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Approaching Regions in East-Central-Europe

Final Report Grant No: 2013-357

The relationship between the historical churches and the Jewish community
in Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary from 1920 until the Holocaust

Grant No: 2013-357 Final Report

The relationship between the historical churches and the Jewish community
in Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary from 1920 until the Holocaust

In a historians approach to a given question, the relevance of


the question rather than the answer given to it is important. In
other words, the extent of its ability to widen the horizon of
thought.1

The research launched in 2012 using grants by ITF/IHRA used the working hypothesis at the
start that, despite considerable and significant literature on the Holocaust2, the social role and
responsibility played by the so termed historical churches (Catholic, Reformed and
Lutheran) in triggering and promoting anti-Semitism in the period between the two
World Wars has been neglected to the present day. Its main reason is the lack of
methodological, comprehensive research processing the available sources. In fact, the
institutional premises of such research are missing.
The research extended in 2013 to include Romania allowed checking whether or not the
above initial hypothesis was correct; and it has been confirmed. However, the geographical
expansion of the research involving the Romanian Orthodox church has called attention to
new perspectives and allowed, on the one hand a comparative study of different societies and
churches and, on the other hand, accentuated both similarities and differences. It has brought
to light how the societies and institutional systems of Central-Eastern Europe were
intertwined, tuned to each other and how they evolved together. The fact that the churches
have been playing important social roles and appeared as significant political factors both then
and now supports the above statement.
In our days when exclusion via nationalism and the authoritarian exercise of power are again
gaining momentum in the countries of Central-Eastern Europe (e.g. Hungary and Romania),
the need to instrumentalise the churches politically and promoting religion-based national
identity has reappeared. On the other hand, the Jewish issue has returned to the political and
social discourse in Hungary.
You can find in almost all countries of the continent not only in Central-Eastern Europe
that social inequalities and tensions are increasing amid economic and financial difficulties.
Societies on the verge of fragmentation and politics that cannot find a way out of the crisis are
radicalising while the mechanisms of scapegoating are strengthening. While in Western
Europe the place of the Jewish issue has been replaced by the Muslim issue, in CentralJacques Annequin: Esclavage et dpendance, Dialogues dhistoire ancienne 37, 2011/2, 170.
See in Braham, Randolph L.: A magyarorszgi holokauszt bibliogrfija, 12. ktet, Park Kiad, Budapest,
2010, XII+549 p. & XII+551926 p.; Bibliography of the Holocaust in Hungary. (Holocaust Studies Series
East European Monographs, 784), The Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies CUNY Social Science
Monographs Columbia University Press, New York, 2011, 934 p.
1
2

Eastern Europe the anti-Semitic spirit and public discourse established in the period between
the two World Wars survives after successfully waiting out the decades of state-socialism as
an undercurrent.
The case studies summarising the research efforts of 2013-2014 are organically linked to the
earlier findings3. In some cases (e.g. Veszprm, buda or Dunaszerdahely) they continue and
widen the timescale in an effort to provide a comprehensive picture of the ecclesiastical
relations of a given town and of contemporary public opinion. Thanks to the source material
processed, the studies shed light upon the actual church spirit in the period between the two
World Wars including without doubt anti-Semitism organically linked to anti-Judaism and
flourishing on its soil, even if it appeared differently in time and space and in different modes
and to a different extent within a given church.
History, naturally, is never repeated in the same form. However, it is a fact that similar causes
and processes may lead to very similar effects.
The primary goal of the studies is to reveal the past more accurately and to encourage
confrontation; we want the young generation to understand it so that they should not become
participants or players in the same processes of the past. Because you may not build a solid
and sustainable future on an imaginary past.

See Jakab Attila Trzsk Erika (eds.), A trtnelmi egyhzak s a zsid kzssg viszonya Csehszlovkiban
s Magyarorszgon 1920-tl a Holokausztig, CEC, Budapest, 2013
(http://fr.scribd.com/doc/178638080/Kutatasi-eredmenyek-2012-2013). In English: Attila Jakab Erika Trzsk
(eds.), The relationship between the historical churches and the Jewish community in Czechoslovakia and
Hungary from 1920 until the Holocaust, CEC, Budapest, 2013. (http://fr.scribd.com/doc/179168505/JelentesBerlinbe-2012-2013-vegleges-angol-pdf).
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Case study 1
The fate of the Veszprm Jewry from 1938 to 1944 - as reflected in Episcopal documents
and the local Catholic press (research continued)
By Mt Grdonyi

In accordance with the previous research plan, an image could be presented on how the local
Catholic press (Veszprm News) (VH) interpreted the provisions of the 1st anti-Jewish law at
the beginning of the period under investigation, in 1938; and how it communicated the
expectations of the government policy on the topic to its readers. As a result of revealing new
sources and based on earlier literature, the events at the end of the period investigated in 1944
have been placed in the context of church history with particular attention to the deportation
of the Veszprm Jewry. In the present phase of the research, I want to focus on revealing and
discovering the processes and the background partly by reviewing the local media of 1919
and partly by researching the archive sources of the years from 1939 to 1943.

Press documents related to the Jewry in the 1919 issues of Veszprm News
The Veszprm News issued by the Veszprm Episcopal Printing House was published three
times a week in the era of the Hungarian Peoples Republic under Mihly Krolyi; the editorin-chief was a priest of the diocese Dr Jzsef Hoss, professor of theology and its managing
editor was Dr Rezs Rupert, lawyer. A message of the editorial board from that period was
addressed to a certain Sch. M., in which the paper defended the smallholders party favoured
by Rupert against the accusation of being anti-Semitic, and at the same time, it says the
country Jewry can be won over for Christian and civic politics:
The smallholders-agrarian workers party is not anti-Semitic. The smallholders party is the
party of the villages and the towns with a majority of agrarian workers. In those place the
Jews live scattered and peacefully and call forth neither envy nor misled animosity against
themselves all the less so as they are a negligible minority. There is no reason for that,
because the Jews of the countryside are honest, patriotic and good Hungarian people living in
agreement and undisturbed friendship with us. They are more anti-Semitic than Christian
Hungarians towards their fellow followers in Pest that acknowledge no homeland or God that
swap their religion and their names out of self-interest. Those people have no objection to the
Christian nature of the country, which is carried by Christianity anyway whether or not you
want it We have quite many Jewish compatriots, who are Christian socialists, whose
patriotism is stronger than their religious belief and who wish to enforce it by taking sides
with those who he believes are better Hungarians than other socialist factions rejecting
religion and insensitive to the homeland. Yes, the main question today is not religion but the
question of who is a good Hungarian. Otherwise the town Jews can nicely find their place in
the civic parties of the town, where you cannot incite religious antagonism even with violence.
We are happy to see that the civic parties of the countryside are strong Hungarian parties and
the Jewry is not radical in the countryside.4

Veszprm News (VH), Vol. XXVII, Issue 13; 11 February, 1919, p. 3.


4

Following the announcement of the Peoples Republic, as of 30 March, the publication of the
Veszprm News was suspended, but immediately after the fall of the Peoples Republic, it
was re-launched by Hoss and Rupert on 10 August as a political weekly; and soon it was
published three times a week as a political paper in accordance with its header licensed by
the commander of the occupying Royal Romanian Forces. At the beginning, the line of the
paper was close to the smallholders party being organised at the time lead by Istvn
Sokorptkai Szab (United Smallholders and Agrarian Workers Party; it merged with the
National Smallholders and Agrarian Workers Party led by Nagyatdi Szab on 29
November) of which the lawyer Rupert was the Veszprm President; however, his name was
removed from the heading of the paper early in October. The paper also published the
announcements of the re-established Christian Socialist Party (Christian Social Economy
Party, which merged on 25 October with the Christian National Party to establish the Party of
Christian National Unity), under the local leadership of Dr Gbor Fassnok, who had become
the managing editor of the Veszprm News from March 1920. As it is well-known, the
Parliamentary elections executed in several phases in 1920-1921 ended with the Party of the
Christian National Unity and the Smallholders Party receiving the highest number of votes
(38% and 34%, respectively) and joined forces in a coalition; Rezs Rupert had become a
Parliament representative of the Smallholders Party; but he became a member of the
opposition from 1922.
Jews are first mentioned in the new issues of the Veszprm News in an announcement of the
local organisation of the Christian Socialist Party published on 24 August: No more
Communism, no more subversive actions by the Jews resulting in a detonation! Our eyes are
now clear. (National unity is the remedy). Not this socialism is to be blamed but the other one
that has been expropriated out of foreign racial interests with an intention to kill our nation.5
It should be noted that both here and in the following sections the term race used frequently
could simply mean people or kind (e.g., the Hungarian kind of people), but it could also
express a feeling of separation from the Jewry (thoroughbred Hungarians - foreign race)
and it also had a racist meaning. In the same issue a report on the reorganisation of the
smallholders party - arguing with the rival Christian socialists mentioned that one or two
Christian socialists had also been accepted in the government in Budapest so that the whole
image should not be fully that of a synagogue.6
The next article was published in Veszprm News under the title A Christian worker
speaking to its mates (the author being a worker cannot be anything but literary fiction),
which takes the responsibility of the Commune off the shoulders of industrial workers and
calls their attention to Christian socialism (there were important industrial and mining
settlements in the county of Veszprm): We dare to look into the eye of everybody with our
heads held high, because that was not a coup by the workers. It was well-expressed by the
speaker of the day of King Stephen; it was a coup by the bocher Lenins, the coup of those who
had come into our holy homeland, the land of the Virgin Mary conquered by our ancestors
with blood in poverty and infested it as leeches. They already had so much money not
obtained in the fairest way that they could buy houses, lands, plains and in the end they
wanted to buy the country. What is more, in their unlimited arrogance, they went so far as to
turn openly against Christians, against those who had obtained this holy land.7
The Christian Socialist Party held its assembly on 31 August with the local president, Gbor
5

VH, Vol. XXVII, Issue 36, 24 August, 1919, 1.


VH, Vol. XXVII, Issue 36, 24 August, 1919, 1.
7
VH, Vol. XXVII, issue 40, 2 September, 1919, 1.
6

Fassnok delivering an address: He said he opens the assembly of the Party after four months
of oppression with religious awe in his soul We are responsible for what has happened
because the flame of love went out in our hearts, we were not of the same belief, we lived in
hatred and we failed to realise meanwhile that another race as some kind of vampire cajoled
our nation, dazed it to suck its blood.8
The anti-Jewish atrocities committed partly by the officers commandos of the White Terror
(their headquarters, Sifok used to belong to the county of Veszprm at the time) and partly
by local residents also belong to the chronicle of those weeks around Veszprm. They were
not only directed against the Communists exposed during the Council Republic. Such raids
sometimes with fatal consequences were carried out in August at Balatonfkajr, Berhida,
Lepsny, Vrpalota and Vrsberny near Veszprm as well. 9 In the Veszprm News the
topic was first mentioned at the beginning of September in an article entitled Ern Garami,
an honest man. The author complains that the social democratic politician helps the global
press purchased on Jewish money to howl, because Garami complained to the Viennese Neue
Freie Presse on 31 August about - among others - the fact that there had been bloody pogroms
in the Trans-Danubian region. In that regard, the author of the article says that there have
been outbreaks of the anger of the people at some places and if they have hit the innocent, it is
unfortunate but understandable.10 The paper failed to report on the anti-Jewish atrocities
around Veszprm but it did report that there had been no pogrom at Devecser: What is true is
that on 31 August, 20-30 young men gathered in a gang went around visiting the Jewish
houses one after the other to - as they said - scare them a little bit. However, the smallholders
and tradesmen of Devecser headed by Sheriff Endre Belk and cabinet maker Bla Bajk, the
father of Pista Bajk, the young martyr,11 stemmed any major problem and cooled every
passion. They explained that Christian citizens would not fight innocent individuals, they only
oppose the Jewish race that they wish to push out of the field of businesses exceeding their
proportion in a peaceful manner by establishing a fully Christian agriculture, industry, trade
and intelligentsia. For that, they do not need to destroy any individuals. The Jews at Devecser
anyway are different - except for two or three people - from the Jews who had not wanted to
acknowledge the rule of the Christian race before.12
The continuing anti-Jewish atrocities (there was a pogrom on 9 September with nine people
dead at Diszel that belonged to the Veszprm diocese at the time although it was in Zala
County), and especially their international response drove politicians to speak up against
people taking the law into their own hands, which had its effect in the press as well. The
Veszprm News, at the beginning of October, took over an announcement made by Count
Gyula Andrssy, the earlier head of the Anti-Bolshevik Committee (ABC) (and by the way
the father-in-law of Mihly Krolyi) from the paper of the Christian Socialists, the New
Generation dealing with the Jewish issue: The Government regards it as its urgent task to
8

VH, Vol. XXVII, issue 40, 2 September, 1919, 1.


For the list of settlements, cf. Gza Komorczy: A zsidk trtnete Magyarorszgon. [The history of Jews in
Hungary.] Pozsony, 2012. II. 381-389. for the cases mentioned here, cf. Antiszemita atrocitsok, gyilkossgok,
pogromok a fehrterror idszakban. [Anti-Semitic atrocities, murders and pogroms at the time of the White
Terror.] By Gbor Kdr - Zoltn Vgi, ed. Istvn Dancs.
http://konfliktuskutato.hu/index.php?option=com_content&wiev=article&id=138:antiszemita...
10
VH, Vol. XXVII, issue 41, 4 September, 1919, 2.
11
At Devecser, the news were spread on 5 May that the proletarian dictatorship had fallen and as a result, the
leadership of the village was taken over at the Village Hall. In the evening of 6 May, the Lenin-boys led by
Lszl Szamuely arrived, re-established Communist rule and executed four people including the teacher and
reserve lieutenant Istvn Bajk.
12
VH, Vol. XXVII, Issue 41, 4 September 1919, 3.
9

settle the Jewish issue because you cannot avoid that. There is no doubt that the majority of
the nation have completely turned away from the Jewry since it could see what power the
Jewry provided for anti-national, anarchic forces. It had been loathsome for the nation
particularly because it felt how well it had been dealing with the Jews, how many rights it had
given them... The Government in power today should feel it its main responsibility to
guarantee that the anti-Jewish spirit should not lead to pogroms or the persecution of the
innocent.13 In the same issue of the paper, also referring to the New Generation, statistical
figures were published on the penetration of Jews: the disproportionate increase of the number
of Jews (in the two centuries from 1720, the population of the country increased six fold but
that of the Jewry to 49 times as much), on freehold land and land lease in the hands of Jews.
On 11 October, in the main square of Veszprm (Szchenyi square; today: Old city square)
the openly racist Awakening Hungarians had their meeting (the League of Awakening
Hungarians; ME), where, according to the press report, all strata of the Christian society of
the City of Veszprm took part in great numbers. Their noble behaviour was a living
confutation to a base libel spread in advance which had been used trying to prevent holding
the meeting under the pretext that the awakening Hungarians would allow two hours of free
looting to the mob after the meeting. Dr Jen Brdossy, central officer of the League pointed
out that the big disaster hitting the country and resulting in Communism was the result and
was due to the foreign race having immigrated here. Their goal is to put that right and to
make the country Hungarian once again. No need for pogroms to take the life of innocent
people for that. But they will expulse the invading aliens that abused their hospitality. Lajos
Lukcsovich a representative of the party centre explained among others the subversive
actions of the exploiting race against our nation, he reiterated the goals of the League, then
following a few hard words addressed to the Jews he took an oath to express that Saint
Stephens country will be a happy one using terrorism if necessary. Sndor Tihanyi-Kiss,
local minister of the Reformed Church emphasised that ME was a civil initiative that is not
controlled by opportunist politicians in Budapest: We thunder about Christian Hungary, but
we are not Christian in our actions, money-idolising Judaism is the driving force. That is why
it is necessary to establish a Christian and Hungarian organisation free of politics in the
social sphere He also dealt with the issue of anti-Semitism. If we - he said - are antiSemitic, then Moses had been anti-Semitic and Christ as well who had ousted the peddlers
from the Temple. We are not anti-Semitic but not one letter can be published here and not one
voice can be sounded if it is not permeated by the flaming love of Christian Hungary... We do
not want to take anybodys life, but we cannot stand the fetid Babylonian air of Budapest.14
In preparation for the Parliamentary elections announced, the parties held their meetings in
the main square of Veszprm in the first part of October. The Christian Socialist Party had its
meeting on the 13th, with the participation of Kroly Ereky, Minister of Food Control and
Kroly Huszr, Minister of Religion and Public Education (Veszprm News estimated the
number of the audience at four thousand people). Kroly Ereky first dealt with current
political issues (the Government had been acknowledged by the Entente, the establishment of
the army, food control), and then he said: They would do everything in their power to make
the holy cross prevail everywhere and an honest Christian society could develop honouring
the races in this country according to their merits. They do not want to harm the Jews and he
asks the audience to refrain from any individual atrocity, on the other hand the Jews should
give up their arrogant ways, because we cannot stand their power. Then he went on to speak
about the public administration programme of the Government, and continued as follows: It is
13
14

VH, Vol. XXVII, 56, 12 October, 1919, 1.


VH, Vol. XXVII, 57, 14 October, 1919, 1.
7

very important that the Hungarian people should take commerce in its own hands the same
way as it has been done by the German people He cited statistics saying that there were
not so many Jews in the whole of Europe as there were in Budapest and Nagyvrad.
Particular emphasis must be made so that the trading of crops and the banks should be in the
hands of Christians. He is looking forward to the happy moment when the first Christian bank
is established in Budapest and then Christian Hungarians and not foreigners will be able to
manage their own moneys.
According to Kroly Huszr, fifty years of wrong politics had taken the country where it was.
It had prevented every kind of healthy development until there had been too much tension in
the machine and we had had two blasts of the boilers one after the other. Then he looked back
at the beginning of the war and pointed out that Hungarians could only be losers Its reason
was that the Hungarian Christian spirit had become weak particularly because of the press and
therefore, you could insult the traditions of the nation unpunished and in the end 24
commissars 18 of whom were not Christians had been appointed to control twenty million
Hungarians. (Down with them! Up with them!) The Jews themselves were fretting over this
the most because that faithless company had not respected the religion of the Jews, either. We
have to return to our foundations of a thousand years to preserve our nation. It is not antiSemitism, it is not hatred, but Christians can be just as sensitive as the Jews are. And when
speaks about Christians, he means Hungarians. Some people - he continued - think of violent
actions. But Christians can only act in such a way that will allow them to account for before
God with a clear conscience. Those who demand violence are not the true sons of the country.
We welcome every fair-dealing Jew as our brother and compatriot (A voice from the crowd:
But there are none of those! High merriment), but we do not allow them to get the upper
hand. They should fit into the national spirit, and they should work, nobody will harm them.
He outlined then what destruction had been made by the Jewish leaders of proletarians in the
church and other national institutions... So we must be distrustful of the Jewry. We would not
disturb them in their civil life but cannot give them the leading part.15
The Smallholders meeting was held on 19 October where the Smallholders and Agrarian
Workers Party of the county was established. There the competition of different smallholder
factions was the main topic (differences between Sokorptkai and Nagyatdi), and the issues
of improving country Hungary because according to the local party head, the corrupt capital
cannot be the leader of the country any longer. Dnes Patacsi, an Under-secretary of State of
the Ministry of Agriculture said that new people were needed in Parliament from among the
smallholders and small tradesmen and that they would strive to reach an accord of the classes
on the basis of Christian morals, and then he added: We do not want pogroms, we only want
the triumph of Christian morals to live and die here united in the love of our beautiful land.
But it is not for those who only want to live here as long as they may gescheft. Gbor Kll,
the central secretary of the Party explained we have armed our enemies ourselves, because the
Hungarian people have put their money into Jewish banks; if it needed a loan, it had taken it
from a Jewish bank and while they had become richer we had become poorer. You can only
put the issue right if the countryside stopped providing any more food stuffs to the people who
had moved in here with a single bundle but who had become rich here; instead, food stuffs
should be sold via the Ants Cooperatives that have it as their goal. In that way, Christian
commerce may be developed.16

15
16

VH, Vol. XXVII, 57, 14 October, 1919, 1-2.


VH, Vol. XXVII, 60, 21 October, 1919, 1.
8

Articles in the Veszprm News in 1939. Preparations for the 2nd anti-Jewish law
As Act No. XV of 1938, better known as the 1st anti-Jewish law was discussed in Parliament
and after it was passed on 29 May 1938, the Government announced that the so-termed
Jewish issue can be settled satisfactorily when the Act is executed. The same was suggested
by an address given by Prime Minister Bla Imrdy in Kaposvr on 4 September: in that
way, the legislation launched by the draft law mentioned earlier has been completed; its goal
is to confine the exorbitant influence exerted by the Jews in domestic business and spiritual
life, which cannot be regarded as healthy, to a measure that seems to be desirable and
absolutely necessary from the perspective of national interests and social peace. However, in
his memorandum of 13 November and also at an assembly of the Government Party held two
days later (Party of National Unity, NEP) the Prime Minister expressed the necessity of a
more perfect settlement of the Jewish issue considering the new situation that arose after the
1st Vienna Award (2 November), due to the large number of orthodox Jews on the territories
returned to Hungary. In that light, the Government decided to narrow the 20%-quota
introduced by the 1st anti-Jewish law related to certain trades as well as that of the exceptions
in the law and submitted a draft of the new law to the Parliament on 23 December, where the
Committee discussion of the draft was commenced on 23 January, 1939.17
The editorial of the 26 February, 1939 issue of Veszprm News discussed the 2nd anti-Jewish
law (On the Jewish proposal).18 Given its content, it can be assumed that the author marked
with his initials (Dr S. A.) might have had qualifications in theology. The article is quite
interesting because it combines the usual anti-Semitic stereotypes with discussions on church
history and ethics. The article is linked to a booklet published in defence of the Hungarian
Jewry (Church and Society on the racial theory and the Draft to the 2nd Anti-Jewish law.
Periscope publication), which according to the author of Veszprm News, is highly suitable to
deceive Christian Hungarians. However, the author believes the draft law intends to be an
ethical proposal for the protection of the nation: it wants to protect the values of Saint
Stephen, of Christianity and of the nation against the Jewry fatally attacking the ethical,
social and economic foundations of private life, the life of the nation and of society. You must
judge the draft from that perspective only. We are not attacking! We are only defending
ourselves. Please, understand, people cannot endure the chains of their exploitation and
humiliation any longer. They feel strong enough to take up arms against those idolisers of
gold that have humiliated everything.
Undoubtedly, the Jewish proposal forecasts extremely strong measures. Well-meaning people
feel an understandable empathy hearing that the law will hit the innocent as well Still, the
draft had to be compiled, because compassion cannot be blind, it must see the bleeding heart
of the millions standing on the other side whose fate was not followed with tears in the eyes of
the Jews, rather with contemptuous insensibility and high-handed richness. If you want to
judge the whole complex issue covered by the draft correctly and justly, you have to see the
individual events in the context of the whole. It has been like that in history all the time. A
swing in one direction was followed by a swing in the opposite direction; the period of
injustice, corruption and lechery was followed by bitter general punishment Man that is
immortal will only see the total balance in the other world; mortal people, however, have to
bear the consequence of their actions already here on Earth. In addition, we also know the
so-termed collective responsibility according to which the individual is bound to the actions
17

Claudia K. Farkas: Jogok nlkl. A zsid lt Magyarorszgon. [Deprived of rights. Jewish existence in
Hungary] 1920-1944. (Politikatrtneti fzetek XXXII) Budapest: Napvilg Kiad, 2010. 160-168.
18
VH, Vol. XLVII, 9, 26 February, 1939, 1-2.
9

of the community and must take responsibility together with the others somehow, as a result
of which the fate of the community will be the fate of the individual; it is linked to its
community both regarding its past and its future; quite often, the grandsons and greatgrandsons have to pay for the debts and misgivings of the fathers. Next, the author listed the
injustices the Hungarian people suffered at the end of the 1st World War and in the period of
the revolutions by the hands of - in his opinion - the Jews.
If you want to learn the correct Christian opinion relating to the Jewish issue, you do not
have to read the yellow booklet of Periscope but you have to look into the mirror of history.
You will soon realise that the opinion of the church on the Jewish issue is not at all identical
to the liberal humanism of the last century when the emancipation of the Jews was
implemented. The church tradition relating to the Jewish issue is identified by the religious
ideas of the Church. On the one hand, the Church acknowledges the natural human rights of
the Jews and has taken them into protection against illegal violence and tyranny, but on the
other hand, it draws a line of separation between Jews and Christians and has been
protecting the approach to life of Christians against the Jewish spirit with diverse results
when the kings allowed the Jewry to have greater influence in social life in return for material
advantages. Next, there is a list of provisions by the Synod and the Pope aiming to separate
Christians from Jews.
The protectionist measures of the Church had felt their influence as long as the Church had a
major impact on the life of the State. But as that impact slowly came to an end, particularly
from the period of the Enlightenment, others took the management of the fate of European
peoples in their hands and since then the part played by Jews in public life has increased
considerably. As a result of Jewish emancipation, the Christian spirit has been expulsed and
perverted. Economic and cultural centres have been taken over by Jews If you want to
assess the Jewish issue in Central-Europe correctly, you must not close your eyes to obvious
facts, i.e., the Jewish minority drove business life, commerce and industry into the harness of
capitalism built on merciless money, whose goal has not been the liberation of peoples and
the promotion of their well-being but just the contrary, and the accumulation of money
unmeasured in the hands of the Jews... Long series of blatant crimes have made the Jewish
issue opportune, which cannot be hushed by any power of money. We perceive the fate of the
innocent with sorrow and compassion and we protest against brutalities, but we do demand
an earnest solution of the Jewish issue and the promotion of the Christian spirit to gain power
in all aspects of our national, social and private life.

