Archive for June, 2015

SHOES ON THE DANUBE IN BUDAPEST

June 2, 2015 Comments Off on SHOES ON THE DANUBE IN BUDAPEST General

 

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On my recent river cruise from Budapest to Prague, I was able to racewalk every morning on different scenic paths along the water. It was raining on the first morning we were docked close to Budapest, but I happily ventured out along the Danube on a path leading to the magnificent Parliament building. As I walked, I noticed something ahead that looked like shoes lining the wall edging the river. I stopped to look at what turned out to be about 60 pair of bronze sculptured shoes placed randomly on the wall along the water. I guessed from the style of the shoes that they were from the World War II period; then I noticed candles and flowers among the display. Because the shoes were very similar to the concentration camp photographs of piles of shoes that I had seen in the past, I felt certain that this was a Holocaust memorial of some kind.

 

As I stood there a woman walked up to the shoes and stared at them sadly; I asked her if she could tell me more about them. She explained that Jews of all ages had been lined up along the water and shot into the Danube. I later discovered that the brutal ruling Arrow Cross Party for Jewish activities had forced multi-aged groups of people to the edge of the Danube in 1944 and 1945; firing squads shot them in the back at close range so they fell into the river to be washed away. Sculptors Gyula Pauer and Can Togay later created this moving memorial of shoes belonging to children, women, and men – erected in 2005 in memory of the victims. *

 

What was incredibly moving about this memorial, apart of course from the terrible events on which it was based, was the way it personalized the vicious murders. Each shoe had a living quality – you could just envision the person who might have been wearing it. Even as I initially stared at the shoes in the rain, before I knew anything else about them, they made me think of the importance of each human being and the ways in which each loss of a single person could never be replaced. The sculptors had created a design with incredibly powerful impact – simple shoes that stood alone because the lives of their owners had been taken from them. They represented the gifts that every person brings to life, and the empty space they leave behind when they are gone.

 

The ultimate message in these lovely and lonely shoes for me is the importance of respect and activism for human rights. For most teachers and education professors and writers, such respect and activism plays out in relatively simple but profoundly important ways. Every day provides many chances to reach out, to affirm, to encourage, to comfort, and to stand up for others. Quiet courage and determination can help us to find windows of opportunity to defy what is cruel and inhumane with our words, our intentions, and our compassionate actions. Children learn the best lessons about human rights from the gentle and strong adults who enact them – adults who honor and respect other people even in the most trying and difficult circumstances. Such adults are not struggling to become wealthy or famous – rather they are struggling to create peace, respect, compassion, and human rights in the simple spaces that may well be the most important spaces of all.

*The information about this memorial was taken from the following website http://visitbudapest.travel/articles/one-of-budapests-most-moving-memorials-shoes-on-the-danube/

 

Written by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children