The cutting of the Iron Curtain in 1989 - Photo: Fortepan / Zsolt Szigetvary

Officials pay tribute to victims of communism

Officials commemorated the memorial day for the victims of communism on Sunday. Speaking at a ceremony at the House of Terror Museum in Budapest, interior ministry state secretary Bence Retvari said violence was a fundamental aspect of communism, and "the left always looks the other way when it comes to violence".

“The red fog first descended on our country in 1919,” claiming more than 500 victims, according to some sources, he said.

During the second communist dictatorship, 700,000-800,000 people were taken to Gulag camps, of whom 300,000 never returned, Retvari said. A million criminal proceedings were launched, with mainly members of the peasantry and the working class being put on trial, he added, paying tribute to the 1,200 people who were executed and the 200,000 who fled the country in 1956.

Violence is a fundamental aspect of communism, he said, noting that a year ago, far-left Antifa groups had assaulted passers-by on the streets of Budapest. “Extremists think they’re allowed to resort to violence to upset the social order,” the state secretary said.

He said that if communists failed to seize power, “they try to take a detour, by first seizing ideological power”. The victims of communism need to be remembered so that history “becomes ingrained in our central European DNA, and to warn western Europeans . that far-left ideas must be rejected”, he added.

Retvari said certain politicians tended to “look the other way” when it came to Antifa attacks or when other politicians use violence.

Moderates reject violence, and those who defend it are always extremist political forces, he said.

Maria Schmidt, the director of the House of Terror Museum, said those who were born during the fall of communism in 1989-90 and are now parents themselves had a duty to pass on to their children their knowledge of how their grandparents and great-grandparents lived.

She said this was not easy, because some still had an interest in keeping children from learning the truth about communist dictatorships. The memorial day is needed to keep repeating the truth about the tragedy of the communist dictatorship, she added.

Reka Foldvary Kiss, the head of the National Remembrance Committee, said the memorial day was not just about the personal tragedy of independent smallholder politician Bela Kovacs, who was arrested and deported to the Soviet Union in 1947, but also about confronting the fact that if communists gain power, then anyone can end up being a victim.

Foldvary Kiss, Janos Latorcai, deputy speaker of parliament, Laszlo Geza Somjeni, head of the Freedom Fighters Foundation, and Csongor Csaky, head of the Rakoczi Association, laid a wreath at the Monument of National Martyrs.

Csaba Latorcai, state secretary at the public administration and regional development ministry, told a commemoration that “the spirit of communism haunts Europe again”, but this time communists were “backed up by millions of US dollars, rather than Soviet bayonets”.

In his speech by a memorial plaque at the Budapest Gyorskocsi street prison used by the communist police, Latorcai said that in the 1940s, it was “foreign interests” that put communists in power. “Hungarians didn’t want communism then, and they don’t want it now,” the state secretary said.

He said the legacy and message of the victims of communism was that Hungary can only be built on Christian culture. “It is only this culture that allows our children to also live in a free and sovereign country,” he added.

Under a parliamentary decree, February 25 has been observed as a memorial day of martyrs of communism since 2000. On this day in 1947, leader of the Independent Smallholders’ Party Bela Kovacs was illegally detained and deported to the Soviet Union.

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