History of the Jews in Hungary

History of the Jews in Hungary

History of the Jews in Hungary concerns the Jews of Hungary and of Hungarian origins. Jews have been a present community in Hungary since at least the 11th Century (with earlier references to Jews in Hungary existing), struggling against discrimination throughout the Middle Ages. The community grew to be 5% of Hungary's population by the early 20th Century and were prominent in areas of science, art and business. Under Regent of Hungary, Admiral Horthy, a self declared anti-semite, Jews were once again persecuted as Hungary allied itself with Nazi Germany. Following discrimination throughout World War Two in April 1944 it was decided to deport the Jews of Hungary to Auschwitz, which Winston Churchill described as probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world...." [ [http://cgi.stanford.edu/group/wais/cgi-bin/index.php?p=6855 "Winston Churchill's The Second World War and the Holocaust's Uniqueness," Istvan Simon] ]

As part of the Soviet Union under communist rule discrimination against the small remaining Jews still in Hungary continued as Zionism was banned and the number of Jews shrank to even smaller levels.

Today between 50,000 and 100,000 Jews live in Hungary, mostly in Budapest, and anti-semitism is still very much around. The inter-marriage rates for Jews is around 60%. There are many active synagogues in Hungary including the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe .

Earliest references up to 1095

It is not definitely known when Jews first settled in Hungary. According to apocryphal legend, King Decebalus of Dacia permitted the Jews who aided him in his war against Rome to settle in his territory. A Latin inscription, the epitaph of Septima Maria, discovered within the territory of the ancient province of Pannonia, clearly refers to Jewish matters. But, although it may be unhesitatingly assumed that Jews came to Hungary while the Roman emperors held sway in that country, there is nothing to indicate that at that time they had settled there permanently. In the Hungarian language, the word Jew is "zsidó", a term which the Hungarians adopted from the Slavs.

The first historical document relating to the Jews of Hungary is the letter written about 960 to King Joseph of the Khazars by Hasdai ibn Shaprut, the Jewish statesman of Córdoba, in which he says that the Slavic ambassadors promised to deliver the message to the King of Slavonia, who would hand the same to Jews living in "the country of Hungarin," who, in turn, would transmit it farther. About the same time Ibrahim ibn Jacob says that Jews went from Hungary to Prague for business purposes. Dr. Samuel Kohn suggests that Jewish Khazars may have been among the Hungarian troops that under Árpád conquered the country in the second half of the ninth century. Nothing is known concerning the Jews during the period of the Vajdas, except that they lived in the country and engaged in commerce there.

Two hundred years later, in the reign of St. Ladislaus (1077-1095), the Synod of Szabolcs decreed (May 20, 1092) that Jews should not be permitted to have Christian wives or to keep Christian slaves. This decree had been promulgated in the Christian countries of Europe since the fifth century, and St. Ladislaus merely introduced it into Hungary.

The Jews of Hungary formed at first small settlements, and had no learned rabbis; but they were strictly observant of all the Jewish religious laws and customs. Jews from Ratisbon (Regensburg) once came into Hungary with merchandise from Russia, and the wheel of their wagon broke on a Friday, near Buda (Ofen) or Esztergom (Gran). By the time they had repaired it and had entered the town, the Jews were just leaving the synagogue; and the unintentional Sabbath-breakers were heavily fined. The ritual of the Hungarian Jews faithfully reflected their German origin.

Early history (1100-1300)

King Coloman (1095-1116), the successor of St. Ladislaus, renewed the Szabolcs decree of 1092, adding further prohibitions against the employment of Christian slaves and domestics. He also restricted the Jews to cities with episcopal sees - probably to have them under the continuous supervision of the Church. Soon after the promulgation of this decree, Crusaders came to Hungary; but the Hungarians did not sympathize with them, and Coloman even opposed them. The infuriated Crusaders attacked some cities, and if Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya is to be believed, the Jews suffered a fate similar to that of their coreligionists in France, Germany, and Bohemia.

The cruelties inflicted upon the Jews of Bohemia induced many of them to seek refuge in Hungary. It was probably the immigration of the rich Bohemian Jews that induced Coloman soon afterward to regulate commercial and banking transactions between Jews and Christians. He decreed, among other regulations, that if a Christian borrowed from a Jew, or a Jew from a Christian, both Christian and Jewish witnesses must be present at the transaction.

During the reign of King Andrew II (1205-1235) there were Jewish Chamberlains and mint-, salt-, and tax-officials. The nobles of the country, however, induced the king, in his Golden Bull (1222), to deprive the Jews of these high offices. When Andrew needed money in 1226, he farmed the royal revenues to Jews, which gave ground for much complaint. The pope (Pope Honorius III) thereupon excommunicated him, until, in 1233, he promised the papal ambassadors on oath that he would enforce the decrees of the Golden Bull directed against the Jews and the Saracens (by this time, the papacy had changed, and the Pope was now Pope Gregory IX; would cause both peoples to be distinguished from Christians by means of badges; and would forbid both Jews and Saracens to buy or to keep Christian slaves.

The year 1240 was the closing one of the fifth millennium of the Jewish era. At that time the Jews were expecting the advent of their Messiah. The Mongol invasion in 1241 seemed to conform to expectation, as Jewish imagination expected the happy Messianic period to be ushered in by the war of Gog and Magog. Béla IV (1235-1270) appointed a Jew, Henul by name, court chamberlain (the Jew Teka had filled this office under Andrew II); and Wölfel and his sons Altmann and Nickel held the castle at Komárom with its domains in pawn. Béla also entrusted the Jews with the mint; and Hebrew coins of this period are still found in Hungary. In 1251 a "privilegium" was granted by Béla to his Jewish subjects which was essentially the same as that granted by Duke Frederick II the Quarrelsome to the Austrian Jews in 1244, but which Béla modified to suit the conditions of Hungary. This "privilegium" remained in force down to the Battle of Mohács (1526).

At the Synod of Buda (1279), held in the reign of King Ladislaus IV (1272-1290), it was decreed, in the presence of the papal ambassador, that every Jew appearing in public should wear on the left side of his upper garment a piece of red cloth; that any Christian transacting business with a Jew not so marked, or living in a house or on land together with any Jew, should be refused admittance to the Church services; and that a Christian entrusting any office to a Jew should be excommunicated. Andrew III (1291-1301), the last king of the Árpád dynasty, declared, in the "privilegium" granted by him to the community of Posonium (Bratislava), that the Jews in that city should enjoy all the liberties of citizens.

Expulsion, recall, and persecution (1349-1526)

Under the foreign kings who occupied the throne of Hungary on the extinction of the house of Arpad, the Hungarian Jews suffered many persecutions; and at the time of the Black Death (1349) they were expelled from the country. Although the Jews were immediately readmitted, they were again persecuted, and were once more expelled in 1360 by King Louis the Great of Anjou (1342-1382) on the failure of his attempt to convert them to Catholicism. They were graciously received by Alexander the Good of Moldavia and Dano I of Wallachia, the latter affording them special commercial privileges.

When, some years later, Hungary was in financial distress, the Jews were recalled. They found that during their absence the king had introduced the custom of "Tödtbriefe", i.e., canceling by a stroke of his pen, on the request of a subject or a city, the notes and mortgage-deeds of the Jews. An important office created by Louis was that of "judge of all the Jews living in Hungary," this official being chosen from among the dignitaries of the country, the palatines, and treasurers, and having a deputy to aid him. It was his duty to collect the taxes of the Jews, to protect their privileges, and to listen to their complaints, which last-named had become more frequent since the reign of Sigismund Luxembourg (1387-1437).

