Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Side - House of Terror, Dohány Street Synagogue, Memento Park - Budapest

Continuation of June 8th - Friday

I am going to do it!  I am going to finish this day in this post no matter how many pictures long it is!  Are you up for the challenge of reading it?  I am up for the challenge of writing it.  Let's go!

We got up early this morning and have already been to Szechenyi Baths and have taken the metro to the House of Terrors.

House of Terror Budapest

I wasn't allowed to take photos inside and they did not have any postcards.  Usually if I can't take pictures I pick up some postcards in their place.  I was sooooo disappointed that I walked away with nothing but memories, but at least I do get those.

This building was the headquarters for the secret police of the Nazis.  It is where many Jews were tortured and killed.  It was an awful place.  Then the Soviet communist came and "rescued" the Hungarians from the brutality of Nazis.  They took over this building as their headquarters.  It now became the place where anyone thought to be an enemy of the state was terrorized, tried, deported and executed.

Now that the Soviets are gone it has been turned into a museum for the Hungarian people as a place to remember and a place to heal.  The descriptions are in Hungarian but there are papers at the entrance to every room in different languages so that all can learn about what the Hungarian people and most of Central/Eastern Europe had to go through.

The first thing and the last thing we saw were the most memorable.  

When you first walk in there is a wall that spans several floors.  On this wall are the faces of the victims who died in the building.  There are thousands of faces.  It is heartbreaking to see them all and know their death had no reason.

One of the last rooms you see is also filled with faces.  However these are not the people who died, these are the people who did the torture and killing.  None of these people were brought to justice and many of them are still alive.  

It is mind boggling.  I am very glad that we went to this museum and I highly recommend it to all despite the nature of it.

After seeing the House of Terror we went to our first synagogue.  There are several synagogues in Budapest but the largest one is Dohány Street Synagogue. Interesting side fact, dohány means tobacco in Hungarian. this synagogue is actually the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world after the one in New York City. 

The interior of it looks more like a church so that it would be more acceptable to the general public.  It is a progressive Jewish synagogue where men and women sit together in the choir (the middle sections as opposed to the balconies) but are still separated by the left and right. There is also an organ, which playing it is considered work and couldn't be done on the Sabbath by an orthodox Jew.

Frankie did have to wear a hat in the synagogue and they said his baseball cap was fine.  So backwards from what we are use to, but I am glad Frankie had his hat.  I saw one man who had a kippah (or yarmulke) that he had borrowed from the synagogue and had return it to the person in charge. She turned around and handed it to the next man with no cleaning it or anything.  Now, granted both men were probably very clean but you never know!

Here are some pictures of the outside and the inside.

Dohány Street Synagogue no tram wires Budapest 

Dohány Street Synagogue front Budapest 

doorway Dohány Street Synagogue

Inside Dohány Street Synagogue 

Lights Dohány Street Synagogue

Here is another picture from the inside.  This is a pulpit and I assume it is used for the same purpose as in a church.  There was one on each side, so I am not sure how that worked and I can't find anything online about it.

Pulpit Dohány Street Synagogue

One of the reasons this synagogue survived World War II without being destroyed is the fact that the Nazis were using it for their own purposes. The Nazis put radio antennas in the two towers, used the nave as a stable for their horses, and even had a Gestapo base in the balcony above the main entrance seen in the picture below. 

Area where there were Nazi offices Dohány Street Synagogue

Behind the synagogue there is a statue called the Tree of Life by Imre Varga, who I will tell you more about in a later post.  It was created after the fall of communism when the Holocaust could finally be acknowledged. If you were to turn it upside down it would represent a menorah.  Each of the over 4,000 leaves is etched with a name of a Holocaust victim, which you can see best in the third picture below.

Tree of Life Dohány Street Synagogue

Tree of Life Side Dohány Street Synagogue

Tree of Life Name 2 Dohány Street Synagogue

Also behind the synagogue is a tribute to Raoul Wallenberg and other non-Jewish people who helped the Jews during the torment by the Nazis.  He was from Sweden and was sent to Budapest to do what he could to help the Jews.  He had no experience really to do much but he managed to help save the life of about 100,000 Jews.  That is amazing!  When the Soviets liberated Budapest from the Nazis, Raoul was arrested and never seen from again.  His death was reported by the Soviets but there is dispute about how he actually died.

Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Dohány Street Synagogue

One more thing behind the synagogue that I would like to share is the memorial stained glass and what use to be part of the Jewish ghetto behind it.

Outside stained glass Dohány Street Synagogue

Close up of the Jewish ghetto. I do not know if anyone still lives there or what the condition of the buildings are on the inside, but I did see some flowers on the window sill at the top.

Jewish quarters behind Dohány Street Synagogue

After visiting the synagogue our last stop of the day was Memento Park, but we needed a refreshment break.  We stopped at a coffeehouse called...

Puskin Kavehaz Budapest

It had some really cool paintings inside!

