Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry


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The 19th century was a time of assimilation and emancipation for many Hungarian Jews who were granted increased civil rights. A small number of wealthy, urban families were the main representatives of Hungarian Jewry during that period. However, from the s, poorer eastern European Jews began moving to the country in greater numbers. In , Hungarian Jews were fully emancipated, and were granted the same political and civil rights as their Christians compatriots.

During that time, Jews were active in Hungarian commercial, financial and cultural life. Religiously, this same period saw the birth of Reform Judaism in Hungary, with Hungarian used as the primary language for religious services in In Reform synagogues. The liberal atmosphere of the late 19th century led to assimilation and, at the turn of the century, many Jews chose Hungarian or German spouses or had their children baptized as Christians. In successive years, Jews made enormous contributions to the development of Hungarian culture, science and industry, and played a particularly outstanding role in Hungarian sports.

For example, in the first five Olympic Games, Jews accounted for 5 out of the 9 gold medals awarded to Hungarian athletes. In terms of economic development, the Manfred Weiss Works, named for its Jewish founder, became the largest machine and munitions factory in Hungary. The company eventually employed tens of thousands of workers at its vast plant in Csepel, Budapest and exported its products all over the world.

After the defeat and dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, Hungarian Jewry—including many members of the Orthodox and Chassidic communities—suddenly found themselves living within the borders of Czechoslovakia, Romania, or Yugoslavia. In , when the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic in which Hungarian Communists of Jewish origin were depicted as a foreign menace collapsed, a period of "White Terror" ensued, during which some 3, Jews were murdered. In the s, the situation became more stable, but by the late s, the first of a series of anti-Semitic laws was enacted, restricting socioeconomic activities of Jews in Hungary.

According to a census, 6. Large-scale deportation to the Nazi death camps began after German troops occupied Hungary in March , but even though deportations began so late in the war, they were carried out with frightening speed. Up to , Jews from "Greater Hungary" perished in the Shoah.

After the war, some Jewish communities were reconstituted, but most dwindled rapidly due to migration to Budapest and emigration from the country. In , anti-Jewish sentiment led to the pogroms in Kunmadaras, Miskolc and elsewhere. Communist rule resulted in the closure of many Jewish institutions and the arrest of Jewish activists. Many Jews were expelled from Budapest, but later allowed to return. During the uprising against Communist rule, 20, Jews opted to leave the country.

However, the situation of Hungarian Jewry began to improve in the late s. The community was allowed to reestablish links with the Jewish world, and with the collapse of Communism, all restrictions on ties with Israel were also lifted. Since the fall of Communism, the Hungarian Jewish community has been active and committed religiously and culturally.

Budapest has a Jewish Museum as well as a Jewish community center, theaters, bands, choirs, and a dance ensemble. Following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the short-lived Socialist-Communist regime in Hungary under the leadership of the Communist Bela Kun, Hungary was led for 24 years by a conservative authoritarian government under Admiral Miklos Horthy.

At the beginning of World War II, Jews were barred from serving in the Hungarian military, but male Jews were conscripted into forced labor battalions where they were subjected to such harsh treatment and conditions that 27, are estimated to have died prior to the German occupation of Hungary in March of In the Hungarian government deported 20, non-Hungarian Jews to German-occupied Ukraine in where they were shot by the para-military SS Einsatzgruppen. However, the Horthy regime refused to hand Hungarian Jews over to the Nazis until March of when Germany took over control of Hungary.

In April of , the approximately , Jews living outside of Budapest were forced to live in designated cities. Then, in less than two months beginning in mid-May of , around , Jews were deported from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau on more than trains in what was the most effective and most efficient such operation of the Holocaust. The vast majority of these Jews, around ,, were murdered immediately upon arrival at the death camp. In Budapest, meanwhile, the capitals Jewish population was herded into a ghetto and terrorized by Hungarian Arrow Cross gangs that murdered Jewish men, women and children indiscriminately.

Many Budapest Jews were taken to Germany on death marches on which large numbers of them perished. In the late spring and early summer of , Gilel or Hilel Storch, the head of the Swedish Section of the World Jewish Congress, devised and financed a plan for a Swedish diplomat to undertake a rescue mission. With the support of the Swedish government and the US War Refugees Board, Raoul Wallenberg was recruited to travel to Budapest where he provided certificates of protection and forged documents that saved the lives of thousands of Jews.

