Thursday, 26 September 2013


Different destinies

Part I of this posting recounted András Pető's close call with destiny when Miklos Kun saved the occupants of the Red Cross Children's home in Orsó u., Budapest II, from whatever fate the local Arrow Cross had in mind for them:

András Pető was said to place great store in fate and destiny. Many years later, at the end of the nineteen-nineties, Miklos Kun told Júdit Forrai –
...he ended up with motor-disabled patients by chance, which is not a bad way at all. He could have come across something else and then he would have done something completely different... (p. 83)
One need not believe in fate or destiny to ask what might have happened had Miklos Kun not turned up when he did, and acted so boldly.

Alternative destinies

The day could have gone so very differently for András Pető at that Red Cross Children's Home. Genocidal actions leave little testimony, by their very nature, but accounts of the fate of others in such situations during the Siege of Budapest suggest what might have happened next. András Pető, along with Miklos Kun's mother with whom he was sharing a room, any other adults found in the Children's Home, and of course the children, could have been summarily shot before the day was out. Krisztián Ungváry has described the sort of situations that faced the children in two other homes on Christmas Eve 1944 –
For the Jews in particular the arrival of the Red Army meant liberation. Unlike the milirary command, the Arrow cross militia were surprised by the appearance of Soviet troops in Buda, and many potential victims owed their lives to the ensuing confusion. The first were provably the inmates of a Jewish children's home in Budakeszi Road, where their parents had left them before they themselves were deported or imprisoned in a ghetto. In the arly morning of 24 December Arrow Cross men burst into the home and lined the children up, but departed when they heard the rapidly increasing thunder of guns; the children in their turn saw the first Soviet tanks rattling along the village street in the late morning. On the same morning Arrow Cross men appeared in the Jewish children's homs in Munkáczy Mihály Street in Buda and marched the children and their carers – a group of more than 100 – to the Radetzki Barracks (later Bem Barracks) where a machine gun ready to fire was awaiting them. However, when news of the Soviet advance arrived in the early afternoon, the mass murder was called off and the group was herded to the Ghetto in the VII District. (p.49)
Others were less lucky.

Remember Miklos Kun

'Fate' and 'destiny' can mean many things. Best probably to leave them out of consideration. Suffice it that András Pető and those with him that day were very lucky, for which give thanks for Miklos Kun who surely deserves a place in Conductive Education's Pantheon of forgotten heroes, without whom, well, there would have been nothing.

A now distant world...

Our image of András Pető is such a Will o'the Wisp: now you see him, now you don't. Then perhaps you see two of him!

Here's another account of a visit by Arrow Cross to the children's home in Orsó u., from a different source, Arieh Ben-Tov's book Holocaust
at 1.30 am, December 6th, 1944 somebody rang the door bell to the Orsó u. Children's Home, which was under the protection of the Spanish Embassy and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Three Arrow Cross soldiers demanded from the civil defence officer to be let in. The officer showed them the sign indicating the immunity of the house and that it was out of bounds. The three Arrow Cross men destroyed the signs and entered the building aggressively. In the bedrooms they made everyone undress, they searched their pockets and took everything, they then insulted some of the people and left. (p. 211)
Perhaps Arrow Cross detachments called round there more than once. Or perhaps these accounts are are different Chinese Whispers of the same event. What to believe? Either way, these accounts tell of a distant reality in which terrible actions were the order of the day, and life and death a lottery, where ideas such as fate and destiny had understandable explanatory power.

...and the world of today

A little while ago a posting on Conductive World drew attention to the forthcoming film, Walking with the Enemy, set in Budapest at just that time:

Somebody anonymous commented:
And what does this movie have to do with conductive education?
The film's advance trailer suggests that there may be all sorts of specifics to be irritated about. Good or bad, however, I shall probably be urging anyone concerned with understanding Conductive Education to go and see it – if only to encourage them to confront for themselves that most testing question, how best to link CE's present, with its past.


Ben-Tov, A ( 1992) Holocaust, Budapest, Dunakőnyv

Maguire, G., Sutton, A. (2013) CEP Quotationary of András Pető, Birmingham, Conductive Education Press

Forrai, J. (1999) Memoirs of the beginnings of conductive pedagogy and András Pető, Budapest and Birmingham, Új Aranyhíd and FCE

Sutton, A. (2013) András Pető's brush with destiny – I, Conductive World, 24 September

Sutton, A. (2013) Walking with the Enemy: Budapest under the Arrow Cross, Conductive World, 15 May

Ungváry, K. (2002) Battle for Budapest, London, BCA

1 comment:

  1. for which give thanks for Miklos Kun who surely deserves a place in Conductive Education's Pantheon of forgotten heroes, great work admin.