Tipping the Rescuer?

The Financial Aspects of the Budapest Building Managers’ Helping Activity during the Last Phase of the Second World War


  • István Pál Ádám


building managers, bystanders to the Holocaust, tipping culture, empowerment, Budapest ghetto, helpers


My research – through a history of the Budapest building managers (in Hungarian házmester) – asks to what degree agency mattered amongst a group of ordinary Hungarians who are commonly perceived as bystanders to the Holocaust. I analyse the building managers’ war-time actions in light of their decades-long struggle for a higher salary, social appreciation and their aspiration to authority. Instead of focusing on solely the usual pre-war antisemitism, I take into consideration other factors from the interwar period, such as in this paper the tipping culture. In my PhD thesis, I claimed that the empowerment of the building managers happened as a side-effect of anti-Jewish legislation. Thanks to their social networks and key positions, these people became intermediaries between the authorities and Jewish Hungarian citizens, which gave them much wider latitude than other so-called bystanders. That is to say that an average Budapest building manager could bridge the structural holes between the ghettoised Jewish Hungarians and other elements of 1944 Hungarian society as a result of his or her social network. This article argues that the actions of so-called bystanders in general, and the relationship between Budapest building managers and Jewish Hungarians in particular, can only be understood by placing them in a longue durée. Furthermore, it suggests that it is impossible – and unhelpful – to allocate building managers to a single category such as ‘bystander’. Individual building managers both helped and hindered Jewish Hungarians, depending on circumstances, pre-existing relationships, and the particular point in time.




How to Cite

Ádám, István Pál. 2019. “Tipping the Rescuer? The Financial Aspects of the Budapest Building Managers’ Helping Activity During the Last Phase of the Second World War”. S: I.M.O.N. Shoah: Intervention. Methods. Documentation. 2 (1):4-14. https://simon.vwi.ac.at/index.php/simon/article/view/125.