Hungary and the Jews. From Golden Age to destruction, 1895-1945

21 September, 2015
Rozett Robert

Adapted from Rozett, Robert, Conscripted Slaves, Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2013

Cet article a été publié avec le soutien de la Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah.

The persecution of the Jews of Hungary that culminated in the attempt to destroy the Jewish community during the Second World War era has deep historical roots, although the main thrust of destruction was characterized by speed and intensity during the last months of the war. The Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry was a joint venture carried out during the period of the German occupation of Hungary under the direction of Germans, but with the significant participation of Hungarians.

From the middle of the 19th century through the Holocaust period, Hungarians were earnestly discussing the place of Jews in their society as modern Hungary came into being. They frequently disagreed about how the Jews should fit into the newly emerging nation-state. Essentially, there were three competing visions of the Jewish role in Hungarian society: (1) Unconditionally demanding equal rights for Jews; (2) Making the emancipation of the Jews contingent upon assimilation of the Jews into the Hungarian nation; and (3) Rejection of equality for the Jews because their deeply-seated traits would prevent assimilation.

Under the 1867 compromise which created the dual Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the liberal element among the Hungarian elite held sway, and the Jews received full legal rights in Hungary as individuals. Judaism as a religion was “tolerated” but was not on the same footing as Christianity; Christians could not convert to it, nor could Jews legally marry Christians, unless the Jewish partner converted to Christianity. Only in 1895, following three years of intense debate in the Parliament, Judaism became a “received religion,” meaning it was put on an equal footing with Christianity. When the bill for this was finally voted on, it was passed unanimously 1. Moreover, in the period before the outbreak of the First World War, Jewish titans in banking, trade, and industry gained a certain acceptance in choice circles, especially if they converted to Christianity. In the annals of Hungarian Jewry, this period is considered a Golden Age, an age in which Jews could flourish. In spite of this, a significant group in Hungary continued to believe that the Jews still needed to prove they were good Hungarians by casting off all vestiges of Jewish distinctiveness, while others remained convinced that such assimilation was impossible. Antisemitism was not the dominant tenor of the times, but neither did it evaporate.

Skepticism regarding the ability of Jews to fully assimilate into the Hungarian national fabric was strongest among those who glorified the past and rejected the emerging liberal world. Indeed, those who opposed the new liberal world saw the Jews as its primary agents. The Katolikus Néppárt (The Catholic People’s Party) was perhaps the most prominent political party with this world view. Not unique to Hungary, this phenomenon had parallels in other European countries, such as Germany and France.

After the First World War and the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hungary was recast as a nation state within much reduced borders, formalized in the Treaty of Trianon, signed on June 4, 1920. The loss of two thirds of its population and over two thirds of its pre-war territory was a grave blow that would reverberate in Hungarian discourse for years to come. During the first tumultuous year as an autonomous state, Hungary was rocked by instability. As in Germany, inflation skyrocketed, and the radical, Bolshevik Left made a move to seize power. Even before the treaty was signed at Trianon, they succeeded in establishing a Hungarian Soviet Republic on March 21, 1919, which managed to stay afloat for over half a year. They committed acts of violence against perceived opponents, including Hungarian Jews. Béla Kun, who served as the Republic’s Foreign Minister, was the Republic’s dominant figure. Kun had a Jewish father and in the eyes of many Hungarians was the embodiment of Judeo-Bolshevism. The notion that if not all Bolsheviks (Communists) were Jews, all Jews were Bolsheviks and that Bolshevism was part of a Jewish plot to achieve hegemony was a common belief in much of Eastern and Central Europe following the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917.

In the summer of 1919, with the encouragement of the victorious Western Allies, the Romanians and to a lesser extent the Czechs launched an offensive against the Soviet regime. By November, foreign forces essentially controlled Hungary. However, in the popular mind, the credit for bringing an end to the Soviet Republic did not go so much to the foreign forces as to right-wing Hungarian counter-revolutionaries.

These counter-revolutionaries were known as "the men from Szeged," and their reactionary political worldview as the Szeged Idea. Admiral Miklos Horthy soon emerged as the commander and chief of the counter-revolutionary armed forces. While the Hungarian Soviet Republic was collapsing, Horthy’s men primarily engaged in terror against those thought to be associated with the hated Bolshevik regime, which, in turn, hastened its collapse. Thousands fell as victims to what is now known as the White Terror.

Since Béla Kun and several other prominent figures in his circle were Jews or of Jewish extraction, the White Terror brought with it a strong surge of antisemitism. Many Jews were murdered outright and others brutally beaten. Although most Hungarians regarded the Soviet Republic as Jewish and continued to hold this view for many decades after its fall, the overwhelming majority of Jews neither identified with nor supported the Soviet regime. Moreover, as staunch Hungarian patriots, many Jews still believed that Hungarian Jewry and the ruling elites shared a commonality of interests. Some Jews continued to clutch at this idea throughout the interwar period and beyond.

On March 1, 1920, Horthy became Regent (Head of State), replacing the Hungarian king, who was not recalled to the throne by the Hungarian National Assembly. Of course, Horthy never actually intended to return the reins of power to the deposed or new monarch. The Treaty of Trianon, cropping much of Hungary’s traditional territory, was signed on June 4, 1920, and ratified on November 13, 1920. The Right now also took up the call to revise the Treaty of Trianon and regain Hungary’s lost territory, which was soon adopted by the mainstream.

In truncated interwar Hungary, shorn of most of its former nationalities, the Jews became the most vulnerable minority. In 1920 there were just under half a million Jews in Hungary, comprising roughly six percent of the population. This was the second largest Jewish community in Europe after Poland. Hungarian Jews were probably the most educated segment of Hungarian society. Although most belonged to the middle class and were involved in trade, small businesses, crafts and the free professions, there were also Jews prominent in the arts, intellectual life and even a small but significant group of estate owners. Two-thirds of the Jews identified as Neolog (roughly equivalent to American Conservative Judaism), slightly less than 30% were Orthodox, and the rest belonged to a group known as Status Quo Ante, Jewish communities that declined affiliation with either the Neolog or the Orthodox communities. Hungarian Jews were speakers of Hungarian and most identified strongly with the Hungarian Nation. Jewish nationalism, Zionism, was rather marginal at this time and would only gain some ground during the war years. Although they were merely 6% of the population and shared a deep identification with Hungary, the so-called Jewish Question loomed large in public discourse alongside the struggle to regain lost territory. In the popular mind, the Jews were often seen to be at the root of Hungary’s fall 2.

