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Life-saving in the hell of World War II

The history of the Hospital in the Rock – © Hospital in the Rock 2008- All rights reserved
1939-1945 – WWII – Air Raid Emergency Hospital
1945-1948- Vaccine-producing Institution
1956 Revolutionary Hospital
1958-1962 Reconstruction during the Cold War
1962-2007 Hospital, Nuclear Bunker and Civil Defence Forces Store
The present-day Hospital in the Rock
1939-1945 Air Raid Emergency Hospital

1939-1945 – WWII – Air Raid Emergency Hospital

The Hospital in the Rock was built in a natural cave system. These extremely rare caves are located under the Castle Hill and they were created after the glacial period, by spring-water, at the meeting point of limestone and marl. From the Middle Ages, this 10 km long natural cave system has been constantly used by the local citizens. After the outbreak of WWII, from 1939, most of the caves were constructed to function as refuges. The very first room to be constructed in the cave system was the so-called Air Raid Alarm Control Centre “K”, from where the air raid sirens in the castle area were controlled from 1937-45. While air defence is responsible for the protection of the air space, the passive air-defence ensured the protection and preparation of civilians in the event of an air raid.

The Castle district used to be the “government district” so it seemed to be a logical step to create a first-aid place which was resistant against bombing, for the civilians in the area as well as officials, in order for them to be able to receive speedy medical treatment. To economize, it was decided to expand the area around the Air Raid Alarm Control Centre – which already existed in the cave system – with the development of a first-aid post. The entrance was from City Hall in the 1st district. The minister of the War Department and Károly Szendy, who was the foresightful mayor of Budapest, ordered the construction of the Hospital in the Rock.

Due to financial constraints, the institution was developed on the basis of existing tunnels in the cave system; wards were made from the caverns and corridors from the passage-ways. The construction took place between 1941 and 1943 and on February 20th 1944 the Hospital in Rock was opened. It had three wards and one modern operating theatre. István Horthy’s widow, Countess Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai was present at the opening ceremony of the hospital and later worked as a nurse here. She had been the chief Red Cross nurse of the 1st Army Corps (in the middle of the picture). The chief nurse of the hospital was Countess Ilona Andrássy. Countesses Alice Cziráky and Ilona Széchényi also worked here, alongside many other nurses.

It was only after the American air raids in May 1944 that the hospital became intensively used. Its main task was general emergency treatment, so it also received many civilians who were injured in the aerial attacks. The hospital was a modern and very well-equipped institution in terms of both medical technology and surgical implements. The only weak point of the hospital was the kitchen, which was meant to be only for heating up food and it proved too small after the city was surrounded. The Hospital in the Rock fell under the jurisdiction of Saint John’s Hospital, whose chief surgeon, Dr István Kovács, was appointed as the director of the institution (see picture). He already had experience in emergency treatment on the battlefield, as he had previously served on a train hospital. His deputy was Dr. András Seibriger. The medical staff were helped by volunteers of the International Red Cross. During the siege of Budapest in 1944-45 all 94 beds of the hospital were constantly filled. According to eye-witness reports, as the hospital’s entire capacity was used, patients were also laid in the halls and chambers of the surrounding cave system. The death rate was very high during this period because of the high risk of infection and the shortage of medical supplies. Civilians and soldiers were treated in the hospital at the same time, and there was a separate ward for women.

The bunk beds were pushed together and 3 patients to a bed were laid out at each level, and also on the floor on stretchers. German soldiers were attended to, but they did not get beds in the hospital. Many Hungarian, German and Swabian soldiers, who were under the command of the Waffen- SS, were also treated here. As the hospital had its own generators, there was no problem with the electricity, and it was even possible to take X-ray, whereas in the hospitals on the surface this was no longer possible.

Eight Jewish doctors were deployed on labor service in the hospital. Dr Kálmán Koppány, the police superintendent of the district, prevented their deportation, by changing their clothes and giving them Hungarian military uniforms, so they could work without any problems. Because of this act his name was inscribed on the “Wall of the Just”. In November 1944, two of the doctors were betrayed and captured. One of them was shot by Arrow-Cross militia on the edge of the River Danube and the other was sent to a concentration camp.

