Esor Ben-Sorek

The Horrible Hungarians

When Jews think of historic anti-Semitism in Europe, the first country that comes to mind is Poland. But the second country is Hungary.

Istvan Deak, a noted Hungarian historian, referred to an article written by Eliezer Rabinovich and published in Russia under the title “Evrejaskaya Starina”.

The author wrote a detailed History of Hungary before, during and after the Austro-Hungarian empire. Following the 1918 abdication of the Habsburg monarchy, Hungary remained without a king. In that year, Admiral Miklos Horthy, a rabid anti-Semite, became the Regent of Hungary, replacing the king.

On June 4, 1920 the Treaty of Trianon deprived Hungary of two-thirds of its territory and one-third of the indigenous Magyar population. In 1926 Hungary was the first European country to establish a Numerus Clausus law which limited the number of Jews who could be admitted to Hungarian universities.

Horthy supported in parliament all laws prepared by another violent anti-Semite, Bela Imredy.  Under Prime Minister Teleki in 1929 Horthy approved the formation of a fascist anti-Semitic organization known as the Arrow Cross. It received 25% of the votes in parliament.

Shortly after World War II began, according to the written statement of the Hungarian historian, Krisztian Ungvary, the Hungarian parliament proposed placing all of Hungary’s 800,000 Jews in ghettos in 1941.

On June 7,1942, Horthy’s Hungarian government allied itself with Nazi Germany in its war against the USSR.

Horthy visited Hitler in Berlin on two occasions. In their meeting of April 17, 1942, Hitler demanded the deportation of Hungary’s Jews to the death camps in Poland. When the numbers were insufficient, Hitler again met with Horthy on April 17, 1943 and sternly demanded the increase of number of Jews to be deported.

The Hungarian ambassador to Germany, Dome Sztojay, was ordered by Hitler to take control over the government of Hungary. He appointed 3 known anti-Semites to help in the task of finding, rounding up and deporting the Jews. Andor Jarossas was appointed Minister of Interior and his two deputies were Laszlo Endre and Laszlo Baky.  All three hated Jews and were anxious to rid Hungary of them.

They were aided by the immediate arrival of Adolf Eichmann and at once the increase of Jewish deportees began. According to the records of Istvan Deak, 200,000 ordinary Hungarian citizen helped in the round-up of their Jewish neighbors in all the cities and villages of Hungary.

From June 25-30, Admiral Miklos Horthy, Regent of Hungary, received three cables from Pope Pius XII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and from His Majesty, King Gustav of Sweden, urging that deportations be stopped. The requests fell on deaf Hungarian ears.

At the end of the war, Horthy served in 1948 as a witness in the Nuremburg War Crimes trial. He himself was not accused of personally aiding the deportations or killings of Hungary’s Jews. The allies did not imprison him. Instead he was sent into exile to Estoril, Portugal where he died on February 9, 1957 at the age of 88.

Still today, many Hungarian Christians speak warmly and fondly of Miklos Horthy.  Hungarian Jews shudder at the mention of his name.

On my one and only visit to Hungary where I marveled at its magnificent architecture, delicious coffee, and fabulous pastries, I often approached Hungarian men and women in the cafes. I excused myself with two phrases I had learned in the terrible Hungarian language, not like anything else in the world.

“Nem bessel magyarol. Nem ertem magyarol”  I do not speak Hungarian. I do not understand Hungarian.

(And I never could like that horrible un-literary language. It lacks the beauty of French, Italian and even Hebrew).

Few of the patrons could speak English. I tried Russian which annoyed them. French which amused them.  And finally, success with German.

I asked what they remembered about the war. Did anyone remember the Regent of Hungary?

A charming blonde waitress overheard my halting conversation and kindly offered to translate.

To my question, they almost replied in unison: “Horthy Miklos? Igen. Igen. Magyaroszag egyik  legragyobb es szeretett hose”. The waitress translated for me and I wrote down their reply:

“Miklos Horthy? Yes. Yes. He is a beloved hero of Hungary”.

They “forgot” his anti-Semitism and the deportation of the Jews. They were concentrated on munching their array of famed Hungarian desserts: Dobosh torte, Esterhazy torte, Somlai Galuska and Malna Piskotatekerks.

Finding all things distasteful about Hungarians, I chose the Austrian apfelstrudel, said thank you (koszonom) and goodbye (viszontlatasra).

I will be vacationing abroad  for a few weeks but Hungary is definitely on my no-no list. Other than the famed Dohany utca magnificent synagogue in downtown Budapest, nothing in Hungary could attract me.

SZORNGU MAGYAROK…..  Horrible Hungarians!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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