1956 and the Cold War Museum: "Cold War Conversations"
10/14/2006 - Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and AHF's own Imre Toth participate in "Cold War Conversations: The Uprisings and Revolutions of 1956."
The American Hungarian Federation joined the Embassy of Hungary, the Embassy of Poland, the Hungarian Technology Center, Fairfax County Development Authority, and the South County Secondary School in hosting the event organized by the Cold War Museum, who convened panels of diplomats, officials and historians to discuss the 1956 Polish and Hungarian uprisings against the Soviets and Communism. The event was opened by Fairfax County Supervisor Chairman, Gerald Connolly, Hungary’s Deputy Chief of Mission Viktor Szederkényi and Poland’s Cultural Counselor Mariusz M. Brymora.
After Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, Poland and Hungary tested the bonds that tied them to the Soviet Union; America responded by expanding its national defensive shield via the activation of its Nike Missile System. The conference explored two major events that occurred during this period: the Poznan Uprising in Poland and the Hungarian Revolution.
Conference attendees had the opportunity to hear from three panels. The first panel opened with a stirring documentary film produced by the Polish Embassy to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprisings in Poland and Budapest. The film, "Poznan to Budapest" illustrated the historic ties between the two countries and the horrors of the communist regimes that included the brutal torture and execution of Hungarian child revolutionary Peter Mansfeld. The panel included noted Polish historians talking about the Polish uprising: Dr. Padraic Kenney, Dr. Krzysztof Persak, and Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz.
The second panel focused on Hungary during the 1950s and in particular the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Dr. Imre L. Toth (Co-President of AHF and the last surviving Secretary of the Revolutionary Committee for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Imre Nagy Government) provided a unique, first-hand experience as he shared with us his role in the 1956 Hungarian government.
Dr. Julia Vasarhelyi, now Senior Editor of Hungary's respected HVG magazine and daughter of the Minister of Information in the Nagy government in 1956, recounted her family's experience and exile to Rumania after the uprising. Dr. Charles Gati, author of Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt joined Dr. Toth and Ms. Vasarhelyi on the Hungarian panel. The first two panels were moderated by Christian Ostermann of the Cold War International History Project the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The third panel, moderated by Francis Gary Powers, Jr, Founder of The Cold War Museum, brought together Mr. David Eisenhower, grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Dr. Sergei Khrushchev, son of Soviet Premier Nikita. "Today we can literally touch history" remarked AHF Executive Committee Chairman Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi, before posing a question to the panel.
Hundreds of conference participants included high-school students, scholars, and many who remember first-hand the hopes, horrors and disappointments of 1956. Many offered the panelists thought-provoking questions that ranged from China's position on the Hungarian Revolution to US inaction and policy in the Eastern Bloc to parallels between the 1956 uprising and recent anti-government demonstrations in Hungary.
Breakout sessions included the collection of oral histories from Cold War veterans and family members by South County students. Ms. Linda McCarthy, Founding Curator of the CIA’s Exhibit Center and Mr. Werner Jurtezko, a Cold War G-2 operative imprisoned by the East German secret police (Stasi), talked about their experiences and the importance of preserving Cold War history. U.S. Representative from Fairfax and Prince William Counties, Tom Davis, provided closing remarks.
The day ended with a special screening of Emmy-award nominated Steven Fischer's and Craig Herron's animated documentary film, "Freedom Dance: The Movie."
Following the conference, the Polish and Hungarian Ambassadors in Washington co-hosted an evening reception for invited guests at the Embassy of Poland. Ambassadors Janusz Reiter and András Simonyi underlined the historical friendship and solidarity of the two nations, as well as their common resolution in fighting for freedom and building democracy. The reception featured both Polish and Hungarian cuisines and desserts. The American Hungarian Federation expresses its thanks to Ambassador Reiter and Cultural Attache Mariusz Brymora (seen here with AHF Co-President Imre Toth and Executive Chairman Bryan Dawson Szilagyi) for both the reception and for the donation of 200 copies of "Poznan to Budapest" film that will be handed out at the October 20, 2006 Gala 1956 Commemoration at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C.
