Who is Commemorated?
Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Újpest
The memorial consists of two joined structures opening onto a grassy open courtyard next to the (now restored) Újpest Neolog synagogue. The distinct but adjacent pavilions contain memorial plaques.
A portico structure which backs up against Jozef Attila utca has a single continuous wall of joining plaques that list the names of Jews from Újpest who were deported in 1944 and killed (mostly at Auschwitz). The portico is built of square stone blocks. Rectangular stone piers support a Hebrew inscription below the cornice. Inside the portico, on the rear wall, are installed black slabs inscribed with the names of more than 12,000 victims. The slabs were designed by Marianne Korosi and installed in 1947. Beside the names of the victims are their ages, showing those murdered ranged from one-year-old infants to people in their nineties. A space at the western edge of the portico has 25 "private" plaques with name of individual peaople or families.
An enclosed structure facing Bereviczy Gergely utca, with a large arched entrance, is designed as a kind of a prayer space/hall. Its street facade is surmounted by the Tablets of the Law and has two elongated windows that also allude to the Tablets. Window traces feature a menorah. The courtyard facade is also surmounted by the Tablets of the Law and the upper glass at the arched entrance bear a Hebrew and a Hungarian citation from Isaiah 40:1. The structure contains memorial plaques to the Jews of Szentendre, Rákospalota, and the Mandel family.
On the outer wall of the portico section, beginning at the intersection of Bereviczy Gergely utca and Jozef Attila utca, and continuing down Attila utca, are four large white stone narrative reliefs that face the public street and tell the story of the deportation. Through the detailed insignia carved on the figures, the perpetrators (local gendarmes, Arrow Cross militias, and Nazis) who carried out the atrocities are clearly identified, as are the liberators (Red Army).
The reliefs depict four scenes illustrating the fate of Újpest Jews.
- deportation (gendarmes with crane feathers on their caps, push Jews into railway cars);
- forced labor service (militia with Arrow Cross armbands oversee the forced laborers);
- death at Auschwitz (soldiers wearing swastikas drive women and children with shaved heads into the gas chambers, and the chimneys of the crematoria are shown);
- liberation of the ghetto (soldiers of the Red Army).
This memorial is the work of Hungarian-Jewish artist Edith Kiss and was unveiled in July 1948. The narrative of deportation and forced labor reflects Kiss’s own experience.
The narrative sculptures are carved in high relief but set deep into the stone so that the edge of each block frames each scene. The style of the relief is representational and illustrative and meant to be realistic. The scenes include a mix of men, women, and children. The figures are arranged in a linear fashion, always moving from right to left, except in the liberation scenes where the movement of the Jewish victims is stopped by the Soviet Red Army soldiers. Many figures are shown expressing fatigue grief, terror, and mourning. The overall effect recalls ancient Greek temple friezes, and even more so Roman and Early Christian carved sarcophagi. These reliefs were unveiled the same year as the better-known Warsaw Uprising monument by Natan Rapoport, which also includes a low relief of Jews being led to death by soldiers.
Hebrew inscription below the cornice of the portico:
לזכר אחינו שנהרגו שנשרפו שנשחטו ושנחנקו על קדוש השם
Translation: To memory of our brothers that were killed and slaughtered and asphyxiated for the sanctification of God's name.
The wall of plaques in the portico has 64 columns of names of Újpest Jews. In its center, between columns 32 and 33, there is a wider plaque with a Hungarian inscription:
VI NE ÖLJ!
[inscribed inside the Tablets of the Law]
Ki könnyeket ontasz
áldozd a kegyelet
egy percét azoknak,
kik küzdöttek, harcoltak,
együtt szenvedtek veled
és életük feláldozásával
Balla Gyuláné 52
37 testvérünket mentve áldozta életét
Balla Gyula 74
Translation: The 6th Commandment: Though shalt not kill! / Our grieving brother! You who shed tears for the martyrs of your family, dedicate a minute of reverence to those who struggled, fought, and suffered together with you and sacrificed their lives trying to save the persecuted: / Balla Gyula, 52 [at the time of her death] sacrificed her life to protect the lives of 37 of our brothers and sisters / Balla Gyula, [was] 74 [when he died].
Gondolj a szabadság
az emberi haladás
és az igazi emberiesség
Translation: Remember the nameless martyrs [who sacrificed their lives] for freedom, for human progress and for true humanity.
The Hungarian inscription in a frame reads:
Idegen földben porladó, agyonhajszolt
ujpesti munkaszolgálatos testvéreink
nevüket egyedül isten őrzi,
szenvedésüket megörökiti kegyeletünk.
Translation: In memory of our brothers from Újpest crushed in companies for forced labor, whose dust lies in a foreign land only God keeps their names, their suffering is perpetuated by our piety.
A Hebrew and Hungarian inscription at the glass covering the large arched entrance to the hall reads:
נחמו נחמו עמי
Vigasztaljátok, vigasztaljátok, Népemet…
Translation: Comfort, comfort my people [Isaiah 40:1]
VI NE ÖLJ!
