It is from a cold, dark place that I write you this postcard. A place that reminds me of a horrific time in history – a time that should never be forgotten.
I refer to the holocaust memorial, “Shoes on the Danube Promenade” in Budapest, Hungary.
“Shoes on the Danube Promenade” was created in 2005. The memorial comprises of 60 pairs of life size, iron shoes stretching along a section of the Danube’s riverbank. Caste in the style of the 1940s, the shoes are in different sizes; representing the men, women and children this memorial is a tribute to.
“Shoes on the Danube Promenade” holocaust memorial is dedicated to the thousands of Jews (approximately 20,000) who were executed along the Danube riverbank during 1944-1945. They were shot by members of the Hungarian fascist and anti-Semitic organisation, the Arrow Cross Party. The victims were forced to remove their shoes, face their executioner, and were shot so that they tumbled into the river. The river would then carry their bodies away. This saved the Arrow Cross Party having the hard labour of digging graves. The victims were forced to remove their shoes because shoes were a valuable commodity and could be sold by the executioners.
‘60’ was not just a random number of shoes to include in the holocaust memorial. It reflects the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who died during World War 2, and the memorial was created 60 years after the war.
“Shoes on the Danube Promenade” is located on the banks of the Danube River on the Pest side of Budapest between two well-known landmarks, the Chain Bridge and the Parliament Building.
I deliberately set out to walk to this holocaust memorial after our tour guide pointed it out from the bus on the way back to our ship from our walking tour of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. The memorial is unique; unlike anything I have ever seen. Even with all the tourists, I found the memorial poignant and haunting; a place for reflection and contemplation.
On my way back from the Parliament Building, I passed the “Shoes on the Danube Promenade” holocaust memorial again. Someone had put a white carnation in two of the shoes. I like to think it was the wedding couple who were being photographed nearby. That, on a day that was so memorable for them, they have taken the time to remember and honour those who so tragically had their memories taken from them. Perhaps they were remembering a family member.
I was profoundly moved by this holocaust memorial (more so than any other I have been to on this trip), and thankful for how fortunate I am.
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