Nothing New Under the Sun: Hugarian Antisemetism as the Cause for Division of Space in Budapest in 1944: Tim Cole, Holocaust City: The Making of a Jewish Ghetto
In this book, Tim Cole describes the fate of Budapest Jewry in 1944 by examining the division of space in the city between persecutors and persecuted. According to Cole, the Hungarian persecutors modeled space in the country’s capital in accordance with their attitude towards the Jews, whom they wanted to expunge from all national, economic, cultural and social spheres, in order to strengthen Hungary, as they understood it. Cole ascribes great significance to space in understanding Nazi policies, which were developed based on a racist ideology, and he criticizes the minimal attention paid to space in Holocaust historiography. He shows Hungarian antisemitism as the motivating force in Hungarian policymaking in 1944 and attacks those historians, such as Raul Hilberg and Randolph Braham, who, according to him, minimize the significance of this factor and attribute the Holocaust in Hungary to the Germans. Cole is correct in asserting the important role of the Hungarians and of the Horthy regime in determining the fate of Hungary’s Jews in 1944. However, he does not demonstrate that the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry would have occurred without the Germans. Whereas Cole shows the antisemitic and opportunistic calculations of the decision-makers in the Hungarian bureaucracy and discusses the behind-the-scenes power struggles, he does not sufficiently enlighten us regarding the human side of those clerks, both established and poorer, who were responsible for what happened. The book relates to the Jewish victims so generally and obliquely that their great suffering is lost not only in the Hungarian bureaucracy, but also in the historian’s telling. This book can serve as a catalyst for more exposure of the Hungarians responsible for the impoverishment and deportation of the Jews in Hungary. But the essence of the matter is the perpetrators and their motivations, and defining space is merely a derivative of the motivations. As such, the book does not break new ground.