Budapest was not all smiling spiders. More than half of the city was destroyed during World War II. Budapest did not escape racial cleansing either. People took off their shoes, their most valuable possession in the eyes of their executioners, before being shot. Then the bodies were thrown into the river to save the labor it would take to dig mass graves.
Budapest Memorial to Jewish persecution stands on the Pest side of the Danube. JB, being who he is, was fascinated by shoes made of metal. As our friend explained to the Jumping Bean why the shoes were placed on the side of the river, I watched his expression change from open mouthed wonder to scrunched up puzzlement to wide-opened eyes of sadness. JB walked the promenade, putting his own feet in the big shoes. He tugged on the shoes to see if they would move. He was especially taken back when he come to a small pair of shoes, realizing even children were killed. He couldn't understand how shoes came to be more valuable than people.
I am surprised to hear JB highlight the shoe story as part of our trip to Budapest. "Hey, Mom, who were those people that took off their shoes?" Even at five, he recognizes Jewish persecution as an important story to tell and WWII as time worthy to remember. Maybe someday we will go to the Holocaust Museum in DC, and maybe shoes along a river are enough sadness to remind the Jumping Bean the value of both human and universal life.
What stories are important for you to tell?