The successors of Sigismund: Albert (1437-1439), Ladislaus Posthumus (1453-1457), and Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490)—-likewise confirmed the "privilegium" of Béla IV. Matthias created the office of Jewish prefect in Hungary. The period following the death of Matthias was a sad one for the Hungarian Jews. He was hardly buried, when the people fell upon them, confiscated their property, refused to pay debts owing to them, and persecuted them generally. The pretender John Corvinus, Matthias' illegitimate son, expelled them from Tata, and King Ladislaus II (1490-1516), always in need of money, laid heavy taxes upon them. During his reign, Jews were for the first time burned at the stake, many being executed at Nagyszombat (Trnava) in 1494, on suspicion of ritual murder.

The Hungarian Jews finally applied to the German Emperor Maximilian for protection. On the occasion of the marriage of Louis II and the archduchess Maria (1512), the emperor, with the consent of Ladislaus, took the prefect, Jacob Mendel, together with his family and all the other Hungarian Jews, under his protection, according to them all the rights enjoyed by his other subjects. Under Ladislaus' successor, Louis II (1516-1526), persecution of the Jews was a common occurrence. The bitter feeling against them was in part augmented by the fact that the baptized Emerich Szerencsés, the deputy treasurer, embezzled the public funds, following the example of the nobles who despoiled the treasury under the weak Louis.

During the war with the Ottomans (1526-1686)

:"See also: History of the Jews in Turkey"

The Turks vanquished the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohács (August 29, 1526), on which occasion Louis II was slain. When the news of his death reached the capital, Buda, the court and the nobles fled together with some rich Jews, among them the prefect. Although the Turkish Army turned back after the battle, in 1541 it again invaded Hungary to help repel an Austrian attempt to take Buda. By the time the Turkish Army arrived, the Austrians were defeated, but the Turks seized Buda. When the grand vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, preceding Sultan Suleiman I, arrived with his army at Buda, the representatives of the Jews who had remained in the city appeared garbed in mourning before him, and, begging for grace, handed him the keys of the deserted and unprotected castle in token of submission. The sultan himself entered Buda on September 11; and on September 22 he decreed that all the Jews seized at Buda, Esztergom, and elsewhere, more than 2,000 in number, should be distributed among the cities of the Turkish empire.

While some of the Jews of Hungary were deported to Turkey, others, who had fled at the approach of the sultan, sought refuge beyond the frontier or in the free royal towns of western Hungary. The widow of Louis II, the queen regent Maria, favored the enemies of the Jews. The citizens of Sopron (Ödenburg) began hostilities by expelling the Jews of that city, confiscating their property, and pillaging the vacated houses and the synagogue. The city of Pressburg (Bratislava) also received permission from the queen (October 9, 1526) to expel the Jews living within its territory, because they had expressed their intention of fleeing before the Turks. The Jews left Pressburg on November 9.

On that same day the diet at Székesfehérvár was opened, at which János Szapolyai (1526-1540) was elected and crowned king in opposition to Ferdinand. During this session it was decreed that the Jews should immediately be expelled from every part of the country. Zápolya, however, did not ratify these laws; and the Diet held at Pressburg in December 1526, at which Ferdinand of Habsburg was chosen king (1526-1564), annulled all the decrees of that of Székesfehérvár, including Zápolya's election as king.

As the lord of Bösing (Pezinok) was in debt to the Jews, a blood accusation was brought against these inconvenient creditors in 1529. Although Mendel, the prefect, and the Jews throughout Hungary protested, the accused were burned at the stake. For centuries afterward Jews were forbidden to live at Bösing. The Jews of Nagyszombat (Trnava) soon shared a similar fate, being first punished for alleged ritual murder and then expelled from the city (February 19, 1539).

In 1541, on the anniversary of the battle of Mohács, Sultan Suleiman I again took Buda by a ruse. This event marks the beginning of Turkish rule in many parts of Hungary, which lasted down to the end of the 17th century. The Jews living in these parts were treated far better than those living under the Habsburgs. During this period, beginning with the second half of the sixteenth century, the community of Ofen (Buda) flourished more than at any time before or after. While the Turks held sway in Hungary, the Jews of Transylvania (at that time an independent principality) also fared well. At the instance of Abraham Sassa, a Jewish physician of Constantinople, Prince Gabriel Bethlen of Transylvania granted a letter of privileges (June 18, 1623) to the Spanish Jews from Turkey.

On November 26, 1572, King Maximilian II (1563-1576) intended to expel the Jews of Pressburg (Bratislava), stating that his edict would be recalled only in case they accepted Christianity. The Jews, however, remained in the city, without abandoning their religion. They were in constant conflict with the citizens. On June 1, 1582 the municipal council decreed that no one should harbor Jews, or even transact business with them. The feeling against the Jews in that part of the country not under Turkish rule is shown by the decree of the Diet of 1578, to the effect that Jews were to be taxed double the amount which was imposed upon other citizens.

By article XV of the law promulgated by the Diet of 1630, Jews were forbidden to take charge of the customs; and this decree was confirmed by the Diet of 1646 on the ground that the Jews were excluded from the privileges of the country, that they were unbelievers, and had no conscience ("veluti jurium regni incapaces, infideles, et nulla conscientia praediti"). The Jews had to pay a special war-tax when the imperial troops set out toward the end of the sixteenth century to recapture Buda from the Turks. The Buda community suffered much during this siege, as did also that of Székesfehérvár when the imperial troops took that city in September 1601; many of its members were either slain or taken prisoner and sold into slavery, their redemption being subsequently effected by the German, Italian, and Turkish Jews. After the conclusion of peace, which the Jews helped to bring about, the communities were in part reconstructed; but further development in the territory of the Habsburgs was arrested when Leopold I (1657-1705) expelled the Jews (April 24, 1671). He, however, revoked his decree a few months later (August 20). During the siege of Vienna, in 1683, the Jews that had returned to that city were again maltreated. The Turks plundered some communities in western Hungary, and deported the members as slaves.

Habsburg rule

Further persecution and expulsions (1686-1740)

The imperial troops recaptured Buda on September 2, 1686, most Jewish residents were massacred, some captured and later released for ransom. In the following years the whole of Hungary now came under the rule of the House of Habsburg. As the devastated country had to be repopulated, Bishop Count Leopold Kollonitsch, subsequently Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary, advised the king to give the preference to the German Catholics in order that the country might in time become German and Catholic. He held that the Jews could not be exterminated at once, but they must be weeded out by degrees, as bad coin is gradually withdrawn from circulation. The decree passed by the Diet of Pressburg (1687-1688), imposing double taxation upon the Jews, must be enforced. Jews must not be permitted to engage in agriculture, nor to own any real estate, nor to keep Christian servants.

This advice soon bore fruit and was in part acted upon. In August 1690, the government at Vienna ordered Sopron to expel its Jews, who had immigrated from the Austrian provinces. The government, desiring to enforce the edict of the last Diet, decreed soon afterward that Jews should be removed from the office of collector. The order proved ineffective, however; and the employment of Jewish customs officials was continued. Even the treasurer of the realm set the example in transgressing the law by appointing (1692) Simon Hirsch as farmer of customs at Leopoldstadt (Leopoldov); and at Hirsch's death he transferred the office to Hirsch's son-in-law.

