At the end of World War II, deportation to the Gulags affected every twelfth Hungarian, said Bence Rétvári at the central commemoration held on the occasion of the memorial day of Hungarian political prisoners and forced labourers deported to the Soviet Union.

At the event held at the Gulag Memorial in Honvéd tér in the 5th district, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Ministry of Human Capacities said almost every family has a member who was taken away for no particular reason, simply because “there was a need for spoils-of-war not only in the form of earthly possessions, but also in humans”.

He said those who cast their gaze upon Central Europe witnessed collective retribution, 20th century barbarism. Although the gunfire ceased, along came the cattle wagons and they took the people eastward, to the endless taiga of Siberia, he added.

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He said it did not matter whether someone had done something or not, whether they had indeed been allies of the Nazi troops. First they examined people’s names: those whose names sounded German were taken away as they carried out collective retribution. Later, however, they deported everyone, even some members of the communist party, the parliamentary state secretary highlighted.

Mr Rétvári pointed out that Hungary could only become free again when the first free elections were held in 1990.

He said the very term ‘malenkiy robot’ is a lie since ‘little work’ meant that people had to work in the cold, underfed, amidst cruel treatment, in a foreign land for years.

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In order for this many people to have to suffer for this long, two things had to be present at the same time: communist barbarism and the indifference of the western world, the parliamentary state secretary stressed, adding that communist ideology elevated violence, compulsion, intimidation and murder to the accepted methods of politics.

Mr Rétvári said people in the West were evidently aware of what was happening to 800,000 Hungarians and millions of other Central Europeans. Yet, they tolerated those developments, and failed to take effective action.

He highlighted that people throughout Europe commemorate victims of the Holocaust with equal dignity, and they rightly do so. At the same time, Western Europe does not seem to be upset about the 800,000 Hungarians forcefully taken to the Gulag, 200,000 of whom were starved and worked to death. Remembering these victims does not seem to be just as important.

He said Europe will be truly united when Western European Member States come to the realisation that they are equally pained by the countless victims of communist dictatorship.

DownloadPhoto: Árpád Földházi

Mr Rétvári pointed out that a few years ago they commemorated the Hungarians deported to the Gulags over a period of 2.5 to 3 years. Their goal was to create a dignified memorial in every Hungarian settlement from which a single Hungarian was taken away. They awarded funds to six hundred different projects, as part of which smaller communities commemorated victims of the Gulags in their own way, whether with music, theatrical productions, books or conferences.

There are two important lessons to learn from the past, the parliamentary state secretary said. He added that one of the most important keys to Hungary’s long-term development is to keep its distance from empires. On the other hand, only those can be true democrats who are anti-communists, he stressed.

The Children’s Choir of the Hungarian Radio sang at the commemoration which was also attended by several survivors. At the end of the event, they lit candles of commemoration.

On 21 May 2012 the Hungarian Parliament decided to declare 25 November the memorial day of Hungarian political prisoners and forced labourers deported to the Soviet Union because it was on that day in 1953 that the first group of political prisoners who survived the horrors of the Gulags were allowed to set foot on Hungarian soil again.

According to the resolution, there were some 800,000 Hungarians who were deported as war prisoners or internees for several years of forced labour in the Soviet Union from the autumn of 1944, or were deported to the prisoner camps of the Gulags for 5 to 25 years after World War II “with the active involvement of the Hungarian authorities, on the basis of fabricated charges”.

The memorial stone erected in 1993 in memory of the victims of the Gulags is in Honvéd tér, in Budapest’s 5th district.

(MTI /