|We publish our post at the same time here and in the Newsletter of the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association.|
Then I suddenly wake up to see that we are next to a glowing gas station, where Andrea is inquiring about gde nakhoditsya vokzal, where is the railway station. Had she not noticed this familiar place, we would already have passed Kőrösmező. The vokzal is just a half kilometer away, up in the hillside. We do the last hundred meters on foot. It is about midnight. The building of the railway station is dark and deserted and just below us, in the valley, are flickering the lights of the sleeping town. By the light of a mobile phone we search for the plaque on the wall of the station. The Hungarian and Ukrainian ones have long since disappeared, only the broken one in bad Hebrew is still on the site. The Prágai sisters leave a small wreath leaning against the wall, a bigger one they will put on the mass grave in Kamenets-Podolsk, for their grandfather followed this road. Ten Jewish men can be found in the company, but not everyone knows the prayer by heart. Andrea dredges up the Jewish calendar, and illuminates with iPhone the text of the Kaddish.
Eight months later, in broad daylight, the road is no longer this desolate. Most of the potholes have been patched for some time, and three plaques have been freshly fixed on the wall of the station. Their renewal was initiated by the Hungarian State at the behest of the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association and the Holocausst Memorial Center, following our April visit. They also contacted the Hungarian Consulate in Ungvár/Uzhgorod, who also visited the site, and Consul General József Bacskai also found an earlier photo, still showing intact the three plaques inaugurated in 2009 by the John Wesley Lutheran Theological Institute. These three plaques were reconstructed and put on the wall as social work in December 2013.
“In memory of our Jewish brothers, who were Hungarian or sought refuge in Hungary in 1941. The Hungarian State of that period and the inhuman Nazi hatred outlawed them and chased them into death. Let their memory be blessed!” In the inauguration of the tablet, aside from the Hungarian State and the Hungarian Consulate of Uzhgorod, from the Ukrainian side also took part Oleksandr Kovalj, Professor of the Department of Tourism at the National University of Uzhgorod and Director of the Transcarpathian Tourist Information Center, Mihaylo Kolodko, sculptor, leader of the UnGang Cultural and Educational NGO, Sandor Fegyir, PhD, the Vice-Rector of the Uzhgorod National University and leader of the Pannonia NGO, and Dmitro Andriyuk, head of the Rahov district administrative office.
In Kamenets-Podolsk, where most of the “stateless” Jews handed over in Kőrösmező were executed on 27 and 28 August 1941, thus far, also only the John Wesley Theological Institute has set up a memorial on the mass grave. Thus the second part of the recent initiative has yet to be realized, and the Hungarian government should set a worthy memorial to those, who became the victims of the Ukrainian militia and German firing squads as a consequence of the “immigration procedure” of the Hungarian authorities, well ahead of the beginning of the Holocaust.
On the summer of 1941 the Hungarian authorities – certainly on the request of the Hungarian defense staff and approved by the Council of Ministers – gathered in the course of police raids and expelled from the country twenty thousand so-called “stateless” Jews, who had no Hungarian citizenship. The majority were those who had fled Poland, then occupied by the Germans, but many of them had lived in Hungary for generations, or had been expelled from Slovakia because of their pro-Hungarian activity. The captives were deported into the Kőrösmező collection camp, where on 12 August they were handed over to the German army invading Poland. At the sight of the dimensions of the deportation, the German authorities asked for the procedure to be stopped, because they were unable to place so many people. The majority of the persons handed over were delivered to Kamenets-Podolsk, and for a while guarded in the ghetto, but on 27 and 28, they were shot into a mass grave. This was the first German genocide of this size against Jews, one month before Baby Yar and long before the death camps.
We visited these two stations on the death road, Kőrösmező and Kamenets-Podolsk, during the cultural pilgrimage East Unlimited – Budapest-Odessa organized in April 2013 by the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association.
A short explanation about the title: The Hungarian Government has recently decided to set up a memorial statue to the Nazi occupation of Hungary on 19 March 1944. According to the interpretation of the Veritas Historical Institute established by the government to rewrite national history, the holocaust of the Hungarian Jews only started after the German invasion, and the Hungarian authorities were innocent in it. On the inquiry as to what was, from this point of view, the mass deportation in the summer of 1941, causing the death of almost twenty thousand Jews, Sándor Szakály, the Institute’s director referred to it as: “just an immigration procedure”.