The revolt of the Kuruc, under Francis II Rákóczi, caused much suffering to the Hungarian Jews. The Kuruc imprisoned and slew the Jews, who had incurred their anger by siding with the king's party. The Jews of Eisenstadt, accompanied by those of the community of Mattersdorf, sought refuge at Vienna, Wiener-Neustadt, and Forchtenstein; those of Holics (Holíč) and Sasvár (Šaštín) dispersed to Göding (Hodonín); while others, who could not leave their business in this time of distress, sent their families to safe places, and themselves braved the danger. While not many Jews lost their lives during this revolt, it made great havoc in their wealth, especially in Sopron County, where a number of rich Jews were living. The king granted letters of protection to those that had been ruined by the revolt, and demanded satisfaction for those that had been injured; but in return for these favors he commanded the Jews to furnish the sums necessary for suppressing the revolt.

After the restoration of peace the Jews were expelled from many cities that feared their competition; thus Esztergom expelled them in 1712, on the ground that the city which had given birth to St. Stephen must not be desecrated by them. But the Jews living in the country, on the estates of their landlords, were generally left alone.

The lot of the Jews was not improved under the reign of Leopold's son, Charles III (1711-1740). He informed the government (June 28, 1725) that he intended to decrease the number of Jews in his domains, and the government thereupon directed the counties to furnish statistics of the Hebrew inhabitants. In 1726 the king decreed that in the Austrian provinces, from the day of publication of the decree, only one male member in each Jewish family be allowed to marry. This decree, restricting the natural increase of the Jews, materially affected the Jewish communities of Hungary. All the Jews in the Austrian provinces who could not marry there went to Hungary to found families; thus the overflow of Austrian Jews peopled Hungary. These immigrants settled chiefly in the northwestern counties, in Nyitra (Nitra), Pressburg (Bratislava), and Trencsén (Trenčín).

The Moravian Jews continued to live in Hungary as Moravian subjects; even those that went there for the purpose of marrying and settling promised on oath before leaving that they would pay the same taxes as those living in Moravia. In 1734 the Jews of Trencsén bound themselves by a secret oath that in all their communal affairs they would submit to the Jewish court at Ungarisch-Brod (Uherský Brod) only. In the course of time the immigrants refused to pay taxes to the Austrian provinces. The Moravian Jews, who had suffered by the heavy emigration, then brought complaint; and Maria Theresa ordered that all Jewish and Christian subjects that had emigrated after 1740 should be extradited, while those who had emigrated before that date were to be released from their Moravian allegiance.

The government could not, however, check the large immigration; for although strict laws were drafted in 1727, they could not be enforced owing to the good-will of the magnates toward the Jews. The counties either did not answer at all, or sent reports bespeaking mercy rather than persecution.

Meanwhile the king endeavored to free the mining-towns from the Jews — a work which Leopold I had already begun in 1693. The Jews, however, continued to settle near these towns; they displayed their wares at the fairs; and, with the permission of the court, they even erected a foundry at Ság (Sasinkovo). When King Charles ordered them to leave (March, 1727), the royal mandate was in some places ignored; in others the Jews obeyed so slowly that he had to repeat his edict three months later.

Under Maria Theresa (1740-1780)

In 1735 another census of the Jews of the country was taken with the view of reducing their numbers. There were at that time 11,621 Jews living in Hungary, of which 2,474 were male heads of families, and fifty-seven were female heads. Of these heads of families 35.31 per cent declared themselves to be Hungarians; the rest had immigrated. Of the immigrants 38.35 per cent came from Moravia, 11.05 per cent from Poland, and 3.07 per cent from Bohemia. The largest Jewish community, numbering 770 persons, was that of Pressburg (Bratislava). Most of the Jews were engaged in commerce or industries, most being merchants, traders, or shopkeepers; only a few pursued agriculture.

During the reign of Queen Maria Theresa (1740-1780), daughter of Charles III, the Jews were expelled from Buda (1746), and the "toleration-tax" was imposed upon the Hungarian Jews. On September 1, 1749, the delegates of the Hungarian Jews, except those from Szatmár County, assembled at Pressburg and met a royal commission, which informed them that they would be expelled from the country if they did not pay this tax. The frightened Jews at once agreed to do so; and the commission then demanded a yearly tax of 50,000 gulden. This sum being excessive, the delegates protested; and although the queen had fixed 30,000 gulden as the minimum tax, they were finally able to compromise on the payment of 20,000 gulden a year for a period of eight years. The delegates were to apportion this amount among the districts; the districts, their respective sums among the communities; and the communities, theirs among the individual members.

The queen confirmed this agreement of the commission, except the eight-year clause, changing the period to three years, which she subsequently made five. The agreement, thus ratified by the queen, was brought on November 26 before the courts, which were powerless to relieve the Jews from the payment of this "Malkegeld" (queen's money), as they called it.

The Jews, thus burdened by new taxes, thought the time ripe for taking steps to remove their oppressive disabilities. While still at Presburg the delegates had brought their grievances before the mixed commission that was called "delegata in puncto tolerantialis taxae et gravaminum Judeorum commissio mixta". These complaints pictured the distress of the Jews of that time. They were not allowed to live in Croatia and Slavonia, in Baranya and Heves Counties, or in several free royal towns and localities; nor might they visit the markets there. At Stuhlweissenburg (Székesfehérvár) they had to pay a poll-tax of 1 gulden, 30 kreuzer if they entered the city during the day, if only for an hour. In many places they might not even stay overnight. They therefore begged permission to settle, or at least to visit the fairs, in Croatia and Slavonia and in those places from which they had been driven in consequence of the jealousy of the Greeks and the merchants.

The Jews also had to pay heavier bridge-and ferry-tolls than the Christians; at Nagyszombat (Trnava) they had to pay three times the ordinary sum, namely, for the driver, for the vehicle, and for the animal drawing the same; and in three villages belonging to the same district they had to pay toll, although there was no toll-gate. Jews living on the estates of the nobles had to give their wives and children as pledges for arrears of taxes. In Upper Hungary they asked for the revocation of the toleration-tax imposed by the chamber of Zips County (Szepes, Spiš), on the ground that otherwise the Jews living there would have to pay two such taxes; and they asked also to be relieved from a similar tax paid to the Diet. Finally, they requested that Jewish artisans might be allowed to follow their trades in their homes undisturbed.

The commission laid these complaints before the Queen, indicating the manner in which they could be relieved; and their suggestions were subsequently willed by the queen and made into law.

The queen relieved the Jews from the tax of toleration in Upper Hungary only. In regard to the other complaints she ordered that the Jews should specify them in detail, and that the government should remedy them insofar as they came under its jurisdiction.

The toleration-tax had hardly been instituted when Michael Hirsch petitioned the government to be appointed primate of the Hungarian Jews in order to be able to settle difficulties that might arise among them, and to collect the tax. The government did not recommend Hirsch, but decided that in case the Jews should refuse to pay, it might be advisable to appoint a primate to adjust the matter.

Before the end of the period of five years the delegates of the Jews again met the commission at Pressburg (Bratislava) and offered to increase the amount of their tax to 25,000 gulden a year if the queen would promise that it should remain at that sum for the next ten years. The queen had other plans, however; not only did she dismiss the renewed "gravamina" of the Jews, but rather imposed stiffer regulations upon them. Their tax of 20,000 gulden was increased to 30,000 gulden in 1760; to 50,000 in 1772; to 80,000 in 1778; and to 160,000 in 1813.

