Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Maléter, Pál (1917–1958)

Hungarian military officer and minister of defense in the 1956 Hungarian reform government. Born on 4 September 1917 in Eperjes, Hungary, Pál Maléter initially pursued a medical career but because of financial difficulties never completed his studies. In 1939 he joined the Hungarian Army. He graduated as a lieutenant from the Ludovika Military Academy in 1942. Two years later he was injured and taken prisoner on the Eastern Front.

In 1946, after his return to Hungary, Maléter was appointed a battalion commander with the Hungarian border guards. In 1948 he became commander of the guards, and in 1949 he was appointed head of Armored Forces Operation Department in the Ministry of Defense. After graduating from the officers' school in 1950, he served for six years on the General Staff.

Maléter became actively involved in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution on 25 October when the government ordered him to defend an army post in Budapest. After three days of fighting, he negotiated a cease-fire agreement with the rebels. Soon thereafter, he changed allegiances and joined the revolutionaries. On 1 November, new Prime Minister Imre Nagy tasked Maléter with negotiating the withdrawal of the Warsaw Pact troops from Hungary. The following day, Maléter was appointed minister of defense with the rank of brigadier general. He visited the Soviet Army's main headquarters on 3 November with his delegation to negotiate a Soviet withdrawal and Hungary's departure from the Warsaw Pact. When he attempted to leave the Soviet compound, however, he was prevented from doing so. Soviet tanks, meanwhile, crushed the Hungarian Revolution. Maléter remained in Soviet custody until January 1957, when he was handed over to the new Hungarian authorities. Tried on charges of attempting to overthrow the Hungarian People's Republic, he was found guilty and was executed on 16 June 1958 in Budapest.

Anna Boros-McGee


Further Reading
Horváth, Miklós. Maléter Pál. Budapest: Osiris-Századvég, 1995.
 

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