A visit to the Budapest New Public Cemetery National Memorial at Plots 298 – 301 is not easy. First you have to take a bus or tram deep into Kobanya, a gritty outer district of the city. When one of an area’s most notable sites is a beer factory, well that says something. Then after arriving at the cemetery it is at least a 30 minute walk to Plots 298 – 301 which are located at the very back of it. The further you walk, the worse shape the cemetery is in. The oldest part of the cemetery which as its name implies is “new” is really not that old. The graves go back to around 1890, but these have become overgrown with tall grass amid thickets of brush and trees.
Plots 298 – 301 are different, they hold the graves of Imre Nagy and many other martyrs from the consolidation of communist rule starting in 1945 up until the 1956 Hungarian Revolution crushed by the Soviet Union. Nagy was made the Prime Minster in the halcyon days of the uprising and made the landmark decision to pull Hungary out of the Warsaw Pact. This was too much for the Soviets who imagined their Eastern European sphere of influence would disintegrate if the Hungarians were allowed to leave, they were not. Nagy and his closest advisers were arrested and executed two years later. Nagy was buried in an unmarked grave at the back of the cemetery. You get a good idea of how the Plots would have looked from 1956 – 1989 by passing through the older overgrown part. Today, the plots are well tended and honored as a National Memorial. Nagy’s famous 1989 reburial at a ceremony at Hosok Ter (Hero’s Square) sounded the death knell of communism in Hungary.
Nonetheless, there is no mistaking the vindictiveness of the communists as they banished the bodies of the defeated to the very back of the cemetery. Today, communism in Eastern Europe has been banished to the waste bin of history. Tragically it has still left scars on the national psyche of the nations who suffered under it. The Revolutionaries wanted to create a better world for Hungary and in the process they showed it could be done, but for just a few days. Plots 298 -301 are a place to contemplate all the things they could have done if not for the iron fist of tyranny that came crashing down upon their hopes and dreams.