More than 700 thousand Hungarian citizens were taken prisoner by the Soviets during World War II. History books remain silent about their fate. The motivation behind this silence is unfortunately consciously bred ignorance.
Ever since 1945, the powers that be have insisted on creating the impression that the Soviets had captured only actively fighting soldiers, whom their captors had magnanimously repatriated even before the peace treaty was signed.
In reality about one third of the prisoners were civilians, and the number of Hungarians sentenced on trumped-up charges and confined to the camps of the GULAG exceeded the figure of several thousand.
The prisoners-of-war and the civilian internees were made to work for years in the labour camps of the Soviet Union. The last major prisoner transports did not arrive back until 1955 (!). It is also a fact that, due to maltreatment and poor living conditions, some 300 thousand Hungarian citizens lost their lives en route, in the reception-, transit- and forced labour camps.
The block which includes Andrássy street 60 was built in 1880 according to the plans of the architect Adolf Feszty, who originally planned it as a mansion. The facade of this neo-renaissance building at the corner of Andrássy and Csengery streets did not change for decades. But the owners did.
Until 1936 the house was the property of the Perlmutter family. From the beginning of 1937, the Hungarian ultra-right party, the Arrowcross Party, hired more and more space in the house. In 1940 they took over the whole building and made it their headquarters. The party leader Ferenc Szálasi called the building "The House of Loyalty". In the autumn of 1944, when the Hungarian Nazis came to power, the basement was used as a prison.
As Budapest rid itself of German rule and was occupied by the Soviets, the communist-led Political Police claimed the house in February 1945, and created a prison labyrinth by connecting together the basements of the block. The State Security Police possessed the building until 1956. After they moved out the house was renovated, erasing the traces of its past. Andrassy 60 then became the headquarters of several firms and offices. In the 1970's, the basement where hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were tortured, was used as a club for young communists.
During the one year construction work, the building under 60 Andrássy Avenue was fully renovated inside and out. The internal design, the final look of the museum's exhibition and the external facade are the works of architect Attila F. Kovács. The reconstruction plans for the House of Terror Museum were designed by architects János Sándor and Kámán Újszászy; the contractor was Architecton Share Co. The music to the exhibition was composed by Ákos Kovács. The purified work with a timeless scoring for string orchestra in multiple movements goes well with the historical theme of the museum's exhibition and contains special stereophonic mixes and sound effects.
During the reconstruction, the building has become a monument; the black passepartout (the decoration entablature, the blade walls and the granite sidewalk) provides a sort of frame to the building, highlighting it with its sharp contrast from among the other buildings on Andrássy Avenue, drawing well-deserved attention to the house itself of such historic significance.
The House of Terror Museum, which opens on February 24th , 2002 at 5PM and is unique in its genre, wishes to erect a monument to the memory of those of our compatriots who were held captive, tortured and killed in this building, but apart from presenting the horrors in a digestible manner, it also wishes to make people understand that the sacrifice for freedom was not made in vain. From the fight against the two cruellest systems of the 20th century eventually the forces of freedom and independence came out victorious.
Walking through the halls named after the periods exhibited within them, one can get acquainted, in chronological order, first with the terror of the Hungarian nazi and then the communist regime.
The exhibition entitled Double Occupation presents Hungary's two subsequent occupations. In one side of the room, Hungary can be seen under Nazi German occupation, in the other, under Soviet rule. After 1945, when Rákosi and the communists trained in Moscow returned home, the Hungarian Communist Party's membership was minimal, and so a number of the so-called small-time Arrow-cross people of the previous regime also had to be accepted in order to grow. The room also tries to present that all layers of society "changed their clothes" and entered into a new world.
This hall is aimed at presenting the roughest period of communism in Hungary. The monitors show excerpts from 50s news programmes. Placing the headphones on our heads, we can hear political speeches from major communist leaders of the era (Farkas, Révai, Gerő.) Behind the fancy curtains, we can find tapping devices from the time.
The Torture Chamber is the only room that was preserved in its original form. At the time, it was referred to as the gym. On the wall we can see special instruments of torture: rod with nails, lead-headed bamboo stick, Arrow-cross bamboo rod, stick covered in leather with a lead spring.
In the room of Gábor Péter the victims report on the interrogation methods of the ÁVH (State Security Authority) and we can also find out how the system gobbled up its own children.
The HALL OF THE 1956 REVOLUTION recalls the events of the 1956 revolution and raises a monument to the memory of the Hungarian heroes who fell in the course of the combats.
Hundreds of thousands of people left Hungary at the time of dictatorship. It is their postcards that cover the walls of this hall.
In the HALL OF TEARS we can read the names of those who were executed for political reasons between 1945 and 1967.
The FAREWELL room ends up the exhibition. Here we can see documentaries on the mass demonstrations of 1989 and the last Soviet troops leaving Hungary.