Ploughing with a Camel


  • Share
  • 2021. June 19.

After the killing and fighting, life always prevails. Our parents and grandparents refused to flee after WWII, but stood up to challenges: they buried the victims, started to clean up the ruins and rebuild. It is them we must thank that we are here today. 1945 is year zero not only in terms of Hungarian, but European history as well. The website made by the researchers of the Committee of National Remembrance, sets out to provide a picture of this year, everyday heroes, and of the moment of starting over, for which the editors collected a great amount of contemporary photos, newspapers, written documents. The events are shown by means of the joys and sorrows of everyday people, their personal stories, diaries and maps: the devastation of 1944, some people’s heroic struggles to selflessly save others’ lives, and the beginning of rebuilding together in 1945.

The website does not contain lengthy academic papers, it was primarily created for young people, who may not find it easy these days to select relevant data from the flood of information. The editors were trying to find small details, which might be able to attract their attention. Their aim is to provide background knowledge, so that students could feel free to form their opinion on the period. In the phase of data collecting, there were almost twenty individuals working on the website. It turned out quickly that there is plenty of unpublished material, especially in museums and archives in the country. István Ötvös, managing editor of the site, who has been teaching at Pázmány Péter Catholic University for more than twenty years, is aware of the fact that nowadays students do not read books longer than 200 pages, and 95% of students do not open text books outside the school.

Here we will try to provide a foretaste of the rich contents of the website by introducing some of the menu items. In ‘Everyday Life’ (Hétköznapi élet) we can read about the events, war reports on damage and other accounts that were recorded in the historia domus by vicars. There were desperate accounts and official reports on parishes for bishops from the time of the front moving across and afterwards. These recorded not only who was born and who died, but how many women Soviet soldiers raped and for what purposes the occupying soldiers used churches. The majority of these documents are archived records that have been unpublished so far. These life stories teach us that there was a horrific time, when decisions had almost immediate consequences. There were courageous people, who chose the harder path, risked their lives so that others would have the chance to survive the raging madness around them. Among many, we can learn about the lives of Gedeon Richter, Vilmos Apor, Sára Salkaházi, Imre Kner, György Ara Jeretzian and Zoltán Hirsch (Clown Zoli).

In the menu item ‘Press Watch’ (Sajtóles) the most interesting articles were selected from the time of the war and “liberation”. The first article has an effective starting point: in the article of Képes Figyelő (March 11, 1946) we can read that the stock of the internationally acknowledged Budapest Zoo was simply eaten by the residents of the capital. People were starving and were not choosy. “In the impromptu cuisine of the war, some exotic creatures were put on the menu of ‘visitors’: zebra steak, lama fricassee, stuffed seagull, boiled camel and roasted antelope…” Some animals proved to be luckier: most of the monkeys and parrots were taken home, and there was a farmer in Örkény, who ploughed with a camel…

The initial aim of the site editors was to make sure users could place events not only in time but in space as well. That is why thematic maps were included in menu item ‘Coordination’ (Koordináta), made by Balázs Mihályi focusing on POW camps, bombings, the ghetto in Budapest, fallen airplanes and relocations of the Szálasi government. One of the most creative menu items of the website, ‘What's going on’ (Mi az ábra) is aimed at meeting the high demand for visuals on behalf of students. This is where the infographics on the horse statue of general Artúr Görgei in the Buda castle can be found. This artefact might as well be the symbol of 20th century Hungarian history. A grenade took the legs of the horse during the siege and the statue fell over. By the time it could be recast, the political climate had changed, and Artúr Grögei’s statue was melted into that of Stalin. Another piece of irony is that after the regime change the foundation of the reconstructed statue was covered with the red marble of the statue of Lenin, which was removed from Felszabadulás Square… The editors have uploaded hundreds of pictures and 3000 pages of material so far. The work has not stopped, the website is being extended, as there is a lot of material – not only processed but unexcavated. What is available from today is only the beginning.

Click for the full content:


nullaév 1944-45 Ötvös István Tulok Péter Szovjetúnió