Hungarian Uprising by Mario De Biasi, 1956

The Hungarian Uprising of 1956 began as a student cafe movement from small peaceful gatherings in Pest. They quickly attracted a thousands of citizens and transformed into a protest march towards the Parliament. Things escalated as protestors at the Hungarian radio headquarters was arrested, and soon protesters would attack a statue of Stalin headquarters of AVH — the much hated secret police — and marched their erstwhile oppressors out and executed them at point blank range.

As a self-taught photographer who joined the editorial team of Italian news weekly Epoca (equivalent to LIFE magazine) in 1953, Mario De Biasi was dispatched to Budapest. He was there for only two days (23rd and 24th October) but he would record intense and raw photographs of the revolt, from the entry of the Soviet tanks to snipers firing on unarmed demonstrators, leaving 800-1000 dead on the Kossuth Square. Among his photos was the memorable sequence of an enraged crowd attacking the corpse of a security police officer, bound and hanged from a tree, kicked and stabbed — a lynching that was a testament to the brutality of those days.

His photos were published in Epoca across two issues and then reprinted in 19 other foreign publications. In 1966, on the 10th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolt, Epoca once again had a Di Biasi picture with the headline “The boys of Budapest” on its cover. “As long as the Homeland and Liberty have a place in the hearts of men, the heroism of the Hungarian people will be honoured,” the cover read next to the image of Gábor Deák, a fifteen-year-old who face became a symbol of the resistance against Soviet oppression.

The 11 November 1956 issue of the Epoca included an account by journalist Massimo Mauri of the way De Biasi sneaked through bullets during the siege of the Communist Party headquarters at Köztársaság tér (Republic Square), to take some of the most impressive shots of the battle. De Biasi was slightly wounded in the shoulder during the action.

De Biasi was one of a handful of foreign reporters on the ground, along side John Sadovy, Erich Lessing, Jean-Pierre Pedrazinni of Paris Match (who would be shot and killed), and Jack Easten of Picture Post. Like De Biasi, Sadovy would be wounded, and both men’s photos became part of propaganda campaigns to denouce the violence of the revolution in White Book, the official Communist version of the events of 1956.

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