Guilty nation or unwilling ally? by József Varga Addenda to the history of Hungary and the Danubian basin Part I, 1918-1939

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9. The KALOT movement
The most significant and promising populist movement of Hungarian Catholicism was, undoubtedly, the National Association of Rural Catholic Young Men (Katolikus Agrárifjúsági Legényegy­letek Országos Testülete /KALOT/) [akin to a mix of the YMCA and 4H movements-ed.]. The founders of the KALOT movement were prescient enough to deduce the obvious conclusion from the untenable position of the farm population: something must be done immediately. The results of the world economic crisis created such serious effects in Hungary that people with a sense of responsibility were driven to take action and execute reforms. The situation of the small and micro-landholders, along with that of the farm workers, demanded fast action. It was finally widely recognized that a significant improvement in the circumstances of the poverty-struck rural population was a mandatory pre-condition to the creation of a strong, independent and self-assured nation.
In September of 1935, Jenő Kerkai SJ, dr. György Farkas and József Ugrin decided to create a movement for the young men of the farms. They set as the organization’s goal the training and education of as great a proportion of the rural youth into ‘well educated humans’, as possible. The ‘multitude of well educated humans’ was to produce its leaders from among its own numbers and, with their help, organize a strong movement, wrest the intellectual, economic and political independence of the farm population, thereby sketch a new and hope filled future for the entire nation. There was no question from the beginning that the movement would rest on a base of Christian morality and view of the world. The sole measure of its thinking and actions was the morality and conscience again and again renewed in Christ. The two great encyclicals (Rerum novarum 1891, Quadragesimo anno 1931) served as its political and social compass. Their guide was employed in drafting the individual program items, the rules governing the behavior and recruiting activities of the leaders, especially when dealing with Church authorities. The leadership categorically denied the view that a proletarian fate [lower class poverty-ed.] was unavoidable. They demanded the establishment of civil justice. They preached with conviction that there is no absolute right to private property and land. Clearly and fearlessly, they pointed out that the ruling class is anti-societal and is the brake, in fact the roadblock, of all progress.
The small room of Father Kerkai was the scene, in 1936, of the analysis of the early practical experiences and there, after long debates, was born the KALOT’s short, radical and terse quadruple motto: More Christ-like man, more cultivated village, vigorous people, self-possessed Hungarian! This four-part motto was, in a nutshell, the program platform of the movement. The same little room in Szeged saw the birth of many more mottoes, programs and demands of which many at the time dared not even think. The three founders of the KALOT were firmly certain that all those who thought and felt according to the principles of this program would be able to face any danger, to weather any hazard.
The movement published its handbook in 1937, which contained its concrete program outline. The program platform was characterized by radicalism, clear statements and wise foresight. This fact is all the more admirable since KALOT, with its program, challenged the entire leadership of Hungary, especially the Catholic hierarchy, in spite of the fact that the movement’s success depended in no small way on the pleasure of the same church hierarchy. The KALOT plan depended heavily on organizing and building the movement around the local parishes and parish priests. The organizers expected the optimum results from this organizational approach. They confidently counted on the cooperation of most parish priests and chaplains, on the new and untapped vitality of the ‘young agitators.’ The whirlwind growth of the KALOT movement validated expectations.
A few quotations from the handbook speak for themselves:

“People are the greatest asset. …”

“A man or system that forces us, through starvation wages and overwork, to become beggars is a mortal enemy to our purpose.”

“We will not tolerate someone’s hand in our pocket, and often at our throat, just because we are meek, obedient and Catholic.”

“No one should expect that, under the motto of gentleness and love of fellow man, we will permit ourselves to be robbed.”

“We love … our unique folk values, customs, folk art and traditions …”

“They represent the rescue for the village.”

“Our aim … the support of talented folk.”

“The people of the villages, the isolated farms and the plains do not have many reasons to be happy with life. Dry bread, ragged clothes, dilapidated homes, often not even that, the many, many tears are not the sign of joy but of misery.”

