KOKOMO  – The taxi driver in Budapest looked at me with an expressionless face as I asked him to take my wife and myself to the place where the Arrow Cross fascists murdered hundreds of Jews on the banks of the Danube River toward the end of World War II. Not sure of what else to tell him, I simply told him, “You know, the place with the shoes.” 
 
“Ah yes, the shoes, the shoes, I take you there!”
 
Our time was going to be limited on our first trip to Budapest and we wanted to pack in as many of the sights as possible. While most tourists rush to visit Fisherman’s Bastion, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, St. Estevan’s Basilica, the amazing Hungarian Parliament building or one of the other better-known tourist attractions, my wife and I tend to dig a little deeper for some of the lesser known sites. From the time when I first began planning for this visit to Budapest, I knew that there was one pilgrimage that we had to make.
 
During the latter months of 1944 and into early 1945, over 3,500 Hungarians, mostly Jews, were rounded up from the Jewish ghetto of Budapest by the fascist Arrow Cross group, marched down to the banks of the river, forced to remove their shoes and then lined up and shot so that they would fall into the river. In this way, the evidence of the Arrow Cross crimes would be swept away by the icy Danube.
 
Of course, most of the 400,000 Jews and 26,000 Romansch who were killed during World War II in Hungary were more efficiently disposed of through the efforts of Adolph Eichmann. Although many of Hungary’s Jews were saved through the kind efforts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, kind Roman Catholic priests who issued Catholic birth certificates to Jews, and by a few righteous individuals in the Budapest police, the vast majority of the Jewish population was loaded onto boxcars with a final destination of Auschwitz.
 
As we made our way down the stairway from Zoltan Street to the memorial, I couldn’t help but try and imagine the freezing cold and the fear that must have gripped each victim making their final walk to the edge of the Danube. For these unlucky, innocent human beings, there would be no remembrance of Strauss’ “Beautiful Blue Danube,” only the finality of man’s inhumanity to man.
 
The monument to the victims of the Arrow Cross was erected in 2005, more than 50 years after the murders. The monument consists of 60 pairs of iron shoes arranged on the edge of the Danube River, as if they had just been removed prior to their owners’ murder. 
 
It was a moving sight and not one that I will ever forget. Those visiting the monument with us were old and young from just about every corner of the world. There was no laughter, giggling or omnipresent selfies that I’ve seen at other European memorials. Here, there was nothing but silence, no sound except for the lapping waters of the Danube.
 
There are other locations in Budapest that serve as solemn reminders of what transpired during 1944-1945. The trendiest restaurant and music area of Budapest is in the Jewish Quarter. Of course, there aren’t many Jews remaining to partake in the amazing Hungarian cuisine or to listen to the blaring rock music. The evident lack of Jews in the Jewish Quarter speaks louder than the happy voices patronizing the area’s hot spots.
 
The Dohany Street Synagogue is a beautiful place that will forever bear the scars of the Holocaust. Its grounds are full of monuments and memorials to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were herded there before being shipped to their death. The message plainly delivered by most of the monuments is simple, “We will never forget.”
 
In the gardens behind the synagogue there is a sterling silver memorial tree with countless silver leaves hanging down from it, each bearing the name of a victim of the senseless genocide of the war. The American actor Tony Curtis donated the memorial. It is another quiet testament to the suffering of a people because of their heritage and religion.

I don’t speak of these locations in Budapest as some maudlin travelogue of bucket list sites that you must see before you die. I call your attention to these memorials because living here in the United States, we have largely been blessed with avoiding the modern ravages of war and the massive inhumanities experienced by the Jews during World War II. Our children have little or no understanding of the Holocaust. As the greatest generation of American servicemen who witnessed the evidence of the wholesale slaughter of a people pass into eternity, there will be few who will remember the days of terror. 
 
There are those who, at this time, are trying to destroy our understanding of the Holocaust and replace it with the lies that they spew on the internet. One can go to YouTube and enter “Jewish Lies” and be inundated with the vilest form of hate you could encounter. One continual story after another that the Holocaust never happened, that Jews control the world, that Israel should be destroyed.
 
I even watched a video the other evening where the grandson of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolph Hoess was forced to disavow his family because they refuse to believe that the horrors of Auschwitz ever happened, and he wants nothing to do with them. What makes this all amazing is that Rudolph Hoess himself testified to his guilt in the murder of over 2 million Jews at Auschwitz. It’s easy to understand why the Hoess family doesn’t want to sit around at reunions and talk about Grandpa Rudy’s crimes, but to deny them altogether should be a crime.
 
This brings us to the burgeoning City of Carmel. Who would have thought that mindless cretins would deface Congregation Shaarey Tefilla with Nazi symbols? I certainly expect more of my fellow Hoosiers than that kind of conduct and yet, as one who has done a lot of work with people in my career and in politics, I am less and less surprised as time goes by.
 
In my younger years, I wasn’t sure about the efficacy of hate crimes legislation. To me, it made sense that a crime is a crime is a crime and is made no worse by the reasons for the commission of the crime. Murder is murder. Assault is assault. Vandalism is vandalism. As time goes on I have come to believe that crime committed against a people solely based on race, religion or national origin does rise to a higher level of egregiousness. The time to stop a hate crime is at its first opportunity. A stern uncompromising message must be sent to those who carry hate in their hearts that no crime with hate at its core will go unpunished.
 
I commend Gov. Eric Holcomb for calling for hate crimes legislation this coming General Assembly session. It is time that Indiana join the other 45 states that have hate crimes legislation. I call on Republican and Democrat members of the Indiana House and Senate to unanimously pass a hate crimes bill that clearly sends a message that Hoosiers will not tolerate hate.
 
The haunting memory of the iron shoes on the Danube is a story told in Budapest, but it is a lesson that should be learned by each of us.  

Dunn is the former chairman of the Howard County and 4th CD Republican parties.