I am not a good student of history but during my travels I learn more about the world and its past horrors. Hungary has its own share of sadness and this is evident in every corner of the capital city.
One of the most poignant memorials to World War Two and the price that Hungarian Jews payed is a series of 60 pairs of bronze cast shoes along the bank of the Danube. From formal work brogues to tiny children’s shoes, they stretch out along the river.
Conceived by film director Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer the installation commemorates the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest.
They were ordered to take off their shoes, line up and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were washed away.
Later on we visit the Jewish Ghetto area of Budapest and see another memorial to Jewish families who perished.
Next to the Central Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagóga) is the Weeping Willow Memorial in the Synagogue’s garden of remembrance.
Designed by Imre Varga, each of the weeping willow’s leaves bears the names of some of the 600,000 Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
Made of silver and stainless steel it echoes the shape of an upside down Menorah – the seven armed candelabra that is the symbol of Judaism.
It seems that the legacy, controversy and misrepresentations of the truth of what happened to the Hungarian Jews, lives on, with protesters decrying a new memorial that is currently being built.
The Freedom Square monument will pay tribute to “all Hungarian victims with the erection of the monument commemorating the tragic German occupation and the memorial year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust,” according to the Hungarian Government Information Center.
However Jewish organizations and historians say the new memorial absolves Hungarians of their active role in carrying out the deportations of Jews to Nazi death camps.
Protestors have set up their own shrines to lost loves ones, with personal items such as photographs, shoes and clothes, in front of the new memorial site. These are constantly removed only for them to be rebuilt.
Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished during the Holocaust, almost all after the German occupation began on March 19, 1944.