prisoners. They were 
not loyal to the Soviets. Only when they were 
prisoners did it make no difference who was or was 
not Jewish. 

Pierce: What about the personnel of the camps were most of 
them Russian, or were they of all nationalities? 


Nagy: Most were Russians, but there were also Ukrainians, 
Central Asians and Georgians. But the greater part 
were Russians. There is no doubt about it. 

Pierce: Was the commander always a Russian? 

Nagy: Not necessarily, but 99 per cent were. I remember, 
for example, some Kazakh commanders, and some 
political officers from Georgia, etc., including a 
very disgusting one from Azerbaidzhan. 

Pierce: Would they be worse than the Russians on the whole? 

Nagy: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depended. You know 
the NKVD or MVD is a special organization. You see, 
when someone is in that organization it means that 
he has given up all loyalties but one, and this is to 
the Party. 

Pierce: Was there any attempt to indoctrinate you while you 
were in the camp? 

Nagy: Not until the destalinlzation. After that there was 

a general effort to do it. Before the destalinization 
they were not interested. You see the prisoners were 
selected in the "other" camps, special camps, in which 
they were not allowed to have a theater, they were not 
even allowed to make a flower bed in the camp, or a 
little grass. Everything that would make us happier. 
We were not even allowed to sing or to play any 
instrument, not even allowed to see a movie. In the 
other camps they sometimes brought in propaganda movies, 

Once some overzealous prisoners tried to make 
some red stars in the middle of the camp, using 
bricks, etc. A commission came and they kicked them 
apart, and they said "This is for us; not for yout " 
Of course, we didn t need this sort of thing very 
much, but the point was, as they told us, "All right, 
maybe you have good intentions, setting up these red 
stars, but who knows that some fascists may come 
during the night and urinate on these red stars. So 
you don t need them; it is better then not to have 
the red stars." 

Pierce: Was there grass in front of the camp commanders 

Nagy: Oh, it was something miserable how these officers 

lived. It was remarkable how dirty they were, when 

Nagy: you saw how they required the barracks to be, in the 
greatest purity, so that if they saw a little dust 
they gave five days of solitary confinement, 
extraordinary bad food, handcuffs, and everything, 
but you should have seen their houses, what was going 
on there. Unbelievably primitive and oh well, it 
was just terrible. 

Pierce: Was this the usual thing among the guards and 

Nagy: Yes, mostly. Naturally there were some more decent 
people who were sent there, for punishment mostly. 

Pierce: Could they have their wives and children there? 

Nagy: Yes, most of them had, but they had such miserable 
little houses. As I tell you, they were zealous to 
have us bring wood to them, etc. But they did not 
pay for it and used our work for their own needs. It 
was a dirty trick. 

Pierce: This (pointing to map) was where you saw this 

tremendous change, the electrification, etc., on the 

Nagy: Yes, everywhere it was a great change, especially in 

these areas. Because for the most part the pioneering 
works in this region were built by slave workers. 



Pierce: In what you have told me so far, there is one thing 
that seems to be lacking, the personal element. You 
have told your story in a general sense, as an 
obverser; could you tell more of how this life 
affected you? 

Nagy: I don t like to speak of it very much; I had a bad 
and a very rough life in the camps because I am a 
nonconformist by nature, a born rebel. I have tried 
to tell this from a more general angle because these 
are very deep spiritual things, but I can work it out 
for you. 

There were many disillusionments, and many good 
friends, wonderful t>eople I met, and many deeply 
moving things that I have seen and have had the 
possibility to see, and at the same time I was also 
getting adjusted to the life. Along with the terrible 
experiences I had very good experiences along the way 
to find out more about my soul and spirit. It is a 
long thing. 

From every camp I had some memories, and from 
different times, how they affected me, moments, etc. 
We must work on it, but would have to start from the 
beginning. And I don t know if it is very diplomatic 
in America, because I have seen many mean sides, many 
very dirty sides, and I don t know if it is the proper 
thing to speak about, because it is perhaps better not 
to give the very disillusioning side. 

