In Budapest on Sunday, the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Ministry of National Development said that a monument to victims of forced labour has been erected in a fitting location: László Teleki Square, in Budapest’s Józsefváros District.

János Fónagy noted that the square was once a well-known area for Jewish shops and small businesses; the nearby Józsefváros railway station was the departure point for trains carrying deportees. On Sunday a memorial service was held on the Day of Remembrance for Hungarian Victims of the Holocaust at László Teleki Square. The new monument to the victims of forced labour was designed by Dan Reisinger, a graphic and visual artist of Hungarian origin living in Israel.

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Outlining the history of the victims of forced labour, Mr. Fónagy said that in 1939 the concept of “labour service” was introduced by law; this practice first served to humiliate Jews, and later to eliminate them. Initially labour camps were located in Hungary, but later beyond its borders as well. Tens of thousands of Jewish members of the intelligentsia and the middle class were deported, and the takeover by the Arrow Cross Party made the situation of victims of forced labour even more hopeless: at that time even women and girls were subject to forced labour, he added.

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Ilan Mor, Israel's ambassador in Budapest, said that the monument faithfully reflects history and provides victims with a memorial rooted in a sense of historical justice. He said that the memorial helps to once more address an issue which has been pushed to the margins of history for many years. Mr. Mor thanked the Government for its support in erecting the monument, thereby again demonstrating its commitment.

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György Szabó, President of the Jewish Heritage of Hungary Public Endowment, explained that Teleki Square has always been present in the memories of Budapest’s Jewish community; this was the place through which thousands of Jews passed towards a hopeless future. Earlier, said Mr. Szabó, this was a major centre for Budapest’s Jewish community, and also the place from which innocent people were hastened towards catastrophe, leaving their lives behind and heading towards uncertainty. The monument fills a gap, as it is paying a tribute not only to the victims of forced labour, but it also commemorates those who took this route towards an uncertain future and death, said Mr. Szabó.

Deputy Mayor of Józsefváros Botond Sára (Fidesz-KDNP) said that the square is a symbolic location for one of the darkest of all times. Józsefváros used to be one of the centres of Jewish life, so it was particularly deeply affected by this painful period, he said.

(Ministry of National Development)