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Shoah museum to open in Budapest

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BUDAPEST, April 10 (JTA) – A new Holocaust Museum and Education Center is being planned in the heart of Budapest.

The museum, the first in Budapest to be dedicated to the Holocaust, will be located in the historic Jewish Quarter that was the site of the Budapest Ghetto during World War II. The opening is planned for April 2002.

The museum will be devoted to “promoting tolerance through the interpretation and teaching of the history of the Holocaust and Hungary’s role in the Shoah,” according to a statement issued by its organizers.

It will “honor those who struggled, suffered and died as well as those who resisted and hurried to the aid of the persecuted during the years of the Holocaust.”

The museum is the brainchild of a group of people in their early 30s who come from Hungarian Jewish families, including Holocaust victims and survivors.

Though still in the planning stage, the museum is co-sponsoring its first public event April 22 – an evening marking Holocaust Remembrance Day that will feature two documentary films on the Shoah and a talk by author Imre Kertesz, who has written about the Holocaust and its effects.

Organizers say the museum will be a non-governmental, non-profit institution not directly linked to the Budapest Jewish community.

Local Hungarian authorities, however, say they back the project and are willing to provide a low rent, extended-lease site for the museum in a building near several synagogues and other Jewish institutions.

Other groups also say they look forward to helping the museum organizers.

“We are hoping to work with them,” said Monika Kovacs, president of the Hannah Arendt Association, a Budapest-based organization devoted to Holocaust education.

An American Friends of the Museum Association also is being established.

More information about the Holocaust Museum and Education Center is available at www.bphm.org.

Budapest has a Jewish Museum, run by the local Jewish community and located in a complex that includes the famous Dohany Street Synagogue. This museum includes a section on the Shoah.

A Holocaust Documentation Center and Memorial Collection, sponsored by the government and the Jewish community, is slated to open in a currently unused synagogue in another part of the city, but it is not clear when it will open.

Organizers of the Holocaust Museum say they have “close, thriving working relations” with the organizers of the Documentation Center.

Some 220,000 Jews lived in Budapest on the eve of World War II. The Nazis set up a ghetto in June 1944, several months after they occupied Hungary and began deporting all the Jews in provincial towns and villages.

About half of Budapest’s Jews were killed in the ghetto or deported to their deaths before Soviet troops occupied the city in January 1945.

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