Budapest, Hungary – In the early evening of 14 April, thousands of people gathered in Budapest to commemorate the victims of the Shoah by taking part in the ‘March of the Living’ (Az Élet Menete). Organised on the example of the International March of the Living taking place in Poland each year, the mission of this peaceful demonstration is to stand up against antisemitism and discrimination of any kind – to celebrate the peaceful, democratic living together of people and cultures.
The event was co-hosted by Iain Lindsay British ambassador to Hungary and Gábor Gordon, the leader of the organisation. In his opening speech, Gordon emphasised the need for the ‘righteous among the nations’ in today’s world, where scapegoating and racist discrimination remain prevalent enemies of tolerant, democratic coexistence.
This year’s demonstration placed special focus on Jane Haining, the Scottish missionary who sacrificed her life for saving Jewish-Hungarian children in Budapest. Her commitment to anti-discrimination and unconditional love for Jewish and non-Jewish children alike was discussed in detail by David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland.
To the the sound of the shofar and Scottish bagpipes, participants walked along the Danube, from Március 15 square, along the Jane Haining riverbank, to the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial. As the walk came to an end, a ‘giant torch’ was lit by Ágnes Keleti, Holocaust survivor and 5-time Olympic champion of gymnastics.
In today’s Hungary, where the political agenda is dominated by right-wing populistic, exclusionary rhetoric and conspiracy theories related to George Soros, a Holocaust survivor himself, protesting for tolerance and peaceful coexistence seems more important than ever. By actively standing up against hate crimes, Élet Menete serves as a platform through which we can combat what Hannah Arendt called the ‘banality of evil’: the passivity and bystanding that gives ground to violence and hatred.
Written by Zsofi Borsi
A Budapest-born politics and economics student at Durham University, UK, Zsofi Borsi is currently writing her thesis on conspiracy theories present in Hungarian online political discourse. Zsofi has worked as an intern at various political and non-governmental organisations in Hungary, such as Political Capital Research and Consultancy Institute, Tom Lantos Institute or Klubrádió.