It is a little-known fact that there were three Hungarians involved in the infamous 1962 assassination attempt on former French President, Charles de Gaulle. One of them has recently spoken to journalist László Szőcs of the Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet, giving a rare insight into the plot.
Today we remember the 60th anniversary of the incident, during which a group of military activists tried to avert the surrender of French colonies by killing the French President. The group included three staunch anti-communist Hungarians, one of whom, now 91-year-old Lajos Marton, recalled the events in Petit-Clarémart. Marton has served five years in prison for his involvement in the attempt but has not changed his opinion ever since.
“Of those who fired the shots, Gyula Sári and I are the only two still alive. We have passed the age of ninety, but we will continue in the direction we have taken for the rest of our lives,” said the 91-year-old man, who still lives near Paris.
Lajos Marton accused De Gaulle of handing Algeria over to the most extreme of the Arab factions, the National Liberation Front, as a result of which Algeria’s French population was forced out of the country. As far as contemporary France is concerned, Marton believes that the youth in France have been abandoned, and the country has lost its capacity to defend itself. The 91-year-old also believes that the world is in the grip of American “superpowerism.”
The assassination attempt on August 22, 1962 was called Operation Charlotte Corday, named after the young woman who assassinated Jean-Paul Marat, a leader of the French Revolution, in 1793. At Petit-Clamart, near Paris, Charles De Gaulle was driven in his convoy to a military airfield when shots rang out, including those fired from Lajos Marton’s American-made Thompson submachine gun, but they all missed their intended target. Although the Citroën limousine was hit, neither the presidential couple nor their driver were injured.
The action must be understood in the context of the Algerian war of independence (1954-62). Before his inauguration as president in 1959, de Gaulle signaled his support for French Algerians: “I understand you,” and “Long live French Algeria!”, he stated. In the end though, he gave up the former French colony. However, the moment he started to talk about Algerian self-determination, the French in Algeria saw this as treason and set out to organize resistance within their own ranks.
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The three Hungarians involved – Marton, Sári, and László Varga, who is no longer alive – were recruited by the French secret service, and Marton later spent a year in hiding with the false papers they gave him.
Sári had previously fought in Indochina and Marton was a former military officer in Hungary. He took part in the fighting in November 1956 after the Soviet occupation of the country, then left the country in December, finally settling in France.
The Hungarian involvement in the French plot can be best explained by the fact that many of them had accused the West, and the United States in particular, of a complete betrayal of the Hungarian anti-Communist revolution in 1956. Their anti-Communist stance, but to an extent also their naivety, had led them to be recruited to this plot by the French secret service.
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