The Yellow Star Houses of Budapest – Sunt Lacrimae Rerum ‘There Are Tears of Things’
This 40 minute talk explores Swann’s photographic record of Budapest’s dispersed ghettos, the Yellow Star Houses, whose creation marked a historic phenomenon tragically unique in World War II Hungary. This action saw the local fascist militia, the Arrow Cross, invert the historical adage ‘bring the Jew to the ghetto ‘ to ‘bring the ghetto to the Jew’
This tactic was unique to Hungary and maximised in Budapest from the 16th of June 1944 , when the government issued the first decree ordering the use of 1,944 apartments to establish these ’dispersed ghettos’ . The Yellow Star Houses were liberated with a break through by the Red Army on 17th of Jan 1945 thus ending a 100 day siege, the third longest in WWII after Berlin and Stalingrad.
The photographs raise two key questions, as posed by Dr Gwen Jones of the Open Society Archives in her introductory essay for the exhibition:
“ Where barely any archival images or visible clues remain, what visual languages are available to portray acts of unspeakable, organised violence carried out against a large section of the community in a major modern metropolis? How can we read and understand the afterlife of atrocity in the contemporary urban environment?”