Under Joseph II (1780-1790)

Joseph II (1780-1790), son and successor of Maria Theresa, showed immediately on his accession that he intended to alleviate the condition of the Jews, communicating this intention to the Hungarian chancellor, Count Franz Esterházy as early as May 13, 1781. In consequence the Hungarian government issued (March 31, 1783) a decree known as the "Systematica gentis Judaicae regulatio", which wiped out at one stroke the decrees that had oppressed the Jews for centuries. The royal free towns, except the mining-towns, were opened to the Jews, who were allowed to settle at pleasure throughout the country. The "regulatio" decreed that the legal documents of the Jews should no longer be composed in Hebrew, or in Yiddish, but in Latin, German, and Hungarian, the languages currently used in the country, and which the young Jews were required to learn within two years.

Documents written in Hebrew or in Yiddish were not legal; Hebrew books were to be used at worship only; the Jews were to organize elementary schools; the commands of the emperor, issued in the interests of the Jews, were to be announced in the synagogues; and the rabbis were to explain to the people the salutary effects of these decrees. The subjects to be taught in the Jewish schools were to be the same as those taught in the national schools; the same text-books were to be used in all the elementary schools; and everything that might offend the religious sentiment of non-conformists was to be omitted.

During the early years Christian teachers were to be employed in the Jewish schools, but they were to have nothing to do with the religious affairs of such institutions. After the lapse of ten years a Jew might establish a business, or engage in trade, only if he could prove that he had attended a school. The usual school-inspectors were to supervise the Jewish schools and to report to the government. The Jews were to create a fund for organizing and maintaining their schools. Jewish youth might enter the academies, and might study any subject at the universities except theology. Jews might rent farms only if they could cultivate the same without the aid of Christians.

Jews were allowed to peddle and to engage in various industrial occupations, and to be admitted into the guilds. They were also permitted to engrave seals, and to sell gunpowder and saltpeter; but their exclusion from the mining-towns remained in force. Christian masters were allowed to have Jewish apprentices. All distinctive marks hitherto worn by the Jews were to be abolished, and they might even carry swords. On the other hand, they were required to discard the distinctive marks prescribed by their religion and to shave their beards. Emperor Joseph regarded this decree so seriously that he allowed no one to violate it.

The Jews, in a petition dated April 22, 1783, expressed their gratitude to the emperor for his favors, and, reminding him of his principle that religion should not be interfered with, asked permission to wear beards. The emperor granted the prayer of the petitioners, but reaffirmed the other parts of the decree (April 24, 1783). The Jews organized schools in various places, at Pressburg (Bratislava), Óbuda, Vágújhely (Nové Mesto nad Váhom), and Nagyvárad (Oradea). A decree was issued by the emperor (July 23, 1787) to the effect that every Jew should choose a German surname; and a further edict (1789) ordered, to the consternation of the Jews, that they should henceforth perform military service.

After the death of Joseph II the royal free cities showed a very hostile attitude toward the Jews. The citizens of Pest petitioned the municipal council that after May 1, 1790, the Jews should no longer be allowed to live in the city. The government interfered; and the Jews were merely forbidden to engage in peddling in the city. Seven days previously a decree of expulsion had been issued at Nagyszombat (Trnava), May 1 being fixed as the date of the Jews' departure. The Jews appealed to the government; and in the following December the city authorities of Nagyszombat were informed that the Diet had confirmed the former rights of the Jews, and that the latter could not be expelled.

Toleration and Oppression (1790-1847)

The Jews of Hungary handed a petition, in which they boldly presented their claims to equality with other citizens, to King Leopold II (1790-1792) at Vienna on November 29, 1790. He sent it the following day to the chancelleries of Hungary and Moravia for their opinions. The question was brought before the estates of the country on December 2, and the Diet drafted a bill showing that it intended to protect the Jews. This decision created consternation among the enemies of the latter. Nagyszombat (Trnava) addressed a further memorandum to the estates (December 4) in which it demanded that the Diet should protect the city's privileges. The Diet decided in favor of the Jews, and its decision was laid before the king.

The Jews, confidently anticipating the king's decision in their favor, organized a splendid celebration on November 15, 1790, the day of his coronation; on January 10, 1791, the king approved the bill of the Diet; and the following law, drafted in conformity with the royal decision, was read by Judge Stephen Atzel in the session of February 5:

"In order that the condition of the Jews may be regulated pending such time as may elapse until their affairs and the privileges of various royal free towns relating to them shall have been determined by a commission to report to the next ensuing Diet, when his Majesty and the estates will decide on the condition of the Jews, the estates have determined, with the approval of his Majesty, that the Jews within the boundaries of Hungary and the countries belonging to it shall, in all the royal free cities and in other localities (except the royal mining-towns), remain under the same conditions in which they were on Jan. 1, 1790; and in case they have been expelled anywhere, they shall be recalled."

Thus came into force the famous law entitled "De Judaeis", which forms the thirty-eighth article of the laws of the Diet of 1790-1791. The "De Judaeis" law was gratefully received by the Jews; for it not only afforded them protection, but also gave them the assurance that their affairs would soon be regulated. Still, although the Diet appointed on February 7, 1791, a commission to study the question, the amelioration of the condition of the Hungarian Jews was not effected till half a century later, under Ferdinand V (1835-1848), during the session of the Diet of 1839-1840.

In consequence of the petition of the Jews of Pest, the mover of which was Dr. Philip Jacobovics, superintendent of the Jewish hospital, the general assembly of the county of Pest drafted instructions for the delegates on June 10, 1839, to the effect that if the Jews would be willing to adopt the Magyar language they should be given equal rights with other Hungarian citizens. From now on much attention was paid to the teaching of Hungarian in the schools; Moritz Bloch (Ballagi) translated the Pentateuch into Hungarian, and Moritz Rosenthal the Psalms and the "Pirkei Avoth". Various communities founded Hungarian reading-circles; and the Hungarian dress and language were more and more adopted. Many communities began to use Hungarian on their seals and in their documents, and some liberal rabbis even began to preach in that language.

At the sessions of the Diet subsequent to that of 1839-1840, as well as in various cities, a decided antipathy—at times active and at times merely passive—toward the Jews became manifest. In sharp contrast to this attitude was that of Baron József Eötvös, who published in 1840 in the "Budapesti Szemle", the most prominent Hungarian review, a strong appeal for the emancipation of the Jews. This cause also found a friend in Count Charles Zay, the chief ecclesiastical inspector of the Hungarian Lutherans, who warmly advocated Jewish interests in 1846.

Although the session of the Diet convened on November 7, 1847, was unfavorable to the Jews, the latter not only continued to cultivate the Hungarian language, but were also willing to sacrifice their lives and property in the hour of danger. During the Revolution of 1848 they displayed their patriotism, even though attacked by the populace in several places at the beginning of the uprising. On March 19 the populace of Pressburg (Bratislava), encouraged by the antipathies of the citizens—who were aroused by the fact that the Jews, leaving their ghetto around Pressburg Castle (Bratislava Castle), were settling in the city itself—began hostilities that were continued after some days, and were renewed more fiercely in April.

At this time the expulsion of the Jews from Sopron, Pécs, Székesfehérvár, and Szombathely was demanded; in the last two cities there were pogroms. At Szombathely, the mob advanced upon the synagogue, cut up the Torah scrolls, and threw them into a well. Nor did the Jews of Pest escape, while those at Vágújhely (Nové Mesto nad Váhom) especially suffered from the brutality of the mob. Bitter words against the Jews were also heard in the Diet. Some Jews advised emigration to America as a means of escape; and a society was founded at Pest, with a branch at Pressburg, for that purpose. A few left Hungary, seeking a new home across the sea, but the majority remained.