Interwar Anti-Jewish Legislation

In September 1920, the Horthy Government passed a Numerus Clausus that set the limit on the number of Jewish students at institutes of higher education at 6%, which was their percentage in the population of reduced interwar Hungary. This measure reflected the administration’s “Christian Course” which sought to limit the place of Jews in public life without unduly harming the Hungarian economy. This measure wounded the pride of many Hungarian Jews and led many young Jewish men to go abroad to study 3.

In April 1921, Count István Bethlen became the prime minister of Hungary, and served until August 1931. During this period, the authorities applied the anti-Jewish law rather loosely. Nurturing the Jewish leaders’ support in industry and banking in the struggle to revitalize the Hungarian economy was more important to Bethlen than implementing the restrictive law to the letter. Count Gyula Károlyi succeeded Bethlen as prime minister, following his tone regarding the Jews.

In October 1932 Gyula Gömbös, a former army officer and one of the original men from Szeged, became prime minister. He harbored intensely antisemitic views. Yet, during his term of office, which continued until his death in 1936, he frequently restrained his own antisemitic rhetoric in public since he needed the Jewish community’s help in dealing with the economic situation in Hungary during the Great Depression. Nonetheless, behind the scenes, Gömbös established the groundwork for further anti-Jewish legislation. Not only did he hope to restrict Jews further, but he also sought to establish a Fascist state in Hungary. He died before realizing this goal.

Nevertheless, Gömbös did succeed in fostering a more pro-German foreign policy. The pro-German orientation of the Hungarian governments from the early 1930s until the end of Second World War contributed appreciably to the evolving persecution of Hungarian Jewry. The Hungarian leaders were interested in cooperating with Hitler, while, at the same time, striving not to fall completely into Germany’s orbit. Many among them hoped that cooperation with Germany would lead to the return of territory that had been taken from Hungary after World War I, but others retained a fear of German hegemony, being drawn into a costly war, or felt much closer politically and culturally to Great Britain. Before the advent of the Final Solution, the persecution of the Jews by Horthy’s regime pleased Hitler, and served as kind of a pressure-release valve in German-Hungarian relations, as well as vis-à-vis the most extreme right-wing elements in Hungary. But when the systematic mass murder of the Jews became Nazi Germany’s state policy, the Hungarian government did not go far enough to satisfy Hitler and his cohorts or the Hungarian extremists. This would only come in 1944, when the Germans occupied Hungary, and in partnership with the Hungarians sent the Jews to be exterminated 4.

Following Gömbös’ death in 1936, his successor Kálmán Darányi initiated legislation against the Jews, based on Gömbös’ groundwork. Darányi resigned in May 1938 before the bill was passed, and it became law under his successor, Béla Imredy, on May 29, 1938. The so-called First Anti-Jewish Law limited the role of Jews in the Hungarian economy and liberal professions to 20%.

Under Prime Minister Pál Teleki, the Second Anti-Jewish Law was adopted on May 4, 1939 and became law the following day. It reduced the role of Jews in Hungarian economic life even more, setting the limit to 6%. The law defined as Jewish those who were openly Jewish or had one parent or two grandparents who were members of the Jewish community at the time. However, those born Christian, whose parents were Christians when they married or had converted before January 1, 1939, were exempt from the law. Also exempt were soldiers wounded at the front, or who had been awarded one or more medals for bravery; widows and children of war dead; those who took part in the counterrevolution; and those who served as court counselors, professors, priests, clergymen, or were Olympic champions. The lower middle class, artisans, white-collar employees, and most professionals were devastated by the impact of the law. It widened the gap between rich and poor, and accelerated the impoverishment of the Jewish community as a whole 5.

Under Prime Minister László Bárdossy, the Third Anti-Jewish Law, passed on July 23, 1941 and promulgated on August 8, 1941, was closer to the Nazi Nuremberg Laws in its tone and racial definition of Jews. Like the original Nuremberg Law, it also prohibited marriage between Jews and non-Jews and, thus, became commonly known as the Race Protection Law. According to Nathaniel Katzburg, it became a keystone in the process of excluding and eliminating Jews from Hungarian society 6.

Subsequent legal restrictions placed on Hungarian Jews before the Nazi occupation in March 1944 eliminated the last vestiges of the emancipation granted them during the previous century. A bill, adopted on July 19, 1942, abolished the status of Judaism as a “received religion” in Hungary; and a law, promulgated on September 6, 1942, prohibited Jews from acquiring agricultural property, and called for the transfer of Jewish-owned property to non-Jews 7.

Alliance with Nazi Germany and the War

During the period when the anti-Jewish bills were coming into law, Hungary was beginning to fulfill her desire to regain territory lost at Trianon through tighter association with Nazi Germany. The southern part of Slovakia was transferred to Hungary, on November 2, 1938, soon after the Munich Accord in what became known as the First Vienna Award. Subcarpathia 8, which had been part of the Czechoslovak Republic since the First World War, was returned to Hungary, on March 15, 1939, when the Germans completed the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Finally, in an agreement signed by German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Italian counterpart Count Galeazzo Ciano, and with the reluctant agreement of Romania, Northern Transylvania was placed under Hungarian rule by the so-called Second Vienna Award, on August 30, 1940. While some members of the ruling classes deeply disliked and distrusted Hitler’s Germany, grateful for the territory and fearing the Soviet Union, they acceded to Hungary’s moving ever more firmly into the German camp.

Although Hungary was the first country to join the Tripartite Pact with Germany, Italy and Japan, on November 20, 1940, the military was not committed to Nazi Germany for the first year and a half of the Second World War. Only when Hitler dangled before them the firm possibility of regaining an additional portion of their former lands held by their formal ally Yugoslavia— the Délvidék region, consisting of Bácska and Baranya, today in Serbia and Croatia, respectively — did Hungary enter into the war. For Prime Minister Teleki, suffering from a strong sense of failure on many fronts, the betrayal of Yugoslavia, his country’s former ally, probably was the proverbial final straw that led him to commit suicide 9. The new prime minister, László Bárdossy sent Hungarian forces across the Yugoslav border on April 11, 1941, five days after the German invasion started there, to gain territory with over one million inhabitants, over one-third of whom were ethnic Hungarians 10.

In 1941, after their territorial gains, according to a census, there were 725,000 Jews by religion in Greater Hungary. By the time the Third Jewish Law was in force, defining as Jews those with three or four Jewish grandparents regardless of the religion they practiced, the Hungarian authorities considered 786,555 people as Jews. According to Tamás Stark, who carried out the most thorough research to date on Jewish population figures in Hungary, there might have been as many as 820,000 people affected by this racial definition of Jews on the eve of Hungary’s entry into the war against the Soviet Union, in the summer of 1941 11.

