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Tyranny’s new trick

Hungary’s government is at war with liberalism
The House of Terror, located in the former secret police HQ, is dedicated to Hungary’s struggles under Nazism and Communism

The House of Terror in Budapest is one of the most carefully contrived museums I have visited. It uses music, props and video—all the modern curatorial tricks—to recreate the rule of the Nazis and Communists. In a final stunt, a lift inches tourists down to the gallows in the basement, as if guards were pushing our resisting bodies towards the hangman. The House of Terror is manipulative. But ignorant foreigners can console themselves with the thought that it is manipulating in a good cause.

The museum is in the old secret police headquarters on Andrássy, a grand fin de siècle boulevard that runs from the centre of Budapest to the magnificent Szechenyi baths. The Arrow Cross, the Hungarian Nazis, used it from October 1944 until March 1945, as it organised mass murder on an extraordinary scale. (Just under half of the Jews killed at Auschwitz were Hungarians.) Stalin’s armies invaded, and 60 Andrássy became the headquarters of the Hungarian Communist Party’s secret police—the place where opponents real and imagined came to suffer and die. The notion that what unites far-left and far-right is more important than what divides them, remains controversial. The record in Hungary shows they shared the same taste in torture chambers.

In the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, a cheerful consensus prevailed. After experiencing Fascism and Communism, Hungary and Europe had one option left. They could, indeed they must, embrace human rights, a free press, the protection of minorities, and the rule of law, and become “normal countries.” For that was a time when liberal democracy was thought to be “normal,” and dictatorships were condemned to live in museums.

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In Prospect’s December issue: Adam Posen, Diane Coyle and Nicolas Véron examine the state of Britain’s economy with Brexit looming and suggest that with a large part of the City looking to move and with productivity remaining low the outlook is firmly negative. Posen suggests that the only thing capable of disciplining the Brexit economy is the reality that things are going to be worse. Coyle suggest that although Brexit will hamper Britain’s productivity, the problem is long-term. Véron argues that more than a tenth of the City’s business will disappear due to Brexit—a significant slice that will be difficult to cover off. Elsewhere in the issue: Steve Bloomfield uncovers what is going on at Dfid, the struggling government department that recently lost its Secretary of State. Nick Cohen looks at the rise of the Strong Man is Eastern Europe as Viktor Orbán clamps down on society and Lizzie Porter reports from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, a region plagued by war and political instability.