Crime scene photographs of a raid of a hidden chapel Budapest 1972

Item

Title

Crime scene photographs of a raid of a hidden chapel Budapest 1972
Rajtaütés során készült helyszíni fotók egy budapesti házi gyülekezetnél

Description

These pictures have been selected from the 27 crime scene photographs that were taken during a raid of pastor József Németh's community in a hidden chapel created at his home. The raid took place on September 26th, 1972 during a regular Tuesday gathering.
The first photograph depicts the hidden chapel in József Németh’s house in Pesterzsébet. On the picture we see nine congregants some of whom are facing the occasional table-alter, discussing the unfolding situation, others are turning towards the back of the room in order to follow events. Behind the alter, the double doors are covered with curtains which frame the alter. The chapel is furnished with new chairs. The second image depicts the back of the house church with congregants and possibly two officers. The third image presents the electric organ in the house chapel, while the fourth picture portrays the collection box.
These three later photographs inform us of the intentions of the secret police to collect evidence for the supposed crimes of the community. The main interest of the secret police centered around finances of the illegal religious group. The secret police had a deep interest in finding out how the pastor could make a living only on the donations of the community without having a civil job and how the community could afford such a modern electric organ and new furniture.
József Németh was expelled from the Evangelical Christian Church (Evangéliumi Keresztény Egyház), the recognized Pentecostal organization, in 1968 after a series of misdemeanors. The secret police initiated an investigation because the religious group held no official permit to operate.
Németh’s community had been under surveillance since 1968. 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.
From the investigation file we find out that four police officers, a driver and a staff photographer participated in the operation. In the file the names of the officers participating in the house search are present without anonymization.
After the raid, the hidden house chapel was no longer used and under ongoing surveillance the community dissolved. Pastor József Németh received a suspended sentence of 3 months. He later succeeded planting a new community in 1982. The community began to gather again in the same hidden house chapel. However, by this time pastor János Németh had become a member of the officially registered Free Christian Church (Magyarországi Szabadkeresztyén Gyülekezet).
The photographs come from file ÁBTL 3.1.9. V-160122. Along with the photographs of the crime scene there are confiscated images taken by the community, interrogation reports, the trial sentence and other confiscated personal documents including the community's cash book and diary.

Creator

Kinga Povedák

Date

1972

Source

Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára
ÁBTL 3.1.9. V-160122
https://www.abtl.hu

Publisher

Hidden Galleries (ERC project no. 677355)

Rights

copyright for these images belongs to ÁBTL

Format

image/tif

Language

HU

Subject

secret police (secret service)
Communism and Christianity
Communism--Hungary
ÁVO ; ÁVH ; Államvédelmi Hatóság ; Hungarian Secret Police
Hungary. Államvédelmi Hatóság
Evidence, criminal
Evidence fabrication
Evidence photographs
Surveillance
Pentecostalism
Free churches

Type

image

Identifier

ÁBTL 3.1.9. V-160122

Coverage

20th century
Hungary