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Hundreds protest vandalism attack on Budapest Holocaust memorial

Hundreds protested in downtown Budapest against a vandalism attack on a memorial to the nearly 600,000 victims of the Holocaust in Hungary.

The vandals tore photographs on display at Liberty Square and damaged or removed objects donated to the Living Memorial by survivors and their descendants.

The memorial is located opposite a statue commemorating Hungary’s time under the rule of Nazi Germany in 1944. Unveiled in 2014, the statue erected by the center-right government of Victor Orban shows an angel being attacked by a German eagle — a design that critics say glosses over Hungary’s active role in sending Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust. The Hungarian government disputes the interpretation, arguing that the figure attacked represents all victims of fascism and not only the Hungarian state.

Among the protesters on Sept. 18 were Holocaust survivors, who worked to fix and re-exhibit their torn personal objects, documents of their past and pictures of their murdered families.

One was Aniko Heller, 88, who said she was deported in June 1944 from her family home in a Budapest suburb, Rakospalota, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp with her family. She was the only one to return.

Heller said she brought another copy of the photo of her family that was torn down last week, and will bring it again if vandals destroy it. — jta


Payments begin for survivors deported on French trains

Payments have started issuing from a U.S.-run compensation fund for Holocaust survivors deported to Nazi camps via the French rail system.

The $60 million compensation fund established in December 2014 has approved 68 claims and is processing an estimated 700 in total, Stuart Eizenstat, the secretary of state’s special adviser for Holocaust issues, said in a Sept. 17 conference call.

The money comes from France, but the United States is administering and distributing the funds to eligible Americans, Israelis and other foreigners, their spouses and heirs who were not entitled to make claims under existing French programs.

In return, the United States protects France from American lawsuits related to Holocaust deportations of Jews from the country.

Survivors can receive $204,000 while their spouses can receive $51,000. The filing deadline is January. Claims forms are on the State Department website. Hotline for questions  is (202) 776-8385. — jta