“Dear commemorating and celebrating residents of Kőszeg!
What is the message of the Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight today, 61 years after its outbreak?
What kind of impact did 1956 have on democratisation, international relations and most importantly on individual responsibility?
It is difficult to define those old concepts according to which “it opened up new ways for the post-war two-pole world” or “it set in motion the process of democratisation of world order”…
1956 was simply an impulsive and early rebellion against the militarized world order enforced by the super powers, which has determined the operation of such world organizations as the UN.
How did it affect global public opinion and the former pro-Soviet international left-wing? It can be best exemplified by the following quotes from intellectual, political and arts representatives of Europe and the world:
– Albert Camus: ”I hope that the Hungarian resistance will continue until the counter-revolutionary state collapses everywhere in the East.” “[…] the great city in insurrection reminded Western Europe of its forgotten truth and greatness.”
According to Hannah Arendt 1956 is the ultimate evidence that the desire for freedom and truth is an indelible part of human nature.
According to Raymond Aaron the Hungarian revolution is a revolt against lies, i.e. the triumph of truth.
In December 1956, Javaharlal Nehru criticized the world organization in the UN Security Council: the Hungarian initiative must be accepted with understanding and empathy not hatred…the global opinion concentrated in the UN is strong enough not to tolerate something that is considered as wrong. The Cold War is an example of this, it is contrary to peace. To have a foreign army in the country: unacceptable.
In what sense is 1956 individual?
It appears to stem from the fact that it made the unattainable attainable for a moment: it paved the way for the democratisation of international relations even if it was trampled down by Russian tanks. It is well demonstrated by the title of Miklós Molnár’s excellent essay: Victory of a Defeat. Albert Camus’ intentions led Central and Eastern European countries on this path even if they chose other, more efficient and peaceful means to achieve their goals. 1956 was an uprising, rebellion, freedom fight and revolution at the same time. It inextricably linked together the values of freedom, truth, human dignity and solidarity.
This individual combination of basic values intertwined in the form of a single deed and event is probably the greatest achievement of 1956. This was carried out through uniquely broad social solidarity. The operation of Workers’ Councils truly interlinked political and economic democracy, it was the Third way among capitalisms and socialisms.
It is not enough or even impossible to have rational attitude towards certain historical events: it requires personal identification and empathy. After 1956, the Soviet Army temporarily stationed in Hungary for 35 years. In world historical interpretation it was a nuance though it determined the lives of many, in other words a lifetime.
Those beaten, intimidated, compelled to be an informer, untold stories, unspoken personal fates and burdens, families torn apart, sense of guilt of emigrants and anxieties, hidden accusation and self-reproach entailed raise the question why we stayed here. Heroic stance, unexpected solidarity, dubious recognition of the worldwide attention, confessions of great authors, philosophers and politicians prove that without personal witness the pain caused by traumas cannot be lessened.
Therefore, we should make a pilgrimage to the Bridge at Andau, listen to the commemorations, hand over the documents and the new analyses! This is the only way to understand ourselves today and tomorrow and the surrounding society.
What is the message of the Bridge at Andau?
Today, in 2017, it is the message of solidarity, freedom, truth and human dignity. Student protesters in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Romania understood this message in 1956. In our current circumstances, it is worth considering whether we could act the same way as our Austrian neighbours did in the winter of 1956-1957?
After 1956, Javaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India – the former leading power of uncommitted countries – brought his full authority to intervene to save the lives of István Bibó and Árpád Göncz. Based on our current knowledge, thanks to him they were not condemned to death. Indian diplomats helped Árpád Göncz pass István Bibó’s proclamation to the UN. His son, István Bibó Jr. was also present when we inaugurated the István Bibó Room in Europe House, where – among others – Indian students study today.
Thanks to the efforts of Árpád Göncz, Miklós Vásárhelyi (one of the principal defendants of the trial of Imre Nagy) and Elemér Hankiss, we are here today and commemorate together and seek the meaning and message of 1956.
All of them gave testimony.
It was a Danish diplomat, a UN employee, namely Povl Bang-Jensen who paid the ultimate price for his testimony. As he promised anonymity, he refused to give up the names of those Hungarian revolutionaries forced to emigrate whom he was obliged to interview for the UN report.
After he learned that the Soviet secret police had found its way to the highest reaches of the UN, he was quite sure that the lives of his interviewees’ family members were threatened. Therefore, he chose confrontation with his superior, Secretary-General Hammarskjöld and consequently, he lost his job. He insisted on giving testimony, kept fighting for the truth and was assaulted on many occasions. In 1959, on the day of Imre Nagy’s execution, he was found dead with a revolver in his hand in a park in New York.
Officially, Povl Bang-Jensen committed suicide, even though it could not be duly proved. The related files were encrypted by the UN and the FBI. Last year the encryption was resolved thanks to UN Ambassador Katalin Bogyay’s intervention.
It is my pleasure to announce that on behalf of the Institute of Advanced Studies, András Nagy will contribute to the discovery of the subtle truth.”
Date: 23rd of October, 2017 at 5.00 p.m.
Venue: Kőszeg – Memorial Statue of 1956