Walk about the streets of Budapest, admire the views, but know that a brutal history is just beneath your feet.
Tourists to British stately homes might be exposed to priest holes. Priest holes were hiding places where Catholic priests could hide, hoping to avoid imprisonment, torture, and death. But that was a long time ago. Most priest holes were constructed between the 1550s and the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.
There are tunnels and hiding places located under our feet in Budapest, but what we can find under the streets of Budapest are slightly different; these are not places where people sought refuge, rather the hidey holes and tunnels that lie beneath our feet were constructed by the ones doing the torturing and the executing. Yes, the communists of Hungary, desperately aware of their lack of popularity, fully appraised of the fact that they could only remain in power by use of force, expanded the number of citizens whom they defined as enemies of the people. By the use of this tactic they maintained their grip on power. But space was finite, and the prisons were full. What to do? What to do? Well, they dug deep. They dug downwards. They went into the cellars of the buildings that they controlled.
Walk through the streets of Budapest. Walk down the avenues, wander through the streets, admire the architecture. But be aware that at certain times, you will be treading over tiny, cramped cells and torture chambers. And, be sensitive to the fact that unlike the priest holes, these horrific reminders of what the Left are capable of date from the middle of the 20th century on. That’s just a blink of an eye away.
Take some of the buildings on glorious Andrássy út. The Hungarian equivalent of the KGB or the Stasi, the ÁVH operated from dozens of buildings on this magnificent avenue. The level of fear that the ÁVH inspired meant that people would cross the street rather than even walk in the shadow of these notorious buildings.
After the revolution of 1956 reiterated how deeply unpopular the communists and their attack dogs were, those in charge of the dictatorship made sure that buildings which housed the ‘black sites’ ended up in the hands of para-military organisations which could be easily monitored; the workers’ guard, the postal service, and the railway service, for example.
Even then, long periods of time passed between when the buildings were evacuated and when they were occupied by the new government tenants. During these periods, construction work took place to cover up evidence which would incriminate those who had tortured, imprisoned and killed. Decades later, in the late 1980s, in a neighbourhood in downtown Budapest, the replacement of a residential building’s worn-out coal-fired heating system required the completion of extensive building work.
This residential building was an ÁVH building back in the day. During the building work, human skeletal remains were found, remains which may well have been the remains of Hungarians killed by the communist secret police. The skeletal remains, much to the dismay of the workers who discovered them, were carted off and dumped with the rest of the rubble.
The explanation for this was exquisitely bureaucratic: to investigate the bones would represent an intolerable delay in the replacement of the house’s heating system! The explanation in itself perfectly encapsulates the sentiment that flowed from the communist party, into the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (the present-day Hungarian socialists, MSZP), and from there into the minds of those who worked their way up through the system. Rather than attempt to discover whose mortal remains they had stumbled upon, bureaucracy and the power of paper forms in triplicate took over, and the remains of those who were killed by the state for not toeing the line were dumped along with broken pieces of brick, concrete, and earth in a landfill site somewhere.
There was something beneath the party headquarters, or perhaps the square and park that the building faced. Information about a lift hidden under a carpet was revealed in 1956 by the third of three negotiating teams who, unlike the teams that preceded them, became aware of the lift trap and were able to escape the building. When the party headquarters were overrun, a search for the hidden lift began.
Searching in an area of freshly dug ground in the yard, they found not the entrance to the underground prison, but the bodies of young people, hands tied behind their backs, shot in the back of the head.
Nobody has ever been able to authoritatively state whether what was constructed beneath the party headquarters was a prison or a secret bunker. Nobody has been able to locate whether what was underground lay beneath the party headquarters or under the park in front of the building. Several eyewitnesses have attested to the existence of an underground tunnel leading in the direction of the park. These eyewitnesses recalled that they heard, via a ventilation shaft, the cries for help of more than a hundred people locked underground.
Zoltán Dézsy, a documentary film maker started investigating the underground construction that the communists had so enthusiastically engaged in, before just as enthusiastically covering their tracks in this department. His investigations finally led him to the discovery of a large, T-shaped cavity or object located under where a communist memorial once stood.
Test drilling indicated that whatever it was, it was either solid iron, or reinforced concrete. Then the socialists – now called MSZP, and still sat in parliament – the ones who inherited their party from the communists, the ones who inherited all the wealth and possessions of the communists, including the party headquarters with the hidden underground secrets, won the elections in 1994. They came back into power, and swiftly shut down the possibility of Dézsy discovering what was under our feet.
I suspect that we’ll never know. But what is revealed, even if they tried their hardest to cover it up is what we need to remember about the communists and those that they transformed themselves into. Don’t ever forget the huge amounts of money that wasn’t spent on the development of the country or the economy or the health of the nation. Don’t ever forget that the communists and the socialists that they became spent unbelievable amounts of money on building places of torture and death for the masses, and secret hideaways for the elite.
Walk the streets of Budapest, admire the beauty of the buildings. But don’t forget what might well lie beneath your feet, and don’t forget that the blood on the hands of the Hungarian socialists originates from the same savage, bloodthirsty communists.