BUDAPEST (Jan. 30)
Politicians, Jewish leaders and members of the Catholic Church gathered at the Hungarian Parliament to mark the first-ever international memorial day for the Holocaust. “The tragedy of the Hungarian Jews started in this room, in the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament with the passing of the anti-Jewish laws before the war,” Peter Feldmayer, the president of the Hungarian Jewish community, said Sunday to the crowd. “Most of the Hungarian people still do not think that the Holocaust was part of the Hungarian history,” he added.
Hungary’s event was one of many that took place around the world during in late January. Each year, more countries are marking Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, as Holocaust memorial day.
“Hungary was the only country in Europe to turn over so many fellow citizens in the shortest possible time,” Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said in his speech, referring to the more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews who were deported mainly to Auschwitz during three months in 1944.
Laszlo Solyom, Hungary’s president, praised Hungary’s Jewish Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertesz’s book “Fateless” for helping to understand the Holocaust, especially Hungary’s role in it.
Argentina’s memorial was held Sunday afternoon at the Buenos Aires San Martin Palace. In front of an audience of 200 that included the Israeli, American, Polish, Austrian and Russian ambassadors, six candles were lit to remember the 6,000,000 Jewish victims.
In Prague, Czech leaders addressed several hundred survivors last Friday, and spoke of present-day anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. “As objects of hatred, individual Jews are increasingly being superseded by the ‘collective Jew,’ the State of Israel,” said the Senate’s vice chairman, Petr Pithart.
In Greece, two events took place Sunday in Thessaloniki. Some 50,000 Jews from the northern port city, which was once the main center of Jewish life in the Balkans, were deported and exterminated by the Nazis from 1943.
The first was held at the Elefteria Square, or Freedom Square, where in 1942 the city’s Jewish males were gathered, by order of the Nazi forces in the heat of the summer, and were subjected to exhausting physical exercises for more than 16 hours.
The second took place at the American College of Thessaloniki and was dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million children exterminated during the Holocaust.
Ukraine had no official ceremony, but the head of Parliament, Vladimir Litvin, participated in a memorial ceremony at the Golden Rose Synagogue in Dnepropetrovsk last Friday.
But lawmaker Igor Sharov of the People’s Bloc Party said on Monday that he was shocked that a country that was the scene of “some of the most heinous Nazi war crimes” has “in fact ignored international Holocaust remembrance day.”
(Florencia Arbiser in Buenos Aires, Dinah Spritzer in Prague, Jean Cohen in Athens and Vladimir Matveyev in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.)