There the things were understandable, but when I 
narrate it here in Berkeley and you have never seen 
what brought the people so far down, even in cases 
when I give the reason it may be incomprehensible. I 
am very strongly inclined because I suffered very much 


Nagy: from Fascist gangs just from being a Jew. They were 

cruel and merciless as always, and what was terrifying 
to me at the same time that I was suffering was that 
of 800 or 1000 people in one camp there would be three 
or four who were really western minded. There would 
be many, of course, who were anti-Soviet because 
the Soviet Union had done something to them, but they 
were so far from the western spirit like the sukhy. 

A real westerner has suffered the most, for 
instance, the conform! sin, and the humiliation, 
necessary for the slightest advantage and not the 
slightest conscience. They call them political 
prisoners but they haven t the slightest dignity in 
their behavior. So it was a crucifixion for a 
western-minded person to be in these camps, with the 
prisoners, this dirty little place, a 25 year sentence 
for political slave workers, are standing out on the 
stage and roaring "We are defending peace!" (My 
zashohishchaem mira). It was so disgusting. 

And I remember a man, a Trotskyite, in camp since 
1937, he had tuberculosis, and he made the dirtiest 
jokes about America, about the germ warfare and about 
Truman and about MacArthur and everything. It was so 
humiliating and I was so furious that when I spoke 
against it they thought first and told me that I was 
Don Quixote, and second that because they felt that I 
may be a Don Quixote but I am not a mean bastard, and 
I am not prostituting myself for a plate of soup dirty 
cabbage water and they began to intrigue against me. 
And finally when they saw they couldn t frighten me... 

This was the main point, that I was living all 
of the time in my spirit, and ideas, while they were 
living in the camp. For me I felt that either I shall 
get out or I shall die. Because I didn t accept what 
was going on around me, by no means was I ready to 
conform to it, for this was an intolerable way of life 
for me. Even the freedom of the Soviet Union, because 
at one time they were going to release us to live 
within the Soviet Union. I didn t want it; I didn t 
want their rights, and told them so. And this was the 
main thing, that everything that I lost through this 
behavior didn t matter for me, because I never accepted 

What they could offer me in exchange for this 
little conforming behavior was so little and so 


Nagy: disgusting for me that I didn t give up this great 

ideal. And in the meantime they felt a double complex, 
a guilt complex because they saw that there was someone 
who could behave in another way, not only me but three 
or four of my friends, and so do you know what happened 
in this case? This hurt them even nore, and. so they 
were going to go to the oper-upolnomocheny * and subvert 
against me, but even when not doing this, this dumbness 
[they followed] this century old method of terrorizing, 
everything. . . 

It is a long story spiritually. I don t know; I 
have thousands and thousands of memories, and few 
bright ones. If I would really tell it the reader 
wouldn t take a justifying argument, because all of 
these things are understandable. I don t think that 
many Americans would behave in a better way than this, 
either. I know very much that this Southern white 
trash, for instance, are exactly these types, stupid, 
narrow-minded, egotistic. But in the meantime I don t 
know if it is a fair thing; my aim is not to attack 
from a comfortable point here in Berkeley, with some 
kind of future, in every way better than what these 
poor people had. and faced, to moralize against them, 
because I don t find it moral. It is not a fair 

There are some motives, because I belong in some 
ways to these people, some motives which in western 
bourgeois circles living in this narrow-minded t>etty 
bourgeois milieu, they would never understand. They 
would think, well do we spend foreign aid and do we 
fight to liberate this kind of people? I don t want 
to idealize either. The real hero of my account should 
be truth, but told so that it would be acceptable for 
1958 in the United. States and still remain truth. 

I have a very good co-worker in Munich, a Greek 
Orthodox priest he saw a hundred thousand times more, 
because he had an American education, and was a chief 
physician in the hospitals. I worked, under him partly, 
but not the whole time. In a very decisive time, 
19^7-19^8 he was in the Altai camps, and in this 
Mongolia region it was a horror. 

Pierce: Did you meet any high party officials in the camps? 

