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Budapest at night, taken from the crusie. All photos by Kathy Taylor-Hallick

The Shoes on the Danube Holocaust Memorial

The Shoes on the Danube Holocaust Memorial

Serenade of Hungarian Gypsy Music

Interior-Dohany Synagogue

Gold and White Ark-Dohany Synagogue

Holocaust Memorial Tree commemorating the loss of 6 million Jews.

Memorial Garden behind the Dohany synagogue

Budapest at night

Interior of Dohany Synagogue

Kathy Taylor-Hallick: Follow me as we travel on a Danube River Cruise to Budapest To Uncover its Stirring Jewish History

by Kathy Taylor-Hallick, Manager Luxury Corporate Cruises, October 14, 2015. Kathy can be reached at tel: 204 771 7434, Toll Free: 877 338 3310. or by email at [email protected]



[Editor's note: The article below is the first in a series of three articles by Travel Agent Kathy Taylor-Hallick the Manager of Luxury Corporate Cruises about a Jewish Heritage trip she led to Budapest, Vienna and Prague on a cruise on the Danube River.  In each article, Kathy will be describing her journey and outlining the fascinating Jewish history that was revealed to her. For 25 years, Kathy has worked in the Winnipeg's Jewish community with people of all ages, and has learned about and experienced Jewish culture first hand. As she has told the WJR, "I have eaten Jewish holiday foods, attended a variety of Jewish religious services and have been befriended by many special people in this community. I have organized many Jewish cultural events of which my most renowned became Shabbat Dinners for Seniors held at the Rady JCC. I have also been to Israel and spent three months on Kibbutz Yifat located near Afula in the Valley of Jesreal ". Kathy's travelling partner for the cruise was Rochelle Zimberg .






In 2012 I had the remarkable opportunity as a Travel Agent to market and lead a group from Winnipeg on an Avalon Jewish Heritage River Cruise on the Danube River. 



The first city we stopped in was Budapest Hungary, a beautiful city, but one which has a difficult and painful Jewish history, especially as it relates to the Holocaust. In Budapest, I absorbed facts and details about the atrocities of the Holocaust, and it took some time before finally I was able to separate this upsetting history and enjoy the other aspects of this fascinating city, one which I would return to for a variety of reasons.



Shortly after our arrival to Budapest, I stood on the banks of the Danube River. Our hotel was on the east side or 'Pest side' of Budapest, which is the urban area of this amazing city. This is the side where Parliament, the Dohany Street Synagogue (second largest in the world), museums, the Opera House, the Music Academy, the Central Market Hall, the Palace of the Arts, and the National Theatre are all located in close proximity to each other.



Standing on the Pest side of Budapest I had great views of the west Buda side of the Danube, which is hilly and somewhat suburban. The streets are narrow and winding, with a lot of beautiful greenery. This area is often considered to be 'Montmartre' area of Budapest, because of the artists, and similar to Berkeley California because of the hills.



Walking along the Pest side of the Danube near the Parliament I came across a most moving and impactful memorial known as “The Shoes on the Danube Promenade.” This  stirring memorial commemorates those Hungarian Jews who were shot on the banks of the Danube River during the winter of 1944-45 by the militiamen of the anti-Semitic, fascist and pro-German Arrow Cross Party, that came to power in October 1944.The memorial, installed on the banks of the Danube in 2005, was conceptualized by film director Can Togay and sculptor Guyala Power, and consists of 60 pairs of period appropriate shoes made from iron that are set in concrete on the Danube embankment.




Standing on the embankment, it was emotionally difficult for me to imagine the horrific brutality of this crime, as Jewish people of all ages, wearing their coats with Yellow Stars were required to remove their shoes and then lined up, along the banks of the river and shot. Sometimes the murderers would tie the hands of three Jews together with shoelaces or rope. If they were successful in shooting the first Jew, then all three Jews would fall into the river, with the dead body pulling the living ones down. During this time, Jewish blood literally turned the Danube red, and the river became known as a Jewish Cemetery. The reason the victims were required to remove their shoes was because the killers would use the shoes or trade them on the black market since they were a valuable commodity during World War II. Under the Arrow Cross government, thousands of Jews were murdered in Budapest and nearly 80,000 were expelled from Hungary in a death march to the Austrian border



In silence, I walked along the banks of the Danube contemplating each shoe, those that would have belonged to working men, women and young children, those of the poor and those of the rich. The only thing missing were the faces of the victims. It is left up to the visitor to imagine who the owners of these shoes were. This was the beginning of my tour and the haunting image of these shoes has and will stay with me forever. 


The day ended with a typical meal at an authentic Hungarian Restaurant near our hotel. It was here we had our first taste of being serenaded by a musical duo with Gypsy Music.