[inscribed inside the Tablets of the Law]
לקדושים אשר בארץ המה
A földön járt mártirok
közé tartoznak ök
elhurcolt és a legvadabb
zsidó szülök, testvérek,
hitvesek és gyermekek
שנת ת'ש'ד' לחודש תמוז יום ב'
1944 julius 9.
A kerekek vadul zakatoltak,
A szegény félholtat,
Ki tiz körmét a dúlt hajába ásta,
Úgy robogott a végállomásra.
Translation: The 6th Commandment: Though shalt not kill! / The holy people who are in the land [Ps. 16:3, in Hebrew] / Among the martyrs who visited the earth were the eternal memory of the Jewish parents, brothers, spouses, and children who were deported from SZENTENDRÉ and destroyed in the wildest way. / The year 1944, the second day of Tammuz / July 9, 1944 / The wheels rumbled wildly, They took it, they took it The poor half-dead, Who dug ten nails into her long hair, He scampered to the terminus [a citation from the talk by Rabbi Sándor Scheiber, who spoke to the surviving Jews in the synagogue of Pécs in September 1945].
Six plaques in memory of the Jews of Rákospalota are situated on the eastern wall of the hall, on both sides of the central window. They list the names of murdered Jews from this town, now part of Budapest. An inscription on the first plaque is in Hebrew and Hungarian and contains a depiction of an open Torah scroll and the star of David.
[inscribed inside the depiction of a Torah scroll]
עד הגל הזה ועדה המצבה
על אחינו בני קהילתנו
ק"ק ראקושפאלוטא יצ"ו
שנהרגו ושנשרפו על קידוש השם
במחנות העבודה באושוויטץ
ובשאר מקומות אירופא
ע"י הרוצחים האכזרים
יום האבל האיום: י"ט תמוז
Translation: Thou shall not forget! / This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness [Gen. 31:52] about our brothers, sons of our community, the holy community of Rákospalota that were killed and burned for the sanctification of God's name in the labor camps of Auschwitz and in other localities in Europe by merciless murders in the year 1942-1945. The day of terrible mourning: Tammuz 19th.
A fasiszta gyilkosok által
örök gyásznapunk: tamuz 19
ת'נ'צ'ב'ה' [=תהי נפשם צרורה בצרור החיים]
Translation: To the dear memory of our sisters and brothers destroyed by fascist murderers in the years 1942-1945 in the labor companies and in deportation, raised with reverence by the surviving Jews of Rákospalota [the neighborhood in Budapest] our day of eternal mourning: the 19th of Tammuz / [In Hebrew] May their souls be bound in the bundle of life.
Újpest was for a long time an independent city, but since 1950 it is included the 4th district of Budapest. The history is unique, it was founded in the early 19th century intentionally as a Jewish settlement on land purchased by Izsák Lőwy (1793-1847), who was barred from other locations. He named the place Neupest / Újpest (New Pest) and it became a prosperous manufacturing center with factories mostly founded by Jews. In the 19th century, industries included wood processing, leather, vinegar, cotton, ceramics and tile, shingles, furniture, buttons and braid, alcohol, ink, and other products. Besides the synagogue, the Újpest community established all the necessary institutions of Jewish life: bath, slaughterhouse, elementary school, cemetery, women's club, girls' orphanage, cultural center, library, soup kitchen, and old age home.
Before the war, because Újpest was not part of Budapest, Jewish residents were treated like those from the country. Ten thousand Jews were forced into the “yellow star houses” (the Újpest ghetto) in the spring of 1944. They were later taken to Békásmegyer, where they were squeezed into cattle cars and sent to Auschwitz. The deportation began on July 3rd, just a few days before the region ordered the suspension of deportations, and it ended a few days after the order. Of approximately 20,000 pre-war Jewish residents of Újpest, only about 3,000 survived.
During the Nazi occupation, the synagogue was looted and partially destroyed. After the war the synagogue was restored by the Jewish community and a Holocaust memorial listing the names of over 12,000 victims was added next door. The memorial was unveiled by Hungarian President Zoltán Tildy in 1948.
In 1947-48 Hungarian-Jewish artist Edith Kiss created a series of four stone reliefs for the memorial. She had been deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in northern Germany and then transferred for forced labor at the Daimler-Benz factory at Ludwigsfelde. Later she was sent on a death march from Ravenbruck but managed to escape and eventually returned to Budapest in 1944, which she began to represent her experience in an album of paintings.
“Edith Kiss,” Wikipedia , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Kiss (accessed January 26, 2022)
Frojimovics, Kinga, Geza Komoroczy, Viktoria Pusztai and Andrea Strbik. Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History (Budapest: Central European University Press, 1999). , 355-358.
Valley, Eli. The Great Jewish Cities of Central and Eastern Europe. (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1999), 472-74.