The doctors and nurses saved thousands of Hungarian soldiers and civilians. After the break out from the siege on 11th February 1945, the less serious patients left, while the others were transported to other working hospitals. Friedriech Born, the Hungarian delegate of the International Red Cross, survived the siege of Budapest in the Hospital in the Rock. He issued protective Red Cross documentation and also negotiated permission from the Soviets for the hospital to function. It was vital since most of the surface hospitals were completely destroyed in the war and it took time to reconstruct them. The Hospital in the Rock was closed in July 1945. Most of the doctors escaped to the West. The chief medics, Drs István Kovács and András Seibriger, were persecuted for 2-3 years after the war and they weren’t allowed to practice.

Misconception: The Hospital in the Rock was never burned out by the flame-throwers of the Soviets. This misunderstanding originates from the fact that there was an underground First Aid Section in other parts of the cave system used by the Germans, and when the Soviet troops arrived there they used the flame-throwers and killed those injured soldiers, who still defended themselves by shooting and throwing grenades. All the soldiers’ uniforms were quickly disposed of and the nurses gave all the patients civilian clothes, so that when the Soviet troops arrived, nobody in the hospital was hurt.

1945-1948 Vaccine-producing Institute

Most of the equipment was spirited away after WWII. The hospital was rented by the privately owned Vaccine-Producing Institute. The main aim of the Institute was the production of a vaccine against typhus, which spread after WWII. The institution was unrivalled, not only in Hungary, but throughout Eastern Europe, and material was produced for export to Yugoslavian. In the 50s the Hospital was turned into a Top Secret Institution. It got a secret code as well, LOSK 0101/1.The encryption was only unlocked in 2002. In response to the threat of the Cold War, a new ward was built in the hospital and they started to re-equip.

1956 Revolutionary Hospital

At the start of the Revolution in 1956, the Hospital in the Rock was re-opened and treated civilians and soldiers alike. The head doctor was the great surgeon of the Saint John’s Hospital, Dr András Máthé. Eye-witnesses report that he always wore in a necklace with the bullet which he had removed from the head of an injured patient, who survived.  Máthé did not allow any amputations, and even attempted what seemed to be the impossible, often with successful results, so that many survivors were grateful to him throughout the rest of their lives. Dr András Seibriger, who had already worked here in WWII, was his assistant, and instead of emigration he chose to help in the Hospital in the Rock. There was a ward for the women patients and six boys and one little girl were born in the hospital during the revolution and the war of independence. After the suppression of the revolution the hospital continued to function until December 1956.

1958-1962 Expansion during the Cold War

Between 1958-62 the Hospital in the Rock was converted into a nuclear bunker. The safety-by-pass corridor was built, as well as a new ventilation system equipped with a special gas filter, and also a water supply system attached to the River Danube. The construction work was led by Bakonyi Istvan. The heart of these machines are 2 Ganz Diesel engines and the attached generator, which are still operational to this day. This meant that the Hospital could have been used even in  case of a black-out. In the event of a nuclear or chemical attack, the institution would have been able to accept survivors – at least in theory…

1962-2007 Hospital, Nuclear Bunker and Civil Defence Forces Store

The fully prepared and modern hospital was still under the authority of Saint John’s Hospital. The original plan was that in a case of a nuclear or chemical attack, certain doctors and nurses would have gone there first to survive the attack. After 72 hours these doctors and nurses would have opened the hospital and treated other survivors. As an indicator of its modernity, there was already in the 60s an air-conditioning system in the institution, which is still in use. Because of the development of certain technical innovations (i.e.  nuclear weapons) the Hospital in the Rock got developed fast. It was never formally decommissioned, so Saint John’s Hospital maintained it and the Civil Defence Forces used it as a store. Some doctors and nurses annually arrived at the hospital and went through Civil Defence Force practice. There was a housekeeping family living next to the Hospital who maintained the institution until 2004, under a strict bond of secrecy. Mr Mohácsi aired the place every day and maintained the electrical and mechanical systems. His wife cleaned, sterilized and changed the bed sheets every second week. From 2004 the task of periodical maintenance fell to the staff of Saint John’s Hospital. Between 2004-2006 the Krétakör Theatre Company occasionally used the place for performances. The hospital was specially opened to visitors in 2006 on the day of Cultural Heritage but construction work to turn the premises into its present form only began in 2007.

