Tibor Berczelly

Tibor Berczelly

Tibor Berczelly was born on 3 January 1912 in Rákospalota, his father was a MÁV employee. He played sports throughout his childhood, played athletics, skated, swam, and as a student at the Markó Street Real School in 1928 he came third in the "Best Student Athlete" competition. He began fencing at the age of 17, although he was initially declared untalented. He was a member of the Turul Association, but the Communist Ministry of the Interior later found no incriminating activities in this connection. He graduated from the Ludovika Academy in 1934, was promoted to lieutenant in the infantry, but by then his life was already completely occupied with fencing. He was also an excellent target shooter, setting a national record with the military pistol and beating Károly Takács, later two-time Olympic champion, in five national competitions with the automatic pistol.

But anyone who thinks that Berczelly wanted to put his individual courage and amazing sporting skills to good use with the Germans will be disappointed. Indeed, events suggest that he considered the war pointless.

In September 1944, he was sent to the front with the 22nd Infantry Regiment, but was wounded in Galicia on the 23rd of that month. On 23 December 1944, he managed to return from a military hospital in Vienna to Budapest, where he did not report for duty, but went into hiding at 33 Fasor Városligeti. In February 1945, he reported to the new army in Debrecen, where he was immediately appointed head of physical education. Shortly afterwards he was promoted to the rank of major, but was retired in 1946. He then worked at the National Bank until his retirement (first as an assistant and then as a lecturer in the foreign exchange department), and also continued to play sports and coach fencing, making his name in the history of Hungarian fencing. In 1945 he joined the National Peasants' Party and in 1947 the Freedom Fighters' Association.

According to his 1950 autobiography, "my circle of friends is made up of a crowd of sportsmen. I do not consider myself fit for team service because of my knee (sport), as I have had to miss three races this year because of it". - In comparison, he went on to become team champion and 3rd individual at the 1952 Olympics, world champion at the 1954 World Championships and the 11th Hungarian champion in 1957. All this suggests that, in his own diplomatic way, he wanted to rule out the possibility of being drafted into the communist army, which he otherwise considered useless.

In 1957, the officials of the Ministry of Defence, based on the data received from the MNB, classified him as a "civilian" who "cannot be counted on politically" and therefore recommended his demotion and the withdrawal of the gold medal of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian People's Republic - fortunately, their jurisdiction did not extend to Olympic and world championship medals, of which Berczelly collected 12 during his career. They charged that his father-in-law had been a professional officer until 1940 and a retailer until 1953 - all criminal occupations under the party-state. The BM also added to the accusations that he had "intentions to defect" - which was not true. In the end, the BM dismissed them, citing the international reputation of the Military Comprehensive Committee. Tibor Berczelly died on 15 October 1990.