Holocaust MemorialsNovember 13 in Hungary ⋅ 🌧 13 °C
We will be leaving Budapest in two days. I think we are all feeling a little bit sad; Budapest took us by complete surprise. We made the decision to visit on a whim because the accommodations were so much cheaper than Slovenia, but to be honest, we knew nothing about the city or anything about Hungary, for that matter. Budapest has captured our hearts. A fusion between Portland and Paris, this city is edgy, has an awesome cafe culture, hiking, too many historical monuments and museums to count as well as the cutest dog breed, the Hungarian Vizsla.
When we set out on our world travels, we knew the girls would learn a lot, but what that learning would look like, was foreign to us. When the girls speak to their friends and are asked about what type of schooling they do, they typically respond by saying “we only have to do english and math” and "we only do about four hours of learning a week." What they are not explaining to their friends, or maybe it is too difficult to articulate, is that they have learned a great deal. I wanted to share some of that learning in this blog post, which focuses on WWII and the Hungarian Jews. I love to read historical fiction set during WWII, but it is so much more powerful to live in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest for a month and learn about the atrocities that took place 80 years ago.
Approximately 50 percent of Hungary’s Jews died during WWII. This translates to 600,000 Jewish men, women and children. Sadly, it wasn’t just the Nazis who shipped Jews off to the concentration camps, but we learned that the Hungarian Arrow Cross, a far right wing political party, exterminated Jews as well. To commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, several monuments have been designed throughout the city to help us remember. What I appreciated about the monuments is that we could teach the girls about the past in a slow manner. Sometimes we would purposely set out to visit one of the monuments, while other times, we would be exploring a particular neighborhood and come across one of the monuments. It was also a great way to explore Budapest. During our month in Budapest, we visited and learned about the following Holocaust memorials:
** Shoes on the Danube (this memorial commemorates Jews who were shot by the Arrow Cross Party and fell into the Danube and floated away);
**Emanual Tree or Weeping Willow. This memorial contains 30,000 leaves with the names of Holocaust victims. It is in the garden of the Dohany Synagogue, largest Synagogue in Europe and 2nd largest in the world. Upside down, the memorial resembles a menorah. The area is called Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, named after the Swedish diplomat stationed in Budapest and who saved thousands of Jews from Concentration camps;
**We explored the Faculty of Arts at Lorand University and located a 1 cm wide and 280 metres long bronze strip lining the brick walls of the university. The strip has names inscribed of teachers and students who died during the Holocaust.
**If you walk to 15 Kiraly Street and the door of the abandoned apartment building is open, you can see what remains of the Ghetto wall. Between November 1944 and 1945, a ghetto wall was built around the Jewish Quarter. At one point, there were 200,000 Jews confined behind the wall with no food or medicine coming in. There was only one tap for water. Several thousand Jews died before the Soviets liberated the ghetto in January 1945.
**The Carl Lutz memorial. Carl Lutz was a Swiss diplomat who saved an estimated 60,000 Jews. Carl Lutz set up over 70 “protected houses” with diplomatic immunity. “Whoever saves a life is considered to have saved an entire world.”
**We explored Budapest and kept our eyes open for Budapest Stolpersteine or stumbling blocks. Each gold block is inscribed with a name and date of birth and death and place of death and placed in front of the last place of known residence or work.
**Lastly, we visited the Ruin Pub in the Jewish Quarter. There is a small sign just outside of the main entrance which reads “People used to live here.”
To help with the girls’ learning, we also read “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” as a family and had many discussions about the Holocaust. We will be visiting Vienna next week and will be travelling to Mauthausen, a concentration camp, to bring our learning full circle. Seeing the impact of WWII is not easy, but I have to believe that by visiting Budapest, the past was brought to life more so than would ever be possible in a classroom.