Revolution and emancipation, 1848-1849

Jews and the Hungarian Revolution

Jews entered the national guard as early as March 1848; although they were excluded from certain cities, they reentered as soon as the danger to the country seemed greater than the hatred of the citizens. At Pest the Jewish national guard formed a separate division. When the national guards of Pápa were mobilized against the Croatians, Leopold Löw, rabbi of Pápa, joined the Hungarian ranks, inspiring his companions by his words of encouragement. Jews were also to be found in the volunteer corps, and among the "honvéd" and "landsturm"; and they constituted one-third of the volunteer division of Pest that marched along the Drava against the Croatians, being blessed by Rabbi Schwab on June 22, 1848.

Many Jews throughout the country joined the army to fight for their fatherland; among them, Adolf Hübsch, subsequently rabbi at New York; Solomon Marcus Schiller-Szinessy, afterward lecturer at the University of Cambridge; and Ignatz Einhorn, who, under the name of "Eduard Horn," subsequently became state secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Commerce. The rebellious Serbians slew the Jews at Zenta who sympathized with Hungary; among them, Rabbi Israel Ullmann and Jacob Münz, son of Moses Münz of Óbuda The conduct of the Jewish soldiers in the Hungarian army was highly commended by Generals Klapka and Görgey. Einhorn estimated the number of Jewish soldiers who took part in the Hungarian Revolution to be 20,000; but this is most likely exaggerated, as Béla Bernstein enumerates only 755 combatants by name in his work, "Az 1848-49-iki Magyar Szabadságharcz és a Zsidók" (Budapest, 1898).

The Hungarian Jews served their country not only with the sword, but also with funds. Communities and individuals, Chevra Kadisha, and other Jewish societies, freely contributed silver and gold, armor and provisions, clothed and fed the soldiers, and furnished lint and other medical supplies to the Hungarian camps. Meanwhile they did not forget to take steps to obtain their rights as citizens. When the Diet of 1847-1848 (in which, according to ancient law, only the nobles and those having the rights of nobles might take part) was dissolved (April 11), and the new Parliament — at which under the new laws the delegates elected by the commons also appeared — was convened at Pest (July 2, 1848), the Jews hopefully looked forward to the deliberations of the new body.

Brief emancipation and aftermath, 1849

Many Jews thought to pave the way for emancipation by a radical reform of their religious life, in agreement with opinions uttered in the Diets and in the press, that the Jews should not receive equal civic rights until they had reformed their religion. This reform had been first demanded in the session of 1839-1840. From this session onward the necessity of a reform of the Jewish religion was generally advocated in the press and in general assemblies, mostly in a spirit of friendliness. Several counties instructed their representatives not to vote for the emancipation of the Jews until they desisted from practising the externals of their religion.

For the purpose of urging emancipation all the Jews of Hungary sent delegates to a conference at Pest on July 5, 1848; there a commission consisting of ten members was chosen, to which was entrusted the task of agitating on behalf of emancipation; but the commission was instructed to make no concessions in regard to the Jewish faith, even if the Parliament should stipulate such as the condition on which civic equality to the Jews would be granted. The commission soon after addressed a petition to the Parliament, but it proved ineffective.

The emancipation of the Jews, was granted by the national assembly at Szeged on Saturday, the eve of the Ninth of Av (July 28, 1849). The bill, which was quickly debated and immediately became a law, realized all the hopes of the Reform party. The Jews obtained full citizenship; and the Ministry of the Interior was ordered to call a convention of Jewish ministers and laymen for the purpose of drafting a confession of faith, and of inducing the Jews to organize their religious life in conformity with the demands of the time. The bill also included the clause referring to marriages between Jews and Christians, which clause both Kossuth and the Reform party advocated.

The Jews enjoyed their civic liberty for just two weeks. When the Hungarian army surrendered at Világos to the Russian troops that had come to aid the Austrians in suppressing the Hungarian struggle for liberty, the Jews were severely punished for having taken part in the uprising. Field Marshal Julius Haynau, the new governor of Hungary, imposed heavy war-taxes upon them, especially upon the communities of Pest and Óbuda, which had already been heavily taxed by Prince Alfred I. zu Windisch-Graetz, commander-in-chief of the Austrian army, on his triumphant entry into the Hungarian capital at the beginning of 1849. The communities of Kecskemét, Nagykőrös, Cegléd, Irsa, Szeged, and Szabadka (Subotica) were punished with equal severity by Haynau, who even laid hands upon the Jews individually, executing and imprisoning several; others sought refuge in emigration.

Several communities petitioned to be relieved of the tax imposed upon them. The ministry of war, however, decided that the communities of Pest, Óbuda, Kecskemét, Czegléd, Nagykőrös, and Irsa should pay this tax not in kind, but in currency to the amount of 2,300,000 gulden. As the communities were unable to collect this sum, they petitioned the government to remit it, but the result was that not only the communities in question but the communities of the entire country were ordered to share in raising the sum, on the ground that most of the Jews of Hungary had supported the Revolution. Only the communities of Temesvár (Timişoara) and Pressburg (Bratislava) were exempted from this order, they having remained loyal to the existing government. The military commission subsequently added a clause to the effect that individuals or communities might be exempted from the punishment, if they could prove by documents or witnesses, before a commission to be appointed, that they had not taken part in the Revolution, either by word or deed, morally or materially. The Jews refused this means of clearing themselves, and finally declared that they were willing to redeem the tax by collecting a certain sum for a national school-fund. Emperor Franz Joseph therefore remitted the war-tax (September 20, 1850), but ordered that the Jews of Hungary without distinction should contribute toward a Jewish school-fund of 1,000,000 gulden; and this sum was raised by them within a few years.

truggles for a second emancipation (1859-1867)

The emancipation of the Jews remained in abeyance while the House of Habsburg held absolute sway in Hungary; but it was again taken in hand when the Austrian troops were defeated in Italy in 1859. In that year the cabinet, with Emperor Franz Joseph in the chair, decreed that the status of the Jews should be regulated in agreement with the times, but with due regard for the conditions obtaining in the several localities and provinces. The question of emancipation was again loudly agitated when the emperor convened the Diet on April 2, 1861; but the early dissolution of that body prevented it from taking action in the matter.

The decade of absolutism in Hungary (1849-1859) was beneficial to the Jews insofar as it forced them to establish schools, most of which were in charge of trained teachers. The government organized with the Jewish school-fund model schools at Sátoraljaújhely, Temesvár (Timişoara), Pécs, and Pest. In Pest the Israelite State Teachers' Seminary was founded in 1859, the principals of which have included Abraham Lederer, Heinrich Deutsch, and Joseph Bánóczi. The graduates of this institution have rendered valuable services in the cause of patriotism and religious education.

When the Parliament dissolved in 1861, the emancipation of the Jews was deferred to the coronation of Franz Joseph. On December 22, 1867, the question came before the lower house, and on the favorable report of Kálmán Tisza and Zsigmond Bernáth a bill in favor of emancipation was adopted, which was passed by the upper house on the following day. This bill (article xvii of the Laws of the Parliament session of 1867) was received with universal satisfaction not only by the Jews, but also by the whole country. Although an Antisemitic Party was present in the Parliament, it was not taken seriously by the political elite of the country, and their agitation against Jews was not successful (see Tiszaeszlár blood libel).

On October 4 1877, the Jewish Theological Seminary – University of Jewish Studies opened in Budapest. The university is still functioning, having it's 130th anniversary on October 4 2007. Since it's opening, it has been the only Jewish institute in all of Central and Eastern Europe.