The present-day Hospital in the Rock

In 2007, on the initiative of the Ministry of Defence Military History Institute and Museum, the facility was renovated with the help of several professional organizations. It was partially opened to visitors on Museum Night in 2007. Following further work, it has been continuously open as an exhibition facility since March 11, 2008. In 2010, the Ministry of Culture and Education classified it as a museum collection of public interest and now it functions as a national collection point for its specialist area.

He was the head doctor of the hospital. He helped Jewish doctors who were deployed on labor service as well as protected Hungarian soldiers against Soviet troops.

Dr. István Kovács

She started working as the chief nurse of the hospital in January 1944. She assisted in operations and looked after the staff.

Css Ilona Andrássy,

He was the Hungarian delegate of the International Red Cross from 1944. He saved about 15,000 prosecuted people from deportation.

Friedrich Born,

She lived in the cellars of the Buda Castle with her family during WWII. At the age of 21, she worked in the hospital as a volunteer Red Cross nurse.

Css Ilona Széchényi,

As a young, experiences surgeon, he was the deputy head doctor of the hospital from 1944. He also worked here during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Dr. András Seibriger,
1944-45, 1956

She received nursing training at the Red Cross. She persistently worked here as a nurse until the Governor’s family was relocated from Hungary.

Css Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai,

He was treated in the hospital and later started working as a volunteer. Originally, he was a bacteriologist with some ophthalmic practice, so he became the ophthalmologist of the hospital.

Dr. Gyula Steinert,

One of the Jewish who was deployed on labor service in the hospital during the siege of Budapest.

Dr. Endre Mester,

The Dutch Anna Boom worked for the Swedish Red Cross, helping Raoul Wallenberg in his rescue activity in Hungary. From January 1945, she started working in the hospital as a volunteer.

Anna Boom,

Alice Cziráky received nursing training at the Red Cross. She later became the head assistant of the emergency section of the Hospital in the Rock.

Css Alice Cziráky,

She was the wife of Dr. István Kovács. She worked as a nurse during the siege of Budapest. She fall sick but she could recover  due to penicillin treatment. She left the country with her family in 1956.

Dr. Istvánné Kovács,

She lived on Lovas street with her family, but later they moved in the hospital. At the age of 21, she washed and fed patients and she handed out the medicine as well.

Edit Soltész,

She was barely 16 years old at that time when she worked in the hospital as a volunteer nurse. She changed bedpans, washed and fed patients. She had to learn giving intramuscular injections or subcutaneous painkillers under the skin.

Mária Daróczy,

She was fired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as she did not take an oath to Ferenc Szálasi. She completed a nurse training and started working in the Hospital in the Rock.

Margit Tarányi (Daisy),

She received nursing training at the Red Cross. She later became the head assistant of the surgery of the Hospital in the Rock. She left the hospital in November, 1944.

Báró Waldbott Mady,

During the siege of Budapest, he started working in the Hospital in the Rock as he was a head doctor of the John’s Hospital. He committed suicide after WWII.

Dr. Ágost Sövényházy,

She had been working as a Red Cross nurse since 1933, but she was spending her maternity leave during WWII. She moved into the Hospital in the Rock with her 6 month old son.

Margit Pekáry,

She fled to Budapest from Nyíregyháza. She was a trained nurse. She worked in the Hospital in the Rock and she also lived there with her mother.

Jolán Marschek,

He got wounded near to the Hospital in the Rock. Splinters were cut from his leg by a shoemaker. Later, he was brought to the Hospital in the Rock, but he did not got any painkillers or medicine.

Géza Szinger,

She was the wife of József Born, who married her to save her from deportation. She worked here and helped nurses. Later she got married with Count Endre Csekonics, whom she met in the Hospital in the Rock.

Miriam Kiefer,

Count Endre Csekonics worked in the Hospital in the Rock as a volunteer surgical assistant. He translated the treatment procedure of penicillin. He married Miriam Kiefer after WWII whom he met in the Hospital in the Rock.

Ct Endre Csekonics,

She worked in the Hospital in the Rock from September 1944, until 18th of January 1945 when the Elizabeth Bridge was blown up. She never moved into the hospital.

