If you’ve been keeping up with my adventures traveling abroad, you’ll notice that I last left off in the early afternoon on my first day in Budapest, Hungary. In the previous post, we had just taken a tour of the Jewish Museum, located in the same building where Theodor Herzl was born, which is currently next to the Dohány Street Synagogue. I split this day up into three separate blog posts because there was so much to talk about, but this post will be appropriate timing-wise with January 27th having been the 70th Anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation.
As we exited the Jewish Museum, we came across an old brick wall memorial, symbolic with the one that kept the Budaptest Jews with pieces of original bricks from the Ghetto Wall in Budapest. While following the outside train, we walked through a Peace Garden, dedicated to those who lost their lives in Budapest. Pictures along the walls show the dead bodies that were found in the same area, upon being discovered by the Russians during the liberation. Near the garden there was a memorial plaque for the Warsaw Uprising, and a unique piece of artwork. It represented the beginning of the Holocaust with the Jewish people holding onto their belongings, and as the artwork progresses (from left to right), you notice that the people in the sculpture become emaciated and their belongings quickly disappear.
One of the most notable pieces of artwork outside is a large stained glass piece in the middle of a courtyard. The red throughout the glass shows the flames of the crematoriums in the Holocaust, while the blue shows hope for the future. Close by to the stained glass is a memorial commemorating all of the gentile heroes who helped save Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust. Near these memorials and the Jewish Museum is a Heroes Temple which serves as a memorial to the Hungarian Jews who put their lives on the line during World War I.
As we neared the exit of the outdoor courtyard, we spotted the Weeping Willow Memorial. You’ll notice that there are no roots on the tree, because they say that the roots were taken out during the Holocaust, but the branches symbolize the start of a new future. And each branch contains the name of a Hungarian Jewish family murdered during this time. If you look at the tree upside-down, it is in the shape of a Menorah, symbolizing hope and positivity.
Upon leaving the Jewish Quarter, we made our way over to the Holocaust Memorial Center, which is actually a renovated synagogue from the 1920s that currently serves as a memorial and museum for the Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust. Upon first entering the courtyard of the Museum, you’ll notice six large columns; each column represents 100,000 Hungarian Jews, which represent the 600,000 Hungarian Jews, and the total of six million Jews killed during the Holocaust. The walls surrounding the Museum are filled with names of the Hungarian Jews who died during the Holocaust, but there is still an ample amount of space remaining since there are many Jews whose stories and outcomes we still don’t know of. For this reason, people continue to look into these missing Holocaust victims, and hopefully one day soon, we will know what happened to them.
The building itself is slanted downwards, showing that nothing will ever be straight again. But there are trees on top of the building, showing hope for the future. The entrance of the Museum is flat, but as you walk through, it is slanted downwards to show the worsening of the situation as the Holocaust progressed. Upon first entering the Museum, there are lines along the wall representing everyone from the Holocaust, but as you walk through the Museum, the lines progressively end, representing everyone who was killed during this time.
There are enclosed artifacts from some of the Hungarian Jews throughout the entrance of the Museum, as well as pictures of the Dohány Street Synagogue, filled with suitcases and belongings. The Germans began running out of places to store the belongings of the Jews, so they filled the Synagogue with the personal effects taken from the Jews in the area. There are numerous videos in the beginning part of the Museum that show Jewish weddings from the 30s, but as the footage of the weddings continues, you can notice that everyone in attendance had to wear Yellow Stars, which is from some of the last weddings before deportation started.
As you continue walking through the Museum, you’ll hear the sound of people marching, which continues for quite some time. You’ll also see video footage of people marching to Auschwitz because there was no railroad in Budapest. (Remember, in a previous post, I mentioned that Hungary was the last country to be occupied so by this time, there was no set plan on how to exterminate the Hungarian-Jews so the Nazis had to improvise. This led the Jews to have to walk to the concentration camps).
Near the end of the Museum, there is disturbing footage of people right before they entered the gas chambers. No one knows who filmed the footage, but it’s the only existing one of the Jewish people upon entering the gas chambers. Walking past this video, the sound of a heartbeat beats above you in the hallway leading to the exit, and right before you reach the end of the hallway, the sound stops and the room is completely silent. And at this point, there are very few lines left, compared to the countless lines (representing the Jewish lives) in the beginning of the Museum.
There is a beautiful Synagogue connected to the exit of the Museum, which shows that the Jewish religion is still existent and strong. The back of the Synagogue is filled with glass memorials, commemorating just some of the many Jews who perished in the Holocaust. After having learned even more about the Holocaust throughout our time in the Museum, it was inspiring to leave off on a note of optimism, seeing this beautifully renovated synagogue dedicated to those who lost their lives years ago.