Kiskunmajsa - Hungary
'56-os Muzeum - 1956 Memorial Museum
The '56-os Muzeum, as it is known in Hungary, is the only museum dedicated to the Hungarian Freedom Fight of 1956 in Hungary to date and was established by Mr. Gergely Pongrátz and the help of his family and friends in 1991.
Mr Pongrátz was the leader and hero of the Corvin Alley (Corvin köz) resistance (one of the best known of the battles for the defence of the Budapest and the Freedom fight) against the barbaric Soviet onslaught to extinguish the Hungarians' quest for freedom.
The museum is 6 km from the town of Kiskunmajsa, on the road to Szeged, in the former building of a public elementary school.
Most of the exhibits, relics, documents and works of art were purchased by Mr. Pongrátz and his family or donated by his former comrades.
The exhibits include some of the contemporary arsenal, like Molotov-coctails, a T-55 tank and many others.
Address: 6120 Kiskunmajsa, Maris puszta 244.
Open: Mon-Sat 9-17, Sun 13-17
Across the road from the '56-os Muzeum is the
1956 Memorial Chapel, dedicated to St John Capistran,
which was also built by Mr. Gergely Pongrátz.
Born in Szamosújvár, 1932, and died Kiskunmajsa, 2005, he was a legendary freedom fighter during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
He was the commander of one of the strongest points of resistance, the Corvin Alley (Corvin köz), between 1st November to 9th November.
Under his command, the Corvin Alley fighters destroyed at least a dozen Soviet tanks and resisted several waves of attack.
After the defeat, he escaped and lived mostly in American exile until 1991.
After his return to Hungary, he often raised his voice against the leftist governments.
He founded a new right-wing nationalist political party, Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom (Movement for a Better Hungary), which is still active today, however it's quite a weak political force.
He was also the president of Magyarok Világszövetsége (World Association of Hungarians).
Pongrátz Gergely founded the first museum of the 1956 Revolution in 1991, but it was closed in 1995 as the local authorities wished to use the building for a different purpose.
He then purchased and renovated an old school building in Kiskunmajsa and turned it into the only museum of the 1956 Hungarian Freedom Fight in Hungary.
Pongrátz Gergely died on the yard of the museum, suffering a heart attack.
Several high-ranking state officials, including the President of the Republic of Hungary, were present at his funeral.
Pesti srác -
Paul Penczner - Perhaps his most compelling
artwork is "Falling Stars".
This masterpiece is an East European counterpart to Picasso's Guernica.
The theme of this painting is the history of Twentieth Century Europe from a Hungarian point of view.
Images include the Treaty of Trianon, representing the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I.
Also depicted are scenes of the rape of Hungarian women by invading Soviet soldiers during World War II.
There is a biographical reference, picturing the Soviet T34 tank which wounded Penczner in a battle near Cegled.
The figure of a one-legged man symbolizes all soldiers who fought in wars.
Included are flags of Allied and Axis powers who participated in the war.
A self-portrait image is seen in the center, representing a signature to the work.
A prominent theme is the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
In the lower right, we see a commemoration of Pesti Srác (Hungarian colloquialism meaning "Boy(s) of Budapest").
This represents the young men who fought against the overwhelming Soviet invasion of Hungary.
Also represented is one of the many thousands of tanks sent in by the Soviets during that conflict.
- o O o -The following quote comes from Hungarian art historian, Dr. Lilla Szabó, who is author of the book, 'Penczner Versus Picasso'.
"He depicts man-made stars, at a time when ideologies were raising their own stars up to the heavens; when in wars started for the sake of power, people counted for little and became little more than suffering mass, when peoples and nationalities were killed and exterminated in the name of ideas, those stars that heaped shame on the whole of humanity. It is not the stars that light up the way, but the stars that lead to Hell that are shown..."
- o O o -P.s. Jesus and the Twelve Apostles
Penczner created a series of drawings depicting Jesus and the twelve Apostles.
The likenesses were said to have been based on ancient documents and scriptures.
This work was accepted by Pope John Paul II for the Vatican in Rome.
- o O o -Author's note
The Pesti srác - I would translate as the Budapest Kid - is a symbol of an anonymous, average youth of Budapest, who took up arms, usually sequestered from the enemy, to fight an unquantifiable, overwhelming and superior force, to defend his country's briefly won freedom, his city, Budapest and his beloved country with his own blood if necessary.
Corvin köz - Corvin Lane
Corvin Cinema and its surroundings very quickly became the base for some of the fiercest battles in the early days of the Hungarian Freedom Fight.
....The (Corvin) cinema and its surroundings were strategically an almost perfect place, in terms of both attack and defence. The neighbouring buildings overlooked the important Üllõi út - Great Ring Road junction - and it was from these that attacks were to be launched against Soviet tanks passing below. At the same time, the passageway around the cinema and its tall, overshadowing, surrounding buildings provided excellent defence, as it could only be accessed via a few relatively narrow alleyways, thus being virtually impenetrable by attacking forces. Furthermore, there happened to be a petrol pump at the back of the cinema, which provided unlimited supplies of fuel for Molotov cocktails - bottles filled with fuel, a piece of partly fuel-soaked rag stuffed into the neck of the bottles along with a cork or stopper, the rag being lit before the bottles were thrown.....
