Today morning on Budapest’s Kossuth square in front of the Parliament building, the Hungarian national flag has been lowered with military honours in the presence of diplomatic guest and country officials, including President of the Republic János Áder and General-In-Chief of the Hungarian armed forced Tibor Benkő. On this sad autumn day Hungarian communities across the Carpathian basin and the world commemorate the thirteen martyr generals of Arad and the country’s first Prime Minister, who were all executed in 1849 as a result of the brutal reprisals that followed Hungary’s revolution and fight for independence in 1848/1849.
The generals were captured by the Austrian army and executed to make sure that Hungary will never again rebel against the Habsburg realm. The executions were ordered by Austrian general Julius Jacob von Haynau after forces of the Habsburg Empire and Imperial Russia re-established Habsburg rule in Hungary. The 13 executed generals have come to regarded as martyrs for promoting the ideals of independence and national freedom. Not all the generals were ethnic Hungarians; as their names show, many of them had German or Slavic roots: Károly Leiningen-Westerburg, János Damjanich, Ignác Török, Lajos Aulich, Károly Vécsey, Vilmos Lázár, Arisztid Dessewffy, József Nagy-Sándor, Károly Knézich, József Schweidel, Ernő Kiss, György Láhner and Ernő Poeltenberg.
On the same symbolic day, exactly one year after the revolution of Vienna broke out, Count Lajos Batthyány (1806–1849), the first Hungarian prime minister, was also executed in Pest in an Austrian military garrison. It was also Haynau who sentenced the first Hungarian prime minister to death. According to the contemporary reports, Lajos Batthyány knelt in front of the firing squad and shouted just before he was executed: “Long live my country! Come on, huntsmen!” The 6th of October was officially declared the “Day of National Mourning” by the Hungarian government in 2001.