Volume 4 Issue 3 2015

The Holocaust in Hungary in Contexts.
New Perspectives and Research Results

Volume 4 Issue 3

Ferenc Laczó
Special Editor of the Thematic Issue

Contents

Introduction by the Special Editor

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Articles

András Szécsényi    

Development and Bifurcation of an Institution. The Voluntary Labor Service and the Compulsory National Defense Labor Service of the Horthy Era

Abstract

Abstract

Previous studies of the Hungarian labor service have been characterized by an exclusive interest in the years between 1939 and 1945. Accordingly, they have tended to focus on its anti-Jewish impetus. However, the emergence of labor service in Hungary goes back to the mid-1930s, when a voluntary system was established. Placing this Hungarian institution into a transnational perspective, I trace the process of its ideological legitimation, its key practices, and its gradual growth and significant transformation over the years. I demonstrate that Hungary actually had two divergent systems of labor services in the war years, and I analyze the ways in which the infamous labor service of the post-1939 years could be seen as a continuation of its less familiar predecessor. I thus make a contribution to the historicization and broader contextualization of a key Hungarian institution of persecution during World War II..
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Gábor Szegedi    

Stand by Your Man. Honor and Race Defilement in Hungary, 1941–44

Abstract

Abstract

The practice of race defilement in Hungary began following the passage of the 1941 Marriage Law, a comprehensive law on marriage that introduced mandatory premarital health checks, marriage loans and the prohibition of marriage between Jews and non-Jews. In contrast with Nazi Germany, in Hungary non-Jewish men were exempted from the provisions of the law, so only Jewish men could be convicted and only if they had a liaison with “honorable” women. The vague non-legal term “honorable” provided the authorities with the opportunity to limit sexual and other contact between “Jews” and “non-Jews” and also to exert control over female bodies through policing and surveillance, as female “honor” was in most cases crucial in order to determine the course of the proceedings. This paper uses the theoretical framework of the history of emotions to reconstruct the types of “honor” that come to light from an analysis of the papers of these court cases and their importance for sexual politics in Horthy-era Hungary..
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Regina Fritz

Inside the Ghetto:  Everyday Life in Hungarian Ghettos

Abstract

Abstract

The first ghetto was established in Hungary on April 16, 1944, about one month after the German invasion of the country. Within eight weeks, the Hungarian gendarmerie and police, together with the German Sondereinsatzkommando, had detained more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews in over 170 ghettos. There were significant differences between the individual ghettos in Hungary with regard to housing, provisions, the ability to make contact with the “outside world,” the extent of violence, etc. The living conditions depended to a great extent on how the local administrations implemented the measures for ghettoization and how the non-Jewish population reacted to the creation of the ghettos. In addition, ghettoization in the annexed territories differed in many perspectives from ghettoization in the core of Hungary. It was not only more brutal, but also much less structured. The paper investigates the formal differences between the individual Hungarian ghettos and describes the widely differing situations experienced in them. On the basis of personal documents and the preserved estates of ghetto administrations, I offer a portrayal of daily life inside the ghettos in the capital and in cities and smaller towns in rural parts of Hungary.
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Attila Gidó

The Hungarian Bureaucracy and the Administrative Costs of the Holocaust in Northern Transylvania

Abstract

Abstract

In the course of May and June 1944, forty-five trains crammed with Jews from Northern Transylvania were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, making the region “Judenfrei” in accordance with the Nazi vision of the “Final Solution.” This article explores how the extermination process and its consequences, including the costs incurred, were approached and handled by the central and local authorities of Northern Transylvania as bureaucratic tasks. As I show, in addition to participating directly in the processes of genocide, local authorities also aimed to assure “the reparation of material and financial damages” caused by ghettoization, while the expropriated assets of the deported and their unresolved financial transactions were subject to further administrative action. Drawing on scattered documents held in various provincial branches of the Romanian National Archives and materials from the Cluj-based People’s Courts from 1946, in this article I discuss the high-level of continuity among Hungarian administrative personnel in 1944 and demonstrate that practically the entire Hungarian state apparatus participated in the implementation of the Final Solution. I argue that the economic costs incurred by “Christian Hungarians” may have been negligible compared to the overall theft of “Jewish property,” but the administrative tasks related to ghettoization and deportation were substantial.
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Anders E. B. Blomqvist

Local Motives for Deporting Jews. Economic Nationalizing in Szatmárnémeti in 1944

