50th Anniversary, 1956 Hungarian Uprising
February 13, 2006
50th Anniversary, 1956 Hungarian Uprising Rabbi Arthur Schneier, along with Hungarian Ambassador Simonyi, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, Congressman Tom Lantos, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and Reverend Wilson Gunn today participated in a ceremony and reception to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the U.S. Department of State, hosted by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Rabbi Schneier, who has a rich personal history with Hungary, commented, "I speak to you today as a man who was once a child who found refuge in Hungary, escaping the Nazi rule in Vienna. In Budapest, however, I also experienced tyranny, persecution and degradation, but I never lost hope---even with the loss of life of so many in the Holocaust----that freedom would triumph and dictatorship and totalitarian rule would founder and collapse. 50 years ago the Hungarian people showed the yearning of the human being for freedom. They planted the seeds of what is today's democratic nation of Hungary."

Secretary of State Rice remarked that, "For 12 days in 1956, the Hungarian people caught a fleeting glimpse of their independence. Armed with little more than a love of liberty, the impatient patriots of Hungary rose up against the mighty Soviet empire. They stormed the jails and they freed political prisoners. They took back their country's radio waves and broadcast the censored sounds of Mozart and Beethoven. And they imagined a new future for Hungary, where they and their fellow citizens would determine their own future in freedom without facing foreign oppression or fearing the midnight knock of the secret police.

The hope for independence was never extinguished in the Hungarian people. They resisted Soviet imperialism to the very end and they were the first in their region to make the transition to democracy. Immediately, Hungary's free government began realizing the goals that all Hungarians had longed for during the dark days of communism: liberty and human rights, the rule of law and equal justice, free enterprise and growing wealth. Today, the nation of Hungary is a model for all the world of the security and the prosperity and the success that come with freedom and democracy."

The 1956 Revolution was a popular uprising of students and workers seeking liberation from the totalitarian grip of the Soviet Union. Soviet troops and tanks were immediately sent into Budapest to quash the populist revolt. The tragic result of this watershed event in modern Hungarian history was that 2,700 Hungarians died in the fighting, more than 340 were tried and executed, 22,000 were sent to prison, 13,000 to Soviet internment camps and 200,000 (an estimated 2% of the popuation) fled the country, with 80,000 coming to the United States, adding to the "diverse and wonderful character of America". It was, Rabbi Schneier noted, a moment when "The Hungarian people sought liberation from the 'Darkness at Noon.' It was truly the first small crack in the Iron Curtain."

Born in Vienna, Austria, March 20, 1930, Rabbi Schneier lived under Nazi occupation in Budapest during World War II and arrived in the United States in 1947. President Carter appointed him as a member of the U.S. Delegation for the Return of the Crown of St. Stephen to Hungary in 1979.
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