Nagy: I met many. They usually kept it a secret in the 

camps, and you had to find it out in a roundabout way. 
There was such a strong anti-party feeling and 


Nagy: anti-administration, but I met many. For example, a 
minister of the Tatar Autonomous S3R, Nikanitulin, 
put away as a Trotskyist in 1937 and still there. 
Like many he had been put away without trial and 
without any particular offense. 

And then there was an old. man, secretary of the 
Saratov obkom. Even so, when Stalin died he was 
crying. Then there was a colonel of the NKVD, a Jew, 
a very digusting guy. Of course, when a Jew becomes 
a communist he is no longer really a Jew. They are 
the most disgusting types, they are even demonstrating 
that they are not Jewish, they are especially hard. 

The highest never became slave workers. There 
was a general with me, a professor of the Russian 
military academy, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Armaderov. 
When Stalin died he was liberated by Voroshilov, to 
be reinstated, a very nice old gentleman. 

Pierce: How long had some of these people been in? Were 
there any earlier than 37? 

Nagy: 1932, some of them. 

There were Japanese and German officers. For 
instance the commander of the staff of von Paul us, 
Colonel General Petzholdt. I had a terrific 
adventure with him, unforgettable. We had a little 
warden (nadziratel* ) , a young punk without any rank, 
I called him always "Mandavoshica , " wanting always to 
prove that he is big. And he had an idea for instance 
that nobody should sleep in clothing. And this German, 
a man with a tremendous figure, like a real Prussian 
junker. Von Paulos organized a Free German Committee, 
as you know. Everybody who took part in it was 
liberated immediately. He refused to take part in 
it, and like everybody else had been in the Nazi Party, 
so he became automatically a war criminal. 

This man was sleeping on his bed, when the 
nadziratel Prokof ev came. He went to the bed. I was 
unfortunately there. And this German had in his whole 
ten or twelve years since Stalingrad not learned a 
single word of Russian, so it went like this: 

"Get up!" 

The bed was too small for him, so his feet were 
hanging out. The German thundered out something in 


Nagy: German... 

"Take your valenki off, Fascist...!" 

Again the reply in German. 

The nadziratel* turned to me: 

"What does he say?" 

For both sides I didn t dare to translate. 

"Tell me precisely, -precisely, what he says!" 

And it went for an hour. I could hardly keep 
from laughing, and the whole barracks was listening. 
Of course I couldn t translate what the Colonel General 
was saying, because any report against him by the 
nadziratel* would have brought severe punishment, and 
the prisoner is never right. He is now in West Germany. 

Von Paulus remained in the East Zone because he 
didn t dare return to the west. He behaved so mean in 
the prison that the other prisoners swore that they 
would make him pay for this. He was pro-Soviet. His 
attitude during the war was understandable, but after 
the war it was not. He was working for the "Free 
Pieck-istan" committee as they called. 

Pierce: We were talking about people and types... 

Nagy: As I told you, it is always a question of whether we 
should be realistic or socialist realistic, whether 
we should tell what was there, or, as I mean by 
socialist-realistic 1 if I should tell what would 
further the cause, so to speak. For what was there 
was not very pretty. I shall tell first the realistic 

I shall start with a very sad statement. This is 
that in general the more civilized man was, and the 
higher the level of society from which he came, the 
worse he behaved. The lower class people in general 
stood all the privations of camp life better because 
they were in a sense not humilatlng themselves and 
not giving up their principles and remaining more 
human and more pure politically than the higher classes. 
This can be explained by the fact that the lower class 
people got used to the hardships more easily than the 
upper class. They were more like what they were used 


Nagy: to. For the higher class people the change was too 
great . 

But this was not the case with regard to the 
orientals the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. In 
those groups the higher class, the intelligentsia 
was in general standing sky high above the Europeans. 
By orientals of course I don t mean those from this 
Central Asiatic garbage can your research areal 
because these were the worst that you can imagine. 
I mean the extreme orientals. 

Why? Maybe they have higher resistence and 
higher moral principles in their everyday life than 
we have. 

