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Hungary. Have You Forgotten 1956?

Watching events unfold in Hungary these last weeks I cannot help recalling events of November 1956. I was a teenager listening to my radio late into the night in Minnesota. Broadcasts from Budapest reported live on how the short lived revolt of the people of Hungary was being crushed by Russian tanks.

The broadcasts focused on the 200,000 Hungarians (2% of the country’s population) making their way towards Vienna and safely across the Austrian border. Those 200,000 Hungarians were permitted to cross the border and other countries offered them sanctuary.

What would have happened to those 200,000 Hungarians if Austria had not let them pass and had treated them in the same brutal manner as the current reactionary government of Hungary is treating the Syrians seeking sanctuary from the fighting in Syria? It is unlikely that Hungary’s Russian oppressors would have shown any compassion towards those 200,000 Hungarians if they had been forced to return to Hungary.

Individual Hungarians have shown compassion towards the Syrians marching on foot towards Vienna and safety after they were prevented from leaving Budapest by train. Do Hungarians see any irony when comparing the treatment of their compatriots in November 1956 to their own government’s harassment and infliction of more suffering on political refugees today?