The appeal of the United Christian Party to the party organisations


The Christian Party had been part of the party structure of the Horthy regime right from the
beginning although it had survived dissolutions and mergers and had changed its official
name several times - representing Catholic politics in its diminishing Parliamentary fraction.
There occurred a major turn in the political line of the formation bearing the name United
Christian Party since 1937 at the end of 1938 and beginning of 1939: the party having
represented moderately oppositional politics until then supported the Government beginning
from November 1938; its associate organisation operating in the capital, the Christian City
Party merged with the government party at local level in February 1939. An appeal by party
leadership published in the paper of the Diocese partly intended to explain the above turn, and
partly in preparation for the elections - it responded to the fact that dissidents from the
government party established the Christian National Independence Party with a name that

10

could confuse the voters. In the end, it had to justify the further presence of the Christian
Party all the more so because control in those months was taken over by those sympathising
with right-wing radicalism (pushing into the background the conservatives and Christian
democrats) within that heterogeneous political formation.19
In the Veszprm News, an appeal of the United Christian Party to the party organisations
was published on 26 March, 1939.20 The party regarding itself the successor of the Catholic
Popular Party established in 1895 used the paper of the Diocese to communicate its
memoranda to the public in Veszprm. Regarding the Jewish issue, the political statement
remonstrated its identity with the government policy on the one hand, and on the other hand,
it emphasised the party had been fighting for the implementation of that programme ever
since its foundation. Although the Christian Party had already lost its political influence by
then and its MPs did not take a uniform view on the Jewish issue and racism, the readers of
the paper of the Diocese could see the following statement in the spring of 1939 under the title
Christian politics.
Our party supports the Government of Count Pl Teleky (sic!), because we believe he
seriously intends to implement the modern social reforms protecting the nation, among others
the Jewish issue and the issue of the land reform, that have been in the focus of our party
consistently for four decades ever since its establishment.
As a result of collaboration established with the Government party in Budapest, the Party will
be in the forefront of protecting the nation with unified forces in the capital where such a
Christian union is greatly necessary now when we are preparing to finally get things squared
with the abundance of Jewish liberal elements. Our Party struggles for eternal ideas, for
divine and human justice. This Party was established when the Jewish liberal era was raging
in its excessive power, when the Christian and often the national ideas were jeered at. This
Party has often been left alone but it has always been in the front line of the fight for
Christian national ideas against the liberal Jewry. In this Titanic fight, it has always been the
target of its powerful adversary, so - although diminished but never defeated - here is this
Party standing above the falling power or liberal Jewry, its eternal foe.

Documents related to Jews from the time Gyula Czapik was the Bishop of Veszprm
(1939-1943). Priests of Jewish origin, candidates to the Seminary
The memoirs of Dr Gyrgy Kis diocesan priest of Veszprm of Jewish origin is a valuable
source to learn about anti-Jewish prejudice among clericals.21 In the period reviewed, the
archives of the diocese have preserved traces of the following cases linked to priests of Jewish
origin or candidates submitting applications to seminaries:
Lajos Sndor, a priest born in Eger had been consecrated to the service of the Burgenland
Apostolic Administration in Austria. After the Anschluss, he returned to Hungary due to his
Jewish origin and was temporary employed in the Veszprm Diocese (September 1938 to
June 1939, Hvz). Since he had lost his Hungarian citizenship, the National Office for the
19

Levente Pski: A Horthy-rendszer. (Modern magyar politikai rendszerek) [The Horthy Regime. Modern
Hungarian political systems] Budapest: Pannonica Kiad, 86-89.
20
VH, Vol. XLVII, 14, 26 March, 1939, 1-2.
21
Gyrgy Kis: Megjellve Krisztus keresztjvel s Dvid csillagval. [Marked with the cross of Christ and the
star of David.] Budapest, 1987. particularly pp. 52-108. Sndor Szenes: Befejezetlen mlt. Keresztnyek s
zsidk, sorsok. [Unfinished past. Christians and Jews, fates.] Budapest, 1986. pp. 261-310.
11

Control of Foreigners (KEOH) expelled him from the country as a stateless person in
September 1939. Since he only had two weeks to settle his affairs, he turned for help to Gyula
Czapik, the Bishop of Veszprm who had just taken over his office (29 September, 1939).
The Bishop interceded with the authorities to postpone the deadline or to issue a residence
permit. It seems the citizenship of Lajos Sndor got settled, but not his church status because
he applied for admittance to the Diocese both in 1942 and 1945 (he was rejected).22
Chaplain Dr Istvn Lukcs addressed a letter to the Bishop from Lengyeltti on 3 December,
1942, explaining he had been appointed as reserve army chaplain to the garrison hospital No.
4 of the Hungarian Royal Army at Pcs, where he was ordered to present certification of his
origins (because I am to be regarded a Jew in accordance with valid law). Bishop Czapik sent
a letter on the issue to army Bishop Istvn Hsz (30 December, 1942), in which he inquired
about a potential decree of the Ministry, which, however, cannot be opposed to the law which
says that the priests of Christian churches are not to be regarded Jews even if they would
have to be regarded Jews because of their origin. Later he informed his priest about the
expected order of exemption. 23
Jzsef Kausz, the parish priest at Hvizgyrk sent a letter to Bishop Czapik dated 15 July,
1940, in which he recommended his pupil Tibor Smelk to be admitted to the Veszprm
Seminary. The young man had passed maturity exams two years earlier at Aszd, his mother
had been a Jew who converted in January 1940, the parents had settled their marriage. Smelk
sat an entrance exam to Vc (Hvizgyrk belonged to the Vc Diocese), but a member of the
committee objected to his admittance. The priest had been his teacher of religious studies for
eight years and had been trying to recommend the young man at two places already but had
been rejected. The opinion of Dr Istvn Bethy, the rector of the Veszprm Seminary (19
July): Due to his descent, the boy should not be admitted to the clergy. There was a young
man of the same origin among the competitors this year but he was not admitted.
Accordingly, the Bishop replied to the priest (22 July): The admittance of Seminary students
has already been finalised in my Diocese and the numbers are full. Therefore, I cannot
discuss the admittance of Smelk.24

Jewish teachers at Catholic schools


Article 5 Act No. IV of 1939 (better known as the 2nd anti-Jewish law), provided that Jewish
high school and primary school teachers had to be sent to retirement or dismissed with
severance payment until 1 January 1943 (with the exemption of teachers at Israelite schools).
The provision affected several teachers at the girls schools operating on the territory of the
Veszprm Diocese.25 Sometimes there were doubts as regards the application of the law.26

22

Veszprm Archives of the Diocese and Prebend, Acta Dioecesana (VL AD) 5360/1939, 5762/1942.
VL AD 5656/1942, 129/1943.
24
VL AD 3974/1940.
25
VL AD 4276/1940. The Ministry of Religion and Public Education (VKM) sent Magdolna Steuer substitute
teacher at the Nagyatd Roman Catholic girls school into regular retirement as of 1 February, 1940; she had not
been entitled to severance payment because she had been in temporary employment since 3 February, 1938, so
she failed to reach entitlement to pension or severance payment. The resolution was sent to Sr. Zenke Tth M.
appointed headmistress (16 January, 1940) by the chief school inspector of the Diocese for acknowledgement
and taking the appropriate measures with the following remark: it seems the order of the Minister is linked to
the Jewish law. VL AD 7553/1942. Nagykanizsa Notre Dame, retirement of Ilona Havas, teacher at the girls
grammar school from 1 February, 1942 .
23

12

The case of the Israelite teachers of the Roman Catholic middle school in Ppa is especially
interesting. As the Israelite middle school was closed down there in 1929 the Catholic school
took over the students and three teachers (one of them soon retired) with government
mediation on the basis of an agreement concluded between the two congregations (17 July,
1929). On 30 November, 1939, Lszl Veszely, the headmaster of the middle school
submitted an appeal to the Diocese attaching a proposal compiled regarding the forced
retirement of two Jewish teachers, Artr Bihari and Lajos Pl requesting it to be forwarded to
the Ministry of Religion and Public Education. The headmaster referred to an earlier
agreement as a result of which the two teachers had been employed at the school and in which
the State had promised to appoint three teachers and also to cover half of the salaries of the
Jewish teachers. Nevertheless, there was only one teacher appointed by the Government at the
time the letter was written and the government subsidy to the salaries was reduced to 35 %.
As a result, he proposed that the Jewish teachers should be removed from the school as soon
as possible:
Disregarding the material loss incurred by our Parish in that way, the continued operation of
Jewish teachers is not desirable either from a moral or national perspective All our efforts
are broken on the appalling moral laxity of the two Jewish teachers who are very far from us
in ethical and patriotic respects. The group of teachers are split by an immeasurable gap;
they are two worlds that can never meet, because on the one side there is our Strength, Christ
and on the other side, there is Jewish liberalism with all its destruction that is foreign to us.
We want to educate a strong Catholic youth which is permeated by the greatness and beauty
of its mission, which is active and not compliant, which is strong and not weakened. We are
aware that our school has a mission at Ppa, which is a pocket of fire for the Reformed
Church and we would like to fulfil that mission to achieve the satisfaction of our Church and
our Honourable Chief Pastor. The presence of the two Jewish teachers is the main obstacle to
fulfilling our tasks. We have been trying to bear that sorrowful and humiliating burden on our
school with Christian patience and self-discipline; the teachers have been willing to
undertake the extra work required, but we do feel that no really productive collaboration and
fresh momentum can be established without removing the Jewish teachers.27
Bishop Czapik submitted the request of the Ppa parish to the Ministry of Religion and Public
Education (11 December) requesting that regular teachers Artr Bihari and Lajos Pl should
be sent into retirement from the end of the school year 1939/40 in accordance with section 2.
Article 5 Act IV of 1939. The Bishop took over - partly verbatim - the arguments of the
headmaster and also the reasoning: Honourable Sir! The further operation of Jewish teachers
at a Roman Catholic school is not desirable either from a Catholic or national perspective.
The teachers panel of a Catholic school cannot use 100 % of their resources for the service
of Catholic and patriotic education due to its two Jewish members.28
The Ministry of Religion and Public Education informed the Bishop on 10 February 1940:
The employment of Lajos Pl will be terminated with final retirement, while measures
regarding Artr Bihari are expected later.29 The reasons for the latter can be learnt from a
letter by canon Ferenc Engelhardt chief school inspector of the Diocese dated 4 April
26

VL AD 5499/1940. Nagykanizsa Notre Dame, teacher Ilse Edit Rad is required to present certificates again.
VL AD 8107/1942, 8605/1942. At Aka, the issue was raised how to regard the candidate Magdolna Kolonits
who had applied for the position of primary school teacher. She was born an illegitimate child but her natural
father had been known to be a Jew.
27
VL AD 7330/1939. One of the teachers involved, Artr Bihari had been the secretary of the Football Section
of the Ppa Sports and Cultural Federation and also the administrator of the Ppa Chess Club from 1926.
28
VL AD 7330/1939.
29
VL AD 4835/1940.
13

addressed to the relevant councillor of the Ministry. According to it, Bihari requested him to
intervene asking to be sent in retirement later because he would enter a higher salary class on
1 July. However, the canon rejected it: Taking into account the strict measures of the antiJewish law and the poor qualification of the teacher in question, I believe I may not submit a
request for him.30

Jewish students at Catholic schools


Another group of school issues is related to students of the Israelite confession attending
Catholic schools. Canon Ferenc Engelhardt, the chief school inspector of the Diocese
informed the appointed headmistress of the Fonyd school of the Poor School Sisters named
after Our Lady, sister Evangelist Mria Dusa on 15 November, 1939 that he had received the
following denunciation: The students of the Israelite confession of the Roman Catholic girls
school at Fonyd led by the nuns named after Our Lady had been exempted from attending
school on Saturdays for the whole school year according to the permission of the
management of the school. Since exemption can only be given for performing manual labour,
we request the relevant authority to investigate the issue. I request a report and explanation
on the issue.
The headmistress sister while acknowledging the fact of the exemption requested generous
treatment for the student (18 November, 1939): The school has 1 regular and 2 private
Israelite student. Private students are not obliged to attend school every day. - Piroska Kohn,
a student of grade 2 had been silently excused for her absence on Saturdays because their
religion forbids travelling on trains or on other vehicles on that day. She is a very hard
working student who had made up for her absences successfully; anyway there are two arts
classes on that day when she would not draw anyway so she had only lost two classes because
she would make up the drawings afterwards at classes when the others have religious
education. I sent a notice to her mother to send the child to school also on that day if possible.
If she cannot do so, I request very much to find a way to excuse her. Please, allow this,
because as I have said she is an excellent good child. We are not going to accept any Israelite
students next year.
In his answer, the chief inspector ordered the sister to observe the decrees strictly and also
advised her that (boy) private students are only deemed private because there is no separate
boys school at Fonyd (25 November, 1939): In accordance with Article 108 of the State
School Regulations, students of the Israelite confession may not be exempted from attending
school on Saturdays. If Piroska Kohn of the Israelite confession is a regular student of grade
2, she must attend school also on Saturdays. When it is the question of the School
Regulations, it does not matter whether or not she is a hardworking and good child. The
student should become a private student. I cannot tell the Israelite private students they can
stay at home on Saturdays just because they are private students. At Fonyd, private students
of the Israelite confession attend school just as well as if they were regular students. The
public can see them going to school every day, so they are treated as regular students. And as
soon as the permit arrives from the Ministry of Religion and Public Education to open a boys
section, private students will become regular students.31
The headmistress of the Veszprm girls school of the Sisters of Mercy, sister Gizella Kerbler
30
31

VL AD 5197/1940.
VL AD 6530/1939, 6833/1939.
14

asked the chief school inspector (17 November, 1941) whether an unemployed Jewish teacher
might prepare four private students of the school at Nagyvzsony for their exams? In his reply
(23 November) canon Engelhardt advised strictness in the case beyond the effective law: The
anti-Jewish laws currently include no prohibition regarding whether Jewish teachers may or
may not prepare private students for their exams. However, it is not desirable that Jewish
teachers should collect private students. I will not permit a Jewish teacher to teach more than
three private students. Were I to learn that a Jewish teacher prepares more than three private
students for their exams without a permission, I would immediately ban him/her from
teaching private students. Anyway, there are qualified Roman Catholic teachers at
Nagyvzsony It would be advisable to call the attention of the parents of private students to
Catholic teachers.32
The disciplinary case of teachers at Gyulafirtt is related to Article 9 Act XV of 1941 (3rd
anti-Jewish law), which banned the marriage of Jews and non-Jews on a racial basis. It can be
learnt from the documents that Lszl Czeczey, a teacher at Gyulafirtt had been divorced at
a civil court. His status that was problematic by ecclesiastical law was disregarded by both the
parish priest and the Diocese Administration out of extraordinary benevolence until he could
find another employment. Czeczey had had an affair with teacher Anna Czirfusz, which was
not known to the priest. Since the man was half-blood (his mother was Jewish), and he
wanted to marry the primary school teacher, they concluded a civil marriage before the Act
took effect (8 august, 1941) at 10 oclock in the evening at the end of June because they
thought they could prevent the effect of the anti-Jewish law in that way. The case had come
out, and because the marriage had not been reported to the Diocese Authority, an
investigation was started, which, however, was not taken to the end because the parties
resigned from their jobs on 10 September with a notice of resignation.33
Patrons obligations and settlers on Jewish property
Article 15-16 of Act IV of 1939 (2nd anti-Jewish law) provided about the possession of Jews
agricultural and forestry land stipulating among others that disregarding any other existing
restrictions, Jews may be obligated to transfer all their agricultural property for the purpose of
possession or small leasehold. As a result, Act IV of 1940 (the Land Act of 1940), which
provided about the promotion of small leaseholds and provision of smallholders with land,
without including the term Jew, practically meant the distribution of land expropriated from
the Jews. The process was completed by Act No. XV of 1942 (so-termed 4th anti-Jewish
law), which banned Jews from the possession of land.34
As a result of the Act on small leaseholds, the church bodies started to contemplate how the
expected land distribution and settlements would influence the denominational division of
villages and towns. The parish priest of Grgeteg in Somogy County informed the Diocese
about the settlement plans relating to the lands of Sndor Mndy large land owner at
Simongt decreed to be Jewish property and allocated for settlement, and requested the
Bishop to intervene so that - as far as possible - Catholic settlers should be settled on the
territory of the parish (21 March, 1942). In his reply, Bishop Czapik (15 April) advised he had
32

VL AD 9009/1941.
VL AD 8334/1941 (VIII. 4.), 8517/1941 (VIII. 25.), 8750/1941 (10 September)
34
See in detail: Lszl Cssz: Fldreform s fajvdelem: a negyedik zsidtrvny vgrehajtsa. [Land reform
and racism: the implementation of the fourth anti-Jewish law.] in A holokauszt Magyarorszgon eurpai
perspektvban. Ed by Judit Molnr. Budapest, 2005. pp. 176-192.
33

15

personally taken steps at the Ministry of Agriculture, where he was informed that settlement
plans were not timely for the time being due to the turbulent times and would be postponed
until after the war.35 The priest of Szpr in Veszprm County advocated the division of the
Spitzer Jewish property for his followers to prevent the followers of the Reformed Church in
neighbouring Csetny to receive lands belonging to Szpr (22 December, 1942). He reported
to the Diocese that the Jewish property was first obliged to be transferred to small
leaseholders, then it was to be expropriated by the state, and he had learnt it was intended to
be allocated to the people of Csetny (Arrow-Cross Party followers of the Reformed
Church). He also indicated that patrons obligations were linked to the land; in addition, a
mansion next to the church would be an excellent parish house in his opinion.36
In his letter, the priest of Balatonalmdi requested the Bishops support to obtain one of the
vineyards expropriated for increasing the properties of the parish (6 February, 1942): The
Jewish owned vineyards on the territory of Balatonalmdi are being claimed fast. I thought it
would be gross carelessness to miss this never-to-return favourable occasion even if we have
to face grave difficulties. The 2800-square yard vineyard of Lenke Neuhauser is one of the
best with a two-room cottage used for a press-house in the middle In his reply, Bishop
Czapik indicated the parish might not claim a vineyard in the course of the distribution of
land, but he had no objection to buying the given vineyard at a reduced price using a bank
loan from the Funds Office operating as a savings bank for the Diocese.37
Related to the distribution of land, the problem arose that patrons obligations on properties
had to be borne by several holders from then on, which made the life of parish priests and
parishes more difficult. In the case of Igal and Juta in Somogy County, the compensation of
patrons obligations regarding Igalpuszta was mentioned because after the death of Jzsef
Berger the land as Jewish property was claimed to be distributed by the Ministry of
Agriculture (the minutes of the assembly of the Igal parish, 5 September, 1941). Following
agreement with co-patrons, the parish received 20 acres of arable land in compensation for
patrons obligation; however, the deal required approval by the Diocese Authority and the
Ministry.38
The documents of the Igal case prove that agreements regarding patrons obligations were
regarded as a private law contracts between the leaseholders and the parish. In view of the
possibility of similar difficulties in similar cases, Bishop Czapik proposed a mandatory
compensation for patrons obligations in the course of the preparation of Act No. XV of 1942
(the so-termed 4th anti-Jewish law) (letter by Bishop Czapik addressed to Dr Lszl
Radocsay, Minister of Justice dated 3 April 1942):
As far as I know, a draft is being made regarding the termination of Jewish properties.
Please, allow me to call your esteemed attention to a rather important perspective in that
regard. The better part of large holdings obtained by Jews used to be the property of
Hungarian high aristocracy and nobility. Such lands were subject to patrons obligations and
other tangible burdens. Due to their public law nature, patrons and other (for instance,
school) burdens were transferred to the new Jewish land owners In theory, the legal status
will not change as the property is divided into pieces. The patrons obligations and other
tangible burdens of a public law nature will remain encumbered on the old estate without any
provision in the land register with the only difference that the obligations will not be borne by
35

VL AD 1750/1942.
VL AD 5498/1942, 821/1943, 1706/1943, 1870/1943
37
VL AD 645/1942.
38
VL AD 4645/1941, 5603/1941, 5755/1941, 2367/1942, 5511/1942
36

