Volume 6 Issue 2 2017

Volume 5 Issue 4

Historical Traumas in Post-War Hungary:
Legacies and Representations of Genocide and Dictatorship

Balázs Apor Special Editor of the Thematic Issue



Zsolt Győri     

Discursive (De)Constructions of the Depoliticized Private Sphere in The Resolution and Balaton Retro



In this article I examine Gyula Gazdag and Judit Ember’s documentary The Resolution [A határozat, 1972] and Gábor Zsigmond Papp’s Balaton Retro [Balaton retró, 2007] as examples of the discursive production of paradoxes permeating the consolidated Kádár regime. I present the first film, portraying the character assassination of József Ferenczi (the executive manager of the Felcsút cooperative farm in the early 1970s) as a case study of state socialist technologies of power and strategies of constructing the narrative of the immoral and profiteering leader type, the corrupted servant of the community. This fabricated narrative is actually contested by members of the cooperative farm for whom Ferenczi is a symbol of the reform spirit and the promise of prosperity. I argue that the critical power of the film resides both in its meticulous dissection of the discursive and administrative methods used to create enemy images and its reluctance to present a local example of vilification as a general feature of the state socialist episteme. The Resolution presents the consolidated Kádár regime as an establishment torn between rigid ideological foundations and society’s desire for a depoliticised market economy, suffering from the political pressure to remain true to the spirit of communism and the social pressure to allow a greater degree of economic liberalism.
In Balaton Retro the popular tourist destination, Lake Balaton, is constructed as a spatial metaphor of both the crisis of the authoritarian system and of Goulash Communism (the name given to the system in Hungary, which constituted a quiet deviation from orthodox doctrines of Marxism-Leninism). The popular notion of the lake as the Hungarian Riviera came into being at the intersection of eastern and western understandings of welfare: on the one hand, the welfare state providing workers cheap holiday opportunities through a network of state-run holiday apartments and camps for children, and on the other, individual welfare, the possessors of which (usually citizens of Western Europe) sought leisure in modern luxury hotels. The emergence of private houses available for well-salaried Hungarian customers was another sign of the many dualities and hybrid meanings uncovered by Papp’s film as symptoms of the general state of the nation during the Kádár era. My analysis of the agency of the voiceover narration will reveal that Balaton Retro is not a manifestation of Ostalgie, but a critical meta-commentary on nostalgic memory. To conclude, I will describe retro as the commodification of a material past and nostalgia as a somewhat sinister legacy of state socialist identity politics.
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Tamás Bezsenyi and András Lénárt

The Legacy of World War II and Belated Justice in the Hungarian Films of the Early Kádár Era



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.
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Péter Fodor

Erasing, Rewriting, and Propaganda in the Hungarian Sports Films of the 1950s



In the years following World War II, the radical structural transformation of Hungarian society and the establishment of the communist dictatorship affected the functioning of sports as a social subsystem. At the time, the Hungarian public still remembered the sporting successes of the Horthy era (the Berlin Olympics, the 1938 FIFA World Cup) from the previous decade. Thus, the Sovietization of sports as a social subsystem had two intertwining goals in Hungary: in addition to creating a new institutional framework for sports, the regime also had to ensure good results, which were regarded as a matter of prestige. Like the daily press, the schematic film productions of the era were also characterized by the ideological utilization of sports. A typical example of the schematic style was Civil a pályán [Try and Win, 1951] by Márton Keleti, which used classical comedy elements to bring together the world of the factory and the world of the soccer field. Keleti’s film was intended to popularize a centralized mass sports movement of Soviet origins called “Ready to work and fight” and to communicate the party’s message to professional sportsmen who were considering emigration. The two versions of Csodacsatár [The Football Star, 1956 and 1957], also by Keleti, reveal a lot about the changes that the role of sports in state propaganda and political image construction underwent after the loss to West Germany in the 1954 FIFA World Cup Final and then after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. My paper seeks to interpret these films within the context of the era’s political and sports history.
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Anna Menyhért

Digital Trauma Processing in Social Media Groups: Transgenerational Holocaust Trauma on Facebook