Their lower classes, too, stood sky high. But 
there you could observe the ranks because high as the 
lower class were, they were still lower than the 
intelligentsia... I refer to the Japanese, especially 
because the Japanese prisoners were mostly from the 
higher classes, officers at least of the Kwantung 
Army. I cannot find, words how to describe their 
dignity, their honesty, and you could never find a 
traitor amongst them. The Koreans were all young 
people of every class. The youngest were freedom 
fighters and partisans against the Russian occupation, 
most of them from North Korea. These people were all 
very well-behaved and deeply idealistic. The Chinese 
were not r.s good; you could find traitors amongst 
them, but still they were incomparably better on the 
average than the Europeans. 

Of the peoples of the Soviet Union, the best were 
the Russians, the Great Russians. The worst were the 
Central Asians. Let s distinguish between the Caucasus 
and Central Asia, because the Azerbaijan Turks mostly 
behaved well, as did the Georgians and the Armenians, 
but the Central Asians the Kirgiz and the Tadzhiks 
and the Kazakhs but the worst were the Kazakhs. Most 
of the traitors and cooperators came from the Kazakhs. 
They were very Soviet minded, and just cooperate, if 
there is a question of selling out a non-Kazakh or a 
non-Moslem, it is nothing for them. 

The Turkmen and Uzbeks? Garbage the Uzbeks 
perhaps weren t quite so bad. They are a bit more 

intelligent. The Kirgiz were the most bezobraznyi 
(worst) that you can imagine. The Tadzhiks were also 

very bad. 


Pierce: What of the Intelligentsia of Central Asia? 

Nagy: I haven t seen much of them. What they call 

intelligentsia were actually washing the floors of 
those buildings. Perhaps there are some well educated 
ones, that are shown in these Russian periodicals in 
Kazakh national costume, naturally. Those are donned 
only for the photographic record, but it doesn t mean 
anything in the real situation. 

All the Caucasian tribes the Chechen-Ingush, 
etc. of the smaller groups, not the three great nations 
the Turks (the Azerbaijanians they are pure Turks), 
Armenians and Georgians these tribes are mostly exiled, 
and they are very disorderly from the human point of 

A special group are those of the Baltic the Letts, 
Lithuanians and Esthonians. Here you can see psycho 
logically and spiritually the contrast between the 
attitude of the Russian concept and that of the 
Central Asiatic and other nations under Soviet rule, 
and the petty bourgeois European attitude. They are 
extremely honest, but they are honest in such a way 
that with all their honesty and decency they gained 
only the hatred and contempt of everybody. They don t 
abuse anybody; they don t steal; they don t even 
think of doing such things. For a Russian it is 
nothing to steal something from someone who has it. 
It is nothing for a Russian to take the clothes from 
someone, if he is a rascal, or if he has enough. But 
the Baits do not do that; they would rather starve. 
But when they get a parcel, they stick to their own 
principle "It is mine; it is mine; I paid for it; I 
got it." And you could starve beside him and he 
would give you a piece of sugar, and he makes up a 
little sandwich for his best friend and he eats the 
standard 8 kilo 20 Ibs parcel alone. But by the 
Russians this does not exist. When a Russian gets a parcel 
he gets his friends and puts it in the middle of the 
barracks and everybody comes there and smokes whereas 
with a Bait a Latvian, Lithuanian or Esthonian he 
would have to ask his best friend for his sugar portion 
or for a cigarette. 

And then one must mention the Germans. We 
observed them when they were getting their parcels. 
The Germans behaved very badly. Hungarians, Rumanians, 
Czechs, Poles were in the middle range between this 


Nagy: Baltic and German attitude and this absolutely open- 
hearted attitude of the Russians. 

The comradeship between the Chinese, Japanese 
and Koreans inside and outside was absolutely above 
everything also. Whatever one had he would share 
without any condition and with everybody, not only 
with his own. You should have seen what there was 
when a Japanese or a Korean was ill. Delegations; 
the whole Korean colony didn t eat sugar; they brought 
him such a bag of sugar everyday. It was the only 
product ill people could eat. Pood for somebody who 
had a real temperature was not to be devoured. 

