In the summer of 1944, during the final months of Miklós Horthy’s governorship, and having nearly finished deporting Jews from the countryside, Hungarian political leaders decided it was now the turn of Budapest Jews to be forcibly expelled from their homes. On June 16, the mayor of Budapest issued a decree that marked out almost 2,000 apartment buildings in the city, into which 220,000 targeted individuals were obliged to move: 187,000 Jews and a further 35,000 converted Jews, subjected to a series of “Jewish laws”, and forced to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing. They had to leave their own apartments by midnight on June 21, and move into one of the 1,944 designated apartment buildings also marked with a yellow star, the “yellow-star” houses.
This network of yellow-star houses was unique in the history of the Holocaust in Europe. The houses served the same purpose as the ghetto, a preparatory stage for deportation. For the Budapest of the time, an astonishingly large number of apartment buildings bore the yellow star, but barely a trace of this remains in public memory. For half a year, every passer-by in the city could see precisely who the persecuted Jews were, and where they lived. In the following months, tens of thousands of them died on death marches, thousands were shot to death on the banks of the Danube, and thousands died during the siege of Budapest. Still, Jews in Budapest who went into hiding in the city, or who ended up in the ghettos from December 1944, had a better chance of surviving the Holocaust than those in other parts of the country.
OSA Archivum remembers this tragic and shameful chapter of Budapest's past by exploring the history of the “yellow-star” houses. This is OSA Archivum’s dedicated yellow-star houses website, launched as the first event in a year-long series of public programs focusing on Budapest 1944, and which will culminate in December 2014 with an exhibition at OSA on the Budapest ghetto.
Our interactive map shows the location of the former yellow-star houses, and what they look like today. The map is supplemented with numerous documents, including the relevant decrees, a list of houses, a chronology, a glossary, and recollections. Using the navigation tools, visitors to the site can view the former yellow-star houses at street, district and even city level. Over the coming year, our hope is that these resources will continue to expand. We want to encourage everyone to submit their documents and personal stories concerning the yellow-star houses and the families who lived there.
On June 21, 2014, we will be holding a memorial event in front of the remaining 1,600 former yellow-star houses. Join us as an organizer or volunteer in facing our shared past, with dignity and honesty.