Irén Petrás,

He was born in the Hospital in the Rock on the 6th of January 1945. They lived on Lovas street 28.

István Szakáll,

After the siege of Budapest, he was kicking a box, whilst a grenade exploded in it. Högerl was brought to the Hospital in the Rock in March and left it in June 1945.

Károly Högerl,

He was the first engineer of the hospital. The construction was led by him and supervised by the Civil Defence and the Construction Dept. of the Mayor’s Office.

László Péchy,

In February 1945, a bomb shell exploded next to them. She was brought to the Hospital in the Rock. She was operated and sent home after a few days due to overcrowding.

Alíz Hódsági (Haus),

She wanted to get some water when she was wounded by a shell splinter. She was brought to the hospital in New Year’s Eve in 1944. She was here until the end of April when she was took home by her parents.

Lenke Buzogány,

They were in the basement of the house in Úri street 38. During this time, they got the electricity from the hospital. Doctor Seibriger operated on her as she had appendicitis.

Terézia Hanák,

Her father was the director of the rest homes of Buda. During an attack, her leg burnt and got infected. Her father visited her in the hospital two times, but in Februery she died because of infections.

Gabriella Raj,

A shell splinter hit his head when he carried water. It was impossible to operate him so the splinter stayed in his skull forever. It never caused any problem to him.

Gedeon Sándor,

He was the chief pathologist of the Saint John’s Hospital during WWII. Both his son and daughter got wounded, and brought to the Hospital in the Rock.

Dr. Antal Kálló,

She slipped in their house when she was about to bring water to her husband. She was brought to the hospital by the ambulance and stayed there for 8-10 days.

Magdolna Wittmann,

His shelter got hit in January 1945. Both his leg and arm were wounded. His sister worked in the kitchen of the Hospital in the Rock, so he was brought here to be operated.

Zoltán Enyedi,

He was a lieutenant of the Royal Hungarian Army, and got wounded in January 1945. He regularly came to the Hospital in the Rock to get treatment.

Pál Dongó,

She was wounded during a bombing of Budapest in December of 1944. After the attack, she ran to a shelter, where she was put on a stretcher and brought to the Hospital in the Rock. She spent a month in the hospital.

Janka Benkő,

He got wounded during the fights in the outskirts of Budapest. First he was took to an other hospital, but at the beginning of December he was brought to the Hospital in the Rock.

László Máriássy,

He and his friend were playing with an artillery shell which immediately exploded, and was wounded by the shrapnel. He got treatment in the Hospital in the Rock.

József Bejczy,

He was a well-known virologist . With his friend, he founded the ‘Virus’ Vaccine Manufacturing Research Institute. It was producing vaccine for the treatment of the typhoid epidemic.

Dr. Elek Farkas,

He directed the Civilian Defense health care system, including the Hospital in the Rock. In 1944, the government wanted  to move Jewish doctors to the countryside, which he denied.

Dr. Kálmán Koppány,

After the siege of Budapest, he found a shell and it accidentally blown up. He lost his left hand. He was took to a hospital, but later he was brought to the Hospital in the Rock, which was the only place with a working X-ray.

Imre Szentpályi-Juhász,

His jaw got severely damaged in January 1945. On the 15th of March, he came to the Hospital in the Rock , where they did an X-ray of his bone injury.

Mihály Bogárdi,

In 1956, he was a 20 year old med student at the Institute of Trauma and Emergency Surgery. He came to the Hospital in the Rock with an abumlance car, but he had never heard about it before.

Dr. Gábor Vadász,

The newly married couple was living in the Castle District. During the 1956 Revolution, they fled to the Hospital in the Rock. Their first child, Sára, was born in the hospital on the 15th of November, 1956.

Eckhardt Family,

His head was injured near Sándor Palace on the 4th of November. He was brought to the Hospital in the Rock, where his wound was sutured. He spent 11 days in the hospital.

Kornél Lobmayer,

She was one of the nurses of the State Nursing School, who was working in the Hospital in the Rock as a volunteer. At that time, she was 19 years old.

Anna Mária Emberovics,

He was an aobstetrist-gynecologist. During the revolution, the whole family moved into the Hospital in the Rock. They spent 2 months there.