Only around , Jews, less than one-third of the , who had lived within enlarged Hungary in March of , survived the Holocaust. The Hungarian Jewish community, estimated at around , Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated the Hungarian Jewish population to number between 47, and , as of The great majority of Jews in Hungary are unaffiliated.

How it Happened examines the Holocaust in Hungary

Some 80 percent of Hungarian Jews live in Budapest. Sometimes the hiding Jews were presented as non-Jews, as relatives or adopted children. Jews were also hidden in apartments in cities, and children were placed in convents with the nuns concealing their true identity. In Western Europe Jews were mostly hidden in houses, farms or convents. Providing false papers and false identities - in order for Jews to assume the identity of non-Jews they needed false papers and assistance in establishing an existence under an assumed identity.

Rescuers in this case would be forgers or officials who produced false documents, clergy who faked baptism certificates, and some foreign diplomats who issued visas or passports contrary to their country's instructions and policy. Diplomats in Budapest in late issued protective papers and hung their countries flags over whole buildings, so as to put Jews under their country's diplomatic immunity. Some German rescuers, like Oskar Schindler, used deceitful pretexts to protect their workers from deportation claiming the Jews were required by the army for the war effort.

Smuggling and assisting Jews to escape — some rescuers helped Jews get out of a zone of special danger in order to escape to a less dangerous location.

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Smuggling Jews out of ghettos and prisons, helping them cross borders into unoccupied countries or into areas where the persecution was less intense, for example to neutral Switzerland, into Italian controlled parts where there were no deportations, or Hungary before the German occupation in March The rescue of children - parents were faced with agonizing dilemmas to separate from their children and give them away in the hope of increasing their chances of survival.

In some cases children who were left alone after their parents had been killed would be taken in by families or convents. In many cases it was individuals who decided to take in a child; in other cases and in some countries, especially Poland, Belgium, Holland and France, there were underground organizations that found homes for children, provided the necessary funds, food and medication, and made sure that the children were well cared for.

The members of the Danish resistance viewed the rescue operation as a collective act and therefore asked Yad Vashem not to recognize resistance members individually. Yad Vashem respected their request and consequently the number of Danish Righteous is relatively small. A tree was planted on the Mount of Remembrance to commemorate the Danish resistance.

The question is often asked what can be learned from the numbers of Righteous and from the proportions between different nations about attitudes and the scope of rescue in the respective countries. It needs to be noted that the numbers of Righteous recognized do not reflect the full extent of help given by non-Jews to Jews during the Holocaust; they are rather based on the material and documentation that was made available to Yad Vashem.

Most Righteous were recognized following requests made by the rescued Jews. An additional factor is that most cases that are recognized represent successful attempts; the Jews survived and came forward to tell Yad Vashem about them. They are the so-called U-Boote submarines , who made the difficult choice to enter an illegal existence rather than be deported.

Only a quarter of them — around Jews — survived. It is unknown how many were killed in the bombing of Berlin, but all the others were caught and deported. For lack of information and evidence, not all the Germans who risked their lives to help these Jews were honored. After the occupation of Hungary on March 19, , the Swedish degation launched a rescue operation to save Jews from being deported to the death camps.

Soon the Swedish legation in Budapest reported that they were under enormous pressure of Jews seeking protection in the form of passports or visas. They asked to send a special envoy whose principal task would be to deal with passports. It was decided to appoint Raoul Wallenberg as secretary in the Swedish Embassy in Budapest with full diplomatic privileges. Wallenberg was born in to a prominent aristocratic banking family. Wallenberg arrived in the Hungarian capital on 9 July with a list of Jews whom he was to help and protective passports for Jews who had some connection with Sweden.

However he soon widened the scope of his work and began to issue thousands of protective letters and to purchase houses which he put under the Swedish flag thus making them ex-territorial, and where he housed Jews for extra protection. The protective letter authorized its holder to travel to Sweden or to any of the other country Sweden represented. About 4, Jews had these papers, which protected them from forced labor and exempted them from wearing the yellow star. In October , the situation in Budapest took a turn for the worse.

