Commemoration in the Castle District on the 67th anniversary of the Siege of Budapest
There were two firsts at the commemoration in Kapisztrán tér in the Buda Castle District on Monday to mark the 67th anniversary of the breakout of the last German occupiers of Budapest and their remaining Hungarian allies, and the end of the battle for Budapest. The Hungarian Defence Ministry was officially represented for the first time and the embassies of several European Union member states took part.
The USA, Great Britain, Russia, Romania and Germany were represented by their military attachés or their deputies at the commemoration in the Castle District on the 67th anniversary of the Siege of Budapest.
Since the first time that the event was held – in 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the breakout – these institutions have always kept their distance to a greater or lesser extent, not least because they wished to avoid the effort of distinguishing between this commemoration and the neo-fascist events that also take place around the anniversary of the “breakout” when beseiged German troops attempted to escape.
Last year, according to the German embassy, the only hindrance was that it had not received an invitation. This year the embassies of seven countries potentially interested in attending were invited. Germany, the USA, Great Britain, Russia and Romania accepted and were represented by their military attachés or their deputies.
Defence Ministry chief of staff
The keynote speech was given this year not by the mayor of District I as in the past but by Gábor Szarka, chief of staff of the Defence Ministry. In his politically balanced speech, Szarka paid his respects to all victims of the events of the time, including those who “on a racist basis and because of their origin were shot beside the Danube in the troubled days of the Siege of Budapest”.
He described the battle itself as “one of the most hopeless battles of the Second World War”, and observed that “it lacked many aspects of rationality from a military point of view”. Szarka decisively refused to describe the events of that time as a liberation. “It was a storming of the capital. Budapest fell by armed force to the victors (Russian, ed.) – who went on to behave as such.”
During the second part of the event in the courtyard of the neighbouring Museum of Military History, a former parliamentarian and chairman of the Defence Committee of the National Assembly, Zsolt Lányi, gave a short speech on behalf of the veteran associations. He emphasised that contrary to all later interpretations made in “the cosy rooms of historians”, the sole purpose of the defenders had been to defend home soil. Here Lányi made a reference to the present by remarking that now, too, he sees there is a question of defending the homeland. Conditions, however, have improved significantly since 1945, he said: “Back then we risked our lives. But what are we risking today? Not being able to fill up our cars as often or having a little less to eat.” The struggle today is about none other than creating a better future, Lányi said.
Here he protested against that honourable effort being discredited: “In the name of the Hungarian government and the Hungarian nation I will not tolerate the riffraff of the European Parliament playing games with us.” He closed his address with the fighting talk: “As a veteran I am saying clearly: hands off Hungary, leave us in peace, allow us to develop and live.”