David Dalka of Fearless Revival wrote this article about his 2010 visit to the House of Terror Museum in Budapest, Hungary.
Internet Hungary 2010 conference organizers invited me to be the business keynote speaker. Part of my honorarium was a three day guided tour of Budapest by limousine with a delightful tour guide. In those three days I saw more of Budapest than most tourists see in a month on their own self-guided tour. It was an amazing experience as Budapest was rich in history, museums, cuisine and many things to see.
My historical research indicated that posthumous influencers such as Peter F. Drucker and Albert Einstein emigrated to the United States due to various actions of the Nazi regime. I therefore wanted to visit House of Terror Museum. Much to my surprise my local guides refused to take me there upon my request. This made it all the more intriguing to me so I arranged for them to leave me alone for a few hours so that I could visit on my own. I later learned that many people in Budapest will not talk about the House of Terror or suggest tourists visit there. This is most unfortunate as the visit was an amazing historical experience.
House of Terror Museum Budapest, Hungary
Before you walk in, you stand under the word terror open cut letters that let light through at the roof level. The renovated building in Budapest was the former headquarters of the Nazi regime and then by the Soviet Union’s Communist regime after World War II. Both used the basement as a prison camp holding cell. After the end of the Communist era there was an effort to make the building a museum. While this took many years to become a reality, someone had the foresight to start curating the content immediately. The primary content of choice? Videos of people that were alive from that era telling stories. It was important to get those done while the people were still alive. While I could not understand what they were saying, there were English subtitles. The combination of foreign language and dark music created haunting experience.
When you first walk in, a huge tank greets you in the lobby. I then went up to the second floor. There I saw vivid videos that took you back in time. You also saw uniforms and gulag. The first floor contains many artifacts and the room known as the torture chamber. This video gives a good overview of the museum:
You then take the ultra-slow elevator ride into the basement:
The basement is where the reality becomes all too real. You experience the various prison cells. These included the wet cell where a prisoner was up to their knees in cold water, Fox hole a one meter high ceiling with no lights and the detention cell which had only a half meter of floor space.
I’m pleased that I visited the House of Terror. They say that those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it. The visit created vivid memories that make me think about tyranny both in government and in business. It is preventable, but only when society is aware and holds people accountable to treating people with respect and tolerance.