Dr. Tibor Jánossy,

She visited the Hospital in the Rock when she was 9 years old. Despite the curfew, she and her father brought a wounded to the Hospital in the Rock.

Magdolna Koday,

He was the chief surgeon of the Hospital in the Rock in 1956. He came with the staff from John’s Hospital. Dr. Máthé was a brilliant surgeon, even wore a bullet around his neck which he operated out of a patient’s head.

Dr. András Máthé,

He worked in the hospital at Vas Street. From the 50’s, he lived in the Castle District. During the Revolution, he worked in the Hospital in the Rock as a surgeon.

Dr. Attila Balás,

He was wounded during the fights on the 24th of October, 1956. His knee was badly damaged by a bullet. At first, he was taken to the hospital at Vas Street, but later he was transported to the Hospital in the Rock.

Endre Bácskai,

He was a health officer in Budapest’s Distric I, he supervised the hospital. In 1956, when Soviet soldiers wanted to come into the Hospital in the Rock, he protested against it. Later, he was sentenced because of this.

Dr. Vida Boros,

He was peacefully walking home on the 5th of November, when a bullet hit him. He was lying in the Hospital in the Rock for about a month, and eventually left on the 1st of December.

György Balogh,

She was one of the nurses of the State Nursing School, who was working in the Hospital in the Rock as a volunteer. She worked here until the 22nd of December.

Gizella Károlyiné Győri,

In 1956, she moved into the Hospital in the Rock, and was working in the kitchen. They cooked for approx. 50-60 people. There was meat every day,  and beans, potato, pasta, oftentimes even cake.

Vilmosné Megyeri,

He was the senior engineer during the expansion of the hospital between 1958 and 1962 with Rudolf Ulrich.

István Bakonyi,

He participated in the expansion of the hospital between 1958 and 1962 with István Bakonyi. Ulrich designed the mechanical equipment of the Hospital in the Rock.

Rudolf Ulrich,

Along with her husband, she became the caretaker of the Hospital in the Rock. She worked here until her death in 1969.

Istvánné Szabó,

Along with his wife, he became the caretaker of the Hospital in the Rock. He worked here until his death in 1966.

István Szabó,

Main entrance (1944)

The operating theater (1944)

The opening ceremony (1944)

The sanctification (1944)

Consultation (1944)

Nurses are working (1944)

Machinery room (1944)

Ward nr. 1 (1944)

The kitchen (1944)

Main entrance (2002)

Ward nr. 5 (2002)

Operating theater (2002)

Gentlemen’s bathroom (2002)

Safety bypass (2002)

Main entrance (2018)

Ward nr. 3 (2018)

Operating theater (2018)

Ward nr. 1 (2018)

Béláné Borsos (1944-1945)

Mrs. Béláné Borsos (maiden name: Katalin Ney) was the member of the Ney-family, who had been living in the Buda Castle from 1829. Her father offered their house in Úri Street, Nr. 19 to the International and the Swedish Red Cross, to serve as a protected children’s home.

‘My husband – dr. György Buzinkay – with two other people got injured at the cistern next to Matthias Church, because woman from the Red Cross asked him to help her cutting ice. They ran out of water, and her fiancé was too afraid to go out. She asked my husband for help since there was no water at that time. The 10-year-old son of the janitor’s wife also went with them. This cistern was always shot from the Pest side. The Russians were already there, but on the 31st of January, around 3-4 o’clock they brought  some buckets of water. My husband told me, that one needs to have the guts to do such thing, since a dead body was lying there without its head. But they went back once more, and at that moment came the mortal shots. This poor Red Cross woman and the 10-year-old son of the janitor’s wife – Árpi – died immediately. I don’t know who took my husband to the cave hospital. I was not allowed to go into the cave hospital, so I had to come back on the day after, at 7 o’clock. He was in a terrible condition, I did not recognize him.’

Mária Daróczy (1944-1945)

Mária Daróczy as a teenage member of a family living in the Buda Castle joined to the team of the Hospital in the Rock. She served here as a volunteer nurse assistant during the siege of 1944-1945.