16

one but by many owners. In theory, there is no difficulty. In practice, however, the situation
arising is quite perverse. It has never been easy to enforce the rights of the church or that of
the school vis--vis one person or family. Vis--vis a group of many members, who - on top of
it - are uneducated and prone to incitement, it is almost impossible to enforce the obligations
in practice. Therefore, looking at it from both a church and state perspective, I think it
advisable if the new law stipulated a mandatory compensation for patrons and other tangible
burdens of a public law nature The church or the parish should be given as much land as is
necessary to ensure fulfilment of the previous obligations39
The order of implementation of the law (Decree No. 3600/1943. M. E.) - in accordance with
the Bishops expectations - stipulated the mandatory compensation for patrons obligations if
former Jewish properties were expropriated on the basis of an obligation to transfer. The
Diocese Authority informed the priests about the above ordering them to report immediately
wherever the Royal Treasury has been transferred Jewish property or if Jewish property has
been obligated to be transferred, advising what patrons or other services, obligations or
dues are there on the property based on documents of church visits or on custom They
should calculate how many acres would be required to compensate for patrons obligations
and where such properties should be selected if compensation were to take place in land
knowing the fecundity, position and quality of the property in question.40

Pre-dating of Baptism
The background of the case at Mezkomrom to be described below is related to the
provisions of the 1st and 2nd anti-Jewish laws that considered it important from the
perspective of a person being qualified as a Jew whether the person in question had been
baptised before or after 1 August, 1919. The reference to Parliamentary elections relates to
Article 4 of Act No. IV of 1939 (the 2nd anti-Jewish law), which restricted the suffrage of
Jews.
On 7 October, 1939, the Criminal Unit of the Budapest Captains Office of the Hungarian
Royal Police forwarded the Veszprm Diocese a report dated on 4 July, according to which
they had received a complaint to say that Kroly Schlakker, priest of Mezkomrom
registered pre-dated records of baptism in the month of May of the year. He issued
certificates of baptism on the basis of forged records, which was probably used by the Jews at
the Parliamentary elections circumventing the effective provisions in bad faith. Dr Jnos
Takcs, priest of Kelenfld or Kelenvlgy also took part in the forgery because he has
relatives in the village and he had been visiting in the month indicated. According to the
unknown accuser, the priests accepted significant sums and several similar cases might have
happened. The records cited related to three residents of Budapest: according to the Register,
Bla Schiff, tradesman was baptised in 1900, Dr Kroly Szeg /Schlsinger/, lawyer in 1917
and Dr Hug Preisich in Mezkomrom in 1918. A police report dated 26 July found in the
archive papers of the Address Register that Bla Schiff had been an Israelite in 1911, Szeg
had been a Catholic in 1919 but an Israelite on his previous registration card and Preisich had
been an Israelite in 1918 but a Catholic in 1929.
Bishop Czapik commissioned chaplain Lajos Tth on 10 October to carry out confidential
investigation the results of which were reported by the chaplain in a letter to the Diocese
39
40

VL AD 1592/1942.
Litterae Circulares 1943/50.
17

Authority dated 19 October: Several Jews were baptised in the previous year, most of them
were from Pest and the parish priest of Kelenfld had taken them there on the assumption it
was easier in the countryside to be given permission from the Diocese to baptise adults. The
permits referred to can be found in the archives of the parish; however, he failed to find them
in the cases indicated. Those were the last records in the Register of Baptisms of the year, but
at that time the registers were not closed down at the end of each year. The chaplain could not
say what kind of remuneration the priests received and whether or not Takcs had anything to
do with it because he had not been at Mezkomrom at the time. Bishop Czapik wrote the
parish priest a letter on 27 October instructing him to provide a report of certification within
three days, because the copies of the Register held at the Diocese did not have the records
referred to; accordingly they must have been made subsequently, which seems to constitute
the criminal act of forgery of public documents. In his report of certification parish priest
Schlakker defended himself on 31 October by saying that when he had become a priest
(1889), there had been church registers only and when civil registers were introduced, I had
been convinced church registers served the purposes of the church only and had no civil
importance. He acknowledged he had sometimes been negligent regarding the records in the
register, but he denied the forgery.
On 22 November, the Bishop informed the chaplain he ordered the records to be deleted from
the Register of Baptism because the fact of subsequent recording had been proved. The parish
priest was undergoing medical treatment at the time, and the Bishop said church proceedings
would be carried out against him as soon as he recovered. The Royal Prosecutors Office at
Veszprm informed the Diocese on 14 April 1940 about the termination of the investigation.
According to the document, of those involved, Schiff had died, Szeg resided in Bratislava
and could not be summoned while Preisich had presented his birth certificate issued on 9
January, 1920, according to which he had been a Catholic at the time. Parish priest Schlakker
was undergoing treatment at the Asylum at Liptmez at the time and parish priest Takcs
said he did not know about anything. Earlier, the chairman of the Prosecutors Office carried
out an on-site inspection at the parish and found that the register involved included inaccurate
records in several places which had not been objected to earlier; the colour and drying of the
ink did not show any differences in the cases inspected. Therefore - says the reasoning of the
resolution the suspicion that we are facing irregularities cannot be denied; no criminal
action may be launched, however, the opposite cannot be excluded either, but there is no
evidence of it only suspicions. In the end, the parish priest retired in 1942 due to his old age.41

Warning due to support provided to Jewish merchants


The High Sheriff of Zala County, Count Bla Teleki addressed a letter to Bishop Gyula
Czapik dated 28 August, 1941, according to which his attention had been called - in strict
confidentiality - by the Ministry of the Interior that the nun heading the poorhouse of the
Order of St. Vince in Nagykanizsa purchased from Jewish companies only and the
Franciscans had also supported Jews in several cases. The High Sheriff asked the Bishop to
exert his influence so that religious and social institutions at Nagykanizsa should primarily
support Christian merchants and tradesmen. On 3 September, the Bishop wrote a letter to
Gellrt Gulys Franciscan assistant priest, in which he advised current times require us to
exert particular care at our institutions in that direction, he also instructed him to warn the
above mentioned orally about the incorrect ways of their actions.42
41
42

5590/1939, 6347/1939, 6708/1939, 1890/1940


VL AD 4298/1941.
18

Denunciations because of friendship with Jews


At that time, the scale of denunciations of priests - in addition to the usual accusations - was
extended by mentioning excessive Jewish influence or making friends with Jews. One of the
returning topics of a smear campaign against the parish priest of Kard, Dr Elek Kkosy
going on for many years (in the opinion of the parish priest it was driven by his housekeeper
he had dismissed) that the parish priest had been under the influence of Jzsef Weisz, Jewish
cattle trader. An anonymous denunciation dated 20 October, 1940 included the usual
accusations, but the Bishop asked the parish priest to submit a certification report after it.
Next, Jzsef Horvth, resident of Kard complained about the parish priest on 22 November
advising that he had been such great friends with Jzsef Weisz, Jewish merchant that it could
be said the Jew had had control over the parish. The rest of the letter is a stock of antiSemitic stereotypes, the accuser turned to the Bishop to save Hungarian interests at Kard.
On 5 December, Kkosy submitted a certification report to the Bishop from the Manresa,
where he had been on a religious retreat. He explained that the former housekeeper he had
dismissed was in the background of the denunciations and then he went on to say: Jzsef
Weisz, as a good merchant and an honest poor little Jew had been purchasing cattle for me,
and the reason for that is that he is a specialist of cattle, while Christian peasants are not so
well-acquainted with the purchasing of cattle and they do not undertake the job at any time
either I am a priest and pastor and I cannot deal with such things. He indicated in the letter
that Weisz provided services to other landowners and parish priests in the neighbourhood
including among others to the tenants of the Bishops estate. He added: As far as I know, the
deceased predecessor of your Excellency, Bishop Nndor Rott also had one or another
household Jew; so I could not have thought it was anything compromising, all the more so as
our benevolent peasants would not object to it.
The issue was continued in the following year, and as a result of further denunciations, the
Bishop ordered an investigation by the dean. Closing it he ordered the parish priest on 5
January, 1942 to stop allowing the Jew Jzsef Weisz to play a part at his farm: Due to
prudentia pastoralis, you must understand the situation cannot be maintained in the current
circumstances. Kkosy reported on 10 January that he had dismissed Weisz; however, it did
not mean peace in the case because the dean forwarded another denunciation from the
Diocese Authority. This time it was a complaint by Mrs. Lszl Zbinyovszky, teacher at
Kard who among others had heard from others the following (!): when soldiers were
confessing, the parish priest instructed them to pray for the victory of the British as penitence.
In the meantime, accusations due to Weisz had been renewed as well. An investigation by the
high dean put an end to the issue: the high dean heard some acknowledged residents of the
village and took their statements under oath regarding the behaviour of the parish priest (28
October, 1942). A statement supporting the parish priest included that of Istvn Prknyi,
district chief notary, who defended Kkosy as follows: There can be no mention of making
close friends with Jews to the effect that serious people could have been offended by it. What
is more, I know of an address in the church that had been made against the Jewry. Kkosy
retired in 1945.43
Already the Kard issue had a momentum that might have led to more serious consequences
in the circumstances of the war (the parish priest allegedly asking people to pray for the
victory of the British). It actually occurred in Tapolca in 1941: somebody reported to the
German Embassy that the chaplain of Tapolca delivered anti-German and pro-English
43

VL AD 9550/1940, 10566/1940, 104/1942, 203/1942, 1577/1942, 2086/1942, 1622/1943.


19

addresses and the parish priest did nothing to stop him. On 20 October 1941, the councillor of
the Ministry of Religion and Public Education forwarded two documents to Bishop Czapik:
one was a transcript by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the head of the Ministry of Religion
and Public Education with reference to the accusation made at the German Embassy. The
letter says such activity by clerical people is not permissible from the perspective of foreign
policy and the complaint obviously has serious grounds although certain local disagreements
may overstate its importance. Therefore, he requested the Minister to warn and admonish
those involved via the relevant clerical authority and threaten them with more serious
measures in the event of repetition. The other forwarded document is the finding of an
investigation made by the 8th Sub-Unit of Investigation of the 3rd District of Gendarmes in
Szombathely. We learn from that that vitz [valiant] Gyula Szalay, retired captain,
pharmacist, captain of the vitz in the district of Tapolca reported in writing to his captain in
Zalaegerszeg an anti-German address by chaplain Sndor Nyk given in May 1940 at a
celebration of the Heroes. After that, Dr rpd Erdlyi, station commander at Tapolca, vitz
Dr Pczely, the chief physician and the rector of the public hospital and Istvn Szalay Kiss
turned to the Dean of whom they remarked that he was a friend of Jews, because he had had
good relations with Dr Kroly Fehr, chief notary of allegedly Jewish descent. Although the
parish priest forbade the chaplain to speak at patriotic events, he continued to deliver antiGerman and pro-English addresses at the filia. The detectives collected information about
those, their sources being mainly the choir-master teachers of neighbouring villages. As they
were assessing the information, they remarked that one of those teachers had been under a
disciplinary procedure because he had said the Bishop was a liar and the priests were villains.
It is also mentioned that chaplain Nyk had good relations with the Jewish Jen Lszl
(Lwy), owner of a printer house; the parish regularly purchased printed matter from him and
not from a Christian tradesman; in addition, the other chaplain had also displayed pro-English
behaviour.
Bishop Czapik only sent a formal letter to parish priest Istvn Kiss six months later on 14
March, 1942. He says in the letter the transcripts from the above Ministries oblige him to
warn the priest: according to one of them he had made friends with Dr Fehr, a Jew, and a
friend of the British, whose friends including dean parish priest Kiss... display a pro-English
behaviour. Going on, the Bishop warns his priest: There is no need to say that all Catholic
people are followers of our Mother Church, therefore, the work and care of the pastor is
somewhat expanded. This, however, will not exclude that we must adapt to the spirit of the
times to an acceptable limit, otherwise our work as pastors would be paralysed. Your
Reverend has failed to keep those limits Regarding the future, I have to warn you to be
careful in social contacts and to make efforts to stop this public opinion by proper behaviour.
The Bishop also wrote to chaplain Sndor Nyk (in Csurg) in a similar spirit and he
informed Blint Hman, Minister of the Ministry of Religion and Public Education about the
warning letters. A report of self-justification by the parish priest is dated 19 March; he advises
that the public opinion referred to is not more than the opinion of a few gentlemen and he
also makes reference to the division of ideas among the elite of the small town. The Bishop
wrote on top of the letter in his own hands: I have written a private letter: Stay quiet. We have
avoided a major discomfort in that way. The above remark partly indicates that you cannot
learn all details of the case from the Episcopal Archives, on the other hand, it is quite
interesting whether the warning by the Bishop and its tone reflected the conviction of the
Bishop, or else it had been a way of avoiding major discomfort by trying to close down the
issue with a warning within the church. Anyway, the story was continued because parish
priest Kis later believed he could identify the person having reported him at the German
Embassy. He believed it was no other than the legal counsel of the parish and local manager

20

of the Christian Party, attorney Dr Pl Csnyi. We learn this because the attorney wanted to
sue the parish priest for libel and only refrained from it as a result of the mediation of the
Diocese Authority.44

The case of Zalaszentmihly


Bernt Sterntal landowner at Zalaszentmihly turned to the Veszprm Bishop with his
complaint on February, 1942 due to the inimical behaviour of parish priest Jzsef Varga
regarding him. Sterntal had been a landowner at Zalaszentmihly for 32 years, he had been
converted 24 years earlier, his children had been educated at a cloister and he had had friendly
relations with the previous parish priest. The essence of his complaint was that Varga incited
his servants against him calling them Jewish zulagers and he believed Varga ordered an
article to be written against him in a paper of the Arrow-Cross Party, or else he provided the
information; in addition, he incited against Jews in his preaching. The letter says: I cannot be
blamed for being born a Jew. There had been times, when my deceased father had been
invited to the table of very high nobilities; at that time it had not been a disgrace that we had
been Jews. I cannot be blamed for the opinion of the world having changed and that the laws
dictate something else nowadays.
Bishop Czapik first tried to settle the issue with a fatherly warning. He wrote to the parish
priest on 27 February as follows: I do not want to chide you; I only want to warn you with
love and the benevolence of a father A priest is responsible for leading everybody to Christ
with love. We will not give up any of our principles, we will speak up if the orders of Christ
are violated, but we must not be carried away by popular humour. So we should communicate
in the same spirit with those who are in the centre of animosity today because of their origins.
On 5 March, a report by the Benedictine district dean, Dr Adorjn Kl arrived at the Diocese
according to which the anti-Semitism, rudeness and drunkenness of Varga caused public
scandal and the lay authorities also wanted to take steps against him. He attached a transcript
by the High Sheriff of the Pacsa district to another report dated 25 March: As far as I know, he
had assaulted two people in the street and he had spat into the eye of another one and last
time he encouraged levente youth [young boys in training to be soldiers] to throw stones at
a Jewish youth of the levente age named Reich who suffered minor injuries... He acted
particularly aggressively against the Jewish residents of Zalaszentmihly who actually live in
fear of him. At first the High Sheriff refrained from taking any action but now the parish
priest was reported for slight bodily harm and insult. He makes efforts to collaborate with the
clergy but I cannot tolerate such behaviour because I have to provide order. I also cannot
suffer that somebody should abuse the Jewish residents contrary to the provisions of the law
or that an atmosphere of threat to Jews should be established among the citizens.
In the meantime, Varga had been repositioned and relocated from the village to Hromfa in
Somogy County, where he soon had other affairs (there he had got into conflict with the
High Sheriff because he called him a Romanian Gypsy publicly on several occasions). In the
end, the criminal proceedings against him were closed down by the district court at
Zalaegerszeg on 20 March, because the Jewish resident attacked, named Berger, did not wish
priest Varga to be punished in the end.45

44
45

VL AD 1285/1942, 1417/1942, 1485/1942, 5608/1943.


VL AD 648/1942, 1100/1942, 1587/1942, 2206/1942, 4407/1942, 4631/1942, 673/1943, 849/1943.
21

Letters requesting the intervention of the Bishop


The prebend-priest at Kaposvr, Dr Gyrgy Jen Kis turned to Bishop Czapik on 28
November, 1941 because converted and half-blood students had been taken to the events of
the Jewish levente, which had been complained about by the parents. The priest turned to
the local commander with the request that a separate group should be organised for such boys
but the commander did not dare to decide on his own. In his response (1 December) the
Bishop says although he understands the request, but no national measures can be urged to
eliminate such problems in the current circumstances, therefore, a decent solution should be
found together with local factors: That is why it is so important that the clergy, particularly
the leaders, should have a live relationship with the players of the civil and military life in all
ranks and orders, because we may not turn to them lacking personal relations. Priest Kis
soon reported (12 December) that he tried to take some steps, among others, he had turned
informally to the army corps command at Pcs but the relevant officers just postponed the
case because they were waiting for a decision in principle by the Ministry of Defence. 46 The
relatives of Christians ordered to do labour service complained their relatives had been
assigned to companies consisting of Israelites; others requested the Bishop to intervene to get
them demobilized.47
Finally, a strange request was received by Bishop Gyula Czapik in October 1942: Salamon
Wider the rabbi of Ppa asked him for a recommendation so that his son Arnold Wider should
be accepted among the rabbis recognised by the state. The Bishop fulfilled the request after
Jzsef Cavallier the manager of the Saint Cross Federation protecting converted Jews
encouraged him to do so in a friendly letter: How it is strange and moving that in our times
Israel turns to the successor of the Apostles as a final asylum in the light of Christ.48

46

VL AD 5725/1941.
VL AD 5730/1941, 3946/1942.
48
VL AD 4767/1942.
47

22

Case study 2
The attitude of the Christian churches of buda (Old Buda) to the Jewish community in
the period between the two World Wars
By Attila Jakab

can you say we do not hate Jews?


But we do!
And especially Protestant, i.e. Hungarian youth must do so
if they want to get along in this country.49

The study The relationship of Catholics and Jews in buda from 1938 to 194450 summing
up the findings of a research carried out in 2012-2013 has revealed that the persecution of
Jews in Hungary took place with the active collaboration of the authorities and with largescale passivity of the Christian population. The main reason for it is to be found in almost two
decades of mental tuning of which - unfortunately - the ecclesiastical press also played a part.
Continuing our earlier research, this study makes an effort to reveal the practical
appearances, mechanisms and tragic consequences of that mental tuning. The process
can be grasped easily although the available (mainly archive) sources are limited51; or difficult
to access. Nevertheless, the ecclesiastical publications reviewed and interpreted in a
contemporary wider historical and social context, which has mostly been avoided by historical
research, allow comparisons and accentuate the similarities and idiosyncrasies of behaviour
and mentality.
This can be basically explained by two factors.
1) The press publications reflect the mentality and spiritual attitude of the leaders of a given
parish. In an environment divided by classes and positions, which was authoritarian and
feudal in its nature characterising the whole Horthy era including local micro-societies, those

49

Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol VIII, Issue 10, December 1936, p. 7.
In: Jakab Attila Trzsk Erika (ed.), A trtnelmi egyhzak s a zsid kzssg viszonya Csehszlovkiban
s Magyarorszgon 1920-tl a Holokausztig, CEC, Budapest, 2013, 41-60. old.
(http://fr.scribd.com/doc/178638080/Kutatasi-eredmenyek-2012-2013). In English: Catholics and Jews in
buda (Old Buda) in 19381944, in: Attila Jakab Erika Trzsk (eds.), The relationship between the
historical churches and the Jewish community in Czechoslovakia and Hungary from 1920 until the Holocaust,
CEC, Budapest, 2013, pp. 46-68. (http://fr.scribd.com/doc/179168505/Jelentes-Berlinbe-2012-2013-veglegesangol-pdf; 2014. jl. 8).
51
With regard to the Christian chorches, in fact, not even the sources have been defined or identified yet.
Processing the minutes of the meetings and assemblies of priests and ministers of dioceses as well as those of the
council meetings of parishes would be important. On the other hand, a comprehensive study of the documents in
state archives has not been done. Not to mention that local histories - if they exist at all - usually avoid the issue
of churches or denominations; studies on the history of local churches are lacking or the existing ones can hardly
be used for historical research. See e.g.,: 250 ves az budai Szent Pter s Pl Fplbniatemplom [250 years
of the buda Saint Peter and Paul Church], Szent Pter s Pl Alaptvny, Budapest, 1999.
50

23

papers were to some extent guidelines and providing directions anyway for the local elite. 52
Those people were decisive in a social context. So it can be said we have here a kind of social
example to be followed.
2) On the other hand, it should be noted that the papers were a kind of link to a given parish
(they published notices of public interest and reports on different events). Not to mention that
they were or should have been the media to promote the religious and moral education of
Christians.53 In that way, the writings published in the papers clearly present the Christian
world of the Horthy era; what was meant by Christianity by the contemporary churches and
the ecclesiastical and lay people controlling and defining the national-Christian public life. In
other words, their Christian image and their attitude to it.