“Nobody has the right to so much wealth as to gravely endanger the livelihood of hundreds of thousands. The right to life can be endangered not only with a knife or cudgel but … all manner of speculation, starvation wages, unfair competition, unhealthy working conditions, forced overtime, etc., which are the hideous progeny of our present economic system … The right to life supersedes all rights to private property, even if they are deemed to be ‘absolute’.”

“We accept a common fate with our people and the millions of agro-proletariat.”

Our aim: “The cooperative organization of the marketing of our agricultural products … mechanization of our agriculture … social insurance … organizing for the common interest … cooperation in the social service of our people with the Protestant segments of our society. …”

“We reject the insane homage to blood and race, which is gushing from the wellspring of overheated nationalism. Our happiness, our future is not defined by social class or race but being a part of the nation! Belonging to a nation is not a question of blood but one of spirit.”

“Where (non-Magyar) ethnic youth groups exists, there the Movement’s goals are to be explained in their mother tongue… We recognize the freedom of language usage and association as these are the most personal and basic rights …”

“The Movement … removes all such impediments which cling, with childish naivete, in the belief of the unchangeability of the present situation. This regime was created by errant, sinful human hands, which will never solve its own problems … The construction of roads to rescue and revitalization needs strong workmen’s arms. These are what we seek in the villages and hamlets, these are what we seek to link and unite in the Young Men’s movement. … As for the initiatives for the current restructuring by ‘the experts,’ we can honestly say that no one is more expert than the ordinary people.”147
The founders of KALOT spent a year on organization, visiting hamlets and farmsteads, with the result that, in October of 1936, at a Jesuit retreat property outside Szeged, 35 farming young men from the neighbourhood met for a three and a half day leadership training seminar. The organizers of the seminar had personally interviewed each before selecting and inviting them. The seminar was conducted through discussions. Mornings and evenings, Father Kerkai talked with the attendees about world issues. Forenoons and afternoons were devoted to debates between György Farkas and József Ugrin and the 35 attendees on organizational issues, member recruiting, organizing program nights, ‘genteel behavior’ for farmers, as well as current political, economic and social problems. Guest speakers were rare but, at the request of those present, experts (gardeners, etc.) were invited to provide technical answers (growing fruits and vegetables, etc.). The sessions usually ended on Sunday afternoon with a ceremonial summation and closing. ‘Selected’ and ‘useful’ guests also received invitations to these closings. At the ceremonial closings, which were essentially the models for the meetings to be held at home, it was the young people who mostly spoke. The recounted what they had heard, presented songs, dances or improvised skits. These closing ceremonies always left a lasting impression on the visitors. The leaders of the KALOT already knew the significance of ‘transparency.’ The seminars were free of charge; food was mostly brought by those attending, with a hot meal at noon. The classroom also doubled as the dining hall, the young men taking turns to serve the food. There was a common bunk house with bunk beds; everyone brought their own blankets – clean sheets were provided. They all returned home having acquired valuable information. Continued ‘spiritual nourishment’ was looked after in an organized fashion.
The news of these leadership (agitator-recruiter training) seminars spread like wildfire across the country. Applications poured in from farms and villages, crossing regional boundaries. They would guaranteed everything, if seminars were to be held in their location. By the end of 1938, the number who had attended these sessions reached 2,000; the number of local groups organized by them was close to 1,500, with a membership approaching 100,000. On May 29, 1938, during the XXXIV. Eucharistic World Congress, KALOT held its own congress in Budapest. Ten thousand blue shirted farm lads sat in the Hall of Trades, listening intently to Father Kerkai’s tough statements: “Who does this movement serve? … Other than God, it serves nobody because … it has no lords, only laborers! Who are we organizing against? … against nobody … but not in defence of the old system, either. Not even to defend church properties!” From the fall of 1938 through to the spring of 1939 – seminars were held during the break in farming tasks – a further 2,000 young men attended the 44 sessions held. A year later, in 117 sessions lasting three and a half days each, 3,771 received instruction in 14 counties. By the end of 1942, KALOT trained approximately 15,000 youth leaders; the number of groups under their organization was over 3,500, with a membership approaching half million.
