Wednesday, November 9, 2016

182. A Sad time in Budapest

At a point in front of the magnificent Parliament Building on the embankment of the Danube River is an extremely moving memorial to the victims of the Holocaust atrocities ...

Created by sculptors Gyula Pauer and Can Togay are 60 pairs of rusted period shoes cast out of iron. Different sizes and styles reflect how nobody was spared from the brutality of the Arrow Cross militia ( the shoes depict children, women, businessmen, sportsmen etc. ).


The Arrow Cross Party was a national socialist party ( led by Ferenc Szálasi ) founded in 1935 and held government in Hungary known as the Government of National Unity from 15 October 1944 to 28 March 1945. The party was said to be modeled fairly explicitly on the Nazi Party of Germany - extolling extreme nationalism, the promotion of agriculture, anti-capitalism, anticommunism and militant anti-Semitism.

The Arrow Cross subscribed to the Nazi ideology of "master races" which, in the party’s view included the Hungarians and Germans, and also supported the concept of an order based on the power of the strongest – it was pro-Catholic and its antisemitism had its origins in the traditional anti-Semitism of the Catholic church.

During its short rule, ten to fifteen thousand civilians ( many of whom were Jews, or Romani ) were murdered outright, and 80,000 people were deported from Hungary to camps in Austria. 

In the harsh winter of 1944/45 victims were rounded up from the Jewish ghetto by the ruling Arrow Cross Party for Jewish activities and marched to the river's edge. Here they were forced to strip naked and face the river; a firing squad then shot the prisoners at close range in the back so that they fell into the river to be washed away.  

These powerful images show the shoe laces untied,. depicting the fact that as well as stripping naked, the victims had to take off their shoes since shoes were considered valuable belongings at the time. 

Between 20% and 40% of Greater Budapest's 250,000 Jewish inhabitants died through Nazi and Arrow Cross Party, during the Germany occupation of Hungary, from 1944 to early 1945.

Behind the sculpture lies a 40 meter long, 70 cm high stone bench where at three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: "To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005"

During a visit to the shoes memorial you may see relatives lay flowers, wreathes or light candles to honour the fallen who have given their lives ...

I consider this memorial to be one of the most moving and poignant cenotaphs that I have ever come across ... and being in the presence of these shoes was a stark reminder, not only of the senseless atrocities of the past - but also of the atrocities that continue to be committed in the name of race, religion and other accidents of birth.