Confiscated photographs from a clandestine religious community Budapest



Confiscated photographs from a clandestine religious community Budapest
Egy titkos vallási közösség elkobzott fényképei, Budapest


These images were confiscated from an underground Pentecostal community in Budapest-Pesterzsébet in 1972. The first image depicts a baptism where pastor József Németh is baptising a young girl. The second image is a group-picture of pastor József Németh and another five congregants in white who had just been baptised. They are standing with presumably other congregants and family members. The third image depicts pastor József Németh preaching to his congregation in their hidden house church. Prior to confiscation, the photos belonged to pastor József Németh.

The photos were taken by a member of the community named in the file. 12 images were confiscated altogether along with several other religious materials by the secret police during a house raid on September 26th, 1972 during a regular Tuesday service. The images were used as incriminating evidence against the leading figures of the community including pastor József Németh himself.

József Németh had separated from the officially recognised Evangelical Christian Church (Evangéliumi Keresztény Egyház), which was the recognised Pentecostal organisation, in 1968 after being accused of a series of "misdemeanors" by the Church. Following this, the secret police initiated an investigation on the grounds that the religious group held no official permit to operate. In 1972 the secret police decided to take action and according to the investigation file the following objectives were set out: a) end the illegal religious activity, b) collect evidence for the illegal activity and c) assess the valuables of the illegal community. The main accusation against József Németh and his congregation was the misuse of the right to freedom of association. The secret police used an anonymous note written by a citizen as a pretext (a common practice of the Hungarian secret police) in order to justify a raid on the community. After the house search József Németh and other leading figures in the community were interrogated on several later occasions. Pastor József Németh received a suspended sentence of 3 months.

As part of the Hidden Galleries research project, these photos were later shown to the community. From them we know that the hidden house chapel was no longer used following the house raid and due to ongoing surveillance the community dissolved. József Németh only succeeded in planting a new community ten years later in 1982. The new community began to gather again in the same hidden house chapel. However, by this time pastor József Németh had become a member of the officially registered Free Christian Church (Magyarországi Szabadkeresztyén Gyülekezet). We also learned that the girl in the picture is the daughter of the pastor, who was 12 years old at that time, and that the baptism took place in the garden of the hidden house church in a specially constructed font.

The confiscated images serve as evidences proving the secret religious activities of the religious group.
The photographs come from file ÁBTL 3.1.9. V-160122. Along with the confiscated images the file contains interrogation reports, the trial sentence, 27 crime scene photographs and other confiscated documents including a diary and the community’s cash book.

For related entries see:


secret police (secret service)
Communism and Christianity
ÁVO ; ÁVH ; Államvédelmi Hatóság ; Hungarian Secret Police
Hungary. Államvédelmi Hatóság ; Surveillance
Free churches


Kinga Povedák


Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára
ÁBTL 3.1.9. V-160122


This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme No . 677355




copyright for these images belongs to ÁBTL








ÁBTL 3.1.9. V-160122


20th century

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