Workers moved early Sunday morning to complete a World War II memorial that for months had been a focus of controversy.
At approximately 1:00 a.m. trucks reportedly brought in the remaining pieces of the monument, which sits in Budapest’s Szabadság tér (“Freedom Square”), and is designed to memorialize the 1944 German occupation of Hungary. Since the government announced its intention to install the monument it has been the object of fierce criticism – and regular demonstrations – from those who say it aims to whitewash the role of the Hungarian state and individuals in the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
According to portal Index.hu, 100 police officers converged on the square at around midnight and secured the site while the statues that stand at the center of the monument were “smuggled” in. Photos of the final pieces being trucked in were published by an anonymous Tumblr user some hours later (left in top image).
As of noon Sunday, a large crowd was gathered around the monument, which was being protected by a metal fence and dozens of policemen.
The sudden move to finish the memorial came hours after a Budapest court made a final ruling against a legal attempt to call a referendum on the memorial.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Pál Steiner, the former Socialist mayor of Budapest’s District V – where the monument sits – was thrown out on the grounds that the government had decreed the memorial a project of crucial economic importance to the country. Steiner called the decision “shocking.”
At their Saturday congress the Socialists adopted a declaration calling on the government to stop construction of the monument, which it said “divides and offends Hungarian people,” and commended the demonstrators who for more than three months picketed the construction site.