Retrospectives from the eve of destruction: historical memory and images of the past in the Hungarian Jewish press, 1938-1944

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In late 1937-early 1938 the Jews of Hungary celebrated the 70th anniversary of their emancipation. Several months later, the first in a series of anti-Jewish laws was enacted, thus marking the end of Jewish legal equality in the country. Examines how Jewish spokesmen in the period of 1938-early 1944, at the threshold of the Nazi Holocaust, evoked the Jewish and Hungarian past as a means of dealing with the crisis. Traces four types of historical narratives which emerged within Hungarian Jewish public discourse. The Liberal-Neolog narrative was built on Hungarian patriotism, a belief in progress and reason, and a depiction of the protected civic status of Jews as anchored in Hungarian national heritage. The Orthodox blamed the Neologs and the liberal model of assimilation supported by them, and called for a religious revival and a pact with the Hungarian state, similar to that of the Middle Ages. The Zionist narrative explained the crisis as a result of the faults and failures of the Jews themselves, especially due to assimilation. The Critical-Liberal narrative took a halfway attitude: this camp did not reject assimilation, but deplored "hyper-assimilation" and, like the Zionists, saw the crisis of Hungarian Jewry as part of the overall calamity befalling the Jews of Central Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-87
Number of pages23
JournalDapim: Studies on the Shoah
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Appeared in German as "Am Vorabend der Zerstörung: Krisenbewusstsein und Geschichtsverständnis in der ungarisch-jüdischen Presse 1938-1944" in "Zwischen Graetz und Dubnow" (2009) 223-247. English and Hebrew.

RAMBI publications

  • Jews -- Hungary -- Periodicals
  • Judaism -- Hungary
  • Jews -- Hungary -- Historiography
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary
  • Jews -- Emancipation


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