Christmas at the Hospital in the Rock

Christmas is always sad at the time of war – this was especially true during December 1944. The Soviet army had just encircled Budapest on Christmas Eve, this was when the siege of the capital started. Ágota Steinert, who was only four years old at the time, has the following memories from that day:

„We went to the basement, where everybody – according to their temper – prayed, cursed, was furious or stayed silent. Something baffling and unimaginable happened. Just as if an earthquake had started and the walls had wanted to collapse on us. The whole house was trembling, there was whooshing and weird noises, buzzing and booming.”

She and her family moved to the Hospital in the Rock on Christmas Day.

Ágota Steinert and her sister during Christmas.

Janka Benkő’s verification from the hospital.

Christmas display from the Hospital in the Rock Museum in 2007.

Entrance to the office of Dr. István Kovács.

Lifeguards in the Castle District

The Holocaust was one of the most horrible events of not just the XX. Century, but probably even of the history of humanity. Nearly 6 million people of Jewish descent – or those classified as such – were killed across Europe, and more than 15 million died as a result of the persecution. This happened not only in Nazi Germany, but also in the allied and occupied countries.

Fortunately, however, not everyone served the persecutors, many helped the persecuted. In Hungary, perhaps Raoul Wallenberg became the most famous, but many others took their share of the rescue work. While some were able to help hundreds, others could only help one or two people. However, the people who risked everything – and sometimes gave their lives – to save others, are all heroes.

Friedrich Born, delegate of the International Red Cross in Hungary during 1944-45.

Red Cross protective document for a doctor of the Hospital in the Rock.

Dr. Endre Mester, one of the Jewish doctors of the Hospital in the Rock, sent as forced labor.

Testimony of dr. Endre Mester, about dr. István Kovács, who protected the forced labor doctors of the Hospital in the Rock.

The “Vérmező” during the WWII

Among the locations related to the siege of the Castle District, we now present Vérmező. Today’s peaceful park was the site of fierce fighting in 1945, with many wounded being transported from here to the Hospital in the Rock. The importance of the area was increased by the fact that it was the last place where the aircraft carrying supplies could land. After the war, the park was covered with scattered vehicles.

According to the recollections of Dr. Elek Farkas, the wreckages found here were used to equip the Virus Vaccine Production Institute on the territory of the Hospital in the Rock – among other things, chair legs were made from the aluminum tubes found in the aircraft.

DP-28 machine gun from WWII.

Helmet used by the Royal Hungarian Army from the 1940s.

Soviet minesweeper grenade from the 1940s.

German bandages from the 1940s.

Nuclear weapons in Hungary

From the 1950’s the relationship between the Unites States and the Soviet Union was becoming more and more tense. The third world war seemed inevitable, and – as a member of the Warsaw Pact – Hungary was supposed to take part in it. According to some military plans, Hungary was to attack Northern Italy or Bavaria in cooperation with other communist states.

Of course Western NATO countries had similar ideas, in case armed conflict seemed unavoidable. Both sides would have used nuclear weapons – big or small – in these conflicts, even in densely populated areas. Fortunately all this never had to happened.

Cold War poster – “Together in protecting socialism and peace”

Comparing the destructive potential of nuclear weapons.

The effect of a W-88 Trident nuclear warhead above Budapest.

Potential nuclear strike targets, according to an American plan from 1956.

Radiaton measuring instruments

The use of radioactive materials are unavoidable in present times. Despite their harmful properties, there are multiple beneficial uses. The amount of energy produces by nuclear power plants would be unimaginable earlier, although the storage of used fuel is a highly debated topic even today.

Modern medicine uses radioactive materials in multiple diagnostic procedures, while research in natural science utilize them too. Radiocarbon dating used by archeology is based on the radioactive decay of certain elements. Furthermore there are several industrial applications of nuclear materials, for example sterilization or fire-alarms.

Geiger counters used during a decontamination exercise.

Still from a Civil Defense training: Behavior in case of radiation hazard.

TVL-63 military chemical laboratory.

The paper crane is one of the most important symbols of peace and anti-nuclear movements.

How to encrypt a hospital?

The fear of another huge war, made more and more destructive by nuclear weapons, determined the second half of the XX. century. After the Second World War everybody around the globe tried to prepare for a potential nuclear attack.

The expansion of the Hospital in the Rock was ordered because of this fear: two new wards were made, and a new extension was built in front of the entrance – these were finished by 1952. The hospital was made nuclear-proof between 1958 and 1962: chemical filters, a ventilation system capable of internal air circulating, and new generators and water tanks were added. Furthermore a new entrance was made, where decontamination could be carried out. The facility was classified by the code LOSK0101/1.

The entrance of the Hospital in the Rock, shortly after the declassification.

One of the facilities generators, made by the Ganz Company.

Center of the ventilation system, with the chemical filter on the right side.

The cover of an expansion plan, with the LOSK 0101/1 codename on it.

The Virus Vaccine Production Institute

The work of the Hospital in the Rock was not finished after the 1944-45 Siege of Budapest ended, it was still needed throughout spring. After all this though – it was never meant to be opened permanently – it was closed and emptied.

Many opposed this decision, and petitioned for the further use of the hospital in some form. It was around this time that a former staff member of the Hospital in the Rock, Dr. József Born appeared, a person who knew well the potential the facility held. The momentarily abandoned building, had the perfect conditions for a laboratory.

Rental agreement about the building and equipment of the Hospital in the Rock.

Petition from the „Virus” Vaccine Manufacturing Institute to the city government.

The official logo of the company.

Civilian defense poster warning about infectious diseases.

Syringe sterilization case.

Different laboratory equipment.

Questions and answers

The history of the Hospital in the Rock holds numerous interesting questions – we cover the most important information in our guided tours. The location, the sight and the stories told often encourage our visitors to think further.

Now we want to satisfy this thirst for knowledge – we brought you the answers to the most frequently asked questions. Of course, the simple “What is this?” is also a reoccurring question in our museum, so now we display our most popular, difficult-to-identify artefacts.

Surgical suction pump. Hidrovac-22 type.

Portable toilet, for patients who had difficulties moving.

Caregiving trolley. Mobile container for treatment of patients in wards.

Emergency lights from the 1950’s. With internal batteries, it illuminates corridors during a blackout.

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.