Among Freedom Fighters

John Sadovy (1925–2010), a Czech-born photojournalist reporting for the American illustrated weekly Life, witnessed and photographed events of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution for four days, from 29 October to 1 November 1956. His pictures from that time, mainly the ones taken during the siege of the headquarters of the Budapest Committee of the Hungarian Working People’s Party at Köztársaság Square (today Pope John Paul II Square), gained worldwide fame on the pages of Life and other important international publications.

HU

Among Freedom Fighters

John Sadovy’s Photographs of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution


On 23 October 1956 a revolution broke out in Hungary, demanding the withdrawal of Soviet troops that had been occupying the country since 1945, and urging changes in the oppressive communist regime. Demonstration started peacefully but turned into armed fighting on 23 October. The revolutionaries in Budapest fought against Hungarian law enforcement units as well as the Soviet army invading the capital. Following a few days of armed fight and political clashes, on 28 October, Prime Minister Imre Nagy gave the order to the Hungarian Army not to attack the rebels any more. In his speech, broadcast by radio the same afternoon, he called the events of the previous days “a national democratic movement”, abandoning the phrase “counter-revolution”. In addition, the Prime Minister announced that the Soviet troops would start their withdrawal from Budapest immediately. Soviet troops stopped firing only on the evening of 29 October and started withdrawal on the evening of 30 October. A few days of ceasefire followed when people in the capital still nurtured some hope in victory. Eventually, the Soviet army marched against Budapest again on 4 November, and by 11 November had eliminated all armed resistance in the capital. Soviet help put János Kádár’s government into power, which started implementing cruel retaliation measures after the crushing of the Revolution and the War of Independence. In the Spring of 1957 the communist Kádár regime started consolidating its power which was to last until 1989.

John Sadovy (1925–2010), a Czech-born photojournalist reporting for the American illustrated weekly Life, witnessed and photographed events of the Hungarian Revolution for four days, from 29 October to 1 November 1956. His pictures from that time, mainly the ones taken during the siege of the headquarters of the Budapest Committee of the Hungarian Working People’s Party at Köztársaság Square (today Pope John Paul II Square), gained worldwide fame on the pages of Life and other important international publications.

The Hungarian National Museum and the Committee of National Remembrance, Hungary, in collaboration with the photographer’s two daughters, Liza Jane Sadovy and Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson, presented a selection of John Sadovy’s 1956 photographs in a temporary exhibition in the Hungarian National Museum between 20 October and 10 December 2023. The compilation here is the online version of this temporary exhibition. In addition to John Sadovy’s famous photographs, we present other images as well which offer a glimpse into the lives of the freedom fighters and inhabitants of the capital during the ceasefire; they show how armed rebels and unarmed civilians, adults and children responded to the warlike situation. Many pictures show, at a close range, those who took up arms against the communist dictatorship and Soviet occupation – their gestures and faces render their determination, hope, or desperation and fatigue palpable. John Sadovy’s previously unseen photographs offer new faces and locations to an exceptional episode of 20th century world history, to the heroic freedom fight of Hungary that had no chance against the overpowering enemy.

The exhibition’s printed catalogue


Convoy of western cars on the road from Hegyeshalom to Budapest. Sadovy arrived in the Hungarian capital in one of these vehicles
29 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Locals waving at the passengers of the convoy of western cars in front of the Cement Factory in Lábatlan. The German inscription in front of the building says: “We thank the people of Austria!”
29 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Intersection of Grand Boulevard and Üllői Avenue

From 24 October, armed groups were formed in many parts of Budapest which took up the fight against the Soviet Special Forces. There were several bases around this intersection, in Corvin Cinema and in the neighbouring streets. The battles between 24 and 29 October left the traces of warlike destruction behind: corpses lying in the streets, disabled military vehicles and extensive building damage.


