The hall conjures up Soviet forced-labour and slave camps. Camp centres, where Hungarians languished, are specially marked on the carpet-map. The monitors show reminiscences, contemporary photographs, as well as pictures of the desolate, inhospitable Russian and Siberian countryside. The display cases contain relics, the original paraphernalia used by the detainees.
At the end of World War II, millions of people across Europe were forced to leave their motherlands and their homes. In Hungary, the victorious powers decided that more than 200,000 people of German origin must leave Hungary. Czechoslovakia, which was considered to be on the winning side by the victorious powers, relocated more than 100,000 Slovaks of Hungarian origin to the territory of Hungary.
The occupying Soviet army, just like the Nazi forces a few months before, arrived with their to-do list in hand. They tracked down and forcibly sent away anyone considered to be a threat to the implementation of the Communist system, including ex-prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament, ambassadors, army officers, priests and teachers. They carried off the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who was responsible for saving the lives of many Jews. The Soviets also took those young men and women who were capable of working, the majority of whom were not even yet 20 years old. From January 1945, with the diligent participation of appointed, Moscovite-friendly leaders and the newly formed administration, they continued rounding up Hungarian youth and those who had just returned home from Nazi concentration camps. These Hungarian citizens who were dragged off for ˝Malenky robot˝, a little work, were first taken to organizational camps on the territory of Hungary and then into temporary camps in Máramarossziget, Foksányi, Brassó as well as Temesvár. Horrible conditions reigned in these temporary camps and many died as a result. From these camps, prisoners were transported a few weeks later by cattle cars to more than 2000 different Soviet camps, where they would remain for the rest of their lives. More than 600,000 Hungarians were swallowed up by the gulag empire, which spread across the vast territory of the Soviet Union. Out of these, 300,000 never returned.
In 1919, the Soviet concentration and work camp system was organized with the goal of separating and punishing those who were considered enemies of the Soviet system and to take advantage of their work capacities. The Gulag, the soviet acronym for Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps, was the name the rest of the world used to designate these Soviet concentration camps.
In the gulag camps, several tens of million people died. There were years when the number of victims reached millions due to executions (some according to a state quota system), to the brutality of the guards, to the horrible conditions, to the 10-12 hour days of hard labor, starvation, and the bitter, sub-zero cold. Prisoners worked in the mines, on road, dam and railroad construction, under inhumane conditions and without the proper equipment, food or clothing.
Several hundred Hungarian citizens were sentenced by Soviet military courts to death or to extended imprisonment, which the Soviets called ˝forced corrective work˝. The executions were carried out immediately after sentencing without the inconvenience of an investigation or presentation of proof.
Those who were able to survive these years, left the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. However, upon their return to Hungary´s border, many were arrested by state (communist) authorities and could not return to their families. Some of these people were interned, others were sent home and forced to remain silent under threat of further imprisonment. They had to stay quiet until the removal of the regime.
The last Hungarian prisoner of war, András Toma, returned home in 2000.