This explosive growth was the fitting response of the Catholic farm youth to the rumors spread in certain governing and middle class circles that “… the peasant is lazy, doesn’t want to learn, is unorganizable, is a skinflint who doesn’t part with a penny, completely lacking in any will to scarifice …” The results of the early years already clearly proved the inaccuracy of those rumors. Furthermore, the dynamic development of the KALOT movement also proved that, in spite of every attack and questioning of its fundamental tenets, Christian tradition, ways of thinking and value system were still extremely potent formative forces that were deeply rooted in the Hungarian psyche. A significant portion of Catholic youth were only waiting for a spark to burst into flame, imbued by ideas steeped in Christian spirituality, to commit his actions and abilities in their behalf. It also wished to serve notice, once and for all, that it must not be omitted in the rejuvenation of the country and society.
The same explosive growth also presented two tough problems. One was the need for continued training of those who completed the half-week seminars. Second, the covering of the substantially increased costs in such a manner as not to sacrifice the movement’s freedom, independence and originality.
The leaders of the movement decided, as the solution to their first problem, on the creation of institutions, which would take over the basic seminars, as well as impart broader and deeper information. These institutions were charged with the task of preparing the attendees with independent, critical and responsible thought and action, both within the movement and in political and societal context. The best of the graduates were to be purposefully prepared to play a future role in a parliamentary democracy based on a pluralist basis. The accomplishment of these tasks were to be relegated to ‘folk high schools’ [populist residential high school for hands-on, practical knowledge-ed.]. These institutions, though, had to be created first.
The idea for this type of post-middle school was not unknown in Hungary. The Danish Protestant pastor and poet, Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig, suggested the creation of such schools in 1844, the first one being opened by Kold Kristen in 1851, in Ryslinge; Count István Széchenyi also spoke of the concept that only a well-educated multitude could make a nation risch, strong and vibrant. The difference in the fates of Gruntvig’s and Széchenyi’s idea was that Gruntvig’s suggestion found several supporters – and thus came into being –, while Széchenyi’s was merely applauded. The soaring ideas and nationalistic demands of Kossuth found more fervent support among his contemporaries than Széchenyi’s exhortations to sober, steady and unswerving hard work, suggestions and urgings toward accomplishable goals. [Kossuth proposed national independence first, economic issues later; Széchenyi preached economic strength before political independence from Vienna-ed.] The losses inflicted on the Danes by the Napoleonic Wars were felt even decades later by the Danish people but primarily by the Danish farmers. Danish popular opinion took note of Gruntvig’s suggestion and a significant portion of the population rallied in support – of the farmers, almost all. Gruntvig’s program could be encapsulated in three ideas: Folk high schools, cooperatives, live Dane-like”. The coherent execution of this program created perhaps the richest and best educated farmers in the world. By the end of the 1930’s, 62 of these populist residential high schools were in operation in Denmark. They were supported not by the government but by the the local farmers and their cooperatives. Thus, farmers in Denmark became a strong economic and political force. These folk high schools were extremely popular in Norway, Sweden and Finnland, also. In 1940, there were 60 operating in Finnland, one in each district.The Finnish populist schools exerted effective resistance against Russian attempts of hegemony, contributed to the easing of social class differences and contributed to increased national consciousness.
In Hungary, the idea for this type of school was suggested, and supported, in the beginning of the 20th century by the synod of Catholic bishops and the Hungarian Farmers Association (Magyar Gazdaszövetség) and its youth wing, the Széchenyi Association (Széchenyi Szövetség). After WWI, the idea was continued by the National Rural Association (Országos Faluszövetség) and the government. One was opened in 1922 in Mezőkövesd, the teaching staff provided by the local Catholic high school. In 1925, landowner Ferenc Sréter endowed one in Szanda, and the Catholic parish priest, Bónis Szekeres, opened one in Győrcsanak. Both operated into the 1930’s. The first permanent school of the type opened in the fall of 1940 in Érd, its founder and patron: the KALOT movement.