Pedestrians and an ice-cream tricycle after the fights in front of 30–32 Üllői Avenue
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Disabled Soviet BTR–152 armoured vehicle in Üllői Avenue, in front of the Museum of Applied Arts
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

34 Üllői Avenue, opposite the Museum of Applied Arts, damaged during the shootings of the previous days
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Cleaning up rubble in front of 41 Üllői Avenue, near the Grand Boulevard junction
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Disabled ISU–152 Soviet assault gun in József Boulevard, in front of one of the most important bases of the freedom fighters, the Corvin Passage
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Freedom fighter, with a captured Kalashnikov rifle on his shoulder, climbing on top of an ISU-152 assault gun in József Boulevard, at the Corvin Passage. The Kilián Barracks is seen in the background on the right
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Freedom fighters atop Soviet ISU-152 assault guns at the Corvin Passage. The Kilián Barracks is on the left in the background, with a wrecked Soviet IS-3 heavy tank, surrounded by onlookers. John Sadovy climbed up on one of the assault guns to take photographs.
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

A Soviet soldier killed in action, lying on the road where Práter Street meets József Boulevard. The body was sprinkled with lime to avoid the risk of contamination
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy



The following photograph contains disturbing content, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18
I WANT TO SEE THE IMAGE

Freedom fighters and onlookers at the intersection of József Boulevard and Üllői Avenue. 46 Ferenc Boulevard in the middle of the background, detail of the Museum of Applied Arts on the right
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

A freedom fighter and a woman carrying food in József Boulevard, at the Corvin Passage
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Pavement covered with rubble in front of the heavily damaged pub at 85 József Boulevard, opposite the entrance to the Corvin Passage
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Temporary graves in the playground behind the Corvin Cinema. The young man leaning against the tree is reading the newspaper of a revolutionary student committee
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Young gunman in an upstairs flat at 36 Üllői Street. The building stood at the intersection of Üllői Avenue and Grand Boulevard, opposite the Corvin Passage. Freedom fighters showed Sadovy this flat which they used as a firing position against Soviet troops.
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Freedom fighters in an upstairs flat at 36 Üllői Avenue. Through the window the buildings at 46 Ferenc Boulevard and 41 Üllői Avenue can be seen
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

T-34 Soviet tank controlled by freedom fighters, flying the Hungarian flag and marked with the Kossuth coat-of-arms, at the corner of Üllői Avenue and Kisfaludy Street. The Kilián Barracks in the background
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Práter Street

In the long and narrow street running next to Corvin Cinema, the freedom fighters occupied some buildings. Many children under 18 also joined the groups. In the intersection of Práter Street and Futó Street, the rebels successfully stopped a Soviet military unit on 27–28 October. They destroyed at least two ammunition trucks in the battle, as well as two cannons and an armoured vehicle; more than ten Soviet soldiers died.


Young boy posing with a small rifle in front of 9 Práter Street. The house, standing next to the Práter Street primary school, served as a base for a rebel group known as the Blackbird Group
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

A captured D-44 (85 mm) anti-tank gun, with the Kossuth coat-of-arms on the shield, in front of the Práter Street primary school, a major base for the freedom fighters
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Young freedom fighter at the primary school in Práter Street with a Hungarian M 1948 7.62 mm PPSh submachine gun
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Unloading potatoes from a truck in front of the Práter Street primary school. Rural people sent food to help the rebels in the capital
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Three boys at the corner of Üllői Avenue and Kisfaludy Street. One has a rifle on his back and a bandage on his hand, the boy in the front is wearing a cockade on his jacket
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Onlookers around the body of a Soviet soldier covered with a metal sheet at the intersection of Práter Street and Futó Street
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy



The following photograph contains disturbing content, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18
I WANT TO SEE THE IMAGE

Passers-by at the intersection of Práter Street and Futó Street looking at the signs of the fights
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Dead body near the intersection of Práter Street and Futó Street
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

One picture of John Sadovy’s sequence was published in Hungary’s Fight for Freedom (Life magazine’s special issue of December 1956) with the following caption: “Searching for her missing husband, father of her three children, a woman of Budapest stands aside in apprehension while a friend lifts the covering from the face of a dead patriot. It was her husband.”



