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v2.1 Reference

Victim of History

Cardinal Mindszenty, a biography

"Victim of history," "a martyr from behind the Iron Curtain," "the Hungarian Gandhi" – these are just some of the epithets which people used to describe Cardinal Mindszenty, archbishop of Esztergom, who was the last Hungarian prelate to use the title of prince primate. Today, Mindszenty has been forgotten in most countries except for Hungary, but when he died in 1975, he was known all over the world as a symbol of the struggle of the Catholic Church against communism.

Cardinal Mindszenty held the post of archbishop of Esztergom from 1945 until 1974, but during this period of almost three decades he served barely four years in office. The political police arrested him on December 26, 1948, and the Budapest People's Court subsequently sentenced him to life imprisonment. Based on the Stalinist practice of show trials, one of the accusations against Mindszenty, referring to his legitimist leanings, was his alleged attempt to re-establish Habsburg rule in Hungary. He regained freedom during the 1956 revolution but only for a few days. He was granted refuge by the US Embassy in Budapest between November 4, 1956 –September 28, 1971. In the fifteen years he spent at the American embassy enormous changes took place in the world while his personality remained frozen into the past. When in 1971 Pope Paul VI received the Hungarian foreign minister, he called Mindszenty "the victim of history". His last years were spent free at last, but far away from his homeland. In Hungary, the Catholic believers eagerly await his beatification.

About the Author

Margit Balogh is a scientific advisor of the Institute of History at the Research Centre for the Humanities in Budapest. She earned her postdoctoral degree from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2020. Balogh was awarded the Knight Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit and was the winner of the Szily Kálmán award.


"József Mindszenty led the Hungarian Catholic Church through a period of ideological vacuum and spiritual ruin, whilst contending with the collapse of a dying world. Margit Balogh's book recounts from the historian's perspective his life story, his struggles while searching for the right path, his personal tragedy and his confessional power. I heartily recommend this captivating book to anyone with an interest in the 20th-century history of Hungarian Catholics and Central Europe."—Bishop Asztrik Várszegi, OSB, Archabbot Emeritus of Pannonhalma

"When Cardinal Mindszenty left the US Embassy in Budapest after 15 years, the world looked at him as a symbol of unbreakable resistance to a totalitarian regime. His biography, a scholarly masterwork now finally available in English, tells the story of this extraordinary character, one of the most powerful and controversial personalities of Hungarian history. Margit Balogh has worked in countless archives in Europe and the United States to reconstruct and critically analyze this great personal drama of the 20th century."—Arpad von Klimo, The Catholic University of America

"This is the extraordinary story of an extraordinary person which has been meticulously researched by historian Margit Balogh. Amid periods of slander, misapprehension, then appreciation and rediscovery, his fate has somehow become the symbol of that of the Hungarian nation. The author is objective, yet empathetic and at times even provocative. The monumental biography of Mindszenty has already become a classic work in Hungarian, which is why it is important that her book becomes more widely available for the use of international historians."—Antal Molnár DSc, Member of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences

"Hungarian historian Margit Balogh's "Victim of History": Cardinal Mindszenty is a thorough, judicious, and sympathetic biography of a stalwart witness for the faith and an indefatigable defender of liberty and human dignity in the age of totalitarianism."—Catholic World Report

9780813234946 : victim-of-history-balogh
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