Shoes on the Danube Bank
May 30, 2019
One of the interesting things that we saw when we were in Budapest was a memorial to honor the citizens, most of them Jewish, who were executed along the shore of Danube River. In December 1944 and January 1945, as World War II came closer to an end, the local fascist militia group called the Arrow Cross killed thousands of people along the shore of the river. It is a humbling reminder of the atrocities that were committed during the war. Making it even more tragic is the inclusion of the shoes of children as entire families were brought to the shore to be executed.
Soldiers from the Arrow Cross would go to the Jewish Ghetto, where the majority of the Jewish citizens of Budapest were forced to live in horrid conditions, and take them to be executed along the river. The Budapest Ghetto was made up of several blocks of the Jewish Quarter that were surrounded by a high fence and stone wall that completely isolated them from the rest of the city. The reason for the shoes as the memorial is that they would be forced to remove their shoes before being executed. According to one of the people that worked at our hotel, the soldiers would tie groups of people together and then shoot the first few in line so that they would fall and then drag in everyone else to drown. Apparently it was done in an attempt to save on bullets, which were needed as the Soviet Union forces approached.
The memorial was erected in 2005 and was conceived by director Can Togay and consists of 60 pairs of shoes made out of iron that attached to the stone embankment. We visited the Shoes on the Danube Bank on a rainy day, which only added to the impression that it created. People leave flowers among the shoes to honor the memories of all of the people who lost their lives there.