60 Andrássy
February 7, 2005 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Terrorháza [Flash]. Having survived two terror regimes, it was felt that the time had come for Hungary to erect a fitting memorial to the victims, and at the same time to present a picture of what life was like for Hungarians in those times. A tour of the Terror Musuem at 60 Andrássy út in Budapest. After the introduction, proceed to the Exhibition link.
posted by Wolfdog (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The link should bypass the site's annoying flash navigation, but you can enter here if you want the full, flash-y effect.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:16 PM on February 7, 2005

Thanks Wolfdog!
posted by shoepal at 9:22 PM on February 7, 2005

I visited Terrorhaza while in Budapest a few months ago. I have mixed feelings about it.

The Hungarians suffered quite a bit under both fascist and socialist dictatorships. So did all of their neighbors. However I found the exhibits tended to speak of Hungarian suffering only. Perhaps unsurprising, but this artificial bubble in e.g. exhibit descriptions left a bit of a bad afterstate. If you didn't know better, you'd think that world war II was all about who would eventually oppress the Hungarians. As someone who grew up in Russia, I was also a bit distressed with the consistent lack of separation between "oppressive soviet dictatorship" and "russian people". However I suspect much of this can be attributed to the translation quality of materials.

The thing that struck me the most about the Terror museum, however, was how produced it was. The interior design, physical quality of exhibit materials, the art deco outside signage that produces appropriately shaped shadow shapes, it was all a bit unsettling to be around. Imagine taking a gestapo torture chamber (which is basically the role that 60 Andrássy út served), and then hiring the hippest new media design firms of New York, London and Paris to do it up for visitors. It didn't feel natural.

I am glad that the Hungarians are reclaiming their history and speaking openly about the atrocities committed against them, though. The museum very obviously fills a need that has been there for a while. So does Szobopark (self link).
posted by blindcarboncopy at 11:33 PM on February 7, 2005

The Terror Haza (House of Terror) was part of a planned political whitewash of history by the previous ruling party (warning: extreme Uralic unintelligibility link)FIDESZ, which appointed historian Maria Schmidt as curator. Schmidt's previous claim to fame was that she was the historian authorized to replace the old Hungarian monument at Auschwitz with a new one that no longer mentioned that the Hungarian victims were Jews. This link notes: "Schmidt is not an independent researcher, but an official... in her scientific and journalistic work up to now, Schmidt has always tried to draw unfavourable conclusions with respect to the Jewish community."

FIDESZ was originally a liberal "youth" party that realized that the big money was in becoming a "conservative" party, embracing nationalism, and playing the political pork barrel for all it was worth. In contemporary Hungarian terms, being "conservative" is defined not so much by economic policy as much as by whether your party tolerates antisemitic politcial language.

When the Terror Haza opened there was a lot of debate about the fact that the quality of "being a victim" was applied equally to those persecuted by the old Hungarian regime because they were Jews, and those persecuted by the post war communist regime. In the exhibit, photographs of Jews were in the minority, while photographs of the parents of present day Jewish SZDSZ (liberal oppostion party) party officials whose parents were in the communist regime after WWII were prominently displayed at eye level.

After FIDESZ lost the last election to the now governing Socialists, the new Prime Minister declared that the terror haza was not really a musuem but a piece of party-aligned politcial propaganda, and restricted its budget, causing the usual mass rightwing demonstrations in the street outside. Finally, it was decided that the Terror Haza was not adaptable as a site for a museum dedicated to the holocaust, and since then a new museum has been opened to address the holocaust directly.

On the other hand, little outrage was noticed last week when Hungary's first TGIFriday's opened on Octagon Square, two minutes walk away from the museum.
posted by zaelic at 3:24 AM on February 8, 2005

zaelic, it's comments like yours that keep me coming back to MeFi year after year...thanks.
posted by mediareport at 10:44 PM on February 8, 2005

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