In Hungary, a country that survived two terror systems, the time has finally come to raise a monument to the memory of the victims and present to the public what it meant for our fellow countrymen to live through those times. The Public Foundation for the Research of East and Central European History and Society bought the building in December 2000 with the purpose of establishing a museum to present these two bloody periods of Hungarian history. The chief director of the House of Terror Museum, completed in February 2002, is Dr. Maacute;ria Schmidt.
The block, which includes 60 Andraacute;ssy Avenue, was built in 1880 according to the plans of the architect Adolf Feszty, who originally planned it as a mansion. The facade of this neo-renaissance building on the corner of Andraacute;ssy Avenue and Csengery Street did not change for decades. But the owners did.
From the beginning of 1937, the Hungarian ultra-right party, the Arrow Cross Party, hired more and more space in the house. In 1940 they took over the whole building and made it their headquarters. The party leader Ferenc Szaacute;lasi called the building "The House of Loyalty". In the autumn of 1944, when the Hungarian Nazis came to power, the basement was used as a prison. As Budapest rid itself of German rule and was occupied by the Soviets, the communist-led Political Police claimed the house in February 1945, and created a prison labyrinth by connecting the basements of the block. The State Security Police owned the building until 1956. After they moved out, the house was renovated, erasing all traces of its past. 60 Andraacute;ssy Avenue then became the headquarters of several firms and offices. In the 1970s, the basement where hundreds, perhaps thousands of people had been tortured was used as a club for young communists.
During the one year construction work, the building at 60 Andraacute;ssy Avenue was fully renovated inside and out. The background music with a timeless scoring for string orchestra in multiple movements goes well with the historical theme of the museum's exhibition and contains special stereophonic mixes and sound effects.
The exhibition is set up on the ground floor, the first and second floors, the infamous cellars, the staircases and inner courtyard of the building. Ten touch-screen terminals help visitors find their way around the house, showing the various levels of the exhibition and its halls. Apart from material exhibited in the museum, the various multimedia facilities also contribute to the authenticity of the exhibition and the enhancement of its impact. Contemporary sound recordings can be heard in the telephone booths which are designed in period style. On the screens of the plasma television sets placed on the walls of the halls and corridors, visitors can continually view documentaries and interviews from a given era. Walking through the halls named after the periods exhibited within them, one can get acquainted, in chronological order, first with the terror of the Hungarian Nazi and then the Communist regime.
The House of Terror Museum, which opened on 24th February, 2002 and is unique in its genre, wishes to erect a monument to the memory of those of our compatriots who were held captive, tortured and killed in this building, but apart from presenting the horrors in a digestible manner, it also wishes to make people understand that the sacrifice for freedom was not made in vain. From the fight against the two cruellest systems of the 20th century, the forces of freedom and independence managed eventually to emerge victorious.
The black blade walls provide a kind of frame for the building, setting it off conspicuously from the other buildings on Andraacute;ssy Avenue, drawing attention to it. Walking the exhibition halls, one can feel the atmosphere of those bygone times - thus the Museum affects the emotions, as well as providing sufficient information for the interested visitor.
The House of Terror Museum is the one and only Hungarian multimedia museum. It is unique that so much data - pictures, films, texts - are shown to the audience. Our museum is not an ordinary one, in that instead of historical objects the basis of the exhibition consists mainly of interior architectural resources and information displayed in various forms.
It was one of the largest museum investments and one of the biggest cultural projects financed from the public budget in Central-Europe in 2002. The basic idea was to erect a monument to the victims of both regimes - a monument, which can tell the audience what a dictatorship was really like. Thus, in accordance with the chief designer's intention, 60 Andraacute;ssy Avenue became a sculpture in building form.
The design and the audio-visual and material content form a rounded entity. The architecture and the interior design are a part of the exhibition. The Museum shows the terror and history of the Nazi and Communist regimes side by side, and is the only one of its kind in Hungary. Because of this fact, the Museum is always full of visitors - we have reached the figure of one million on 5th April, 2005.
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