From Collaboration to Cooperation: German Historiography of the Holocaust in Hungary

Ferenc Laczó
Maastricht University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 530-555 DOI: 10.38145/2020.3.530

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.

Keywords: Historiography, Hungary, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, German-Hungarian relations

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Neglected Restitution: The Relations of the Government Commission for Abandoned Property and the Hungarian Jews, 1945–1948

Borbála Klacsmann
University of Szeged
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 512-529 DOI: 10.38145/2020.3.512

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.
 

Keywords: restitution, Government Commission for Abandoned Property, Jewish property, property transfer, post-war

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Budapest Butchers, the Jewish Question, and Holocaust Survivors

István Pál Ádám
Central European University IAS / A Selma Stern Zentrum, Claims Conference Saul Kagan Fellow in Advanced Shoah Studies 
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 491-511 DOI: 10.38145/2020.3.491

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
 

Keywords: Transitional justice, occupational groups and the Holocaust, denazification, respectability, microhistory of Holocaust, individual help during the Holocaust, food ration, Jews and Gentiles during the Holocaust

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Hillersleben: Spatial Experiences of a Hungarian Jew in a German DP Camp, 1945

András Szécsényi
Corvinus University of Budapest
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 470-490 DOI: 10.38145/2020.3.470
 

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.

Keywords: Hungarian Holocaust, Bergen-Belsen, Hillersleben, DP camp, concentration camp, diary, deportation, evacuation, mental map

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Hungarian Holocaust Testimonies in Global Memory Frames: Digital Storytelling about “Change” and “Liberation”

Edit Jeges
Central European University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 452-469 DOI: 10.38145/2020.3.452

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.
 

Keywords: testimony, framing, East Central Europe, digital storytelling, intersectionality

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Place Attachment in a Concentration Camp: Bergen-Belsen

Heléna Huhák
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 430-451 DOI: 10.38145/2020.3.430

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.
 

Keywords: Hungarian Holocaust, Nazi concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen, ego-documents, place attachment, emotional history

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The Corporeal Continuation of the Holocaust: A Look at Miscarriages

Alexandra M. Szabó
Brandeis University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 9 Issue 3  (2020): 408-429 DOI:10.38145/2020.3.408

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.

Keywords: Women and the Holocaust, gendered experiences, gender analysis, pregnancy, miscarriages, Jewish women.

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