A building can be so much more than just bricks and mortar. In Budapest, 60 Andrassy Boulevard is just known as the House of Terror. For more than a decade it represented the cruel heart of those who would stop at nothing to rule this land. The House of Terror was once the secret police headquarters for the communist government and is a must – and sad – sight to see in Budapest.
In 1944, in the dying days of the Second World War, the Hungarian Nazi Party took control of Budapest and made this building its headquarters. Known as the ‘Arrow Cross’, the local Nazi branch did not last long. Just a few months after the Arrow Cross took power, Budapest was occupied by the Soviet Union. Although enemies of each other, they both shared a malevolent obsession with the control of the populace. 60 Andrassy Boulevard became the headquarters for the State Security Authority, run by Soviet puppets. From here they ruled with an iron fist to supress rebellion and enforce submission. The security authority was known as the AVH and it was feared across Budapest. It recruited informers to spy on friends, family and colleagues. Nobody could feel safe with the watchful and vengeful tentacles of the AVH spreading out from this building.
The security officers killed without hesitation. They forced confessions or executed without trial. Thousands were killed – many of them right here. You see, under the AVH, the cellar had been extended. The authority took over almost the entire block and joined together the basements of all the buildings it controlled. Beneath the ground was an elaborate maze of prison, torture and execution. The AVH moved out of 60 Andrassy Boulevard in 1956 but the Soviets continued their control for many decades. The last Soviet troops didn’t leave the city – and the country – until 1991, shortly before the collapse of the USSR. After the supressed Uprise of 1956 thousands were imprisoned, tortured, killed and executed in House of Terror. For many citizens of Budapest, this time is still fresh in their memory and it is a deep scar across their history.
The building was opened as a museumas first one of its kind in the ex-Soviet block in 2002, after a year-long renovation effort. Over several floors, it tells an extremely comprehensive story of the Nazi and Communist rule. The exhibitions take visitors on an emotional journey through the 50 years of repression, and you can see for yourself, the basement cells used for interrogation and torture, and the portraits of those who suffered, hanging on the walls of the museum’s atrium and on the outside walls. In front of the museum stands the Iron Curtain memorial. The Iron Curtain was started to be demolilshed on 19th August 1898. Next to it stands a piece from the original Berlin Wall.