Commemoration of Holocaust draws competing demonstrations

Anti-Semitic protestors rally day before Sunday's "March of the Living"

2009-04-20 09:59

Over five thousand people participated in the March of the Living demonstration in Budapest on Sunday, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the setting up of Hungary's first Jewish ghetto.


The torch light walk started from a synagogue in the capital's 7th district, and ended at Jozsefvaros railway station, where the Jews were herded into cattle cars for their journey to Auschwitz and other extermination camps in 1944.


Several demonstrators held "Holocaust is the shame of mankind" banners, as they walked across the city. There was heavy police presence along the way.


Just a day earlier, hundreds of far-right demonstrators, many of them in uniforms resembling the Nazis, marched undisturbed in Budapest, "against Zionist rule".


They held posters reading "Down with the Holocaust doctrine", "The third empire strikes back", some were wearing T-shirts, saying "Dare to be white". An enormous board at the head of the march said in Hungarian and German "Justice makes free", resembling the "Arbeit macht frei" sign on the entrance of the Auschwitz extermination camp.


In Sunday's demonstration, Gusztav Zoltai, managing director of the Hungarian Jewish Communities said: "The leader of a state is responsible if allows the resuscitation of monstrous ideas in the name of democracy and the freedom of speech".


"It's a coward act to abuse the memory of the perished hundreds of thousands, just because it is possible without retaliation. Holocaust denial is one of the dirtiest, most cowardy and most senseless in the world, as those perished can not protest. And this is still not sanctioned in Hungary," Zoltai said.


However, "on this day we do not only mourn and remember, but happily see that... we are together, strong, and belong together," he said.


Gabor Gordon, head of the March of the Living Foundation told MTI that 250 participants will leave for Auschwitz-Birkenau on Monday morning to participate in the commemorations there on Tuesday.


The commemoration was also attended by new Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai, Israel's ambassador to Hungary, Aliza Bin-Noun and Jozsef Schweitzer, retired chief rabbi of Hungary.


At the end of the commemoration participants flew 600 balloons that symbolised the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Related Stories:

  • Holocaust remembered in two Hungarian cities - 2009-06-15 10:24
  • Hungarian Jewish Congress alerts EU - 2009-05-25 10:00
  • Thousands attend anti-racism rally - 2009-05-18 10:24

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