20th century: success, persecution, and destruction

The number of Jews according to the 1910 census was 5.0% of the 18 million people living in Hungary (Croatia excluded). The capital, Budapest, was 23% Jewish. [ Pest was more Jewish than Buda. In 1926, the districts I,II,III of Buda were Jewish 8%,11%,10% respectively. Downtown Pest (Belváros, district IV then) was 18% Jewish. Districts V (31%), VI (28%), VII (36%), VIII (22%),IX (13%) had large Jewish populations, while district X had 6%. ] The list of towns where the Jewish population exceeded 20%: Munkács (Mukachevo) 44%, Máramarossziget (Sighetu Marmaţiei) 37%, Ungvár (Uzhhorod) 31%, Bártfa (Bardejov) 30%, Beregszász (Berehove) 30%, Sátoraljaújhely, Nagyvárad (Oradea), Nyitra (Nitra), Szilágysomlyó (Şimleu Silvaniei), Szatmárnémeti (Satu Mare), Miskolc. In three counties, namely Máramaros, Ugocsa and Bereg, the village population was more than 10% Jewish.

The Jews of Hungary were fairly well integrated into Hungarian society by the time of the First World War. Class distinction was very significant in Hungary in general, and among the Jewish population in particular. Rich bankers, factory owners, lower middle class artisans and poor factory workers did not mingle easily. In 1926, there were 50,761 Jewish families living in Budapest. 65% of them lived in apartments that contained one or two rooms, 30% had three or four rooms, while 5% lived in apartments with more than 4 rooms.

["Magyar Zsidó Lexikon." Budapest, 1929.]

There was also religious division. There were three denominations. Traditionalists ("Status quo ante") were a minority, mainly in the North. Budapest, the South and West had a "Neolog" majority (somewhat between modern US conservative and Reform), with a significant Orthodox (more orthodox than "status quo ante") minority. The East and North of the country were overwhelmingly Orthodox. One can say, in broad terms, that Jews whose ancestors had come from Moravia in the 18th century became Neolog, while Jews whose ancestors had come from Galicia became Orthodox at the split in 1869.


More than 10,000 Jews died and thousands wounded and disabled fighting for Hungary in WW I. But these sacrifices by patriotic Hungarian Jews may have been outweighed by the chaotic events following the war's end.

With the defeat and dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hungary would be forced by the Allies to adhere to the Treaty of Trianon, which ceded to neighboring nations fully two-thirds of Hungary's imperial territory and two thirds of its population, including a third of its ethnically Magyar citizens and many Jews. These losses provoked deep anger and hostility in the remaining Hungarian population. [Mason, John W; "Hungary's Battle For Memory," "History Today", Vol. 50, March 2000.]

The first post-war government was led by Mihály Károlyi, and was the first modern effort at liberal democratic government in Hungary. But it was cut short in a spasm of communist revolution, which would would have serious implications for the manner in which Hungarian Jews were viewed by their fellow-countrymen.

In March 1919, Communist and Social Democrat members of a coalition government ousted Karolyi; soon after (21st March), the Communists were to take power as their Social Democrat colleagues were willing neither to accept nor to refuse the note of French foreign minister Vyx to cede a significant part of the Great Plains to Romania and the communists took control of Hungary's governing institutions. While popular at first, the so-called Hungarian Soviet Republic fared poorly in almost all of its aims, particularly its efforts to regain territories occupied by Slovakia (although achieving some transitional success here) and Romania. All the less palatable excesses of Communist uprisings were in evidence during these months, particularly the formation of squads of brutal young men practicing what they called "revolutionary terror" to intimidate and suppress dissident views. Three of the principal leaders of this short-lived revolution - Béla Kun, Tibor Szamuely, and Jenő Landler - were of Jewish ancestry. As in other countries where Communism was viewed as an immediate threat, the presence of Jews, even irreligious Jews, in positions of revolutionary leadership helped foster the notion of a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy. [Mason, John W; "Hungary's Battle For Memory," "History Today", Vol. 50, March 2000.]

Kun's regime was crushed after four and a half months when the Romanian army entered Budapest; it was quickly followed by the reactionary forces under the command of the former Austro-Hungarian admiral, Miklós Horthy.

The sufferings endured during the brief revolution, and their exploitation by fascist and ultra-nationalist movements, helped generate stronger suspicions among non-Jewish Hungarians, and undergirded pre-existing anti-Semitic views.

Beginning in July 1919, officers of Horthy's National Army engaged in a brutal string of counter-reprisals against Hungarian communists and their allies, real or imagined. [Bodo, Bela, Paramilitary Violence in Hungary After the First World War, East European Quarterly, June 22, 2004] This series of pogroms directed at Jews, progressives, peasants and others is known as the White Terror. Horthy's personal role in these reprisals is still subject of debate (in his memoirs he refused to disavow the violence, saying that "only an iron broom" could have swept the country clean). ["Admiral Miklos Horthy: Memoirs", U. S. Edition: Robert Speller & Sons, Publishers, New York, NY, 1957] Tallying the numbers of victims of the different terror campaigns in this period is still a matter of some political dispute [see Andrew Simon's annotations to Horthy's "Memoirs", English Edition, 1957] but the White Terror is generally considered to have claimed more lives than the repressions of the Kun regime. [Mason, John W; "Hungary's Battle For Memory," "History Today", Vol. 50, March 2000.]

Toward the Holocaust

The Inter-War-Years

quote="There is no doubt that this persecution of Jews in Hungary and their expulsion from enemy territory is probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world...."
source=Winston Churchill, July 11, 1944
In the first few decades of the 20th Century the Jews of Hungary numbered roughly 5 percent of the population. This minority had managed to achieve great commercial success, and Jews were disproportionately represented in the professions, relative to their numbers.

In 1921 Budapest, 88% percent of the members of the stock exchange and 91% percent of the currency brokers were Jews, many of them ennobled. In interwar Hungary, more than half and perhaps as much as 90 percent of Hungarian industry was owned or operated by a few closely related Jewish banking families.

Jews represented one-fourth of all university students and 43% percent at Budapest Technological University. In 1920, 60 percent of Hungarian doctors, 51 percent of lawyers, 39 percent of all privately employed engineers and chemists, 34 percent of editors and journalists, and 29 percent of musicians identified themselves as Jews by religion. [All these figures are from Yuri Slezkine. "The Jewish Century." Princeton, 2004. ISBN 0-691-11995-3]

Resentment of this Jewish trend of success was widespread: Admiral Horthy himself declared that he was "an anti-Semite," and remarked in a letter to one of his prime ministers, "I have considered it intolerable that here in Hungary everything, every factory, bank, large fortune, business, theater, press, commerce, etc. should be in Jewish hands, and that the Jew should be the image reflected of Hungary, especially abroad." [Patai, Raphael, The Jews of Hungary, Wayne State University Press, pp. 546]

Unfortunately for Jews they had also become, by a quirk of history, the most visible minority remaining in Hungary; the other large "non-Hungarian" populations (including Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, and Romanians, among others) had been abruptly excised from the Hungarian population by the territorial losses at Trianon. That left Hungary's Jews as the one ethnically separate group which could serve as a scapegoat for the nation's ills. [Mason, John W; "Hungary's Battle For Memory," "History Today", Vol. 50, March 2000.] The scapegoating began quickly. In 1920, Horthy's government passed a "Numerus Clausus," restricting the Jewish enrolment at universities to five percent or less, in order to reflect the Jewish population percentage.