Although the Red Army was already approaching, the fascist "Arrow Cross" seized power and established a reign of terror. Jews were being killed in the streets; others were dragged to the Danube river where they were shot or drowned in the freezing water. The number of Jews with protective papers quickly rose. Wallenberg used unconventional methods, including bribery and blackmail, in order to finance and run his huge rescue operation. He soon employed approximately people in his office. In view of the grave situation, he began to issue protective papers without distinction, and had 32 buildings protected by Sweden, with 2 hospitals, and a soup kitchen.

Wallenberg together with other legations and international organizations set up the international ghetto, protected by the neutral countries. Jewish youngsters who looked "Aryan" served as guards; some of them were especially bold and wore "Arrow Cross" uniforms. The protective letters were declared null and void.

After protests by Wallenberg and his colleagues, they were reinstated, although it should be noted that the Arrow Cross regime had little respect for documents and legalities. The plan to deport the Jews to the camps was paralyzed for other reasons — the railway lines were too close to the front. Not wanting to give up, Adolf Eichmann ordered a "death march" of tens of thousands of persons to the Austrian border.

Conversion of Jews to Catholicism during the Holocaust - Wikipedia

Wallenberg and representatives of other neutral countries followed the marchers in their vehicles, and distributed food, clothing and medications. He was able to extricate many Jews from the death march by claiming that they were his "protected" Jews. He continued to distribute passes even when the Arrow Cross guards threatened him with their guns.

He remained in the city during the Soviet siege of Budapest with the "protected" Jews and threatened the German commander and the Arrow Cross leader not to go through with the idea to harm the remaining Jews. When the Soviets entered the city, Wallenberg was taken away by Russian soldiers supposedly to meet with the top Soviet general Malinovsky. This was on 17 January Wallenberg, who was 32 years old at the time, was never seen again. In the first years after his disappearance, the Soviets claimed that they had no knowledge of a person named Wallenberg.

Nevertheless, people who were incarcerated in Soviet prisons claimed that they had met him in various prisons. In , the Soviets finally stated that he had died in prison in The Soviet announcement was greeted with skepticism in the free world. Yielding to political pressure a Russian-Swedish working group was created, and its findings were submitted in By now 55 years had passed since his disappearance. His mother asked not to receive the honors in his name, believing that her son would one day return.

In Wallenberg was awarded honorary Israeli citizenship. He was also awarded honorary American citizenship by the United States Congress. This motion was promoted by Congressman Tom Lantos, whose life was saved by Wallenberg. In his address, delivered by his daughter at the UN Holocaust remembrance events in January , Lantos paid tribute to Wallenberg: "During the Nazi occupation, this heroic young diplomat left behind the comfort and safety of Stockholm to rescue his fellow human beings in the hell that was wartime Budapest. He had little in common with them: he was a Lutheran, they were Jewish; he was a Swede, they were Hungarians.

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And yet with inspired courage and creativity he saved the lives of tens of thousands of men, women and children by placing them under the protection of the Swedish crown. Perlasca Giorgio was born in He was a representative of an Italian trading company in Budapest, and in he was assigned to work in the Spanish Legation and was assigned to the Spanish houses of the city In February , he was ordered by the government to leave Budapest with the approach of the front, and he pretended to be the power-holder of Spain in Hungary and negotiated with the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross government, promising de jure recognition and other benefits The Spanish government, in exchange for respect for the rights of Spain in Hungary, including the sponsors and letters of sponsorship issued and distributed to thousands of Jews.

It is estimated that about Jews were saved thanks to P. P took care of the welfare of its survivors and protected them from the tortures of the Arrow Cross, especially during the difficult period on the eve of the capture of the city by the Red Army. On behalf of the Hungarian government and the Jewish community in Italy, he said: "I found myself in a certain situation and responded accordingly. See also Times of Israel , Telegraph. Angel Sanz-Briz, b. As soon as the persecutions of the Hungarian Jews began, he offered, on behalf of his government, to supply Jews of Spanish origin with Spanish passports and to negotiate with the Hungarian government for their protection.

