BUDAPEST, Dec. 13 (JTA) – During a one-day trip to Hungary, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright paid tribute to the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who died in the Holocaust.
Albright placed a wreath Wednesday at Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial, located in the courtyard of the Dohany Street Synagogue.
Hungarian Jewish leaders escorted her inside the historic 3,000-seat synagogue, where they showed her the centuries-old Torah scrolls kept in the ark.
Albright asked the Jewish community leaders to pray for deceased members of her family.
Albright’s family fled the region twice, once in 1938 to escape the Nazis, and then to the United States in 1948 after a Communist coup in Czechoslovakia.
Raised as a Roman Catholic – she later became an Episcopalian – Albright said she learned she had Jewish ancestors only when it was reported in The Washington Post in February 1997.
Community leaders escorted Albright around the more than 100-year- old synagogue.
They also showed her the adjoining building where Zionist leader Theodor Herzl was born in 1860.
The communal leaders also told Albright that the rise of ultra-rightist forces in Hungary had frightened local Jews.