Anti-Jewish policies grew more repressive in the interwar period as Hungary's leaders, who remained committed to regaining the lost territories of "Greater Hungary," chose to align themselves (albeit warily) with the fascist governments of Germany and Italy - the international actors most likely to stand behind Hungary's claims. [Mason, John W; "Hungary's Battle For Memory," "History Today", Vol. 50, March 2000.] The inter-war years also saw the emergence of flourishing fascist groups, such as the Hungarian National Socialist Party and the Arrow Cross Party.

Anti-Jewish Laws

Starting in 1938, Hungary under Horthy passed a series of anti-Jewish measures in emulation of Germany's Nürnberg Laws. The first, promulgated on May 29,1938, restricted the number of Jews in each commercial enterprise, in the press, among physicians, engineers and lawyers to twenty percent. The second anti-Jewish law (May 5, 1939), for the first time, defined Jews racially: people with 2,3 or 4 Jewish-born grandparents were declared Jewish. Their employment in government at any level was forbidden, they could not be editors at newspapers, their numbers were restricted to six per cent among theater and movie actors, physicians, lawyers and engineers. Private companies were forbidden to employ more than 12% Jews. 250,000 Hungarian Jews lost their income.

In the elections of May 28-29, Nazi and Arrow Cross parties received one quarter of the votes and 52 out of 262 seats. Their support was even larger, usually between 1/3 and 1/2 of the votes, where they were on the ballot at all, sincethey were not listed in large parts of the country [ see http://www.vokscentrum.hu/valaszt/index.php?jny=hun&mszkod=111000&evvalaszt=1939 . For instance, the support for Nazi parties was above 43% in the election districts of Zala, Győr-Moson, Budapest surroundings, Central and Northern Pest-Pilis, and above 36% in Veszprém, Vas, Szabolcs-Ung, Sopron, Nógrád-Hont,Jász-Nagykun, Southern Pest town and Buda town. The Nazi parties were not on the ballot mainly in the Eastern third of the country and in Somogy,Baranya, Tolna, Fejér. Their smallest support was in Békés county (15%), Pécs town (19%), Szeged town (22%) and in Northern Pest town (27%). For a map, click on http://www.vokscentrum.hu/valaszt/terkep.php?mszkod=111201&evvalaszt=1939&jny=hun ]

The "Third Jewish Law" (August 8, 1941) prohibited intermarriage and penalized sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews.

During the war, Jews were called to serve in "labour service" (munkaszolgálatos) units which were brought to the front to clean up minefields and other auxiliary work without defence, equipment. In the camp of Kőszeg, even before going to the front, the order was that no one should survive.Fact|date=September 2008

According to "Magyarország történelmi kronológiája", [ Volume 3, p.979, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1982] the census of January 1941 found that 6.2% of the population of 13,644,000, i.e. 846,000 people, were considered Jewish according to the racial laws of that time. From this number, 725,000 were Jewish by religion (184,000 in Budapest, 217,000 in the pre-1938 countryside, and 324,000 in the reunited Northern Transylvania, Carpatho-Ruthenia and southern Slovakia). In April 1941, Hungary annexed the Bácska (Bačka) and Muraköz (Međimurje County) regions from the occupied Yugoslavia, with 1,025,000 people including 16,000 Jews. It is not clear whether the 10-20,000 Jewish refugees were counted in the January census. They and anyone who could not prove legal residency, about 20,000 people, were handed over to the Germans in July, and were massacred in Kameniec-Podolsk (Kamianets-Podilskyi) at the end of August.

In the Újvidék (Novi Sad) massacre, 3,000 Serbs and 1,000 Jews were murdered, and approximately 42,000 Jewish forced laborers were killed at the Soviet front in 1942-43. Nevertheless, the Hungarian Prime Ministers, and especially Regent Horthy, continually resisted German pressure and refused to allow the deportation of Hungarian Jews to the German extermination camps in occupied Poland. This "anomalous" situation lasted until March 1944, when German troops occupied Hungary.

Occupation and Deportation

On March 18, 1944, Hitler summoned Horthy to a conference in Austria, where he demanded greater acquiescence from the Hungarian state. Horthy resisted, but his efforts were fruitless - while he attended the conference, German tanks rolled into Budapest.

On March 23, 1944, the quisling government of Döme Sztójay was installed. Among his other first moves, Sztójay legalized the Arrow Cross Party, which quickly began organizing. During the four days' interregnum following the German occupation, the Ministry of the Interior was put in the hands of László Endre and László Baky, right-wing politicians well-known for their hostility to Jews. Their boss, Andor Jaross, was another committed anti-Semite.

A few days later, Ruthenia, Upper Hungary, and Northern Transylvania were placed under military command; these territories contained an additional 320,000 Jews. On April 9, Prime Minister Sztojay and the Germans obligated Hungary to place at the disposal of the Reich 300,000 Jewish laborers. Five days later, on April 14, Endre, Baky, and Eichmann decided to deport all the Jews of Hungary.

http://www1.yadvashem.org/exhibitions/album_auschwitz/home_auschwitz_album.html "The Auschwitz Album.] "] SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann, whose duties included supervising the extermination of Jews, set up his staff in the Majestic Hotel and proceeded rapidly in rounding up Jews from the Hungarian provinces outside of Budapest and its suburbs. The Yellow Star and Ghettoization laws, and Deportation were accomplished in less than 8 weeks with the enthusiastic help of the Hungarian authorities, particularly the gendarmerie ("csendőrség"). The first transports to Auschwitz began on May 15, 1944. Even as Soviet troops were rapidly approaching the Hungarian border, and Eichmann and his staff knew that Germany had by then lost the war, the trains continued to roll to Auschwitz.

By July 8, 437,402 Jews had been deported in 151 trains, according to Edmund Veesenmayer's official German reports.Fact|date=February 2008 One hundred and thirty six trains were sent to Auschwitz, where 90% of the people were exterminated on arrival. Because the crematoria couldn't cope with the number of corpses, and special pits were dug near them, where bodies were simply burned. It has been estimated that one third of the murdered victims at Auschwitz were Hungarian.Fact|date=February 2008For most of this time period, 12,000 Jews were delivered to Auschwitz in a typical day, among them the future writer and Nobel Prize-winner Elie Wiesel, at age 15. The devotion to the cause of the "final solution" of the Hungarian gendarmes surprised even Eichmann himself, who supervised the operation with only twenty officers and a staff of 100, which included drivers, cooks, etc. [ [http://www.degob.hu/english/index.php?showarticle=2031 (Deportáltakat Gondozó Országos Bizottság)] ]

According to Winston Churchill, in a letter to his Foreign Secretary dated July 11, 1944, "There is no doubt that this persecution of Jews in Hungary and their expulsion from enemy territory is probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world...." [ [http://cgi.stanford.edu/group/wais/cgi-bin/index.php?p=6855 "Winston Churchill's The Second World War and the Holocaust's Uniqueness," Istvan Simon] ]

. Some other areas were also designated as "houses with stars" and some were under the protecion of neutral powers. The names of some diplomats, Raoul Walenberg, Karl Lutz, Giorgo Perlasce (please add others) deserves mentioning. Also some members of the army and police saved people (Fewnczy, Szalai, some other officers who took Jews out from camps with fake papers) and some church institutions and personalities.

