Authors and affirmations: The old Jewish Cemetery in Budapest

Hate takes effort and energy and, quite frankly, I’m too lazy to expend either on something that offers little reward. There’s some food I’d rather not eat; some people I’d rather not talk to; some places I’d rather not visit. But there are very few things in life that I actively hate. Even people who don’t keep their word; who make promises they have no intention of honoring, while low of my list of faves, earn my pity rather than my hate [and,  imho, ‘sorry, I forgot’ doesn’t cut it as an excuse].

Old Jewish Cemetery Budapest Hungary Brody Sandor

November 1 (aka All Saints Day, aka The day of the Dead) dawned bright and sunny this year. When I revisited an old blog post to see if I’d written about how to get to the old Jewish cemetery on Kozma utca, I was surprised to find that the trip I made wasn’t last year, but two years ago, in 2010.  And I was horrified to find that I’d promised Bródy Sándor that I’d bring him flowers and now, two years later, I still hadn’t fulfilled that promise. I hadn’t forgotten – I’d just lost a year somewhere… Mind you, I doubt he’s given it much thought in the meantime, but still – a promise is a promise.

Old Jewish Cemetery Budapest Hungary

Off I trotted with the lovely BS, popping in at the New Cemetery to buy said flowers before walking up the road to the Jewish one. The contrast couldn’t have been  more startling. The former was packed solid, with police on point duty directing traffic; the latter was empty but for us, a strange man with a map, and an elderly trio who looked lost. All sorts of reasons for this emptiness came to mind – no-one left to remember the dead; the city’s Jewish population depleted; the competing priorities of progress. We mourned the neglect and cursed the wars and debated the pros and cons of cremation. It wasn’t until later, over goose legs and cabbage at Huszár that our waiter pointed out the obvious … All Saints Day is  Catholic day… nowt to do with the Jews. [If we’d brains, we’d be dangerous.] Poor Bródy must be turning in his grave.

Old Jewish Cemetery Budapest Hungary Brody SandorOld Jewish Cemetery Budapest Hungary

As we wandered through the graves, I noticed a number with their own garden seat installed. It brought to mind long, one-sided conversations between the living and dead: reminiscences of the past and consultations regarding the future. Perhaps even some remonstrations for broken words and forgotten promises.

Old Jewish Cemetery Budapest Hungary

Old Jewish Cemetery Budapest Hungary

I was struck again at how beautiful the place is, no matter how overgrown, and perhaps because I’ve just finished reading The Invisible Bridge, it was all the more real for me. The monuments to those whose bodies will never be recovered were particularly moving. It’s a wonderful place to spend some time – and this week, I am grateful that although it took me a while to get around to doing it, I finally got to keep my promise.

Old Jewish Cemetery Budapest Hungary Brody Sandor



  • Were there many tombs like the last two?………they were beautiful. I know that the story behind them is appalling and sad but one would like to hope that having something like that to remember your loved one by helps you remember the good times……….

    • The last two could only be seen using a flash camera – they’re built like little temples and very difficult to see in normal light. Some have gone to ruin but about four or five are still preserved.

  • Caroline Mercer

    It’s a shame that it’s viewed as a “Catholic thing”. When actually it’s an opportunity for every one to remember that one is the current represent / trustee of all those people stretching back into almost immeasurable time, each of whom, gave each of us our unique lives. C.M.

    • Of course; were we to use catholic with a lowercase c, that would make more sense…

  • Bernard Adams

    I understood that Halottak napja was a nemzeti ünnep, nothing to with Catholicism . . . Round here the Reform church folks take it very seriously, but in this village there’s only one cemetery.

    • mmmm.. in Ireland we always have cemetery masses on Nov 1 and visit the graves… not nearly with as much fanfare mind you – but in my head it’s a very Catholic thing…

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