Ukrainians were not bad, nor Hungarians, Czechs, 
Rumanians or the Poles. Yugoslavs traditionally very 

But the Baits and. the Germans. The Germans 
didn t get parcels, for five years, and when they 
were allowed because of the intervention of the 
Federal Republic. So what happened? Two Germans, 
one got parcels, the director of the Dresdener Bank, 
one of the greatest concerns in Germany, and. the 
second, a chemical engineer for I.G. Farben at 
Leverkusen they were of the upper mid.dle class, 
almost of the aristocracy, von Platen and Obhauss. 
Obhauss didn t get parcels because they were from 
the eastern zone, von Platen got every week four or 
five parcels because his family moved from Dresden to 
Hannover, von Platen ate every weelc the best products 
and canned, food that exist in West Germany chocolate, 
milk powder, condensed milk, and a big box full of 
sweet crackers, everything that you could imagine and 
on the next bed lay Obhauss, lying there eating some 
dried sukhari, black bread dried, with kipitok hot 
water, von Platen didn t even think of handing anything 
over to the other bed. That was something unknown 
for Russians. 

The others observed all of this with terrible 
contempt. You know, the Asians recognise power 
whether it is a just power or not the Germans had 
the power to come as far as the Volga, so they had. 
at least for the Germans sine ira et studio at least 
recognized the facts and had. respect but from all 
that they witnessed in the concentration camp they 
lost all respect. They had been taught what a 
wond.erful nation the Germans were, and. now for those 


Nagy: that they had seen then they had only contempt. For 
instance, the Russians had a certain dignity. A 
Russian, for example, never eats what someone else 
leaves the remains ( os tatki ) . Either offer him a 
full original plate of soup or anything if you want 
to help him, but he will never eat what you have 
touched already. But the German officers of the 
General Staff went to the mess hall (stolovaia) and 
would get the remnants of the cabbage soup, because 
they had almost no calories the dregs, that everyone 
had already spit in, or his snot going in, and 
syphilitic people, gathering from 50 to 60 plates 
one big plate a big plate of syphilis they called it 
and drinking it up. You can t imagine what contempt 
this awoke in the Russians. I, too, was hungry, 
and others, but I don t think I would have ever done 
that, and the Russians would never do so. 

I am speaking of course of the average. There 
were also very noble Germans, good Germans, who were 
disgusted by this and tried to educate their countrymen 
to make them a little more organized and disciplined. 
So really we saw this old thesis of Hitler that the 
Germans must be kept so, you know? Then maybe from 
60 million trash you can make maybe one big striking 
power and good. 

And could they intrigue! Against everybody. 
There were four or five parties at the German colony. 
If there was a quarrel in any of the other groups, as 
the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese, you would never 
even find out who was quarreling with who. But the 
Germans were going to Russians and to everybody to 
complain. The Hungarians arranged it always. You 
could always find an authority a colonel, a priest or 
anybody who had a certain authority. 

There were many Iranians there, and those were 
the scum of the earth. Incredibly dirty, physically 
and spiritually. They were there for illegally 
crossing the border. Arrested with contraband. And 
also when the Russians withdrew from Azerbaidzhan 
they took many people. The Russian military 
administration is unimaginable with their mass arrests 
and deportations. There was someone from everywhere, 
including someone from the Danish island of Bornholm 
they left too quickly to take all the people. Wherever 
they were everyone was for them prisoners. Austrians, 
Poles, Azerbaijanians, Jews, Koreans, and 

Nagy: they took anything of Rumania, Yugoslavia, Hungary, 
Austria, Czechoslovakia, everywhere, even Finland. 

Pierce: What about the Volga Germans, were they like the other 

Nagy: No. Much Russianized. Still very allied in traditions. 
But they didn t understand the Reichs Germans too well. 
As a matter of fact they in a certain degree accused 
them of victimizing then by their attack so that they 
were deported. 

