Jewish Memorials in Terézváros

Museums Established During the Kádár era due to Non-governmental Initiative

In the 1840s the Jewish population of Pest doubled, mainly due to a law making settlement easier, and by 1848 the figure was already above 15,000. About 75% of those moving to Pest were from elsewhere in Hungary, while others came from Czech and Moravian territories of the Habsburg Empire and, to a smaller extent, from Austrian-German provinces. From the early 19th century the great majority of Pest Jews lived in the Terézváros (Theresa Town) district, and that situation remained during the 1840–1880 period, when across the whole city the number of Jewish citizens rose from 10,000 to 71,000. Up to 1841 Jews lived in tenements and lodging houses since they couldn’t own their own property, even though they could enjoy the rights of Christian traders. In 1873, when Budapest was united, Terézváros with 73,760 residents was the city’s most populous district. Due to its size and population density, it was divided into two – north of Király Street remained Terézváros, while to the south it was called Erzsébetváros (Elizabeth Town). In many places in Europe Jewish migration to cities resulted in entire areas becoming Jewish. These historical Jewish quarters are usually highly protected, as in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Prague, Cracow and Warsaw. Pest’s Jewish quarter is also among them and since 2002 has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Among the edifices in the two districts about half (in some areas more) were built for Jews and designed by Jewish architects. According to the ÓVÁS! association, if you exclude official institutes, churches, empty lots and buildings constructed after 1945, the proportion is much larger. As they unfortunately but aptly put it in 2011: “ … the old Pest Jewish Quarter is no longer protected, rather it must be considered a seriously endangered heritage.” Since then the situation has deteriorated. With the spread of ‘ruin pubs’, run-down buildings are increasingly in demand, and their transformation into ‘party spots’ has frankly not promoted their renovation – just the opposite. The demolition process continues with the ‘strategy’ of buildings in a bad condition being emptied and then with boarded up windows and padlocked doors they await utter dilapidation. The complete demolition of buildings which are listed monuments has stopped to a certain extent, albeit due to the property market crisis, rather than UNESCO protection. The required permission for demolishing listed buildings and others in the World Heritage’s protected zone can be obtained in a ‘tricky’ manner if their condition is deemed to have become life-threatening. Unfortunately Anna Perczel is right when she says that today old buildings are already unusual among the newly built edifices. She has highlighted the fact, as established by research, that there is no other major city in Europe where the Jewish contribution to its formation has been so extensive.