AHF thanks the Sponsors that included Verizon, Northern Virginia Community College, Marriott Fairfax at Fair Oaks, EnviroSolutions, Inc., Handyman Concrete, K. Hovnanian Homes, and Vulcan Materials Company.
For more information about the Cold War Museum, contact CWM's Francis Gary Powers, Jr., at (703) 273-2381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution was the first tear in the Iron Curtain. Hungarians from all walks of life rose up against insurmountable odds to fight the brutal Soviet installed Hungarian communist government. Thousands died fighting, others tortured and executed, while 200,000 were forced to flee. 2006 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution.
AHF's work regarding the tragic events nearly 50 years ago, dates back to the early days of the revolution and thereafter assisting tens of thousands of refugees. In 1956 the American Hungarian Federation activated the second Hungarian Relief program for the refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, providing $512,560.00. With the support of the American Hungarian Federation, over 65,000 refugees arrived in the USA. Get involved and help us continue our tradition of helping our community! Join Us!
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Memorials Dedicated to 1956
"October 23, 1956, is a day that will live forever in the annals
of free men and nations. It was a day of courage, conscience and triumph.
No other day since history began has shown more clearly the eternal unquenchability
of man's desire to be free, whatever the odds against success, whatever
the sacrifice required."- President John
Albert Camus' Stirring Letter to the World:
"The Blood of the Hungarians"
I am not one of those who wish to see the people of Hungary take up arms again in a rising certain to be crushed, under the eyes of the nations of the world, who would spare them neither applause nor pious tears, but who would go back at one to their slippers by the fireside like a football crowd on a Sunday evening after a cup final.
There are already too many dead on the field, and we cannot be generous with any but our own blood. The blood of Hungary has re-emerged too precious to Europe and to freedom for us not to be jealous of it to the last drop.
But I am not one of those who think that there can be a compromise, even one made with resignation, even provisional, with a regime of terror which has as much right to call itself socialist as the executioners of the Inquisition had to call themselves Christians.
And on this anniversary of liberty, I hope with all my heart that the silent resistance of the people of Hungary will endure, will grow stronger, and, reinforced by all the voices which we can raise on their behalf, will induce unanimous international opinion to boycott their oppressors.
And if world opinion is too feeble or egoistical to do justice to a martyred people, and if our voices also are too weak, I hope that Hungary’s resistance will endure until the counter-revolutionary State collapses everywhere in the East under the weight of its lies and contradictions.
Hungary conquered and in chains has done more for freedom and justice than any people for twenty years. But for this lesson to get through and convince those in the West who shut their eyes and ears, it was necessary, and it can be no comfort to us, for the people of Hungary to shed so much blood which is already drying in our memories.
In Europe’s isolation today, we have only one way of being true to Hungary, and that is never to betray, among ourselves and everywhere, what the Hungarian heroes died for, never to condone, among ourselves and everywhere, even indirectly, those who killed them.
It would indeed be difficult for us to be worthy of such sacrifices. But we can try to be so, in uniting Europe at last, in forgetting our quarrels, in correcting our own errors, in increasing our creativeness, and our solidarity. We have faith that there is on the march in the world, parallel with the forces of oppression and death which are darkening our history, a force of conviction and life, an immense movement of emancipation which is culture and which is born of freedom to create and of freedom to work.
Those Hungarian workers and intellectuals, beside whom we stand today with such impotent sorrow, understood this and have made us the better understand it. That is why, if their distress is ours, their hope is ours also. In spite of their misery, their chains, their exile, they have left us a glorious heritage which we must deserve: freedom, which they did not win, but which in one single day they gave back to us. (October 23, 1957)
AHF dedicates this work
- Read this in German, Hungarian, French, and Spanish on this AHF member site, the [American Hungarian Museum]