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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 21:30 GMT
Hungary marks ghetto liberation
By Nick Thorpe
BBC News, Budapest

Ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Budapest Ghetto
Many Jews in the ghetto, survived despite terrible conditions
Hungarians have been marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Budapest ghetto.

A special service of commemoration was held in the city's main synagogue.

Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews were kept in appalling conditions by Nazi German forces and their Hungarian allies, the Arrow Cross.

They were liberated from the ghetto when the Soviet Red Army arrived in the capital and breached the fence surrounding it on 18 January 1945.

Survivors of the ghetto, top politicians and church representatives attended the service in Budapest's large Dohany Street synagogue, near to what was the central ghetto area.

More than 400,000 Jews were deported to the death camps from Hungary in 1944, mainly from provincial towns and villages.

But 60,000 people survived in terrible conditions in the narrow streets of Budapest's seventh district, despite constant efforts by the Nazis and the Arrow Cross to destroy them.

Almost 40,000 Jews survived elsewhere in the city, thanks to the efforts of foreign diplomats and many ordinary citizens, priests and nuns.

'Free Europe'

During the service, Chief Rabbi Robert Frohlich spoke of the contradictory feelings among the survivors.

"We mourn because a whole Jewish world was destroyed in the Holocaust, because our family members were murdered," he said.

"But we also rejoice because we were saved and we give thanks for the liberation and for the life we received."

There is still controversy in Hungary over whether the entry of the Red Army into the city, and the subsequent behaviour of the troops, was a liberation or an occupation.

For the Jews of Budapest however, it was certainly a liberation.

Russian ambassador Valeri Musatov read out a statement from the foreign ministry in Moscow at the ceremony.

He said the defeat of Fascism with Soviet help was the first step in creating, "a unified, democratic and flourishing Europe".



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