Budapest and Poland 1989: Our Jewish heritage tour written from my wife’s memoirs

Budapest and Poland 1989: Our Jewish heritage tour written from my wife’s memoirs

The following is an excerpt from my late wife's diary of the trip we took that I wrote about last week. This is the week of Yom Hashoah, or the Holocaust remembrance. After this was written, we went to Auschwitz and that is where the diary ended.  What she saw was horrible to the point that she never finished her memoirs.  What a shame!

“Today we visited the great temple on Doheny Street, a square block building over 100 years old. Strictly out of the past: massive, mysterious, impressive and in much need of repair.  This is being done in the temple, the courtyard cemetery, the Bet Midrash, Bet Haeneset (Places of worship) and outside.

There is a heroes memorial (a Holocaust memorial) thanks to a fund created by actor Tony Curtis in memory of his (a Hungarian) father and known as the Emmanuel Fund. All along the perimeter of the Synagogue, extending many blocks in several directions are remains of the wall ordered built by the Nazis. This was to create a Jewish ghetto, confining Jews who were shot or worked to death and/or sent to a concentration camp. A Jewish Museum is also housed on this site displaying many artifacts that were hidden or smuggled out for safe keeping from the Germans.

It is said that Adolph Eichmann had offices here and visited periodically to convey orders to soldiers as to the disposition of the Jews.  It was the intention of the Nazis to retain the Doheny Temple as a showplace museum of extinct Jews in their intent to annihilate the race, so ironically the Temple was saved from destruction.

The museum displays are a stark reminder of twisted Nazi humor, dresses made from confiscated prayer shawls, drums made from Torah scrolls. The heroes chapel is under construction so we could not see it. This renovation is also being done with monies from the Emmanuel Fund.

From Doheny Temple we visited the site of the Raoul Wallenberg memorial where President Bush laid a memorial wreath in a visit to Hungary last month. It’s back to the Hotel to change for our evening excursion to the Kazinsky Orthodox Synagogue for Saturday services. This is real old world Judaism, men downstairs women upstairs behind a wooden gate where prayer is intense, really intense.

We then moved on to Poland.

We went to see a portion of the Warsaw ghetto near Mila 10 and to the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto heroes, across the street from the Umschlagplatz plaza (transfer point) where the Nazis carried out their selections for deportation. Mila 10 was where Mordecai Anielwicz and his chiefs of staff met their death as leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto rebellion uprising.

Across the street is the Judenrat (Jewish council) which still stands.

The actual martyrs memorial was designed by Nathan Rappaport. It is a 36 foot monument with a bronze group mounted in front of a towering granite wall. A symbolic gravestone to the 4 million Jews of Poland and a single tombstone for the thousands of Jews whose remains lie buried and unmarked beneath the rubble that was the ghetto.

Jews have been restoring cemeteries throughout Poland and it’s high time as many are still in pitiful disarray. It’s dark now but we stop at the town square which is quite charming and filled with flower vendors. Poland grows some of the most fabulous flowers ever seen.

it is a national holiday Wednesday (All Saints Day). Polish residents have been buying huge bouquets to place on grave and memorial sites the past several days and we have been witness to this colorful fragrant display during this time."

This has been an edited version of the diary that starts with the horror of war and ends with the beauty of Polish flowers and their marvelous aroma.

Her writing will always light the corners of my mind. She passed away in 2009 but left behind a riveting account of our trip.

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