....According to some.... on 25 October there were only 40-50 people involved.... the numbers gradually grew, such that three days later there were a possible 800, and by the following day, after which the fighting ceased here for five days, there were around 1,000-1,200....
....Who were these people? This is a question which greatly interested the propagandists and historians of the Kádár era, who were at pains to smear the "Corvin gang" as consisting almost entirely of "riff-raff" and "criminals and prostitutes" who were "under the leadership of Horthyite officers and fascists.
Later they would be regarded as lumpenproletarians, characters on the shady margins of society, in and out of work, in and out of crime - definitely not.... they were.... "real" workers in the classical (stereotypical, idealised) Marxist sense....
....Among them there were indeed some former fascists, but there were also members of the (up to then ruling Communist) Hungarian Workers' Party and of the Hungarian Army. Writing in the daily Magyar Hírlap in 2003, Eörsi summed up the majority of rebels, at Corvin and elsewhere, as having been the slandered, embittered and humiliated victims of the Stalinist regime....
....At first the Corvin fighters only had small arms such as pistols and rifles, plus a few machine guns. These were later supplemented by different types of arms, including some artillery pieces retrieved from Soviet tanks, armoured vehicles and lorries, which they managed to destroy or put out of action.....
....Almost all participants and commentators have noted the extreme youth of the rebel fighters. One of the leading participants, Gergely Pongrátz, was himself just 24, but in his memoir, Corvin köz, he indicates that around 29 October 80% of his fellow fighters were under 20 years of age, some of them as young as 13-14....
....As a monument to this youthful rebellion, the statue of a young boy, weapon in hand, today stands in front of the Corvin Cinema. The work of Lajos Gyõrfi and entitled '56-os Pesti Srác (Pest Lad of '56), it appeared here in 1996, marking the 40th anniversary of the Uprising. The image of the young street fighter has been cultivated into heroic status, as the statue in front of the cinema clearly indicates....
British writer Bob Dent has lived in Budapest for twenty years. The above is an edited extract from his book Budapest 1956 - Locations of Drama.
"1956 was the first tear in the iron curtain and a momentous historical event with broad implications lasting through to today.
As the world watched, Hungarians of all walks of life rose up, fought the occupiers against overwhelming odds, and left a chink in the Soviet empire that ultimately contributed to the events of 1989 and 1990". American Hungarian Federation - Memorial
Pál Maléter (4 September 1917-June 16, 1958) was born to
Hungarian parents in Eperjes, a city in the northern part
of Historical Hungary, today part of Slovakia.
He was the military leader of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
Maléter studied medicine at the Charles University, Prague, before moving to Budapest in 1938, going to the military academy there.
He fought on the Eastern Front, until captured by the Red Army. He became a Communist, trained in sabotage and was sent back to Hungary, where he was noted for his courage and daring.
In 1956 he was commander of an infantry division stationed in Budapest.
He was sent to suppress the rebellion, but on making contact with the insurgents during the Hungarian Uprising he decided to join them, helping to defend the Killián Barracks.
He was the most prominent member of the Hungarian military to change sides.
As the chief military presence on the Freedom Fighters' side he came into contact with the new government, and enjoyed a rapid promotion from Colonel to General, and on 29 October was appointed Minister of Defense. On 3 November he went to Tököl, located near Budapest, to negotiate with the Soviet military forces based there. The following day during discussions, against international law, Maléter was arrested and imprisoned.
He was executed along with Imre Nagy and others in a Budapest prison on 16 June 1958, on charges of attempting to overthrow the Hungarian People's Republic.
In June 1989, on the anniversary of their deaths, Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter, three others who had died in prison and a sixth, empty coffin symbolising all those who had died, were formally reburied with full honours.
A pine has been named after him - ironically, given Maléter's height, a dwarf variety.
Nagy Imre - Imre Nagy
Nagy (pronounced "nodj"), was born in Kaposvár, to a peasant family and was apprenticed to a locksmith, before enlisting in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I and serving on the Eastern Front.
He was taken prisoner in 1915. He then became a member of the Russian Communist Party, and joined the Red Army.
In 1918, he became a member of the detachment that guarded the imprisoned ex-emperor Nicholas II and his family in Yekaterinburg.
According to documents of the Revolutionary Staff of the Ural District of the Cheka, he was member of the execution squad that murdered them on July 17, 1918, but some historians believe this to be an apocryphal story concocted by Soviet intelligence after his split with Moscow in 1956.
Nagy returned to Hungary after World War I and served in the short-lived Bolshevik government of Béla Kun.
In 1929, he went to the Soviet Union, where he engaged in agricultural research, and also worked in the Hungarian section of the Comintern.
