Memorial for Victims of the German Occupation - Atlas Obscura

Memorial for Victims of the German Occupation

A highly-criticized monument in Budapest has become the site of a makeshift Holocaust memorial. 

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The Memorial for Victims of the German Occupation stands at the southern end of Liberty Square. Built in 2014, it was meant to commemorate the Nazi takeover of Hungary that occurred on March 19, 1944. The memorial shows the archangel Gabriel, representing Hungary, being attacked by a Germanic eagle with the year 1944 on its ankle, set against a backdrop of broken columns. An inscription at the base of the monument reads, “In memory of the victims.”

Jewish groups have criticized the memorial as an attempt by Hungary’s government to absolve themselves of responsibility for their complicity with the Holocaust. Some have said the monument sends a message that the Hungarians could do nothing to resist Nazi Germany and therefore are not to blame for the atrocities that occurred within Hungary. 

Others criticized what they saw as an attempt to absolve the Horthy regime of blame for the terrors of WWII and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Hungarians.  At the time of the memorial’s construction, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was accused of “falsifying the Holocaust” and “confusing the murderer and the victim.” 

It was considered so controversial from the announcement of its development to mark the 70th anniversary of the occupation that its installation was completed in the middle of the night.

In Hungary, the Holocaust began years before the arrival of German soldiers, with pogroms, mass killings, deportations, and forced labor camps. Germany then got help from the Hungarian authorities in deporting 437,000 Jews in 1944.

In front of the memorial, you will find photos and messages left by the families of those killed during this dark period of Hungarian history, making the memorial even more poignant.

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