The following photograph contains disturbing content, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18
I WANT TO SEE THE IMAGE

Pedestrians passing by the body of a Hungarian man lying on the pavement in Futó Street, near the intersection with Práter Street
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy



The following photograph contains disturbing content, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18
I WANT TO SEE THE IMAGE

Young freedom fighters in front of 47 Futó Street. One has a submachine gun with a drum magazine, used in the Hungarian People’s Army; the other holds a carbine with a folding bayonet
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Freedom fighter checking motorcyclists’ papers in Futó Street
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Onlookers around a wrecked truck and a Soviet T-54 tank in front of 61 Üllői Avenue. John Sadovy took this photograph from a car driving towards the Corvin Passage
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Soldiers lining up in the inner courtyard of the Kilián Barracks
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Pál Maléter, a Hungarian colonel who had sided with the revolutionaries, surrounded by soldiers and freedom fighters in the Kilián Barracks
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

View onto Ferenc Boulevard from a damaged upstairs room of the Kilián Barracks building
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Üllői Avenue side of the Kilián Barrack. The man walking on the pavement is holding a submachine gun and has a hand grenade on his belt
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Truck transporting armed rebels at Horváth Mihály Square, at the intersection with Baross Street. Futó Street opens on the left. The truck was probably heading for Republic Square
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Onlookers on the corner of Lévai Oszkár (now Fecske) Street and Déri Miksa Street, by the disabled Soviet ISU-152 self-propelled gun, on which the following message was written in poor Russian: “Don’t gobble up everything!!! Go home already!!!”
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Republic Square

On 30 October 1956, armed members of the revolution besieged the headquarters of the Budapest Committee of the Hungarian Working People’s Party, after the word had spread that claimed that the defenders of the building, including units of the State Security Organisation (ÁVH), had kept some rebels as prisoners. Six tanks were sent from a nearby barracks to relieve the headquarters, but after they, too, started firing at the building by mistake, the people inside – party employees, members of the State Security, soldiers – surrendered after a several-hour-long fight. Finally, several defenders, already pushed out from the building, fell victim to extrajudicial killing by some rebels and a group of civilians at the square.


Unarmed men taking cover from the siege of the party headquarters in Republic Square, by the walls of the Erkel Theatre. T-34 tank in the background, at the intersection of Luther Street and Bezerédj Street
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

People watching the siege of the party headquarters from a safe place at the corner of Luther Street. Erkel Theatre is on the right side of the picture
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

T-34 tank supporting the besiegers, next to the Erkel Theatre
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Men carrying ammunition to the tank attacking the party headquarters in Republic Square
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Rebels under cover in Republic Square with Hungarian M 1948 7.62 mm DP light machine guns
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Three men, standing at the corner of Szilágyi Street and Republic Square, are watching the scene around the ambulance bus at the back of the Erkel Theatre. One of them has a Molotov cocktail in his hand
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Red Cross people saving the wounded in the park of Republic Square during the siege of the party headquarters
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Red Cross people saving the wounded in the park of Republic Square during the siege of the communist headquarters
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

“The fighting really began to flare up. People were dropping like flies. White-coated first-aid people, mostly women, were coming and going in private cars to collect the wounded. Then I noticed the first-aid women were being shot too. Youngsters – 15, 16 and 17 years old – took over from the women. I saw a kid running bent double, with no protection at all, to drag a wounded man to shelter. I saw one of these boys get hit. His partner dragged the loaded stretcher back with one end on the ground.”
(Excerpt from John Sadovy’s account, “The fighting really began to flare up”, published in Hungary’s Fight for Freedom, page 27)

Gunmen immediately after the siege. The man in the foreground is carrying a submachine gun. In the background, the shot-out windows of the Kenyérmező Street wing of the Republic Square party headquarters
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Insurgents immediately after the siege in front of the entrance to the party headquarters in Republic Square
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

An unarmed defender of the party headquarters is falling to the ground, while the rebel on the left loads his carbine
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy



The following photograph contains disturbing content, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18
I WANT TO SEE THE IMAGE