Pierce: What was the attitude of such people toward their 

Nagy: On the one hand they accepted it because they couldn t 
do anything about it; on the other they accepted it 
as a great injustice that had continued already for a 
hundred years. Always hoping for one day the 
liberation coming. All to their depths were completely 
convinced to the bottom of their heart about the 
complete ineptness and failure of the communist system. 

The politicals had had ideas before they got 
into the camp, but the camp convinced everybody, the 
so-called corrective labor camps that were supposed 
to strengthen the Soviet attitude, and to correct them 
and make them better members of Soviet society; it 
convinced them that everything is an unimaginable 
blunder, hypocrisys and lies. They became convinced 
over everything. The slave labor camp is the best 
ant i- Communist school. 

On the other hand there was a young boy who 
because of a little error got in the slave labor camps. 
His parents had had him up to the police station, and 
there he got a three year term. And one thing was 
sure, however small the mistake that got him in, he 
emerged as a qualified criminal, who would never be 
an honest human being again, because they convinced 
him in the camp that to work in the Soviet Union is a 
stupidity, it is dangerous, you are not paid enough 
for it, whereas if you steal you have for a certain 
while a good life. 

The political criminals of course abhorred crime, 
but the majority of the criminals, the bytoviki, had 


Nagy: this attitude. The latter knew that they were 

endangered, but the political criminals were most 
in danger. The latter knew exactly and very well 
who was the guilty party, not honest work, but the 
system. They remembered from the Polish tine, and 
the Latvian, and from the Hungarian that there was 
a time when you could get a position in society not 
for the crimes which you did or for your connections 
in the Secret Police, but through honest work only. 
And they preferred this time to this. So they 
knew that it was not the work but the system that 
was guilty. 

Pierce: Do any particular personalities stand out in your 
memory above all others of the people you saw? 

Nagy: Personalities? Above all a Japanese captain. 

Yamamura 3yeske. He is dead; I should like to speak 
in his memory. I always felt that if I should have 
the opportunity I should do so. 

I met him in 1950 at Camp 28, on the Taishet- 
Bratsk Trass (rail line). We were in different camps 
together. He was the best worker, though the man was 
very small, only a little higher than five feet. He 
was young, 32 or 33 years. He was an intelligent man 
and had never worked in his life before. He was from 
Japan, from a very good family. His wife was left in 
Manchuria, and knew nothing about him when he was 
made prisoner. He was sentenced for spying because 
he was in the Japanese intelligence. A spy! From the 
regular army as prisoner of war, he was sentenced as 
a spy. He never argued, he spoke rarely. He didn t 
want to get in an argument with anyone. Some of these 
political Russians were provocateurs. 

He had already been in prison more than five years 
when I met him. He could perhaps have got better 
work, which would have brought him far better food and 
far less trouble, but he never took the opportunity. 
He wanted, to be in the hardest work, for he knew well 
that better work meant to offer services and get in 
touch with the NKVD people more often, and he didn t 
want even to see them or talk to them. When a comrade 
was in need, he was the first to help. When I got in 
the camp I was a new camp inhabitant and didn t know 
the habits so much yet. He saw my situation and spoke 
with me and for me, and he gave me very valuable advice, 
for he saw that I was too innocent and that I could 
p-et into much trouble. 


Nagy: He was the only nan who cared about me, and who 
was nice to me. Only once did I see him get in an 
argument, and it was for me when someone offended me 
because of my being a Jew. There was no one else, 
not even a Jew, in the brigade of 50 men, to rise to 
my defense. Captain Yamamura Eyeske did it. Pew 
people knew that he was a captain, because his file 
was in the headquarters and he didn t advertise the 
fact. He formed the Japanese in a little working 
crew (zvenok) , and they were among the best workers. 
When he came home, silent, he was always keeping his 
clothing clean in the worst circumstances. 

We were transferred together from Camp 28 to 
Camp 7 and from Camp 7 to Camp 30. There through a 
Bulgarian doctor Yashchinsky, who was very near to me, 
I tried to get him a job in the sanchast , but I didn t 
succeed. So he was going out with the timber crews. 

