Many visitors to Budapest encounter Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) – especially if they are avid walkers. After all, Liberty Square is on the way from city center to the magnificent Hungarian Parliament building.
Liberty Square is a public park. The trees are full, the border buildings are grand. Hungarian National Bank and the former Hungarian Stock Exchange flank one side as symbols to free capitalism. The US Embassy is located on the opposite side of the square.
To me, Liberty square was a place of contrast. A place of contradictions. A place that could be called the Square of Juxtaposition. Let me make my case.
Monument of German Occupation
Hungary initially was one of the pro-Hitler Axis Powers. Hungarian military invaded Yugoslavia and massacred many. In 1944, Germans moved to occupy Hungary because Hitler felt betrayed by Hungarian leaders. From that point, Hungarian Jews and Roma were sent to concentration camps. In front of the monument is a collection of small memorials to Hungarian Holocaust victims. Yet, no mention of the Hungarian involvement in the atrocities.
Harry Bandholtz Statue
Austria-Hungary and Germany were WW1 allies. Which means the Hungarians lost the war. Liberty Park has a statue to Harry Bandholtz, a US Army general (WW1). It seems a band of Romanians wanted to loot the Hungarian National Museum, but Bandholtz successfully protected the museum – therefore a statue in this honor.Embed from Getty Images
Memorial to Fallen Soviet Soldiers
The Soviets erected a memorial the far end of Liberty Square to honor their role in liberating Hungary from the Nazis and in memorial to the Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in the efforts. Of course, the Soviets decided to stay for over 40 years – and the US Embassy is nearby.
Ronald Reagan Statue
Very near to the Soviet Memorial stands a statue of Ronald Reagan. Interestingly, the current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is responsible for the statue. However, Orbán is far to the right, and is moving Hungary closer to Putin’s Russia – and I just don’t think Ronald Reagan would be endorsing Putin.
Imre Nagy Memorial
Imre Nagy (HM-reh nodge) was a communist, but he sought to ease Stalinist policies. As he rose in leadership, he withdrew Hungary from the Warsaw Pact with hopes of bridging Eastern Communism with Western Capitalism. This memorial has Nagy on the bridging facing the Parliament Building. Interestingly, Prime Minister Orbán had the statue removed in late December. Here’s a related read.
Yes, Budapest’s Liberty Square is interesting, complicated, and full of contradictions.