Monday, March 14, 2016

Who Gets Remembered? Jeno Vida

The question of who is and who is not remembered remains a fraught question in Hungary, a country where the past is both so close and so far away.

Jeno Vida (1872-1945

Budapest is awash with memorial plaques, generally denoting some famous person who lived in a particular house for a specific period of time.  I do not believe I have ever seen a city that has so many memorials.  The image below, for example, is the plaque for a Professor Doctor Adam Gyorgy (1922-2013), a noted psychotherapist and writer who won various professional awards.  Such plaques are very typical.

This is a house built for Jenno Vida by Samuel Revesz and Joseph Kollar in 1914.  Its address is Dozsa Gyorgy ut 102, an important site, right across the street from the grand new Museum of Fine Arts, built for the Millenial Celebrations.  It is the house of an important man.

Vida was a successful, self-made man.  According to Fejerdy Gergely of the Hungarian Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Vida "became one of the most successful, influential and wealthy persons in Hungary by the 1930s, whose possessions were estimated to value 10 million pengos."  His home was filled with paintings by Mihaly Munkacsy, the most admired historical painter in Hungary.  He was one of five Jewish men who were members of the Finance Committee of the Hungarian Upper House.  From the end of the 1930s until the German occupation in 1944, Vida was a trusted advisor to Admiral Victor Horthy, the head of Hungary's goverment.  He was protected by Horthy until arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the camps, where he barely survived, dying shortly after the camp was liberated.

There is no plaque on Vida's house on Dozsa Gyorgy ut.  Similarly, there is no plaque on Vida's house in Buda, a building once occupied by the Nazi official Otto Winkelmann, and now occupied by the Hungarian Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, a place where over 100 conference are held annually.

The Holocaust is rarely mentioned and seldom memorialized in Budapest.  It remains up to the interested reader to discover many of the accomplished Jewish men and women (some of whom remained  loyal to Hungary to the end), who lost their homes and with those homes lost also the memory that they ever lived there.  I found Vida's history by accident, because I was interested in the history of the house.  But the house's history is not just who built it; it is also who lived in it--as noted elsewhere on so many Budapest walls.


1 comment :

  1. I know that I should not be surprised but I am nonetheless appalled at how Jews have been erased from so much Eastern European history. One of the reasons I liked the Jewish Museum in Berlin so much is that it show that Jews in Berlin were--and thought of themselves as--Berliners.