Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Budapest, Hungary: Chilling Tour of the House of Terror
Next was the notorious "House of Terror." This is a museum devoted to memorializing the terrors and tortures perpetrated on the people of Hungary during the twin occupations: first by the native-gorwn fascist "Arrow Cross"; the second by the Soviet-led Communist Party.
This is where political prisoners were interrogated, imprisoned, tortured and often executed. In this very building, located on the most beuatiful boulevard in all of Budapest, Andrássy út. The rooflines have the word "TERROR" carved backwards into the eaves, so that on a sunny day (and Sunday decidedly was not), the word "TERROR" is projected onto the sidewalks outside this building. Small cameos of the victims are inlaid into the building facade:
Parts of the museum are somewhat whimsical, but overall the experience is horrific. In fact, it is rather jarring how the curator switches back and forth from comical to chilling. Lost of videos of people recounting their torture (helpfully subtitled in English).
The most bonechilling part of the tour was the basement. The elevator ride down includes a video of an executioner relating matter-of-factly how the prisoners were executed. You can see the actual cells. Some are wet; some are dry. Some have an unnaturally low ceiling. Some are ridiculously tiny.
The tour ends in a room called the "Hall of Tears." There are candle-lit memorials (electric candles, probably) to each of the dead. Although it never says so on the otherwise greatly detailed tour, my impression is that this is the room where the executions occurred. I am dead serious when I say that I could literally feel the presence of evil in that room.
You leave this building with a deep hatred of fascism and communism. Which is the point.