When the Soviets Shelled the House of a U.S. Diplomat

1956 revoltuion communism private tours buapest guided tour
Badly damaged American building in Budapest after the Soviets crushed the 1956 Hungarian revolution. U.S. diplomat Anton Nyerges lived there at the time. (Photo: Fortepan)

Ruins of the Castle District after the final Soviet attack on the freedom fighters in 1956. The badly damaged building on the left was U.S. property and at the time belonged to Anton Nyerges, the Press Attache of the U.S. Legation.

Already after the first day of heavy fighting, Nyerges found almost all his shirts in the wardrobe sprayed with bullet holes from 12.7mm heavy machine gun fire; later the building was hit buy some grenades as well. The damage was so huge that according Anton Nyerges, it was impossible to distinguish one room from the other. Nyerges, as most of the American diplomats, survived the siege in the main Legation building in Szabadság tér.

In a letter to Soviet Ambassador Yuri Andropov, Spencer Barnes, the Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. diplomatic mission later demanded the Russians to pay for the cost of the renovation of the building. In his reply Andropov stated that in the absence of “concrete facts”, he is “unfortunately unable to orient [himself] on this subject”. However, he didn’t miss to lecture Barnes that the Soviet troops were neither “occupation” or “invasion” forces – they were in Budapest “at the request of the legal Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government of Hungary to aid the Hungarian people in liquidating a counter-revolutionary fascist revolt and restoring order“.

The Soviet military command later refused the American demand for compensation on the basis that there was no American flag flying on Anton Nyerges’ apartment building, so they had no way of knowing it was under diplomatic protection. They did offer some compensation for the repairs of another badly damaged American building in the Castle district – the former Táncsics prison – because that building was hit despite the American flag on display.

I must say that this particular building on the photo has a much richer, more sinister history than this. It is one of the heaviest stop on our “Spies and Masters” Cold War walking tour. Come and see it for yourself. Book now!

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