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Dec 28, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Let’s get a few things straight about the heroes of 1956

Let’s talk frankly about 1956 and the heroes of the revolution

As part of the renovation of Martyrs’ Square in downtown Budapest near the Hungarian Parliament, a statue of Imre Nagy, who was prime minister when the 1956 Revolution broke out, was removed on Friday morning. Authorities announced that the statue itself would undergo renovation and be re-located north of the Parliament, less than a kilometer away on Jászai Mari Square. The change provoked a stir, even the always fair and balanced New York Times felt compelled to chime in.

Let’s be clear about Imre Nagy. As I wrote yesterday on my Hungarian Facebook page, Hungary’s conservatives and right-of-center do not denounce Imre Nagy, the prime minister who was condemned to death and executed under the communist regime. On the contrary, despite his own communist past and actions, we count him among the martyrs of the Hungarian nation.

That should have been the end of it. But the ideologues on the Left cannot leave well enough alone, and their reactions speak volumes about how many just still don’t get what the 1956 Revolution was all about.

Take a look at this press release from the Hungarian Socialist Party today and one from the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party – the Communists – from December 5, 1956. See any similarities?

Here’s what the Socialist Party released today: “With the removal of the Imre Nagy statue, Fidesz has once again made clear its perspective on the events of 1956. Once again, it shows that it’s not concerned with the democratic content of the revolution, but maintains instead the example of Horthyist restoration.”

And here’s the “decree” from their Communist predecessors in December 1956:

“The counter-revolutionary Horthy fascists and Hungarian capitalist-land holders were a key factor in the preparation and launching of the October events…The guilty role of the international imperialist circles behind the flare-up is further evidenced by the fact that for many years in West Germany, in preparation for a counter-revolution, they collected the remnants of the former Horthyist army and gendarmerie along with the Hitler Fascists who had fled to the West. They were equipped with weapons, received military training and were paid with US dollars.”

The Communists talked about “October events” back in 1956 and the Socialists still use the same language today, quietly trying to obfuscate the facts. These were not “events”. It was a popular revolution against a terrible regime and it was put down by the brutal force of the Soviet Red Army.

Meanwhile, many of the heroes of the 1956 Revolution and Freedom Fight remained unknown or, worse, shamed for decades.

Those heroes are the everyday folk who found the tremendous courage to rise up. They are the renowned lads – and lassies – of Pest. They are people like Gergely Pongrátz, Erika Szeles, Ferenc Csizmadi, Tibor József Fejes, Ilona Tóth, Mária Wittner and countless others who were prepared to sacrifice everything, and in some cases did, for freedom.