The Hungarian schools adopted the characteristics of the European populist schools. They were: a clearly defined view of the world as the basis of education, nurture of culture rooted in national traditions, an acceptance of cooperation to accomplish the main national goals, flexibility of methods, and an exhortation of the students toward independence and self-activation. It was also important to combine benevolent government support and private and social initiatives. These principles were officially adopted and accepted at two meetings held in the springs of 1940 and 1941. Those present at the meeting were representatives of KALOT, the Christian Youth Union (Keresztyén Ifjúsági Egyesületek /KIE/) and of the Ministry of Religion and Public Education. The meetings both stressed that: imparting knowledge was as important and significant as character forming; in teaching, quality not quantity was the goal; ongoing contact was to be maintained with graduates; in opening schools, one had to be sensitive to their regional characteristics. The executives of the meetings decided to establish a council of 14 to oversee the new schools, seven from KALOT and seven from KIE.
The various questions of the fate of the nation took a central position in the curriculum, which had an impact on the character of the educational approach. The first permanent school in Érd was used as the test site to develop it as part of its syllabus. The pedagogical basis became the instruction toward independence. In line with that directive, the school developed the following three courses: 1) a 10 week cultural course, 2) an course in economics, in cooperation with the Association of Hungarian Producer's Sales and Service Co-operatives (Hangya) and Generali Insurance Company, 3) an organizing and leadership training course. Courses 2 and 3 ran from three weeks to a month. The students to these schools came from the farm youth of the villages and hamlets. Acceptance criteria hypothetically required completion of four elementary grades and an age of about 16-18 years but these were often waived, especially if the lad was talented (folksong, -dance, organizing, etc.), which was often the case. In the last resort, there was only one requirement, that the student be of good character! The curriculum revolved around 4 fundamental concepts: the leader as a person; the leader in the family; the leader in the community (parish, economic and social groups, KALOT movement); the leader in managing the public opinion of the village on matters of general human interests or special Hungarian issues. These four ideas formed the core of each course.
The Érd school teaching staff was made up of 16 permanent teachers, 10 of whom lived on-site. The 10-week courses consisted of 60 working days and 10 Sundays, making each session 480 hours of instruction. The remainder was devoted to rest and recreation, although most took further instruction. The subjects and hours of instruction were: general world history, 50; Hungarian history, 40; Hungarian literature and cultural history, 40; introductory world and Hungarian geography, 15; small-farming science, local and world economic picture, 20; human and animal hygene, 10; Hungarian culture, 140; questions regarding the fate of Hungarians, 10; citizenship rights and responsibilities, contracts, 17; co-operative issues, 10; organizational leadership training, 73; military cadet training, 25; summation and discussion, 30. Sunday mornings were taken up by self-improvement sessions, headed by one of the students, a different one every Sunday. The topics were chosen by the attendees, as were the minutes of the meetings. During the summer, the Érd school organized summer camps, with seminars and discussions, for middle-school students, pastors, seminarians, teachers and student teachers. The KALOT representatives lost no opportunity to inform the campers of the movement’s aims and achievements.
In November of 1938, KALOT and the Community Workers Specialty Groups (Egyházközségi Munkásszakosztályok /Emszo/) formed a mutual working group, within which they carried out common trade activities. In 1941, the KALOT Trade Association was formed. Its aim was the creation of a wide ranging insurance coverage for the population, as well as the acquisition of the farming implements and other needs at favorable prices through group purchasing. In the interest of this need, the Érd school instituted a so-called farm trade course, popularly called ‘barter-trader course.’ This institutionalized agent training served several purposes, the most important of which was that the young men no longer worked altruistically for their own people but in a professional manner, tied to a profit potential.