The micro world of buda


The micro world of the buda society including Christian denominations is reflected well in
the papers of the local parishes (such as the Catholic Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish
Bulletin]54 or the Egyhzi let [Church life]55) of the Reformed Church. It was all the more
52

For personnel overlaps of ecclesiastical and social positions, see e.g., Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish
Bulletin], Vol III, Issue 11, September 1927, which celebrates 70-year old Jzsef Sagmller, parish priest. Further
examples include the local Credo association (see Hiszek a Jzus Krisztusban!... [I believe in Jesus Christ]
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin], Vol VI, Issue 28, July 1930, pp. 8-9), or the whole assembly of the
parish (Vol VI, Issue 29, September 1930, pp. 7-8). See also description of the 1926 Corpus Christi procession
(Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin], Vol II, Issue 4, July 1926, p. 8): The eucharist was carried by parish
priest Jzsef Sagmller and then representing the patron Ferenc Borvendg, metropolitan counsellor, Frigyes
Mettelka, parish president, Mikls Szente, district official; and then the representatives of the police, the river
guard, other institutions and authorities, then the parish council with Ede Cristofoli, vice president, dr. Jnos
Botzenhardt, prosecutor, Istvn Stercz, secretary, Jzsef Kronstein, notary, Istvn Fritz, teller, Klmn Weichardt,
auditor, and Gyrgy Gittinger, caretaker, followed by the members of the assembly. While simple believers
looked on and adored! Similarly in Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin], Vol IX, Issue 47, July 1933, p. 5.
See also the retreat of local officials in the Zugliget Jesuit Manresa: Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin],
Vol IX, Issue 48, September 1933, p. 7. Nevertheless, similar overlaps can be seen among the members of the
Lutheran presbytery (e.g., in 1928). See Blintn Varsnyi Vilma, Ksziklra volt alapozva [Founded on a rock],
Budapest, 2009, p. 61.
53
We can read in the first issue of Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] (Vol I, Issue 1, December 1925, p.
2.): This booklet intends to be a trumpet through which the leaders of our parish will speak to us several times
every year to inform the army of Catholic believers in buda and to report in writing about everything
happening in the life of our parish. () It wants to be a live and permanent link between leaders and members, it
will have something to say to those who attend church service but also to those who are less studious in
attendance due to any reason. () It will teach and educate your family, your children; it will teach them briefly,
simply, clearly and purposefully about the basic truths of our faith so that severe neutrality to religion, the
neglect of the church and of God which may rule your family, your adult children will soon lose its foundations:
the horrible and unbelievable illiteracy of our people in anything religious. () Secondly, it wants to be the
missionary and announcer of the faith to the Catholics of our parish. It will lead us into the secrets of our
religion, our sacred faith and will present to us the duty and dignity of our liturgy, our holy service repeated
every year so that we can also adore and live the ecclesiastical year. And third, it wants to be the comfort of all
Catholic believers of the district. Particularly to the families and members of families that are unable to be
present at the holy mass every Sunday and holidays.
54
Expanding the group of readers and collecting the church tax represented a permanent problem. Quite many
formally registered Catholics failed to subscribe or to buy the paper; they did not pay the church tax either or
only paid late (see e.g., Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol VIII, Issue 40, July 1932, p. 12.). In
general, an image of the Catholic middle class of buda can be seen in the paper. They represented the majority
of the readers. They were social and church elite at the same time.
55
Similarly to the Catholics, collecting the church tax or gathering subscribers to the paper represented
continuous difficulty for the followers of the Reformed Church as well. According to an article by minister
Aladr Kontra Introduction, the letters of this paper are to spread to you the official news of our parish; they
24

important because not only classes and nationalities but denominations and confessions
played a decisive part in the structure of the society56 . It was part of the statistical
classification and records of the population. Accordingly, in 1925, in buda there were
30,391 Catholics, 4,371 Protestants,57 1,880 Lutherans58 and 5,621 Jews. The Jews were then
the second largest confession.59
As for the Jewish community in buda, it was mainly Orthodox. Therefore, separation also
resulting in a kind of distribution of labour was also stronger60 . Most members of the faith
were tradesmen and craftsmen but there were among them entrepreneurs, factory owners and
professionals as well. As we can learn from Sndor Mrai, the Christian community did not so
much regard the Orthodox Jewry, but mainly the assimilated Jews adjusting to the Christian
society as its competitors.61 This antagonism to and fear and reservation of competition was
the origin of anti-Semitic feelings.
In the context of buda, which was part of District 3, one of the poorest districts of the capital
between the two World Wars,62 we can have an impression of what feelings the separation
inform you of events occurring; they provide the worlds with wings to fly, which cannot reach everybody from
the pulpit and as spring wings the pollen - they spread the words of God to fecundate and bring life. The
objective of the paper was identified in it wants to gather and connect all of us who are followers of the same
faith. It wants to increase the feeling of togetherness among those whose fathers had suffered so much for their
faith in centuries begone. By speaking about the obligations of brethrens, it wants to encourage us to help and
support each other and to place in the focus of the love of all of us our joint treasure: our church. Those letters
will teach us to respect our faith, so that we should not allow the faith to be hurt, but they also teach us to respect
the faith of others so that we do not hurt them. () God wants life here on Earth and this paper also wants to
announce and teach to have on this Earth Hungarian life joined in faith, fraternity, prayer and love; life according
to Christ. Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol I, Issue 1, March 1930, p. 1. See also Vol V, Issue 7, September 1933,
p. 5.
56
E.g., in buda in 1850, 53% of the population was German, 13% Hungarian, 2% Slovak, 32% of different
nationalities. Blintn Varsnyi Vilma, Ksziklra volt alapozva [Founded on rock] Budapest, 2009, p. 11.
57
Those Protestants were mostly of low income. The number of women Protestants who lived in mixed
marriages was significant (910 in 1936). See Beszl szmok [Telling figures], Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol
VIII, Issue 3, March 1936, pp. 4-5.
58
Lutherans could only establish their congregation in buda following the Patent of Tolerance of 1781. They
were mostly tradesmen, workers or small clerks. They maintained a school and a library. They became an
independent parish only at the beginning of the 20th century (in 1909). They built their church in 1935. Their
mass was held in German and Hungarian. Believers belonged to different leagues and associations. According to
the available sources, they were not engaged in public life. The Jewish community did not appear in their
publications (e.g., Hsvti levl [Eastern letter] 1933-1934; Pnksdi levl [Pentecost letter] 1939)!
59
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol I, Issue 1, December 1925, p. 10.
60
Everybody lived in their own separate environment, but they did have an opinion of the others without having
real knowledge about them. Most people had types in mind and in many cases bad things had become general
while good things were only exceptions. Gttlieb/Gulys Mikls, Hommage Kiss Mihly, in: budai
mltidz [Recalling the past of buda], Budapest, . n. [2011], pp. 51-53. old.; itt p. 51.
61
We all who lived in the house found the Galician relatives of the Jnap family wearing caftans and flying
locks of hair nicer than the totally civilised owner of the glass factory and his family. We watched the high style
bourgeois life of the Weinrb family with particular jealousy; we were afraid of them we did not know why. In
limited social contacts, the man was polite and neutral to Christians, while he was condescending and haughty
with the poor Jews of the ground floor. Sndor Mrai:, Memoirs of a citizen., Budapest., Eurpa Kiad, 2000,
p. 16.
62
Child poverty and destitution in general was high. See Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol V, Issue
21, May 1929; Vol VIII, Issue 41, October 1932, p. 11. The Catholic parish, for instance, tried to mollify the
workers by organising retreats together with providing meals. See e.g., Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin]
Vol IV, Issue 15, April 1928, pp. 17 and 19; Vol V, Issue 20, March 1929, p. 10. The Szent Zita group served
similar purposes. From this place, housewives are requested to send their employees to this association
educating the soul and protecting the body the benefits of which will not only be felt by the servant but the
housewife as well. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin], Vol IX, Issue 43, January 1933, p. 13. Holidays
25

had triggered. A correspondent named Figyel [Monitor]63 wrote in his column With open
eyes in Egyhzi let [Church Life] of the Reformed Church: I am walking in the streets.
There is a holiday atmosphere, almost all shops are closed. You can hardly buy anything. I
remember I have seen such notices for days: Closed on Saturday for the holidays. So that is
why this silence and suspension of trading. But there is some ingenuity so that profit should
not be lost! I can see Christian employees in front of the gate among the goods spread there in
the continuation of the shop to go on with business for the boss. And I can see them marching
to the Synagogue in groups, in holiday clothes, both the young and the old; typical faces
everywhere. You cannot see one Jew at work because it is their holiday, it is the day of
Jehovah and it is sacred. You, my Christian brother, also have your holiday, your Sunday. But
in your case, respect to God is lower. When is it you do not go to work on your holiday to
serve those who are celebrating here and now? And if they have a holiday, you have to be
without work. But you work on your holidays because they are at work there. Tell me, my
Hungarian brother, cannot you feel the yoke taken voluntarily and out of mistaken generosity?
Not only your corn, your well-being, your money, your bread, but also your life and religious
thinking are at his mercy. He will say how much you can sell your corn for, how much you
have to pay for bread, how much he will pay for your work, when, where and for how much
you can buy milk for your children. How much he will pay you to descend to the mines to
bring up the coal from there. When you can go to church and how you should think. When
will Hungarians awake and join their brothers to fight in joint forces against not only the
servitude of the body but of the soul as well?!64

were also regularly arranged, which mainly meant one-day visits to Budapest (e.g., City Park, circus, Zoo Park,
Svbhegy, Hvsvlgy) for the dearest promise of the future, poor Hungarian children. See Egyhzkzsgi
Tudst [Parish Bulletin], Vol IX, Issue 48, September 1933, p. 8.
63
The author in all probability was minister Aladr Kontra. See Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol VI, Issue 1,
January 1934. Column With open eyes were he wrote, as in other years, again, this time at the end of the year I
visited the state registry of births and marriages to make comparisons with the registers of the past year. (p. 2.)
64
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol IV, Issue 8, November 1932, p. 2.
26

The buda Synagogue in the 1920s65


On the other hand, it is clear there were some who were clearly aware of the major problems
of the contemporary society and were striving to reveal its causes - and did not necessarily
find them in the Jews! According to Lajos Ills, the society today is not used to being frank
and so it cannot bear criticism, it will take it as personal injury. Although it would be better if
people could look inside and get rid of the dirt learnt from self-criticism, because the lack of
honesty is the reason why features not worthy to us are becoming typical. Hungarian society
is characterised by the fact that every stratum and every person (with little exception) want to
be seen to be more than it really is. This wish has generated a degree of snobbery and longing
for ranks and title you can hardly find anywhere else. Our ingenuity is amazing when we have
to establish ranks and titles, but where is the same ingenuity when we need to work to build
our church and our nation? If you put together a ladder of ecclesiastical and lay ranks and
titles, you would see how much the new Tower of Babel is ready. Everybody wants to harvest
more than he has sown; they boast of their actions to harvest acknowledgement and applause.
() Clothing, behaviour, manners all illustrate we want to seem to be more than others and
more than in reality. () The glamour of the wealthy is spread to people of low income and
even if they can hardly make ends meet, they will try to keep pace with fashion even if they
are starving. I know many families living in modest circumstances where you can find
unbelievable luxury. () The inequalities of the distribution of income have interesting
impacts. I know people who have hoarded riches but they are jealous if the life of another one
is improving. How much arrogance in their words, the arrogance of material well-being. I
often see them in the church but they do not want to know fraternity. Their donations are
65

Source:
www.ilyenisvoltbudapest.hu/cache/com_zoo/images/15_obudai_zsinagoga_1920asevek_38658eea8853aef7f5df
d0204154f425.jpg (8 July 2014).
27

occasions to stand out, to show off. Their faith and religious belief are only as much as its
comfortable. Their morality is numb. Fraud, forgery, embezzlement are frequent, almost
everyday facts. There are even people who repaid many good acts in that way. The soul has
been corrupt, a liar. People lie to each other without blinking an eye about well-being, light,
love, friendship or everything. A new generation is growing up following such examples. Do
they have to be like that? This is what they see in front of them, people filling important
positions are his examples. Egotism and individual interests are in the front line. Nepotism
and strings drawn decide about jobs and positions. Where is pure soul and pure life? What
kind of stewards are we of the heritage of Christ and the gift of God?66
Indolence and oriental apathy seem to be in the character of Hungarians. They peacefully lie
back in a soft bed doing nothing when it would be time for action. () But there is one thing
we excel in: criticising and quarrelling. We do not see what we have done but we watch what
others do, how they work. We attack the priest for his sermon, the cantor for his song, the
member of the community working in silence because he calls us to work in all good
intention, we are angry if another knows more than what we do, etc. () Titles only are
sought. Work is a burden. Setting an example - not at all.67
All the above is important because reminiscences are quite contradictory. It looks as if there
was a silent effort to prettify the past that had disappeared and could not be brought back. 68
While the reminiscences and descriptions made efforts to emphasise harmony and
coexistence,69 the idea of racism was clearly present in the publications of the buda Catholic
and especially of the Reformed Church,70 including anti-Semitism hand in hand with it. The
fact that there was a notice on the shop window of the confectionary Phm in 1939-1940
saying Dogs and Jews will not be served!71 had its preludes. All the more so because the
Phm confectionary regularly advertised in the budai Catholic Egyhzkzsgi Tudst
[Parish Bulletin]; supporting it in that way!72
The image of the Jew in the eyes of buda Catholics and Protestants
In the advertisements published in the second volume of Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish
Ills Lajos, A hazug trsadalom [The mendacious society], Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol V, Issue 6,
June 1933, p. 3.
67
Ills Lajos, Uj let kszbn [On the threshold of a new life]Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol VI, Issue 2,
February 1934, p. 3.
68
For instance, according to Gombos Endrn: buda was a really lucky environment, because there was no
kind of anti-Semitism there. There was nothing like that in the house where we lived. We were the only Jews
there and my friends, the other children had a Christmas tree at Christmas. It is a memory for all my life and it
was really bad for me that I did not have it. And when I asked my parents why, they said it was because we were
Jews. See www.centropa.org/hu/print/biography/gombos-endrene (8 July 2014). Reisz Lszl remembers in a
similar way: Before the war, Jews and Christians lived in peace Nobody said in the street those dirty Jews,
people of different confessions went to see the matches of the district football team together. See Gombocz
Eszter (edited), Megksett iskolai tallkoz. Az budai Izraelita Elemei Iskola trtnete 1920-tl 1944-ig
[Delayed school reunion. The history of the buda Israelite Primary School], DVD-ROM, HDKE, Budapest,
2008; CD-ROM, Budapest, 2011.
69
See e.g., http://oroszlanosudvar.hu/2013/05/01/krudytol-a-pokol-eveiig (8 July 2014).
70
It is reflected, for instance, in an advertisement by the buda Photo Shop Havel: Christian brothers should
have their photos taken by Christian photographers only. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin], Vol X,
Issue 53, June 1934, p. 12.
71
http://nepszava.hu/cikk/563270-kutyat-es-zsidot-nem-szolgalunk-ki?print=1.
72
E.g., Vol V, Issue 23, September 1929, p. 10.; Vol VI, Issue 25, January 1930, p. 12.; Vol VI, Issue 28, July
1930, p. 14.; Vol VII, Issue 36, November 1931, p. 2.; Vol VIII, Issue 39, May 1932, p. 13.; Vol VIII, Issue 41,
October 1932, p. 16.; Vol IX, Issue 45, April 1933, p. 16.; Vol X, Issue 53, June 1934, p. 12.; Vol XI, Issue 56,
January 1935, p. 12.
66

28

Bulletin] in 1926, you can find no kind of religious or denominational references or


indications (e.g., Christian). On the other hand, in his paper Black toy soldiers R. S.
criticises the anti-Catholic press and book publishers without naming them: This black army
devastated the country of the Virgin Mary, he wrote, that beautiful Hungary of the past, and
those many black soldiers crucify Christ today because a large number of anti-Catholic books
and papers contain hidden incitement in every line of theirs against the sacred ideals of our
religion. They bring about indecent fashions, they excite the senses by immoral novels and
sensational news, they destroy respect and they put invisible chains on human souls so that
they cannot find the eternal source of Road, Verity and Life. 73 The initiated, however, who
understood coded speech74 , knew that it was basically about the liberal, Freemason,75 and
social democratic media obviously backed by the Jews.76 The Protestant Ills Lajos supported
the same interpretation when he described Egyenlsg [Equality]77 as the combative weekly
of the Jewish race in Hungary.78
A few months later, M. F., in his article Joining forces clarified what kind of press he had in
mind. The author complained because the high ideal born after the Council Republic
according to which Christ and his great truth is to be placed in the focus of the whole life
including politics, society, institutions, offices, leagues and individuals seemed to be failing.
73

Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 1-2, May 1926, p. 9.
Contrary to followers of the Reformed Church who were much more open, Catholics preferred coded speech
and enigmatic references. In connection with Russia and Bolshevism, the believers could read the following: we
in Hungary know what the race of Bolshevik leaders is. It is a clear reference to the leaders of the Council
Republic of Jewish descent, which was a publicly known fact and discussed in public. And there was the
economic dimension: the primary goal of Bolshevik leaders is to get hold of Russian properties and to skim the
incomes of the workers earned with sweat. See Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 6,
November 1926, p. 13. They wrote about trade unions in a similar spirit, that they are controlled by red trade
union leaders of an alien race wanting to generate Jewishness. Such were the shop stewards, short-sighted
flatfoot dandies with crooked noses and earlocks that is Rothenstein, Bchler and other Mric with red
carnations, who drink champagne and drive fancy cars on the sweaty wages of the workers, on party taxes
taken by force. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 7, December 1926, p. 28. In 1930, Dr.
Mszros Jnos papal prelate and episcopal representative termed the leaders of the Council Republic an army
of rats that wanted to plant godlessness into our souls. G. G. Ten years of the parish. Prelates mass in the
parish church. Celebratory meeting in the Cultural House, Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin], Vol VI,
Issue 25, January 1930, p. 8.
75
On the relationship of Freemasonry and the Jews see Egy pr sz a szabadkmvesekrl (A few words on
Freemasons), Egyhzi let [Church Life], Vol VI, Issue 8, October 1934, pp. 4-5.; Ills Lajos, sszetarts
[Solidarity], id.e, Vol VIII, Issue 6, June 1936, pp. 1-2. The author used the terminology Freemason Jewish
Liberalism. According to the Catholic view point, Liberalism means latitude and together with it, lack of
religion and immorality; while Democratism appropriated by a race wants to appropriate truth as well
announced from the market places. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin], Vol VII, Issue 35, September
1931, p. 6. Obviously, the author identified democracy with the Jewry!
76
According to the Catholic parish paper, The known enemies of Christianity are the following: Freemasons,
red-social democrats, seculars and Jews. Catholic believers do not vote on such candidates. Because they do not
support candidates whose patriotic, unselfish feelings and whose being a true Hungarian can be doubted.
Despite the above, in buda the party of Social Democrats against God and the homeland was strong. In 1926,
the Christian party received 4,902 votes and the Social Democrats 4,270 votes. Tanulsgok [Lessons],
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 7, December 1926, pp. 24-25. Maybe that is why Wolff
Kroly (1936), an important personality of the Christian Community Party said that buda was the district of
temptations () that needs to be won over again and again, Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol V,
Issue 22, July 1929, p. 13. See also Vol VII, Issue 32, March 1931, p. 11. With regard to the politician, see Dr.
Mszros Jnos, Wolff Kroly kldetse s hagyatka [The mission and inheritance of Wolff Kroly],
Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja 1936/3, pp. 5-7.
77
See http://mek.oszk.hu/04000/04093/html/szocikk/11141.htm (8 July 2014). The weekly was published from
1882 to 1938.
78
Ills Lajos, jra tmadjk Krisztust [Christ attacked again], Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol VI, Issue 1,
January 1934, pp. 3-4.
74

29

In his opinion, what started when Mikls Horthy took power was in fact a renewal launched
in Christ and not a Christian course. However, ... everything indicates that the lies and
slanders of Freemasonry and Social Democracy will overcome that renewal. He wrote, in
buda, where Christianity is a 90% majority, the small minority that already corrupted
Christians in 1918-19 and is now bearing its fangs in Mexico is winning over us. 79 M. F.
thought its main reason was that most people only spoke about Christ but Christ was not in
their souls! Christianity was an outward polish on them without the renewal of the soul.
Taking selfish advantage of circumstances, opportunism, adoration of the golden calf and
atheism have become too strong and they destroyed brave and sincere life and pure hearts.
The new walls of the Hungarian nation were destroyed by the Jericho noise of the Jewish
press,80 many noble and beautiful things disappeared and many things were lost and forgotten
quickly but one everlasting eternal value remained, one reality that perfectly corresponds to
our hopes: the Roman Catholic parishes and the strongest among them the buda Roman
Catholic parish.81 In it, leaders and followers work joining forces for Gods country, where
masters and poor are brothers and God is the only Lord.82
In some passages of the column Church chronicles the Catholic readers of buda were fed
to a generalised and homogenised concept of the Jew, who persecuted Christ and the first
disciples, the Apostles. Naturally, those statements have nothing to do with history and
unambiguously reflect the knowledge of Middle Ages hagiography (the life of the saints) in
the first quarter of the 20th century. They were, in fact, important, because they were clear
reflections of the practice according to which Jews were only mentioned in an abstract
way as types; they almost never appeared in concrete, personal/personalised forms. They
mostly carried the characteristic features of a race. In that way, one can assume the followers
reading the ecclesiastical publications in buda, in fact, projected a construed image of Jews
to actual concrete buda Jews, with whom they lived together or at least next to each other
The buda Catholics could read the following about the events in Mexico: the whole educated and civilised
Europe are looking on the rudeness and inhumanity used in Mexico to persecute our Church from a velvet
armchair. On the other hand, if the Jews were persecuted, the liberal media would write about Mexico in a
different way; while now we are only given reports of stock exchanges and commodity exchanges from there.
Maybe then the same media would find it worthwhile to fight for culture as well. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst
[Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 7, December 1926, p. 17. It is natural that the Jewish, Freemason, liberal and antiCatholic papers of the whole world either take the side of or are silent about the terrible acts that had had no
precedent in the civilised world before. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol III, Issue 9, April 1927, p.
4. It is not in the interest of Liberalism to come to the assistance of a Catholic country bleeding. Our pain and
our bitter inertia was not painful for the world press when the bayonetted mob of Kun Bla wallowed in our
blood. And since we raised again the cross to the top of our country we have not been their favourites. But they
should learn from that lesson. The people, the faith and the ideology that has no voice, that allows its media to be
overtaken by Atheistic, Freemason or Jewish enemies will be lost. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin],
Vol IV, Issue 14, March 1928, p. 9. The events in Mexico mean the civil war at the time of the presidency of
Plutarco Elas Calles (19241928), when Catholic peasants revolted against the government forcefully spreading
laicity and secularisation (Cristiada or Christeros war from 1927 to 1929).
80
The concept of Jewish press is interesting because some years later the Protestant Ills Lajos, in his article,
The grave diggers of the nation practically identified the Catholic papers Hearth and Hungarian Culture with
the Jewish press because he objected to articles against the Reformed Church in them. Egyhzi let [Church
Life] Vol V, Issue 2, February 1933 p. 4.
81
According to parish priest Sagmller Jzsef: buda was the most Catholic district of the capital. E. Sudi
Ott, Catholic day in buda. A great festival of religion. The triumph of eucharistia, Egyhzkzsgi Tudst
[Parish Bulletin], Vol IV, Issue 16, July 1928, p. 9.
82
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 5, September 1926, p. 4. In 1935, Dr. Kray Istvn baron
complained in his article Catholic media apostles that in Hungary there are many among the leaders of parishes
and members of different religious associations who subscribe to neutral or straight anti-Catholic dailies. There
were many among them who earned their living in the Catholic Church (Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek
Tudstja [Budapest Roman Catholic Parish Bulleting] 1935/4., pp. 9-10).
79

30

every day!
1 May. Philip (81) and James (62) Apostle James was a relative to the Virgin Mother
and became the bishop of Jerusalem. His life was very strict. He did not eat meat all through
the year only the Easter Lamb. The Jews threw him off the roof of the Temple.83
22 July. Penitent Magdalene. 66. She was from an aristocratic family and she was rich, but
she lived immorally. She converted and improved herself. After the death of Jesus on the
cross, she fled to France to escape from the persecution of the Jews, where she lived in a cave
near Marseille in strict self-renunciation for 30 years.84
25 July. Apostle Saint James. (44). His mother was relative to the Virgin Mary and brother
to Evangelist Saint John. Called by the Lord, he left his trade as a fisherman and followed
Jesus. After the death of Jesus, he proclaimed the Gospel in Spain. He returned to Jerusalem,
the Jews condemned him to death and he was beheaded.85
21 September. Matthew. (67). The Lord Jesus called him from the desk of a tax collector to
do the work of an Apostle. () after the ascension of Jesus he worked for the conversion of
the Jews. He wrote his Gospel mainly for the Jews, proving that Jesus was the promised
Messiah!86
In the above brief passages the circle of Jesus already deemed Christian and the Jews
are clearly separated. Not even the idea appears for one minute that both Jesus and his
first followers listed there were all Jews without exception! Just the contrary. A person
that dared deem Jesus a Jew,87 had to face immediate indignation. But that was worded by the
followers of the Reformed Church!
Jews cry all over the whole world about their imagined sufferings to raise compassion for
themselves and to strengthen the solidarity of the race. They wonder why everybody hates
them and at the same time trigger the animosity of Christians and Hungarians because they
attack what is the most sacred for us. They attack our faith; they damage and hurt our
religious feelings. () the author mentions the Son of God, Jesus as a common Jewish
child. Here, the Jewish spirit does not spare the holiest of Christianity, the Saviour. With their
profane, unholy hands, they want to use Christ for their lowly political purposes: to hit the
great German statesman, Hitler.88
An article from 1930 reflects very well how the Jewry represented a kind of clear point of
reference in certain parts of the Hungarian society between the two World Wars. While the
author was writing about educating children to Christianity, he contrasted the examples of
Christian and Jewish parents. You will often hear from Jewish parents speaking to their
children in such a way: you are clever, you are beautiful, and you are good! And what can we
see: Jewish children become self-conceited and self-esteem overdevelops in them. On the
83

Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol III, Issue 9, April 1927, p. 7.


Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 4, July 1926, p. 6.
85
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 4, July 1926, p. 6.; Vol VI, Issue 28, July 1930, p. 6.;
Vol VIII, Issue 40, July 1932, p. 4.
86
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol II, Issue 5, September 1926, p. 5.; Vol VII, Issue 35, September
1931, p. 5.
87
E.g., Szabolcsi, Mindenfle [Every kind of things], Egyenlsg [Equality] 11 November 1933.
88
Ills Lajos, jra tmadjk Krisztust [Christ attacked again], Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol VI, Issue 1,
January 1934, p. 3.
84

31

other hand, Christian parents often chide their children using such terms: you idiot, you
useless, you ass, you will come to nothing! As a result, Christian children will be timid, not
trusting themselves and self-esteem is killed in them. I will not say Jewish parents act
correctly, the author wrote, the truth is in the middle. You should give your children small
tasks to do and if they do it well, you should praise them and point out what they can achieve
if they are properly diligent and careful. That is how we can educate them to proper selfesteem.89

Racially pure Hungarian Protestantism


We can find excellent proofs of the fact how much specific persons influenced and defined
anti-Semitic public thinking and the image of Jews in Hungary in the period between the
two World Wars in the micro-world of buda. In the context of the Reformed Church, we
witness a radical shift of attitude. Teacher Vass rpd, who resigned due to his
deteriorating health, was replaced as editor-in-chief by the young presbyter Dek Endre in
autumn 1932.90 With him a completely new style appeared in the paper.91 Earlier, spiritual
issues, disseminating knowledge, social issues, literature and the news of church life were
predominant. The paper lacked either Jewish references,92 or indications to conflicts between
the denominations. As Dek Endre appeared, the paper immediately (repeatedly) published an
article to be considered the direction of the future, actually a part of the editorial of
A Credotag a csaldban, trsadalomban, a kzletben. [Credo members in the family, in society and in public
life.] Elmondotta az budai Credo nov. 11-i gylsn Szrnyi Rezs, iskolaigazgat, a Credo vilgi elnke.[an
address at the 11 November meeting of the buda Credo by headmaster Szrnyi Rezs, the lay chairman of
Credo], Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol VI, Issue 31, September 1930, p. 13.
90
Minister Kontra Aladr, Az uj Egyhzi let [The new Church Life], Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol IV,
Issue 7, October 1932, pp. 1-2.
91
Beginning from 1933, the paper regularly and always in agreement reported on some government measures in
Germany. See Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol V, Issue 4, April 1933, p. 8. (Banning jazz music in German
radios); Vol VI, Issue 6, June 1934, p. 8. (Refugee German Jewish professors founded a university in New York);
Vol VII, Issue 10, December 1935, p. 7. (Baptism of Communists and Socialists) Vol VIII, Issue 3, March 1936,
pp. 7-8. Nuremberg laws: We can envy the German people that can pass such laws. They would be most
welcome with us as well. Actually they would be more welcome here than there because Jews only make up
0.9% of the population there, while it is 6.1% with us! What is more, it goes up to 23% in Budapest!); Vol VIII,
Issue 4, April 1936, p. 7. (As opposed to Germany, in Hungary even a non-converted Jew is honest if he is
willing to eat bacon! And what about those who convert, they are actually excellent people. They can become
ministers, curators or presbyters of the church! And naturally they can become statesmen!); Vol VIII, Issue 9,
November 1936, p. 7.; Vol X, Issue 8, October 1938, p. 8.
92
They became regular. See Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol V, Issue 5, May 1933, p. 9. (A Catholic monk was
hit on the face by a Jewish agent on the Vc railway.); Vol V, Issue 6, June 1933, p. 2. (When do the Jews go
out on the long day [at Yom Kippur], on the Sabbath or Sukkot?); id.e. p. 8. (Electing a beauty queen is an
enterprise that is searching for newer and newer sources of making money using the excellent sense of smell of
large crooked noses lacking honesty or moral judgement.); Vol V, Issue 10, December 1933, p. 7. (What a pity
that according to a court sentence the Jewry is not a race but simply a denomination in this country!); Vol VII,
Issue 2, February 1935, p. 8. (Jewish rule in Hungary in finances and the business life; they are overrepresented
in crime: slander, blackmail, embezzlement, fraud and usury); Vol VII, Issue 3, March 1935, p. 8. (Jewish rule
in the chamber of attorneys); Vol VII, Issue 5, May 1935, p. 8. (80% of the population of Finland are Lutherans.
There are only 1,700 Jews in the whole happy country); Vol VII, Issue 9, November 1935, p. 4. (Most of the
times, Jews regard not only the work force but also the body of Hungary women and girls serving them in some
form to be free spoil. The number of illegitimate births among the Jews is allegedly low. But the figures are false
because new-borns are listed with the religion of their mothers, although at least 60-70% of illegitimate children
born in the capital have Jewish fathers. () it is horrifying how much our race is corrupted.); Vol VIII, Issue
1, January 1936, pp. 3-4. (Telling figures; the Jewry taking control in society and the economy); Vol VIII, Issue
2, February 1936, pp. 3-4. (Telling figures; Jews almost conquer the fields of education); Vol VIII, Issue 10,
December 1936, p. 7. (The conquest of the Jews of Galicia in Hungary).
89

32

Pesterzsbeti Reformtus Egyhzi rtest [Pesterzsbet Reformed Church Bulletin] in June


1932 entitled Hungarian religion.
The article can be regarded as a kind of self-determination of the Hungarian Protestants in
1932.93 At that time we were still far from the anti-Jewish laws and the Holocaust. But as the
Second World War was getting closer, the tone was getting more vehement and open.94
What makes our religion so much Hungarian and so hard to overestimate from the national
point of view? It is not only because our religion and its constitution is identical to the
character of our nation, not only its language, according to which its church service, its
sermons and singing are fully Hungarian, but mainly the circumstance that the mass of its
followers is almost hundred percent racially pure Hungarians. That is, it is a body, an
organisation, an institution that is Hungarian in every detail. What it means in our age of
internationalism endangering our existence it cannot be overemphasised. () Whatever may
happen to this country and to this nation, the Reformed Church of pure Hungarians will never
serve alien powers and alien interests either in its language or in its heart. The Hungarian
national idea, the national feeling and language have no other racially pure and strong
organisation as the Reformed Church. () You cannot find an institution better suited for
the expression of the national idea and consciousness. () Our church can never be anything
but Hungarian because it is independent and national.95
The same racial idea was expressed in an article by Monitor (alias minister Kontra Aladr 96)
93

The attitude and behaviour of the Protestants in buda, naturally, cannot be generalised. The attitude could
cause conflicts even within the community (Many people criticised that our voice towards the Jewry is sharply
honest. We only defend ourselves and never attack. It is our duty to warn our followers of all dangers and to
protect our Hungarian spirit. In this field only us, Christians are the ones that may complain. Ills Lajos, A
felekezeti bkessg utjn (On the path to peace among denominations), Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol. VII,
Issue 2, February 1935, p.2.). Nevertheless, it remained the decisive voice and the other attitude having
reservations or even criticising anti-Semitism became marginal. The situation was similar in the context of the
Hungarian Reformed Church (see e.g., Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol. VI, Issue 6, June 1934, p.8.; id. e. Vol.
VII, Issue 10, December 1935, pp. 3-4.: We are anti-Semitic). Different views, attitudes and directions existed
together or side-by-side. And that is what makes a comprehensive in-depth research indispensable! All the more
so, since when the paper ceased to exist (because the Budapest Protestant Diocese launched a single weekly with
the title Protestant Life in the capital from 1940), editor Dek Endre wrote proudly: We acknowledge, we have
had some criticism because of our adamant Hungarian attitude, but we have to add the critics were never true
Hungarians. And the caravan is moving on... Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol. XI, Issue 10, December 1939, p.4.
94
In 1937 an appeal was published in the paper: Buy from Hungarian merchants only! Order from Hungarian
tradesmen only! If you are sick, turn to Hungarian doctors! Take your court cases to Hungarian lawyers! Do not
support foreigners with Hungarian money! (Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol. IX, Issue 1, January 1937, p.4.).
And in 1939 it became unambiguous who were meant by foreigners in coded speech. The last sentence was
transformed as follows: Do not support Jews with Hungarian money! (Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol. XI,
Issue 3, March 1939, p.8.). Already in 1930 Dr. Mszros Jnos papal prelate, episcopal representative said that
Budapest is sinful (as Horthy described the capital in 1919), but those are the culprits, who imported sin into
the soul of the city, those who did not want to understand the traditions of the nation, those who had come from
alien lands [i.e.: from Galicia] and remained aliens, those who had brought alien habits and fashions into the
heart of the nation. G. G. Ten years of the parish. Mass celebrated by the high priest in the parish church.
Ceremonial meeting in the Cultural House, Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Vol. VI, Issue 25, January
1930, p.8.
95
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Vol. IV, Issue 7, October 1932, p.6.
96
The anti-Semitism of Kontra Aladr is obvious from his other statements as well. He said the following at the
January assembly of MOVE (see Dsa Rudolfn, A MOVE, 19181944. Egy jellegzetes magyar fasiszta
szervezet, [MOVE, a typical Hungarian fascist organisation] Akadmiai Kiad Zrnyi Kiad, Budapest, 1972)
in January 1925 (www.huszadikszazad.hu/1925-januar/politika/zadravetz-es-gombos-a-move-vasarnapikozgyulesen; 8 July 2014): When commanded by Abdul Hamid the Kurds killed Christian Armenians, the big
powers arranged a fleet demonstration along the Bosporus, but now, when in Russia the Izro-Kurds are killing
33

dated November 1933. In his opinion the Roman Empire collapsed because an alien race
killed the faith of its ancestors from its soul, trained them to neglect work and to revolt, and
they only demanded bread and entertainment and they could be made to do anything for that
purpose while none of them wanted to make a sacrifice for their faith or their country!97
One can say the racial idea and attitude98 deeply permeated the Hungarian society of the
Horthy regime. It also appeared markedly in the Catholic parish paper. Dr. Tarls Bla, a
member of the parish council argued in his article Why we established Catholic autonomy
that we intend to serve our country and race with our autonomy, because the love of your
race and the protection of your race is a great idea which hopefully will never be dimmed in
the future and we embraced it.99 According to Count Hunyady Ferenc, the Christian idea is
that connects in Hungary all people of the Hungarian race and destroys the walls of hatred
some want to raise between Hungarian and Hungarian using slogans of different
denominations100
However, Catholics never worded their ideas so openly and vehemently you could say
so much mistakenly from a theological perspective by narrowing Christian universalism
to the particularity of a race/nation as Protestants did. According to Szomolnoky, e.g.,
Hungarism101 is in which the Christian religion can be given an outstanding position.
Because the racial and blood characteristics of Hungarians could be placed in the focus of
religious and national interests on the basis of Hungarism as it develops morally and
spiritually. Those characteristics were the foundations for Hungarians to play a leading part in
the Danube valley for thousand years. Hungarians never lost those characteristics despite
many intrigues, the bitter yoke on their necks, the unheard of exploitation of Hungarian
chivalry, the Reformation, the persecution of the religion, etc. It is quite certain that
Hungarians will be able to ensure a leading position for Great Hungary in the Danube valley
and to have the Christian (Reformed) religion acknowledged as the true Hungarian religion in
the next thousand years, if the importance of 'Hungarism' is acknowledged and promoted. ()
The German people speak of Hitler, the new Apostle of the German religion, as a new
Christian source. ()The soul of every nation is permeated by its own faith and strength,
so our Hungarian homeland will also be permeated by the vital force of the Hungarian
reformed religion, which collects all factors of Christianity in Hungarism. This
Hungarism is the vital force that grants our people faith and perseverance to make its fate,
Christian Russians, the warships of the big powers do not appear'. According to a report by the Transylvanian
journal Our Age the papers published detailed reports on the assembly, but for instance the wittiness of the
Protestant minister was missing from the reports. There were about eight journalists present. But mentioning the
Izro-Kurd was missing from the Izro-Kurd papers as well. When they speak about actions against the proletariat,
there is no conflict among the denominations even if the Protestant minister makes a slip. (In the name of love,
Korunk [Our Age], June 1930; http://epa.oszk.hu/00400/00458/00255/1930_06_5216.html; 8 July 2014).
97
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume V, Issue 9, November 1933, p.2. (column With open eyes). On the other
hand, there were still reports in a Catholic parish paper that the author visited Catholic churches in Berlin
together with Jewish travellers. Dr. Fbin Gspr, With a Catholic eye Round trip in Europe,
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume X, Issue 54, September 1934, pp. 4-6.
98
This attitude had already found its rootes at the time of Dualism. However, at that time the HungarianRomanian conflict was in the centre of racial struggle! See Beksics Gusztv, A romn krds s a fajok harcza
Eurpban s Magyarorszgon [The Romanian issue and the war of the races in Europe and in Hungary],
Athenaeum, Budapest, 1895; ber Ern, Fajok harca: adatok az erdlyi nemzetisgi krdshez [The war of
races: data to the issue of the Transylvanian national minorities], Kilin, Budapest, 1905.
99
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume II, Issue 7, December 1926, p. 5.
100
Hunyady Ferenc, nnepi gondolatok a Karcsony magyar bkjben (Holy thoughts in the Hungarian
peace of Christmas), Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume V, Issue 19, January 1929, p. 5., p. 3.
101
See Paksa Rudolf, Szlasi Ferenc s a hungarizmus [Szlasi Ferenc and Hungarism], Jaffa, Budapest, 2013.
34

its future bright by raising hope although it is still but dimly lit102
Antagonism to the Jewish community had become more radical beginning from 1937.103 A
feeling was made manifest and disclosed that Hungarians had been pushed into the
background economically and socially in their own country. Protestant readers could read the
following brief factual information104 in bold letters and framed in black calling their
attention and targeting their emotions:
49.2% of all lawyers are Jews! 54.4% of private physicians are Jews!105
Our four largest banks (Angol-Magyar, Magyar ltalnos Hitelbank, Leszmitol and
Kereskedelmi Bank) control 222 companies. 80, 79, 74 and 77% of the management of those
banks are Jewish.106
The Jewry of 5 percent usurped 28.26 percent of the national income of Hungary.107
There are 235 Jews among the 336 members of the board of directors and supervisory boards
of the 20 largest industrial companies of Hungary. It is exactly 70 percent!108
92.5 percent of the staff of Estlapok, 85 percent of Npszava and 83 percent of 8 rai Ujsg
are Jews.109
77 percent of the staff of Esti Kurir, 75 percent of Friss Ujsg, 82 percent of Magyar Hrlap
102

Szomolnoky, 'Hungarizmus (Hungarism), Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume V, Issue 6, June 1933, pp. 1-

2.
103

See e.g., Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 5, May 1938, p. 7. The author criticised the Szatmr
Egyhzi rtest because it was writing about the persecution of Jews in Central Europe. According to Gza
Komorczy, 1938 was a borderline in the history of the Western world: and as part of it in Jewish history as
well. The national socialist Germany started its aggressive conquest by annexing Austria, the Anschu. vian
revealed that the countries theoretically opposing Hitler, although recognised the threat, do not make any steps
against him for the time being, nor will they help the Jews who are evidently threatened now; in Munich, Britain
and France made fatal allowances to the snarling beast. The persecution of Jews taking place previously within
the framework of laws, whatever they had been, the racial laws of 1935 in Germany, the Kristallnacht turned it
into straight vandalism. In Hungary, the works of Darnyi Klmn, Imrdy Bla, Count Teleki Pl, Act XV of
1938. It was only the beginning, although the years before had not been quiet at all, the incited crowd wanted
stricter measures, political leaders conceded to pressure step by step, then they stood in the frontline of the
crowd, the objections of conscience remained empty words, so that in the end the trains should depart to
Auschwitz, and the country should be ruined. Komorczy Gza A zsidk trtnete Magyarorszgon II: 1849-tl
a jelenkorig (The history of Jews in Hungary II: from 1849 to the present), Kalligram, Pozsony, 2012, p. 509.
Mrai Sndor also wrote about the Hungarian implications of the 1938 borderline in Hungary in his work
Hallgatni akartam (I wanted to remain silent) (Helikon, Budapest, 2013): on that day many things that had
remained from the old Europe collapsed (p. 7.).
104
Such texts, however, did not remain unnoticed. Argus was forced to devote a column to detailing the articles
of Magyarorszg and Esti Kurir, which criticised the framed texts. It also indicates the social impact of the paper
of the Reformed Church in buda had been much larger than the community! The attitude of the author is clear:
We are not ashamed to announce and we do announce bravely because we do not live in Jew-land but in
Hungary that all our efforts are directed to preventing the advent and conquest of Jews. Only Hungarian people
have a right in this country to have power and riches. All others must be vanished from there! Egyhzi let
[Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 4, April 1937, p. 4.
105
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 2, February 1937, p. 7.
106
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 3, March 1937, p. 2.
107
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 3, March 1937, p. 3.
108
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 9, November 1937, p. 7.
109
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 3, March 1937, p. 5.
35

and 89 percent of Pester Lloyd are Jews.110


Some people call it Marxism, but I call it Jewry. Stephen S. Wise, Chief Rabbi of NewYork.111
Educate your children to become physicians and pharmacists, so that they could take the
lives of Christians. (A Jewish leader in Constantinople in 1489).112
The number of Jewish-Hungarian mixed marriages is more than 1000 every year! The
percentage of Jewish servants is 08%.113
Approximately 32,000 Jewish-Hungarian mixed marriages had been entered into since
1896!114
The national society must excommunicate all who have married Jews neglecting the
existential interests of their race!115
The non-Jewish society in self-defence must face both Jews of the Moses faith and
Christian faith.116
Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia and Italy in total have as many Jews as Budapest has.117
Sweden, Norway and Finland together support 8500 Jews, which is 0.07% of their total
population (it is 21% in Budapest!).118
Radical opposition clearly led not only to an open acceptance of anti-Semitism, but also to the
identification of anti-Semitism with Protestantism or the Reformed Church: Protestants
are fully Hungarians to the core; therefore they are clearly and unambiguously antiSemitic. No other true Hungarians can be imagined!119
The same was explained in detail by Szintai Istvn [theology student in year 4 120], in his
important paper Anti-Semitism of the Reformed Church:
The question whether anti-Semitism is correct or incorrect lives in peoples souls today when
there is a turning point of great times. Many people take a lukewarm view, while others only
make the remark they are humans, too. I think a Christian follower of the Reformed Church
cannot take such a view in such an important question impacting his whole life.
He cannot do so because the majority of the friends of Jews today only follow their mean
individual interests betraying in that way an issue of much higher purpose. They get the price
of their treachery like Judas did.
A true follower of the Reformed Church cannot place his own mean interests above the
110

Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 4, April 1937, p. 2.


Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 5, May 1937, p. 4.
112
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 5, May 1937, p. 6.
113
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 2, February 1937, p. 3.
114
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 2, February 1937, p. 3.
115
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 3, March 1937, p. 6.
116
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 2, February 1937, p. 8.
117
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 3, March 1937, p. 7.
118
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 5, May 1937, p. 3.
119
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 5, May 1937, p. 7.
120
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 9, November 1938, p. 5.
111

36

highest common interest of us all, the issue of God. We can state clearly that the interests of
Jews are opposed to the interest of God.
A true follower of the Reformed Church cannot be a friend of those who crucified Jesus and
not giving up on their principles would want to crucify him today. Because we should not
forget that after the Resurrection a great fight was started under the slogan Crucify Jesus
again, so that our monstrosities should not be seen by the light of His sermon. Jewish
Pharisees started the fight in the way customary with them. They used money to bribe the
soldiers to say Jesus had not been resurrected, but had been stolen by the disciples.
But Jesus continued and still continues his fight because the True One must prevail over
falsity. And we who call ourselves Christians, the followers of Christ must fight with Jesus
against the spirit of the descendants of the Pharisees who want to infect and contaminate
everything, whose every step is directed to overcome the Truth and Goodness.
Look what the Jewish spirit does today in that service! To give a brief answer to the question,
it tempts to sin. Just look at pornographic literature, theatre or immoral movies permeated by
the Jewish spirit! Look at bribery in offices! Their only purpose is to contaminate the
Christian society in its solid Christian foundations so that it could cry out submissively
towards Truth: crucify Him. All their acts are directed to hide Jesus, to hide Truth and to
mollify our conscience objecting to sin.
These efforts are clearly seen in the Minutes of the Wise of Zion in which we can see the
principles and efforts of the Jews unmasked towards the Goy so much despised by them.
()
A Christian follower of the Reformed Church - seeing the Jewish spirit is against his
church and the truth of God cannot be but anti-Semitic. The defence of Truth is our
obligation. Not the extremities but the facts can make a person anti-Semitic. The Jews
themselves. Read the Old Testament to the end and you will see their own prophets had
been the greatest anti-Semites.
We should never forget that great tasks are waiting for us, Hungarian followers of the
Reformed Church and will be waiting in the future as well. We need to see clearly and to have
strength. In the big moments of history it was almost always us who had to stand up and we
stood our place with the help of God. But we had to emphasise - with the help of God! And
now, when we have to stand up again, we can only stand our place with the help of God.
Therefore, we cannot accept any community with those who work against Gods things and
truths. Because, if that spirit poisons us, we shall lose our firm belief in God and will be
unable to fight for Truth.
A sinful spirit working cunningly wants to rob us of our God, our Jesus, our faith and our
country. Think my Brothers! Can we be anything but anti-Semitic?121
In light of the above, the change of paradigm is easy to understand: There is no Jewish issue;
there is only a Hungarian issue! Because you do not have to oppress the Jews but you have to
help Hungarians who have been oppressed in the fields of finance and spiritual culture to a
shameful extent to take the places due to them legally. And if it is only possible by
terminating the advantageous position of the Jewry enjoyed unjustified, it is no reason to
speak about a Jewish issue all the time. We are Hungarians and we are only interested in the
fate of Hungarians. Taking care of the fate of Jews is not the duty of the national Hungary.122

121
122

Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 5, May 1938, pp. 1-2.
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 4, April 1938, p. 8.
37

The Protestant author believed the reason of the oppression123 of Hungarians was morals,
because in his opinion we Hungarians are just as clever, skilful and quick to learn as the
Jews. On the other hand, the morals of Hungarians and the morals of Jews are different.124
That is why we have always been overcome. Because weeds overwhelm wheat, although
wheat is more precious than cockle.125
Argus wrote in the period when the first anti-Jewish law was adopted126: there is not and
there cannot be any place and field for Hungarian life, whether it is easy or difficult, where a
Jew should have more rights, a better life, a larger loaf of bread and more happiness than a
Hungarian! () As long as there is just one Hungarian person in this country who does not
have the same loaf of bread, the same living he deserves by his honest work, it is a mortal sin
to let those who are alien to us by their race and blood, by their whole bodily and spiritual
composition: the Jews exploit the riches and well-being of the nation!127
It is easy to understand that the paper of the buda Reformed Church immediately demanded
the application of the anti-Jewish law when the Felvidk (Uplands, a part of Slovakia
today) was re-annexed (November 1938). Because the Hungarian truth will prevail and the
extended Hungary will become happy.128
In March 1939 editor Dek Endre clearly explained what anti-Semitism meant! AntiSemitism has a rather, how-to-say raw taste in our society. Many people believe it does not fit
in either with the generous thinking of Hungarian nobility or with the commands of Christ.
Although those who believe anti-Semitism is not Hungarian and not Christian in its views are
much mistaken. Actually, they are superficial or rather egotistic and are striving for their
interests only. Anti-Semitism as a hatred of Jews is really a negative idea and as such should
be discarded [sic], but an honest and true Christian Hungarian person does not interpret antiSemitism as hatred for Jews but philo-Hungarism, a love of Hungarians. We have all hope to
believe that anti-Semitism correctly interpreted will take its place in all fields where it is still
excluded today. It is a sorrowful fact that our Protestant schools are so slow to understand the
first obligation of the existential interests of Hungarians: the nine and half million Hungarians
must come first and half a million Jews after that until we have to change that as well! No
Hungarian person can have another correct view without despising himself, his own nation,
race and blood!129
Christian Jews!?130
With respect to the 1939 elections, the paper of the Reformed Church published the following: on this land,
there is just one nation that has the right to decide its route: the Hungarian. The captivity of Hungarians and the
rule of Jews must be ended! Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume XI, Issue 5, May 1939, pp. 7-8.
124
Monitor illustrated this in his column With open eyes with the dramatic life story of a Hungarian Christian
wife who had been denied by his rich Jewish husband and even by his children and who in her old age and
loneliness found her way back to the Reformed Church. A lesson for boys and girls: Do not waste bodily and
mental goods to a person of an alien race because they were given to you by the Lord to serve the better future
and improvement of your own race! See Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume XI, Issue 6, June 1939, pp. 3-4.
125
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 7, September 1938, p. 8.
126
The Parliament debate and adoption of the first anti-Jewish law (Act XV of 1938) occurred from 18-24 May;
it took effect on 29 May. See Rkos Imre Szita Szabolcs Ver Gbor (ed), Tell us what happened!, Ex Libris,
Budapest, 2004, p. 23.
127
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 5, May 1938, pp. 3- 4.
128
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 9, November 1938, p. 8.
129
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume XI, Issue 3, March 1939, p. 5.
130
The ecclesiastical and social history of Jews converting in the period between the two World Wars is an area
hardly studied. See e.g., Kardy Viktor, Zsidsg, polgrosods, asszimilci (Jewry, embourgeoisement and
assimilation). Tanulmnyok (Studies), Cserpfalvi, Budapest, 1997.
123

38

The anti-Semitic convictions of a part of racially pure Hungarian Protestants clearly led to the
condemnation of mixed marriages131; as well as to reservations regarding the conversion of
Jews.132 All that, in fact, reflected an irrational fear of mixing the blood and diluting the
blood as well as the mistaken obsession of preserving purity.133 The first signs of this
already appeared in the paper of the buda Reformed Church in January 1934.
We should note the sad statistics that show the increase of Christian-Jewish marriages. 265
such marriages were entered into in this country in 1895, which was 0.2% of the total number
of marriages. The number increased to 1012 in 1932, which is 14% of all marriages. That is,
this harmful form of starting a family increased by 7000% in 37 years, which means there are
seventy times more Hungarian-Jewish mixed marriages today than 37 years ago.134
A month later Argus advised in his column With open eyes: Is there no other purpose of the
Reformed Church in Hungary than converting Jews? He is trying to find an answer to the
question why do we want to embrace those who do not want it? They do not want it because
they cannot want it; their blood will not allow it! The Lord has sealed their fate when he
repudiated them because they had become unworthy of the love wasted on them in vain.
So, we should not want to change the will of the Lord. Why should we convert, why should
we pray for them if they do not want it and it is not good for us, either.135
The attitude of the paper of the Reformed Church, in fact, represented an open denial of
Christian universalism for its faithful followers. The statements clearly illustrate an
unambiguous rejection of the original Christian ideal and attitude. That attitude was worded
by the Apostle Paul himself; and that is why Christianity (a faith confessing and

131

According to Monitor, a Hungarian girl who leaves her Protestant Church to marry a 'Galician Jew' lives in
'terrible mistake'. First she leaves her faith, the faith her fathers and ancestors suffered and bled so much for, for
a man of an alien race and morals, who is the greatest enemy of Christianity and Hungarians, who only has one
purpose: to satisfy his egotistic lust in any way. Secondly, she sins against her own race and the future generation
that will be mixed with Jewish blood and contaminates her own race terribly in this way working for the
destruction of Hungarians. Unfortunately, a nation whose daughters are not permeated with the idea of being
Hungarians and Christians will come to such a fate! Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 4, April 1934,
p. 2. See also Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 5, May 1938, p. 7. The unknown author deems the
children born from 'unfortunate Jewish-Hungarian marriages, whether or not the Jewish party has been
converted simply misbegotten. He practically demanded a ban on mixed marriages in January 1939 (Volume
XI, Issue 1, January 1939, p. 8.).
132
For instance, dissociating themselves from the Scottish Mission working to convert Jews. See Egyhzi let
[Church Life] Volume VIII, Issue 9, November 1936, p. 6.; Volume XI, Issue 7, September 1939, p. 3. With
regard to the Mission, see Kovcs brahm, A skt presbiterianizmus hatsa Budapesten. A Skt Misszi rvid
trtnete (The impact of Scottish Presbyterianism in Budapest. A short history of the Scottish Mission), in:
Ksa Lszl (ed), Reformtusok Budapesten. Tanulmnyok a magyar fvros reformtussgrl, Argumentum
ELTE BTK Mveldstrtneti Tanszk, Budapest, Volume 2, pp. 895-914.
133
See Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VII, Issue 8, October 1935, p. 8.: although admission to the
Protestant College of Theology had become extremely strict and therefore many honest Hungarian Protestant
youth had to find a position elsewhere despite their intentions, it still happened in this academic year that a
child of Jewish parents had been found suitable to become a Protestant minister! If the Hungarian race will
continue making such and similar suicide efforts for another one or two decades, the attempt will surely be
successful. It is terrible how little we value our dear pure Hungarian race! One or two similar measures and we
should not be surprised if our Protestant life is distorted into internationalism!
134
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 1, January 1934, p. 8.
135
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 2, February 1934, p. 3.
39

acknowledging the Jewish Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and the Son of God 136) could
become a universal religion: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on
Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and
female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3.27-28).
All that becomes easier to understand if we consider the theological absurdity allowed to be
published in the paper of a Protestant diocese by a minister, whose hearts desire was to
revive the religious life of his community, what is more, he probably wrote it. According to
him: Christ is the same that our fathers respected as our Warlord in ancient times and who is
the only strong and true and eternal God taking care of His People at all times keeping us for
thousand years, making a thousand miracles for us and for our perseverance and governing
our world137
The buda Protestant paper even went against the dean of the Church to reiterate its opinion
that it makes no sense to accept Jews into Christian communities: 9/10 part of the Jewry
converted into the Reformed Church do not attend the Church and do not take Communion.
such a semi-membership of the Church is not honest. The Church may be damaged if the
Word is despised, the sacraments are despised and the community is not sought. That is what
Dean Szab Imre wrote to a converted Jewish family. They are bitter words, but the
consequence drawn from the facts is mistaken, because he calls them to the Church loud.
Mr. Dean, we should not undermine the solid walls of our Reformed Church of strong faith
because it will collapse! Apage138 apage!...139
The rejecting behaviour of the paper is unambiguous and consequent: We can read that 919
Jews were baptised in Hungary in 1933, 636 in 1932 and 688 in 1931. Statistics show that 2/3
part of the baptised joined the Roman Catholic Church. The rest probably delights us
[Protestants]. It would have been best if the total 3/3 had remained where they still belong
despite their being baptised!140
All the more so because according to the opinion of the Reformed Church in buda, Jews
only converted out of interest! In 1936, 1,074 Jews were baptised in Budapest. The reasons
for conversion included position, promotion, appointment, etc. In two or three cases, love or
marriage was the reason. But there was not one in the records who referred to his religious
conviction.141
So the paper of the diocese suggested converted Jews should join the Jewish Followers of
Christ and leave Christian denominations.142 According to Argus, Jews who want to believe
in Christ can satisfy that intention of theirs and can become Jews following Christ out of a
136

See Larry W. Hurtado, Hogyan lett Jzus Istenn a fldn? A Jzus-tisztelet trtneti gykerei. [How on Earth
did Jesus become a God? Historical questions about earliest devotion to Jesus.] (Napjaink teolgija, 9), Bencs
Kiad, Budapest, 2008.
137
(K. A.), Egy uj vallsrl, [On a new religion] Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 7, September
1934, p. 2.
138
The meaning of the Greek word is: Leave! Get away! It is also reference to the words of Jesus addressed to
Apostle Peter (Mt. 16:23). However, in the original Greek text the word is not apage, but hypage, with the
meaning behind my back, back to the line!
139
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 8, October 1934, p. 8.
140
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VII, Issue 3, March 1935, p. 8.
141
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 3, March 1937, pp. 7-8. See also id.e Vol XI, Issue 6, June 1937,
pp. 7-8.
142
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IX, Issue 5, May 1937, p. 8.
40

spiritual need. However, they should not be admitted into any legal and accepted Christian
community. The issue should be regulated institutionally with church and state laws so that
we should not have Protestant Jews and Catholic Jews but simply Jews following Christ,
which would be more fit to reality. They will feel better among each other, and believe me,
we would also find it easier if such an order could eliminate certain sensitive and painful
conflicts arising in our lines. In accordance with the racist national idea, Jews are not only
a religion but also a race therefore, if Jews retain their race as followers of Christ, how
could they become Hungarians, whatever baptismal water had fallen on their heads. We
suspect that pure water is the reason why the majority of the Jews in Hungary make
allowance to the totally mistaken and superfluous campaigns of conversion advocated by (the
Protestant) Christian communities rather than their own kind. In that way, our eyes are
blindfolded but theirs remain open. Put aside the conversion of Jews! Those already
baptised should be allowed to join the camp of Jewish followers of Christ and then the
new and true world dawning upon us will not be so painful and burdensome for them, either.
Because that new world will come! May be not so long from now!143
In autumn 1938, the unknown author seemed to foretell that new world: Hungarian life
can only rise on and from Hungarian soil. Alien weeds must be collected and burnt.144
It is understandable that there were Jews in an atmosphere of institutionalised and legalised
deprivation of rights and expulsion who hoped to find a way out in conversion.145 That was
fearsome for the author of the paper of the buda Reformed Church, and he expressed his
fears. The Jews of Moses faith have stormed the Christian communities recently so that
having been baptised they could become followers of Christ at least on paper. They queue in
front of the relevant offices by the thousands and the Christian communities cannot take a
common stand against them. Most of them explain that they must obey the command of the
Bible and allow conversion. Still, it would be quite easy to act uniformly. There is already a
sect, the so-termed Jewish Followers of Christ, which although baptised does not try to shed
off his Jewish nature because he is unable to. So the solution is given: Jews striving to
become Christians could only and exclusively be the members of that community of Jewish
Followers of Christ, and in that way both the Christian command is fulfilled and the
Christian communities including the purity of the Hungarian nation are protected. That is how
the Jews of the Moses faith could become Jewish followers of Christ.146
Fear shortly turned into complete irrationality:
No more Jews in the Reformed Church! Jews who want to become Christians should be
collected in the community of Jewish Followers of Christ. We, Hungarian Protestants
object to the spread of the Jewish spirit within the fences of our faith.147
The new draft anti-Jewish law148 limits the opportunities of Jews and half-Jews and even,
thank God, of baptised co-religionists of the Jewish race to find jobs in every field. Still, a
measure of huge importance has been omitted. The jobs for priests and ministers of the
143

Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 4, April 1938, p. 4.


Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 7, September 1938, p. 7.
145
About 20 thousand in the last weeks of 1938. See Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume XI, Issue 2, February
1939, p. 7.
146
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume X, Issue 10, December 1938, p. 8.
147
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume XI, Issue 1 January 1939, p. 8.
148
It became the second anti-Jewish law on limitation of Jewish expansion in public life and the economy (Act
IV of 1939)
144

41

different Christian communities are still open to baptised Jews! What will happen to our
churches if they are overwhelmed by Jews? Why no bars are set there as well? Or the spiritual
care of Hungarians is not as important as a necessity to protect the economy?149
We are reading with horror that the approximately 1,600 followers of the Budapest Unitarian
Church include about 400 converted Jews!150

Extermination
By the time in 1938 the deprivation of Jews of their rights had become quicker and stronger,
and the social exclusion of Jews had become actually felt, a decade of mental preparation
by the churches too (!) had already had its impact: the society had been conditioned to
the image of Jews as enemies and had become immune to the suffering of the Jews. The
new world had really arrived. The Holocaust!
As for the year 1944, the population of buda had to know or at least suspect what was going
to happen to the Jews. Partly because the yellow star houses set up parallel to the deportation
of Jews from the countryside (about 116)151 were vacated under the rule of the Arrow-Cross
Party followers, and partly because persecuted Jews were driven in endless lines from the
brickyards in Bcsi Road from morning till sundown, from the end of October and mainly
from mid-November. Their march westward led along Bcsi Road to work camps or to death.
Those were the so-called death marches. Anyone who tried to escape or step out of the
transport was shot.152 But the Bulletin of the Budapest Roman Catholic Churches failed to
respond to those events.
The Salesians were able to take part in rescue efforts because their chapel (at 175-177 Bcsi
Road) opened unto Bcsi Road while its courtyard was joined to the courtyard of the Saint
Alois House (79 Kiscelli Road), which was the centre of Salesian spirit and life in buda.
Thanks to that and that is why you can understand how persecuted Jews escaping from Bcsi
Road to the chapel could be accompanied after dark to the Saint Alois House in Kiscelli Road.
From there some of them could escape during the day (they had been out of sight of the
Arrow-Cross Party followers), while others lacking friends or places to go to remained there.
Many of them hid in the attic, but one or another of the neighbours noticed their presence,
their movements there and 'leaked the information' to the Arrow-Cross Party followers.153
Nothing could have been easier because the house of the Arrow-Cross Party was practically
next door (at 171 Bcsi Road). A cell was operated in apartment No. 3 on its first floor, where
prior Kis Mihly (1946) was interrogated because he saved or hid several dozen Jews.154
However, the most horrible event took place in the last phase of the rule of the Arrow-Cross
149

Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume XI, Issue 1, January 1939, p. 8.


Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume XI, Issue 2, February 1939, p. 7.
151
See: www.csillagoshazak.hu/#overlay=hazak/III (8 July, 2014). On the issue, see also Benoschofsky Ilona
Karsai Elek (ed.): Vdirat a ncizmus ellen. Dokumentumok a magyarorszgi zsidldzs trtnethez. 2: 1944
mjus 15 1944 jnius 30. A budapesti zsidsg sszekltztetse, [indictment against Nazism. Documents to
the history of the persecution of Jews in Hungary, 2: 15 May 1944 to 30 June 1944. Budapest Jews moved
together] A Magyar Izraelitk Orszgos Kpviselete Kiadsa, Budapest, 1960, pp. 304-306.
152
Dr. Pintr Endre, Bevezets P. Kiss Mihly SDB szalzi szerzetes napljhoz (Introduction to the diary of
P. Kiss Mihly SDB Salesian prior), in: budai mltidz, i. m., pp. 5-10.; p. 6.
153
Id. p. 9.
154
See Dr. Bn Tams, Visszaemlkezs (Memories), in: budai mltidz, pp. 63-70.
150

42

Party in Budapest you can say in the last days before the end. A detailed description of it
can be read in the diary of Kiss Mihly, dated 26 December 1944:
The Salesian prior wrote: There is a big chaos at our institute among the soldiers billeted and
left here without officers. () Continuous comings and goings, banging of doors, loud
speech, etc. put our nerves on trial. Both prefects and pupils went to bed late yesterday. () It
might have been one oclock when the Arrow-Cross Party followers, about eight of them,
came over from the neighbouring house and - referring to a command from their superiors woke up the caretaker, and went into the dormitory of the children together with him to wake
up those of Jewish descent and allegedly to take them to Pest, to Pannnia Street, because
Arrow-Cross Party brothers will be placed in their places. I learnt all about it in the morning
only. Poor children were woken up from their first sleep, they had to dress quickly. From here
they were taken to the Arrow-Cross Party house. There they had a short rest. From there along
Bcsi Road and Nagyszombati Street they were led to the banks of the Danube. On the corner
of the last house they were divided into groups of three and the command was given to turn
around. On the road this small group of children and their guards only met soldiers but they
met with three civilians on the corner and the accompanying Arrow-Cross Party followers
immediately commanded them to show their papers. Their documents proved to be
unsatisfactory so they had to join the group of our children. From the group, first those three
adults were taken to the bank of the Danube in front of the boathouse located there, and shot
in the nape. Ours followed afterwards in groups of three. Our pupil, called Szke
(Weinberger) Jnos, when he reached the place of execution with his friends, understood what
was about to happen, and as they were ordered to take off their coats and put them on the
ground, he jumped into the Danube among the blocks of ice and started to swim. The ArrowCross Party followers noticed his attempt to escape, they lit searchlights and started shooting
at him from machine-guns but with no success. The Lord preserved him so that there should
be a living witness of the sad fate of his poor friends. The little victims were shot dead on the
bank of the Danube and the bodies were thrown into the river. Some people later said they
could see those little executed ones on the surface of the river the following day as the water
had thrown them up. Otherwise, we could not get any news of them from then on. The next
day, or even the same day, the caretaker and Mr. Matesz Kroly searched for them in
Pannnia Street despite the siege but they could find no trace of them in the ghetto. Every
evidence points to their being executed. We did not want to leave the children by themselves
at all. Both the caretaker and other brothers wanted to follow them on their last route, but the
accompanying Arrow-Cross Party followers clearly prevented this and said openly they could
only try it by risking their life. They had to yield to force. Our pupil that escaped started to
shout loudly as soon as he felt the water of the river around himself but he noticed he could
not hope for help in that way, and even worse - he would give himself away to his
persecutors, so he remained silent. This allowed others to believe he had been swallowed by
the waves or had been drowned under a sheet of ice. They stopped looking for him with
searchlights and did not shoot with machine-guns either. He drifted along the river hit by the
sheets of ice sometimes in his side, sometimes on his head. When he felt his strength would
leave him and could not swim, he could not feel his limbs any longer, he swam towards the
bank. He was careful not to bump into a guard there. He emerged from the water with great
difficulty and knocked on the gate of a palace, but the caretaker did not let him in. He
managed to reach a flat in a small house where he was let in, his frozen clothes were taken off
him, he was made to lie down in a warm bed, given something to drink and covered. He could
hardly warm up although there was such strong fire in the fireplace that it was fully red. From
there with the help of a good policeman he was taken to Rkus Hospital. Jancsi tried to
contact me over the phone after 7 p.m. on 27 December under a false name with the help of

43

the priest of the hospital. I answered the phone. He wanted to ask me to visit him but already
communication with Pest had been impossible. I forwarded the message to the uncle of the
boy who took it into his hands and managed it with much love. He was the only one who
remained alive out of twelve pupils driven from here; he was the witness of the sad fate of his
small friends. The Lord should have mercy on those poor little new small saints, he should
take them into his benevolent Sacred Heart, and the parents in mourning should be given the
mercy of resignation to his holy will. Who participated, who took part in the name of the
Arrow-Cross Party in capturing, driving away and executing the children? They were the
following either as commanders or those executing the commands:
a.) Ducz Blint, as Deputy of the Arrow-Cross Party leader in District 3, at the beginning of
Vrsvri Road Ducz Confectionary next to the Gittinger grocery.
b.) Majlth N., 78-79 Vrsvri Road, District 3, in the Steiner-house.
c.) Mazn Jnos, 171 Bcsi Road, District 3, he moved in the last days from there to Viador
Street, District 3.
d.) Mller Tibor, artillery cadet, who graduated from the rpd high school here. He enjoyed
the benefits of the institution several times and in the past he was an acolyte at the institute.
He lived in the District but his exact address is missing for the time being.
e.) Nagyivnyi N., the head of the party of this District. His address was 171 Bcsi Road, as
he moved to the Party house from a small apartment in Bcsi Road.
f.) Imre Jzsef, a corporal with a bad stammer. He was arrested by police in April. First he
denied everything but later he partly admitted his crime that he took part at the execution of
the children and actually he killed some of them. His case is in the Court of the People. He
was confronted with our pupils and the prefects here who recognised in him the corporal with
the stammer who had turned up at the institute several times. The GPU 155 also investigated in
the case for a long time but with no success. I had to give evidence twice or three times. But, I
believe it was not a matter of importance for them, because they let it slip. The caretaker
woman of 171 Bcsi Road could reveal many things, because this persecution ending in a
tragedy took place in front of her eyes. Because she was good friends to the party people. I
believe the authorities failed to take the case seriously, they only investigated reluctantly,
because the only one caught by police was the stammering Imre J., who first served the
German police together with his mother, then joined the Arrow-Cross Party, and lately he was
an enthusiastic supporter of the Russians and some Russian major backed him or more exactly
backed his mother.156
Reading the names of participants in the murder it is quite clear this terrible act was
committed by people who had grown up in the poisoned social atmosphere of the 1930s
in buda!157 The big question is where humanity disappeared in 1944 in that environment
155

