Shoes on the Bank of the Danube is a Holocaust memorial – the brainchild of film director Can Togay, created by Gyula Pauer, Kossuth Prize winner sculptor
In the evening of 8 January 1945 the armed Arrow Cross party members rounded up 154 people who had found refuge in the building of the Swedish Embassy. Armed policemen led by embassy employee Károly Szabó freed the persecuted people just as they were about to be shot – ‘They were standing along the bank, facing the river, when their liberators arrived’, as an eyewitness described. Similarly to other stretches of the riverbank, this spot saw brutal killings during the Arrow Cross rule and became symbolic of the horrors of this period and the persecution of Hungarian Jews. There are widely different views held by different social groups concerning these mass killings – the events were considered taboo for a long time and maybe it still is. In the 59 days between the first and the last mass murder Arrow Cross gangs executed almost 3600 people. The estimated average size of the groups taken to the bank of the Danube is 30. Those killed were thrown into the Danube. Some of the execution spots: Szent István Park, the elegant hotels on the Pest side of the river, Franz Joseph embankment, Batthyány Square, Szilágyi Dezső Square.
The largest number of killings were committed near the Chain Bridge on the Pest side. 99% of the victims had been Jewish citizens from Budapest. The perpetrators would single out their victims at random or with the purpose of robbing them of heir values (relying on their spies) from the Jews moved into houses marked with a Magen David and later the ghetto. They were first taken to Arrow Cross houses and from there, they were herded to the bank of the Danube. Occasionally the citizens hiding the persecuted Jews would also be murdered – the best known among them is Sister Sára Salkaházi, later beatified by the Catholic Church.
All this was muted during the decades preceding 1989 – the period of ‘shy memorials’. Yet racist and anti-semitic discourse and gestures abound today as well. However, recent directions in the politics of remembering are illustrated by the fact that in 2010 certain stretches of the riverbank were named after persons who took part in the efforts to save the persecuted – Count János Esterházy, Slachta Margit, Angelo Rotta, Sztehlo Gábor, Friedrich Born, Raul Wallenberg, Nina és Valdemar Langlet, Salkaházi Sára, Jane Haining and Carl Lutz .
Recreation spot: the benches along the river, the cafés of nearby Szabadság Square.