Commentary Culture

Budapest opens new area of nuclear shelter-turned hospital

The Hospital in the Rock, one of the Hungarian capital’s hidden treasures has now opened a previously closed section for visitors.

Construction of the hospital and reinforced shelter in the caverns below Buda Castle began in 1939 in preparation for World War II and the emergency surgical center and bunker was completed by 1944.

Inline image: Visitors at the opening of a previously closed section of the Hospital in the Rock under the Buda Castle in Budapest (MTI/Zsolt Szigetváry)

During the 1944 siege of Buda (the hilly part of the Hungarian capital on the right bank of the Danube) the hospital was in heavy use. While originally designed to treat 60 to 70 patients, at one point it was crammed with 600 wounded soldiers.

After WWII it was only used once, during the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising and was later repurposed as a nuclear bunker with a top secret classification and only staff of the nearby St John’s Hospital were allowed there under an oath of secrecy. Equipped with two diesel generators, an air filtration system and water supply from adjacent cisterns, it could provide shelter in case of a nuclear or chemical attack for 72 hours.

With the end of communism it fell into disuse and was later converted into a museum.

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