Living Hell

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Essexgirl09 on February 12, 2010

Andrassy Ut is a wide, tree lined Boulevard with some of the most prestigious addresses in Budapest. It also has one of the more horrific ones. No. 60 was the war time home of the Arrow Cross Party (Hungarian Nazis) and was later replaced by the AVO and AVH Communist terror organizations. Nowadays, as well as being a museum it is also a memorial to those that died under these regimes.

There is a bookshop (free to get into), café and cloakrooms on the ground floor, you then go up to the second floor to start your visit, passing a Soviet tank on your way. The first room that you go into has various video screens showing archive news footage of the Nazis and the Communists. There are some distressing scenes of mass graves, and this museum cannot be recommended for younger visitors. One of my favourite rooms on this floor is called the 'Gulag' it is a large room and the fantastic carpet is a map of all Soviet occupied areas. Although it is in Hungarian, you can easily work out the main places, and the gulags ('Administration' or concentration camps) are marked. Around the museum are old fashioned telephones at various points, you can dial a number from a list and hear some information on a topic, however it is only in Hungarian. You also see reconstructed offices and read a moving report about the Hungarian resistance. There is less emphasis on the Arrow Cross (fascists) than the Communists though.

When you go down the stairs (or lift) to the first floor you will see more offices and exhibitions, as well as a film (with English subtitles this time) and documentation referring to cases that were brought to justice after the reign of terror. There are also small displays on propaganda and examples of everyday life mostly done in a quite dark and even funereal setting as there is no real cause for celebration. Here you will learn about how the peasants were victimized, forced to work in factories or fulfill ridiculous quotas. It wasn't just the Jews persecuted under the Fascists, religions generally were seen as a threat to both the Fascist and Communist movements and this is also featured. As well as the persecutors you meet heroes such as Cardinal Mindszenty who stood up to these organizations and was given a trial. Bearing in mind the justice system had abolished the assumption of innocence until proven otherwise, and accepted hearsay as evidence, it was obviously a huge farce. He was subsequently imprisoned and on his release in 1956 lived in exile within the US embassy.

At the end of the first floor you take a dark, slow three minute lift ride to the basement and you watch a film where an executioner talks about his work. Although they warn you the lift ride is three minutes you don't notice the time, but you will find it the most macabre lift ride you will ever take. There is an alternative for those who get claustrophobic. When you arrive in the basement you are greeted by an awful stench. This is the prison and torture area where prisoners awaited interrogation and the air is rank and stale. In fact my pregnant friend felt quite ill at this point. As you move along the smell seems to lessen (I don't think I got used to it). Here you will see reconstructions of the torture rooms as well as some gallows. The gallows actually came from a prison and were not originally here, no one was executed at this address although many died as a result of beatings received or suicide. The basement also contains the Hall of the 1956 Revolution which started from an initially unarmed demonstration against Soviet occupation and became a national battle in which over 2,500 died, and many more were injured or sent to the Soviet Union as Prisoners of War. Subsequently several hundred were executed including the Prime Minister Imre Nagy. As well as tributes to those that died, there is also a Gallery of Victimisers naming and shaming all the perpetrators, from those who actually committed the crimes to those that gave the orders.

During your visits of the top two floors, loud, darkly atmospheric music is played. It is silent in the basement.

It is worth noting that most signs and video footage in the museum are in Hungarian, and there is very little in English. Detailed A4 sheets with background info (in English and German) for each part in history are available to pick up as you walk through the museum and are very informative. There is apparently an audio guide available but we weren't made aware of this when we arrived.

In spite of the harrowing topic and exhibits, I think if you have an interest in modern history then this museum is an essential part of your visit to Budapest. It is an important teaching aid for us all, so the same mistakes are not made again by a later generation. It is a shame that most of the exhibits aren't marked in English, but most visitors will find a wealth of background information in the sheets found in each room (usually behind the doors, so you have to check you haven't missed them).

Admission HUF 1500 (approx £4.30)
Students HUF750
Group prices available
Free to Over 65s; disabled visitors (and their carers); teachers; students on Sundays.
Audio Guide HUF1300 (English & German)
No photography allowed
There are toilets on each floor.

Can be reached on Metro Line 1 to Vorosmarty Utca or trams 4 or 6 from Oktogon.

Open: Tuesday - Friday 10am - 6pm
Saturday - Sunday 10am - 7.30pm
Closed Mondays
House of Terror
Andrassy ut 60.
Budapest, Hungary

© LP 2000-2009