For most Americans, unless of course you happened to work for the CIA or were unfortunate enough to have friends or relatives behind the Iron Curtain, the Cold War always remained a sort of conceptual notion, like the Boogie Man hiding in the closet that could burst forth at any moment and annihilate us all with hundreds of unseen thermonuclear devices, more of a threat then something real and tangible.
Not so for the Hungarians. After the Soviets drove the Nazis out at the end of WWII, the Communists held this place in a grip that was total and absolute and lasted over 40 years. In Hungary the Iron Curtain was not some scary ethereal miasma. Here it was very real, fashioned out of guns, spies, interrogation, propaganda and fear.
Capitalism, with all it’s pluses and minuses, is now the system du jour and virtually all signs of Soviet domination have been eradicated with a few notable exceptions. Flea markets, where the sale of Soviet era paraphernalia, i.e. coats, hats, pins, etc., is an ongoing enterprise, and two museums, the House of Terror Museum and Momento Park, stand as constant reminders of life under the Communist boot.
The House of Terror, located at Andrássy útca 60, is a memorial to the victims of the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes who were detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in this building.
The Nazi’s took possession of this very fashionable location during WWII. When the Soviets and Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party took over, they expanded it to include almost the entire block and converted the basement into a labyrinth of cells and interrogation rooms.
Memento Park is an open air museum about 20 minutes southeast of Budapest. It is filled with monumental statues from Hungary’s Communist period (1949–1989).
Most notably absent are any statues of Stalin. Apparently all of them were destroyed after the Soviets fled in 1989. All that remains are Papa Joe’s boots.
And finally, just for scale.