Volume 9 Issue 3 2020

Volume 7 Issue 4

Holocaust Victimhood in Hungary: New Histories

Alexandra M. Szabó and András Szécsényi Special Editors of the Thematic Issue

Contents

INTRODUCTION

Andrea Pető, Alexandra M. Szabó, and András Szécsényi 385

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ARTICLES

Tamás Csapody
Bor Forced Labor Service as Reflected in Diaries 391

Abstract

Abstract

Military forced labor service was introduced in Hungary during World War II. Men who were unreliable from the aspects of origin, religion, nationality or politics were conscripted for forced labor. Initially, forced laborers constructed primarily military objects on the home front, while later they were also dispatched to the battlefield. They had no weapons or uniforms, their provisions were poor and often they had to do building or mine clearing in the most dangerous areas. Hungary sent a total of approximately 6,000 forced laborers to work in the southern operational territories in 1943 and 1944. They had to undertake forced labor in the mining district of Bor in Yugoslavia, which was under German occupation. The majority were Jews, but there were also Jehovah’s Witnesses, Reform Adventists and Nazarenes. They lived under Hungarian military supervision and worked under German management. The locations of forced labor, the durations of time spent in the mining district, the experienced sufferings, etc. were very different. The forced laborers themselves were also different, for example with regard to their origins, occupations, and age. Several Jewish forced laborers wrote diaries and some of them managed to take those home. Later diaries written in Bor had a particular fate. Some were lost for a time or have remained in fragments, while others with important additions were deposited in archives or taken abroad by the diarists. All the diaries analyzed in the study testify to the survival of their writers. However, they mostly bear witness to the everyday life of forced labor service in Bor (otherwise difficult to learn about) and the behavior of those who held them, as well as the forced laborers’ sufferings, faith and hope. At the same time, they speak about the entirety of forced labor in Bor alongside its personal stories. The diaries are ego-documents, yet also historical sources. Their factual descriptions and subjective approaches augment our knowledge gained in the past. The six diaries written in Bor and analyzed in this study are personal confessions with significant source value.
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Alexandra M. Szabó
The Corporeal Continuation of the Holocaust: A Look at Miscarriages 408

Abstract

Abstract

Scholarship on women’s experiences is recently surfacing to understand a broader and more nuanced picture of Holocaust history. This case study wishes to add to the currently emerging interpretations of gendered experiences through the events of miscarriages that persecuted women experienced before, during, and after the Shoah. While the topic of miscarriages is only a segment of the larger subject of pregnancy, this research aims to offer a methodological example of including corporeal experiences into the gender analysis of the examined time period. This case study thus presents its relevance in bearing the ability to alter previous scholarly understanding on the demographics of Jewish communities after 1945 by showing that women’s reproductive and fertility experiences have not been included in social scientific discussions.
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Heléna Huhák
Place Attachment in a Concentration Camp: Bergen-Belsen 430

Abstract

Abstract

In this paper, I examine ego-documents created by two Hungarian deportees regarding the Bergen-Belsen concertation camp: Margit Holländer’s diary and Magda Székely’s letters to her father, Károly Székely. Holländer’s diary sheds light on two periods of Bergen-Belsen. The letters offer insights into experiences in two different parts of the camp at the same time. These sources include details about the everyday lives, thoughts, perceptions, and feelings of the inmates in the most extreme space of persecution. I argue that, with its focus on the attachment to place, by which I mean the emotional bond between person and place (an important concept in environmental psychology), Holländer’s diary reveals how she reflected on the different spaces in the camp and how her emotions regarding the physical and natural environment shifted depending on the situations of camp life. Magda Székely’s letters to her father reveal how the different sectors of the camp influenced the emotional bonds between father and daughter. I also argue that the attachments that these individuals seem to show to some of the sectors of the camp suggest that there were emotionally “positive places” in an otherwise negative environment. The illegal world of the camp, the secret act of letter writing, meetings in the “positive places,” and the exchange of goods on the black market are all indications of the very limited freedom of space usage, which continued after the liberation of the camp.
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Edit Jeges
Hungarian Holocaust Testimonies in Global Memory Frames: Digital Storytelling about “Change” and “Liberation” 452