On June 27, 1941, citing the bombing of Kosice (Kassa) and Mukachevo (Munkács) that they blamed on the Soviet Air Force, the Hungarians first sent troops over the border into the Soviet Union, joining the Nazi German invasion, which had begun a week earlier. Eventually numbering 90,000, the force served primarily in Ukraine and part of present-day Bélarus. Owing to relatively heavy losses, obsolete equipment and lack of enthusiasm, both the Hungarians and the Germans agreed to withdraw most of the Hungarian soldiers in the late fall of 1941 12.

Early in 1942, acceding to Hitler’s request for more troops, the Hungarian Second Army was sent into the fray 13. Over the course of the year, the number of Hungarian military personnel in the war zone reached over 200,000, including between 32,000 and 39,000 Jewish forced laborers 14. In June 1942, German troops drove toward the Don River. The eventual hope was that most of the German forces would break through to the Caucasus. As the Germans headed toward Belgorod, a gap of over 700 km was created. Holding on to this was the role assigned to Germany’s allies — the Hungarians, the Romanians, and the Italians. The latter were placed between Hungarian and Romanian soldiers to forestall bickering, or even open fighting, between these rival groups 15. The Hungarian segment of the frontline extended as an extremely thin contour north of Stalingrad for 180 km, centered on the city of Voronezh 16.

Other Hungarian forces were stationed behind the front lines, as part of the occupation army. Their main tasks were to maintain order and keep open the supply lines to the forward troops. However, partisan activities, especially in the forests south of Bryansk, made their primary task far from simple. By the summer of 1942, the Hungarians were working closely with the German secret field police to quell partisan activity 17.

The Soviet offensive at Stalingrad began on November 19, 1942. The Germans, caught in a pocket, were literally starved out during some of the fiercest fighting of the entire war, mostly in house-to-house urban warfare in the indescribably cold Russian winter. The battle ended with the German defeat, on February 2, 1943 18.

As part of the fighting on the Stalingrad front, the Soviet troops attacked at Voronezh between January 12 and 30, 1943, devastating the Hungarian forces. By the second day of the offensive, the Soviets created a gap in the Hungarian lines 10 km wide and 12 km deep. In the extreme cold of -45°C, the weapons jammed and soldiers were frozen. Falling back in chaos, the general direction of flight was toward Kiev, where the shattered Hungarian Army reorganized in March 19.

The estimated Hungarian losses in the Voronezh debacle and its immediate aftermath were about 80,000 men 20 Some 5,000 horses (the primary mode of transportation to the front) died, and all the heavy infantry weapons, most of the artillery pieces and heavy engineering equipment, trucks, and tanks were lost, as well as great quantities of food, uniforms, footwear, and ammunition 21.

Between August 1943 and summer 1944, the Soviets pushed the Hungarians back toward the Carpathian Mountains. On June 22, 1944, three years to the day after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviet army carried out a large-scale attack, Operation Bagration and by late August 1944 the Soviets were fighting on Hungarian soil 22. On January 17, 1945 the Pest half of the Hungarian capital fell to the Soviets and on February 12, the Buda half fell as well.

The Labor Service System

The Labor Service System, set up under the auspices of the Hungarian military, eventually included tens of thousands of men deemed by the authorities as “unreliable” and unworthy of carrying weapons. The “unreliable” included members of many minorities, Socialists, Communists, and other enemies of the right-wing regime. Since Jews as a group were considered “unreliable,” the Labor Service also became a vehicle for dealing with the so-called “Jewish Question.” Thus, the persecution of the Jews became deeply entwined in the system as it evolved.

With historical roots in the period of World War I, the Labor Service began to be reworked in 1939 as Hungary prepared for the expected war. Jewish units began to be set up in 1940, and during the summer of 1941, with some exceptions, Jews were systematically shifted out of regular units and placed into labor companies. By August 1941, a decree was implemented that stipulated that Jews could only serve in labor companies, and all Jewish officers were stripped of their ranks. The decree also called for Jewish laborers to wear yellow armbands, and Christian laborers who were considered to be Jews by racial definition, white armbands. A subsequent order said the Jews would not get uniforms but must wear their own civilian clothing with armbands. The men were now drafted systematically, according to age groups, and even though the upper age limit for service was 42, this was waived for some prominent Jews, who were drafted at older ages 23.

Most of the Jewish Labor Service companies that served on the Eastern Front were sent there along with the incoming Hungarian Second Army, in the spring, summer and fall of 1942. Even after the disaster at Voronezh in January 1943, labor units continued to be sent to the front 24. Eventually some 100,000 Jewish men would be drafted into the Labor Service, and about 45,000 would be sent to the Eastern Front. Of those, only about 20% survived their ordeal in the East.

Bound up in the saga of the Hungarian Jewish forced laborers on the Eastern Front are nearly unimaginable, gratuitous hatred and cruelty, interspaced with occasional humanity and even heroism. The laborers were made to work very hard in generally exacting conditions and frequently with the cruel harassment of the Hungarian officers and soldiers in charge of them. Even work like cutting trees could be made to be terrible when the men had to run many kilometers with the freshly cut wood on their shoulders, run back, and do it all over again several times in a given day, all the while being subjected to curses and blows. Some jobs were simply dangerous, such as burying the dead on the forward lines without any kind of protection while bullets from both sides of the lines flew past the forced laborers. Other jobs were outright murderous, like clearing mine fields without previous training and wielding only sticks to dig out mines that were discovered. The underlying idea was that the men would reveal mines by stepping on them, with the obvious consequences to life and limb.

As cruel as their treatment was in general, there were exceptions. A few Hungarian soldiers and officials did their best to help the forced laborers, treating them like human beings and trying to better the conditions of their service. Among them several have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations.

When Soviet forces drew near, many Jewish forced laborers intentionally became prisoners of war, hoping their trials and tribulations would soon end. The Soviets, however, regarded them as Hungarian soldiers and as result they entered the Soviet prisoner of war system. Tragically only about a quarter of those who became prisoners survived.

For the Labor Service men who remained in Hungary, their lot was far from easy, but better than that of their peers who were dispatched to the East. During the deportations from Hungary in 1944 being in a labor company in Hungary actually safe guarded the men from being sent to Auschwitz. Toward the end of 1944 forced laborers were sent to the Austrian border to build fortifications. As the Soviet conquest of Hungary neared, many were sent over the border into the Reich, where some were massacred and most were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps.

The Labor Service System was not set up to be an instrument of torture and murder. However, in the crucible of the war, with rampant antisemitism in Hungarian society as a whole, and particularly in the military, forced labor for Jews on the Eastern Front became lethal for the great majority. This happened primarily before the German occupation of Hungary and thus Hungary bears the main responsibility for the devastating consequences of the Labor Service for the Jews 25.

