Photo: Bundesarchiv

Anniversary of Budapest Jewish ghetto liberation commemorated

"Remembrance is a part of our shared future," Andras Heisler, the president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), said on Monday at a commemoration of the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Jewish ghetto in Budapest.

The survivors of the Holocaust would soon all be gone “and we’ll be left to ourselves with the duty and curse of remembrance”, he said.

Heisler said the descendants of Holocaust survivors had a duty to keep the memories of their ancestors alive, because otherwise they would be disowning the suffering their parents and grandparents had endured.

Jozsef Sebes, head of the Raoul Wallenberg Association, said his organisation wanted to honour the actions of its namesake Swedish diplomat, who rescued tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust in Hungary, by contributing to a way of thinking that people should be judged by their personalities and not based on their belonging to a certain group. Sebes named the fight against racial, religious and political discrimination as a key goal of the association.

Dag Hartelius, Sweden’s ambassador to Hungary, said everyone had a duty to remember the Holocaust and had a role to play in the fight against anti-Semitism, adding that Wallenberg’s legacy served as a guiding principle in this.

Zoltan Istvan Horvath, parish priest of the Cathedral of St. Theresa of Avila, said young people needed to be told about those who helped save Jews during the Holocaust, so that they could serve as role models whose “faith, conviction, love and humanity defeats all forms of fear” and who were willing to risk their lives to save those facing persecution.

Monday’s commemoration was organised by the Raoul Wallenberg Association and the Embassy of Sweden in Budapest. The event ended with participants laying flowers on the memorial dedicated to Wallenberg.

The decree marking the boundaries of Budapest’s “large” ghetto was published on November 29, 1944, and the area containing Dohany Street, Nagyatadi Szabo (today Kertesz) Street, Kiraly Street, Csanyi Street, Rumbach Sebestyen Street, Madach Imre Street, Madach Imre Square and Karoly Boulevard was sealed on December 10.

Initially 40,000 people forced to wear the yellow star were relocated to the ghetto’s 4,513 apartments, but numbers grew rapidly, reaching 70-80,000 by the start of the following year.

In spite of the efforts of the Red Cross, most received only 700-800 calories a day, and at the end of December, the situation deteriorated further during the Soviet siege. People died in large numbers, with 80-120 dead taken away each day. When the ghetto was liberated on January 18, 1945, more than 3,000 dead bodies were found on Klauzal Square alone.

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