Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

This pair of railway bridges is at Biatorbágy, just west of Budapest, on the Vienna-Budapest mainline. This bridge has a story that is the Hungarian parallel to the Kennedy assassination - except there certainly was a conspiracy of some sort.

On the 12th September 1931, at late night, the rails were blown up in front of the Orient Express as it crossed the bridge - the train fell into the abyss, 23 dead.

The culprit was Sylvester Matuschka (or, with Hungarian spelling, Szilveszter Matuska - he was a typical multilingual, multi-identity subject of the Habsburg monarchy), a mine owner then with residence in Vienna, who served in a railway sabotage unit in Hungary during WWI - i.e., plenty of explosives experience. He mingled among the injured passengers, and boarded a train home unharrassed - but in Vienna he was arrested: Austrian police was already looking for him, in connection with two previous derailing attacks which were his 'exercises' for the big one (the last day of 1930 at Anzbach near Vienna, and August 1931 between Jüterbog and Kloster Zinna near Berlin).

And from here it gets strange. In Hungary, the government announced the state of emergency, and implemented a pre-planned crack-down on the communists (helped by the fact that Matuschka - or, in more tinfoil-hat versions, police conspirators - left behind misleading anonymous letters praising a 'revolution'). They held a communist suspect, and even while the trial of the real culprit went on in Austria, executed the two leaders of the communist party as the brains behind that communist. Eyewitnesses were listened to only in a second trial.

There are speculations based on some pecularities that Matuschka had cover from the authorities and was allowed to escape - at any rate, he was the member of a far-right ex-officers' association. Likewise, from the right-wing press of the time, new theories were spun forth that Matuschka was a super-secret communist agent, planted by the Soviets into a right-wing background years earlier (a bit incoherent: if so, why leave letters behind that make the communist motivation explicit?...).

In the trial itself, Matuschka behaved in a very eccentric way, and after originally confessing to the crime, he even began to blame an imaginary friend. The expert conclusion then and now was that he was not insane, he was acting over-the-top. In the end he got life inprisonment - and things get even more mysterious at this point.

Matuschka disappeared during WWII. There are two versions of what happened to him - and both with documentary evidence and testimonies! One has him staying in prison until the Russians came, when he'd welcome the soldiers as the last inmate, then disappears. But the other has him offering his bombing expertise to the army in November 1942, when the Russians began to push back the fascist invaders - and disappearing or getting killed on the Eastern Front two years later. At any rate, some people claim that they met him in the seventies when he re-visited Hungary, of course under false name - while others speculate that he was taken by the Russians and made to work for them.

The viaduct itself was disused two-three decades ago, when the railway line was realigned - but in 1982, they were used in a spectacular re-creation of the trainwreck for the US-West German-Hungarian movie The Train Killer (Der Fall MatuschkaViadukt), starring Michael Sarrazin.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 04:25:25 AM EST


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