Did I ever tell you how terrible my education is when it comes to History? Well, it’s terrible. The only history class I remember taking in high school was American History, I distinctly remember because I used to sit next to my best friend John and bullshit with him the whole time during the class. In college, I didn’t take one history class.
I didn’t take even one history class in college, I was able to scam my way through using theater and other general electives in that category instead. Which is why the after effects of WWII and communism in Hungary is so fascinating to me.
Below there are 3 ways I learned about communism in Hungary, a free walking tour, actually doing some research on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and touring the House of Terror, Nazi HQ in Hungary during WWII.
FREE COMMUNISM WALKING TOUR
As it turns out there are some great free walking tours throughout Europe. Budapest has over 4 options. All of them meet daily in Vrosmarty Square (conveniently right where we were staying) and our guide Aaron who is 39, has been giving walking tours for over 20 years.
I don’t want to write too much about the tour itself because its definitely worth checking out, but I’ve included a few pictures and it was really a great way to learn about the city.
The outlook during the days of Communism in Hungary. “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us”
This memorial was erected to the dismay of the Hungarians in 2014 to pay homage to the victims of the German invasion.
“Critics accuse the government of attempting to absolve the Horthy regime of responsibility for the death of nearly one million Hungarians, including two-thirds of its Jewish population, by putting the blame entirely on Nazi Germany.”
Below the statue, protestors have started their own memorial with personal items of their ancestors who were victims during the war.
Red vs. Blue passport. Red meaning that you can travel as freely as you wish, but only to other communist practicing countries. A blue passport required a visa every time you wished to travel to a location that wasn’t communist related. Most times the visas would take multiple years to process.
Monopoly is everywhere throughout Europe I’m slowly finding out as I travel. Here is the Hungary version where communism is the good and just way and as you can see, they portrayed all communists as happy farmers.
HUNGARIAN REVOLUTION 1956
A group of University students participating in a peaceful demonstration, amassed a great crowd of supporters, turning the demonstration to a revolt which lasted just over 2 weeks from 23 October to 04 November. Here’s how that came about.
At the end of WWII 72% of Hungarian territory and 64% of the Hungarian population were given to neighboring countries.
The United States of America, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union (the victorious powers) decided that Hungary would be placed under the rule of the Soviets and their all powerful leader Stalin, adapting communism under the red army.
Fear was a continuous part of the Hungarian peoples lives whether they were antagonistic toward the system, or not. The political police called AVH (controlled by the communist party) could arrest, imprison, torture, or kill anyone without charge or apparent reason.
Stalin died in 1953 and the new chair of the Soviet party began the “de-Stalinization” process. This resulted in significant changes, even in Hungary. Rakosi as lead authority was replaced by Imre Nagy. He was out-rivaled by Rakosi in 1954 and in 1956 Rakosi’s illegitimate action were exposed discharging him in July of that year. Erno Gero, quite similar to Rakosi, became his successor
A few days later on 23 October, Szabad Nep, the party’s daily paper publishes a speech (entiled “New Spring Muster”) in which the new, reform committed polish leadership unfolds previous mistakes, unlawfulness and deems them legitimate.
The Events of 23 October leading up to the REVOLT
12:53 Radio Kossuth broadcasts announcing the ban of the demonstration scheduled for later that day at 15:00.
14:23 Radio Kossuth broadcasts again saying that the demonstration will take place deeming the situation to be at low risk.
15:00 The demonstration begins (Sympathy for the Polish People) at Petofi’s statue on Marcus 15 Square. A University student begins reading 16 demands previously approved at the student conference and the crowd of 10,000 begins the walk to Bem Square.
17:00 The crowd has increased to over 200,000
20:00 After requests to broadcast the 16 points over Radio Kossuth are denied, the students storm the radio station.
21:37 The crowd demolishes Stalin’s statue leaving the boots still on the pedestal, later it became one of the symbols of the revolution.
A fountain, so that those who have been licking his boots now can rinse their mouths.
22:00 News spreads through the town that “Young people are being killed at the radio” and demonstrators start amassing weaponry.
At this point the demonstration moves from peaceful to full out revolt.
Late that night, Soviet party leadership in Moscow having consulted with the Hungarian communist leaders– make the decision to commit the red army and put down the revolution
Between 0200-0400 24 October- The Soviet Corps, comprising 6,000 servicemen, armored cars, cannons and 290 land cruisers, arrives in Budapest.
When the revolution was ended just over 2 weeks later several thousand civilians had been killed, more than half of them under the age of 25. More than 22,000 people were imprisoned for participating in the revolt and of these 229 people received the death penalty.
Imre Nagy was executed for taking the side of the revolution. Over 200,000 left all possessions behind and escaped deciding to take their chances with nothing in another country then with all their things in Hungary. All those that remained suffered harassment from the police for years and even decades to follow.
If someone was known to have participated to the smallest extent they were not allowed to continue their studies or were forced to quit their job, the expression “politically unreliable” was written on their record sheet to follow them professionally wherever they tried to get work.
Another symbol of the revolution was the Hungarian flag with a hole in the center where they cut out the red army insignia.
HOUSE OF TERROR
In the winter of 1944, when the Hungarian Nazis came to power, hundreds of people were tortured in the basement at 60 Andrassy road, Nazi HQ in Hungary during WWII. The AVH officers working here became the keepers of life and death. Many of the victims died of horrible ordeals suffered during their week long interrogations. Soon the entire block of houses was owned by the Nazis and the cellars beneath the building were broken down and transformed into a prison.
No. 60 Andrassy Road remained in the possession of AVH until 1956. Up until now the building blended into the apartment house. By its conversion into a museum it does not merely contain an exhibition dedicated to the victim’s memory, its appearance too conjures up the atmosphere of the place.
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.