March of the Living Commemorates A Tragic Anniversary
2014 marks a tragic anniversary – 70 years since the deportation and destruction of Hungarian Jewry during the Holocaust. Given this important date, March of the Living International is seeking to incorporate the story of Hungarian Jewry into its 2014 program in several significant ways.
I. Historical Background
Beginning in April of 1944 (often during Pesach), Nazi Germany, with the help of its local Hungarian collaborators, began rounding up the Jews of Hungary, from the smallest villages, to the capital of Budapest, where one quarter of the population was Jewish. The first deportations of Hungarian Jews began on April 29, 1944, with the first transport arriving in Auschwitz-Birkenau on May 2, 1944. The last transport arrived on July 11, 1944.
Between one third and one half of all Jews murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau were Hungarian Jews who were gassed within a period of only 10 weeks.
Of an estimated 800,000 Hungarian Jews alive at the beginning of 1944, less than 200,000 were alive at the end of the war. The Nazis and their allies murdered 3/4 of Hungary’s Jewish population in the last year of WWII.
II. Current Situation in Hungary
Today, Hungary remains a country plagued by anti-Semitism -a recent poll places it among the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe. The third most popular political party in Hungary, the radical nationalist Jobbik Party(Movement for a Better Hungary), is openly anti-Semitic and racist and has been labeled “a neo-Nazi” party by Hungary’s Jewish community.
However, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, at the recent World Jewish Congress meetings in Budapest, declared that his government was determined to stamp out the rising tide anti-Semitism, stating that “anti-Semitism is unacceptable and intolerable.”
III. Plans for the 2014 March of the Living
1) The major theme of the day of the March of the Living and the memorial ceremony in Birkenau, will be the fate of Hungarian Jewry.
2) Leading Jewish figures of Hungarian descent will play an important role during the ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau on Yom Hashoah.
3) Major political figures from Hungary will be invited to attend the March of the Living
4) March of the Living International is organizing a special mission for 2014, where it will bring 1000 Hungarian Jews to a historic program in Budapest and the March of the Living in Birkenau. 400-500 youth and adults of Hungarian descent, from all over the world, will join over 500 members of the Hungarian Jewish community for a special Shabbat in Budapest. The group will participate in memorable prayer services in Budapest synagogues, meet with community leaders and participate in community events. On Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) the entire delegation will gather at the main train station, where they will participate in a short ceremony, and will then travel, by train, from Budapest to Auschwitz -Birkenau. Their train journey from Hungary to Auschwitz -Birkenau willmirror the deportation of the over 1/2 million Hungarian Jews, 70 years prior, the vast majority of whom perished in the infamous death camp. This parallel journey will be a strong testament of the strength of the Jewish community, the continuation of Hungarian Jewry and to help affirm the pledge of “Never Again.”
This event is expected generate considerable media interest from around the world and help further spread the message of the March of the Living.