From the Outbreak of the War to the German Occupation 1939-1944

Until the invasion of Hungary by Germany on March 19, 1944, the events of the Holocaust hardly touched the vast majority of Hungarian Jews. Yet there were some murderous incidents involving Jews in Hungary and the territories that were annexed during the period. To try to understand what happened during the German occupation a number of threads must be followed.

The most pronounced early encounter with the Holocaust for Jews outside the Labor Service System occurred in the summer of 1941. Prime Minister László Bárdossy’s government rounded up some 18,000 Jews for deportation, beginning in mid-July and continuing through August. Ostensibly, these Jews had never acquired Hungarian citizenship, although some of them had lived there for many generations. These people were sent over the Hungarian border into Galicia, near Kamenets Podolskiy, some reaching other nearby towns. Annexed by the USSR in 1939 following the German-Soviet Pact, Galicia was taken by Wehrmacht since the German invasion on June 22, 1941. Under Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, the Höherer SS und Polizeiführer (Higher SS and Police Leader), most of the Jews deported from Hungary were murdered along with local Jews at the end of August. About 2,000 of these deportees, often through bribes paid to Hungarian soldiers or with the help of local peasants, escaped the massacres and brought home hair-raising stories of what they had seen and experienced in Galicia. Interior Minister Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer was among those deeply shocked by these reports. Nevertheless, several thousand more Jews were deported before these measures ended 26.

There were also atrocities in the Hungarian-occupied areas of Yugoslavia. Early in 1942, in response to partisan activities, Gendarme General Ferenc Fekethalmy-Czeydner decided to teach the partisans a lesson. In Zsablya (Józseffalva) and the surrounding villages, and, later, in Novi Sad (Újvidék) and the vicinity, thousands of people were killed in cold blood, among them some 700 Jews 27. Eventually, in December 1943, after several “stillborn” investigations, the main perpetrators were tried in Hungary for these wanton killings, but nevertheless escaped and thus avoided punishment 28.

Even before the outbreak of the Second World War, Jewish refugees reached Hungary, and with the outbreak of war their numbers increased. These refugees brought with them their experiences of persecution. As of January 1942, some 6,000 Jewish refugees were reported in Hungary, mostly from Poland and Greater Germany 29. Various organizations extended aid: the Joint Distribution Committee, OMSZA (the National Hungarian Jewish Assistance Campaign), MIPI (the Welfare Bureau for Hungarian Jews), and a group of Zionist activists that formed around Otto Komoly, Head of the Zionist Organization in Hungary, and his deputy Rezső Kasztner. Later, the Komoly-Kasztner group would form the Budapest Relief and Rescue Committee, and it would be designated an official organ of the Jewish Agency in January 1943. Zionist youth movement members and Orthodox Jews helped Jewish refugees who reached Hungary, each group taking care of its own members. Some of the refugees had family ties in Hungary and found a relatively safe haven in this way.

With the advent of deportations from Slovakia in March 1942, more Jews began to flee to Hungary. The stream of refugees continued until the Germans occupied Hungary. It is difficult to know exactly how many Slovak Jewish refugees came to Hungary, but it seems that there were between 6,000 and 8,000. In addition, through the combined efforts of Hungarian and Slovak Jewish activists, between 1,100 and 2,000 Polish Jews reached Hungary by way of Slovakia between February 1943 and the German occupation of Hungary 30.

Since the threat of mass murder only became immediate for most of Hungarian Jewry in March 1944, what was known in Hungary about the Holocaust beforehand is a central issue. On the one hand, in many first-hand survivor accounts, Hungarian Jews talk about not really knowing what the Germans had in store for them. On the other, information about various aspects of the Holocaust reached Hungary before massive deportations began, primarily to Auschwitz, in mid-May 1944. In addition to the refugees’ stories, reports reached Hungary through a variety of other means. The BBC first broadcast information about Nazi atrocities carried out against the Jews of Europe in June 1942. Subsequent radio reports from the Voice of America and Kossuth Radio, the Hungarian language radio channel sponsored by Moscow, also reported on the extermination 31. Furthermore, Labor Service men sent to the Eastern Front learned about Nazi mass murder and sometimes spoke about it when they were occasionally sent back to Hungary. Returning Hungarian soldiers also told of the persecution and mass murder of Jews. Hungarian Jewish activists, such as Zionist youth leaders and the people connected with the Komoly-Kasztner Committee, learned about the mass murder from the Slovak Jewish semi-underground Working Group 32.

Against this background, Kasztner met with Zionist youth leaders in December 1943 and, again, in January 1944. They discussed how best to prepare for the possible German occupation of Hungary. Some of those present remained skeptical, but others took up Kasztner’s challenge to begin serious preparations. Attempts were soon made to gather weapons and make preparations for armed resistance, along the lines of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943. Since Budapest was in a very different existential situation from Warsaw, no such uprising ever took place, only very limited armed resistance. Zionist youths also tried to cross the Hungarian border with Yugoslavia to join Tito’s partisans. Some of them returned home to Slovakia, where the situation was somewhat calmer (the majority of Slovak Jewry had been deported between March and October 1942, and systematic deportations only resumed with the start of the failed Slovak National Uprising at the end of August 1944). Other Zionist youths fled to Romania, with the hope of being able to reach the Land of Israel from there. In addition, Zionist youth leaders decided to send messengers to the provinces to warn their colleagues of what they might expect if the Nazis came, and urge them to go to Budapest. Jewish community leaders often told these young messengers to go home and stop scaring people 33.

Hungarian attempts to extricate themselves from their alliance with Germany led directly to Hitler’s decision to occupy the country on March 19, 1944. Throughout 1943, following the catastrophic German defeat at Stalingrad and the Hungarian debacle along its segment of the Stalingrad line at Voronezh, Horthy and Prime Minister Miklós Kállay made contact with the British and Americans, hoping they would come to an accord with Hungary. By the end of 1943, especially in the wake of the overthrow of Mussolini’s regime in Italy late in the summer, the Hungarians sought to return their troops from the Eastern Front. Hitler’s intelligence agents found out about these plans and decided to occupy Hungary. On March 19, 1944 a deceptively small German military force was sent into Hungary to prevent troop withdrawal. It took them about a month to spread out within Hungary and make their presence felt everywhere. Along with this force, an even smaller special unit of about 150 men arrived on March 19th. The commander of the force SS Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Adolf Eichmann, who apparently reached Hungary two days later, was responsible for putting into operation the plan to murder the Jews of Hungary. The Germans forced Horthy to replace Kállay as prime minister with Döme Sztójay, the Hungarian ambassador to Berlin, who was more to their liking. It was clear from the start that the anti-Jewish crusade could only succeed with the cooperation of a critical mass of Hungarians and Hungarian institutions. Thus the Interior Ministry and especially the Gendarmerie played critical roles in the unfolding persecution. Civil servants, local administrators and police were also needed to carry out the anti-Jewish measures, and when they were not amenable to doing so, many, including some mayors, were replaced by pro-German elements 34. For the Jews living on Hungarian soil, the coming of the Germans sparked the beginning of calamity. The day before the Germans entered Hungarian territory, Hitler met with Horthy at Schloss Klessheim in Salzburg, Austria, where Horthy agreed to hand over several hundred thousand Jews to go to work in Germany. This set the stage for what would follow 35.

