The Hungarian Jewish community numbered approximately 700,000 at the beginning of 1944, having absorbed thousands of refugees from Poland, Austria and Slovakia seeking sanctuary from Nazi persecution. Although the community was subject to anti-Jewish legislation and antisemitic experiences, it was largely protected from Nazi atrocities.
But on 19 March 1944 Axis forces occupied Hungary. Jewish shops were closed, Jewish-owned apartments confiscated and the incarceration of Hungarian Jews into ghettoes began.
In mid-May 1944, SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann and a team of “deportation experts” worked with Hungarian authorities to deport 440,000 Jews living outside Budapest on 145 trains, many to Auschwitz.
October 1944 marked the beginning of the end for the Jews of Budapest as many faced deportations and death marches.
This year’s Yom Hashoah ceremonies will honour the Jews of Hungary and other European centres who were deported in 1944 – 70 years ago – as well as all the victims of the Holocaust.
The featured guest speaker this year is Dr David Silberklang, senior historian at the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, who will address the communal commemorations on the north shore and in the eastern suburbs.
The ceremonies will be organized by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. The north shore event will be at Masada College on Sunday April 27 at 7:00pm and the eastern suburbs ceremony at Moriah College on Monday April 28 at 7:30pm.
Honorary Research Associate and Lecturer at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Dr Joseph Toltz will lead a choir which will perform the lullaby from the children’s Czech opera Brundibar, which was performed in Theresienstadt more than 50 times.
First-hand testimonies will be related by survivors George Freuden OAM, Joe Schwarz and Jerry Rind.
The annual memorial service at the Martyrs’ Memorial at Rookwood cemetery will be held on Sunday April 27 at 10.30am, with Israeli Deputy Ambassador Meir Itzchaki giving an address on behalf of Israel, Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants president George Foster delivering the English address, Hillel assistant director Shailee Mendelevich the youth address and Dr Georges Rich the Yiddish address.
This will be followed by the name reading ceremony at the Sydney Jewish Museum at 1.30pm, organized by the Board of Deputies, the Museum and the Association.
The events are supported by the Joint Communal Appeal, a grant from the NSW Community Relations Commission and the B’nai B’rith NSW Charitable Trust.
Inquiries: 9360 1600