The Westernmost Hungarian High School

In terms of education, the 1956 Revolution did much more than just close the schools during the days of fighting or result in teachers who didn’t get along with the system losing their jobs. Another outcome was the establishment of the Burg Kastl German-Hungarian Bilingual Gymnasium, the “westernmost Hungarian high school”, in the town of Kastl in Bavaria. Another detail that can’t go unmentioned is that many Hungarians had already left Hungary after 1945 ahead of the communists, therefore two Hungarian schools had already opened earlier in Passau-Waldwerke, Austria and Bauschlott, Germany. Following the defeat of the revolution, refugee parents first knocked on the doors of the school in Bauschlott so that their kids could continue their educations, but frequently it was the teenagers themselves who had escaped on their own who wanted to go back to school.

According to them, their paths across the border into Austria and freedom were always adventurous, and usually only successful at night. They also had a surefire method for sneaking across the border: by tying a flashlight to a flexible post in the dark that would be a distraction. The flashlight would confuse the Hungarian border guards, who would open fire upon the lights, thus giving the refugees time to get far away and cross over to freedom. Owing to the large number of people arriving over the border, space was soon very limited in the schools. Let’s not forget that tens of thousands of refugees had arrived in West Germany alone following the Soviet invasion. Consequently, the Hungarian school in Kastl was founded in 1958 with significant West German support.

The high school always seemed to be short on money, despite receiving lots of support from the German Catholic Bishops Conference and the Bavarian provincial leadership, who provided moral and financial support to the Hungarian refugee kids and teenagers. One area that was always problematic was that the parents were frequently late with their payments, since they weren’t exactly in a position to pay tuition or boarding costs. Despite these difficulties, the school also saw important moments, such as June 15, 1972, when Cardinal József Mindszenty (who himself had earlier been imprisoned by the communists) visited the school. Additionally, the school had a library, sports team, scout troop, choir, orchestra and folk dance group. The school’s folk group would go on many fundraising tours around Europe to support the school through their performances.

The school was open until 2006 due to the combined support of the Catholic Diocese of Eichstätt, the German Federal State of Bavaria and the Hungarian government. Ironically enough, the decision to close the Kastl Gymnasium for financial reasons was made by the Hungarian government led by the Hungarian Socialist Party, who are the successors to the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, which was Hungary’s communist party after 1956.  The school was open for 48 years and will forever live on in the memories of the teachers and students who attended. An international reunion is held each year with alumni attending from around the world, where the good times and fond memories gained over the years are re-lived.

Bencs Csatári