More than half a million Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust, one of the highest number for any country (read this summary for a brief history about Budapest's Jewish past and present). Below, you'll find the most beautiful, often deeply poignant Holocaust memorials of Budapest.
#1 - Holocaust Memorial Center (location; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed on Monday; HUF 1,400 admission): The Holocaust Memorial Center is an informative and moving exhibit about the Holocaust in Hungary—through newsreels, photos, and objects, you can follow the gradual disenfranchisement of Hungarian Jews. The venue includes a restored synagogue from 1924 (the second largest in Budapest), a memorial garden with a wall of victims, and a tower listing all the communities where Jews have ceased to exist as a result of the deportations.
#2 - Shoes on the Danube Bank (location; accessible at all times, no admission fee): The 60 pairs of cast-iron shoes placed on the edge of the Danube's bank are a memory of Budapest Jews killed here by members of the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party. They ordered victims to remove their shoes before shooting them dead, with their bodies falling into the river and drifting away. The memorial has shoes of all sizes, including children’s shoes, setting off a cascade of emotions.
#3 - Emanuel Tree (location; opening hours vary; closed on Saturday; HUF 4,500 admission): American actor Tony Curtis—whose father, Emanuel Schwartz, was a Hungarian Jew—funded the weeping willow memorial, located behind the Dohány Street Synagogue. The names of 30,000 Holocaust victims have been inscribed in the tree's metal leaves. Upside down, the tree resembles a menorah. In front of it are the Tablets of Stone, symbolically stripped of their content. The area is called Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, named after the Swedish diplomat stationed in Budapest, who saved thousands of Jews from concentration camps.
#4 - Holocaust Memorial at the Faculty of Arts of the Eötvös Loránd University (location; accessible during the day, no admission fee): Unveiled in 2014, this subtle memorial consists of a 1 cm (0.4 inch) wide and 280 meters (919 ft.) long narrow bronze strip lining the brick walls of the university, and commemorating the university's students and teachers who died during the Holocaust.
#5 - Remains of the ghetto's wall at 15 Király Street (location; located in the courtyard of a private apartment building, no admission fee): Toward the end of WWII, Budapest's Jewish population was herded into a ghetto, enclosed by today’s Király, Kertész, Dohány, and Rumbach streets inside the Jewish Quarter. Several thousand people died before the Soviet Army liberated the ghetto in January, 1945 (some of the victims are buried in the garden of the Dohány Street Synagogue). One small section of the ghetto’s wall still stands to serve as a constant reminder. The wall is inside the courtyard of a private apartment building, but there's a hole on the entry door, so you can take a peek, or wait until a resident comes or goes and opens the door.
#6 - Carl Lutz Memorial (location; accessible at all times, no admission fee): Carl Lutz, a Swiss diplomat, saved an estimated 60,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. As vice-consul at the Swiss embassy of Budapest, he issued protective documents and set up over 70 “protected houses” with diplomatic immunity, including the famous Glass House. The bronze memorial honoring Lutz shows an angel descending to help a fallen victim. The caption reads, “Whoever saves a life is considered to have saved an entire world.”
#7 - Ghetto Memorial Wall (location; accessible at all times, no admission fee): Inaugurated in 2014, this memorial on Dohány Street stands near where the actual ghetto's wall once ran. A map carved into the concrete shows the outlined of the Jewish ghetto, with small openings depicting historical scenes from the neighborood. The plates of Corten steel feature religious verses and a summary of Jewish life in Budapest, both past and present.
#8 - Budapest Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) (thousands spread across Budapest): As in some other European cities, thousands of Stolpersteine scatter across Budapest. These cobblestone-sized brass plates are engraved with the names of Holocaust victims, their date of birth, year of deportation, and casue of death. Being paved into the sidewalk outside the buildings where the victims once lived, the stumbling blocks manage to be at once both subtle and noticeable.
If you've found this useful, please consider supporting Offbeat. Our content is free, so your contributions go a long way toward maintaining and growing the website.