Religious and political leaders on Friday marked the memorial day of the Hungarian victims of the Holocaust, emphasising the importance of control over power and resilience.
Addressing a small gathering in the garden of the synagogue in Budapest’s Dohány Street, András Heisler, head of the federation of Hungarian Jewish communities (Mazsihisz), said the main “lesson” of the Holocaust was that power must never “be trusted unconditionally”, and must always be held in check.
Heisler called it a “special tragedy” that 430,000 people “could be transferred into wagons without any substantial resistance.”
The dispossessed, humiliated Jews acknowledged the decision of the authorities and boarded the wagons in the belief they are being taken to work abroad, he said. If power is not held under control, “the risk of tragedies grows like weed on the meadow,” he said.
Chief Rabbi Róbert Fröhlich said that those remembering the Holocaust on this day do so without concrete memories of the people and events of the age. “What connects all of us here is that we are Jews,” he said.
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony spoke in a video posted on Facebook, at a virtual inauguration of a memorial.
The inauguration of “Saviour of People”, by Zénó Kelemen, was originally planned for the March of the Living on April 25 but has been reorganised due to the coronavirus epidemic.
In the video posted on Facebook, Karácsony said “the Holocaust casts a long, dark shadow over our entire civilisation, but our civilisation has to live on, with all the weight and consequences of what happened.”
Even during a destructive pandemic, the memory of the victims has to be kept alive, and the memory of those who “did not watch idly as fellow humans were cruelly sent to their death in the name of a mad ideology,” he said.
“At the time, there lived several hundreds of true people in Budapest who risked their lives to help their Jewish brethren without hesitation, often reviewing their backgrounds, education and earlier ways of thinking in the process,” Karácsony said.
Parliament declared April 16 the memorial day of the Hungarian victims of the Holocaust in 2001, marking the anniversary when Hungarian Jews were first locked into ghettos in 1944.