Buda Castle is the crown jewel of Budapest, Hungary, and was the traditional home of Hungarian kings. The castle sits on top of a six-mile series of caves that have quite a history. During World War II, the caves were used as air-raid shelters and an underground hospital was installed. It was called Sziklakorhaz, or The Hospital in the Rock.
At the start of World War II, the location served as a single-room air raid center, but operating theaters, corridors, and wards were quickly added to create a much-needed hospital. By early 1944, the hospital had officially opened inside the cave, tending to wounded Hungarian and Nazi soldiers. After less than a year of operation, the facility found itself facing its largest challenge—the Siege of Budapest, which lasted seven weeks and was eventually won by Allied forces on their way to Berlin.
As one of the few area hospitals still operational, the Hospital in the Rock was well over capacity during the siege. Originally built to treat around 70 patients, close to 700 ended up crammed into the claustrophobic caves. The wounded lay three to a bed—if they were lucky enough to get a bed at all. Unsurprisingly, heat from all those bodies raised the ambient temperature to around 95°F, and smoking cigarettes was the number one way to pass the time. Add that to the putrid mix of death, decay, and infection and you’ve got an incredibly unpleasant wartime cocktail.
Hungary fell under Soviet control after the war, and the Hospital in the Rock was designated top secret. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but the top secret designation was not removed from the hospital until just a few years ago. Now we know what happened during that time. Read about the secret history of the Hospital in the Rock at Mental Floss.
(Image credit: Globetrotter19)