You know that this work in the timber was 
terribly dangerous, without any care or precaution 
concerning the felling of the timber. They crowded 
many workers in a small area because the convoy 
wanted to control the people and in order that someone 
didn t slip away into the woods preferred to have 
them all concentrated in as small an area as possible. 
So often when they felled those tremendous big spruces 
someone couldn t clear out in time because there was 
no contact at all and you could never tell who was in 
the way. There were never two or three days that 
passed without a man being killed. 

I was once saved only in the last instant, and 
even then the branches swept my shoulders as the tree 
brushed past and crashed into the snow. Because there 
was no warning. Someone would cry "Boi-i-siia! " (take 
cover), but it was hopeless. The commanders weren t 
interested, so one day there was news that someone 
else had been killed in the woods. At noon the convoy 
had a changed guard which brought the news. But they 
knew nothing about it, who it was, and they didn t care 
too much, nobody cared. After all, what was one more 
or one less. The news was like saying that it was 
raining today. You d be interested, but for two 
minutes. In the evening Komorl you know I have never 
seen a Japanese cry stormed into my barracks crying. 
He called "Miklos, come, cornel Yamamura is badly hurt 
but is still alive." 


Ifogy: Without a coat I ran out into *J-0 of cold into 
a snowstorm to the sanchast ( sanitarnyi chast * ) . I 
got a permit to get in with great difficulty and we 
went in. And there he was, entirely unconscious and 
I couldn t speak to him. He was breathing heavily, 
this inner bloody breathing, his head was struck in 
pieces, he was lying with his little face absolutely 
white, his head bound over. We stood there; I was 
making a salute before his bed, and officer Komori 
was crying too, both of us, and then we had to go out 
and in the morning he was dead. 

In my eyes and I can t really tell you so much 
about him he was really the perfect man in the camp. 
Never humiliating himself, and at the same time not 
provoking, and he didn t offend anyone. He never 
occupied any position and he had nothing to expect 
from anyone. He, unlike others, could get respect 
without power, without anyone expecting any advantage 
from him, or without having to punish or terrorize 
someone. Even in the hardest work he never complained. 
When I remember perfect men, I think of Captain 
Yamamura Eyeske. He always behaved the same, and 
this was hard. 

Pierce: This was the best. Who x-ras the worst? 

Nagy: Scores of them. Linzmeyer, a Volksdeutscher from 
the Bukovina, was one of the worst. Criminals. 
Zaharov, a criminal. Salamatin, murderer. There 
r-ras really no end to their dastardliness. And when 
I say that they did so much it doesn t mean anything, 
because only the opportunity was lacking; if there 
had been any advantage for them they would have done 
a hundred times more. 

Pierce: Were these suki or vory? 

Nagy: Either, or pikapchennyi friary who made themselves 
great criminals. There were terrible examples. 

There was a very mean Hungarian too, unimaginable, 
a moral idiot, already morally insane. 

Pierce: Then these are breeding spots for more criminals 
among the young? 

Nagy: Yes, for the young this was a disaster. 







From the taiga region I went to Magaden. You reach 
Magadan by sea. Boats go from Vladivostok to Bukhta 
Nakhodka and Bukhta Banya to Sovetskaia Gavan, or 
sometimes to the rail connection there. 

Magadan is quite built up (and is even more so 
now, since I was there). There are stone buildings 
and docks. 

From Magadan came the order to repatriate us. 
We were sent first to a gathering point 50 or 60 
kilometers south of Sverdlovsk Kliuchi you will 
not see it on any American map. There is a small 
river there, and slave labor camps. 

Were you ever allowed out on your own at this time? 

Oh, I was already free. In the Sverdlovsk area I 
was able to go into Sverdlovsk and buy things. We 
were supposed to be handed over to the authorities, 
but nevertheless we were free. 

How did you get money? 

Because this Hungarian doctor under whom I had worked 
in the Krasnolarsk area the one who saved my life 
from tuberculosis had made a great deal of money 
working in the hospital. He gave me some. 

Did he have a high salary? 