JimiHendrix and Elvis Puskin Kavehaz Budapest

My favorite!

Einstein Puskin Kavehaz Budapest

On the menu there was something called Traubisoda which is a Hungarian grape soda. It was yummy!

Traubisoda-Hungarian grape soda Puskin Kavehaz Budapest

Totally refreshed, we made our way to Memento Park, it use to be called Statue Park (Szoborpark in Hungarian) and some of the signs haven't been changed.  All the statues from the communist era were not destroyed.  Oh no, not in Budapest!  The people of Budapest took those statues and stuck them 6 miles outside of town in a outdoor park.

There is a bus that goes directly there and the ticket for it includes the price of the park or you can use public transportation to save some money.  The public transportation is not too hard to follow and the Park website tells you all the information you need for getting there no matter which option you choose.

We choice public transportation because I am a cheapskate (and proud of it!) and along the way we found the house that I am going to live in.  Now, had we gone the other way, I might have never found my house! Look how cute it is and of course, it is yellow!

Going to be my yellow house one day in Budapest

It is good to know what all the names of the places you are going could be called because who knows what the sign might say!  But this was our sign telling us we had arrived!

Statue or Memento Park Budapest

One of the first things you will see are the remains of a statue of Lenin.  His boots are all that remain.  I took a few pictures of what the statue looked like before it came down and one what it looked like as it was coming down.  I know pictures of pictures aren't the best, but you get the idea.

Josef Stalins boots  and statue base Memento Park Budapest

Picture of Stalin in full Memento Park Budapest

Picture of Stalin fallen Memento Park Budapest

The pictures of the pictures above were taken in the exhibit that is in a barrack nearby. Also in the barrack they played several short films that were used to train secret police agents on such topics as: ways to hide listening bugs, how to do home searches, how to recruit new members, and how to effectively network.  I stayed and watched all 4 segments of 10 minutes each.  I found it fascinating!  No one else stayed.  All I could think of was, if they had the technology we have now there might have been no stopping them!

Moving on to the park!  At the entrance where you buy the ticket they have this old style radio playing communist songs (no idea how to explain what that sounds like, but when you hear it, you know it).

Old radio at Memento Park Budapest

On to the statues!  First up, Lenin!  Squinty-eyed, bald headed, pointy-chinned little commie

Vladimir Lenin upper part Memento Park Budapest

This one shows the Hungarian worker in the front with the "hero" Soviet solider in the back.  The Soviets really tried hard to do some major brain washing.  I am sure it worked for some, but I don't think they were really very successful.

Hungarain worker and Soviet soldier Memento Park Budapest

I know the red flowers in the shape of the Soviet star was done on purpose but it was still surprising, funny, ironic...I don't even know what to call it.

Red Star of flowers Memento Park Budapest

This was, by far, my favorite statue.  I have no idea why I liked it so much. It was representative of a Hungarian being a good communist worker.  Doing his duty for his country and the government.  The Hungarians had another idea about what it represented.  They said that it must have been a worker at one of the thermal baths running after a customer who had forgot their towel.

Communist worker  Memento Park Budapest

It was enormous! See that little thing sitting on its foot?  That's me!  Now, granted, I am ONLY 5 foot 1 inch (1.55 meters), but still!!!

Jennifer and Communist worker  Memento Park Budapest

Apparently, there were some Hungarians who believed in the cause or were at least bullied into believe in the cause because this next one honors the soldiers who were Hungarian.  Frankie, tried out for the team, but they rejected him due to him being too short.  (6 foot 1 inch or 1.85 meters, [yes he is a foot taller than me!])

Frankie and Hungarian soldiers  Memento Park Budapest

This was Frankie's favorite statue at the park.  He gave me some symbolism reason and I said mmhmm and went on with my life (sorry my love, you know I can't do symbolic).  The sphere use to have the red communism star on it and all of it represented the worker's hands and the communist ideas that were protected by the hands but still on display for the world to see and appreciate.

Workers hands  Memento Park Budapest

Now, let's face it, these communist statues where not put here to be honored.  So with that being said, I don't think anyone would get too upset about this.  Silly Frankie.  Apparently, he likes to pick statue noses...

Frankie helping Jozsef Kalamar Memento Park Budapest

This statue shows the Hungarian worker thrilled to meet the protector and savior Soviet solider.  Over and over this message was portrayed. 

Hungarian worker welcoming the Soviet solider Memento Park Budapest

And the final statue I would like to share is the giant Soviet solider holding a communist flag.  He use to be at the base of the Liberation Monument.  They wanted to take the entire monument down but a compromise was made to keep the woman and ditch the man! 

Gaint Solider full Memento Park Budapest

Shew!  I did it!  I finished June 8th - Friday in two post!  Go me!  The next post will be all about our 2.5 hour train trip northwest of Budapest to Bratislava, Slovakia!  I can't wait!