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Plaque Honors Hero US General who Prevented Romanian Looting of National Museum

Ábrahám Vass 2019.10.18.

In the Hungarian National Museum’s garden, a commemorative plaque has been revealed in honor of General Harry Hill Bandholtz, who prevented the occupying Romanian soldiers from looting the building in 1919.

The years after World War I saw turbulent political battles in Hungary. In 1919, Budapest came under Romanian occupation, whose soldiers planned to seize Transylvania-related treasures from the Museum. This was thwarted by the American head of the Entente Military Mission in Hungary, General Harry Hill Bandholtz.

During the incident on October 5, 1919, he was reportedly “armed” only with a riding crop. Bandholtz locked the doors and secured the museum with a protective seal, eventually preventing the Romanian army from taking away items from the collection.

Image by MTI/Zoltán Máthé

Bandholtz also has a statue in Budapest’s Szabadság tér (Liberty Square) across from the US embassy. It was first placed there back in 1936, removed during Communism, then returned to its original place on July 6, 1989, a day before President George H. W. Bush’s historic visit to Budapest.

In addition to the plaque, the Museum is in possession of some of his belongings, including his aforementioned riding crop and a copy of his diary, which will be on display in the building’s rotunda until Sunday.

David B. Cornstein speaking. Image by MTI/Zoltán Máthé

At the ceremony, US ambassador to Hungary David B. Cornstein said that “as a commander of the US military mission, he did his job excellently during a difficult period.” He added that “history, however, should not only be remembered but also learned from. The First World War was followed by the Second, then Communism in Eastern Europe until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Shortly afterwards, Hungary joined NATO, in which now Hungarians, Germans, Romanians, and Americans all work together as allies.”

featured image via history.com