During the time Nagy spent in the Soviet Union, many non-Russian communists were arrested, imprisoned and executed by the Soviet government.
In particular, Béla Kun, who led the Hungarian Soviet Republic, disappeared in the mid-1930s.
This incident spurred panic among Hungarian communist émigrés, as documented in Julius Hay's Born 1900.
After the war Nagy returned to Hungary and served in the Communist government, as Minister of Agriculture and in other posts.
After two years as Prime Minister (1953-1955), during which he promoted his "New Course" in Socialism, Nagy fell out of favour with the Soviet Politburo.
He was deprived of his Hungarian Central Committee, Politburo and all other Party functions and on April 18, 1955, he was sacked as Prime Minister.
Nagy became Prime Minister again, this time by popular demand, during the anti-Soviet revolution in 1956.
On 31 October, he announced Hungary's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and, on 1 November, he appealed through the UN for the great powers, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, to recognize Hungary's status as a neutral state.
He also moved toward a multiparty political system.
When the revolution was crushed by the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Nagy, with a few others, was given sanctuary in the Yugoslav Embassy.
In spite of a written safe conduct of free passage by Kádár, on 22 November, Nagy was arrested by the Soviet forces as he was leaving the Yugoslav Embassy, and taken to Snagov, Romania. Subsequently, the Soviets returned him to Hungary, where he was secretly charged with organizing to overthrow the Hungarian people's democratic state and with treason.
Nagy was secretly tried, found guilty, sentenced to death and executed by hanging in June, 1958.
His trial and execution were made public only after the sentence was carried out.
He was buried along with others in a distant corner (section 301) of the Municipal Cemetery outside Budapest.
During the time when the Communist leadership of Hungary would not mark or allow access to his true burial place, a cenotaph in his honor was erected in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
In 1989, Imre Nagy was rehabilitated and his remains reburied in the same plot after a funeral organized in part by opponents of the country's communist regime.
Over 100,000 people are estimated to have attended Nagy's reinterment.
The collected writings of Nagy, most of which he wrote after his dismissal as Prime Minister in April 1955, were smuggled out of Hungary and published in the West under the title "Imre Nagy on Communism."
Nagy was married with one daughter, Erzsébet (m. Vészi).
He did not object to his daughter's romance and eventual marriage to a Protestant minister, attending their religious wedding ceremony in 1946 without Politburo permission.
In 2003 and 2004, the Hungarian director Márta Mészáros produced a film based on Nagy's life after the revolution, entitled The Unburied Dead.
"... we cannot be generous with any other but our own blood."
"The Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight of 1956 is one of the most remarkable events in modern history. This uprising had important influences on the ending of the Cold War. It was the first important indicator of, and a catalyst for, the future downfall of communism, and it initiated a process that culminated three decades later with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union.
This event was so important that the United Nations kept the "Hungarian Question" on its agenda for 7 years".
The day Hui Chin and I went to visit the '56-os Muzeum - 1956 Memorial Museum - we did not have the best of days.
We left Budapest early and had to change trains, involving waiting and other inconveniences associated with it.
We were not sure exactly where the museum was in Kiskunmajsa.
I naively assumed it would be somewhere in the township, but it turned out that we were in for a surprise.
We couldn't see anybody around to ask, so we went in a pub about three hundred metres from the station to find our bearings.
There were quite a few trucks parked all around the outside of the pub and on entering we found the relatively small place rather crowded.
So I went up to the bar to ask about the museum.
The lady referred my question to her customers and one of the truck drivers broke the news to me that the museum is 6 km from the town centre and the centre is more than 2 km from the pub.
I was praying to myself that one of the drivers would volunteer to take us there, but unfortunately there weren't any takers, so off we went looking at a walk of about 8 km.
A lady in the town centre told us there is bus that will stop just outside of the museum if we ask the driver, in about two hours time.
It was time for refreshments and getting some money.
The local Banks would only take local credit cards and Master Cards only, one sending us to the other in turn, until one suggested trying the supermarket which we did without any success.
We had hardly enough money for the bus fares.
The bus driver told us we'll have a returning bus in about a hour's time, not giving us much time to browse in and around the museum.
The young lady in charge was ready to take us across the road to shows us the beautiful Chapel after we had rushed around looking at and photographing the familiar, memorable exhibits.
Explaining to her that we had to catch the next bus, we unfortunately had to forego visiting the chapel.
We didn't even have enough money to buy a couple of books as a memento of the great man Gergely Pongrátz and his heroic fight, against such a overwhelming force.
The following hour and half we had to wait for a bus that never turned up (or which we had already missed) and were trying to hail a ride into town, until a kind man took pity on us and picked us up.
Good man, if you happen to read this - thank you very much - God bless you and your family.
(I hope you will read this sometime. Thanks again).
In town, well, we didn't have enough money for refreshments and after we walked to the station we had to wait about hour and half, or two.
We returned to Budapest late, hungry and tired.
Not one of our best days, for sure.
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