The cooperation with the Generali Insurance Company resulted in the training of 600 rural insurance agents. The school at Vértesacsa trained 500 agents with knowledge of news circulation issues in the villages and hamlets. The Érd school, with cooperation form the Hangya cooperative, produced 200 young men with training as buyer-agents for the cooperative. In 1941, there was but one of these residential KALOT high schools, 16 by the following year and 20 by 1943 (Érd, Csíksomlyó, Szeged, Zirc, Püspöknádasd, Egyházasfalu, Balatonberény, Jánosi, Palicsfürdő, Hajdúdorog, Szilágysomlyó, Szatmárnémeti, Ungvár, Kisunyom, Vágsellye, Eger, Endrőd, Kecskemét, Kassa and Vértesacsa). Of the school buildings and related properties, KALOT bought two, built three, rented six and received nine as donations. Among the denors was Jusztinián Serédi, archbishop of Esztergom, Ferenc Virág, bishop of Pécs, archduke Joseph and Count József Hunyadi. There were various sized farm properties owned by each of the schools, worked by the students. They were the practice fields. The land was usually held through a foundation or rented to the school.
The number of the educated masses, the talented and ready for action rural young men, grew every year. It became widely known that land reforms had been carried out in Denmark back in 1921; that they were able to accomplish this because the farm cooperatives became economic superpowers and were able simply to force it through. Their 62 populist high schools were churning out educated people in numbers – one third of parliamentary representatives were from among its graduates. KALOT chose the Danish way as its model. All forms of anti-government agitation and provocation was avoided by the movement. It was their contention that the stated goals could be reached without revolutionary force and destruction, avoiding immeasurable human and material loss. The movement’s achievements in not-quite a decade bear this out.
To solve the movement’s financial problems, the KALOT leadership held, from time to time, donation drives. Reaction to the drives was varied and accurately mirrored the situation in Hungary at the time. The donation of six double-bladed plows and a sowing machine was sought from the Manfred Weiss Company, the largest industrial complex of the country, and a cash donation from prince Esterházy, the largest landowner in the country. Both turned the request down. To build a cultural center in Szentpéterfa, the residents collected 700 Pengő, the former residents who had emigrated to the United States donated 1,000 Pengő and the girls and women of the village, who were working as household servants in Belgium, gave 500 Pengő. In the donation drive to build the populist high school in Endrőd, the Jewish lumber merchant Sándor Gross gave 10,000 Pengő toward the 56,000 Pengő cost. To finance the building of the Széchenyi residential school of Egyházasfalu, a bank loan of 50,000 Pengő was required. The loan guarantee was signed by 150 small farmers – in all probability a unique event in the history of the schools. After the bank loaned the money, the young farmers – all graduates of the organizer course – went from village to village in Győr and Sopron counties and soon collected 40,000 Pengő for the expenses of the Széchenyi residential school. These few examples – out of many – are convincing evidence of the behavior and willingness to sacrifice among the farming population, the parish priests and caplans. Without their assistance and support, the achievements of the KALOT movement would have been inconceivable.
At eight of the schools, 10-12 month long sessions were offered for (vegetable)garden operators to lead to the realization of the “Garden Hungary” idea. Graduates of this course were nationally recognized ‘silver medal small farmers.’ The course attendees practiced and tried out their abilities and newly learned concepts at the farms attached to the schools.
The KALOT movement did not recognize any manner of differentiation, based on ethnic or social standing. Magyar, German, Slovak or Rusyn speaking young men were as at home in the movement as the sons of middle and small-holders, sharecroppers and farm laborers. Košice (Kassa) was the site of a Slovak-Magyar speaking school, Užhorod (Ungvár) of a Rusyn-Magyar one; courses were held in the mother tongue of the ethnic students. A German-Magyar school was prevented from being established in the capital due to the objections of the German embassy. German speaking youths were sent to Érd or other Trans-Danubian schools, where instruction in German was available. The school in Szilágysomlyó was tasked with caring for and providing intellectual and monetary assistance to the Magyars living dispersed in Transylvania.
