For my new job I’ve been reading a lot about the second world war and the holocaust. It’s a grim subject, but really interesting. There are so many countries and so many people involved. So much was happening all at the same time. I think I’ve never been interested in history this much. Of course I’m lucky because it’s not just books for me. I’m reading and researching places that I have the opportunity to visit. History immediately comes to life. Sometimes a bit too much so.
Budapest has its beautiful river Danube flowing through the town. It’s a great place for a stroll in the sunshine. When you get closer to the parliament building, you can find a large, chaotic row of empty shoes standing just at the edge of the water. People have put candles, flowers and ribbons around them. If you don’t know what it is for, you might think it is a pretty sight. Yet every single shoe has a sad story. There are sixty shoes here, all 1940s models.
Just try to imagine the people standing in them. It is war and for years they have been suffering and living in fear. The Arrow Cross right extremists are terrorising the country. The nazis are shipping people off to concentration camps. Then one day, some people are dragged towards the Danube and lined up. They are tied together, facing the water. Then they hear shots. Everyone is shot and pushed into the river. These shoes represent the shoes of those who stood there. Unfortunately it is so much more than that. This wasn’t an isolated incident. This was just one act of terror during this period. I think this is a very strong monument. It’s sad and yet it’s good to see that people still care. Fresh flowers are laid there and candles burn. It’s a sign that this will not easily be forgotten. And we shouldn’t forget.