This is across the street from my Hotel in Budapest.
Like all such monuments it saddens me. This is the primary quote: “To the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence.”
The fact that I am reading William Spanos’ In the Neighborhood of Zero likely amplifies my reaction. Spanos’ memoir of his time as a GI whose first day deployed in the active theater was 14 Dec 1944, two days prior to the German assault that would setup The Battle of the Bulge, and earn him a stay as a POW, is marred by hyperbolic prose, but nonetheless interesting. It turns out that Spanos did his time in Dresden, and thus was in the zero zone when the Allies bombed Dresden. He obviously survived, and despite its flaws, any eyewitness account of that event “on the ground” merits attention.
Last fall I contributed a post to Political Violence @ a Glance I titled “It’s All Been Said Before,” which was an attempt on my part to observe the catalog of prose, film, and music that counters the propaganda of the Heroes Squares of the world. Spanos tells of one evening when he sat by himself trying to remember the words to Wilfred Owen’s 1918 poem Dulce et decorum est, his retort to the line Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (“It is sweet and right to die for your country”) from Horace‘s Odes (III.2.13). You may read the entire poem at the link in the preceding sentence. This is the portion that Spanos was struggling to recall as he waited for sleep to overtake him in that German POW camp in 1944.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs…
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.