John Sadovy’s photograph sequence of the tragic event later known as the execution of the prisoners. While the rebels were escorting the conscript state security soldiers (who had previously changed into police uniforms) towards Kenyérmező Street, someone fired a series of shots at the captured men walking through a ring of civilians
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

By clicking on the link below you can check out which photos from Sadovy’s famous sequence were published in Life magazine’s 12 November 1956 issue:
LIFE

Conscript state security soldiers standing by the wall of the party headquarters in Republic Square, a few moments before the shots were fired at them
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Red Cross workers tend to the shot conscript state security soldiers. Of the soldiers, at most one was killed, three were severely wounded and two were not hit by bullets
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy



The following photograph contains disturbing content, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18
I WANT TO SEE THE IMAGE

Armed and unarmed rebels in front of the party headquarters, right after the end of the fight
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Young rebel after the siege of the party building, with a carbine in his hand and a grenade in the top left pocket of his jacket. In the background, an ambulance bus is transporting the wounded
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Gábor Deák, a seventeen-year-old rebel in front of the party headquarters in Republic Square, with a carbine and a machine gun ammunition belt on his shoulders
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Crowd in Republic Square after the siege. Many people are waving towards Sadovy, who is taking photographs from upstairs in the party headquarters. In the foreground, communist propaganda material is thrown on a fire
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy



The following photograph contains disturbing content, it is not recommended for children under the age of 18
I WANT TO SEE THE IMAGE

Onlookers in Republic Square after the siege, in front of the Erkel Theatre opposite the party headquarters and on the parapet of the building
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

After the occupation of the party headquarters, two armed rebels pose through the slit of the “flag with a hole” that has become a symbol of the revolution. The man on the right is holding a submachine gun with a drum magazine, the man on the left (Arnold Gerbicz) has grenades in his hands
Budapest, 30 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Cardinal and Prince-Primate József Mindszenty, who was released during the revolution, receives representatives of the Hungarian and foreign press in the courtyard of the Primate’s Palace in Úri Street. On the left, Pál Szőke, one of the organisers of the newly-formed Smallholders’ Party; behind Mindszenty’s left shoulder, János Tóth, former parish priest of the Regnum Marianum Church
Budapest, 31 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Crowd around the Kossuth Statue in front of the Parliament building. Prime Minister Imre Nagy gave a speech at the monument
Budapest, 31 October 1956
©John Sadovy

Family moving out to escape from the fighting
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Freedom fighter burying his face in his palms in front of the house at 36 Üllői Avenue
Budapest, end of October 1956
©John Sadovy

Revolutionary border guards at the Hungarian–Austrian border
Hegyeshalom, 1 November 1956
©John Sadovy

Western correspondent interviewing people who have crossed the border
Nickelsdorf, 1 November 1956
©John Sadovy

Hungarian refugees at the fence of the refugee camp established in the former artillery cadet school
Traiskirchen, 1 November 1956
©John Sadovy


Texts of the exhibition written by: Katalin Bognár, István Simon
Selection of photographs: Katalin Bognár, Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson
Photographs digitally restored by: Tony Barrett
Maps: Béla Nagy
Lead photo design: Ákos Marosfalvi
Translation: Katalin Bognár, KFI Fordítóiroda
Virtual exhibition: Tamás Csippán, Rita Kovács, Erika Vidovenyecz
Coordinator: Annamária Szakács, Gergely Isó

RÓLUNK

A MuseuMap aggregációs szolgáltatásának kiterjesztése, ahol a műtárgyak történeteivel, virtuális kiállításokkal és térbeli tárgyrekonstrukciókkal a magyar kultúra kincsei elevenednek meg.

KAPCSOLAT

MNM OMMIK

1088 Budapest, Múzeum krt. 14-16.

ommik@mnm.hu

museumap@mnm.hu

LÉPJ KAPCSOLATBA VELÜNK!

Kiállítanál nálunk? Küldenél virtuális kiállítást? Írj nekünk, felvesszük veled a kapcsolatot.
Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, Copyright © 2020, Minden jog fenntartva!
×