Letter from Budapest, 1953

“Budapest is not much more than a rubble, although we can see how lovely it must have been – the palace and the Parliament building are mere shells and most of the bridges are new, but even so it is lovely.

“The contrast between Germany and Hungary is startling, Germany is in the throes of massive reconstruction and most of the towns we passed through looked prosperous.

Budapest in 1953
The Elisabeth bridge, blown up by the retreating German Army during the siege of Budapest in 1945. This photo was taken in 1953. (Photo: Fortepan)

Here, it all looks like Germany in ’46, bombed-out buildings, empty stores, very few cars, poorly-dressed people.

The people seem busy and cheerful, and are quite openly friendly and interested in Americans.”

These were the first impressions of Sarah Rogers, wife of newly arrived U.S. Legation second secretary Thomas Rogers in Budapest, in a letter written to her friends in Paris in August, 1953. The letter was opened by the AVO, and a copy was attached to the personal file of Rogers, who was initially serving as an economic officer in Budapest.

The Rogers couple, with their three daughters, arrived to Budapest on August 7, 1953. Although most American diplomats took their pregnant wives to Vienna for the delivery, their fourth daughter, Jane was born in Sportkórház in Budapest, in 1954. Later on Tom Rogers became political officer of the U.S. Legation on Budapest, witnessed the 1956 uprising, and rose to the rank of First Secretary of the Legation by the time of his departure in 1957.

At age 96, Tom is still alive and well. He is a fantastic person with an amazing family, and provided immense help for our research about the story of the U.S. Legation in Budapest. Sarah, whose letter we were quoting in the beginning of this post, sadly passed away a long long time ago. She was the one organizing the relief efforts for the bombed out Hungarian families after the revolution was crushed. We will definitely write more about her later.

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