Far away, it just looks like people misplaced their shoes along the Duna. Up close, you realize that these are bronze replicas of shoes. This marks the site where many Jewish victims lost their lives.
This part I knew as I took these photos on a walk with Kat one rainy afternoon. It was not a weary day considering the weather conditions. But, when my footsteps wandered across the paths of these unlaced shoes with their tongues pulled out, my heart did feel a little weary. I sent my photos to many friends and family members and was asked several times, "What is the story behind the shoes"?
The Shoes on the Danube Promade was created by a man named Gyula Pauer and is a memorial on the bank of the Danube in Budapest. It is a memorial to the people who fell victim to the Arrow Cross Militiamen in Budapest and depicts their shoes left behind as they were cast into the river after having just been shot during WWII. There were shoes of men, women and children, including the shoes of a toddler posted above.
I was struck by the little shoes. I could not imagine holding a gun up to a toddling toddlers little head for the beliefs he is too young to possess. This made me think about this story and want to know more about what happened. So I researched the history of this instillation piece.
During WWII between 250 and 400 workers worked around the clock to prevent its Jewish population from being sent to the many concentrations camps that marked the war. They were housed at the Swedish Embassy and other buildings in the area. On January 8, 1945 all of the inhabitants were rounded up and taken away to the banks of the river by the Arrow Cross Execution Brigade. Still wanting to prevent a massacre, 20 policemen armed with bayonets rescued them all, and helped them to flee the country. The survivors remember how they were lucky to escape the fate that their loved ones endured the Christmas the year before, being shot and thrown into the cold Danube river.
This is the site where Jewish men, women, and children lost their lives. The place where they were shot for their beliefs and thrown into the icy winter waters as a means of extermination only after they removed their ever so valuable shoes. They may have lost their lives, but the memory and their shoes remain forever.