Zionist Reactions to Hungarian Anti-Jewish Legislation 1939-1942
The First Jewish Law enacted by Hungary in 1938 limited the number of Jews in employment to twenty percent. In 1939 the Second Jewish Law reduced this number to six percent. The second law also defined a Jew as a person with at least one Jewish parent or two Jewish grandparents, even if that person had converted to Christianity. By 1941 the law prohibited marriages between Jews and non-Jews and abolished recognition of the Jewish community. In 1944 Jews were deprived of civil rights. Reacting to the second law, assimilationist Jewish leaders tried to show national identification and proclaimed that their attitude to the Hungarian motherland was unchanged. The weak Zionist movement in Hungary opposed this attitude. It recommended the establishment of a central body and emigration to Palestine, particularly of the young, as the answer to the Jewish problem. Even the Zionists underestimated the approaching danger. In 1941 they published the Jewish Yellow Books stressing that after the war attitudes to Jews would not improve. The ideology of the Revisionist Jewish Working Group was similar but its members viewed assimilation as a negative strategy. Organized preparation for eventual emigration to the future Jewish state was essential. They attempted to convince the Hungarian authorities that emigration of Jews would be beneficial to them, too. Unfortunately, the Zionists were, in general, unable to effect a change in the prevailing Jewish climate.