In the reconstructed cellar we present not only traditional cells, but also punishment cells, the condemned cell and the place of execution.
“When they led me from the basement of 60 Andrássy út to my first major interrogation, I prayed for the Lord to erase from my memory the names of my friends.”
Vendel Endrédy, Cistercian Abbot of Zirc, who spent six years in solitary confinement
During the Arrow Cross reign of terror, military deserters and many of our Jewish compatriots were tortured and murdered in cells constructed in what was once the coal cellar at 60 Andrássy út. After the war the communist political police took over the building and turned the former coal cellar into a true labyrinth. We still do not know the full extent of the basement’s tunnel system at that time, and how many adjacent buildings it was connected to..
As the political police abandoned the building after 1956 and the communists tried to erase all traces of the previous ten years of brutality, it was only possible to reconstruct the former prison through the recollections of surviving prisoners.
The basement of 60 Andrássy Avenue was a realm of fear and pain. Armed guards stood outside the cells, the prisoners were not allowed to sleep or clean themselves, and they had little access to food or water. Interrogations, usually at night, took place on the upper floors of the building, and the bestial interrogation methods of the basement were “refined” in accordance with Soviet KGB instructions. Prisoners were tortured with electricity, burning cigarettes, pliers, broken glass, jets of water and electric hotplates, and beaten with lead-filled rubber batons, until they were ready to confess to anything and everything.
The standing cell, the wet cell and the foxhole are all testimony to the ingenuity of human evil and cruelty. The standing cell only provided enough space to stand, and was fitted with a glaring light bulb at eye level. In the wet cell, tortured prisoners were forced to sit or stand in ice-cold water. The foxhole was kept in permanent darkness, and the ceiling was so low that it was impossible to stand upright. The guards could also decide to turn off the ventilation system so that in the windowless cells prisoners would be left gasping for air. The motto of the ÁVÓ guards was “Don’t just guard them; hate them too.”
60 Andrassy út was not an official place of execution, but the exhibition’s death cell and place of execution evoke the fate of all those who were sentenced to death by the communist tyranny.