Abstract

Abstract

The article provides a case study of Szatmárnémeti (Satu Mare, today in Romania) during World War II by using the concept of economic nationalizing. I investigate the motifs behind the de-Jewification and re-Hungarianization of the city and show that by 1944 the Hungarian leaders were convinced not only that the seizure of Jewish property would significantly improve their own situation, but also that the gradual implementation of this policy was the key reason for its previous failure. The article also discusses the ways in which the Hungarian elite aroused expectations among the Hungarian public that Jewish property would be redistributed as a “national gift” and the eagerness of members of practically all sectors of Hungarian society to acquire property that had been left behind by the deported Jews. I thereby argue that the relatively strong local support behind the deportation of Jews was driven, above all, by the economic interests of the local Hungarian community. The entire economy of the city was de-Jewified and re-Hungarianized when the Jews were deported in the summer of 1944. However, I also show that, ambitious plans for social redistribution notwithstanding, major redistribution of assets took place primarily within the housing sector. In general, the gains of the beneficiaries were sharply exceeded by the human and material losses for the city as a whole.
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Kinga Frojimovics and Éva Kovács   

Jews in a ‘Judenrein’ City: Hungarian Jewish Slave Laborers in Vienna (1944–1945)

Abstract

Abstract

In the early summer and autumn of 1944, more than 55,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported to Austria as forced laborers. 17,500 of them arrived in Strasshof from various Hungarian ghettos in the summer of 1944. There, a real “slave market” was opened to meet the demands of Austrian entrepreneurs who urgently needed manpower in their factories and farms. The deported families—mainly mothers, children and grandparents—had to work in Vienna and in Lower Austria on farms, in trade, and in particular in the “war industry” (for example, in construction companies, bread factories, or oil refineries) as forced laborers. The working and living conditions of the forced laborers varied widely depending on the camp in which they were housed, the branch of industry in which they had to work, and the conduct of the local military administration in the camps and the various workplaces. In this essay, we highlight two fundamental aspects of the topic which are connected to two different methodological approaches to socio-historical understanding. On the one hand, we re-localize the history of Hungarian Jewish slave labor in Vienna on the basis of historical sources, documents and testimonies. On the other, using the same testimonies and archival materials, we portray the everyday lives and typical survival strategies of slave laborers.
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Kata Bohus

Not a Jewish Question? The Holocaust in Hungary in the Press and Propaganda of the Kádár Regime during the Trial of Adolf Eichmann

Abstract

Abstract

In this paper, I examine the trial of Adolf Eichmann, portrayals of the trial in the contemporaneous Hungarian press, and the effects of the trial and the coverage on the formation of Holocaust memory in communist Hungary. The trial presented a problem for communist propaganda because it highlighted the destruction of Jews as the worst crime of the Nazi regime. While communist ideology’s anti-fascism defined its stance as “anti-anti-Semitic,” the Marxist-Leninist interpretation of World War II as a conflict between two opposing, ideologically defined camps (fascists and anti-fascists) made it difficult to accommodate the idea of non-political victimhood, e.g. the destruction of Jews on the basis of racist ideas and not because of their political commitments. Moreover, because of Eichmann’s wartime mission in Hungary, it was clear that the trial would feature a great deal of discussion about his activities there. Therefore, the Hungarian Kádár regime devoted considerable attention to the event, both within the Party and in the press. The analysis concentrates on two aspects: what did the highest echelons of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party intend to emphasize in the Hungarian coverage of the trial and what kinds of interpretations actually appeared in the press. In the end, the party’s political goals were only partially achieved. Control over newspapers guaranteed that certain key propaganda themes were included rather than ensuring that other narratives would be excluded. I argue that, while the Kádár regime in Hungary did not intend to emphasize the Jewish catastrophe and certainly did not seek to draw attention to its Hungarian chapter, as a consequence of the Eichmann trial there nevertheless emerged a narrative of the Hungarian Holocaust. Through various organs of the press, this narrative found public expression. Though this Holocaust narrative can be considered ideologically loaded and distorted, some of its elements continue to preoccupy historians who study the period today.
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Book Reviews

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Jewish Histories of the Holocaust: New Transnational Approaches. Edited by Norman J. W. Goda. Reviewed by Ilse Josepha Lazaroms

A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide. By Alon Confino. Reviewed by Benedetta Carnaghi

Perben és haragban világháborús önmagunkkal. Tanulmányok. [In Trial and in Anger with Our Roles in World War II: A Collection of Essays]. By Judit Pihurik. Reviewed by Enikő A. Sajti  

Political Justice in Budapest after World War II. By Ildikó Barna and Andrea Pető. Reviewed by Istvan Pal Adam

Der Holocaust. Ergebnisse und neue Fragen der Forschung. Edited by Frank Bajohr and Andrea Löw. Reviewed by Ferenc Laczó

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