Past for the Eyes: East European Representations of Communism in Cinema and Museums after 1989

By Oksana Sarkisova; Péter Apor | Go to book overview

The Man in the White Raincoat

ISTVáN RéV

In the late morning of 30 October 1956, revolutionaries attacked the headquarters of the Budapest Party committee, next to the City Opera in the eighth district of the city. Most probably, it was not a well-planned, premeditated siege; the attack was triggered by unsubstantiated and never confirmed beliefs about the existence in the cellars of underground prisons and torture chambers with hundreds of prisoners, women and children among them. The Ministry of Defense sent six tanks to assist the communist defenders, but the head of the unit and the driver of the leading tank were both unfamiliar with that part of the city. The tanks, which had come to Budapest from a location sixty kilometers away, mistakenly started shelling the party headquarters, from whose windows the defenders were shooting at the attacking crowd. In the process they completely ruined the City Opera, while the insurgents in their turn stormed and occupied the party headquarters, brutally killing the parliamentarians who had been sent out under a white flag to negotiate a ceasefire. “We fucked up,” said Major Gallo, the head of the unit, summarizing the results of the unlucky expedition at his post-revolutionary trial in 1957.1 Altogether twenty-six Communists were killed in what turned out to be the bloodiest antiCommunist atrocity during the thirteen days of the 1956 revolution. There is speculation, even today, that the Soviets eventually decided to come back to defeat the revolution by military might as a consequence of the bloodbath on October 30. Several Western photographers and photojournalists were on the square at the time of the siege. George Sadovy sent a photo report to Life, which was reproduced all over the world. Jean-Pierre Pedrazzini, the twenty-seven-year-old Paris Match photographer, was killed while covering the events in front of the party headquarters. A fair

1 László Eörsi, Köztársaság tér 1956 [Republic Square 1956] (Budapest: 1956 Institute,
2006), 80.

-3-

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