In Hungary, official memory and history discourses often distinguish between ‘Jews’ and ‘Hungarians’, harking back to the Horthy-era concept of the ‘Christian national’ state. This dichotomy clashes with modern ideas of citizenship and acts as a carrier of antisemitism. This lecture analyses the role of political authority in fostering integration or exclusion over a long time span. It begins with the attitudes of those holding political power in the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages, when the distinction between Jews and Christians was based on religious affiliation. In particular, two processes will be examined: one leading to increased integration, granting protection and rights, and the other promoting segregation, demonisation and hostility. The lecture will then focus on key moments in modern history, exploring the functions of these two contradictory but related processes. It will finally tackle the question of the role of the state in (dis)continuities between medieval exclusion and modern antisemitism.
S:I.M.O.N. is an e-journal of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI). It appears twice a year in English and German language. S:I.M.O.N. aims at both a transnational and comparative history of the Holocaust and Jewish Studies in Central and Eastern Europe within the broader contexts of the European history of the 20th and 21st century, including its prehistory, consequences and legacies as well as the history of memory.
S:I.M.O.N. serves as a forum for discussion of various methodological approaches. The journal especially wishes to strengthen the exchange between researchers from different scientific communities and to integrate both the Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust into the different “national” narratives. It also lays a special emphasis on memory studies and the analysis of politics of memory. S:I.M.O.N. uses a double-blind review system, which means that both the reviewer’s and the author’s identities are concealed from each other hroughout the review process.
Shoah: The journal deals with the history of the Shoah from multidisciplinary, transnational and comparative perspectives. It seeks to integrate studies on Jews as well as on other groups of victims of the Holocaust, especially on Roma, and of so far less researched regions of (East) Central and (South) Eastern Europe.
Intervention. The journal reports on research projects and their transmission into public events. It also informs about current educational and remembrance programs.
Methods. The journal serves as a forum for the discussion of methodological approaches as, for instance, the everyday history, oral history, gender history, the history of violence, anti-Semitism and racism and the theory of memory and memory politics.
DocumentatiON. The journal contributes to critical approaches on using and interpreting archival materials in the 21st century.
Download the current issue S:I.M.O.N. 2017/1.
The fate of the European Roma during the Holocaust, the murder of several hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti in the territories under control of the Third Reich – a genocide which by Roma and Sinti representatives is also referred to as 'Porrajimos' or 'Samusdripen' – now forms an accepted part of European historical discourse on the 20th century and has become the focal point of a new Europe-wide process of Roma identity formation. In its monstrosity and unprecedented brutality it is like a vast shadow cast upon the common history of Roma and Gadje alike, a memento of an unspeakably dehumanised past.
Historians have reconstructed the events that culminated in these murderous acts in great detail, mapping the increasingly radical acts of marginalisation and persecution of people labelled as 'Zigeuner' ('Gypsies') by the authorities. This marginalisation started during the Romantic period, when Europeans were told to see 'Gypsies' as fundamentally different and exotic – the 'last savages of Europe'. This, combined with the emerging 'science' of eugenics, which declared these differences to be genetically determined and therefore immutable, prepared the ground for their marginalisation and exclusion from society, based on pseudoscientific concepts.
A severe social crisis caused by the global economic crisis of the 1930s, aggravated by the lack of adequate social welfare systems in Central and Eastern Europe at the time, led to clashes between the Roma and non-Roma populations, especially in the formerly Hungarian, now Austrian, Burgenland region. This later provided the justification for the Nazi administration's racist policies against Roma and Sinti, which eventually culminated in genocide. Some key ingredients in this catastrophe may seem strangely familiar now, as we can again encounter them in Europe today. Looking at the policies that paved the way for the Nazi genocide of the 'Gypsies', it becomes clear that many of today's policies and administrative practices affecting Roma, especially in Eastern Europe, are not that new after all and have worrying echoes in the past.
Marianne Hirsch/Leo Spitzer
Spaziergang in der Herrengasse. Straßenfotos aus dem jüdischen Czernowitz
Czernowitz was the Habsburg Empire's „Vienna of the East“; it had a lively German-speaking Jewish community, almost all of whom were persecuted or murdered during the time of the Second World War. Yet the memory of Cernowitz lives on, passed on as it is by survivors and their descendants “like a wonderful present“ and a „relentless curse“, as noted by Aharon Appelfeld. We find evidence of old Cernowitz in historical reports, memoirs, documents and literary works. These include impressive contributions by Cernowitz-born writers.
In their lecture, Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer focussed primarily on materials from family albums and collections in order to tap into the world of Jewish Cernowitz before its destruction. In particular, they analysed street photographs depicting daily life which had been taken on the city's streets before the Second World War and during the occupation by Romanian fascists and their allies from Nazi Germany. What do these ordinary and apparently opaque images tell us about the rich and diverse past? We were astonished to discover that they tell and show us a lot in that they reveal both more and less than we had expected.
This text is the penultimate chapter of Zoltán Halasi's book Út az üres éghez (Road to an Empty Sky). With this work, which was first published in Hungarian, the author created a singular memorial to Polish-Jewish culture and its destruction. Setting out from the Yiddish Holocaust poem Dos lid funm ojsgehargetn jidischen folk by Itzhak Katzenelson, Halasi records what was lost in the Shoah in the course of nineteen compelling chapters. He takes on the grab of an art historian, a literary critic and a travel guide when he reports about a wooden synagogue and the Jewish quarter in Warsaw. In the role of a German banker, he illuminates the aims of the Nazi monetary policies, as a writer of SS brochures he highlights the absurdity of racism. Depicting a Selektion in the Warsaw ghetto, he shows the grim logic of compulsive acts in catastrophic situations, draws an image of the running of the extermination camp Treblinka. The cynical words of two German policemen provide an insight into the rituals of mass executions and introduce us to the craft of murder. The final chapter is an interplay of slithers of narrative by Jewish children on the run and by those who helped and hid them that borders on the unbearable.
The chapter reproduced on the following pages has three parts: Part one is a Treblinka railway station master's report to the Polish Home Army. In the second part, a former Jewish detainee who managed to escape from the extermination camp Treblinka gives a literary treatment of his arrival at the camp. The final part consists of an inner monologue by the Treblinka extermination camp's director of administration.
The book will shortly be published in Polish at the Nisza publishing company in Warsaw. The German-speaking public was first presented with the work on December 1, 2015 at the Simon Wiesenthal Conference 2015. The German translation by Éva Zádor and Heinrich Eisterer is in progress.
Nóra Berend: Jews and the Hungarian State. Integrative and Exclusionary Models from Medieval to Modern Times