Funeral during the siege

In our present age, we take it for granted that our deceased relatives have a grave where we can commemorate them decently. However, in times of emergency, this was unfortunately not always the case. During World War II, as soon as the fighting reached the civilian population, organized ceremonies became almost impossible. In most cases, the deceased were buried only in temporary graves, and only later were they reburied in a decent way.

Entire families and communities have disappeared as a result of the Holocaust and other persecutions, making it almost impossible to find relatives. On the front, in most cases soldiers tried to return the remains of their dead comrades to their families, but the intensity of the fighting and the devastating effects of new, cruel weapons often made this impossible. Unfortunately, there are still plenty today who do not know where their parents, siblings, spouses or friends are buried.

The temporary grave of Dr. György Buzinkay on Lovas Street, in 1945.

Unknown burial place. With the help of the Hungarian Military History Institute, relatives can be found.

Records asking for the exhumation of the temporary graves at Saint John’s Hospital, in 1946.

Record asking to burry bodies without a coffin, in 1945.

The 1956 revolution, as seen by witnesses at the Hospital in the Rock

At the beginning of the 1956 revolution, the Hospital in the Rock, which was then treated as a secret facility, also opened its doors under the direction of Dr. András Máthé. The Deputy Chief Physician, just like during World War II, was Dr. András Seibriger. The doctors’ work was assisted by volunteers from the nearby National Nursing School. The people who worked here saved many lives, and in the early days of the revolution, Dr. Máthé successfully operated on a head shot – after the operation, he wore the bullet that had caused the injury as a necklace by hanging it on a chain. Caregiving was organized with the help of volunteers and charitable donations.

Reacting to the news of the fights, several people delivered food from the countryside to the capital’s healthcare institutions, including the Hospital in the Rock. The International Committee of the Red Cross in addition to food donations, also helped medical caregiving with medicine, bandage, and blood donations.

Document on the suspension of dr. Vida Boros

Dr. András Máthé, the chief physician of the Hospital in the Rock in 1956.

Dr. András Seibriger, deputy chief physician of the Hospital in the Rock in 1956.

Volunteers from the National Nursing School

Students of the National Nursing School

Medical records of Kornél Lobmayer with the signature of Dr. András Máthé.

“The Rock” Award

Our visitors often ask us if we keep in touch with eyewitnesses of the history of the Hospital in the Rock. We are exceptionally lucky to have found and to have entered into contact with many people who had survived the siege of Budapest and the weeks of the 1956 revolution here in this institution. It is also thanks to their cooperation that we are able to present the experience of the war from a personal point of view to our visitors.

Our institution maintains a close relationship with them and their descendants, and has established the “The Rock” Award to express respect and gratitude for their humane, in many cases self-sacrificing activities, even in inhumane times. ‘The Rock” Award Ceremony has been held every year since 2016.

Eyewitnesses of the 1956 revolution at the Hospital in The Rock.

The Eckhardt Family visited us –their daughter was born in the Hospital in the Rock in 1956.

Mrs. Horthy, Ilona Edelsheim Gyulai visited us.

Sarolta Szabó worked as a nurse in this hospital during the 1956 revolution.


How to treat radioactive contamination?

When in 1898 Pierre and Marie Curie revealed that certain elements could be radioactive, they did not know the horrible consequences their discovery might had. Even Marie Curie became a victim of her own work, when she died because of the effects of radiation. Still, certain products containing radium or other radioactive materials stayed popular until the 1950’s, since their true danger was not, or just barely acknowledged. At the time of the Cold War this seemed to change, and no nuclear weapons were used during an armed conflict, partly because of the recognition of long lasting contamination. Unfortunately radiation decontamination still had to be done throughout history, due to accidents with nuclear weapons, power plants or other radioactive materials.

Livestock being decontaminated during a training, during the 1960’s.

Urban decontamination training, during the 1960’s.

Picture from a civilian defense slide, from the 1960’s

Sign showing danger of radiation.

Cloth showing contaminated territory, in Hungarian and Russian.

Mushroom cloud shaped lamp, used during civilian defense trainings.


Aristocrats in  the Hospital in the Rock

The Horthy Era can be considered the last golden age of the Hungarian aristocracy, when they could still live in huge mansions, go to balls at night, and live the life of the privileged. However, the one-sided image of an exploitative nobleman rooted in communism was much more complex in reality. Many people of noble origin used their wealth for charity.

From the Reform Era we know of many examples for certain important matters being financially supported by private individuals, and this custom lived on in the 20th century as well. During World War I and World War II, young gentlemen in many cases volunteered to the Army, and ladies for medical service. A good example is the organizer of the Hungarian Voluntary Red Cross Service, Baroness Gizella Apor, from whom the noble ladies mentioned in the video also studied.

Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai on a frontline visit

Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai during the opening ceremony of the Hospital in the Rock

Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai once again in the Hospital in the Rock in 2010

Ilona Andrássy on the cover of Képes Krónika magazine

Ilona Andrássy in a Polish refugee camp’s kitchen

Ilona Széchényi’s Red Cross volunteer nurse certificate

What is left after a Nuclear Explosion?

