The Synagogue in Budapest had been destroyed during WWII when the Jewish area of
Budapest was walled up as a ghetto. And then towards the end of the war
even though Hungarian Jews had not been taken to the death camps before
more than 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in about 6 months.
What made this visit even more moving to me is that Diane and I have a
friend, Suzanne, who as a teenager was taken to a concentration camp
with her mom and little brother. Her brother did not survive. In 1956
she left Hungary by escaping across the border to Austria. Now an art
dealer surrounding herself with beauty, her stories about her ordeals
are spell binding.
While taking a tour of the synagogue I was looking at some photos of
Nazis who were standing over a pile of bodies and realized that I was
standing in the same spot. It sent shivers down my spine. You don’t
really realize unless you see it first hand that the horror that is the
holocaust was very real and affected a lot people. At a different time –
it could have been me.
But the tour also showed some humanity as well. Behind the synagogue is
Raul Wallenberg plaza named after the Swedish diplomat who issued
protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as
Swedish territory — saving tens of thousands of lives. In the middle of
the square is a weeping willow made of metal with each silver leaf
having the name of a Hungarian Jew killed during the holocaust –
including the little brother of our friend Suzanne.
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