I am sure you are thinking “What the heck do you mean by ‘Shoes on the Danube’?” Well, today is your lucky day, as I am going to tell you.
Sculptors Gyula Pauer and Can Togay have created a moving memorial to the Holocaust atrocities. The memorial sits alongside the Parliament building on the edge of the Danube River. It honors the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II.
Shoes on the Danube Promenade
The victims had to take their shoes off before being executed, since shoes were valuable belongings at the time. They were shot at the edge of the water, so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away, to spare the fascists from having a burial. The site is a symbolic location, as this part of the embankment was not the only one used for this purpose.
There are a total of 60 pairs of rusted cast iron shoes, which were placed on the embankment on April 16, 2005. We visited exactly 9 years later. Each pair of shoes was modeled after a contemporary shoe from the 1940’s. Different sizes and styles reflect how nobody was spared from the brutality of the Arrow Cross militia (the shoes depict children, women, businessmen, sportsmen etc.).
Anya was very touched with this memorial, as seeing the empty shoes made a profound impact and made it “real”. She wanted to touch the shoes and was full of questions. It is difficult to share the brutal truth about history, but it is also important that the kids understand the history. To be true global citizens, they need to know the good and the bad, to help prevent things like this from happening again.
Many of the shoes were filled with small rocks. I am not sure what this symbolizes, but it did seem to be intentional.
Getting to the Shoes on the Danube:
Take Streetcar 2 either to Széchenyi István tér or to Kossuth tér. The memorial is between the Parliament Building and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, by the Danube. So if you are facing the river, it is just to the left of Parliament along the river about 500 meters. Directions below are from Parliament to Shoes on the Danube Promenade.
Would you like to learn more? Check out these interesting educational activities contributed by Jessie Voigts.