One of the outstanding achievements of the KALOT movement was the creation of the Jánosi school for farmers. KALOT was not interested in land reallocation but the prospect of well planned, serious land reforms. It held that there are three criteria, accepted by scientists and experts, to successful land reform: properties of acceptable size, farmers with modern agricultural knowledge and resolute diligence, and adequate money for capital expenditures. The Jánosi school was explicitly set up by the movement in 1941 with the aim of preparing young farm lads spiritually, intellectually, morally, technically and practically to be able to take action in a large-scale land reform program in a constructive manner and later to be leaders and propagators of the farmsteading movement. Theoretical instruction was undertaken by the staff of the National Agricultural School of Rimaszombat. The Jánosi school had a model farm of 355 acres, with the necessary outbuildings. The school was able to hold two sessions of the 10-month settler’s course: in 1941-42, with 27 graduates and 1942-43, with 23 graduates. Many of those attending could not complete the course due to their army call-up.
The graduates of the second class received, beside their diploma, an important promise: after the end of the war, they will receive a grant of land. This promise was supported by several members of the synod of Catholic bishops, namely Jusztinián Serédi, archbishop of Esztergom, the bishops of Vác, József Pétery, of Veszprém, József Mindszenty, of Győr, Vilmos Apor, of Pécs, Ferenc Virág, to the extent of making the necessary land available and also supporting the settlement action with cash.
The KALOT leaders were able to obtain from church holdings in Egeg, on a long-term lease and with favorable terms, approximately 600 acres of arable land, and a bit less of forested area, to provide land for 20 young, married graduates of the program. The 20 young couples each started out with about 30 acres of tillable land and the pioneer action represented among the greatest achievements of the KALOT movement and was to have been the model for the execution of a well planned, wide-ranging land reform. The war’s outcome, and political developments afterward, prevented the continuation of this ‘realistic utopia.’
Another of KALOT’s tremendous achievements was in the service of culture and folk art. Some of the schools, Érd especially, had trained folkdance, ~song and ~drama troupes, which put on cultural pefomances in rural areas. Some even went on to do performances abroad. The KALOT folk ensemble debuted in the City Theater of Budapest on March 18, 1944 – one day before the German occupation of the country – with a programme of folksongs, dances and ballads. It was as if they felt what the Hungarian people will need the most in the coming years. The ensemble reaped a tremendous success with the performance. There were enthusiatic suggestions that the ensembles should open libraries and be used to spread reform ideas.
The Szekler school opened in Şumuleu Ciuc (Csíksomlyó), designed by Károly Kós and financed by Pál Teleki, offered a 10-month course in woodcarving, under the supervision of Jenő Szervátius; another woodcarving course was offered in the Püspöknádasd school under the sculptor Gábor Boda. The work of the talented students was exhibited abroad, too. Students of the Academy of Applied Arts of Budapest often visited the students of the Fine Arts Workshop opened in Érd and worked with them. Once, the noted Hungarian artist of his day, Vilmos Aba-Novák, visited the Érd school with his students.
Of the numerous and enthusiastic contributors to the KALOT movement, some outstanding ones deserve recognition: Károly Kós, Jenő Szervátius, Elemér Muha­ray, István Molnár, Mihály Kerék, György Farkas, József Ugrin, Károly Magyar, Géza Benárd, Zoltán Kádár, Péter Illéssy, Károly Gaál, Ferenc Jankovich, Imre Somogyi, Jenő Danis, Ferenc Barasits, Sándor Könnyű and László Miklósi. Father Töhötöm Nagy SJ joined the KALOT movement in 1938 and, as the vice-president, worked with great success mainly in the area of the press and publicity. At the end of 1944, on instructions from the KALOT board, Father Nagy and József Ugrin set out to cross the front lines to Debrecen. At the seat of the temporary government, they did everything possible to ensure the continued existence and operation of the movement. At this time, KALOT had a paid staff of 195, who did tremendous work under the supervision of Father Jenő Kerkai SJ, Father Töhötöm Nagy SJ, dr. György Farkas, József Ugrin, Sándor Meggyesy and dr. Tibor Horányi.
During the existence of the KALOT movement and its schools, a number of lay and church notables paid visits. Prime Minister Pál Teleki was a true friend and patron of the movement – and undertook to pay the building costs of the Transylvanian school – made two visits to Érd and engaged in intensive dialogue with the students. The strangest meeting at Érd took place in the fall of 1941when General Ferenc Farkas Kisbarnaki, commandant of the Ludovica Military Academy, visited the school with some of his teaching staff, accompanied by a group of 34 academics. What they saw during their visit filled them with enthusiasm and, as a result, invited the teachers of the Érd school to pay a return visit – accompanied by their students. The return visit took place the following spring.