The Period of Destruction, March 1944 to February 1945

The destruction of the Jews living in Hungary in 1944 was characterized by speed and intensity. Essentially, the persecutory measures that preceded deportations and mass murder elsewhere in Europe began to strike the Hungarian Jewish community within a month of the Germans’ arrival. As soon as Sztójay was made Prime Minister, Interior Minister Andor Jaross, along with two of his fanatically antisemitic under-secretaries, László Baky and László Endre, began preparing for the immediate elimination of Jews from Hungarian life. On March 31, Eichmann ordered the establishment of a nationwide Jewish council, the Zsidó Tanács, with branches in every city and town in Hungary where significant numbers of Jews lived. Samu Stern, who held the aristocratic title of Counselor to the Royal Court, was appointed Head of the Zsidó Tanács. At the meeting, at which he gave the order to establish the Zsidó Tanács, Eichmann also requested an itemized list of Jewish real estate holdings, obviously with a view toward expropriation and as a prelude to deportation. The wearing of a Jewish Badge was decreed on April 5, before the deportation process began. Ten days later, under the direction Eichmann’s special unit and Gendarmie Lieutenant Colonel László Ferenczy, the Hungarians began concentrating the Jews in ghettos, except for those living in the capital, Budapest. The ghettos were usually set up in local brick factories or stables on the outskirts of town. At the end of April, Jews from the Kistarcsa detention camp near Budapest and Topolya detention camp in Bačka were deported, and, in mid-May, continuous deportation transports to Auschwitz began. By July 9, at the end of the first wave of deportations, roughly 435,000 Jews had been sent from the Hungarian countryside to concentration camps, almost exclusively to Auschwitz 36. The Jews of Budapest were confined to specially marked houses dispersed throughout the city, and only a few thousand were included during the first deportation wave 37.

During the summer months and into the early autumn there was a lull in deportations that ended when Horthy again tried to extricate Hungary from the alliance with Germany in mid-October 1944. After announcing over the radio that Hungary had withdrawn from the war, it seemed, for several hours, that he had succeeded. But the Germans took a very personal tack with him. They kidnapped his only surviving son and threatened to kill him if Horthy did not give in to them. This time Horthy was not merely called to a meeting with Hitler, he was deposed from power and exiled. The Germans installed Arrow Cross (Nyilas) Chief Ferenc Szálasi as the leader of Hungary, on October 15. In acts of brutal street violence, Arrow Cross men murdered about 600 Jews during the early days of Szálasi’s reign. Shortly thereafter, they rounded up Jews to build fortifications on the Hungarian-Austrian border. This new form of deportation began on November 8, continuing unabated until early December. It is difficult to give a number for those who were sent to slave away at building fortifications, but it is estimated at least 50,000 Jews, many of them in the framework of the Labor Service System, suffered this fate. Treated with immense cruelty, many men and women died in this last period of the persecution of Hungarian Jewry. This stage has become known in the annals of the Holocaust in Hungary as death marches, the same name given to the pitiless transfer of prisoners from Nazi camps on the periphery of the shrinking German empire into the German heartland primarily in 1945. While Jews were being marched toward Austria, the Szálasi regime called for the creation of a ghetto for the Jews of Budapest. By December 2, most of the Jews who would be incarcerated were already in the ghetto, and it was sealed soon after. Throughout December and January, Arrow Cross men perpetrated many random acts of violence, killing thousands of Jews on the banks of the Danube River and in the ghetto itself. Some 15,000 Jews were either killed in direct murder actions or died as a result of the suffering engendered when they were forced into the ghetto 38.

Rescue Attempts

While these events were unfolding, a large-scale rescue operation slowly coalesced in Budapest. The first elements of this operation came into place immediately after the Germans occupied Hungary. Although the world had yet to learn the details of the atrocities perpetrated in Auschwitz-Birkenau, by March 1944, a great deal of information about the mass murder of the Jews had reached the West. Against this background, on March 24, only five days after the Nazis invaded Hungary, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast a message to the Hungarian people warning them to refrain from committing crimes against the Jews living among them. Others, including British Foreign Minister Sir Anthony Eden, King Gustav of Sweden and Pope Pius XII, would follow suit over the coming weeks and months.

In this context, the pivotal importance of a report compiled by Jewish escapees from Auschwitz-Birkenau who reached Slovakia with detailed information about the mass murder in this notorious camp, and especially the pending mass murder of Hungarian Jewry, should be noted. This report came to be known as the Auschwitz Protocols and actually it was comprised of two reports made by two sets of escapees who reached Slovakia: Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba in mid-April 1944; and Czeslaw Mordowicz and Arnost Rosin, the following June. The initial Wetzler-Vrba report most probably reached Hungarian Jewish leaders sometime between the end of April and mid-May. The combined report that included information from both sets of escapees reached Switzerland in the middle of June. Although the information undoubtedly influenced subsequent Jewish rescue activities in Hungary, the Protocols were not widely disseminated among Hungarian Jews. When, how, and who received the Protocols in Hungary and why they were not extensively distributed remain highly controversial issues. With the reception of the Protocols in Switzerland, especially through the efforts of George Mantello, Honorary Consul of El Salvador in Switzerland, a press campaign was launched to alert the Swiss public to the meaning of Auschwitz, with echoes in other countries. This information contributed to significantly enhancing rescue initiatives launched in Hungary in the late spring and summer of 1944 39.

