“The deeper we go into the past, the fewer witnesses remain; oral tradition falls silent, and memories are lost in obscurity...”
Looking out at us from the building’s walls are the faces of nearly three and a half thousand victims of two murderous ideologies: Nazism and communism. They faced persecution because either the Nazis’ racist ideology or the communists’ class-war ideology identified them as enemies of the totalitarian dictatorship of the time. Both totalitarian dictatorships were forced on our country by foreign military occupation. Both regimes brought us immeasurable suffering. At the same time, the experience of Nazi and communist dictatorships has armed us with exceptional knowledge. We have experienced, and we will not forget, that the foundation of freedom – and therefore of democracy – is national independence. We have learnt – and we are keenly aware – of the need to beware those people who are not interested in the problems of the present and the lessons of the past, but who instead promise a distant future of perfection.
In the mid-20th century the T-54 was the Soviet Union’s most advanced tank, the first major combat deployment of which took place in Hungary in the autumn of 1956. The Soviet invaders crushed our freedom fight with 1,200 tanks, including T-54s. In 1956 Hungarians could no longer bear the humiliating burden of communist terror, and rose up against the communist dictatorship imposed on them by foreign invaders. The brave “Lads of Pest” – and girls – risked their lives by confronting the tanks, which they incapacitated with petrol bombs made from bottles: “Molotov cocktails”. Therefore in the autumn of 1956 the streets of Budapest not only ran with blood, but also with diesel fuel flowing from blown-up tanks.
This building, transformed into a museum, is one of the most powerful symbols of Hungary’s 20th-century history. Walking through its corridors and halls, you will understand why Hungarians reject all outside interference, and why they defend their nation’s independence.