Rainer Hoess, the grandson of Auschwitz death camp commander Rudolf Hess, was among the speakers at a Holocaust commemoration event in Budapest.
Hoess, an activist against European neo-Nazism, spoke at Friday’s event marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the Holocaust in Hungary. He was invited by the March of the Living-Hungary Foundation, which organized the commemoration.
“It was strange to come to Hungary after what my grandfather did — especially here,” he told the crowd.
His grandfather was responsible for the extermination of roughly 400,000 Hungarian Jews in the Auschwitz death camp in June 1944.
Afterward, Hoess told JTA that he was “nervous being here on stage.”
Although most of the speakers emphasized that “no descendant is to be blamed for the sins of his or her forefathers,” Hoess’ presence created a chilly atmosphere.
A few survivors in the audience told JTA that Hoess’ five-minute speech was too short and not personal enough.
“It is not easy to live with such a name,” one survivor said, adding, “It would be great to see the descendants of Hungarian Nazis do the same and to face the sins of their fathers.”
Hoess spent four days in Budapest meeting face-to-face with Hungarian Holocaust survivors. At a high school in the Hungarian capital, he held a question-and-answer session with 200 students.
Ilan Mor, Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, in an opening speech at the ceremony praised the March of the Living Foundation there for its efforts to stop the rise of anti-Israel sentiment throughout Europe.