On this second day in Budapest we were up early to enjoy the wonderful Buffet Breakfast provided by our hotel. We were soon off to see the sites and buildings on the Pest side of the Danube. The highlight of course was the visit to Heroes Square where we could see such sites as the Millennium Monument and the Budapest Opera House. We then traveled to the Buda side where out motor coach climbed the hill to see the magnificent St. Stephen’s Basilica. Walking the narrow streets hear we were able to view the Pest side once again and we were treated to more of the typical Hungarian Gypsy Music.



In the afternoon we walked through the Jewish quarter of Budapest and visited the exquisite Dohany Street Synagogue. Although there were once 17 synagogues in Budapest this remaining one is the largest synagogue in Europe (with 3000 seats in the sanctuary) and  the second largest in the world. The inauguration of the neighboring great synagogue in Vienna was the inspiration for the construction of the Dohany synagogue, inaugurated in 1859.



In 1845 a committee did a search for an architect for this synagogue. Three architects presented their plans and the romantic, oriental style by Viennesse architecht Ludwig Forster was chosen by the Jewish community, notwithstanding that Forster had mainly designed catholic churches. The Dohany temple is often described as being the most catholic synagogue in the world. 



The architectural style of this synagogue is romantic and oriental, hardly similar to the usual orthodox synagogue. In fact many of the elements and symbolism will remind one of a Gothic catholic cathedral. There are two high towers, a rosette and a triumphal archway, which are unusual to synagogue architecture. The gorgeous walls and features of the synagogue are even more gorgeous that than the outside. The wooden seats, the three middle aisles and the pulpit once again make this synagogue reminiscent of a classic, Catholic Church. 



Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism was born in the house right next  the synagogue and celebrated his bar mitzvah there. During the Holocaust, the synagogue was situated on the border of the Jewish ghetto, where thousands of Jews died from hunger and cold: more than 2000 are buried in the courtyard of the synagogue.




At the back of the synagogue, we  saw Memorial Park, in memory of the Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved the lives of about 35,000 Jews during the  Holocaust. In the garden we saw the Holocaust Memorial Tree commemorating the loss of  6 million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. The shape of the tree is that of an inverted menorah, and its 4,000 leaves contain the names of Hungarian Jews who perished during the Holocaust. The Emanuel Foundation which supports the Memorial Tree was founded by the world famous movie star of Hungarian origin, Tony Curtis for the memory of his father. The Foundation continues to be supported by surviving family and relatives.



One of the two tablets on the ground in front of the tree asks us “To Remember.” The second tablet quotes from the Talmud “Those who save one soul save the whole world.” Beyond the tree, we saw s four huge standing granite columns surrounding a fifth one in the middle. This is to remember “Righteous Gentiles”, those non-Jews who worked to save Jewish people during those hard times. These people are called “Righteous Gentiles” (i.e Raoul /Wallenberg, Angela Rotta, Carl Lutz, Petasca, Branquinho) who courageously saved Jewish people in the Holocaust.



Our day was intense and difficult . I can only imagine how painful this must have been for those people on our tour who had family and friends who perished in the Holocaust.



The next day early in the morning we prepared to board our Avalon River Cruise Ship for our trip along the Danube River.



Our tour of Budapest would not have been complete without a visit to the world-famous Gellert Baths located next to the Gellert Hotel. These baths, built between 1912 and 1918 in Art Nouveau style, are considered to be the most beautiful in Hungary. The hot springs come from deep within the Gellert Hill,  and the healing waters go back as far as the 15th century. The building has mosaic walls and floors at the main entrance, along the hallways and the surrounding pools. There are strikingly detailed and beautiful stained glass windows and a wooden structure in the changing rooms. The hot springs that feed the thermal pools are rich in calcium, magnesium, hydrogen – carbonate, sulfate and sodium, with an abundance of fluoride ions. These waters have the ability to cure degenerative illnesses of joints, chronic and semi acute arthritis, and spinal problems. Gellert Baths is also wheelchair accessible.


Gellert Baths are authentic, unique and historical. Rochelle and I plunged into them, going from pool to pool and sauna to steam bath until we were fully cleansed. Following this, we boarded out Cruise ship, settled into our stateroom, had dinner and began our evening cruise out of Budapest. Seeing enchanting Budapest at night from our cruise was a sight not to be missed. 


Please continue this journey with me in an upcoming feature of the Winnipeg Jewish Review. We will spend our next day cruising on the Danube and will arrive in the historic city of Vienna, the capital of the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and a city with layers and layers of Jewish History and Heritage.


Kathy-Taylor Hallick is the Manager of Luxury Corporate Cruises. She can be reached at

tel: 204 771 7434, Toll Free: 877 338 3310. or by email at [email protected]

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