Hundreds of former political prisoners returned Saturday to the site of Hungary’s worst Stalinist camp, a place where opponents of the Communists were literally worked to death, to dedicate a memorial park.
The ceremony was held 43 years after the Recsk camp was closed in 1953, months after the death of Josef Stalin, when Communist repression began to ease slightly.
No one has ever determined how many inmates passed through Recsk, or how many died. Its inmates kept silent for years after their release, terrified by the threat of reimprisonment if they talked about the camp.
But on Saturday, former prisoners from all over the globe, many with children or grandchildren, walked around a hillside park here. Parts of the camp, including one of the barracks and a watchtower, have been restored.
Tears appeared in the eyes of many Saturday during a passage of the national anthem that speaks of atonement.
The commemoration was organized by the Recsk Federation, an organization founded in California in 1981 by former inmates.
“With this memorial park, we want future generations to learn from our fate, so that no such camps will ever be built again,” said Tibor Zimanyi, 74, federation chairman.
Inmates quarried rock with 25-pound hammers, six days a week.
Even Communist officials later admitted that the justification for having the gulag - to turn a mountain into a pile of gravel - was really just an excuse to work the inmates to their deaths.