Saturday, 3 October 2015

A Dreadful Precedent

In doing some research about Per Anger, the person at the Swedish delegation in Budapest who first began trying to save Budapest's Jews from the Germans in the Second World War - he was joined later by Raoul Wallenberg, who arrived in Budapest on 9 July, 1944 - I discovered that, following bombing by the Russians and Americans of the Hungarian railway lines, which made it impossible for the Germans to deport Jews to Auschwitz by train, Adolf Eichmann decided to force Budapest's Jews to march to Hegyeshalom, the border town with Austria - the same route taken, willingly, by more recent refugees, eager to reach Germany.

Per Anger, who was helped by the Hungarian police in saving Jewish Hungarians from earlier attempts to take them out of the country, later described seeing one of the forced marches to Hegyeshalom:

"One of the first days in December 1944, Wallenberg and I took a car ride along the road the Jews [were] marching on. We passed these crowds of miserable people, more dead than alive. With grey faces, they staggered forward, under blows and hits from soldiers' rifles. The road was lined with dead bodies. We had our car filled with food that we managed to distribute in spite of prohibitions, but it didn't last very long. At Hegyeshalom, we saw how the ones who arrived were handed over to a German SS commando under Eichmann, who counted them like cattle: '489-correct ('vierhundertneunundachtzig-stimmt gut!'). The Hungarian officer received a receipt that everything was in order.

Before this handing over, we managed to save some hundreds of Jews. Some had Swedish protective passes, others were gotten out by pure bluffing. Wallenberg didn't give up and made renewed journeys when he in similar ways managed to reunite some additional Jews with Budapest."

The marches to Hegyeshalom stopped on 10 December, 1944. By that time, 37,000 Jews had been put on the march from Budapest. Only 27,000 arrived at the border station.

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