The decision to end the transport was opposed by Endre, Baky and the Germans. To forestall a Nazi coup d'etat, Horthy ordered the remaining parts of the army and the gendarmerie that were still loyal to him to Budapest. Nonetheless, another 30,000 Jews were deported from the Trans-Danubian region and the outskirts of Budapest. On October 15, 1944 Horthy was finally deposed and the Nazis supported a coup by the antisemitic Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party (Hungarian: "Nyilaskeresztes Párt"). In the two months between November 1944 and February 1945, the Arrow Cross shot 10,000 to 15,000 Jews on the banks of the Danube.

Soviet troops liberated the Budapest ghetto on January 18, 1945.

By the end of the war in Hungary on April 4, 1945, from an original population of almost 900,000 people considered Jewish inside the borders of 1941-44, about 255,000 survived. [Braham, Randolph L. A Magyarországi Holokauszt Földrajzi Enciklopediája [The Geographic Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary] . Budapest:Park Publishing, 3 vol. (2006). Vol 1, p. 91.]

The Kastner Affair

See, Rudolf Kastner. This short section requires expansion.

Joel Brand

This short section requires expansion.

The Gold Train

This short section requires expansion.

Raoul Wallenberg

At this time, one of the most daring figures of the Holocaust emerged onto the stage: Raoul Wallenberg. Using his staff to prepare Protective Passports under the authority of the Swedish Legation Wallenberg saved the lives of thousands of Jews. At one point, he appeared personally at the train station, insisting that many Jews on the train be removed, and presenting the Arrow Cross guards with the Protective Passports for many on the train. Carl Lutz, of the Swiss Legation, also saved many people in a similar manner.

Communist rule

It is [perhaps over-] estimated that inside the post-war borders of Hungary, 190,000 people of Jewish descent were living at the end of 1945. The last census that asked about religion was in 1949 until the renewal of this question in 2001, when 12,871 people claimed to be "Israelite" vs 133,861 in 1949.(Source: http://www.nepszamlalas2001.hu/eng/volumes/26/tables/load1_1.html)

Under Communist rule, from 1948 to 1988, Zionism was outlawed and Jewish observance was curtailed. The previous upper class, Jews and anti-Semites alike, were expelled from the cities to the provinces for 6-12 months in the early 1950s.

However, the reality is more complex. The Communist governments of Béla Kun (mid-1919) and Mátyás Rákosi (1948-1954) included a large number of (atheist) Jews in prominent and influential decision-making positions. Certain Hungarian Communists who did have a Jewish background like Mátyás Rákosi and Ernő Gerő (Prime Minister and effective head of state in 1956) had totally repudiated Judaism (per pure Communist doctrine, which was strictly atheistic) and sometimes expressed anti-Semitic attitudes themselves.

During the 1919-1920 "White terror" period and the 1956 uprising, the backlash targeted not only Communist party members but Jews in general, and there were lynchings. On the other hand, some of the armed rebel leaders in 1956 were Jewish (István Angyal, an Auschwitz survivor, was executed on December 1,1958), and the uprising was supported by a number of Jewish writers too (for instance, Tibor Déry was imprisoned from 1957 to 1961). After the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, about 20,000 or so Jews fled the country. By 1967, only about 80,000-90,000 Jews (including non-religious Jews) remained in the country, with the number dropping further before the country's Communist regime collapsed in 1989.

Under the milder communist regime of János Kádár (ruled 1957-1988) leftist Jewish intelligentsia remained an important and vocal part of Hungarian art and sciences. Diplomatic relations with Israel were severed in 1967, but it was not followed by antisemitic campaigns as in Poland or the Soviet Union.


Most estimates about the number of Jews in Hungary range from 50,000 to 150,000; intermarriage rates are around 60%. (On the other hand, only 12,871 people declared Jewish religion in the census of 2001). Hungary boasts a number of synagogues, including the Dohány Street Synagogue, which is the largest synagogue in Europe. Jewish education is well organized: there are three Jewish high schools (Lauder Javne, Wesselényi and Anna Frank). Hungary is also home to the Jewish Theological Seminary – University of Jewish Studies.

Anti-Semitism as well as racism towards the Roma population has been a problem in Hungary since the fall of communism. There was a peak in 1992, before the departure of the strongly antisemitic wing of the ruling MDF party. There was a second peak when the ruling FIDESZ party needed the parliamentary support of MIÉP between 1998 and 2002. The economic situation has been deteriorating in 2007, and the extreme elements established a paramilitary organization, complete with Nyilas-like uniforms and armbands.

Although violence against individuals is rare, hatred of Jews is usually exhibited by destroying tombstones or vandalizing synagogues. Soccer games continue to see significant antisemitic messaging, including banners saying "send goose-eaters (libások) home", the massive exhibitions of Heil Hitler!, and imitation of the sound of steam engines (going to Auschwitz). The reason is that one of the teams in the premier league, MTK was founded by Jews.

Most of the Jews in Hungary are secular.Fact|date=February 2007 Since the fall of Communism in 1989, there has been a modest spiritual revival of Jewish observance. In 2003, Slomó Köves became the first Orthodox Rabbi to be ordained in Hungary since the Holocaust. The ceremony was attended by Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, as well as, the President of Hungary, Ferenc Mádl.

Some political conservatives and a significant part of the Hungarian populationFact|date=February 2007 believe that these aims are meant to demolish the very foundations of the Hungarian nation, by destroying rural and religious traditions. The far right alleges that this agenda is part of a secret Jewish domination plan.Fact|date=February 2007

In April 1997, the Hungarian parliament passed a Jewish compensation act that returns property stolen from Jewish victims during the Nazi and Communist eras. Under this law, property and monetary payment were given back to the Jewish public heritage foundation and to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. [http://www.factbook.net/countryreports/hu/Hu_ExecSummary.htm] The sums provided, however, are trivial, and represent nothing more than a symbolic gesture which many international observers have deemed to be too little, and too late.

External links

* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/hungarytoc.html Jewish Virtual Library articles on Hungary]
* [http://www.holocaust-history.org/hungarian-photos/ Documents on the Holocaust in Hungary]
* [http://www.zsidlex.extra.hu Magyar Zsidó Lexikon]
* [http://www.hungarianquarterly.com/no143/p129.html Wallenberg: More Twists to the Tale, Mária Ember, They Wanted to Blame Us]
* [http://www.szombat.org/index.php?module=articles&func=display&aid=200 Interview with István Domonkos, son of Miksa Domonkos who died after the show trial preparations (hungarian)]
* [http://www.chabad.org/centers/default_cdo/country/Hungary Chabad-Lubavitch Centers in Hungary]
* [http://www.zsido.hu/english/ Hungarian Jewish Homepage]
* [http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=105614632013317187769.000446cb6c712c5c9e668&ll=47.49369,19.062653&spn=0.006727,0.020084&z=16 Jewish Budapest Map]

ee also

*Neolog Judaism
*History of the Jews in Carpathian Ruthenia
*Hungary during the Second World War
*List of Hungarian Jews
*Budapest ghetto
*History of Hungary
*Randolph L. Braham
*Arrow Cross Party
*Rudolf Vrba
*Lord Moyne
*Shoes on the Danube Promenade



Hapsburg rule


* Braham, Randolph L.. The Holocaust in Hungary: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography, 1984-2000. Boulder:Social Science Monographs; Distributed by Columbia University Press, 2001. ISBN 0880334819
* Braham, Randolph L. The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary. (Rev. and enl. ed.) 2 Vols. Boulder:Social Science Monographs; Distributed by Columbia University Press, 2001. ISBN 0880332476 [Hungarian translation available.]

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