Mária Palasik - From The Budapest Dance Palace to the Autopsy Table: The Lapusnyik Case, or the Defection and Death of a Secret Agent at the Beginning of the Kádár Era

In the summer of 1962, the political police had an extraordinary case in Hungary. Béla Lapusnyik, a police sergeant with the Interior Ministry, committed the crime of illegally crossing the border to Austria during the night of 8 May. His act was regarded as treason and generated a series of actions at the ministry. Leaders feared that Lapusnyik could give information to Austrian intelligence, counterintelligence, and even military counterintelligence. This could lead to dangerous consequences for the Hungarian secret agencies. Everybody was certain that Lapusnyik would indeed give sensitive information to Austrian state security, although, ultimately, he could not, as he died under suspicious circumstances in a Vienna hospital. Today, it is certain that Lapusnyik was killed at the behest of the KGB. We do not know who the killer was, but it is already known that Lapusnyik was murdered using a particular liquid poison, called DMS (dimethyl sulphate), which was designed to evaporate from the body’s system by the time of his death. This would explain why Austrian autopsy experts were unable to establish poisoning as the cause of death. The poison was created in a special Soviet laboratory. Under the bureaucracy of the Hungarian Interior Ministry, the everyday life of the political police was well‑documented. The investigation of this case shows how the framework of State Security could provide great opportunities for a young man and yet radically corrupt his personality. This study concentrates on the investigation of Hungarian State Security services. As background, the author also introduces Béla Lapusnyik, his life, family origin, career, and other details about his illegal border crossing. In conclusion, it summarizes the known facts about how a healthy young man could die as a prisoner of the Austrian state police (Staatspolizei, STAPO).