Jewish culture is an important part of many European countries’ histories, woven in with stories and landmarks that began over 2,000 years ago. Before World War II, the European Jewish population stood at around 9 million. Approximately 6 million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust with much of the remaining population emigrating afterwards.
Despite this, there are still strong Jewish communities found throughout Europe – predominantly in France and Germany. Join us in celebrating the richness of Jewish culture on an Avalon Waterways’ Jewish Heritage river cruise. Not only will you explore sites that are important to Jewish history while cruising along the Danube River, but you will also travel in the company of a renowned expert for insight into the places and events that shaped history.
Shoes on the Danube Bank, Budapest
One of the most famous Jewish memorials is the Shoes on the Danube Bank. Found on the Pest side of the city, this was erected in 2005 to honour those who were massacred by fascist Hungarian militia in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes and stand on the edge of the water, so that their bodies fell into the river once they were shot. This memorial is a sombre reminder of the treatment that Jewish people were subjected to during this time.
Jewish Quarter, Budapest
Did you know that 23% of Budapest’s population was Jewish in 1910? While not the heaving Jewish community it used to be before WWI, not all signs of Jewish life have disappeared. The Jewish Quarter is still home to kosher restaurants and three spectacular synagogues. Known as the ‘synagogue triangle’, the Dohány Street Synagogue, in particular, is Europe’s largest. It seats 3,000 people and still draws crowds during holiday services. The beautiful Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs is of a weeping willow, with each leaf inscribed with the name of a Hungarian Jewish victim. You’ll also find a number of famous ruin bars in the quarter, one of the city’s key highlights for any visitor.
Jewish Quarter, Prague
The magical city of Prague likely has one of the most well-preserved Jewish Quarters in Europe. In a horrible twist, Adolf Hitler decided against destroying the city’s Jewish Quarter to keep it as a “Museum of an Extinct Race”. With six synagogues, an old cemetery and many significant buildings still standing, you’ll be transported back in time when exploring its streets – a beautiful testimony to Jewish history.
Jewish Museum, Vienna
Vienna was the first to establish a Jewish Museum of its kind in the world, founded in 1896. However, it was closed by Nazi Germany in 1938 and its contents were distributed to other nearby museums. While it took some time, over the years a new Jewish Museum was established in 1986. The two museum sites, both found in Vienna’s Old Town, house a fascinating insight into Jewish history, religion and life in Austria over the country’s wide-spanning history.
Come and expand your world view with us on a Jewish Heritage-themed cruise. All this and more can be found on a special departure of an Avalon Waterways 2022 Danube Dreams river cruise.