was overshadowed by far right activists. Hungary’s largest opposition Fidesz party organized the commemoration outside Budapest’s House of Terror museum, which is dedicated to documenting life under Communism and Hungary’s previous fascist regime.
Eyewitnesses said about five thousand people gathered outside the museum for Sunday’s commemoration, including people representing the extreme right, carrying banners used during the Nazi era. Several participants appeared to disapprove of the far-right supporters.
The event began with the tolling of a bell of remembrance and the Hungarian national anthem. At the end of the ceremony, participants lighted candles for the victims of Communism, who included devoted Christians and religious Jews, dissidents and others the regime didn’t like. The candles were left at the museum wall.
Sunday’s commemoration, which was part of Hungary’s annual memorial day for the victims of Communism, followed a weekend of protests against the government of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, an ex-Communist who admitted to lying about the economy to win reelection last year.
The admission sparked anti-government riots last year, in which hundreds of people were injured. Prosecutors launched proceedings against dozens of police officers for allegedly excessive use of force. Despite the controversy, Gyurcsany was elected as president of his Hungarian Socialist Party during a congress Saturday, February 24.
Across the country, anti-government protestors set up partial road blocks this weekend to express their anger. Gyurcsany was indirectly criticized at another gathering Sunday, February 25, to commemorate the victims of Communism. Speaking in the town of Debrecen, local Fidesz President Laszlo Posan reportedly said that "everyone living in Hungary today is a victim of Communism."
He spoke of a new political "elite" which "returned Hungary to a state of lawlessness," while "ignoring human rights" such as the right "to dignity, freedom, and a decent life," Hungarian News Agency MTI reported. Posan also alleged that there was "no freedom of the press," MTI said.
Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom, who visited a former Communist-era work camp for political prisoners Sunday, February 25, in the small town of Csolnok, urged Hungarians to look beyond political differences.
"Remembering offers satisfaction to the victims and gives strength to all of us," he reportedly said, adding that such a remembrance should become a part of the nation’s collective consciousness.
Solyom also urged Hungarians to remember those who fought for freedom in the crushed Hungarian 1956 Revolution against Communism and Soviet domination. Yet, he cautioned that there was "no continuity or link between the Communist regime and today’s Hungary," something the main opposition party Fidesz seems to dispute. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).