He had quite a high salary in prison terms, but besides 
this he made much money on the side treating the 
civilians and getting fees from the NKVD people and 
their families. 


Pierce: Like a private practicet? 

Nagy: Something like that. 

Pierce: That would be his normal duty, however, wouldn t it? 

Nagy: No, no, on the contrary. There would have been only 
enough to take care of the camp personnel, but you 
know anyhow the Russians are not too bad people and 
they gave. Only you trusted the lives of their 
families in his hands, so they naturally felt like 
rewarding him. It is logic, the Russians are not 
too bad people. 

The amnesty turned out to be a very curious 
amnesty. All foreign citizens were pardoned, but 
were handed over to their own authorities "for further 
punishment", severe punishment, as the Russians say 
for continuation of their punishment in Hungarian or 
any other jails. This was September 1955 "the time 
of the spirit of Geneva. 

The proportion between the pardoned and the 
continuously punished people was Guch that of those 
who went to western countries the proportion was 95$ 
pardoned and 91$ Germans the most guilty war criminals- 
and 10 or 5$ handed over to Austria or Turkey or Japan, 
because they knew very well that no one would respect 
their orders, but as for the Hungarians, it was 55$ 
came to jail; the Poles ^-0$, Romanians 50$ f the 
Bulgarians ?0%. So it was done in a very Machiavellian 
way. They knew very well that they were going into 
good hands and that they could afford to make such 
"magnanimous" actions. 

I came home in November. I was with three other 
people and we spent one month as free people in the 
Sverdlovsk area because we waited for arrival of all 
Hungarians and Rumanians. The Sverdlovsk area was 
the Hungarian- Rumanian gathering point for repatriation. 
Then we went to Moscow, where we spent also a couple 
of days as free people. Then we were sent to Hungary 
and naturally as we expected, we were taken as we 
crossed the border. We were taken Jaszbereny jail. 
There we were thoroughly checked. The first group, 
with whom I was, was liberated on parole on April 4, 
1956; the second grout) in June, the third group in 
September, and the last group was freed only when the 
revolution opened the doors. 


Nagy: When I went home I found out that my parents had 
been arrested in my absence, that they had lost 
everything and were pressed into one room, which they 
had to enter through the bathroom, and three other 
tenants were in their apartment. My father at 6k had 
to set to hard physical work, unskilled, in a chemical 
factory and my mother had to sew; they made together 
maybe $50 a Eonth. 

I couldn t find a Job, in spite of the fact that 
I speak several languages. I passed all the tests, 
but I was always refused by the personnel department 
or section the polit section in communist countries. 
I was very weak and ill; I went to a sanatorium but 
they always asked why I was not working. I could 
have got the roughest physical job, but I was too weak 
and was in no mood to do rough work for them because 
they paid only 25 or 30 dollars a month. 

However finally, 23 October, 1956, the revolution 
came. It came as a surprise, but anyhow I was fighting 
from the first moment, and we were crushed. Then, 
knowing very well what was in store for me if I stayed, 
I went to Austria. There I worked as an Interpreter 
in the Hungarian refugee camps and then I asked if I 
could come to this country. 

Here I worked, in Los Angeles, first at Max Factor s, 
then in the Bank of America as a teller, and then I got 
a scholarship through World University Service and 
entered the University of California in September, 1958. 
I was allowed credit for my work at the University of 
Vienna, and by taking double the usual number of course 
units, and credit by examinations, have now [by the 
summer of 1958] nearly finished requirements for the 
BA degree. 


Born in California. 

Undergraduate and graduate training at the University 
of California, Berkeley, specializing in the history of 
Russia, particularly of Russian expansion in Central 
Asia, Siberia, and Alaska. 

Since 1959, on the teaching staff of Queen s University, 
Kingston, Ontario, Canada. 

Publications include Russian Central Asia, 1867-1917; 
A Study in Colonial Rule (University of California Press, 
Berkeley, 1960), Russia s Hawaiian Adventure. 1815-1817 
(University of California Press, Berkeley, 1965).