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A Budapest couple unearthed a Holocaust-era census while remodeling their apartment

Star of David with a chain padlock hangs on front of a the largest Synagogue in Budapest.
Reuters/Laszlo Balogh
Unlocking Budapest’s secrets.
By Frida Garza
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Thousands of census documents from around the time of the Holocaust were found hidden behind a wall in a Budapest couple’s apartment, according to the AFP. The couple, Brigitte and Gabor Berdefy, unearthed the trove while renovating their home.

After knocking down a wall, the couple found 6,300 documents—weighing 61 kilograms (135 pounds)—that were thought to be lost to history. The city’s archivists have been restoring and studying the documents over the past few months.

The census was conducted in May 1944, two months after the Nazis occupied Hungary. It helped identify the city’s Jewish residents, who were soon rounded up in so-called Yellow-Star Houses. They were later moved into a walled ghetto and many were eventually deported to concentration camps. A tally of the number of Christians and Jews in each building was noted on the forms.

“Thanks to the Berdefys, we know that if a lot of Jews lived in a building then it likely became a Yellow-Star House,” Istvan Keyneres, head of the city’s archives, told the AFP.

He called the content and scale of the hidden stash of census forms “unprecedented,” and estimated that 23,000 more documents from the Holocaust era may still be hidden elsewhere in the city. If found, Keyneres said they would also be digitized and made public.

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