In recent years, more and more social media (Facebook) groups have been created dealing with memories of the Holocaust in Hungary. In this article, I analyze and compare two groups, “The Holocaust and My Family” and “The Descendants of the Victims and Survivors of the Holocaust” in the framework of my research project on the concept of digital trauma processing, entitled “Trauma Studies in the Digital Age: The Impact of Social Media on Trauma Processing in Life Narratives and Trauma Literature: the Case of Hungary.” I show how the concept of trauma and trauma processing itself are changing in the digital age as a consequence of the element of sharing (in posts and comments in digital media) gains more importance and thus counteracts the element of silence, which was considered the most important element of trauma on several levels. How does digital sharing of memories of traumas help unblock previously blocked avenues to the past, and how does it contribute to the processing of collective historical traumas and consequently to the mobilization of memories, modernization, and the transformation of identities? I examine how the given characteristics of the different types of Facebook groups, public or closed, influence the ways in which people communicate about a collective historical trauma. I touch upon the issue of research ethics in connection with the handling of sensitive data in social media research. I examine the book The Holocaust and My Family, a collection of posts from the group, and analyze as a case study a post and the related comments, in which a descendant of a perpetrator comes out in the group.
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Zsófia Réti

Past Traumas and Future Generations: Cultural Memory Transmission in Hungarian Sites of Memory



Now that we have reached the mid-2010s, a new generation of Hungarian citizens has grown up; the first Hungarian adults to have absolutely no memory of the state socialist period. It is not only a matter of “reconciliation,” “coming to terms with the past,” or “confessing the past” that are at stake here, but also making the past relevant to people who were born too late to experience it. Due to their lack of information, this generation is extremely susceptible to the various, often contradictory interpretations of the past, and because of their age, they bear the specific characteristics of the so-called Gen Z, the digital natives. How is the communist legacy represented to them? What are the primary media of historical knowledge transmission about the Kádár era? What are its main claims, what kinds of narratives are being presented, and how do young people react to these narratives? How does narrating the communist past affect the national identity of the youth? These are the primary questions I seek to answer in this essay. In addition to all the hardships and horrors of the twentieth century (World War I and II, 1956), there is one more trauma that post-socialist Hungarian society needs to deal with: the cultural rupture of 1989/90, which burned all the bridges between past and future, rendering all at once the language of parents unintelligible to their children and changing the ways in which the traumas of the past were contextualized in Hungarian cultural memory. Based on this fundamental assumption, in this essay I compare the practices adopted by the two most prominent Hungarian communism-related memory projects: the House of Terror and Memento Park. I combine two methods—discourse analysis of the written materials found in the two museums and semi-structured interviews with teenagers—in order to provide a balanced, interdisciplinary approach to the topic.
The two museum spaces in question present very different segments of Hungarian cultural memory. More precisely, they reflect on different pasts. The interplay and interference of memories related to the early and the late periods of the Kádár era, which are on display in the two museums, along with the reaction of young people to these memories provide fertile grounds for an examination of collective memory practices related to both the “system change” and the preceding period. I conclude by considering the possible ways, good practices, and existing solutions to the transmission of the traumatic experiences of the recent and not so recent past to the next generation and by offering a framework in which traumatic and nostalgic approaches to the past do not contradict, but rather complement each other.
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Lóránt Bódi

The Documents of a Fresh Start in Life: Marriage Advertisements Published in the Israelite Newspaper Új Élet (New Life) Between 1945–1952



Almost two-thirds of the Hungarian Jewry was killed in the Holocaust. The genocide seriously distorted the sex ratio and the generational composition of the surviving Jewish community. Most married individuals lost their spouses, and  the extensive networks of relatives were also eliminated. The growing nu mber of weddings after the war was the first sign of the Jewish community’s recovery from wartime traumas. This study examines how the Hungarian Jewry rose above the traumas and devastations of the war. It addresses this problem from the perspective of the matrimonial ads published in the Israelite newspaper Új Élet between 1946 and 1952. Marriage ads could be considered collective social practices that shed light on the “publicalization” of private life. Despite their rigid narrative structure, these documents also reveal the voices of the surviving community after the war. The article will address the most common themes in marriage ads, including exile, the foundation of Israel, wartime trauma, and the loss of a spouse.
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Featured review

