Action on the Danube — Budapest, 25th July 2006 at 18 hours 6 pm
Documented with photographs by Istvan Javor
25th July 2006 at 6 pm in Budapest, next to the Holocaust memorial “Iron Shoes on the Shores of the Danube” and its official plaques, a small group of 20 Budapest Hungarians, Rabbi Tamas Vero, who said a prayer and myself, set a small, unofficial plaque with the wording (in Hungarian):
“In memory of the Jewish citizens who were shot into the Danube by Hungarian fascists in 1944.”
At the time family groups were tied together by the legs with wire, lined up on the edge of the Danube. After one had been shot, they all fell into the water.
I visited Budapest for the first time in June 2006 (to prepare for my exhibition at the Tüzrakter Independent Cultural Centre 26th July – 9th August). Katalin Pecsi of the Holocaust Memorial Centre showed me the “Iron Shoes” and told me of Judy Cohen’s vain efforts to have the plaque’s omissions officially rectified. The glaring absence of the victims’ names was something that I felt had to be dealt with immediately, if not unofficially. I decided to initiate the action Naming no Shaming, the setting of a plaque identifying the victims.
According to historian, Tamas Kovacs Roma people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of the resistance were arrested by the police, then executed after trial or sent to concentration camps etc. The shootings committed by the Arrow Cross Nazis were spontaneous actions, without exact lists of “target people” — some 4,500 Jewish victims were driven out of buildings nearby, the so-called “protected houses” near the Danube (in the Ujlipotvaros neighbourhood), with a speed and efficiency unprecedented by German fascists. There are no exact lists of the people who were killed there, or who somehow survived. We now only have a few testimonies and “untold stories” of survivors. esztertaska.blogter.hu
In May 2005 Judy Cohen visited Budapest and had an opportunity to visit the new Holocaust memorial installation: “Cipök a Dunaparton” “Iron Shoes on the Shores of the Danube” by Gyula Pauer after the design of Hungarian theatre director Can Togay, unveiled in the summer of 2005: www.pauergyula.hu/cipok/CipokaDunaparton.htm. On the website photographs, inappropriately, only Christian clerics giving a blessing for the Jewish murdered are to be seen.
“I believe this is an imaginative, immensely moving and very appropriate tribute to those Hungarian Jewish citizens who were shot into the Danube by the Nyilas terror. I, as a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, was completely astounded and gravely disturbed that the three plaques, in three languages, omitted to mention the identity of the victims.” Judy Cohen, (née Weiszenberg) Formerly of Debrecen, Executive member of the Toronto Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre, Editor: www.womenandtheholocau…
Over the last year Judy Cohen wrote to various official addresses in Budapest, including the memorial artists, who also agreed that new plaques should be made where the victims are specifically mentioned and not just their brutal murderers, the Arrow Cross Militiamen.
No one undertook anything to officially change the inscription on the plaques at the time. What’s more, three days after our action the new plaque disappeared, probably in the same way as some of the “Iron Shoes” that had been thrown into the Danube. I hope that the Naming no Shaming plaque like the shoes will be also replaced this time officially.