Sanz-Briz received the consent of the Hungarian authorities to enable Spanish Jews to receive these rights, but he changed it to families and then enlarged this group again and again. Sanz-Briz also accommodated Jews in rented buildings in Budapest under the Spanish flag, putting up signs that those buildings were extra-territorial property belonging to the Spanish Legation. He also prompted the International Red Cross representative to put Spanish signs in Budapest on hospital buildings, as well as orphanages and maternity clinics, to protect the Jews therein.

Sanz-Briz acted heroically and succeeded in saving a great number of Jews, most of them not of Spanish origin.

Sanz-Briz was ordered by his government to leave the Hungarian capital in December The survivors Enrique and Jaime Vandor recalled their war experiences and the role of Sanz-Briz in their rescue. As children they received together with their late mother, Anny Vandor, the protection of the Spanish Legation in Budapest from autumn of until the entrance of the Soviet troops.

Due to his endless efforts, they and many others survived, and they have never forgotten him. After liberation, Sanz-Briz continued his diplomatic career. Charles; , Swiss diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Hungary. Lutz tried to persuade the Hungarians to stop the deportations. After the Horthy Offer, which was to allow Jews to leave Hungary for Palestine, Lutz issued four group certificates of aliya, each for 1, persons. It was Lutz who issued these because, as Swiss Consul, he represented British interests in Hungary, including issues regarding the British Mandate in Palestine.

Soon, the certificates were augmented so that not only the person on the list could immigrate, but his family, too. By that time, almost 50, Jews had been put under Swiss protection as potential immigrants to Palestine.

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Each of these Jews was also given a letter of protection that guaranteed their safety until they left for Palestine. After the Arrow Cross Party came to power in Hungary in October , Zionist Youth activists, housed in Lutz's office, forged , more of these documents. The authorities demanded that Lutz and Raoul Wallenberg separate the legitimate from the false papers and, to protect the delicate rescue operation, they gave in.


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When the Germans established two ghettos, one for document-holders, Lutz obtained buildings to house 3, more Jews. All but six survived. Lutz and other diplomats rushed to rescue as many Jews as possible; he, like his colleagues, plucked Jews out of the marching columns and returned them to Budapest. When the Soviets invaded Budapest in January , Lutz and his wife fled. After the war they returned to Switzerland. He was assassinated in after an Israeli court accused him of having collaborated with the Nazis.

Between May and July , Hungary's Jews were deported to the gas chambers at Auschwitz at the rate of 12, people a day. Kasztner negotiated with Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS officer, to allow 1, Jews to leave instead for Switzerland on what became known as the Kasztner train, in exchange for money, gold and diamonds.

Kastner moved to Israel after the war, becoming a spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry in In he was accused of having been a Nazi collaborator in a pamphlet self-published by Malchiel Gruenwald, a freelance writer. The allegation stemmed from his relationship with Eichmann and another SS officer, Kurt Becher, and from his having given positive character references after the war for Becher and two other SS officers, thus allowing Becher to escape prosecution for war crimes. The Israeli government sued Gruenwald for libel on Kastner's behalf, resulting in a trial that lasted 18 months, and a ruling in that Kasztner had, in the words of Judge Benjamin Halevy, "sold his soul to the devil".

By saving the Jews on the Kastner train, while failing to warn others that their "resettlement" was in fact deportation to the gas chambers, Kastner had sacrificed the mass of Jewry for a chosen few, the judge said. The verdict triggered the fall of the Israeli Cabinet. Kasztner resigned his government position and became a virtual recluse, telling reporters he was living with a loneliness "blacker than night, darker than hell". His wife fell into a depression that left her unable to get out of bed, while his daughter's schoolmates threw stones at her in the street. The Supreme Court of Israel overturned most of the judgment in January , stating in a 4—1 decision that the lower court had "erred seriously".

He was shot on 3 March by Zeev Eckstein and died of his injuries twelve days later. Facing the fact that the war was lost, and with pressure from the Jewish Council, the churches and neutral countries like Sweden, on July 6, the Hungarian government ordered the deportations to stop. Thus it appeared that at least the Jews of Budapest would be saved. But it was not to be. In Oct. This new government organized the execution of some , more Jews. Budapest fell to the Russians in Jan.

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Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry
Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry
Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry
Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry
Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry
Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry

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