Abstract

Abstract

This article provides a comparative and intersectional analysis of East-Central European Holocaust testimonies by women survivors narrated in writing at the time of the Shoah and recorded five decades later by the USC Shoah Institute’s Visual History Archive. The comparison explores both the continuities and changes particularly in the beginning and end of the persecution, which are usually associated with the terms “occupation” and “liberation.” I suggest that these conceptualizations prominent in the archive collide with survivor testimonies from the region in that survivors do not interpret Hitler’s rise to power and the German occupation as formative events of the persecution against the local Jewry. Further, I provide a typology of liberation narratives arguing for a multiplicity of interpretation based on survivor narratives countering the popular consensus of liberation as a carefree moment in time. Lastly, I conclude that the regional approach is particularly useful in understanding Holocaust memory in Hungary today as it is conducive to highlighting the specific relation of the global to the local.
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András Szécsényi
Hillersleben: Spatial Experiences of a Hungarian Jew in a German DP Camp, 1945 470

Abstract

Abstract

The paper focuses on Hungarian Jews who had been deported from Hungary to Bergen-Belsen and ended up in a Jewish displaced persons camp (hereinafter referred DP) before the liberation near the settlement of Hillersleben in the Magdeburg district of Sachsen-Anhalt, one of the states of Germany from April to September, 1945. In the first section of this paper, I explore the historical framework of this Hungarian group based on the current historiography and some narrative sources. In the second (main) part, I offer a case study in which I analyze the spatial experiences of György Bognár, a survivor of this aforementioned group. This camp alone did not play any special role from the perspective of Hungarian survivors. On the contrary, it provides evidence of the typical experiences of Jews in Germany in 1945. Giving voice to ego-documents and mainly to Bognár’s diary, I offer an account of how a 16-year old Hungarian Jew perceived and described the space in which he lived in this “half-life” between concentration camp and liberation. Primarily by using his diary entries, I attempt to offer insights into the spatial experiences of the DPs, though I also draw on other sources. I also explore the main markers of the maps he drew of the camp. I compare these sources with the notes I took during a visit to the site in 2016. My primary goal is to use spatial analyzes of the available narrative sources to further an understanding of how someone in one of the DP camps perceived his surroundings. In the last section, I reflect briefly on how the territory and the space of the former DP camp changed function after the camp was closed.
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István Pál Ádám
Budapest Butchers, the Jewish Question, and Holocaust Survivors 491

Abstract

Abstract

This article focuses on a denazification procedure within the professional group of the Budapest butchers. Through the retelling of wartime anti-Jewish incidents and other conflicts, these processes reveal a complex picture of how a certain professional group tried to cope with the upheavals of the war and the attempts of outside interventions. In the framework of the anti-Jewish exclusionary atmosphere of the epoch, I investigate questions about professional competition, leadership, respectability, professionalization, and the marginalization of Jewish professionals. By answering these questions, I reconstruct a wartime internal dynamism within the butchers’ trade, where meat gradually became a scarcity, and therefore ousting Jewish colleagues was understood more and more as an urging necessity. In these circumstances, I am interested in the ways of solidarity and animosity showed by the Budapest butchers towards persecuted colleagues and towards Jews in general. By using a micro-historical method, I detail the professional problems of Budapest butchers, and I explain how the denazification check interestingly took over some functions of the “master’s exam,” after the Second World War.
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Borbála Klacsmann
Neglected Restitution: The Relations of the Government Commission for Abandoned Property and the Hungarian Jews, 1945–1948
512

