Letter to my father

The following speech was made by Dr. Péter Kardos, Chief Rabbi and Holocaust Survivor, in the Hungarian Parliament upper chamber on 16th April 2024, as part of the 80th commemoration year of the Soa:

Dear Father,

This time I am writing to you on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of your death, and also because for me this is probably my last decennial commemoration of the Holocaust. Can you imagine, I am standing here in the Hungarian Parliament, recalling in my speech all that happened back then. I am standing in the same parliament, with a kippah on my head, where the anti-Jewish laws were passed. Which meant that you were murdered in accordance with the law. You, whom I loved the most.

Remember how often you took me to the Park (Liget)? The English Park, the Vurstli (funfair)? One such walk took us to Heroes’ Square, where you wanted to show me the tomb of the unknown soldier. I will note here: you, too, are buried in an unknown grave, somewhere near Balf-Hidegség.

But back to Heroes’ Square!

Remember when you suddenly snatched my hat off my head? And I just stared at you, because as the Orthodox child of an Orthodox father, I didn’t understand it all. And you pointed to the middle of the square, where a man in uniform got out of a beautiful cabrio. You leaned down to me and whispered in my ear: the governor!

“Is this the man whose life and health Rabbi Süssmann asked for God’s blessing on Shabbat in the Kazinczy Synagogue?”„It is!” you said.

Do you remember?

Do you remember the brick factory in Old Buda? You know, where you ran into Mum by chance among thousands of people. And she said: escape! The plan was to force you to march on foot to Austria. Mum told me that you said you wouldn’t go. Because what would happen if they found out at roll call (névsor olvasás) that you had escaped. You were as unlivable as I am. You thought – and you weren’t alone in this – that if you obeyed the Jewish laws, you would live.

Perhaps you know that in ’46, I was there for a year in the Keleti Railway Station, where two or three trains a day pulled in with survivors on board. In my hand I had your still-guarded Nikotex box, full of cigarettes. Let your life here begin with contentment. Towards the end of the year, Mum told me that Uncle Dezső – your former domino partner from the café in Izabella Square – had witnessed you being shot in the back of the head in Ilona-major because you couldn’t walk any longer.

Not the Germans! The Hungarian Arrow Cross! The former National Socialists!

Not the first time you’ve been wrong! But the last time! What do I mean?

Remember when you said: Hungarians wouldn’t do that to Hungarians! Let’s stick to the fact that your eternal respect for the law led you to your death.

And now that we are remembering those times, the martyrdom of the law-abiding, let me tell you that when the Soviets liberated us in the ghetto, and as a soldier tore the yellow star off the jacket of Uncle Miklós (you didn’t know him), he protested and asked if there was a decree for that?

Dad! Imagine, they introduced Holocaust Remembrance Day here. It’s a day to remember you!

But the bad news is that the Israeli war has flooded the world with such anti-Semitism, that has never been seen since (the Holocaust). But guess what: here at home, the government has declared zero tolerance. Add to that the fact, that since Israel’s existence, there has never been such good relations between the two countries, than you can understand how we, survivors in particular, can appreciate these extraordinary gestures.

Finally, dear Father!

When, on that April morning, with our newly sewn-on yellow stars on our coats, we boarded the tram allowed for Jews – I tell you now, that for me, you were safety! I thought that, as long as I could hold your hand, nothing bad could happen to me! Since we let go of each other’s hands, I have been alone.

80 years! I have children, I have a grandchild, I have a wife! And yet I feel alone, because I cannot hold your hand.

My dear Father!

So much for the 80th anniversary. From this ornate building, the birthplace of the anti-Jewish laws, your ever-loving son,


In the photo: Dr. Péter Kardos, Chief Rabbi (credit Marianna Jó, @ Monument of The Shoes at the Danube, commemoration of Yom Hasoa by Hungarian Jewish Social Support Foundation, MAZS )

The original sppech here: Édesapám, képzeld el: itt állok a Parlamentben