The 6th of October is a sorrowful day for Hungarians. In 1849, the thirteen generals of the revolution were executed in Arad and Count Lajos Batthyány, the first Hungarian prime minister was executed in Pest. The 6th of October is the day of the 13 Martyrs of Arad, a national day of bereavement.
The revolution of 1848-1849 is a determinative event in the Hungarian history, one of the bases of the national identity. The nation fought for civil rights with their social reforms to be independent from the Austrian Empire ruled by the Habsburg dynasty. In the end, only the joint army of Russian and Austrian forces could defeat the Hungarians.
The Habsburg reprisal started not long before the Hungarian surrender at Világos (13th of August, 1849). Franz Joseph I. appointed Julius Jacob von Haynau, the leader of the Austrian army, to restore the order in Hungary and start the manhunt of the supporters of the rebellion. His soldiers called him the “Habsburg Tiger”, others knew him as the “Hyena of Brescia” and later the “Hangman of Arad”. He was known for his brutality; he wanted the reprisal to be exemplary.
“… the biggest rigidity with the ones guilty of indiscretion. Heads need to be executed, like the seed box when you ride over them.” wrote Franz Josef in his command to Haynau.
The height of the reprisal was the execution of the 13 Martyrs of Arad and Count Lajos Batthyány. Hanyau purposely chose the 6th of October for the date, which was the anniversary of the Revolution of Vienna; thus making it clear that the aim of the proceedings was revenge, not justice.
On account of Haynau’s will, a bullet was put through the head of 4 generals (Lázár, Dessewffy, Kiss, Schweidel) and the other 9 generals were hung (Poeltenberg, Török, Láhner, Knezic, Nagysándor, Count Leiningen-Westerburg, Aulich, Damjanich, Vécsey). According to witnesses, the martyrs stood there bravely… waiting for their death.
“I’ve served and served, always served. I’m going to serve with my death as well. My beloved Hungarian nation and home, I know you understand this service.” These were the last words of Lajos Aulich, one of the martyrs.
The reprisal didn’t only shock Hungary but triggered protest all over Europe. Franz Josef I. and Haynau wanted to deter and punish the aspiration for independence.
Out of the many victims we commemorate these 14 gentlemen who paid with their lives for doing what they believed was right and fought for it immovably.
Written by Alexandra Béni
Source: Daily News Hungary