The Hungarian sociologist and lawyer András Gyekiczki, who worked to preserve Jewish memory and heritage, has died. Gyekiczki, who died of cancer July 14, spent years researching the forgotten stories of the Jewish families of Pápa, in western Hungary, where he was born in 1958.
In 2012, together with the late Hungarian architect and designer László Rajk Jr., Gyekiczki created an exhibition mounted in the grand, abandoned synagogue in Pápa, called “Our Forgotten Neighbors” (Elfeledett szomszédaink, in Hungarian). Based on some 500 photographs and other material, it told the largely unknown story of 45 Jewish families who lived in Pápa and were then deported to their deaths in the Holocaust.
“The unusual exhibition does not show the horrors of the Holocaust, but the daily lives of Jewish families who, as members of one of the most populous Jewish communities in Western Hungary, were respected citizens of the city,” an article on the web site Cultura wrote at the opening. In addition to the pre-war pictures, it said, “Hundreds of documents have been unearthed: hitherto hidden recollections, family stories, birth certificates, dismissals from a concentration camp, postcards thrown from a deportation train from the labor service….”
For the past two years Gyekiczki worked on the permanent exhibition that will be installed in the recently restored Rumbach street synagogue in Budapest and which is due to open to the public by the end of this year.
“Even in the shadow of death, András worked with amazing diligence and dedication”, Zsuzsanna Toronyi, director of the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives, wrote in an obituary published on the website of MAZSIHISZ, the umbrella organization of the Hungarian Neolog Jewry.
Last year, Gyekiczki was among the recipients of an annual prize awarded by MAZSIHISZ, honored for his Pápa exhibit and his work that “liberated memory and helped build community.”
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony remembered Gyekiczki with a post on Facebook, highlighting the “huge dedication and sense of duty” Gyekiczki had towards his memory work on Hungarian Jewry.
From July 1st until the end of September “Our Forgotten Neighbors” by can be visited again in the synagogue of Pápa, Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 10 AM to 6 PM.