Jews Come to Budapest from Afar to Mark End to the Deportations
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Jews Come to Budapest from Afar to Mark End to the Deportations

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Several hundred people, mostly Holocaust survivors, gathered Sunday at the Budapest Holocaust Memorial to mark the 47th anniversary of the day Hungary officially called off the deportations of Jews.

The event, attended by Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Marom and the deputy mayor of Budapest, Gabor Szekely, marked the memorial day for the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who perished in Nazi death camps between 1940 and 1944.

Hungary’s president solemnly promised it would be an annual observance when he, the prime minister and virtually the entire government attended the memorial’s unveiling a year ago.

But this year, the government was represented by a relatively junior Cabinet member, Tourism Minister Kazmer Kardos.

That did not escape the eye of at least one Hungarian daily, which criticized the government for not making a more meaningful gesture toward the remaining Jews on this sorrowful occasion.

Szekely, who happens to be Jewish, represented the newly elected mayor, Gabor Demszky, a young politician who opposed the Communist regime before it was ousted in 1989.

The Holocaust memorial, which stands behind the Dohany Street Synagogue, on the site where the Jewish ghetto once stood, is a unique granite and steel structure in the shape of a huge weeping willow tree, designed by Hungarian sculptor Imre Varga. Each silvery frond has the name of a Hungarian Jewish Holocaust victim inscribed on it.

Thousands of Jews paid $125 for each inscription.


Hungary was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II. On July 7, 1944, its pro-Nazi dictator, Admiral Miklos Horthy, beset by demands from the king of Sweden, the pope and the International Red Cross, as well as from Britain and the United States, agreed to call off the deportations of Hungary’s Jews.

The following day, the deportations were stopped.

By that time, some 437,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported, according to Martin Gilbert’s “Holocaust.”

An estimated 80,000 Jews now live in Hungary, comprising the second-largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union.

The annual memorial ceremony was actually begun three years ago at the groundbreaking for the monument, which was commissioned by the Emanuel Foundation for Hungarian Culture.

The U.S.-based foundation, named for Emanuel Schwartz, the Hungarian-born father of actor Tony Curtis, helps Hungarian Jews and is affiliated with the World Jewish Congress.

At this year’s commemoration, the foundation was represented by its president, Leslie Keller, and Andor Weiss, its executive vice president. Both men lost their families in the Holocaust.

Also present was Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem, who told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency he was on a private visit. Kollek was born in Vienna in what was at the time the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He had not been back here since 1933, he said.

Kollek was scheduled to meet Monday with Mayor Demszky.

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