Disenfranchised by Law
The ‘Numerus Clausus’ in Hungary 1920–1945
Keywords:1920, Hungarian Numerus Clausus law, antisemitism
Adopted in 1920, the Hungarian Numerus Clausus law introduced a mechanism to keep Jews out of universities by screening all applicants as to whether or not they were Jewish, either by religion or by birth. Jewish applicants were listed separately and their admission was only possible up to six per cent of all students.
In her lecture Mária Kovács challenged a number of false historical legends that understate the significance of the Numerus Clausus law and, more generally, of state-sanctioned antisemitism in the Horthy regime. It provided strong evidence to dispel the convenient legend that Hungarian antisemitism was a policy externally imposed by Nazi Germany. It demo strated that government-sanctioned antisemitism in Hungary was a story in and of itself, a story whose beginnings had predated the rise of Nazism in Germany by over a decade. It showed how the Numerus Clausus law not only legitimised antisemitism as state-policy, but also served as an inspiration all throughout the inter-war years for racist movements to demand further anti-Jewish quotas and legislation.
Finally, the paper addressed current implications of debates over the law in Hungary’s mem- ory war and demonstrated how apologetic accounts of the Numerus Clausus still serve to whitewash the Horthy regime from charges of state-sanctioned antisemitism.
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