Hungary is a beautiful country but has a tragic history that has seen the country carved up and its citizens displaced. After getting rid of the Russians in the 90s, they finally had an independent and free democratic Hungary.

Prime Minister Victor Orban, often portrayed by media as a fanatic, is anything but.

A good friend of mine, a firefighter, asked me one day, “You know the second-largest reasons forest fires spread beside the wind?” Speechless, I said, “No idea.”. He replied, “Animals on fire running through the forest.”

Most modern news media are animals on fire.

If you take the time to do your research, you’ll see he’s very much a centrist and with an eye towards the future. His party just supported the nomination of the first woman President. 

Back to my visit to Budapest…

I wanted to share a bit of Hungary’s history with SOFREP readers, as seen through my trip to the House of Terror Memorial Museum.

Once larger than Italy and England, the First World War stripped Hungary of two-thirds of its territories after. This isolated the country politically and left Hungary as one of Central Europe’s weakest states. Similar to Poland in the 30s, Hungary found itself like a piece of raw meat being chewed apart by angry dogs of Russia and Germany.

The country fought for independence with the outbreak of World War II but eventually saw itself bullied into taking sides with the Germans after several high-level leaders and family members were kidnapped by the Nazis. Shortly after Hungarian troops were sent to the brutal and cold Eastern Front, not many survived the harsh conditions. In addition to this, almost half a million Jewish Hungarians were rounded up and sent to Nazi death camps. Few would ever be seen again.

The museum is staged in the old era of the Soviet-occupied secret police headquarters. The top floors were reserved for high-ranking staff, and accommodations were quite nice. Go a few floors down, and you have torture rooms. Down at the basement level, you have the cramped, cold, dark prison cells and no good options.

The sewage smell was unmistakable, and I felt like I was standing in an ice-cold portable toilet that needed emptying. My nostrils were filled with the dank stench of piss and sh*t. I could only imagine the screaming terrors that existed on the prison level, which included several execution and torture rooms.

Here are some photos I’ve taken in the House of Terror Memorial Museum:

Russian Tank in the Museum center with victims of the German and Soviet occupation on the wall. Author’s private collection.
Author’s private collection. Russian propaganda painting depicting “Kind saviors,” not so kind in real life.
Author’s private collection. Hungarian “Arrow Party” modeled after the Nazis.
The dining hall in the secret police headquarters. Nazi and Arrow Cross party uniforms hanging on the wall.
Author’s private collection. Hungarian victims of Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
Author’s private collection. Budapest’s scars and a collapsed bridge, now restored, from World War II.
Author’s private collection. Secret police gear under the Soviet occupation
Author’s private collection. Russian propaganda.
Author’s private collection. Propaganda room.
Author’s private collection. Head of the Secret Police’s Office. Notice the machine gun poking out of the ceiling and aimed perfectly in front of the desk. How many did this shoot?
Author’s private collection. Down below, in the main building, is the prison. Here’s the hanging room.
Author’s private collection. Secret police prison cell. This was one of the nice ones. Many had no bed and were windowless.
Author’s private collection. Beating room. Notice the tools and the drain to hose off the victim and clean up the mess. I saw similar in SERE school prisoner training camp in the U.S. military.
Author’s private collection. Standing in the room showcasing the resistance fighters of Hungary.
Author’s private collection. Many Hungarians were sent to forced labor correction camps or Gulags. This was to symbolize the camp.
Author’s private collection. Hungarian Molotov cocktail—usually a breakable glass bottle containing a flammable substance such as petrol, alcohol, or a napalm-like mixture. This one had a grenade attached as a bonus!
Author’s private collection. Soviet machine gun.
Author’s private collection. Forced standing prison cell.

This forced standing prison cell reminded me of my own prison camp experience I shared in my book, The Red Circle.

Author’s private collection. Hungary resistance fighter’s bicycle fork with a bullet hole.
After the Soviets left, years later, Hungary played Russia in a water polo match marred by violence between the teams and won.
1956 “Blood in the water match. Hungary won 4-0”.  Author’s private collection.
Author’s private collection. Outside the Museum.

In August 1944, Hungary became the center stage for a clash between Germany and Russia. Post-war, the Soviets would continue occupying Hungary and installing their own puppet regime after the brutal German occupation.

Hungary would suffer greatly under Soviet occupation, many were forced into labor camps (Gulags), and the secret police would listen and find neighbors reporting neighbors.

In 1956, the death of Stalin created a power struggle in Russia that emboldened Hungarians to revolt seeking independence. In October, a student-led demonstration was crushed by security forces opening fire into crowds of unarmed protestors, which led to an open revolution in the country.

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Although this led to a cease-fire and some reforms, the Soviets largely controlled Hungary’s fate through Russian “advisors” and another puppet regime until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, which led to a free Hungary. During this time, thousands were tried, some put to death, as young as 15 and 16 years of age, for anti-government activity.

Today Hungary is a beautiful free country well aware of the barb wire handcuffs of Communism.

If you have a chance to visit Budapest and the House of Terror Memorial Museum, please do. It’s an incredible city.