Holocaust survivor at March of the Living in Hungary: I’m here to show ‘I am still alive, I am still here’

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Dr. Peter Köves attends the March of the Living event in Budapest, Hungary on May 5, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)
Dr. Peter Köves attends the March of the Living event in Budapest, Hungary on May 5, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)

BUDAPEST — Riding an electric tourist buggy past the Dohany Street Synagogue, Dr. Peter Köves is among a few dozen Holocaust survivors at the head of the annual commemorative March of the Living event through the Hungarian capital.

Thousands of Jews and non-Jews walk behind the fleet of golf carts transporting the Holocaust survivors. This year has an unusually high attendance because it’s the 80th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary, in which the Nazis and their collaborators murdered more than 400,000 people within eight weeks.

Köves, 89, attends the march “to show I am still alive, I am still here,” he tells The Times of Israel at the event, which is occurring just before the beginning of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day this evening. Many of the participants intend to also participate in the annual march tomorrow at the Auschwitz Holocaust Museum in Poland.

Köves remembers escaping with his mother from one of the so-called Yellow Star Houses — apartment buildings that served as prisons for Jews during the bloody reign of the Fascist Arrow Cross regime in Hungary. His father had been taken to a forced labor camp and the family reunited after the Soviet army liberated Hungary. But his mother was raped by one or more Russian soldiers, he says.

“After all that has happened, the terrible drama, you see, perhaps, why it is important for me to show a presence,” says Köves, who has two children with his Catholic wife. They are not at the march, he says, but his children “feel solidarity with the Jewish People, although they are not Jewish.”

Köves is alarmed and furious at the surge of antisemitism that erupted after the Hamas onslaught of October 7. “I watch with disbelief what is happening on campuses,” he says. “And I still ache over the pogroms of October 7 and the hostages, may they return.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Doron Almog says in a speech, “We are here to declare we will never give into antisemitism.” Under relatively light security, the march, where participants wave Israeli and Hungarian flags to the sounds of sporadic singing of Hasidic and Israeli songs, moves past the synagogue en route to its terminus. the Keleti train station.

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