On the banks of the Danube River in Budapest, about 300 meters from the Hungarian Parliament building, lie sixty pairs of rusted old-fashioned shoes cast out of iron and attached to the stone embankment. There are shoes of different shapes, styles and sizes – men’s shoes, women’s shoes, children’s shoes. They sit at the edge of the water, scattered and abandoned. Behind the sculpture lies a 40 meter long, 70 cm high stone bench where 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.”
Known as “The Shoes on the Danube Promenade”, the sculpture, conceptualized by film director Can Togay and sculpted by Gyula Pauer, serves as a memorial and a monument to the Hungarian Jews who, in the winter of 1944-1945, were shot on the banks of the Danube River by the members of the Arrow Cross Party.
In March 1944, the German Wehrmacht invaded Hungary bringing Ferenc Szálasi and his fascist and violently anti-Semitic Arrow Cross Party to power. Soon after, the Arrow Cross militiamen began plundering all over the city and thousands of Jews were murdered. Frequently, entire groups were lined up on the banks of the Danube facing the river, 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. Shoes, being valuable commodity during World War II, were ordered to leave behind so that they could be collected and traded on the black market.
“Shoes on the Danube Promenade” is one of the most moving holocaust memorial in Budapest today. People who visit the memorial light candles or leave behind flowers, placing them inside a particular shoe that touches them or reminds them of someone.
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