For more than two months near the end of World War II, several blocks in the Jewish area on Budapest, on the Pest side of the Danube, became a site of death and suffering. Surrounded by barbed wire and a stonewall, Budapest’s Jewish ghetto became the home of some 200,000 Jews, who died there of disease and starvation, or were shipped to Auschwitz from a nearby train platform.
About 70,000 Hungarian Jews remained in the ghetto when the Red Army liberated it in January 1945; some 20,000 had died there.
Several hundred people gathered there one recent day, in the courtyard of the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the day Budapest’s Jews were freed.
“We celebrate our lives we got back,” said Robert Frolich, spiritual leader of the synagogue. “Many would not be sitting here today if the Red Army had not arrived that day.”
Holocaust leaders and Red Army veterans took part in the ceremony, at which Russia’s Alexandrov Ensemble performed.
The sign honoring mothers, above, stands the entrance to the synagogue’s cemetery.
Many of the Hungarian Jews who survived the war owed their lives to diplomats from Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and the Vatican, who risked their lives to establish “safe houses” where Jews found refuge.
Thousands of Jews who died in the ghetto are buried in the cemetery.
The Nazi army occupied the country in March 1944. Before the ghetto was created, some 450,000 Hungarian Jews, almost 90 percent of the country’s Jewish population, were sent to death camps.