In fact this site commemorates not so much the entire 1956 Uprising but focuses on one specific location of the events, name Kossuth Square, where it is situated, and one particular day, namely 25 October. Accordingly the official full name of the place is actually “In Memoriam 25 October 1956”.
To explain, Kossuth Square (named after the great Hungarian statesman, who also has a statue on it, and who is buried in a grand mausoleum in Kerepesi Cemetery
) was one of the focal points of the protests that began in Budapest
on 23 October 1956. On the third day, 25 October, shots were fired by the Soviet and Hungarian troops at the unarmed civilians who had gathered on the square that day.
In fact the death toll of the entire revolution is said to have been the largest on that day. The exact numbers are apparently still not known and it is one of the missions of this memorial to endeavour to fill in the gaps and establish the identity of every single victim (if that should ever be possible after such a long time).
The memorial came about as part of the reconstruction of Kossuth Square in the years 2012-2014. It’s located underground in a brick tunnel what was once one of the air-conditioning ventilation shafts for the Parliament, before that was equipped with a more modern system. The memorial was inaugurated in 2014.
What there is to see:
When you get to the entrance take note of the figure “1956” cut into the metal fence on either side of the top of the stairs. When it’s sunny enough the figure will projected on to the pavement – at different angles, depending on the time of day (at midday in summer, not much of a projection may be visible at all). It’s the same visual trick also employed at the House of Terror
Then head down to the memorial as such. The inside is a brick vault, or tunnel, extending either side of the doorway. The floor has metal grilles you walk on and an illuminated red zigzag line runs through it to the right. This leads past several exhibits, projections and screens up to the far end.
Thematically, the exhibition is subdivided roughly into three parts. The first is a timeline of Hungary
leading from WWII
up to 1956
The second part is what the memorial’s website describes as a “recreation of Kossuth Square”. Well, that’s perhaps a bit much. But what this section does is contrast some related artefacts, clothes protesters were wearing and weapons and ammunition used by the soldiers, with photos and video screens showing original footage, and also wall projections, including an animated one featuring a T-54, the kind of tank that was also involved on that fateful day of 25 October 1956 (see above
). The artefacts are displayed in glass cases either set into the floor or upright in “columns” from floor to ceiling
The third part is the half of the tunnel that branches off to the left from the entrance. The is mainly a remembrance space for contemplation. It ends with a chapel-like “rotunda” hall with a tomb-like monument in the centre and small name plates attached to the rounded wall. These bear the names of victims of that day. Some name plates are empty, as not all victims have ever been identified. (The museum hopes to slowly close those gaps, and calls on visitors to provide such information if they can.) Nearby is also an interactive screen giving more details of the day, portraits of individuals, locations of other massacres, and so forth. From the rotunda ceiling hangs a battered flag in Hungarian colours with a circular hole in the middle. This was the symbol of the revolution, when people cut out the communist coat of arms and flew these “mutilated” flags as a sign of defiance. There are rounded benches along the outer wall for people to sit down for a while and take it all in.
Back at street level also take note of the mock bullet holes in the metal fence at the top of the stairs. These are only symbolic, of course, but powerful nonetheless.
All in all, this may not be the richest of exhibitions in terms of exhibits and information, but as a memorial it works well, I thought. I should perhaps have given it a bit more time, actually, but it was a chance discovery when I was last in Budapest and I was en route somewhere else. Next time I’m there I’ll pay this site a visit again and maybe expand this text a little then.
near the centre of Budapest
, right on Kossuth Square, or rather beneath it, with the entrance in the southern half of the square about a hundred yards from the main entrance to the Parliament.
Access and costs: fairly easy to find; free
the location of the memorial is right on one of Budapest
’s most prominent squares, Kossuth Lajos ter., next to the Parliament. So that is easy enough to find.
You can get to the square by metro line 2 (red), or by tram line 2 or 2M; the station/stop has the same name as the square.
From there head north towards the Parliament on the path between two landscaped lawns and keep an eye out for what looks like two parallel black metal fences. At the end of these begin the stairs down to the subterranean memorial space.
Opening times: daily (except Mondays) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Time required: not long, between a few minutes for a cursory look and perhaps half an hour for a thorough exploration of everything, including the interactive screen.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Budapest
One of the city’s most unusual monuments, the “shoes by the Danube” can be found just a short walk along the river embankment south of the Parliament.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: the location of the memorial is right by one of Budapest’s most iconic sights, the huge neo-Gothic Parliament building. This also has a visitor centre/museum and tours are offered that provide some glimpses of the similarly opulent interiors of this grand pile. (Normal opening hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but when official events are taking place, tours may not run; tickets should be obtained online in advance.)
- 1956 Memorial 1 - entrance with light projection
- 1956 Memorial 2 - inside
- 1956 Memorial 3 - zig-zagging through the exhibition
- 1956 Memorial 4 - exhibits and photos projections
- 1956 Memorial 5 - more exhibits
- 1956 Memorial 6 - exhibits set into the floor under glass
- 1956 Memorial 7 - poignant exhibits
- 1956 Memorial 8 - tanks against the people
- 1956 Memorial 9 - mock bullet holes