The Russian abbreviation of the State Political Directorate (Soviet Political Police).
budai mltidz [Memories of the past of buda], pp. 29-31. Kiss Mihly naplja utn tlve a
vszkorszak borzalmait szubjektven s keresztny paphoz nem illen, meg nem bocstva tli el a gyilkosokat.
() Nem vdem t, csak az olvasval akarom megrtetni, hogy vannak korszakok, amikor nehz trgyilagosnak
lenni. (Judged from the diary of Kiss Mihly, he condemned the murderers subjectively and not fitting a
Christian priest never forgiving them. () I do not want to defend him but I want to make the reader understand
there are ages where it is difficult to be objective) Gttlieb/Gulys Mikls, Hommage Kiss Mihly, in:
budai mltidz [Memories of the past of buda], p. 53.
157
For instance Catholic believers witnessed at the service on Good Friday that the priest speaks pleading
prayers for the Church, for the Pope, for the clergy, for the followers, for the king, for those believing falsely, for
the Jews and pagans, in one word for everybody because Christ had died for everybody. The priests bent his
knees at the beginning of each prayer except for the prayer for the Jews because on that day the Jews bent their
knees to the Lord Jesus mockingly. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume III, Issue 1, March 1927,
p.6. Believers could also read an interesting association of ideas and interpretation of the Holy Bible on the day
of the Virgin Mary. According to that, excluding women in the post-natal period from the church and social life
156

44

identifying itself as Christian? It seems the mandatory school education of religion and
morals in the Horthy era did something really wrong!158
In her memoirs of 1947, Mrs. Herke Jzsefn seems to give a partial answer to the question.
In an environment of Baroque Catholicism with a lot of emphasis on formalities and racist
national Protestantism there were no or hardly any trustworthy church personalities or
outstanding examples of humanity!
Who was Kiss Mihly? He was the embodiment of Christian love, the true Catholic-Christian
spirit. At the time of inhuman persecution he had been the patron of all persecuted, he risked
his own life to fight for what he felt to be the truth in an orgy of injustice. If everybody had
been thinking and acting the same way as he had, the bridges of Budapest would still be
standing and there would be much-much less mourning in the hearts, in this city and in this
country 159

Summary
The quotations from press publications presented in the paper support markedly and also
prove the theoretical and interpretation framework presented by Ervin Staub psychologist,
professor emeritus of the Massachusetts University at a conference organised by the
Department of Philosophy and History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences with the title
Historical memory and the science of history160 161. According to the statements of the
American professor, genocides do not only take place on order from above but out of
exclusion and hatred permeating the whole society meet with the political decisions. One
of the prerequisites of such processes is that a given minority should be seen as the
obstacle to realise a positive image of the future living in society'.
In fact, that kind of conviction was reflected in Hungary in the legislation in 1938 when a
process of exclusion of Hungarian citizens deemed racially Jews both from the economy and
society was started to be legalised and presented in laws.162 In the context of buda, it is quite
clear that the monthly journal of the local followers of the Reformed Church (Egyhzi let
Church Life) played a much more important part than the Catholic Egyhzkzsgi Tudst
for a certain time makes the elected people think of expulsion from Heaven! Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish
Bulletin] Volume VI, Issue 31, December 1930, p. 6. Otherwise, message of the editor in 1931 reflects very well
the methodology and knowledge content of the interpretation of the Bible by church leaders in buda.
Researcher. You are mistaken because you have risen high in contemporary knowledge. Geology proves from
point to point that the shaping of the Universe and the development of the present form of Earth happened in the
sequence as it was written by Moses. Human science is only now able to find the events in the strata of the Earth
that had been written on the first pages of the Book of Moses for thousands of years. In other words, either
Moses had been a geologist at the level of contemporary science thousands of years before, which is impossible,
or he had been writing inspired by God. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume VII, Issue 36,
November 1931, p. 14.
158
The fact the local churches undertook no part and appeared nowhere at events organised for the Holocaust
memorial year in buda reveals quite a lot about relationship to the past and to memories! See http://holokausztemlekev.obuda.hu (8 July 2014).
159
budai mltidz [Memories of the past of buda], p. 71.
160
http://mta.hu/mta_hirei/tortenelmi-emlekezet-es-tortenettudomany-134234 (8 July 2014).
161
The Holocaust in Hungary, roots, and effects of non-acknowledgment
(http://mta.hu/data/cikk/13/40/61/cikk_134061/Meghivo_2014_majus_13.pdf; 2014. jl. 8).
162
Kdr Gbor Vgi Zoltn, Hullarabls. A magyar zsidk gazdasgi megsemmistse [looting the dead. The
economic extermination of Hungarian Jews], Jaffa Kiad Hannah Arendt Egyeslet, Budapest, 2005.
45

(Parish Bulletin). It is all the more true because as a result of a wider range of social functions
and personal connections the local elite of the Reformed Church did not only play a defining
part in the micro-world of buda but also had an impact in the capital and even in the whole
country.
Finally, the lesson to be taken is that local and national levels had a complicated interrelationship and mutually influenced each other. Carrying out as high a number as possible of
comprehensive historical micro-sociographic research is unavoidable for a better and more
accurate research and understanding of the events particularly the behaviour of the society.
Lacking them, the large quantity of local source material is wasted unprocessed, while big
monographs continue to repeat platitudes often improperly supported.
Alain Touraine, French sociologist clearly pointed out that society is made up of people, i.e.,
society in fact consists of persons and as the persons are as the society itself is. 163 Therefore
the Holocaust is not exclusively the tragedy of the Jewish community but that of
contemporary national societies, including the Christian Churches. It is a mirror
reflecting well the attitude of contemporary Christians on man and society as well as the set of
ideas identifying both them and their age.
According to Michael McGarry (Catholic priest, the rector of the Jerusalem Tantur
Ecumenical Institute), it is a big mistake to diabolise everybody who took part in the
Holocaust. Because the Shoa was not a work of extra-terrestrial aliens but of men. What is
more, we have to acknowledge it was the work of basically Christians, men born into the
noble tradition of Protestantism and Catholicism who - led by their effort to exterminate all
Jews - denied the teachings of Jesus or oppressed every true Christian feeling in
themselves.164 As opposed to public belief, the Hungarian society of the Horthy era was not
Christian.165 Christianity was a mere formality, a kind of ideological coating. Its target
163

Alain Touraine, La fin des socits. (La couleur des ides), Seuil, Paris, 2013.
Michael McGarry, Egy keresztny hv a Yad Vashem emlkhelyen (A Christian believer at the Yad
Vashem memorial), in: Carol Rittner Stephen D. Smith Irena Steinfeldt (ed.), A Holokauszt s a keresztny
vilg. Szembenzs a mlttal s a jv kihvsaival, [the Holocaust and the Christian world. Facing the past and
the challenges of the future] Egyhzfrum, Pcs Balassi, Budapest, 2009, pp. 29-30.
165
For instance, the paper of the parish in buda wrote about 'thousands of souls registered as Catholics but
roaming about Christless. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume III, Issue 1, March 1927, p. 4. we
have heard from the mouth of not one Jew that they do not think much of their religion. They only remain Jews
because of their parents. But they will sit in the Temple and keep the fast at Yom Kippur. On the other hand,
many Catholics proclaim: I am a good Catholic. But he will not make his confession at Easter, he will not go to
mass on Sunday; and he will surely eat meat on Friday even if he did not have any meat all through the week.
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume III, Issue 1, March 1927, p. 13. Indifference to faith is
spreading as the Spanish flu said the Cardinal recently. () It is a greater threat to the Catholic Church than
open opposition to God. Because we can take up fight against an open enemy, but it is more difficult if we have
to face a sly, hidden enemy. Indifference to faith presents itself in carelessness to the laws of the religion and
morality. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume VII, Issue 37, December 1931, p. 15. Sunday
Catholics are growing in number, although we would really need everyday Catholics who show their true
Catholic nature not by listening to the mass once a week, but out of inner conviction and with their actions.
Instead of superficial and opportunistic Catholicism, we would need brave self-conscious Catholicism, which side-by-side with a pure heart - would strive for pure hands in every context of the social and national life.
Conscience should be standing side-by-side with the force of law in public life and true Catholicism, healthy life
according to Christ provides you with a clear conscience Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume
VIII, issue 38, March 1932, p. 8. Similarly, id. pp. 12-13. P. Badalik Bertalan, Dominican prior talks about
paper-Catholics. P. Badalik Bertalan, Szentsgi s szerzdses hzassg (Holy and contractual marriage'),
Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume X, Issue 55, November 1934, pp. 4-6. Similar problems could
be found in the Lutheran community in buda. For instance, in 1936 almost 180 to 230 people out of 2600
registered followers (i.e., less than 10%) visited the service. See Blintn Varsnyi Vilma, Ksziklra volt
164

46

audience was mainly the middle classes (it spoke to it and about it), and it had hardly any
moral or spiritual content! Its ethics was practically confined to regulating sexuality and
promoting respect for power and authority. It is not so surprising by itself, because the
churches were institutional structures serving political power, relying on its mercy and mainly
on its material support. One can say then that the Christianity of the Horthy era in
Hungary was in fact Christianity without God! Its ethos constituted in respecting the
existing social structure. All had to know their place in society and had to behave
accordingly. It encouraged the wealthy for charity and the poor for being humble and grateful.
Probably that is why racial anti-Semitism could be embedded into the self-determination of
Christians and could Christianity become a racial category. The most evident explanation
of the success of the Holocaust in Hungary in 1944 may be explained by that!
On the other hand, an in-depth research of the relationship of the Christian Churches of
buda and the Jewish community directs our attention to the fact that although the Catholic
Church seemed to define and influence public life spectacularly in the period between the two
World Wars,166 in fact the politicians and public personalities linked to the Reformed Church
and having a church background filling some positions from time to time were the
decision-makers and had a decisive influence.167 The press written and/or controlled by them
was likely reflecting their attitude, their mentality. An undoubted proof of that is Egyhzi let
[Church Life], the paper of the Protestant minister in buda and also PM168, Kontra Aladr.169
alapozva (It was founded on rock), Budapest, 2009, p. 68. And the Monitor wrote the following in September
1933: you go to church today because you can expect to be given something, you confirm because you expect
some clothes. Christian life is a business today. There are over six thousand Protestants in buda and thirtyfive confirmed on the last occasion where there should have been at least a hundred and fifty to two hundred.
Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume V, Issue 7, September 1933, p. 3.
166
Such demands were expressed already on the first issue of Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] (Volume
I, Issue 1, December 1925, p. 9.): Hungary has found its strongest support in Catholicism for thousand years. We
have a right to demand that the Catholic spirit should permeate not only public life but official Hungary as well.
In 1929 the Catholic author of buda complained as follows: Those who have been the leaders of the state are
starting to think independently from the point of view of Catholicism. Recently, a non-Catholic person was
placed into a position filled previously by a Catholic person who took his subordinates every year to perform
their Easter confession. We do not wish the state to be transformed into a power organ of Catholicism but we
wish out of the right of our truth and for the benefit of the state that the Catholic spirit should be taken into
account in the whole life of the state. Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish Bulletin] Volume V, Issue 23, September
1929, p. 13. And when in 1934 the Cardinal wished in an address that Catholics should be given positions in
proportion to their numbers the church paper in buda reported with an educational statistics proving that the
places of Catholics were not taken by Calvinists but by Jews! Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 5,
May 1934, pp. 7-8.
167
For instance, Dr. Csillry Andrs MP(1964) was the chief curator of the Reformed Church in buda. In
January 1938 Darnyi Klmn Prime Minister (12 October 1936 to 14 May 1938) became the chief curator of
the Reformed Church in Budapest-Jzsefvros. It can be said in general that Protestant politicians and high
ranking government servant were regularly fulfilling church positions as well. As a result, they learnt a lot about
what was happening to the Jewish community at the time of the Second World War
(http://index.hu/tudomany/tortenelem/2014/06/29/mit_tudott_a_magyar_hatalmi_elit_a_nepirtasrol; 8 July
2014).
168
Kontra Aladr was active in the Christian Community Party. See Gergely Jen, A Keresztny Kzsgi (Wolff)
Prt (The Christian Community (Wolff) Party) (19201939). (Prtok s Politika), Gondolat Kiad MTAELTE
Prtok, prtrendszerek, parlamentarizmus kutatcsoport, Budapest, 2010.
169
See Szab Imre, A magyar pap. Kontra Aladr 30 ves jubileumra (The Hungarian Minister. The 30-year
jubilee of Kontra Aladr), Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume IV, Issue 9, December 1932, p. 1.; Dr. Csillry
Andrs, Kontra Aladr, Id. pp. 3-4. According to the author, the jubilee minister is an ardent Hungarian and
lover of his race proven by the fact that even before the war he took part in a silent and intensive work in the
company of many already deceased and many still living of our great people, that those Great Ones joined in the
Hungarian Cultural League launched against internationality and Freemasonry that caused the destruction of our
country later. At that time many of his articles were published in that spirit while in 1913 the Hungarian Cultural
47

The historical micro-sociographic study of buda suggests that contrary to public belief and
due to the fact that no research has been going on investigating the church and social history
of the Horthy era in a close context170 the Hungarian political and social life between the
two World Wars was not so much defined by Catholicism but by the Protestantism of the
Reformed Church deemed racially pure Hungarian. Anti-Semitism was one of its
important components of self-determination; thinking in the context of the racial
antagonism of Hungarians against Jews. On the other hand, there was an existential,171
almost apocalyptic fear of becoming unimportant and being destroyed172 due to a continued
fight with Catholicism to gain followers.173
League published a pamphlet in several thousand copies dealing with Jewry, Freemasonry and minority
incitement. Kontra Aladr was the contributor to different associations of national purposes. He delivered
speeches and propaganda addresses all over the country. His obvious anti-Semitism was coupled with a kind of
social sensitivity. He regarded the mitigation of social misery to be the matter of his heart (but only for religious
followers of the Reformed Church! See Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume V, Issue 9, November 1933, p. 2.),
and he found its causes not in the contemporary structure of Hungarian society but in Jewry. (see Egyhzi let
[Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 8, October 1934; According to Monitor, the Jewish race keeps Hungarians in
slavery). Obviously, it can be related to the fact that Kontra Aladr welcomed the events in Germany in April
1933 when Hitler took power and wrote that Christ and Satan were fighting each other there; and the spirit of
the Saviour flew over the German land. Kontra Aladr minister, A nagy harc (The great fight), Egyhzi let
[Church Life] Volume V, Issue 4, April 1933, pp. 1-2.
170
An excellent example of that is by Ungvry Krisztin, A Horthy-korszak mrlege. Diszkriminci,
szocilpolitika s antiszemitizmus Magyarorszgon, 19191944 (The balance of the Horthy era. Discrimination,
social politics ad anti-Semitism in Hungary, 1949-1944), Jelenkor, Pcs OSZK, Budapest, 2012; 2nd edition
2013.
171
On the margins of the one-child family. The number of the Jewish community increased from 3,280,000 to
7,660,000 from 1825 to 1880 and to 15,800,000 by 1930. It increases by 180,000 people today while the annual
increase was only 80,000 from 1825 to 1880, i.e., 100,000 people less. On the other hand, in our case the number
of births is decreasing due to economic misery. Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VII, Issue 2, February 1935,
p. 8. See also id. Volume VII, Issue 9, November 1935, p. 8. We are decaying! () Decay and illness only hits
the Hungarians. Because of the followers of the Reformed Church are pure Hungarians, our churches decay as
well. It is only one race that does not feel the threat. It is increased with newcomers, it is getting richer and
richer; the properties, land and house of destitute Hungarians wander to his hands. He is spreading his power
over everything and now he is the lord over life. Money and power are in his hands. He is not threatened by any
disaster. He is protected by the power of money and better life makes him a ruler over illness. As a result of his
riches obtained from us, Jews are not sufferers of fate; they do not know any misery. This is also our crime. They
constitute a separate class, fortunately they are separated voluntarily. That happy state is thanks to the property
taken from our blood and due to our carelessness. And then, there are some who complain if we protect our race
on the pages of our paper.
172
See Ills Lajos, Temets?... Nem! (Burial?... No!), Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 6, June
1934, pp. 1-2. The author reports on the extinction of the Protestant community at the village of Hidas in
Baranya County: You cannot find even one Hungarian in the village, Germans live in every house. At Hidas the
cemetery only is Hungarian and it will turn into a potato field soon. Hungarian death provides fertility for an
alien race, the Hungarian dead turned to dust provide rich fertiliser for the land of a foreign owner.
173
See Ills Lajos, Fight for the reversal, (reversal a written promise by a Catholic man marrying a
Protestant woman that the children born from the marriage will be Catholics translators note) Egyhzi let
[Church Life] Volume VI, Issue 7, September 1934, p. 4.; Id A felekezeti bkessg utjn (On the road to peace
of denominations), id. Volume VII, Issue 2, February 1935, pp. 1-2. On the side of Catholics, see dr. Sipos
Istvn, professor of church law, Protestns srelmek (Protestant complaints), Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [Parish
Bulletin] Volume VI, Issue 30, November 1930, pp. 7-9. Reversals were also objected to by Lutherans of buda.
Priest Mohr Henrik wrote in 1924: the loveless attitude of the Roman Catholic high clergy resulted in
unfortunate struggles among the denominations in this country. Fishing for souls will not spare the families,
either. A Catholic is punished with inhuman and loveless means if he dares to get married in another church he
is denied every kind of church service, he is almost disowned. This is how they intend to force the marriageable
couples into the Catholic Church if it is a mixed marriage and to win the children to be born for the Roman
Catholic Church. The guidelines of the Lutheran Church, the Word for bids us to use similar means. See
Blintn Varsnyi Vilma, Ksziklra volt alapozva (Founded on a rock), Budapest, 2009, p. 59.
48

Trying to reveal the causes for the higher rate of child mortality, an unknown author in
Egyhzi let [Church Life] emphasised social differences. However, instead of discussing
the structural problems of society, he discussed the issue as that of races and outlined
morbid statistical comparisons. To the question why child mortality was low with Jews his
answer was its cause is the better financial position, riches, that allows for better nutrition
and medical treatment. Their lifestyle and housing are better. You will not find Jews in cave
dwellings or miserable cottages. That is the explanation for the fact that although the number
of Jews is almost twice as much as that of Protestants in Budapest, 74 Calvinists and only 92
Jewish infants died before the age of one. In other words, the author believed the number of
dead Jewish infants was not enough! On the other hand, the author pointed out that the
number of Jews is low among workers performing hard manual work. They are rather traders
of spirits, watchmakers, hat makers, and producers of liquors or owners of houses. After
reporting on the facts, reasoning follows: Are you asking my brother why we are writing all
that? Because we want you to wake to the truth, to the destruction of our race and to the
expansion of the Jewry getting rich out of us! Wake to the way they conquer our country and
capital! Do not support him, do not purchase from him, support your race-brothers, order your
race-brothers to work so that bread, life and earnings should go to them, not to the Jews. We
do not harm the Jew but we want to protect our race. This is the last time for us to stop the
deterioration and prevent the destruction of the Hungarian race. It is up to you whether or not
you honour your obligation! Jews act like that, so learn to join forces from their example!
Gods help will be with us if your conscience is awakened.174
To sum up, the Hungarian society and its psychology between the two World Wars
cannot be understood without a proper knowledge of the contemporary church history
and conflicts between the communities. Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust are imbedded in
the same context. They go beyond the Jewish community even if that is in the focus. Its main
cause is that Hungarian society - self-absolving and not willing to face anything175 - made the
Jewish community responsible for anything; they were the culprits! This is, in fact the most
important lesson for the future drawn from the study of buda.

Conclusions
1) The responsibility of the churches for the Holocaust is that - much beyond theological
anti-Judaism they allowed both in word and writing some segments of theirs (that cannot be
exactly identified at the moment lacking comprehensive and in-depth research) to adopt
racial anti-Semitism, they maintained and propagated it. Even if it generated internal
tensions and conflicts, the churches, as institutions, did not act effectively and with proper
pressure against the phenomenon. In that way they actively contributed to the mental
preparation of the Hungarian society, for tuning it to accept the legal deprivation, exclusion
and deportation of the Jews. Not to mention that the majority of the society used it as an
Beszl szmok (Telling figures), Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VII, Issue 10, December 1935, p. 3.
We were good to everybody, we believed in honour and we paid for it. Our race had become victim to liberal
lies and many leaders of our church had been responsible for that. The new ideology produced todays big power
status of the liberated Jewry you could say broken loose, in which we had become beggars. The land of
Hungarians hallowed by much blood and sacrifice became the price of treason, the target of obtaining assets by
Jews, but the Hungarian peasants did not get any. The liberal idiocy kept it for the Vlach, Check, Serbs and they
set an example of how our dear Hungarian land should have been preserved and together our blood, our true
Hungarian race. Ills Lajos, sszetarts (Solidarity, Egyhzi let [Church Life] Volume VIII, Issue 6, June
1936, p. 1.
174
175

49

opportunity. It had been legitimised and given moral justification years earlier by the
churches.
2) At the time of the deportations the Christian masses, even if they did not take an active
part in the events, were passive onlookers because the churches as institutions did the same.
There were very few who still saw Man in the Jew. The life story of them has been hardly
processed. Many of them (such as Kiss Mihly, Salesian prior or Kll Ferenc, Catholic
chaplain killed by the Arrow-Cross Party followers) are almost unknown to the large
public, because their example could only be understood and presented in a context of the
contemporary history and society. However, the Hungarian Christian Churches do not
want to face that context.
3) A lack of self-reflection clearly results from the denial to face the past, including a
compulsion to find self-justification. All that, naturally, results in a permanently frustrated
mind-set, a situation to put up continuous defence. Due to the syndrome of a fortress under
siege, the Hungarian churches live in a permanent sense of animosity to the church and
Christianity and are practically unable to continue any rational dialogue.
4) The prejudices worded in the past at the time of the mental preparation, to be put on
ice in the decades of state-socialism then thawed still live and haunt Hungarian society,
maybe because the use and reception of church publications from the period between the two
World Wars was not suspended in the period of state socialism. They continued to have an
impact in the depth and poisoned social conscience. One can say they still poison it because
lacking the courage to face the past it cannot be processed and distanced. You can say there is
a straight road from Kontra Aladr of the Reformed Church at buda and PM to Hegeds
Lrnt junior of the Reformed Church.
The circle is complete; present and past have overlapped!

Sources and literature used


Contemporary press:
Egyhzkzsgi tudst. Kiadta az budai Szent Pter s Pl Egyhzkzsg, Budapest,
1925/1. sz. 1935/57. sz. Editor: Sagmller Jzsef. Felels szerkeszt: Leiner Mihly s R.
Rw [Reischl-Rw] Sndor.176 Felels kiad: Mettelka Frigyes [kir. tancsos, ny. Mv.
ffelgyel]. Megjelent havonta.(Parish Bulletin. Published by the buda St Peter and St
Paul Parish, Budapest, from Issue 1 1925 to issue 57 1935. Published monthly)
Egyhzi let. Az budai reformtus egyhz hivatalos lapja (gylekezeti lap 177). Kiadta az
budai Reformtus Egyhz Tancsa, Budapest, 19301939. (Church Life. The official paper
of the buda Council of the Reformed Church, 1930-1939. Editor-in-chief: Aladr Kontra,
published monthly). Fszerkeszt: Kontra Aladr, budai ref. lelksz. Felels szerkeszt:
Vass rpd, tanr (1930 mrc. 1932 jn.); majd Dek Endre (1932 okt. 1939). Megjelent
havonta.

