Two non-Jewish Hungarian girls who successfully dug up the pre-World War II history of their hometown’s Jews took first prize in a student essay competition on the Holocaust.
More than 200 pupils took part in the competition, titled "Holocaust in Hungary," which was initiated by the Alliance of the Hungarian Jewish Communities and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Education.
The goal of the nationwide contest was to get young people to learn more about the local history and fate of Jewish communities. An awards ceremony took place this week at the Budapest Ethnographic Museum.
In what they called a difficult effort, the two girls found that the small town of Mohacs in southern Hungary was once home to 564 Jews. After the Holocaust, however, only 13 returned to Hungary, the girls found.
Of the 13, three now live in Hungary.
Another winner, a 16-year-old Gypsy named Orsos Zoltan, said in an interview that he wrote his essay only because he has never seen a Jew.
His teacher sent him on Shabbat to a town synagogue to find a Jew. There, Zoltan met an old Jewish man, who gave him a book describing the Holocaust.
Zoltan said only then did he realize that Jews and Gypsies were both scorned victims. He said he wrote his essay as if he were a Jew.
In a speech at the awards ceremonies this week, Peter Feldmajer, head of the Alliance of the Hungarian Jewish communities, said: "Jews in Hungary are nothing more than memories, and if we cannot revive them, at least we should remember them."
The Hungarian Minister of Culture and Education, Gabor Fodor, said, "The competition in this subject was very important because of the increasing number of young people who sympathize nowadays with doubtful values."