House of Terror Museum, Budapest, Hungary

Terror Museum Budapest HungaryOn the outside walls of the “House of Terror” Museum in Budapest are small portraits of the men and women who were either outright executed or tortured to death by the Soviet masters after the Hungarian uprising of 1956. Inside the museum are similar rows of portraits of the Hungarian officers who perpetrated the horrors upon their countrymen. Unfortunately, as in so many museums, there is an incomprehensible ban on photography. The House of Terror is called a museum, but it is actually more of a work of political art. There is no real sense of narrative of what happened to Hungary under Soviet occupation, but instead one tableau after another illustrative of the era–the desk of the secret police commander, uniforms of the Communist police, collages of propaganda photos, videos of victims statements, reconstructions of cells with gallows where executions took place, and, in the lobby, a Soviet tank. But very little of it is translated from the original Hungarian or Russian, so what a foreigner is left with is a jumble of images, which is indeed very powerful, but unfortunately mostly useless for establishing any sort of historical context. Emotionally moving, but it leaves the intellect yearning for more.

A simple exposure, hardly manipulated other than to process it in Silver Efex Pro 2 to change it into black and white. Nikon D800E, ISO 200, f/5.0, 1/800 sec exposure.

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4 thoughts on “House of Terror Museum, Budapest, Hungary”

  1. The last two times I visited Budapest, I couldn’t really face visiting this museum, but I will certainly try again when my partner and I go next month. Knowing that I won’t necessarily be able to understand all the text might make it easier, actually. We’ll see.

    • Sam, it’s a moving experience in its own way. It does succeed as a work of art in that it certainly evokes strong emotion. The reconstructed cells in the basement where you see where people were tortured and executed can’t help but raise your heart rate. And, when you see the gallery of photos of those who did the dirty work, and realize they don’t look any different than their victims, you have to wonder what makes people do such things.

  2. We found the museum to be very moving and disturbing and were happy to see Swan Lake at the magnificent opera house that night to lift our spirits. For each tableau in the museum, there is a box on the wall with “take-away” descriptions in English of what you are viewing, as well as its historical contex. I found the “no photos” situation annoying as well, but rationalized it as respect to the people who were imprisoned and died there. Outside the museum there is a clever “iron curtain” sculpture, which I managed to get a good photo of despite the pouring rain. (We were in Budapest at the same time as Tom and Kristin – wish I’d known that at the time.)


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