The Legacy of World War II and Belated Justice in the Hungarian Films of the Early Kádár Era
Tamás Bezsenyi and András Lénárt
National University of Public Service and National Széchényi Library – 1956 Institute
In this article, we analyze the role of Hungarian films made in the 1960s in representing the traumatic legacy of World War II. With the solidification of the official narrative of the Holocaust in the mid-1960s, the Hungarian film industry also started to reflect on the tragedy of the Jews at the same time (which was not a terribly conspicuous part of the official narrative). The article focuses on six films as illustrations of the extent to which it was possible to reflect on the traumatic past in the early Kádár era, with particular emphasis on the legacy of the Holocaust. The films selected revolve around the question of individual responsibility, but they also depict psychological conflicts and portray the character’s attempts to prompt collective remembering. We argue that despite the communists’ claims of moral superiority, peace and reconciliation remains unattainable for the characters in the films because of the inability of the new social milieu to facilitate the process of coming to terms with past traumas.
Keywords: representations of the Holocaust, film and historical trauma, Hungarian films in the 1960s, Antal Páger, Holocaust and memory on film