Towards the end of World War II, between October 15th, 1944 and March 28th, 1945, the Hungarian government was briefly under the control of a fascist organisation known as the Arrow Cross Party. During this dark period, 10-15,000 people were murdered in Hungary by Arrow Cross Militia, and a further 80,000 were sent to their deaths in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In Budapest, Arrow Cross soldiers would line Jews up along the bank of the Danube, instruct them to remove their shoes, and then shoot them, such that their bodies fell into the river and were washed away. The Shoes on the Danube Bank, envisaged and created by Can Togay and Gyula Pauer, was erected in 2005 as a memorial to those who died in this atrocity.
The monument is located just south of the Hungarian Parliament on the Pest (east) side of the River Danube. It comprises 60 pairs of shoes, appropriate to those worn during World War II, made of iron. The metal footwear is lined up along the very edge of the riverside stone embankment, as if left there by the victims of the Arrow Cross’s reign of terror.
As you might imagine, Shoes on the Danube Bank is an extremely poignant and moving memorial. Standing there, contemplating what happened at that very site, I felt tears pricking at my eyes. I found it almost impossible to comprehend how such events could actually take place. I still do. And even now, thinking back on my visit as I write this post, I feel a lump in my throat.
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