Why visit: Jewish heritage, architecture, history, Jewish Museum, Holocaust Memorial
A Brief History of the Great Synagogue
The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street (also known as Dohány Street Synagogue) is the largest Synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world, capable of accommodating 3,000 people. It was built between 1854 and 1859 in Moorish Revival or Neo-Moorish style, in the wake of Romanticism. Originally, there was a residential block next to the synagogue. In fact, Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, was born in one of the houses located there. This site is now part of the complex and home to the Jewish Museum.
During the inter-war years, anti-Semitism grew quickly in Hungary. A series of anti-Jewish policies were passed, and fascist groups like the Arrow Cross Party started to attract more followers. Hungary became an ally of Germany and the Arrow Cross Party damaged the Synagogue in 1939. During World War II, the Great Synagogue served as a stable and as a radio communication center for the Germans. Today, the compound serves as the main center for the Jewish community.
Things to Do and See at the Great Synagogue
The buildings and the courtyards of the Synagogue include the Jewish Museum, the Heroes' Temple, the Jewish Cemetery and the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park.
Jewish Museum - The Jewish Museum was constructed on the site where Theodor Herzl's house once stood. The Museum is adjacent to the Great Synagogue, and it features Jewish traditions, costumes, as well a detailed history of Hungarian Jews, including information about the Holocaust.
Heroes' Temple - The Heroes' Temple was added to the Great synagogue in 1931, and it serves as a memorial to Hungarian Jews who gave their lives during World War I.
Jewish Cemetery - The cemetery is located in the backyard of the Heroes' Temple. There are over 2,000 people buried here who died in the Jewish ghetto during the winter of 1944-45.
Raul Wallenberg Memorial Park - The Raul Wallenberg Memorial Park, home to the Holocaust Memorial, is located in the backyard of the Great Synagogue. The Holocaust Memorial, also known as the Emanuel Tree, is a weeping willow tree (by Imre Varga) with the names of Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust inscribed on each leaf. The memorial was sponsored by the Emanuel Foundation of New York. The foundation was created in 1987 by Tony Curtis in honor of his father, Emanuel Schwartz, who emigrated to New York from Mátészalka in Hungary.
Also part of the memorial are four red marble plates, commemorating 240 non-Jewish Hungarians who saved Jews during the Holocaust. One of the most heroic figures of the Holocaust in Hungary was Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who prepared Protective Passports under the authority of the Swedish Embassy, saving the lives of thousands of Jews.
Getting to the Great Synagogue: Take subway (M2) or streetcar 47 or 49 to Astoria, which is the nearest station