In early 1945, even scientists who had developed the atomic bombs did not know exactly what effects the new miracle weapon they created would have. During the first nuclear test – the so-called Trinity experiment – participants were not even sure that the detonationn would be successful.

However, on July 16, 1945, an implosion-type plutonium bomb called Gadget was successfully put into operation and the first nuclear explosion in the world was carried out. The leader of the experiment, Robert Oppenheimer, later described the event as follows: “We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.‘ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Little Boy.

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Fat Man.

View in Hiroshima after the nuclear attack. In the middle, the remnants of the Industrial Promotion Hall.

Melted coins fused together, from Hiroshima.

Melted rosary from Nagasaki.

Roof tile with surface melted next to the fitting, from Hiroshima.

The Legend of the Burning-out of the Hospital in the Rock

World War II was one of the most devastating events in the twentieth century, with the goal of not only occupying a country or territory, but in many cases also completely annihilating certain cultures.

The systematic destructive campaigns of the Axis powers – Germany, Japan or even Hungary – are well known, but of course the soldiers living in constant danger could also carry out horrible atrocities on their own. These atrocities could happen on all sides, the long war could grind anyone’s nerves or bring out deviant behavior. Soldiers of the Soviet Red Army were notorious for their indiscipline and atrocities against the inhabitants of the occupied countries. But how much of all this is actually true?

Reinforced air-raid shelter in the cave system of Buda Castle Hill, int he 1940’s.

Ward No. 1 of the Hospital in the Rock, during the opening ceremony in 1944.

Friedrich Born, the delegate of the International Red Cross in Hungary during the II. World War. Whit his presence, he protected the neutrality of the Hospital in the Rock.

Soviet soldier with a flamethrower during the end of the II. World War.

Part of an official document detailing the July 1. closing of the Hospital in the Rock and that it is still unharmed.

Provisions in the Hospital in the Rock during the siege of Budapest 1944/1945

During World War II, the total war spared no one, be it a soldier or a civilian. Continuous saving, the ticket system, and then hunger soon reached the hinterland as well. During the protracted siege of a larger city, the population could be completely cut off from the outside world, and with it food from the countryside. During the infamous 872-day blockade of Leningrad, nearly one and a half million died, largely due to starvation.

During the siege of Budapest in 1944-45, the survival of people in many cases depended on their own ingenuity. Whoever had food could ask for anything in return, and so bartering soon developed among the population, or even with desperate soldiers. Unfortunately, however, many people living in the capital could not survive the siege: the number of deaths among the population is estimated at 37-38,000.

Food delivery coming to the Hospital in the Rock in 1944.

The kitchen was not designed for cooking, but during the Siege of Budapest it was needed.

Life in the Hospital in the Rock’s kitchen in 1944.

As all the equipment, the dinnerware was from Saint John’s Hospital too.

Food came to the Hospital in the Rock from Saint John’s Hospital in containers like this, where it was heated and portioned.

Refrigerating in the 1950’s. It used real ice for cooling.

How the gas masks work

Most people associate the development of gas masks with the hell of World War I, but they appeared earlier to protect those working in various dangerous areas. You are probably familiar with the image of a doctor wearing a beak mask during a major European plague epidemic between 1347-52, which, although not intentionally, can be regarded as a rudimentary respiratory protection device.

During the nineteenth century, the first masks providing targeted protection began to appear among miners and firefighters. Their common use for military purposes was indeed due to the emergence of various chemical weapons during the First World War, and their use soon seemed inevitable to the civilian population as well. Nuclear mass hysteria during the Cold War briefly made gas masks a basic item in households, but today, fortunately, it has once again become a feature of only a few specific jobs.

51M type gasmask used by the Hungarian People’s Army.

First Aid Kit used by the Civil Defense in 1940’s.

The Hospital in the Rock was expanded between 1958 and 1962, for example the ventilation with this chemical filter system.

Poster from the 1940’s show to properly put on a gasmask.

Poster showing how the gasmask seen in the video functions.

Poster educating about the proper cleaning and storing of a gasmask.

Legacy of a physician: Dr. András Seibriger, surgeon


World War II and the 1956 revolution are rarely linked in public consciousness – although they are not so far apart in time. Only 11 years have passed since the siege of Budapest, and the city is in flames again – in many cases, the same people who survived the hell of war had to face the fighting. Among them was dr. András Seibriger, who, as a young surgeon, went to the Hospital in the Rock in 1944 after his front service, and then returned again in 1956 to help the wounded. On both occasions, he worked as deputy for the chief physician at the underground institution. Sadly the end of the fights did not bring peace either: András Seibriger also had to face political persecution. However, he kept his beliefs all along. In 1956, his family asked him to flee abroad, but all he said was,

“My Gledish you can go, I’m not leaving. This is my Homeland, my patients are waiting, and the Hospital in the Rock may need me at any time.”

András Seibriger as a young cavalry officer

Christmas in Saint John’s Hospital, sometime in the 1940’s (András Seibriger is the fifth from the left in the back)

Red Cross protective document for Dr. András Seibriger

Pharmacy scale

Different types of syringe needles

Pastilles containing iodine. Only used by doctors recommendation!