Symbolism in Stone: An Analysis of the 2014 Szabadság Tér Monument and the Manipulation of Memory
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This thesis critically analyses the 2014 neo-classical Szabadság Tér statue in Budapest, Hungary, and argues that its intended function is that of manipulating its audience into adopting a myth of the German occupation of Hungary during the Second World War. Erected overnight, the Szabadság Tér monument purports to be a memorial to all victims of the German occupation of Hungary, however, a growing number of individuals in Budapest have protested against the monument’s misrepresentation of this harrowing chapter of Hungarian history. By conducting a thorough semiotic analysis of the statue’s symbolic features alongside an explanation as to how such symbolic features have the power to mislead those who behold them, this thesis considers the manner in which the Szabadság Tér statue, and the connotations attached to its symbolic features, exercises the power to reshape the interpretations individuals have of the past. Through the symbolic juxtaposition of Hungary and Nazi Germany alongside culturally recognised semiotic features, the Szabadság Tér monument presents a mythical version of the German occupation of Hungary, one where Hungary is seen as a blameless victim and Nazi Germany an aggressive predator. In coercing Hungarians into appropriating this historically inaccurate myth, the Hungarian state likely seeks to alleviate much of its own culpability for the events of the Hungarian Holocaust, and in turn lay culpability with Germany and the Nazi regime. This thesis will consider the Szabadság Tér monument a medium by which the Hungarian government seeks to impose an altered account of history upon the statue’s audience, with the doctoring of historical awareness regarding the German occupation of Hungary as its primary function.