Dear Erzsébet, Honourable Former Prime Minister, Honourable Minister, Honourable Member of Parliament, Honourable Commemorators,
We have gathered here to pay tribute to the victims of communism, and to remember the Hungarians forcibly sent to the Gulag camps: soldiers who were treated as war criminals for no reason, in violation of every convention in force; civilians clothed in uniform, recorded as prisoners of war; men, women and children taken away purely on account of their origin, perhaps their German-sounding names, or perhaps under the pretence of a few hours of “málenkij robot” [“a little work”]; honest citizens, whose only crime was that a wireless was found in their home, or who were punished simply to meet predetermined targets for numbers of prisoners of war. Today we are here to remember the interrogation cellars and rooms, the confessions obtained through violence and torture, the predetermined death sentences and the twenty-five-year prison sentences. And we have also come here to remember the long road leading to the Gulag: the collection and distribution camps – devastated by epidemics – in Hungary and Romania, and then the seemingly endless journey to Soviet camps. The many stages of deportation, each of which saw the disappearance of many thousands – sometimes without trace – before they could reach the continent-sized prison world of the Gulag: the lowest circles of Hell, where the rate of mortality sometimes reached 80 per cent – due to frost, hunger, ten, twelve or fourteen hours of hard physical labour every day, overcrowding, the lack of medical care and the brutality of guards. And finally we are here to also remember the return – which many experienced as simply exchanging one labour camp for a larger one. Let us remember the decades of stigmatisation, the enforced silence, and then the hypocrisy of rehabilitation. For a long time many of them had to fight even to preserve the memory of the victims, the memory of their many fellow sufferers; if we had created the space to write all their names on this black obelisk, I would now be standing in front of one of the world’s tallest monuments. We thank the survivors for not giving up the fight – even when it all seemed hopeless. Thank you for standing up, and for the words of commemoration and warning in your testimonies. Please continue to remind us and warn us that under no circumstances may we take for granted the free and democratic world we live in today, but that instead we should see it as something exceptional: as a state of grace which we can only retain if we resolve to never allow the like of this to happen to us again.
Europe has been a homeland to both epochal concepts and cataclysmically destructive ideologies: National Socialism, international communism – and, indeed, a modern imperialism which reduced entire peoples to colonial existence – all first reared their heads in lands to the west of us. Let us be proud that Hungary is a country which has never produced oppressive ideologies, and has never sought to condemn anyone to a colonial fate. Our people are a sober nation, who know that peace, freedom and independence are important not only for us; they therefore respect and recognise other nations’ right to those ideals. In Western Europe the Left extolled communism even after millions had perished under the heel of red dictatorships. Furthermore, to this day the European Left continues to see communism and its crimes in a peculiar, blurred light. In the minds of a number of European politicians, the statues of communist leaders are still standing. They are not prepared to acknowledge that the path to the unification of Europe led through the toppling of statues of Marx and Lenin. We know that there is no such thing as a communist regime with a human face: the true face of communism is the Gulag.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
From time to time the spirit of Marx, Lenin and the re-education camps still emerges in Europe. The democratic Italian election did not reflect Brussels’ preference, and in response there were some who said that the markets would teach the Italians how to vote. And there are people who want to launch proceedings of all kinds against us, just because we see the world differently from how they do, and because we do not want to become an immigrant country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Next year will be the one hundredth anniversary of the 133 days of the Red Terror, which broke out in the devastated shell of a Hungary bled dry in World War I and dismembered by wanton soldiers of fortune. And this year is the seventieth anniversary of what has gone down in Hungarian history as the communist turning point, as a result of the accord between the Soviets and the West. What does this teach us? The Soviet Republic of 1919 teaches us that a treacherous and irresponsible government can lead even to the loss of one’s country. And then after World War II we learnt that Hungary’s most precious asset is its sovereignty. We paid the price for our weakness, for the loss of our independence, with the abduction, deportation and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. From here – from Óbuda alone – fifteen thousand of our Swabian brothers and sisters were taken to Siberia, or driven to a Germany razed to the ground, with the bare minimum of their possessions. We must not yield an inch of Hungary’s sovereignty; because we know full well that if we give them an inch, they will take a mile. This memorial imposes the obligation on us to create a Hungary in which similar events can never happen again. Therefore all unreasonable ideas, confused thoughts and plans serving foreign interests must be kept outside the country’s borders.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, with the inauguration of this monument, we are also bringing to an end the events of the Gulag Memorial Year. Therefore allow me to express my thanks for the work of everyone who took part in preparations for the Memorial Year, and in the organisation and implementation of the events. We thank survivors of the camps and their family members for having years ago torn down the wall of silence. To this day their testimonies remain the most important source for the work which seeks to uncover the crimes of communism. We also wish to thank researchers for having brought to light over the years a number of documents – earlier believed to have been lost – from archives and personal estates. With this they have proved that, if there are committed people who tell the truth on behalf of the victims, remembrance will prevail in the battle against oblivion.
Honour to the brave, glory to the heroes!