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Remembrance Day in Hungary

Remembrance Day in Hungary


"She was 15 when they took her father away", the BBC's Nick Thorpe quotes "an elderly lady in a purple coat [who] cannot stem her tears" during a remembrance ceremony in Nyíregyháza, Hungary. "And how for three years she went with her mother to the railway station, always expecting that he would step down off a train and raise his hand... And how eventually her uncle came back. He escaped one camp, walked barefoot for months, was caught, put in another camp, and was finally granted an amnesty in 1948. 'Don't wait for your husband any more,' her uncle told her mother, bluntly. 'I buried him with my own hands.'"

For more than half a million Hungarian civilians, World War II did not end in 1945. In the fall of 1944, Soviet forces broke into Hungary, rounded up some 600,000 Hungarian civilians, loaded them into cattle wagons, and shipped them to Soviet labor camps. 200,000 of them died in captivity, not during, but after the war. They are "Hungary's 'forgotten' war victims," the BBC's reporter writes in From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio 4, broadcast on Saturday, 7 November, 2009.

"Under communism, people were not able to talk about the missing," Árpád Kovári, 65, tells Nick Thorpe. For 40 years, Hungarians could not speak about the missing; Soviet domination ruled out any discussion, so the pain incubated. "My dad was a ticket collector," Árpád begins. "On 1 November 1944, the Soviet army captured the town. The next day, all able-bodied men were ordered to their workplaces, to start clearing the ruins." Árpád was three months old, the youngest of four sons. His father was 45. Árpád never felt his father's arms around him again. "There are no written records of his death, nor of his final resting place. The workers were rounded up and marched to the next city, Debrecen. Between 2,000 and 3,000 of them - 4% of the population... in the bitter cold of the last winter of the war. The good boots and warm winter muffler worn by Janos Kovári, Árpád's father, were taken away... As the Eastern Front moved west, the Russians rounded up civilians in each town and village in Hungary. Budapest fell on 13 February 1945. One hundred thousand men and women were taken to the Soviet Union from there alone," the 65 year old crusader for an official day of remembrance tells the BBC.

And then there are the graveyards in Nyíregyháza itself: many graveyards. "Nyíregyháza is as rich in tombs as it is in apples. There are nine graveyards. A small ceremony takes place each year on 2 November in the North Cemetery. Thanks largely to Árpád's efforts, 'an unknown Hungarian civilian' was exhumed three years ago in the city of Baltsi in Moldova, and reburied here with honour... Most of the Hungarians from Nyíregyháza ended up in a work camp in Baltsi, those who survived the journey. And there most of them died - of malnutrition, over-work or disease... Their remains lie scattered at the far end of a cemetery, and on open ground elsewhere in the city... Crows flock over the North Cemetery, a flypast of birds, not military jets, joining their rough voices to the national anthem, above a planet littered with flowers and candles," Thorpe reports. As for the rest of the victims of communism, "that hill," says Árpád, "is made of human bones."

Whereas other nations that had resisted the Pan-Slavic Bolshevik-Communist expansion prior to and during World War II received favorable treatment and quickly recovered after the war, the Yalta Conference gave the victorious communists a devastated Hungarian people upon whom non-Hungarian dictators such as Rosenfeld and Kressinger could unleash their unrestrained vengeance. Hungary, the cradle of European civilization, the once enchanting protectress of Europe, the land of a people known for its hospitality and crusade for the elevation of mankind, became the hell of death camps and conveyorbelt-style hangings. While the Nuremberg Trials, following a five year World War, resulted in less than a dozen executions, the foreign dictators of Hungary condemed to death no fewer than 356 freedomfighters, men, women, young and old, and even children, following the 13-day 1956 Hungarian uprising. All of them were hanged. And this is only the official count. It does not include the hundreds upon hundreds of captured freedomfighters who were tortured to death during a vengeace-orgy that lasted well into the sixties.

In addition to the millions of Hungarian soldiers who lost their lives during the 1848 War of Independence, World War I, World War II and the 1956 uprising, and the countless civilian victims of the Austrian Habsburgs, Czarist Russia, Kohn's 1919 Bolshevik regime, Slavic savagery and Allied bombings of Hungary, these are the martyrs we remember on this heart-rending November day. It is they who we remember, but our prayers are for the souls of the slaves of evil who extinguished so many innocent lives.


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