A panorama of Budapest, the capital of Hungary, with the Chain Bridge crossing the Danube River in the foreground; the hilly Buda district is on the left and the flat Pest district (where our hotel was located) is on the right
Budapest, Hungary’s capital, is bisected by the River Danube. Its 19th-century Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest. A funicular runs up Castle Hill to Buda’s Old Town, where the Budapest History Museum traces city life from Roman times onward. Trinity Square is home to 13th-century Matthias Church and the turrets of the Fishermen’s Bastion, which offer sweeping views.
The Chain Bridge (completed in 1849) is the oldest, arguably most beautiful and certainly the most photographed of Budapest’s bridges and floodlit at night; it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube and at the time of its construction it was the second-largest suspension bridge throughout the world; Budapest, Hungary
A view of the hilly Buda district of Budapest, Hungary, viewed from the Castle Quarter
“With a unique, youthful atmosphere, a world-class classical music scene as well as a pulsating night life increasingly appreciated among European youth and, last but not least, an exceptionally rich offering of natural thermal baths, Budapest is one of Europe’s most delightful and enjoyable cities. Due to its scenic setting and its architecture it is nicknamed “Paris of the East”. In 1987 Budapest was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for the cultural and architectural significance of the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue.” – www.wikitravel.org
Residences and shops along a street in the Castle Quarter of the Buda district, Budapest, Hungary
The mounted statue between Fisherman’s Bastion with its lookout terrace and the Matthias Church (Mátyás templom) is King Stephan (Istvan in Hungarian), the first king of Hungary (crowned about 1000) who was declared a saint for his efforts in bringing Christianity to Hungary; Budapest, Hungary
The rococo spire of the Matthias Church (Mátyás templom) is one of the easily seen landmarks of Budapest, Hungary — viewed from the Fisherman’s Bastion and its lookout terrace with the statue of King Stephan (Istvan in Hungarian) in the foreground
The interior of Matthias Church (Mátyás templom) is sumptuously decorated in a style that is on the one hand art deco and yet evokes the medieval predecessors of this structure, Budapest, Hungary
St. Stephen (István) Cathedral (the Basilica), constructed from 1851 to 1905, is the highest church in Budapest, Hungary, and is known for its many mosaics (designed in Budapest and made in Venice)
The Royal staircase of the Opera House, Budapest, Hungary; note that the performing opera hall was undergoing extensive renovations and was closed to the public – it is ranked as one of the world’s best for acoustics
An architectural detail of the Royal staircase of the Opera House, Budapest, Hungary
The Hungarian government in 2014 (on the 70th anniversary of Hungary’s German occupation on 19 March 1944) installed a World War II monument – that the government said depicts Hungary as an angel being attacked by a German eagle – that was (and is still) protested by critics who said the monument glosses over Hungary’s role in the Holocaust [see protest letter, below, posted at the monument in the foreground, center, in the photograph] and is an attempt by the government to absolve Hungarians of their active role in carrying out the deportations of Jews to Nazi death camps; Budapest, Hungary
The following is the text of a protest letter (translated there and posted in English) at the base of the recently installed (by the Hungarian government) World War II monument in Budapest:
Civilians Protest Against Monument Falsifying History
This monument was ordered by the government of Hungary (or, to be more exact, by Premier Viktor Orbán of almost unlimited power) and erected stealthily, following numerous delays, under the cover of the night dawning on July 20, 2014.
At the edge of the sidewalk across from the monument you can see memorial pebbles, personal items, photographs, books and documents. They have been brought here uninvited in recent months by citizens outraged by the falsification of history manifested in the monument erected peremptorily, without having consulted either cityscape professionals or the community.
In the official wording, the sculptural ensemble commemorates Hungary’s German occupation on March 19, 1944. As a result of the scandal following the publication of the design, the text has been changed to “the victims of the occupation“. The central figure of the composition is Archangel Gabriel impersonating the innocent Hungary, dropping (actually, it looks like offering) the country’s orb, while the German imperial eagle is preparing to strike. Thus does the work subserviently reflect the populist and authoritarian ruling political party’s new constitution, forced upon the population again without any consultation, suggesting that the state of Hungary bears no responsibility for the genocide following the German occupation, including the deportation of nearly half a million Hungarian citizens (mostly Jews but also gypsies, gays and dissidents) to Nazi extermination camps. This monument is a lie serving a political intention.
Hungary was a faithful ally of Hitler’s Germany during WW2, being the first in 1940 to join the Axis powers. On March 19, 1944, the arriving German troops were received with bouquets rather than bullets. That occupation left the state administration untouched and the administration, in turn, enthusiastically and very effectively organized and executed the mass deportations, surpassing even German expectations. Hungary was the first in Europe, back in 1920, to pass an anti–Semitic law followed by a row of similar, increasingly heavy-handed laws stripping Hungary‘s Jewry of more and more rights; the state that sent to their deaths twenty thousand people unable to certify their Hungarian citizenship in; the state who’s gendarmes and soldiers murdered several thousand civilians at Novi Sad in the winter of 1942-43; the state that sacrificed two hundred thousand soldiers in a senseless war, while some of it’s occupying units abroad committed a series of war crimes against the civilian population.
Historians of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences have unanimously condemned the message suggested by this monument, labeling it as an attempt to rewrite history.
The protesters point out that, by erecting this monument, the government is making a concession to Hungary’s far right: the advocates of the nationalist, racist, xenophobic Jobbik party, while endeavoring to whitewash the memory of their admitted mentor, Admiral Miklós Horthy, who governed the country on a clerical-authoritarian platform between the world wars, then led it to destruction.
The civil groups organizing the protest action, representing the sober and responsible citizens of Hungary and Europe, demand the false monument to be removed from this location. They call on the government not to monopolize social memory, nor to rewrite history; but to initiate a dialogue with society for carefully exploring the past, in order to facilitate the honest reckoning with old crimes and processing the lessons learned.
As a matter of fact, the monument is really a genuine symbol. It is the monument of the government’s arrogance and the criminal steps it took. Its removal will also be symbolic, signaling that liberty has returned. The protesters have stated that they will continue their protest actions and presence as long as this mendacious monument stands here.
Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.