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The Routledge History of East Central Europe since 1700.
Edited by Irina Livezeanu and Árpád von Klimó. Reviewed by Ferenc Laczó    427

Book reviews

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Central Europe in the High Middle Ages: Bohemia, Hungary and Poland, c. 900–c. 1300. By Nora Berend, Przemysław Urbańczyk, and Przemysław Wiszewski.
Reviewed by Sébastien Rossignol     434

Deserting Villages – Emerging Market Towns: Settlement Dynamics and Land Management in the Great Hungarian Plain: 1300–1700. By Edit Sárosi.
Reviewed by András Vadas    437

Das Reich als Netzwerk der Fürsten: Politische Strukturen unter dem Doppelkönigtum Friedrichs II. und Heinrichs (VII.) 1225–1235.
By Robert Gramsch. Reviewed by Veronika Rudolf    440

Ritual and Symbolic Communication in Medieval Hungary under the Árpád Dynasty. By Dušan Zupka. Reviewed by Judit Gál    444

Székesfehérvár története az Árpád-korban [The history of Székesfehérvár in the Árpádian period]. By Attila Zsoldos, Gábor Thoroczkay, and Gergely Kiss.
Reviewed by Renáta Skorka    447

Das Wiener Stadtzeichnerbuch 1678–1685: Ein Bettlerverzeichnis aus einer frühneuzeitlichen Stadt. By Sarah Pichlkastner.
Reviewed by István H. Németh    451

A test a társadalomban: A Hajnal István Kör Társadalomtörténeti Egyesület 2013. évi sümegi konferenciájának kötete [The body in society: Proceedings of the conference of the Hajnal István Circle – Hungarian Social History Association, Sümeg, 2013]. Edited by Emese Gyimesi, András Lénárt, and Erzsébet Takács.
Reviewed by Janka Kovács    456

Metternich: Stratege und Visionär. Eine Biografie. By Wolfram Siemann.
Reviewed by Franz L. Fillafer    460

Experten und Beamte: Die Professionalisierung der Lehrer höherer Schulen
in der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Ungarn und Preußen im Vergleich.
By Márkus Keller. Reviewed by Brigitte Mazohl     464

Habsburg neu denken: Vielfalt und Ambivalenz in Zentraleuropa. 30 kulturwissenschaftliche Stichworte. Edited by Johannes Feichtinger
and Heidemarie Uhl. Reviewed by William D. Godsey    467

Eugenics and Nation in Early 20th Century Hungary. By Marius Turda.
Reviewed by Attila Kund    470

Etnicitás, identitás, politika: Magyar kisebbségek nacionalizmus és regionalizmus között Romániában és Csehszlovákiában 1918–1944 [Ethnicity, identity, politics: Hungarian minorities between nationalism and regionalism in Romania and Czechoslovakia, 1918–1944]. By Gábor Egry.
Reviewed by Máté Rigó    473

Két évtized: A kolozsvári zsidóság a két világháború között [Two decades:
The Jewry of Kolozsvár between the two world wars]. By Attila Gidó.
Reviewed by Zoltán Tibori Szabó    479

Căpitan Codreanu: Aufstieg und Fall des rumänischen Faschistenführers.
By Oliver Jens Schmitt. Reviewed by Radu Harald Dinu    483

Demokrácia negyvenötben [Democracy in 1945]. By Éva Standeisky.
Reviewed by Gábor Egry    486

A magyar irodalomtudomány szovjetizálása: A szocialista realista kritika és intézményei, 1945–1953 [The Sovietization of Hungarian literary studies: Socialist realist criticism and its institutions, 1945–1953]. By Tamás Scheibner.
Reviewed by Zsolt K. Horváth    489

The Emergence of Historical Forensic Expertise: Clio Takes the Stand.
By Vladimir Petrovic. Reviewed by Iva Vukusic     493

Notes on Contributors

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