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Hungarian Staff Sergeant receives prestigious decoration

Text: Márton Mészáros Navarrai | Photo: Szebáld Szakál |  16:54 December 11, 2023

On Friday, 8 December, at the Embassy of Germany in Budapest, the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) awarded the bronze grade of the Cross of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ferenc Czirók, Deputy Head of Catering Services, HDF Recreation, Training and Conference Center.

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In the year of the 78th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Germany’s Ambassador to Budapest Julia Gross presented the bronze grade of the Cross of Honor awarded by the German War Graves Commission to Staff Sergeant Ference Czirók and to former civil employee László Kálmán, in recognition of their contributions to worthily preserving the memory of those who died in the Second World War.

At the ceremony, it was said that being motivated by family reasons and following the elders’ guidance, Staff Sergeant Ferenc Czirók had started searching for sites with anecdotical evidence of military graves on them. In 2009, he came into contact with the German War Graves Commission, and since then, they have been regularly cooperating every year. Speaking at the ceremony, Imre Kovács, the Hungarian agent of the German War Graves Commission founded in 1919 – who had served with the Hungarian Defence Forces for 40 years – recalled that Germany and Hungary signed an agreement on war graves on 16 November 1993.

With the signing of this agreement, a legal framework ensures the establishment of and caring for the worthy resting places of the war dead in the area of Hungary, where some 53,000 German soldiers were killed in action or went missing without a trace during the Second World War.

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“The expert staff members of the Commission take care of German military cemeteries with the involvement of soldiers of the German Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr). However, the enthusiastic and committed supporters’ work is also continuously needed for the exhumation of the soldiers’ scattered graves and for the maintenance of the cemeteries”, Staff Sergeant Ferenc Czirók said. He told us that he had been recommended for the decoration in the summer, but would not have thought that he would receive the recognition.

“Having been awarded with a tangible recognition for my intention and work after all this time was a chatarsis-like experience. It was especially so, given that the excavation and mapping of areas with WWII soldiers possibly buried in them is a highly complex task, and even a work of diligence. I consider it important that those soldiers, too, can receive the final respects whose relatives have already been waiting for information about their whereabouts for more than 70 years. This is what motivates me, too, since many in my ancestry fell in the Don Bend or died in POW camps, and in our family, we did not know much about the burial sites of several of them either” – he said.

The other recipient of the recognition, László Kálmán already came to know about war grave care in his high school years, since his form teacher was searching for the graves of Hungarian soldiers who had fallen at Isonzo during the First World War. Back then, he himself was not present on the site in person, but actively participated in data collection and assessment, and already for 27 years now, he has been searching in Rábaköz for the gravesites of soldiers who had died in the Second World War.

Also present at the event were Dr. Andor Bíró, Director of the War Grave Care and Heroes’ Cult Directorate, MoD Military History Institute and Museum, as well as the representatives of Germany’s embassy in Budapest and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.