Budapest House of Terror and Dohany Great Synagogue

If you are interested in Hungarian history – and European for that matter – House of Terror and the Great Synagogue are a must place to visit in Budapest. They are of course two different types, so let’s not mix and take one at the time:

The House of Terror
The Museum is dedicated to the victims, from periods of time when Hungary was controlled by Nazi and Communist regimes. The building itself was headquarters to the Nazi Arrow Cross Party in 1944 and subsequently from 1945 – 1956 was headquarters to the notorious communist terror organisations; ÁVO and ÁZH (click pics to bigify & enjoy).

Budapest in Hungary - Terror House Museum #1

It’s located on the beautiful Andrássy Boulevard but hidden deep in the basement lie torture and prison cells in which the Nazi’s and Communists carried out many atrocities.

It was completed in February 2002 after ‘The Public Foundation for the Research of Central and Eastern European History and Society’ purchased the building with the aim of establishing a museum in order to present these two bloody periods of Hungarian history:

Budapest in Hungary - Terror House Museum #3

This building with three floors and a cellar takes you on a journey through the many traumas of totalitarian rule: fascism, Soviet occupation, the gulag, and persecution of the peasantry and the churches:
Budapest in Hungary - Terror House Museum #4 Budapest in Hungary - Terror House Museum #6

Going through the rooms with posters, artefacts, pictures, videos and stands is frightening and emotional. The horror sits in the walls and gives a thoughtful atmosphere of what the Hungarian people have lived through and an important reminder of how important it is not to forget that this has happened. Each and every one of us – in our own way – is responsible for not allowing it to happen again – to anybody!

Dohány Street or the Great Synagogue:
Budapest Central Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. It’s completed in 1859 by the Austrian architect Ludwig Förster. Its Byzantine-Moorish style will fascinate you and remind you of monuments in the Middle-East. Two onion-shaped domes sit on the twin towers at 43 meter height. The towers symbolize the two columns of Solomon’s Temple:
Budapest in Hungary - The Synagogue #1

The building was partly destroyed by bombing campaigns during World War II, but has been the subject of much renovation to restore its two shining Moorish domes to their former brilliance. The Jewish Museum next door recounts the horrors of the Holocaust and displays exhibits dating as far back as the middle Ages.

The spacious interior has equally rich decorations. A single-span cast iron supports the 12 meter wide nave. The seats on the ground-floor are for men, while the upper gallery has seats for women. Surprisingly the synagogue has an organ, though this instrument is used in Christian churches. The temple’s acoustic make it a popular venue for concerts:
Budapest in Hungary - The Synagogue #6
Behind the main building stands the Heroes’ Temple that was built in 1929-31 to commemorate the Jews who died in the First World War:
Budapest in Hungary - The Synagogue #2

The metal “Tree of Life” memorial (to the left in the picture above), created by Imre Varga in the image of a willow-tree, has the name of a different martyr engraved on each of its leaves:
Budapest in Hungary - The Synagogue #4

Both the Terror museum and the Synagogue made strong impressions on us and gave us a deeper understanding of how the Second World War affected this part of the world. The synagogue however is also a symbol of spirituality and hope and shows how its people live on, thrive, rebuild and honour the past.

This is my second post about our adventures in the beautiful city of Budapest and like I said in my first post: there will be more – about Budapest’s Champs Elysees, Margit recreational island and even to some restaurants – so stay tuned!

A collection of all my Budapest posts from our trip in June 2009:
#0: All pics from Budapest at my Flickr account.
#1: Budapest the capital of Hungary in the Heart of Europe
#2: This post
#3: Andrassy Avenue with Heroes Square, City Park and Millennium Underground
#4: Hungarian paradise on Margaret Island and Park
#5: New York Café and Hungarian cuisine as food traditions in Budapest