In the meantime, back in January 1944, Roosevelt had established the War Refugee Board, which was charged with proffering aid to Jews in Nazi-dominated Europe. The Board’s first serious test came with the German occupation of Hungary. Among other things, it played a role in encouraging rescue activities by various diplomats, who were either already in Budapest or sent there for that express purpose. Karl (Charles) Lutz, the Swiss Consul who was already resident there, was the first to provide aid. Raoul Wallenberg, the most famous diplomat engaged in such activities, arrived in July 1944 40. Only a few days before this, Max Huber, Head of the International Red Cross, sent a message of great consequence to Horthy. In that note, dated July 4, 1944, Huber suggested that his organization, via the emissary Friedrich Born, be made responsible for distributing food and medicines to the Jews of Budapest. Horthy agreed to this soon after, and the International Red Cross became an additional lynchpin in the efforts to help the remaining Jews of Hungary.

As a result of developments in the war in June, especially the Allied landing in France and Soviet advances in the East, and various international interventions, on July 7, Horthy declared that he would put an end to the transports of Jews from Hungary. The last train in the first wave of transports left Budapest on July 9. At the same time, Horthy put forward a plan based on an idea broached by Miklós (Moshe) Krausz of the Hungarian Palestine Office. Through what was known as the Horthy Offer, thousands of Jews would be allowed to leave for Palestine. The Horthy Offer was never consummated, but it provided an anchor for an important aspect of rescue — the international protection of Jews. This was not a new idea, and actually predated Horthy’s Offer: it began in Hungary when Lutz extended protection to Krausz and other Zionists, soon after the German occupation. However, the Horthy Offer opened the door to a much broader use of diplomatic protection than before. Among the most important repercussions, Born set up houses for children under the auspices of the International Red Cross. Members of the Zionist youth movement, in coordination with Otto Komoly, the veteran Zionist leader and Co-Chairman of the Budapest Relief and Rescue Committee, manned houses for Jewish children; and the Protestant Jo Pasztor Society, led by Jozsef Eliasz and Gabor Sztehlo, set up houses for children of Jewish converts to Christianity. Equally important were buildings with extra-territorial status, under the auspices of neutral governments and international agencies, which became relatively safe havens for Jews.

Owing to such activities, when Szálasi came to power on October 15 and the Jews once again fell under the direct threat of deportation and death, the groundwork for a large-scale rescue operation was already in place. Neutral diplomats, spearheaded by the Vatican representative Angelo Rotta, interceded time and again with the Hungarians to ameliorate the measures being taken against Budapest’s Jews. For their part, since Szálasi was desperate for international recognition of his government, the new regime’s officials often acceded to the diplomats’ demands. Most importantly, the diplomats managed to delay the sealing of the ghetto for several weeks, and had mixed, yet significant, success in gaining recognition for the protection they extended. The diplomats and the Underground Zionist youth cooperated, doing their best to protect Jews from the rampaging Arrow Cross and from falling into Nazi hands. The Zionist youth forged and distributed tens of thousands of false letters of protection. The diplomats and their representatives invoked real and false letters to free Jews from captivity or keep them out of the hands of those who sought to harm them. More special houses under the protection of the neutral countries and agencies were set up, and they came to be known as the International Ghetto. The diplomats helped by allocating funds to the Underground Zionist youth for buying food, medicine, and other supplies on the black market for the Jews of Budapest. As the Soviet forces approached Budapest in the fall and finally surrounded the capital on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1944, the aim was to safeguard Jewish lives until the fall of the city to the Soviets, which took place in Pest on January 18 and in Buda on February 12, 1945 41.

It should also be noted that Hungarian Jewish activists pursued another significant rescue track during the course of these events 42. Led by Kasztner, negotiations with a series of German representatives took place in an effort first to forestall, and then to stop, the deportations from Hungary. These contacts engendered considerable controversy in the decades after the war, but the consensus among scholars today is that the Jewish leadership was acting in good faith. For their part, with the approaching implosion of Hitler’s Reich, some leading Nazis saw these negotiations as means of preparing themselves to weather the collapse 43.

The main events of the Holocaust in Hungary are marked by a long period of relative quiet and then bursts of intense activity, punctuated by the unfolding war. Indeed, the conduct in the war eventually put an end to the threat against the remnants of Hungarian Jewry, after the second wave of deportations at the end of 1944. To a large degree, owing to the course of the war, the first wave of deportations moved toward Auschwitz, and the second wave toward Austria. The information about the Holocaust that had coalesced and the impending end to the war contributed to bringing about rescue operations in Hungary. However, despite the highly significant rescue work on Budapest, under the Nazi influence, about 550,000 Jews living within Hungary’s enlarged borders were murdered. Even though it was late in the day, the last chapter of the Holocaust claimed the lives of roughly 67% of the Jewish population of Greater Hungary, including tens of thousands in the Labor Service 44.

A Selected Bibliography

Braham, Randolph L. 2013. The geographical encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press

Braham, Randolph L. 1977. The Hungarian labor service system, 1939-1945. Boulder [Colo.]: East European quarterly.

Braham, Randolph L. 1981. The politics of genocide: the Holocaust in Hungary. New York: Columbia University Press.

Braham, Randolph L., and Scott Miller. 1998. The Nazis' last victims: the Holocaust in Hungary. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Cesarani, David. 2004. Eichmann: his life and crimes. London: W. Heinemann.

Cesarani, David. 1997. Genocide and rescue: the Holocaust in Hungary 1944. Oxford: Berg.

Csosz, Laszlo, 2014. Konfliktusok es kolcsonhatasok : Zsidok Jasz-Nagykun-. Szolnok megye tortenelmeben . Szolnok. MNL Jasz-. Nagykun-Szolnok

Cohen, Asher. 1986. The Halutz Resistance in Hungary, 1942-1944. Boulder [Colo.]: Social Science Monographs.

Frojimovics, Kinga. 2007. I have been a stranger in a strange land: the Hungarian state and Jewish refugees in Hungary, 1933-1945. Jerusalem: International Institute for Holocaust Research, Yad Vashem.

Frojimovics, Kinga, and Judit Molnár. 2002. Gettómagyarország 1944: a Központi Zsidó Tanács iratai. Budapest: Magyar Zsidó Levéltár.

Gerlach, Christian, and Götz Aly. 2002. Das letzte Kapitel: Realpolitik, Ideologie und der Mord an den ungarischen Juden 1944/1945. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt

Jangfeldt, Bengt, and Harry D. Watson. 2013. The hero of Budapest: the triumph and tragedy of Raoul Wallenberg/. London: IB Taurus

Kádár, Gábor, Zoltán Vági, and Gábor Kádár. 2004. Self-financing genocide the gold train, the Becher case and the wealth of Hungarian Jews. Budapest: Central European University Press.

Kasztner Rezső, Karsai László, and Molnár Judit. 2013. The Kasztner report: the report of the Budapest Jewish Rescue Committee, 1942-1945. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem.

