Sue Williams said that Budapest is one of the world’s saddest sights taking into consideration the many Jews who were killed here during the horrible days of WWII. But she added that the old Jewish quarter of the town, once so deserted, is now one of the hippest bohemian areas of the city, full of smart cafes, restaurants, boutiques, street art, and bars.
Stuff.co.nz’s article starts with the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial, a powerful place to one of the most despicable events of Word War II, when members of the Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross Party ordered many thousands of their Jewish countrymen to take off their shoes before shooting them dead, leaving their bodies to crumble into the river. “They come in all shapes and sizes, from workers’ boots to smart businessmen’s shoes, from dainty court high heels to a pair of children’s tiny lace-ups, today filled with a tangle of bright yellow buttercups,” the New Zealand author writes. More than half of Budapest’s Jewish population perished in the Holocaust.
She then mentions the
heroes who helped even in times of great danger.
There is Carl Lutz, the Swiss vice-consul who saved an estimated 60,000 Hungarian Jews, by issuing them with documents to allow them to emigrate, and hiding others in protected houses for which he claimed diplomatic immunity. “Whoever saves a life is considered to have saved an entire world,” the bronze sculpture commemorating his actions says.
And there is the Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, who saved about 20,000 Jews by issuing Swedish passports and sheltering them in safe houses. He once stopped a train on its way to Auschwitz to hand out passports, under Nazi fire, through the windows.
Sue Williams writes about the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park as well, where the Emanuel Tree, a weeping willow sculpture with the names of 30,000 Holocaust victims inscribed on the metal leaves, was
commissioned by Hollywood film star Tony Curtis
whose father, Emanuel Schwarz, was a Hungarian Jew.
She continues with other amazing Jewish sights in Budapest like the second-largest synagogue in the world outside of New York, the magnificent yellow-and-red-striped Grand Synagogue built in 1859 (on our featured image), with both Romantic and Moorish architecture and, unusually, an organ. Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt himself played at its opening ceremony.
But apart from sadness and grandeur,
there is also fun.
By the souvenir sellers, one can find T-shirts with a basketball player emblazoned on the front with a variation on the Nike slogan, Just Jew It, with the name Michael Jewdan instead of Jordan. Another favourite of hers was a picture of Moses, holding a stone inscribed with the 10 commandments, with a caption that he was the first to download wisdom on his tablet.
The once deserted Jewish quarter is reborn, and today, it is one of the hippest bohemian areas of the city, full of smart cafes, restaurants, boutiques, street art, and bars, she concludes.