The Tale of the Jew

The Codes of Post-WWII Antisemitism in Hungary

Authors

  • Péter Apor

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.23777/sn.0222/art_papo01

Keywords:

postwar antisemitism, Christian-Jewish conflict, Hungary, antisemitic imagination

Abstract

This article focuses on the themes and topoi of the antisemitic imagination in the post-WWII period in Hungary. It argues that in the post-1945 period the notion of the “Jew” represented a malleable identity that encapsulated qualities and modes of behaviour which industrial and agricultural workers attached to the definitions of their alleged enemies. The article, first explores how debates of property restitution framed the struggle for material survival in the countryside as an essentially Christian-Jewish conflict and, hence, affirmed the idea of discernible “Jewish” interests and a “Jewish” social class. Second, it follows the perceptions of material conflicts and interprets the rumours against surviving Jewish communities who were accused of kidnapping Christian children for allegedly making sausage of them, which had become the most common form of antisemitic accusation during the postwar months. The article argues that these accusations framed by the notions of food and nutrition were tales that metaphorically encapsulated popular perceptions of the Jews. The Jews in these stories acted as shortcuts to the broader social category of privileged and better-off groups. The article, third, highlights that the belief that Jews were wealthier than others had been crafted in the interwar period and particularly during the war. As the article points out the politics of discrimination was stimulated by a desire to discover and acquire “Jewish wealth”, which was a central theme of contemporary antisemitic imagination. Nonetheless, as it argues, “Jewish wealth” was the product of ghettoization and of institutionalized robbery, which garnered petty property from deported Jewish citizens together and, thus, rendered the previously only imaginary “Jewish treasures” visible.

Author Biography

Péter Apor

Péter Apor is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Between 2003 and 2011, Apor was a research fellow at the Central European University (Budapest), and an associate researcher at the University of Exeter. In 2015-2018, he coordinated a comparative research addressing antisemitic pogroms in post-WWII Eastern Europe funded by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung. His main research interest includes the politics of memory and history in post-1945 East-Central Europe, the mechanism of collective violence and ethnic hatred and the history of empires and colonialism in the Cold War. Apor is the co-editor of The Handbook of COURAGE: Cultural Opposition and its Heritage in Eastern Europe, Budapest, 2018. He is the author of Fabricating Authenticity in Soviet Hungary: The Afterlife of the First Hungarian Soviet Republic in the Age of State Socialism, Anthem Press, London, 2014.

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Published

2022-12-18

How to Cite

Apor, Péter. 2022. “The Tale of the Jew: The Codes of Post-WWII Antisemitism in Hungary”. S: I.M.O.N. Shoah: Intervention. Methods. Documentation. 9 (2):4-25. https://doi.org/10.23777/sn.0222/art_papo01.