On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, we decided to go to the Jewish Quarter and see what was there. The Carpenters had left us a little Downtown Walking Map of the Jewish Quarter, so we at least knew where to go! We used the metro, which we accessed from Déli Palyudvar. We started at the main synagogue, and asked about the various tours and bought our tickets.
The Walking Tour was to start in 40 minutes, so why don’t you start upstairs in the museum, the man suggested.
The passover meal is usually eaten in another area out of the main house (or maybe used to be?)
Herzl Tivadar is considered to have been the father of modern political Zionism and in effect the founder of the State of Israel. Herzl formed the World Zionist Organization and promoted Jewish migration to Palestine in an effort to form a Jewish state. He was born in Pest. (Wikipedia) So he is very much revered in Hungary.
Our walking tour included a viewing of an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue down the street from the Great Synagogue. It is called the Kacinczy Synagogue.
Carl Lutz was a Swiss vice-counsel, who issued 10,000 safe conduct documents for Hungarian Jewish children to emigrate to Palestine in 1942 and 1943. In 1944, when the Nazis came, he helped 8,000 Hungarian families to emigrate to Palestine – instead of 8000 persons that the Nazis allowed him to do.
Walls were erected between buildings along the outside perimeter of the Jewish Ghetto to form an enclosed area. They had barbed wire on top to prevent anyone helping with food or to prevent escape. Here is what Wikipedia says about the ghetto,
“The area consisted of several blocks of the old Jewish quarter which included the 2 main synagogues of the city, the Neolog Dohány Street Synagogue and Orthodox Kazinczy Street Synagogue. The ghetto was created on 1944 November 29 by a decree of the Royal Hungarian Government. It was surrounded by a high fence and stone wall that was guarded so that contraband could not be sneaked in, and people could not get out. The Nazi occupation of Budapest (Operation Margarethe) started on March 19, 1944. The ghetto was established in November, 1944, and lasted for less than three months, until the liberation of Budapest on January 17, 1945 by the Soviet Army during the Battle of Budapest.
As with other ghettos that had been set up in other parts of Nazi-occupied Europe the area was completely cut off from the outside world: no food was allowed in, rubbish and waste were not collected, the dead lay on the streets and piled up in the bombed-out store fronts and the buildings were overcrowded, leading to the spread of diseases such as typhoid.
More than half of those that were forced into the ghetto in 1944 were sent to concentration camps, starting almost immediately from the establishment of the ghetto. From occupation to liberation the Jewish population of Budapest was reduced from 200,000 to 70,000 in the ghetto, and about 20,000 housed in specially marked houses outside the ghetto having been granted diplomatic protection by neutral politicians, including Raoul Wallenberg, who issued Protective Passports on behalf of the Swedish Legation, and Carl Lutz, who did the same via the Swiss Government. Of those that were deported (most of them to a concentration camp on the Austrian border), the vast majority were liberated by the advancing Red Army.”
The Great Synagogue houses a group of Orthodox Jews called Neolog. There are some differences in their building that the Orthodox Jews feel is not proper – like no curtains in front of the women’s sections upstairs. The Neologs also have a wonderful organ in this building. Playing music is not allowed on their Sabbath – it is work and considered frivolous. The Neologs hire a non-Jew to play their organ. In the Jewish Quarter there are several other types of Jewish congregations. It was built with a definite Moorish influence that was popular at the time. Instead of 6-sided Stars of David, 8-sided stars were used everywhere – inside and out.
Patrons were able to buy their pew seats before the synagogue was restored. This furnished the money to restore the building after deliberate bombing during WWII. Their names are on plaques in front of the seats. Today one can still do that to help with upkeep. You can see the plaques in the picture above.
In January 1945, the Russians liberated the ghetto. In this garden which was the playground for ghetto children at one time, the murdered Jews were buried. Normally, in the Jewish tradition, the deceased are buried the same day as they die, and NEVER on the grounds of a synagogue. There is a famous Jewish Cemetery in the outskirts of the city. But since the bodies had been lying there for so long, they buried them on the spot, in mass graves, as fast as they could.
In the back of the synagogue, there are other memorials. This one is for Raul Wallenberg and other wonderful men and women who helped the Hungarian Jews.
By far the most outstanding memorial to those who died is this stainless steel weeping willow tree. It is covered in silver. Names are on the leaves. It was paid for in large part by a Jew with Hungarian parents – Bernie Schwartz – Tony Curtis.
For more pictures of the synagogue: http://www.greatsynagogue.hu/gallery_syn.html
Be sure to scroll down and see the 3-D tour…
A beautiful building with remembrances of man’s inhumanity to man….