In the Web of Political Language. Verbal Warfare and the 1945 Change of Regime in a Residential Building in Budapest


This essay examines a conflict that arose between “Christian” and “Jewish” inhabitants of a tenement near the large ring street (Nagykörút, Grand Boulevard) in Budapest during the Second World War and in its immediate aftermath, when a new political system was beginning to take form. The analysis is based on documents related to a case involving housing matters and a case that came before one of the People’s Courts. I consider the cultural context in which a middle class “Christian gentleman’s” family that was suffering impoverishment and a decline in social mobility interpreted the “Jewish” milieu in which it found itself, a milieu that presented continuous affronts to its norms but from which it was unable to extricate itself because of the housing system, which was under close scrutiny given the circumstances of the war. How did the Jewish inhabitants of the tenement, most of whom had suffered persecution, respond to this family in the wake of the political changes of 1945? My intention is to shed light on the long term social process by which the official and hierarchical social image of the Horthy system and the concomitant system of norms began to lose their substance and relevance in the first half of the 1940s as a consequence of the impoverishment of the middle class and increasingly limited housing mobility. This took place before this system began, in 1945, to be exposed to radical attacks cloaked in the garb of political legitimacy.