The Memorial Day of October 6th is coming up, but does everyone know what we are commemorating on this day? One hundred seventy-three years ago, in 1849, twelve generals and a colonel of the Hungarian army were brutally executed in Arad to send a message to the Hungarians: they cannot rebel against the Austrian Empire. After heroically fighting for about a year, to keep the Parliamentary government of Hungary, most of them saw their end in a very humiliating way; they were hanged on a gibbet. On the very same day earl Lajos Batthyány, the first Prime Minister of Hungary, was killed in Pest as well.
The reason for this brutality, ordered by Julius Jacob von Haynau, allowed by the Emperor himself, was the Hungarian rebellion, which started in 1848 on March 15th. As the revolutionary wave of 1848 arrived in Hungary, Lajos Kossuth demanded to set up a Parliamentary government in Hungary. On March 15th, the youth of Budapest went out to the streets to demonstrate their demands. As they were marching from one place to another, the crowd grew and, in a few days, the whole country supported them.
The Austrian Empire decided to step in only in September when they sent an army to redintegrate the governing system to their favour. About a year later, on August 13th, at Világos, Artúr Görgey surrendered to the Russians, who handed over the army to the Austrians.
On October 6th, the twelve generals and the colonel were lined up early in the morning for execution.
Haynau was “merciful” enough to let four of them being killed by bullets. Twelve soldiers stood up in front of them and started the volley. Vilmos Lázár, the colonel, Arisztid Dessewffy and József Schweidel generals died instantly. General Ernő Kiss got shot only in the shoulder, so three soldiers stood next to him and shot him in the head. The rest of the thirteen were killed by the rope, which was considered to be very humiliating death for soldiers. The news of the execution shocked everyone. It started a wave of protest, and Haynau needed to be removed from his position. Even the Russian Czar, who was an ally and also a far relative of Franz Joseph I of Austria highlighted his dislike of the way the executions were carried out.
This part of the history is well remembered by Hungarians from their school years, but there are some less known facts about the Martyrs of Arad.
For example, there were sixteen of them. Three other officers of the army were hanged in Arad on different dates. The 16th of them was not hanged until 1850. Another person who is often forgotten, is János Lenkey, major general, who died in the prison of Arad. He was not executed because he went insane during his captivity, so Haynau decided to let him die in prison. Another interesting fact that people do not know is that the Martyrs were not all Hungarians. It is easy to find out that some of them had German origin if one looks at their names. One of them, Lajos Aulich, was born in Pozsony (today Bratislava), had German roots, and never knew Hungarian language. Two of them were Armenians, and two others were Slavic. Although they did not have Hungarian origins, they were ready to die for the cause of the Hungarian Rebellion.
There are several monuments remembering them. There is a memorial the Memorial Park in Arad and also at the place of their execution. Several big cities have streets named in their memory, and their bust is standing in the yard of the Museum of Military History of Budapest.
All in all, it is important to remember and honour those who were killed with such brutality and in dishonour, only for fighting for their country, their homeland, Hungary.
Their death, however, was not pointless; the way their execution was carried out opened many eyes in the Austrian Empire and Europe as well.
After a slow consolidation, in 1867, Franz Joseph I was crowned to be the King.
Written by Eliána Szabó
Source: szeretlekmagyarorszag, wiki