The permanent exhibition of the House of Terror Museum begins on the second floor. There are eight exhibition halls and a smaller projection room on this level. The themes of the exhibition follow the chronology of the Hungarian totalitarian dictatorships.
The first hall, which is a lead-in to the permanent exhibition, is the hall of double occupation. It introduces the visitors to the Nazi and Soviet occupation of Hungary. We have clearly stated the date when a foreign super power provided the circumstances for the creation of a totalitarian dictatorship: March 19th 1944, the day of Nazi occupation, the day when Hungary lost its independence.
In the next hall, the Passage of the Hungarian Nazis (Arrow Cross Party), we have also marked the starting point of the totalitarian dictatorships. In this hall the utterly cynical slogan: “Hold on, we’re coming!” is an introduction to all the horrors exhibited regarding this building. In the hall of the Hungarian Nazis (Arrow Cross Party) we were trying to reproduce the total, surreal chaos and horror which was signified by the terror of the Arrow Cross Party hitmen within the country.
The following room is the Gulag and Soviet forced-labour camps hall, which commemorates the Hungarians, both civilians and political prisoners, who were taken to Soviet forced-labour camps. The spaciousness of the room, the map which covers the floor, the reminiscences, the wood panelling on the wall clearly present the hopeless fate of 700 000 Hungarians who were living in barracks and imprisoned in the endless land of the Soviet Union.
The following smaller exhibition hall presents the local changes taking place in the meantime: the room of Changing Clothes.
After the war was over, in contrast to the initial hopes, neither democracy nor market economy was established but a new totalitarian dictatorship and an economic system opposing common sense was created in Hungary. The installation rotating in the middle of the room with the Arrow Cross and Communist secret police uniforms stands for the change of dictatorships and their common core, seemingly opposing each other but in fact they are the two sides of the same coin.
Then the visitor may enter the everyday life of the fully developed communist dictatorship in the hall of the Fifties. In the first half of the room there are polling booths reminding us to the one-party ‘socialist democracy’; having seen the setting evoking official optimism and high spirits, we may also see what was going on behind the scenes: the arrangement of the second part of the room represents total control over society.
Then the hall of Soviet Advisors follows: as we alluded to the presence of the foreign ‘Big Brother’ in the room of the Arrow Cross Party, here we may have an insight into the world of those organisations which supervised the sovietisation of Hungary.
In the last exhibition hall a highly important theme is introduced, the long concealed topic of Hungarian resistance against communism. Visitors may have a seat in the projection room and watch full length contemporary propaganda films.