In January 2014 Memory Project founders Roz Jacobs and Laurie Weisman traveled to Budapest, Hungary to launch The Memory Project exhibit and workshops at the Hungarian Jewish Archives. To make the workshop more meaningful to the participants there, 16 Hungarian subjects were added to the Memory Project photo archives. They were selected by our partners at the Archives and the Zachor Foundation for Social Remembrance and include Jewish, homosexual and Roma victims of the Holocaust. We just received the translation of their stories from Hungarian into English so we could post them here. Take some time to look through the portraits created at the Hungarian Jewish Archives and click on the individual subjects to learn more about their stories. Check out some photos below of Roz and Laurie’s visit to Budapest and view more in the photo gallery.
See photos of the poignant memorial erected in 2005 to honor the memory of 20,000 Hungarian Jews who were marched in the dead of winter to the banks of the Danube River in Budapest where they were shot—their bodies to be carried away by the river. Because shoes were valuable in wartime, the victims were told to remove their shoes before being murdered. The memorial, called “The Shoes on the Danube Promenade” consists of 60 pairs of shoes sculpted in bronze lining the riverbank. It was conceived by film director Can Togay, and created by him and the sculptor Gyula Pauer. Some are women’s shoes, some are children’s. Some are worn worker’s shoes. Some are elegant. It’s a very effective and beautiful memorial. We cried, as did the other visitors who were quietly looking at the site. But what we found disturbing is that while the memorial is magnificent, the only signs at the site read: “To the memory of victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-45.” There is no further explanation. No way for a visitor to know that those victims were Jewish.
It is still not easy to be a Jew in Hungary. We felt that strongly from the people who came to The Memory Project exhibit. The exhibit always provokes emotions, but theirs seemed more intense. András Heisler, the head of the Jewish community in Hungary gave a moving speech at the opening. He said this exhibit is a critical contribution to telling the human story of what happened to the Hungarian Jews in the Holocaust—a story that the current Hungarian government is trying to suppress.
The rebirth of Jewish culture in Hungary honors the memory of those who fought, those who lost their lives, and those who survived. Yad Vashem provides excellent resources on Hungarian Jewish life for those interested in learning more about the community prior to, during, and after World War II. And this is a good article about “The Shoes on the Danube Promenade.”