There was no Catholic rural youth movement in all of Europe in the inter-war period comparable to the KALOT movement’s effectiveness, strength and accomplishments. Without doubt, the contributions made in the 20’s and 30’s by opposition politicians, scientists, writers, newspapermen and others worked to awaken Hungarian public opinion. The movement supplied the acts to go with this process. It did them with such intensity, such ways and means, that even the suspicious, Baroque-spirited members of the upper clergy were unable to harm it. To counterbalance the distrust of a few members of the synod of bishops, a few friends of KALOT obtained a papal letter in the fall of 1939 from Pius XII in which the pope sent his blessings on the leaders and members of the movement and urged them to continue their activities.
Every member of the movement, from its president and unforgettable model, Father Kerkai, down to the last organizer and member in a rural hamlet, acted in the spirit of István Széchenyi, Nándor Zichy, Ottokár Prohászka, Sándor Giesswein, et al. They all worked to their utmost to realize the goals of the organization. Three of them gave their life for their loyalty to KALOT: the group leader in Etyek, Antal Papp, was stabbed by some Volkbund members; the director of the Jánosi school, József Gergely, and the secretary of the Rusyn students, András Kutlán, were killed in 1945 by ‘person or persons unknown.’
During its existence of barely a decade, the influence of the KALOT movement extended to, in round numbers, four and a half thousand villages and farmsteads, its membership reached half a million. The movement had 20 populist schools, one model village, a political weekly paper Hungarian Planting (Magyar Vetés), a monthly Our Youth (Ifjúságunk) and a further five papers in Hungarian, Slovak and Rusyn languages. There were, by the end, 35,000 people who had attended the various courses and seminars and were taking an active part in the activities of the movement, a rural community or the country; there were 20 folklore groups nurturing and transmitting Hungarian culture. In the central offices, beside the executive, organizational and cultural departments (applied arts and folk arts groups), there was a department of minorities (Slovak and Rusyn youth organization, as well as a group to look after the Magyars dispersed in minority status and émigrés), a press and a finance department, which contributed significantly to the effective work of KALOT.
The political influence of KALOT was especially significant in the villages and solitary farmsteads. The member of the Iron Cross Party, Kálmán Hubay, openly stated that KALOT’s activities and influence prevented a greater victory for his party in the 1939 spring elections. The anti-Volksbund organizing and opposition stand to the Hitler Youth groups by the movement was brave and effective resistance, which will remain an admirable patriotic act. It will always be to the undeniable credit of KALOT that, with the strong support of the Catholic Church, it was able to prevent the Levente cadet movement from becoming an organization similar to the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend). It is a fact that the outstanding results of the Independent Smallholders Party (Független Kisgazdapárt /FKgP/) in the November 1945 elections, and the Democratic Peoples Party in the August 1947 elections was as much a result of the activities of the KALOT trained young men as their redirecting the National Committees to a democratic direction.148
Concurrent to the KALOT movement, the Alliance of Catholic Girl Groups, the Sheaf (or head, of wheat), was formed in the spring of 1936. The new organization’s goals were the care of the women and girls of the villages, their education: to become conscientious patriots, economically adept, responsible for their family and their country. Special attention was devoted to their womanly morals and to extending their housewifely knowledge and skills. The movement was organized by church diocese; the diocese secretary was appointed by the local bishop, on the recommendation of the movement’s leadership. The education and training of the female leaders was accomplished by the Sheaf’s own courses and the populist schools. By 1940, the movement had 100 groups with a membership of 6,000.
The populist residential schools of Hungary received substantial support from the youth organizations of the Reformed churches (Soli Deo Gloria, KIE), not only KALOT. They founded and funded schools in Sárospatak, Tiszaladány, Szatmár, Kecskemét, Alsó­nyék, Orosháza, Rónafő and Veszprém. They also had a model village in Rónafő. In 1939 and 1940, 3,000 farm younsters attended the multi-day courses offered by these populist schools. Another initiative was the school established in the Pilis mountains North of Budapest, which offered three month courses for three years. This institution was primarily for teaching agricultural concepts and knowledge. University lecturer Zoltán Magyary and co-workers started one school in Tata, with courses in law and public administration, to train talented young rural men in the skills necessary to administer a village.

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