Jewish Budapest

After our free Budapest Walking Tour, we decided we wanted to learn more about the Jewish history in Budapest. It turns out that Budapest has the largest Jewish population in East-Central Europe, and also the second largest synagogue in the world! We were up for the tour!

But first we decided to check out the House of Terror, which is both a museum illustrating the decades of grim repression Jews found under both the Nazi and Communist regimes, and also a memorial to the people who were victims of both regimes. The building that houses the museum was the actual headquarters of the Nazi-affiliated Arrow Cross Party and the Communist Secret Police after them. It was both a prison and torture centre for many, and has been designed to be a chilling reminder of the atrocities that should not be forgotten.

The Terror Museum

You can read more information about the museum here. Earl and I found the museum very well done — a chilling and memorable experience. Earl is not a museum guy at all, so it says something that he went in, in the first place, and was attentive through the whole exhibit, for the second.

Outside there were some other interesting memorabilia of the Nazi and Communist eras as well:

Lining the exterior of the House of Terrors,  photos of some of those who were victims

Lining the exterior of the House of Terrors, photos of some of those who were victims

A segment of the Berlin Wall

A segment of the Berlin Wall

The Iron Curtain Monument

The Iron Curtain Monument

After a sobering visit to the House of Terror, we had some lunch en route to the meeting place for the Jewish Walking Tour. Just outside our meeting place, this statue, to Gabor Sztehlo, a Hungarian Lutheran pastor, who saved 1600 Jewish children plus 400 adults during WWII. Incredible!

Gabor Sztehlo

Before our walking tour officially started, we stopped to make sure everyone had enough water — with the heat wave, the city had set up tents and were giving away free water bottles!

Water distribution
First stop, the Great Synagogue, in Dohany Street.

The Great Synagogue

Twin towers of the Dohany Street Synagogue

Twin towers of the Dohany Street Synagogue

Our tour guide explains some of the significance of the Jewish Cemetery beside the Great Dohany Street Synagogue

Our tour guide explains some of the significance of the Jewish Cemetery beside the Great Dohany Street Synagogue

While apparently a cemetery next to a synogogue is not traditional practice, historical circumstances during WWII caused this cemetery to be put here

While apparently a cemetery next to a synogogue is not traditional practice, historical circumstances during WWII caused this cemetery to be put here

The Tree of Life, a memorial to some of the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust

The Tree of Life, a memorial to some of the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust

You can see that the names and tattoo numbers of the dead and disappeared engraved on the leaves of this weeping willow memorial

You can see that the names and tattoo numbers of the dead and disappeared engraved on the leaves of this weeping willow memorial

We visited several other historical synagogues along our tour…

Synagogue, Budapest

Front of synagogue

Synagogue Budapest

And then we wound our way to this old apartment complex:

Old apartment complex

It’s hard to see people living like this, in such dilapidated conditions. Especially when this complex is abutting against this newer build:

Old and new apartments meet

Anyway, the reason this building is significant is that in its courtyard stands this wall:

There's a plaque not pictured here that outlines the significance:  "In the rear portion of this courtyard stood the last remaining part of a wall surrounding the Budapest ghetto demarcated in November 1944.  Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews -- mostly children, women and older men -- were crowded behind this wall.  Thousands of them did not survive to experience the liberation of the ghetto.  This memorial wall was build in their memory in 2010 replacing the original wall destroyed in 2006."

There’s a plaque not pictured here that outlines the significance:
“In the rear portion of this courtyard stood the last remaining part of a wall surrounding the Budapest ghetto demarcated in November 1944. Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews — mostly children, women and older men — were crowded behind this wall. Thousands of them did not survive to experience the liberation of the ghetto. This memorial wall was build in their memory in 2010 replacing the original wall destroyed in 2006.”

Although both Earl and I find it hard to relate to any of the wartime horrors so many people endured (and continue to endure, in some parts of the world), memorials, museums, and especially stories shared by those who were there or who’ve heard from those who were, help to remind us of the terrible cost of freedom, and also of what humanity is capable of. Thank God for those people who have the presence of mind and the courage to do what’s right in the sight of opposition. Let us not take what we have for granted.

1 comment to Jewish Budapest

  • kitty

    Thanks for sharing and not only going to places that are up beat, but also experiencing some of these, not so good, memories. It is important to remember, even if you have not gone through it yourself. With many of the same kind of attrocities going on in the world today it is not hard to see that we have not really learned a lesson and, yes, we are very fortunate to live in Canada

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