Today I visited Budapest’s House of Terror. For decades, this was the location where many who were seen as “disloyal” to the regime were imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Many party operations were conducted from the building (both the Arrow Cross and the Communists.) It was then called the “House of Loyalty.”
Outside, I saw an elderly woman lighting a memorial candle. It was quite windy and the candle kept blowing out. But she had a whole box of matches and kept relighting it. Finally she put a cover over the candle and it stayed burning.
I entered, and did alright on the second and first floors, which were mostly memorabilia and educational displays. Freaky but bearable. The tour ends in the basement level, the bowels of the building where the prison and torture cells still remain. The space was dark and musty and extremely creepy. I was pretty emotional while touring this space – seeing the sights these people saw, smelling the same smells they did, it was quite overwhelming. While rough, I think it’s important that we experience these things for two reasons – one, to absorb the human capacity for evil (and the price of mass ignorance) – and two, the converse – to see the resilience of the human spirit.