Part of Holocaust Memorial Exhibit Stolen From Banks of Danube

Some footwear is missing from Budapest's 'Shoes on the Danube' exhibit in memory of victims shot into river during World War II.

Several bronze shoes have been stolen from a Hungarian Holocaust memorial on the banks of the Danube, the Budapest Beacon reported Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear whether the theft in Budapest, not far from the Hungarian parliament building, was an anti-Semitic act or a meaningless prank.

Police said they were not investigating the case because no crime has been reported, said Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag.

The "Shoes on the Danube" exhibit, which was conceptualized by movie director Can Togay and created by Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer, consists of 60 pairs of metal shoes set in concrete on the Danube embankment.

Signs at the exhibit, which was installed in 2005, state that it is in "memory of victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-45."

"The killings usually took place en masse," writes the Hungarian tourism site Budapest.com. "The victims were lined up at the embankment, and shot into the Danube, execution-style."

Five years ago, police did investigate another instance in which the memorial was defaced – that time, by vandals who placed pig feet inside the shoes, the Beacon said. No suspects were found.

The Arrow Cross Party was a fascist, pro-German, militantly anti-Semitic organization that came to power in October 1944, after the Germans toppled the government of Miklos Horthy. Under the Arrow Cross government, which was dissolved when the Soviet army liberated Budapest in January 1945, thousands of Jews were murdered in Budapest and nearly 80,000 were expelled from Hungary in a death march to the Austrian border, according to Yad Vashem.

"Shooting the Jews into the Danube was convenient because the river carried the bodies away," writes Sheryl Ochayon in a Yad Vashem newsletter about the exhibit. "Often, the Arrow Cross murderers would force their terrified Jewish victims to remove their shoes before shooting them into the Danube. Shoes, after all, were a valuable commodity during World War II. The killers could use them, or trade them on the black market."

"During the days of horror in the winter of 1944-1945," adds the newsletter, "the Danube was known as 'the Jewish Cemetery.'"

Jewish blood quite literally turned the Danube red, writes Hungarian eyewitness Zsuzsanna Ozsvath.

"I heard a series of popping sounds," Ozsvath writes in "The Writer Uprooted: Contemporary Jewish Exile Literature," as cited by Ochayon. "Thinking the Russians had arrived, I slunk to the window. But what I saw was worse than anything I had ever seen before, worse than the most frightening accounts I had ever witnessed.

"Two Arrow Cross men were standing on the embankment of the river, aiming at and shooting a group of men, women and children into the Danube – one after the other, on their coats the Yellow Star. I looked at the Danube. It was neither blue nor gray but red. With a throbbing heart, I ran back to the room in the middle of the apartment and sat on the floor, gasping for air."