Experience: Budapest

Lilly Farkas
Lillian Fixler
Morris Fixler
George Gelberman
Ben Goldner
Sara Greenfield
Gabriella Karp
Alice Kroh
Agnes Lugosi
Thomas Lugosi
Paul Molnar
Eva Nove
Erika Rovinsky
Irma Schonberger
Irene Schwartz
Margaret Schwartz
Margit Schwartz
Martin Shlanger
Elizabeth Weiss
Shoshana Winkler
Sol Winkler

“Capital of Hungary. The 200,000 member strong Jewish community of
Budapest was first subjected to anti-Jewish legislation in 1938 and 1939, as
was the rest of Hungarian Jewry. They also suffered from the expansion of the
Hungarian labor service system in 1941.

“Despite this, from the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 to the
German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944, the Jews of Budapest
were generally shielded from Nazi atrocities. Thousands of refugees from
Austria, Poland, and Slovakia streamed into Budapest in search of a safe
haven. However, when the Nazis invaded, the situation became unbearable
very quickly. Despite warnings from various world leaders, Hungarian regent
Miklos Horthy chose to give in to German demands to deport his country's
Jews. First, the Gestapo set up a Judenrat (in Hungarian, Zsido Tanacs)
under the leadership of Samu Stern. This council was charged with governing
the Jews of Budapest and informing Jewish Councils in the provinces about
decrees made by the Nazi authorities. Next, Jewish shops were closed down,
and many Jews were imprisoned in the Kistarcsa camp. By April 12, 1944,
1,500 Jewish-owned apartments had been taken away to be used by non-

“At the end of June, instead of being confined to a Ghetto, the Jews of
Budapest were transferred to 2,639 buildings, scattered all over the city, which
were marked by the Star of David as being for Jews. Some 17,500 Jews were
sent to Auschwitz, just before Horthy halted the first wave of deportations.
Horthy decided to end the deportations on July 7, mostly as a result of
pressure from Western governments. This respite gave the Jews left in
Budapest time to consider rescue and escape options. Foreign diplomats
sponsored, in part, by the American government's War Refugee Board began
setting the stage for the rescue of Budapest's Jews. These included Raoul
Wallenberg from Sweden, Carl Lutz from Switzerland, and others. The
diplomats often complained to the authorities about their terrible treatment of
the Jews, and helped Jewish rescue groups supply food, fuel, and medicine to
the Jewish community. They also attempted to protect Jews from being deported by giving them "protective passports." Some Jews also obtained
false identity papers from the church, while others tried to get deportation
exemptions from the government. Those Jews who held protective documents
were put under diplomatic protection, and housed in safe residences provided
by the diplomats. Often, Jews holding false protective documents—many of
which were issued by the Zionist youth movement underground—were also
protected by the rescuers.

“In October 1944 the Germans overthrew Horthy's government and gave
authority to the ARROW CROSS PARTY. This group of Hungarian fascists quickly
embarked upon a reign of terror. During the first few days of their rule, 600
Jews were murdered in Budapest. Next, many Jews were forced to build
fortifications. By November 8, deportations were resumed, full steam ahead.
On November 13 a ghetto was established and 70,000 Jews were gradually
moved in. At the same time, the foreign diplomats set up an "international
ghetto" as a safe haven for those Jews who held protective documents. From
November 8 to December 24, nearly 80,000 Jews were sent on a DEATH
MARCH toward the Austrian border. The rescuing diplomats followed the
columns and removed those Jews with protective passports.

“During December 1944 and January 1945, the Arrow Cross violence
increased, and 20,000 Jews were shot and thrown into the Danube River. The
Germans planned to liquidate the Budapest Ghetto, but the Soviet army
reached the city first, conquering Pest in mid-January and Buda a month later.
Some 120,000 Budapest Jews had survived.”

Accessed on July 18, 2011

Members of the fascist Arrow Cross Party arrest Jews. Budapest, Hungary, October-December 1944.

Accessed on July 18, 2011

Arrow Cross Party members execute Jews along the banks of the Danube River. Budapest, Hungary, 1944.

— National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.

Accessed on July 18, 2011

Elderly Jews are transferred from their assigned houses to a ghetto area. Budapest, Hungary, November or December 1944.

— Thomas Veres

Accessed on July 18, 2011

Deportation of Jews from the Jozsefvarosi train station in Budapest. Hungary, November 1944.

— Thomas Vere

Accessed on July 18, 2011

Hungarian Jews with yellow stars, at the time of the liberation of the Budapest ghetto. Hungary, January 1945.

— Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum Torteneti Fenykepta

Accessed on July 18, 2011

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