‘Sometime around the middle of November, the Margaret bridge was exploded, because the Germans undermined it, and as a result, there was an enormous accident. The first injured – who were pulled out from the Danube – were taken to the hospital. At that moment the three wards completely filled up. There was a female, a male and a military ward. We started to go down to help, to feed the patients, or do anything needed when all of the wards almost got full. At that time there were no soldiers yet. December came, when Budapest was circled: no way out, no way in. Doctor Seibriger had already been doing surgeries downstairs, so he took some young girls beside himself. Our task was to change the bedpans and to clean and feed the patients. However the situation was getting harder and harder so we had to learn – the skilled nurses taught us – how to give intramuscular injection – in the muscles, and subcutaneous – under the skin – painkillers. So we learnt that as well as bandaging. So it went, even when circumstances got more and more crowded. After a while we also ran out of water…’

Dr. Gyula Steinert (1944-1945)

Gyula Steinert MD was the bacteriologist of the New St. John’s, then of the St. Ladislaus’ Hospital, later on the head of the laboratory. His old friend and colleague István Kovács MD Chief Physician took him and his whole family to the Hospital in the Rock, where he worked as a volunteer doctor during the siege of the capital 1944-1945.

‘As the time went by, the Hospital became more and more crowded. The cured people did not want to leave their shelter, which seemed to be secure, moreover they smuggled their relatives in as well. This process could not be stopped. The hygiene was at its worst, the drain-canal of the rest rooms got clogged for good. It was unbearably stinky all over the place. Most of them flew outdoors to relieve nature or to empty the buckets filled with faeces. The water supply was over, the only water we had, was what we could take from the water tank at Kapisztrán Square during the night. Due to the lack of hygiene, scab overwhelmed and lice appeared. As a result of the infection the bodies of the injured were unbearably itching and many people scratched their limbs till it got bloody. Who had medicine for this? The bandages, medicines decreased for the minimal reserve. The food was running low, each patient could get only one cup of soup. My children could only get a cup from thos hot soup if me and my wife gave blood for the injured, although due to the starving and the endless work we also could hardly stand on our feet. The situation was getting to the extremes when, on the 50th day of the siege the news spread that the Germans were planning an outbreak during the course of the night, and either the success or collapse of the plans would mean the end of the siege.’

Janka Benkő (1944-1945)

Janka Benkő, a young teenage girl, got injured in the market hall during a prang at Madách Square in the beginning of December of 1944. The ambulance took her from town to the Hospital in the Rock, where she spent one month.

‘So there was no more food on the 24th of December. I think we could starve very much at that time, because my father told me on a Monday, that he could not take it anymore, and he would come over somehow, since we did not know anything about each other. The bridges were still intact so somehow he came over. My father brought a jar of jam, and I begged for a small piece of bread, so he promised to bring me some. When I got home, my father got down on his knees and apologized for not coming on the next day and not being able to bring a piece of bread. A solider lad did not let him cross the bridge, because they could have got the command in any moment to detonate the bridge. He groveled over the bridge and found me on that week on Tuesday or Wednesday, or maybe rather on Thursday. Everything went really fast since there were a lot of patients already. All along the corridors everybody laid on the stretchers. There were many, who could not even get any treatment and died right there. The only way for us to get out was to sidle. They were reaching for us and crying for help so we could hardly get out.’

Css Ilona Széchényi (1944-1945)

Countess Ilona Széchényi arrived to the capital from the countryside, but just before she would have returned home, the circle of the besieging Soviet troops closed. Countess Ilona as a volunteer Red Cross nurse joined to the team of the Hospital in the Rock after Christmas of 1944.

‘The volunteers were ceaselessly working. They went outdoors every morning to gather snow. That was the water supply of the hospital. It often happened that one or more of them never returned! The most valuable element was water. Many times necessity teaches you the solution. Thus I studied a method with which I could clean myself from head to toe, and I also could brush my teeth in 1.5 liter of water, the amount I had for a day in a basin. The system worked very well.

Where did we sleep? Wherever we could find a tiny place, different rooms each day. I don’t remember any of these days with deep disgust. There was no space for lying down. Every inch was occupied. After working hard every day, I got tired indeed. Finally I spent the night on a stretcher got empty at that moment. The drying blood pouring on me and its overwhelming odor was not really a pleasant experience.
Eating? Somehow something to eat always turned up. All of us were young and healthy (myself was 21). We were working absorbedly.
One day it was mentioned that we were going to eat horse meat. As a result of the shootings and bombing, many dead horses were lying all over the streets. Myself, as a horse-lover, was suspiciously staring at the dish in front of me. The others started to taste the food. They told me their opinion. Then, after taking a deep breath, I tasted a little bit of the sweetish meat. NO!!! I would rather starve for another day. I guess if I had human meat in front of me, my disgust could not have been stronger.’

