The Hungarian Holocaust as Reflected in the People’s Court Trials in Budapest
This article analyzes the workings of the Hungarian people’s courts with the help of the papers of 748 trials held in Budapest in 1946. There are at least two myths in the public mind concerning the people’s court trials in Hungary that do not stand up to the test of scholarship. According to the antisemitic right, the “communist” people’s courts engaged in a massacre. A widely held view among Jews is that in Hungary with the exception of a few major war criminals, and Arrow Cross mass murderers, nearly everybody escaped prosecution. The Hungarian people’s courts passed 26,997 prison sentences, 14,727 persons were acquitted, 477 were sentenced to death, and 189 of them were executed. The people’s jurisdiction in Hungary, in 1945-1946, followed the European practice in prosecuting and punishing war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity. The most important criminals did not escape prosecution, but both minor and major criminals escaped abroad, and many innocent people were imprisoned, too. The people’s courts were not the instruments of “Judeo-Bolshevists,” nor did most of the war criminals escaped justice. Selecting and presenting the most characteristic cases, the aim of the present paper is to make the Hungarian Holocaust not only understandable, but also more individual and personal.