Will the Past Protect Hungarian Jewry? Response of Jewish Intellectuals to Anti-Jewish Legislation
Following the passage of the anti-Jewish laws in 1938-1942, which ostracized the Jews from Hungarian society, Jewish writers, historians, and literature scholars published articles, anthologies, and yearbooks in which they tried to demonstrate the Jews’ absolute belonging in Hungary, their immersion in its culture, and their contribution to its literature. These publications pointed to the two peoples’ common heritage, finding shelter in this. At the same time, new literary works appeared, which tried to show the Jews and the Hungarians that there was a new generation of Jewish artists that was contributing to Hungarian culture while also preserving their Jewish tradition. The article discusses the publications that tried to corroborate the Jews’ commitment to Hungarian history and culture, relating in particular to the Hungarian war of independence of 1848-1849 (with the rise of the first generation of Jewish authors in the Hungarian language). The article goes on to examine the Jewish topics in the works of the new generation of Jewish writers on the eve of the Holocaust. The last part of the article provides a comparative analysis of a literary anthology published before the Holocaust with its historical counterpart published after the Holocaust, both edited by Jenő Zsoldos. The comparison reveals the trauma and drastic change in the worldview of the Hungarian Jewish intellectuals that survived the Holocaust.