Hungary's annual "March of Life" commemorating the Holocaust drew a record 25,000 people on Sunday as part of events marking 70 years since the start of mass deportations of Hungarian Jews in World War II, AFP reported.
According to the news agency, there was an open-air concert in front of the House of Terror museum in Budapest before a procession from the Elizabeth Bridge, where a new sculpture was unveiled, to the Keleti railway station.
A train then left for Auschwitz carrying 600 people, one for every 1,000 Hungarian Shoah victims, ahead of a ceremony Monday at the former Nazi death camp in Poland to be attended by Hungarian President Janos Ader.
"Today is important because it is important for Hungarian society, and the international community, to remember what happened 70 years ago," Israel's ambassador to Hungary Ilan Mor, who unveiled the sculpture together with a Holocaust survivor, told AFP.
Around 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust after Nazi Germany's invasion of Hungary on March 19, 1944, either worked to death in labour camps or gassed. Only around 100,000 survived, mostly in Budapest.
The 12th annual March of Life, which last year attracted 10,000 people,comes amid strained relations between Hungary's 120,000-strong Jewish community and the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
A program of events organized by the government to mark the 70th anniversary has been boycotted by Hungary's largest Jewish organization, Mazsihisz.
The organization says that Orban, re-elected earlier this month, has presided over a rise in anti-Semitism in the EU member state and is seeking to rewrite history.
The group was angered in particular by a planned Budapest monument due to be unveiled on May 31 dedicated to "all the victims of the Nazi occupation of Hungary" that Mazsihisz says minimizes the role Hungarians themselves played in the Holocaust.
Orban has also been criticized for presiding over a rehabilitation of Hungary's wartime leader and Hitler ally until 1944, Miklos Horthy, who oversaw Jewish deportations and promulgated anti-Jewish laws before the Nazis took over.
Anti-Semitism has been on the rise in Hungary in recent years, and most of it has been perpetrated by the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party.
In November of 2012, one of Jobbik’s members released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of government.
He was followed by another Jobbik member who called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.
In February, the party chose to hold a political rally in a former synagogue, while anti-fascist demonstrators outside accused the group of "provocation."