History, Remembrance, and a “Useful Past” in the Public Thought of Hungarian Jewry, 1938–1939
The years 1938-1939 witnessed a decline in the civil status of Hungarian Jewry. The pact between Hungary and Nazi Germany, the passage of two discriminatory antisemitic laws, and the increased strength of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party posed a serious threat to the Jews in Hungary. The article examines how Jewish public figures confronted the diminution of their civic rights by raising historic symbols and figures. The article opens with a discussion of historical figures in the Hungarian political discourse in general. It then reviews the Jews’ attitude towards fundamental historical questions regarding their past place in Hungary, particularly through the prism of their discourse before and after the passage of the two anti-Jewish laws, and regarding the 900th anniversary celebrations commemorating the death of Hungary’s first king, Saint Stephen. In its discussion and analysis, the article relates to various sectors of Hungarian Jewry – Neolog, Orthodox, and Zionist.