Magazine article The Spectator

Communism Kills

Magazine article The Spectator

Communism Kills

Article excerpt

We need a museum to help us remember that

I went to Budapest last year and did the usual touristy things. I climbed up the hill to the fantasy castle walls in Buda. I took a boat ride. I went to the Turkish baths -- edging cautiously into scalding hot water and then summoning up the courage to tip a bucket of cold water over myself.

Finally, I reached the grim end of the tourist trail: the so-called House of Terror. On the outside, it looked like every other Hungarian house on the boulevard. Inside, it was a museum set up in the actual place where first Nazis, then communists, inflicted imprisonment, terror and murder. Visiting it was a powerful emotional experience. You see the actual basement cells where prisoners were tortured or hanged. There was a 'standing cell' with no room to sit down, where prisoners were beaten if they even leaned against a wall. My girlfriend found it so overwhelming that she had to be helped out. Not by me, I am afraid. I had gone ahead and was too engrossed to notice she was in difficulty.

I learned many things I did not know. From Hungary, 600,000 people were taken to work camps in the Soviet Union and half did not return, dying of maltreatment and starvation. There were videos of some of the survivors talking about the horrific way in which they were treated. Of course, I had heard about the millions of deaths that took place in the Soviet Union at the hands of Stalin. Since I have returned, I have discovered that there were mass deaths across the Eastern bloc.

The visit haunted me and recalled to my mind the millions of people who were killed in the Far East, particularly in China under Mao Tse Tung. It also brought to mind the mass murder in Cambodia under the communist regime known as the Khmer Rouge, and in communist Vietnam. And, of course, the terror in North Korea continues to this day. Put this all together and you come to realise that, across the world, the biggest man-made disaster of the 20th century was the terror and death inflicted by communist regimes.

But is this widely recognised? No. Is it taught in our schools? No. Are there museums to remind us about it? No. The one I visited in Budapest is an isolated case which was set up in the face of considerable opposition.

If I talk to my children and their contemporaries they know nothing about the extraordinary death toll. …

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