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Special to the JTA 40th Anniversary of Deportation of Hungarian Jews by Nazis is Marked

May 23, 1984
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Jewish leaders from abroad, including an Israeli delegation, and the Jewish community of Hungary last week commemorated the 40th anniversary of the deportation of more than 600,000 Hungarian Jews by the Nazis. The commemoration was also attended by Hungarian government officials.

According to the World Jewish Congress, whose affiliate here is the Central Board of Hungarian Jews which organized the event, the occasion was notable for a number of firsts:

Despite the fact that Hungary does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, a delegation of Israelis of Hungarian origin took part in the ceremonies and, following the intervention of the WJC, the Hungarian authorities authorized an Israeli television crew to cover the commemoration. Further, the Hungarian government has given permission for a team of historians to take part in a conference in Israel, scheduled for July 9-11, on the deportation of the Jews of Hungary.

Israel Singer, the WJC’s executive director, reported that also participating were Jewish delegations from East Europe, including two representatives from the Soviet Union, Boris Gramm, president of the Moscow Synagogue, and Arkadi Levitan, president of the Odessa Synagogue.


During the memorial service in the Kosma Utca Jewish cemetery, Rabbi Sandor Scheiber, director of the Hungarian Rabbinical Assembly, eulogized the memory of the Jewish martyrs. Rabbi Arthur Schneier of New York, chairman of the WJC-American Section, told the gathering that “never again will we remain silent.”

Remarks in tribute to the memory of the victims were also delivered on behalf of the Hungarian Protestant churches by Bishop Tibor Bartha, chairman of the Hungarian Churches Ecumenical Council; in the name of the Lutheran church by its president, Dr. Zoltan Kaldy; and for the Catholic church, by the Primate Cardinal Leikoi.

At the Budapest Israelitic Community Center, Chief Rabbi Laszlo Salgo paid special tribute to the memory of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in 1944 and was arrested by Soviet troops after they liberated Budapest from the Nazis and taken to the Soviet Union.

Singer, departing from his prepared text, stressed the responsibility of those who remained silent during those tragic events, but he noted with satisfaction that in contrast to similar commemorations in East Europe, on this occasion the “Jewish character” of the tragedy was being emphasized. “All too often,” he noted,” such commemorations have merely mentioned the Jews in passing as victims of Nazi terror, without properly emphasizing the uniqueness of their victimization.”

Following the ceremonies, Hungarian Deputy Premier Istvan Sarlos formally received a WJC delegation at the Parliament. In their talks, stress was placed on the means of strengthening the bonds between East European Jewry and the rest of the Jewish world, including Israel.

The commemoration culminated with a gala opening, after two years of renovation, of the Jewish Museum of Budapest. The museum contains the largest collection of Judaica on public display.

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