Oszkár Wenitsek (1944-45)

Endre Mester (1944-45)

Dr. Endre Mester worked in the Hospital in the Rock from early 1944 until November as a Jewish forced labor doctor. His wife arranged this for him, instead of frontline service, which would meant certain death.

‘The Ministry of Defense sent me and my collages there as forced labor doctors. Head-doctor Kovács treated us as humans, as colleagues, even as friends. He helped our needs as much as he could and despite our humiliating status, he dealt with us as if we were equals. (…) On the 15th of October, when we all arbitrarily left the hospital, he covered us, and despite knowing our location, he didn’t gave it away, and helped our return to the hospital. He helped our movement in the Castle – a fairly exposed location -, improved our food, and considerably helped as much as possible, when and where he could.’

Edit Soltész (1944-45)

In the 1940’s Edit Soltész and her family was living on Lovas Road, near the Hospital in the Rock. During the siege of Budapest they fled to the cave system of the Castle Hill. She was 21 years old, when she volunteered to help in the hospital, and in exchange she got a bottle of water every day.

„At first we thought it’s going to be just a few days. But when I saw that this was not going to end soon, I volunteered at the head-doctor, who was our neighbor previously. (…) There were three huge wards. I was in the men’s ward with civilian wounded, the flow of wounded people never ceased. There was a curfew at night, the guards shot at anything that moved without a warning. At daytime the Russians shot at the ones scurrying trough the white snow. Many ventured out to get water from the open cistern in front of the Matthias Church. The shelters of the houses weren’t safe either, many got wounded here too. Of course I wasn’t a trained nurse, but I gladly helped to wash and feed the patients, and to distribute medicine.”

Imre Szentpály-Juhász (1944-45)

Dr. András Seibriger (1944-45, 1956)

Css Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai (1944-45)

In 1940, Countess Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai married István Horthy de Nagybánya, the oldest son of regent Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya. She, Mady Waldbott, Alice Cziráky and Ilona Andrássy participated in a Red Cross nurse training together. Later, she worked as a nurse, been on the frontline and finished a surgical assistant training. She started working in the Hospital in the Rock, right after its opening. She served until the failed armistice in 1944, when the Germans caught and relocated the regent’s whole family.

‘There was a lot of work. As I said, this little gypsy girl was really cute. I would have liked to know, what happened to her, because a train cut off her legs. That’s how they brought her in that day. She was in great pain. During treatment her small lips were bending. But when she was in her bed, she sung little gypsy songs. We told her that she should sing during the treatment. Then she sung with bending lips…’

Dr. Mihály Bogárdi (1944-45)

László Máriássy (1944-45)

Margit Pekáry (1944-45)

Margit Pekáry was a Red Cross nurse, but during the siege of Budapest she was on leave because of childbirth. Her younger sister was working in the Hospital in the Rock, so for the duration of the fighting she and her 6 months old son moved in. Of course she helped with the medical attendance.

János Harmatta (son): ‘My mother Margit Pekáry and her younger sister Gizella Pekáry joined the Red Cross. (…) Mother became a head nurse, and worked until she got pregnant with me. We even have the document that temporarily relieved her of service because of childbirth. Her sister was a nurse here in the Hospital in the Rock. During the siege we stayed in the basement with our grandparents in Hattyú Street. We didn’t have much food so leaving the grandparents behind she brought me here to the Hospital in the Rock and she volunteered for service for supplies. I was living in a suitcase, that was my cradle. Mother told me about the unbelievable conditions, the crowdedness, and about all the people that they could help, and the ones they couldn’t. The doorman lost his life during a bombing or shelling. The entrance was shot to pieces. My mother said we were here from the first days of January until the outbreak attempt in the middle of February.’

Márta Kremzer (1944-45)

Márta Kremzer got injured as a child in the basement of their home in Budafok in December 1944. She was brought here to the Hospital in the Rock.

