Kerepesi/Salgótarjáni utca Cemetery, Budapest


Founded in 1874, this is the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Pest side of Budapest. It is the Jewish section of the city’s Kerepesi monumental cemetery, where national heroes are buried — and is the final resting place of the crème de la crème of Hungarian Jewry of the time. Massive family tombs of Jewish noble families and industrialists line the perimeter; but there are also the graves of ordinary people. There is also a section where Holocaust victims are buried.

Quite a few of the tombs are the work of leading architects of the day — such as Ignác Alpár, Sándor Fellner, Albert Körössy, Emil Vidor and Béla Lajta. Lajta, whose work prefigured art deco, also designed the entry way from the street and the massive Ceremonial Hall (now roofless), built around 1908.

Today the cemetery is densely overgrown and tragically neglected. The huge tombs of families who once wielded social, political and financial power are literally crumbling; collapsing and being swallowed by vines and other vegetation. Some of them have been broken open: you can even see the coffins in the crypts.

A few of the big tombs have been maintained and/or cleaned. And there have been fitful efforts to clear parts of the cemetery over the years — but it cries out for a concerted effort to clear the vegetation and save some of the family tombs.