Katzburg, Nathaniel. 1981. Hungary and the Jews: policy and legislation, 1920-1943. Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press.

Kovács, M. Mária. 2012. Törvénytől sújtva: a numerus clausus Magyarországon, 1920-1945. Budapest: Napvilág Kiadó.

Lappin, Eleonore, Susanne Uslu-Pauer, and Manfred Wieninger. 2006. Ungarisch-jüdische Zwangsarbeiterinnen und Zwangsarbeiter in Niederösterreich 1944/45. St. Pölten: Selbstverlag des NÖ Instituts für Landeskunde.

Lappin-Eppel, Eleonore. 2010. Ungarisch-jüdische Zwangsarbeiter und Zwangsarbeiterinnen in Österreich 1944/45: Arbeitseinsatz, Todesmärsche, Folgen. Wien: Lit.

Rozett, Robert. 2013. Conscripted slaves: Hungarian Jewish forced laborers on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem

Wetzler, Alfréd. 2006. Escape from hell: the story of the Auschwitz protocols. Oxford: Berghahn.

Vági, Zoltán, László Csősz, and Gábor Kádár. 2013. The Holocaust in Hungary: evolution of a genocide.

  • 1. Nathaniel Katzburg, “Milḥamtam shel yehude Hungaryah le-ma‘an shivyon zekhuyot datiyot bi-shenot ha-tish‘im le-me’ah ha-19,” Tsiyon22 (1957/58);and Anikó Prepuk, “Reception, Law” in YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, 
  • 2. Nathaniel Katzburg, Hungary and Jews, Policy and Legislation 1920-1943 (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 1981), pp. 11-54; Randolph Braham, The Politics of Genocide, The Holocaust in Hungary, (New York: The Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, 1994), pp. 11-28; Randolph Braham, “The Holocaust in Hungary, a Retrospective Analysis,” in Randolph Braham, ed., The Nazis’ Last Victims, The Holocaust in Hungary (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1998), pp. 27-44; and William O. MacCagg, Jewish Nobles and Geniuses in Modern Hungary (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), p. 21. For more information on this topic, see: Raphael Patai, The Jews of Hungary, History, Culture, Psychology (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996). Patai’s book is fascinating, but problematic for scholarly use since it lacks source citations
  • 3. For more on this see: M. Mária Kovács, Törvénytől sújtva - A numerus clausus Magyarországon, 1920-1945, (Budapest: Napvilág, 2012) Kovács M. Mária
  • 4. Katzburg, Hungary and the Jews, pp. 85-104; Braham, “The Holocaust in Hungary,” pp. 27-44; and Braham, The Politics of Genocide, pp. 44-53.
  • 5. Yehuda Don, “Economic Implications of the Anti-Jewish Legislation,” in Cesarani, ed., Genocide and Rescue, pp. 47-76.
  • 6. Katzburg, Hungary and the Jews, pp. 182.
  • 7. Katzburg, Hungary and the Jews, pp. 192-200.
  • 8. The region is known by many names: in Hungarian – Kárpátalja; in Czech and Slovak – Podkarpatská Rus; and in English as Ruthenia and Transcarpathian Ukraine, to name but a few.
  • 9. Balázs Ablonczy, “Teleki haláláról,” História, 1982/1, pps. 7–11.; For more information see Balázs Ablonczy, Teleki Pál, (Budapest: Osiris Kiadó, 2005). From 1937 to 1941, Yugoslavia moved closer to the members of Tripartite Pact (Germany, Italy, Japan). On March 25, 1941, it secretly signed an alliance with the Axis Powers. In the meanwhile, in December 1940, Prime Minister Teleki had signed a non-aggression pact and treaty of “Eternal Friendship” with Yugoslavia. Toward its planned invasion of Greece, Germany offered to return the Yugoslav territory Hungary had lost in the Trianon treaty in exchange for allowing German troops to use Hungary as a staging ground for the invasion. The invasion of Greece from Hungary, meant that Yugoslavia had to be invaded first, and Greece entered from Yugoslavia.
  • 10. Braham, “The Holocaust in Hungary,” pp. 27-44; and Braham, Politics of Genocide, pp.177-180.
  • 11. Tamás Stark, Hungarian Jews During the Holocaust and After World War II, 1939-1949: A Statistical Review (Boulder Co.: Eastern European Monographs, 2000), pp. 9-43. In her study on Jewish refugees in Hungary, Kinga Frojimovics uses the official statistics of approximately 786,000 Jews in Greater Hungary, adding that 324,000 lived in territories newly acquired by Hungary. Kinga Frojimovics, I Have Been a Stranger in a Strange Land: The Hungarian State and Jewish Refugees in Hungary, 1933-1945 (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2007), p. 42.
  • 12. Cecil D, Eby, Hungary at War, Civilians and Soldiers in World War II (University Park PA.: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998), p. 20; Judit Pihurik, “Hungarian Soldiers and Jews on the Eastern Front 1941-1943,” Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 35, no. 2 (2007), pp. 71-102; and Gerhard Weinberg, A World at Arms, A Global History of World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 276. Braham gives a much higher figure for the number of Jews serving in active units in December 1941, in the framework of nine Hungarian Army Corps at the time. He cites 14,413 Jewish laborers and 6,319 Christian laborers, which might include men not sent to the front, see Randolph Braham, Hungarian Labor Service System, p. 26.
  • 13. Elek Karsai, Fegyvertelen álltak az aknamezőkön. Dokumentumok a munkaszolgálat történetéhez Magyarországon, Budapest: a Magyar Izraeliták Országos Képviseletének Kiadassa, two volumes (1962), appendix, vol. 2, p. 4
  • 14. Anthony Tihamer Komjathy, The Hungarian Art of War (Toronto: Rackosci Foundation, 1982), p. 11.
  • 15. Weinberg, A World at Arms, pp. 413-424.
  • 16. Eby, Hungary at War, pp. 20-21.
  • 17. Krisztián Ungváry, A magyar honvédség a második világháborúban (Budapest: Osiris, 2004), pp. 123-156
  • 18. Weinberg, A World at Arms…, pp. 449-454.
  • 19. János Csima, ed., Adalékok a Horthy-hadsereg szervezetének és háborús tevékenységének tanulmányozásához [1938-1945] (Budapest: Honvédelmi Minisztérium Központi Irattár kiadása, 1961), pp. 173-195.
  • 20. János Csima, ed., Adalékok a Horthy-hadsereg szervezetének és háborús tevékenységének tanulmányozásához [1938-1945] (Budapest: Honvédelmi Minisztérium Központi Irattár kiadása, 1961), pp. 173-195.
  • 21. Komjathy, The Hungarian Art of War, p. 144.
  • 22. Weinberg, A World At Arms, pp. 605-8, 667-674, and 707-716; Ungváry, A Magyar honvédség , pp. 209-210; and Leo W.G., Niehorster, The Royal Hungarian Army 1920-1945 (Bayside, NY: Axis Europa, 1998), pp. 122-130.
