let us never forget- shoes on the donau bank, budapest

“The Holocaust story has been
told and retold so many times.”
Israel Horovitzfoggy-day

I didn’t really want to visit too many memorials while I visit Budapest, but there was 3 on my list: Carl Lutz, Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park and Shoes on the Donau Bank. Did them all.shoes-on-the-bank

Carl Lutz and Raoul Wallenberg memorial was only 1 and 2 block from my hotel … but the famous shoe memorial I jumped on bus #16 for a couple of stops. I got off by the famous Chain bridge abutment and walked against the beautiful parliament building. It was quite a walk for my sore feet and the promenade along Donau wasn’t the best – most shingle.shoes-8

First I went in the wrong direction and met some lovely Italian tourist that didn’t speak one word of English, but together we figured out where the memorial was and we walked there together. It was a very foggy morning. shoes-2

The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived to honour the people who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.shoes-6

The composition titled ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ gives remembrance to the 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, who were shot into the Danube during the time of the Arrow Cross terror. The sculptor created sixty pairs of period-appropriate shoes out of iron.shoes-13

The shoes are attached to the stone embankment, and behind them lies a 40 meter long, 70 cm high stone bench. At three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.”shoes-15

During World War II, Valdemar Langlet, head of Svedan Red Cross in Budapest, with his wife Nina, and later the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and 250 coworkers were working around the clock to save the Jewish population from being sent to Nazi concentration camps; this figure later rose to approximately 400.

Lars and Edith Ernster, Jacob Steiner, and many others were housed at the Swedish Embassy in Budapest on Üllői Street 2-4 and 32 other buildings throughout the city which Wallenberg had rented and declared as extraterritorially Swedish to try to safeguard the residents.shoes-9

Italian Giorgio Perlasca did the same, sheltering Jews in the Spanish Embassy.

On the night of 8 January 1945, an Arrow Cross execution brigade forced all the inhabitants of the building on Vadasz Street to the banks of the Danube. At midnight, Karoly Szabo and 20 policemen with drawn bayonets broke into the Arrow Cross house and rescued everyone. shoes-14

Among those saved were Lars Ernster, who fled to Sweden and became a member of the board of the Nobel Foundation from 1977 to 1988, and Jacob Steiner, who fled to Israel and became a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Steiner’s father had been shot dead by Arrow Cross militiamen 25 December 1944, and fell into the Danube. His father had been an officer in World War I and spent four years as a prisoner of war in Russia. shoes-10

In September 2014, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that several bronze shoes were stolen from the Danube Holocaust memorial, citing the Budapest Beacon. Ha’aretz noted that “it was not immediately clear whether the theft in Budapest, not far from the Hungarian parliament building, was an anti-Semitic act or a meaningless prank. Police said they were not investigating the case because no crime has been reported, said Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag. shoes-11

In memory of those who lost their lives during the Arrow Cross rule, the “Shoes on the Danube” memorial was erected in April, 2005. Created by film director Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer, it takes the form of shoes cast in iron and anchored to the ground. Different styles and sizes can be seen, showing that nobody was safe – not men, women or children.shoes-12

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28 thoughts on “let us never forget- shoes on the donau bank, budapest

  1. That first photo is a misty masterpiece. The memorial through shoes is a potent reminder of the people who were killed – a shoe is such an intimate item. I’ve seen it used in two other memorials – to the disappeared of Argentina in an artwork at the National Gallery of Australia, and to the victims of Auschwitz, where shoes were piled up in vast heaps. Such poignancy and such horror.

    • Thank you, Meg … but do you mean the bridge or the shoes with the bridge in the background???!!! Horror is the right name for it .. and hope to God that the world will not do it again, but I think it going in that direction in some parts of our world.
      Just working on the Raoul Wallenberg post – a fantastic beautiful memorial his has in Budapest. There is an amazingly long list on Google with men and women that help jews all over the world during the WWII and after.

  2. Thoughtful memorial and nice to see you got a chance to visit. Such a sad history behind it all and people lost but good that they will never be forgotten. Keep walking and exploring, Vivi. You do get out and about quite a bit 👌

    • Mabel, I like that … “thoughtful memorial” – I would never be able to visit any of the extermination camps … that is too much in the face for me. That is too brutal for me – but I want the memorial to touch me inside, as this does. Same with Raoul Wallenberg’s memorial.
      I try my best to get around .. next destination is Amsterdam and the tulips .. over Easter.

      • Some things our hearts are just not meant to confront face on or full on. Some of us just feel more than others. Good luck traveling to Amsterdam over Easter. You really do get out and about. Good on you and travel safe 🙂

      • You are so right in what you are say … yes, looking forward to go back to Amsterdam, never been there in the spring – my friend are losing her sight and she wants to see the tulips before it’s too late. *smile – we always have a great time.

      • I hope you and your friend have a good time. Always showing us all how to go out and have fun…I could never ever keep up. Hope she sees a lot of tulips and many other great sights as well 🙂 ❤ And of course, keep smiling ❤

      • Thanks, Mabel … we always have a great time .. I hope too that the tulips are blooming, it’s a wild guess … *smile All depends on the weather and that we can do nothing about. *smile

  3. Vive, thank you for sharing the closeup photos of the shoes and the history. When we took the trip to Germany and Austria. We started from Berlin and go south. When we were in Berlin and saw the Wall (partial) with holes. The tour guide said, when Berlin Wall fell, people used whatever they had to continue breaking the wall. She said she was one of them. We visited the concentration camp in Munich which was the first camp. It was bombed flat, but one unit was rebuilt as demonstration. We toured through the gas chamber. I was so depressed going from city to city in Germany. Finally we entered Austria and my spirit was lifted up by the music. Thank you for the post. By the way, I did use the street sign you sent me in my post about my childhood and gave credit to you!

    • You didn’t have to give me the credit … it was my pleasure. I will be over in a while and visit.
      To visit all the memorial makes things a bit over heavy – but some I feel very comfortable with and find peace in … despite the history. Like the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw and the two in Budapest. I would never be able to visit any Auschwitz or any of the other camps – because it’s to raw for me. Too much of it makes me very depressed too. Now I done the heavy bits from my visit in Budapest .. now I will go on to food .. and a beautiful park. I love Vienna .. it’s all about music and elegance … and cafes. Have a great weekend.

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