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Imry Nagy Memorial, Budapest

The Imre Nagy Memorial in its former location near the Hungarian Parliament building. The memorial is now located at Jászai Mar Square, on the Buda side of the Margit Island Bridge.

Imre Nagy is a popular figure in Hungarian history, part villain, part hero. Nagy was a committed Communist who spent much of the 1930’s living in the Soviet Union, where he worked for the NKVD (Stalin’s notorious secret police, a forerunner of the KBG). There’s no question that he was responsible for the arrests of hundreds of people, and the executions of more than a dozen.

At the end of World War II Nagy returned to Hungary and served in various offices for the Hungarian Working People's Party (MDP), the Soviet-controlled Communist party in Hungary. As Minister of the Interior he led the deportation of hundreds of thousands of German-speaking Hungarians before rising to become Prime Minister in 1953. Two years later Nagy was ousted from the government because of internal conflicts with Mátyás Rákosi, the General Secretary of the MDP and Hungary’s most powerful political figure.

Nagy joined in with the factions that led the anti-Soviet Hungarian Revolution on October 23,1956, and was appointed Prime Minister the next day. After barely a week in office he announced that Hungary was pulling out of the Warsaw Pact, the Eastern Bloc’s version of NATO. Was this a true repudiation of Communism, or was Nagy merely being opportunistic and attempting to regain power? We’ll never really know, because three days later the Soviet’s launched a massive invasion of Hungary, overwhelming the country in less than a week. Nagy was arrested, and sent to Romania for trail, where he was executed in 1958 and buried in an unmarked grave.

In 1989, with the Eastern Bloc teetering on the edge of collapse, Nagy’s name was rehabilitated, and he was buried in Hungary with honors.

The memorial of Nagy, standing on a bridge and looking towards the Parliament building, was created in 1996. An evocative and popular photo op for every tourist that visited Budapest, the memorial was moved to, let’s say, a less conspicuous site in December 2018.

East Germany sold people to stay afloat

This is the first time I've heard of this:

"Between 1964 and 1989 some 33,755 political prisoners and 250,000 of their relatives were sold to West Germany, for a sum totalling 3.5bn Deutschmarks," says historian and author, Andreas Apelt.

"Both sides had an interest in the business - the GDR because it needed Western currency and the West because it wanted to save people from the inhumane prisons of the GDR."

Prisoners were also traded for commodities such as coffee, copper and oil.

However, neither side wanted the public to find out - the GDR because it didn't want to appear weak and West Germany because it didn't want to be seen supporting the communist regime.

So the operation remained clandestine - people were traded in darkened nooks of the underground railway, the U-Bahn, or sent across the border in buses with revolving license plates. The number plates would switch at the checkpoints, so as not to arouse suspicion on the other side.

Here's an interview with a woman who was sold, along with her mother and father.


I'm fascinated by her comment that "…if I had stayed, then I would have made a good life over there. People were well looked after and I agreed with the principles of the state - I still do - just not all the spying and oppression."

Spying and oppression is not a bug, it's a feature. Communism can't work without it.

Czech's and Slovak's mark the 20th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution

Twenty years ago the Iron Curtain continued it's dramatic collapse, as students in Prague, Czechoslvakia marched on the city's famed Wenceslas Square. http://bit.ly/183N6w

The Day the Wall Came Tumbling Down

Potsdamer Platz 1984

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall fell. Here are a few stories marking the event.

News from Europe

Here are links to some news stories that I posted on facebook, twitter and linkedin this past week.

  • The EU in microcosm: a Dutch-German wine maker, trained in Switz. is stirring up things in the world of Portugese wine. http://bit.ly/OSzWj
  • Egypt and the Louvre having a little spat over stolen antiquities. http://bit.ly/joov2
  • Get the real recipes for fondue, roesti and other Swiss dishes with a new English translation of Swiss cookbook. http://bit.ly/2GqDa
  • Louvre agrees to return Egyptian frescos. http://bit.ly/aAm0Z
  • 20 years ago today: How a reporter dodged the East German secret police to report on demonstrations in Leipzig. http://bit.ly/KgZhR
  • World gasps at idea of a McDonald's at the Louvre, but the French apparently couldn't care less. http://bit.ly/1giDZ

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