The United Hungarian Jewish Community (EMIH) on Monday held a commemoration at the The Shoes on the Danube Bank Holocaust memorial on the occasion of the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Budapest ghetto.
Slomó Köves, EMIH’s chief rabbi, said they were commemorating the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian victims who died during the Holocaust “for what they were, not for what they did”.
He said remembrance must be turned into action. Jewish teaching, he added, held that accepting love without rationalising it was the surest way to vanquish meaningless, unreasonable hatred.
Oberlander Baruch, head of the Orthodox Rabbinate of Budapest, recalled that his father — who had survived the period of deportations in Budapest thanks to hiding and fake papers — was then forced to watch as Jewish children, women and men were shot into the Danube. Though he had escaped, this terrible memory stayed with him for the rest of his life, he said.
At the www.emlekezes77.hu website, videos of interviews with Holocaust survivors and their rescuers can be watched every hour for 77 hours.
The decree marking the boundaries of Budapest’s “large” ghetto was published on November 29, 1944,
and the area containing Dohány Street, Nagyatádi Szabó (today Kertész) Street, Király Street, Csányi Street, Rumbach Sebestyén Street, Madách Imre Street, Madách Imre Square and Károly Boulevard was sealed on December 10.
Initially 40,000 people forced to wear the yellow star were relocated to the ghetto’s 4,513 apartments, but numbers grew rapidly, reaching 70-80,000 by the start of the following year.
In spite of the efforts of the Red Cross, most received only 700-800 calories a day, and at the end of December, the situation deteriorated further during the Soviet siege. People died in large numbers, with 80-120 dead taken away each day.
When the ghetto was liberated on January 18, 1945, more than 3,000 dead bodies were found on Klauzál Square alone.