Located on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade, about 300 meters (980 ft) south of the Hungarian Parliament, Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial sculpture in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived by film director Can Togay with sculptor Gyula Pauer, Shoes on the Danube Bank honors those killed by the fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II.
As many as 20,000 Jews from the newly established Budapest ghetto were taken from their homes and executed along the river bank. They were forced to remove their shoes and shot where they stood at the edge of the water. Their bodies fell into the frigid winter Danube and were quickly carried away by the rapid current.
The sixty pairs of period-appropriate iron shoes are attached to the stone embankment. Looking across the shoes out to the Danube is a 40 meter long stone bench. Three iron signs with the text “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.” accompany the sculpture in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew.
The beauty and horror of the memorial lives in its simplicity. It’s as if the women’s heels and men’s work boots were stepped out of after a long day. Frozen in time just when and where they were removed. The freshly polished loafers of rich men sit side-by-side with the well worn and tattered old shoes of the working poor. those of grandparents, mothers, fathers, and the tiny shoes of children remind us that the atrocities of war leave no life untouched.
Shoes on the Danube Bank Facts
- The solemn sculpture stretches between Roosevelt Square and Kossuth square.
- There are sixty pairs of shoes in the memorial sculpture.
- Most of the murders along the River Danube took place between December 1944 and January 1945.
- Shoes on the Danube Bank was unveiled on 6 April, 2005.
- In September 2014 several pairs of shoes were stolen from the Danube Holocaust memorial. It was never made clear if it was an anti-Semitic intention act or the foolish behavior of tourists looking for a keepsake.
- Visitors to Budapest often fill the shoes with flowers, notes, coins, and small stones to serve as a reminder that the deceased have not been forgotten.
- Shoes on the Danube is a short walk down the Promenade from The Great Poet bronze sculpture.