Abstract

Abstract

This paper deals with the restitution provided to Hungarian Holocaust survivors by the Government Commission for Abandoned Property, in the first post-war years (1945–1948). This commission was the first national institution, which handled and took care of the assets of Holocaust victims and which was supposed to give compensation to the survivors. By investigating the cases conducted by the local representatives of the institution, this paper gives insight into certain aspects of Jewish–non-Jewish relations after the war, as well as how these relations and the restitution process were affected by other actors, such as the government commission itself, the political parties and the government. Additionally, the attitude of the most important Jewish associations toward the government commission is also scrutinized.
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Ferenc Laczó
From Collaboration to Cooperation: German Historiography of the Holocaust in Hungary 530

Abstract

Abstract

This article provides an overview of German research on the Holocaust in Hungary. Its first part sketches four larger contexts of the professional study of the Holocaust in Germany to show why, though it was one of the major chapters of the genocide against European Jews, the Holocaust in Hungary has not emerged as a preoccupation among German historians. The second and longer part examines the premises, conclusions, and reception of the three most relevant German-language monographs on the Holocaust in Hungary and immediately adjacent subjects. I argue that the Holocaust in Hungary has only been discovered in German historiography as a result of larger shifts starting in the mid-1980s, and the number of specialists in Germany dedicated to its study and the level of cooperation between scholars in the two countries has remained surprisingly limited. Nonetheless, German historiography has been responsible for path-breaking and widely discussed monographs regarding Hungary, with the publication of Götz Aly and Christian Gerlach’s Das letzte Kapitel in particular serving as the subject of a transnational quarrel among historians in the early years of this century. I close with the stipulation that, with the further development of all-European perspectives on the Holocaust and growing interest in the last stages of World War II, the Hungarian case might be a more frequent subject of discussion in scholarly contexts that would ensure increased international visibility and attention in the future.
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BOOK REVIEWS

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Eastern Europe in Icelandic Sagas. By Tatjana N. Jackson. Reviewed by Csete Katona 556

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Účtovné registre Bratislavskej kapituly 1417–1529 [Account registers of the chapter of Bratislava, 1417–1529]. By Rastislav Luz. Reviewed by Petra Vručina 559

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Media and Literature in Multilingual Hungary (1770–1820). Edited by Ágnes Dóbék, Gábor Mészáros, and Gábor Vaderna. Reviewed by Csenge Aradi 561

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The Secular Enlightenment. By Margaret C. Jacob. Reviewed by Tibor Bodnár-Király 565

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“Kedves Hazámfiai, mozdulni kell...” Georgikoni peregrinatio oeconomica a 19. század elején [“Dear fellow countrymen, we must move...” The technological journeys of Hungary’s first college of farming in the early nineteenth century].
By György Kurucz. Reviewed by Gábor Gelléri 570

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Universities in Imperial Austria 1848–1918: A Social History of a Multicultural Space. By Surman, Jan. Reviewed by Katalin Stráner 573

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Slovutný pán prezident. Listy Jozefovi Tisovi [Your Honor, Mr. President: Letters to Jozef Tiso]. By Madeline Vadkerty. Reviewed by Denisa Nešťáková 577

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Budapest–Bergen-Belsen–Svájc: A Kasztner-vonat fővárosi utasai [Budapest–Bergen-Belsen–Switzerland: The Budapest passengers of the Kasztner train]. Edited by Anikó Lukács. Reviewed by Borbála Klacsmann 580

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Hóman Bálint és népbírósági pere [Bálint Hóman and his trial at the People’s Court]. Edited by Gábor Ujváry. Reviewed by Andrea Pető 583

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New Perspectives in Transnational History of Communism in East Central Europe. Edited by Krzysztof Brzechczyn. Reviewed by Piotr Kowalewski Jahromi 587

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Magyar-zsidó identitásminták [Hungarian-Jewish identity patterns]. Edited by Iván Zoltán Dénes. Reviewed by Attila Novák 591

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