Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Traveling Through Budapest

How ironic!

Budapest is serving as the transit point for Middle Eastern refugees fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other parts of the Muslim world.

How ironic that Hungary is the clearing house of humanity caught up in the savagery of war. How ironic that the human tide wants to flee to Germany (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3217584/Angela-Merkel-hints-bringing-border-checks-Syrian-refugees-boarding-trains-Hungary-chant-Germany-come.html).

Hungary, specifically Budapest, possesses an infamous history when it comes to exporting casualties of war. During World War II Hungary was aligned with Nazi Germany. Yet, through 1943, Jews were relatively safe within its borders. It was only after the government was replaced by a more Nazi-sympathetic regime in March 1944, after Hitler’s troops took control of the country, that mass deportations of Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp began.

As per Wikipedia,  “On March 19, 1944, German troops occupied Hungary, prime minister Miklós Kállay was deposed and soon mass deportations of Jews to German death camps in occupied Poland began. SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann went to Hungary to oversee the large-scale deportations. Between 15 May and 9 July, Hungarian authorities deported 437,402 Jews. All but 15,000 of these Jews were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and 90% of those were immediately killed. One in three of all Jews killed at Auschwitz were Hungarian citizens.” 

In all, an estimated 600,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the war. Most of the dead came from the countryside, not Budapest.

When our family visited Budapest during the summer of 2008, we learned first-hand the logistics behind the deportations. Budapest served as a way station for the doomed who were brought in from all parts of Hungary.

Budapest was a central railway hub because of the oddities of the European rail system. Located in central Europe, Budapest had two rail systems with different track gauges and separate railroad terminals across the city, one to serve passengers and freight headed west toward Poland and Germany, one for travel east toward Russia. When Jews would arrive from the eastern provinces of Hungary, they would be marched cross-town to the western-oriented station for immediate transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau. An estimated 12,000 souls were shipped out each day with the enthusiastic help of Hungarian Nazi sympathizers.

For centuries Jews had thrived inside Hungary but the country fostered deep anti-Semitic prejudices which linger unto today. It is ironic to see Arab refugees— Semites—flocking to Hungary for a chance to escape oppression. It is ironic to see them trying to reach Germany for a chance for a better, safer life.