Shoes on the Danube


My first stop after 15 hours of flight time to get to Budapest was this somber sight. And through 14 km of walking through Buda and Pest jet-lagged, this was most poignant and historically significant.

At first sight, the usual picture unfolds: Hitler's famous inhumanity. At least that's what the ignorant populace sees. But this Holocaust Memorial has nothing to do with the Germans, Hitler, or concentration camps. Only the Hungarians, themselves.

In October of 1944, Hungary's Arrow Cross Party comes to power. The newly elected government begins to round up Jews for extermination without delay. In the winter of 1944-1945, thousands of Budapest Jews are lined up on the shores of the Danube (in front of the Parliament Building), stripped of all clothing and jewellery ...and shoes. Hungarian bullets spray men, women and children, committing the unthinkable genocide.

The significance of the event memorialized by the "Shoes On The Danube" is the timing itself. Although I'm certain none of the visiting tourists or Hungarians emoting over the "image" get it or even know it.

Chew on this: in the wake of Hitler's retreat, just prior to his total defeat in 1945, Hungary quickly moves to murder thousands that remain undeported to death camps. Yes, on these very banks of the river Danube!

In Europe, there is never a lost opportunity to kill Jews, no matter the circumstances or the popular Hitler blame game.

Juxtaposed against my daughter placing her Magen David on an Israeli flag someone left beside one of the shoes were people posing smiling for selfies...a sobering thought came to mind: Europe would round us all up and chuck us dead in the Danube tomorrow, in one blink of an eye again. And all these tourists & Europeans with their IPhones and tripods would shoot great photos while standing there in the usual supine silence. Or, they'd actively assist the "cleansing" per usual.

How do I know?

About 2000 years of systematic European slaughter of Jews, for starters. Second, It took Hungary until 2005 to come up with this small token of commemoration, just as it took 6 decades for Berliners to do the same. Moreover, Hungarians held egg-pelting protests against the erection of a larger Holocaust Memorial in Budapest on the basis that they were Nazi occupied and had "nothing" to do with extermination of Jews. Nothing at all...! So why should they even commemorate their "countrymen"....?

More catastrophically, in the Hungarian parliamentary elections in April of 2018, the Neo-Nazi Jobbik political party polled 1,092,806 votes, securing 19.06% of the total, making them Hungary's 2nd largest party in the National Assembly. The vermin of antisemitism is always alive and well on this continent.

And yet, this is nothing unique, Hungary has a long history of murderous anti-Semitism perpetuated by intellectual elites, philosophers, political factions, famous writers & composers. Antisemitism in contemporary Hungary is a persistent phenomenon. One of its milestones was the 1882-3 Tiszaeszlár Affair, a blood libel. In the 20th century antisemitism significantly intensified after the Béla Kun led 1919 bolshevik dictatorship and its brutal Red Terror followed by the White Terror.

Blaming Hitler for all atrocities against the Jews is Europe's favourite sport. They'll never be forthright about their own ledger of Jew-hatred, pogroms and killings, nor the perfect 2000 year old embryo of Church-induced evil that birthed Adolf.

... but "Shoes On The Danube" does! Albeit silently, clandestinely, careful not to offend the visiting descendants of the perpetrators.

Valerie Sobel

August 9 2019