  • 23. Braham, Hungarian Labor Service System, pp. 19-27; According to Stark, only 69 units were sent to the front, see Stark, Hungarian Jews, p. 18.
  • 24. Karsai, Fegyvertelen, vol. 1, pp. 81-82.
  • 25. For a more information on the treatment of the men see: Robert Rozett, Conscripted Slaves, Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2013)
  • 26. Apparently, another 5,000 Jews were sent to Galicia from Hungary before the deportations ended. They were not murdered at Kamanets-Podolsk, but were herded into nearby ghettos. Frojimovics, I Have been a Stranger, pp. 104-146.
  • 27. Braham, The Politics of Genocide, p. 211. Leni Yahil gives slightly higher figures: 4,116 people killed — 1,250 Jews, 2,842 Serbs and the rest Soviets and Hungarians. Leni Yahil, The Holocaust, The Fate of European Jewry 1932-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 503.
  • 28. The four main culprits, Fekethalmy-Czeydner, Major General József Grassy, Colonel László Deak, and Captain Márton Zöldi, received prison sentences of between 11 and 15 years, and several minor offenders got up to 10 years. With the help of right-wing extremists, the four main defendants fled from Hungary to Austria before their sentences could be carried out, and the Gestapo gave them refuge in German territory. After the German occupation of Hungary, they returned and resumed their careers. Only after the war, when they were extradited to Yugoslavia, was justice finally served and the four were hanged in autumn 1946. Randolph Braham, “The Kamenets Podolsk and Delvidek Massacres; Prelude to the Holocaust in Hungary,” Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 9, (1973), pp. 133-156.
  • 29. Joint Distribution Archives, Hungarian: General (file) 1941-1944, January 13, 1942.
  • 30. Robert Rozett, “From Poland to Hungary: Rescue Attempts 1943-1944,” in Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 25 (1994), pp. 177-193. For more information, see: Asher Cohen, The Halutz Resistance in Hungary 1942-1944, Boulder Co.: East European Monographs, (1988); and Gila Fatran, Is it a Struggle for Survival, Jewish Leadership in Slovakia, 1938-1944 (Hebrew), (Tel Aviv: Moreshet, 1992) for example, Rafi (Friedel) Benshalom wrote in his memoir that he arrived in Hungary early in 1944, see Rafi Benshalom, We Struggled for Life, The Hungarian Zionist Youth Resistance during the Nazi Era (Jerusalem: Gefen, 2001).
  • 31. Walter Laqueur, The Terrible Secret (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980), pp. 143-199.
  • 32. Yosef Korniansky, In the Service of ‘Halutzim’ (Hebrew) (Israel: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1979), p. 141.
  • 33. Robert Rozett, The Relationship Between Rescue and Revolt: Jewish Rescue and Revolt in Slovakia and Hungary during the Holocaust, Ph.D. Thesis submitted to the Hebrew University, 1987, pp. 75-82.
  • 34. Judit Molnár, Nazi Perpetrators: Behavior of Hungarian Authorities During the Holocaust
  • 35. Braham, “The Holocaust in Hungary, a Retrospective Analysis,” pp. 26-37; and Braham, The Politics of Genocide, pp. 386-415.
  • 36. Two transports were also sent from Budapest.
  • 37. Braham, The Politics of Genocide , chapters 17-22, which give a very thorough account of the Holocaust in Hungary. There are two main sources for the number of Jews deported from Hungary: Gendarme Colonel László Ferenczy, in his report, cited 434,351; and the German plenipotentiary Edmund Veesenmayer cited 437,402; Stark, Hungarian Jews, pp. 21-31.
  • 38. Stark, Hungarian Jews , pp. 31-37; Braham, The Politics of Genocide , pp. 843-844; and Rozett, The Relationship Between Rescue and Revolt, pp. 266-292. For more information on the final phase of deportations, see Szita Szabólcs, The Fortress of Death: The History of the Military Labor Service in Hungary, 1944-1945 (Hebrew), (Kibbutz Dalia, 2005).
  • 39. The issue of the Auschwitz Protocols has been widely written about. For a brief summary, see Robert Rozett, and Shmuel Spector, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem and Facts on File, 2000), pp. 124-125. For other perspectives on the issues involved, see: Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale, 2000) and Jews for Sale; Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies (London: Arrow Books, 1984); David Kranzler, The Man Who Stopped the Trains (Syracuse: Syracuse University, 2000); Walther Laqueur, The Terrible Secret (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980); and David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews (New York: Pantheon, 1984).
  • 40. Many books have been written about Wallenberg among them two important biographies: Bengt Jangfeldt, The Hero of Budapest: The Triumph and Tragedy of Raoul Wallenberg, (London: IB Taurus, 2012) and Ingrid Carlberg, "Det står ett rum här och väntar på dig ..." : berättelsen om Raoul Wallenberg, (Stockholm: Norstedts, 2012)
  • 41. Robert Rozett, “International Intervention: The Role of Diplomats in Attempts to Rescue Jews in Hungary,” in Randolph Braham, ed., The Nazis’ Last Victims: The Holocaust in Hungary (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), pp. 137-152; for more information on Moshe Krausz’s rescue activities, see Ayala Nedivi, “An Attempt to Rescue the Carpathian Jews on the Eve of the Occupation of Hungary according to Moshe Krausz’s ‘Book Pages,’’’ Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 38, no. 1 (2010), pp. 105-126.
  • 42. Rozett, The Relationship Between Rescue and Revolt, pp. 135-147; Robert Rozett, “Child Rescue in Budapest, 1944-1945,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 2, no. 1 (1987), pp. 49-59.
  • 43. For more information on the rescue activities and negotiations see Asher Cohen, The Halutz Resistance in Hungary 1942-1944 (Boulder Co.: East European Monographs, 1986) p. 198; and Yehuda Bauer, Jews for Sale, pp. 145-195.
  • 44. Stark, Hungarian Jews, pp. 121-138. Although Stark does not give a clear figure for the Hungarian Holocaust victims, close reading of his material suggests that he estimates it as around 550,000 out of the total Jewish population of 820,000.

Cite this item

Rozett Robert, Hungary and the Jews. From Golden Age to destruction, 1895-1945, Mass Violence & Résistance, [online], published on: 21 September, 2015, accessed 17/05/2021,, ISSN 1961-9898
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