By Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST, June 21 (Reuters) - Tamas Marton was a Budapest
schoolboy in 1944 when Hungarians allied to Nazi Germany helped
to deport half a million Jews, including his mother, to death
Seventy years on, as Hungarians still grapple with the past
and many support the far-right Jobbik party, the government
finds itself in conflict with the Jewish community over
Hungarians' role in the Holocaust.
The Open Society Archives brought that role to the fore on
Saturday, opening up to the public 76 buildings where Jews were
gathered during the war. Many were either slaughtered on the
spot or transported to death camps.
In the courtyard of one building, Marton, now 84, talked to
about 100 people about his personal memories.
He said he watched helplessly as Hungarian fascists deported
his mother from their home in an ornate building in central
Budapest. She was first taken to rural Hungary. When she escaped
and came home, an informer reported her.
"A day after she came back the building manager showed up
with a fascist commando and took her away again," Marton said.
"She was deported to the camp in Bergen-Belsen and died
there, two days after the camp was liberated. She received food
and her eviscerated body could not handle it."
He remembered that on one occasion, at a building across the
street, the fascists responded to gunfire from a top-floor
window by herding every Jewish resident into the street. They
took the women and children to the ghetto, but not before
executing the men in front of their families.
Buildings were earmarked for Jews with a large yellow Star
of David, many of them housing hundreds of people, several
families crowded into each apartment. Time and again fascist
commandos raided such houses and killed dozens of Jews at a
Of the 2,000 buildings so designated, 1,600 still stand in
the Hungarian capital, and on Saturday residents of the 76
participating houses, many of them Holocaust survivors, welcomed
visitors and told them about the horrors.
The Open Society Archives called the events the Day of
Starred Houses, designed to spread out across Budapest in the
hope of making the events as visible as possible.
Although Jewish culture has flourished in Hungary since the
fall of Communism and Budapest is again home to one of Europe's
largest Jewish communities, anti-Semitism is a growing problem
that Jews and others view with alarm.
Budapest now has about 100,000 Jewish residents, compared
with more than 200,000 before the Holocaust.
The government of centre-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban
found itself in confrontation with the Jewish community as it
commissioned a World War Two memorial that Jews think
whitewashes the responsibility of Hungarians in the Holocaust.
Although Orban has repeatedly pledged zero tolerance for
anti-Semitism and said Hungarians were indeed complicit in the
genocide, he rejected full blame for it and said without German
occupation there would never have been death trains leaving
Hungary at all.
Many Jewish organisations have boycotted government efforts
to commemorate the Holocaust anniversary in protest.
After the far-right Jobbik party gained an unprecedented 21
percent in a parliamentary election in April, tens of thousands
of Hungarians took to the street to protest the rise of the far
right in the country.
To people like Tamas Marton, that is little comfort. To this
day he lives in the same house where the atrocities happened to
his family during the war. For decades he used to live side by
side with the building manager who turned his mother in.
"He lived right in this building," he said. "Of course he
tried to avoid me. He never really looked me in the eye after
(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Stephen Powell)
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