The shoes on the Danube promenade is a commemoration dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Fascist Arrow Cross Party. In March 1944, the German Wehrmacht invaded its ally, Hungary. In May 1944 mass deportations commenced. In less than 2 months some 440,000 Jews were deported. Nearly 200,000 remained incarcerated in Budapest. Between Dec. 1944 and the end of 1945, the Arrow Cross took as many as 20,000 Jewish men, women and children from the ghetto, forced them to remove their shoes, line up along the edge of the water of the Danube, and were shot. Their bodies fell or were pushed into the river and floated away. They had to take their shoes off since shoes were valuable at the time. Sixty pairs of the cast iron shoes were created by Gyula Pauer and Can Togay. Along with the shoes you can find a plaque with an inscription which reads:
To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by the Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-45.
Sad is that some of the shoes have been pried up and stolen.
When I saw these photos and read of this, it touched me deeply.
I wrote a poem, and here it is.
SHOES ON THE DANUBE PROMENADE
as if waiting,
waiting for their wearers to pop
out of the water after a brisk swim.
But there will be no return, no laughter,
No donning of shoes.
Sixty pairs made of cast iron stand
facing the Danube to memorialize
the twenty thousand Jewish
men, women and children shot,
discarded into the dispassionate blue water.
My eyes settle
upon one small pair,
one shoe askew from the other,
as if the child who wore them tottered
away in a hurry to run barefoot
along the sinuous waterway.
I imagine a boy, head of curls,
with a big smile and lyrical laughter.
To one side of these small shoes
stands a duet of a woman’s shoe
and I wonder if these belonged to his mother.
On the other side is a man’s single shoe poised
adventurously on the edge, its mate gone.
I want to envision
the three of them,
father, mother, son,
dancing, laughing, playing
jubilantly at this riverside.
I want to imagine this
Rose Lefebvre ©