‘In the hospital the soldiers were laying on their sides, like potato sacks on each other. One was missing an arm, another was missing a leg. We reached a really dark room where a doctor was operating. A small lamp was hanging from the ceiling, and they said that a Jewish doctor took shelter there. He was the one who operated me, but I can’t remember his name. I had two splinters just below my kidney. He was able to get one out straight away, but he failed to get the other one. Then they took me home.’

Zoltán Egyedi (1944-45)

Zoltán Enyedi was severely wounded in the basement of his sister’s apartment in 1945. His hand was splintered and his leg was smashed. His older sister was working in the Hospital in the Rock’s kitchen, so he was brought here too. He spent more than two months in the hospital.

‘We got a fair slice of bread every morning, but I couldn’t eat. My sister had to force down my throat even the tea in the morning and the soup in the evening. Back then nobody had the nerves had the willpower to feed the patients, but my sister begged me to eat. By the end of January they stopped giving us bread. (…) By that time there were so many of us, they put three people on two beds: two severely wounded with their heads to the wall and between them a lightly wounded one who still needed medical supervision. The patients who didn’t need constant supervision were considered semi-recovered. They couldn’t be sent out on the streets, so for them the hospital made wooden bunkbeds inside the cave system.’

‘It was said before the outbreak attempt, that someone sent hectoliters of wine to the Hospital in the Rock. It seemed practical to send it here before the passing army could steal it. First I got about 2.5 deciliters of the wine, the second time just half a tin cup. I’m not an alcoholic, but that was heavenly! The only water we got was measured out, three deciliters during the worst times. We got tea in the morning, soup at noon, and tea in the evening again. It was plain tea, only the soup was filling. With these three deciliters we consumed the most essential liquid amount.’

Kornél Lobmayer (1956)

Dr. Zsuzsanna Zsindely (1956)

György Balogh (1956)

György Balogh got injured at the age of 27 on the 5th of November 1956. He did not take part in the fight and he had no weapon with him. He was on his way home.

‘I was wearing civil clothes and had no weapon with me. When I got injured, I still had some coolness of mind so I ran away towards Fehérvári Gate, what still existed at that time at the end of the Castle. I ran up on Váralja Street, climbed over a fence and crawled in to the house in front of my flat. But I was already very weak there, I was laid down and in a short while a truck was coming on Attila Street and they were asked to help. They immediately took me and put me in the back of the truck and brought me here, Lovas Street 4/c. Actually, they stopped below the hill and ran up on Zerge stairs with me lying on the stretchers … They took me straight to the operating theater, where I took off my clothes myself, laid on the operating table and the surgeon called András Máthé started the surgery.  Not only on my belly (because I got shot on my belly), but also on my wrist – which was operated by another doctor. If I remember well he was called Kelemen, but I do not remember his first name … – There were forty-one beds, and where the small door is, there was the isolation room. Someone with a shot in the head was taken there and Máthé took the bullet out from his brain – it was a miracle! For nine days I did not get neither food nor water, just blood transfusions and infusion. For nine days I was only allowed to take the water in my mouth and then spit it out. It was not allowed to swallow. Afterwards I started to feel better, I looked around in the hospital, and started to come to my senses. Then this head injured was brought out, right next to the wall. I had to talk to him to see if he is able to communicate, so they will see if he had brain damage.’

Polish radio program (Z kraju i ze świata) – 10th of December 1956

Anna Retmaniak radio reporter, the Special Correspondent of the Polish Radio, accompanied the first transport of aid supply sent from Poland. During her trip to Hungary, she visited the Hospital in the Rock.

“… András Máthé MD guided me. Doctor Máthé had a bullet hanging in his neck. »This is the first bullet, which I took out from an injured in our hospital – he says. By the way, we saved the life of that injured with your help. There were times when our blood proved to be not enough. Let’s go, have a look at this patient personally!« István Cziráki rises a bit from his bed and sees his new born baby, whom he doesn’t know yet. I’m very happy – he says – that I can say hello to my wife and my new-born baby through the Polish Radio.  I would like them to take care of themselves and each other. For the Polish nation I wish not to choose the bloody road, as we did, but choose a peaceful way towards a blessed future. Niech żyje Polska!’

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