Late 2011, renovations were being undertaken to the Margit Bridge in Budapest when divers, working on the bridge’s foundations found pieces of bone lodged around one of the pillars. The fragments were carefully recovered and initial investigation showed that they came from at least 20 different people; sadly this number included both women and children. The fragments, some of which showed bullet holes, were DNA tested in August 2015, by anthropology students and it was determined that the bone fragments were from Ashkenazi Jews.
Unfortunately, it was not difficult to understand where the bone fragments originated. The Arrow Cross Party which grew from the original Party of National Will that was formed in 1935, was aligned very closely with the German Nazi Party. This party was in power in Hungary from October 1944 to March 1945 and in these few short months it is estimated they murdered some 3600 Jews in Budapest, another 600,000 Jews died in the Holocaust.
Peter Kardos, the Chief Rabbi of Budapest, was a young boy at the time of these killings and he remembers it very well. He was unbelievably lucky to survive one of the mass murders that took place on the banks of the Danube. He told an interviewer from AFP News Agency, “I remember it like it was yesterday. There were hundreds of us lined up by the river, then we heard an order that those with children should leave, so my mother took my brother and me away. We were lucky as they didn’t shoot children that day for some reason.”
These murders were unique as they were the only mass murders that took place in major cities. These mass killings were normally hidden away in the death camps built for that purpose. Historian, Gabor Tabajdi, told Associated Press, “No similar series of murders took place in other large European cities. It is truly unique. Mass murders were taking place daily in the centre of the city.”
Sadly, very few remains of Hungarian Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust have been found and interred. On 15th April the remains found at the bridge were buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Budapest with approximately 200 people in attendance. Not only was the Jewish faith represented but the congregation included a Hungarian government minister and representatives from the Christian churches.
The head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, Andras Heisler, said, “This burial is a very important moment in the processing of these events. I’d like if Hungarian Jews could break away from the position of victims they have been in for 70 years and move in the direction of progress and building the future.”
At long last, some 70 years after the fact, some of the victims of the Arrow Cross Party have been laid to rest. Whilst the leaders of the party were tried as war criminals at the end of the war, it will take a long time for the horror that was perpetrated on them to ease within the psyche of the Jewish people in Hungary.