176

Iskolaigazgat, az irredentizmus hve. [headmaster, follower of irredentism.] See: Egyhzkzsgi Tudst


[Parish Bulletin] Vol. VIII, Issue 39, May 1932, p. 16.
177
Vol. VI, Issue 1, January 1934, p. 6, Self-definition is included in the invitation for subscription.
50

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51

in 1838], in Kaba Melinda Nagy Emese (szerk.), Tanulmnyok Budapest mltjbl XXIV.
(Budapest vrostrtneti monogrfii, 33), Budapesti Trtneti Mzeum, Budapest, 1991, pp.
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Tanulmnyok Budapest mltjbl XXI, Budapesti Trtneti Mzeum, Budapest, 1979, pp.
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Residence and consumption], in Kaba Melinda Nagy Emese (szerk.), Tanulmnyok
Budapest mltjbl XXII. (Budapest vrostrtneti monogrfii, 31), Budapesti Trtneti
Mzeum, Budapest, 1988, pp. 197224.
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III. kerletnek nkormnyzata, Budapest, 1990, pp. 103152.
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Budapest, 2002.
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anniversary of our liberation], III. kerleti Tancs Vgrehajt Bizottsga, Budapest, 1985.
buda mltja, jelene, jvje [The past, present and future of buda], [Budapest, 1963].
budai mltidz. P. Kiss Mihly SDB 1944-45-ben rt naplja s ms visszaemlkezsek,
[Recalling the past of buda. Diary of P.Kiss Mihly from 1944-45 and other memoirs],
Szalzi Szent Ferenc Trsasga Don Bosco Szalzi Trsasga, Budapest, [2011].
Parczel Jzsef: Az budai izraelita templom restaurlsnak trtnete, [The history of the
restoration of the buda Israelite Temple], Bichler I. knyvnyomdja, Budapest, 1901.
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hazai, 9), buda-Bksmegyer nkormnyzata, Budapest, 2011.
Reisz T. Csaba, Az budai nmetsg trtnete (Altofen), [The history of the German
community in buda], in Hambuch Vendel (ed.), Nmetek Budapesten, [Germans in
Budapest], Fvrosi Nmet Kisebbsgi nkormnyzat, Budapest, 1998, pp. 320328.
Schoen Arnold, buda multjbl, [Fromj the history of buda], Az budai Grf ZichyEmlk Bizottsg, Budapest, 1935.
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fathers buda], Budapesti Trtneti Mzeum, Budapest, 1987.
Sz. Bnyai Irn, A gzgyri kolnia. Az budai gzgyr munks- s tisztvisel telepnek
trtneti s nprajzi elemzse [The community of the gas plant. A historical and
ethnographical analysis of the workers and clerks community of the gas plant at buda],
(Folklr s etnogrfia, 93), Kossuth Lajos Tudomnyegyetem, Debrecen, 1996.
Szekeres Jzsef (szerk.), Forrsok Budapest trtnethez, 1919-1945 [Sources to the history
of Budapest], (Forrsok Budapest mltjbl. [Sources from the past of Budapest], Budapest
Fvros Levltra forrskiadvnyai, 3), Budapest Fvros Levltra, Budapest, 1972.
Tth Endrn (ed-in-chief.), Budapest encyclopedia. Harmadik tdolgozott, bvtett kiads,
Corvina Kiad, Budapest, 1981.
Virnyi Ott, Az budai Fplbnia trtnete, [The history of the buda Parish Church],
1955.

52

Websites:
http://budapest.zsidomult.hu
http://obudaizsinagoga.zsido.com
www.bphm.hu
www.centropa.hu
www.csillagoshazak.hu
www.degob.hu
www.emlekezem.hu
www.holokausztmagyarorszagon.hu
www.tm-it.co.il/avodat-kfiya/show_item.asp?levelId=65051 (Memorial museum of Jews
originating from the Hungarian linguistic area)

53

Case study 3
The Christian churches and the Jewish community in Southern Slovakia, with
particular attention to Dunaszerdahely (Dunajsk Streda) between the two World Wars
By Attila Simon

Introduction
Dunaszerdahely located about 50 km from Bratislava in the heart of the area called Csallkz
had been a small town of about 6 thousand in the period of the 1st Czechoslovak Republic
(19181938). According to the census of 1930, only 8% of a population of 6,280 reported to
be of Czechoslovak nationality. Although everybody spoke Hungarian on the streets, only
47% of the residents reported to belong to the Hungarian national minority. This unusual
situation is explained by the presence of the Jewish community, because 35% of the
population of Dunaszerdahely at that time reported themselves belonging to the Jewish
nationality. The weight of the Jewish community at the time is even more emphatic if we look
at the distribution of the population by denominations. At the time of the same census, 43.3%
of the population of Dunaszerdahely reported to be Israelite, which means it had been a halfChristian and half-Jewish town, of which there were few similar examples in the Carpathian
Basin.
178

179

In this study, we are making efforts to find out what the attitude of Christians including the
Christian churches to the Jewish population was in that singular unique micro world also
called Small Palestine in his age. Partly considering the limited availability of sources and
partly in the interests of scholarly credibility, we intend to research the topic in a wider
context. Before analysing the example of Dunaszerdahely, we will firstly deal with the
relationship of the Czechoslovak State and that of the churches to the Jewish community, and
then we shall look at the same issue in the context of Southern Slovakia where the Hungarian
minority lived.
The sources of the topic are plenty but still insufficient. The contemporary Czechoslovakia
including its political and economic life is a period well-researched and also abounding in
archive sources. The same situation applies to Southern Slovakia, and basic research has
already been made regarding the evolution of Dunaszerdahely at the time. On the other hand,
if we investigate the contemporary context of the Jewish issue, particularly the attitude of the
Christian churches to the Jewish community, we have to say the topic has not been
investigated at all: the problem has been totally left unattended by both Czech and Slovak
historiography. Researching the issue is made even more difficult by the fact that as a result of
the nature of the contemporary Czechoslovak State, the Jewish issue had not been part of
public discussion, so the press including the church press did not deal with it. The situation is
similar in the case of Dunaszerdahely. The daily papers published in the town (Csallkz
178

Jzsef Kepecs: Jzsef Kepecs (ed.): A Felvidk teleplseinek nemzetisgi (anyanyelvi) adatai szzalkos
megoszlsban [The nationality (mother tongue) figures of the settlements of Felvidk in percentage] (18801941). Budapest, KSH, 1996, p. 232.
179
Jzsef Kepecs (ed.): A Felvidk teleplseinek vallsi adatai I. [Religious data of the settlements of the
Felvidk I.] Budapest, KSH, 1999, p. 155.
54

News and Csallkz Papers) did not deal with the topic of our study. The local Christian
churches have no archive sources to be assessed, and the Historia Domus of the local Catholic
parish has been lost. Therefore, the playing field of this study to reveal the relationship of the
Christian churches and the Jewish community in Dunaszerdahely have been rather limited.

The Jewish-Christian coexistence and its peculiar national policy relevancies in the first
Czechoslovak Republic
If we take the 1921 census as our starting point, the Czechoslovak Republic proclaimed on 28
October, 1918 included about 355 thousand people of the Israelite confession, 126 thousand
of whom lived in the Czech part of the country, 136 thousand in Slovakia and 93 thousand in
Sub-Carpathia. Those 355 thousand people, however, may not be regarded as a uniform
community, because they consisted of significantly different groups with regard to religion
and mother tongue. If we consider the degree of assimilation, we can see it diminished
progressively from west to east. It was the strongest in the Czech parts of the country and the
weakest in Sub-Carpathia. Similar regional differences can be found regarding the division of
Orthodox and Neolog Judaism, or else in the attitude to Zionism. In this study, we focus on
the Jewry living in Slovakia only, but we cannot disregard when outlining the context of their
political and social life that Czechoslovakia had been such a centralised state in which
Slovakia had had no autonomous rights, while the politics of the Czechoslovak State had been
identified by the experience and ideas of the Czech political elite.
180

The balanced and conflict free relationship of contemporary Czechoslovakia and the Jewry is
commonplace today. The person of Tom Garrigue Masaryk, to become Head of State later,
had a major part to play in the fact that international Jewish organisations and the
international press had been the supporters of the establishment of the new state already in the
period of World War I. He had become known to the international public related to the Czech
Tiszaeszlr case, the so-termed Hilsner Case. Masaryk was one of the few, who - despite
attacks by the Czech public - openly refused to accept that Aneka Hrzov murdered in 1899
under unknown circumstances had been the victim of ritual murder, and he attacked those
who wanted to use the issue to incite anti-Jewish feelings. It, however, does not mean that
Masaryk (or the Czech and Slovak political elite) would have been free of anti-Semitism or at
least from its economic form. As indicated by Miloslav Szab, an excellent Slovak researcher,
Masaryk represented the opinion in the Slovak issue that the Jewry had been a means of
Magyarization and therefore, believed the anti-liberal and anti-Semitic attitude of the Slovak
Catholic clergy to be desirable.
181

182

183

ermkov, Radka: eskoslovensk republika - Nov tt ve stedn Evrop a id. In Soukupov, Blanka
Zahradnkov, Marie (ed.): idovsk menina v eskoslovensku ve dvactych letech. Praha, idovsk mzeum
v Prahe, 2003, 15.
181
A Jew called Leopold Hilsner was accused of murder and, based on indirect evidence, was sentenced to death
for murder committed out of religious reasons. Thanks mainly to Masaryk, however, the sentence was declared
null and void, and although Hilsner was again sentenced to death in the new trial, the motivation was stated as
sexual. In the end, Hilsner was not executed thanks to the mercy of the Emperor and was freed in 1918 after 18
years in jail.
182
Regarding the part played by Masaryk in the Hilsner Case and his opinion on the Jewish issue, see:
Soukupov, Blanka: T. G. Masaryk a id (id), id (id) a T. G. Masaryk: legenda a skutenost. In
Soukupov, Blanka Zahradnkov, Marie (ed.): idovsk menina v eskoslovensku ve dvactych letech.
Praha, idovsk mzeum v Prahe, 2003, 113125.
183
Szab, Miloslav: Od slov k inom. Slovensk nrodn hnutie a antisemitizmus (18751922). Bratislava,
Kalligram, 2014, 160.
180

55

Nevertheless, in the first Czechoslovak Republic of a democratic structure, the Jewish issue
was treated with a liberal attitude. Of course, the fact that the law provided full equality to
Jews and the legal environment was mostly free of anti-Jewish statements thanks to the
personal example shown by Masaryk and his authority did not mean a complete lack of antiSemitism or Jewish-Christian conflicts. It was particularly valid for Slovakia, where adverse
feelings regarding Jews had originated from an important source - nationalism - in addition to
the anti-Judaism of the backward and strongly Catholic Slovak society living mainly in rural
settlements.
In Slovakia particularly in the ethnic Slovak territories to the north of the Hungarian-Slovak
linguistic border - the change of the Empire in 1918/19 had been accompanied in many places
by violent anti-Jewish movements, which had mainly taken the form of looting but also
demanded human life in more than one cases. At the beginning, they had been impulsive
actions triggered by a weakened public order and poor food supply. However, the second
phase of anti-Jewish movements had been encouraged by the Slovak intelligentsia and the
cheers of the state power building up, and at that time, the main motivation had been the
nationalistic feeling. A key figure of that centrally encouraged anti-Semitism was Vavro
robr, the most important Slovak participant to the establishment of the Czechoslovak State,
who had marked the Jews as the main adversary of the Slovak nation already at the turn of the
century. After the proclamation of the new state, as an omnipotent minister of Slovakia, he
made conscious efforts to link the issue of building the new state power to the settlement of
the Jewish issue, which in his opinion mainly meant curbing the economic influence of the
Jewry. An important moment of that effort was a revision of licences to sell alcohol and
tobacco carried out from 1919 to 1921, which was a means to drain the Jews economically.
To understand the antipathy felt in the Slovak political elite against the Jewry, one should see
the major moments of the evolution of the Jewish community on the territory of Slovakia.
The ancestors of Jews living in Slovakia had mostly arrived there from the beginning of the
18th century as immigrants from the eternal provinces and Czechia; while there were major
communities in Eastern Slovakia having arrived to the region from Halics and Sub-Carpathia.
The majority of the Jewry in the Felvidk (now: Slovakia) originally speaking German and
Yiddish had become Hungarian speaking due to the inclusive policy of the era of dualism and
the integration strategy of the Neolog line of Judaism with strong connections to the
Hungarian homeland. It is indicated by the fact that at the time of the 1910 census, 106
thousand, i.e., 75% of about 140 thousand people of the Israelite confession reported on the
territory to become Slovakia later said they spoke Hungarian as their mother tongue. It was
not simply a statistical figure, but a conscious commitment to the Hungarian nation: the Jewry
living in the cities of the Felvidk belonged to the most important consumers of Hungarian
culture spreading the Hungarian language. That exactly was the reason why the Slovak public
regarded the Hungarian speaking Jewry a promoter of the Magyarizing efforts of the
Hungarian State in the age of dualism. The argument was especially strong given that the
clergy particularly the Catholic - which had played an outstanding part in maintaining the
national conscience of Slovaks had had no sympathy towards the Israelite population. It is
true, such accusations were only worded after the Trianon Treaty, but at that time they were
184

185

186

187

184

Regarding documents on anti-Jewish movements, an important source is: Medveck, Karol Anton: Slovensk
prevrat I-IV. Bratislava, 1930.
185
Jelnek, Jeajahu Andrej: Dvidova hviezda pod Tatrami. idia na Slovensku v 20. storo. Praha, 2009, 124.
186
Regarding the revision of licences of pubs and tobacco shops, see Szab, op. ib. pp. 214218.
187
Gyula Poply: Npfogyatkozs. A Csehszlovkiai magyarsg a npszmllsok tkrben 19181945.
[Diminition of people. Hungarians in Czechoslovakia as reflected by censuses 1918-1945] Budapest, Regio,
1991, p. 61.
56

sounded by the highest political groups. Vavro robr, the omnipotent minister appointed to
govern Slovakia made several statements to the effect that the Jews were just as disloyal to
Czechoslovakia as the Hungarians and that they had only themselves to blame for any violent
actions against them at the time of the proclamation of the new state because they had been
servants to Magyarization. The same attitude could be said to be universal not only in the
field of politics but also in public and academic life. It can be best summed up by a statement
made by Anton tefnek, considered to be the founding father of Slovak sociology: The Jews
were always an alien body in the regions populated by them. They lived among us as
foreigners, they had a different language, a different religion, and they made business and
behaved in a different manner. They fully exploited the advantages originating from the
political protection of the ruling Hungarian race, the economic underdevelopment of Slovaks,
their natural tolerance and the carelessness of both simple people and the intelligentsia () It
is a historical fact that our cities had become Magyarized so quickly because the Jews
provided social support promoting dogged but silent de-nationalising activities in the fields of
language, economy and culture among the Slovaks.
188

189

As stated by va Kovcs, anti-Semitism failed to appear in the politics of leading Czech and
Slovak politicians or in their political programmes, although the idea had not been alien to
them. Although the Jewry living in the Felvidk had had adverse feelings regarding the new
state at the beginning, they quickly accepted the new political situation as a result of the
democratic political atmosphere of the Czechoslovak State and the gestures by leading
statesmen (mostly Masaryk) made to them. The fact that the official Czechoslovak politics
had supported and legalised the recognition of the Jewry as a national minority right from the
beginning played a major part in the process. That important measure was not only based on
the opinion of Masaryk, who looked at the Jews as a community with particular features not
to be mistaken for any other community, but also on his intentions not much hidden to reduce
the statistical number of Germans and Hungarians in that way.
190

That calculation was correct, but the Jewish community failed to respond uniformly because
the Orthodox communities representing about 70% of the Slovak Jewry refused to accept the
Jewry as a nation in the modern sense due to theological reasons. Therefore, only about half
of the Jewry in Slovakia used the opportunity offered, while the others confessed themselves
to be Czechoslovak, Hungarian, German, etc.
191

The expectations of Czechoslovak politicians including the followers of Masaryk - were


mainly directed to promoting the dissimilation of the Jewry from the Hungarians, and even
violent means were sometimes used to the same effect. Slovak nationalism, however, wanted
more; the assimilation of the Jewry to the Slovaks. It was a difficult process because the Jews
did not feel their mobility could be accelerated if they assimilated to the Slovaks - particularly
in the first years of the Republic.
192

Hradsk, Katarna: idovsk komunita poas prvej SR. Vzah slovenskej majoritnej spolonosti voi
idovskej menine. esko-Slovensk Historick Roenka, 2001, 5253.
189
Cited from the publication of tefneknek; Zklady sociografie Slovenska [Foundation of sociography in
Slovakia] published in 1945 Mlynrik, Jn: Dejiny idu na Slovensku. Praha, Academia, 2005, p. 71.
190
va Kovcs: Felems asszimilci. A kassai zsidsg a kt vilghbor kztt [Odd assimilation. The Jewry
of Kassa between the two world wars] (1918-1938). Frum Kisebbsgkutat Intzet, Somorja, 2004, p. 18.
191
At the time of the 1930 census, 53% of those stating to be Israelites reported to belong to the Jewish national
minority and 32% to the Czechoslovak nation. Stn lidu v republice eskoslovensk ze dne 1. prosince 1930.
Dl I. Praha, SS, 1934, p. 106.
192
At the 1921 census, a number of Israelites of Hungarian mother tongue in Kassa were registered - despite
their will - as belonging to the Jewish national minority. Cf. Kovcs, op. id. p.41.
188

57

The relationship of high politics and the Jewry was rather contradictory. While the official
Prague policy supported Zionism in effect, it also wanted the Jews to vote for the
Czechoslovak parties. It had partly become true because the Jewish Party had a relatively low
number of supporters in Slovakia. Most Israelites - particularly Orthodox ones voted for the
ruling so-called Czechoslovakist parties as a form to express their loyalty towards the
Czechoslovak State. They included the largest party of the country, the Agrarian Party, the
Czechoslovak Social Democratic Workers Party or the Tradesmens Party.
The political sympathies of the Jewry were greatly linked to the relationship of the national
minority issue and the Jewish issue. Although the Jews tried to stay away from the
controversies of national policy, they failed and the struggles in the Felvidk between the
(Czech) Slovak and Hungarian nationalism had an impact on them as well. While the (Czech)
Slovak public expected the Jewry to assimilate linguistically to the (Czech) Slovak majority,
the Hungarian politics in Slovakia also wanted to make them its ally in its minority struggle
against Czechoslovak power. Two escape routes offered themselves to the Jewry that was
unable to and did not want to meet both sides expectations. One of them was Zionism, the
idea of Jewish nationalism. And the other was the internationalism of the Communist
movement. It is true, whichever they joined they had to face the animosity of both the Slovak
and the Hungarian nationalism.
193

The attitude of the Jewry towards the national minority issue was not neutral for the
Hungarian community in Slovakia either, because a great number of Jews lived in the cities of
Southern Slovakia, in Pozsony [Bratislava], in Komrom [Komarno] in rsekjvr [Nov
Zmky] and in Kassa [Kosice] whose importance was greatly increased for that reason. Their
importance also increased because a part of the Hungarian middle class (about 120 thousand
people) left the Felvidk for Hungary after the area became part of the new state. On the other
hand, the majority of the Jewry that had reported being Hungarian in its language earlier,
stated to belong to the Jewish or Czechoslovak nationality at the Czechoslovak census causing
in that way a statistical loss of about 80 thousand people to the Hungarians. It damaged the
Hungarians particularly at the towns and cities close to the linguistic border, because the
language law linked the use of the minority language to the national minority rather than the
mother tongue. For instance, the Hungarian language ceased to be used in official
communication in Pozsony and Kassa, because the ratio of Hungarians declined to below
20% officially although the number of Hungarian speakers was much higher.
The apparent dissimilation of the Jewry from Hungarians as well as the fact Jews voted for
Czechoslovak parties in great numbers had become a repeated accusation against them by
Budapest and the Slovakian Hungarian politics. The accusations gained real momentum in the
new situation arising after the 1938 Vienna Awards. According to the Hungarian politicians
of the Felvidk fitting into the Horthy regime, the Jewry in Czechoslovakia completely broke
away from Hungarians and failed to take sides with it.
194

The accusations, in fact, were false because the Jewry of the Felvidk whose greater part
continued to be strongly linked to the Hungarian nation did take part in the Hungarian politics
of Slovakia; furthermore, it occupied several major positions in it. As proved by the book of
193

The Constitution of Czechoslovakia between the two World Wars recognised the existence of a uniform but
fictitious Czechoslovak nation as opposed to the Czech and Slovak nations existing in reality. In that spirit, the
efforts for Slovak autonomy were rejected and a centralised state with Prague in its centre was built up.
194
See among others the statement by Andor Jaross at the trial against him by the Peoples Court. Lszl Karsai
- Judit Molnr (ed.): Az Endre-Baky-Jaross per. [The Endre-Baky-Jaross trial] Budapest, Cserpfalvy Kiad,
1994, p. 154.
58

va Kovcs on the Jews of Kassa, Jews played a decisive part in the Hungarian politics of the
city. Two deputy chairmen of the Hungarian National Party, Ignc Hercz and Bla Halmi
were members of the Kassa community. In the course of the 1932 local elections, there were
22 Jews out of 77 candidates of the Hungarian opposition at Kassa, which is amazing because
the National Christian Socialist Part was rather unwilling to support Jewish candidates.
There was another quite important factor, i.e., irrespective of its alleged nationality, the Jewry
at the Felvidk continued to be one of the most important consumers of Hungarian culture: it
purchased and read Hungarian papers and books and it attended Hungarian speaking theatres.
It was also indicated by the response of Slovak politics and public opinion, which was quite
sensitive in its responses seeing that political dissimilation did not walk hand in hand with a
cultural distance from Hungarians. The contemporary Czech and Slovak press and not only
nationalistic types of papers was full of accusations saying the Jewry is ungrateful to the State
it lives on because it continues to speak Hungarian on the streets and on public transport
facilities, it reads Hungarian language papers, in one word, it is the keeper of Hungarian
culture. Such accusations resulted in threats in numerous cases, as indicated by a quotation
from the daily Slovensk dennk close to the Prague Government in 1938, where there is an
unmistakable reference to the situation of the Jews in Germany, and then - unless they
abandon the use of Hungarian and German languages - they are threatened we will have to
regard it as provocation against Slovaks and the Slovak language.
195

196

It is not easy to answer the question of how the churches in Slovakia related to the Jewry.
Since the Jewish issue was practically taboo for the public at the time of the first
Czechoslovak Republic, the churches did not communicate their opinion on the issue - at least
no official statements are known on the topic either by the Catholic or any of the Reformed
Churches or by the Greek Orthodox.
So we can only rely on two things: we can take into account the aversion of the Slovak
population indicated above, and we can use the attitude of certain groups connected to
different churches as our starting point. One of the most important points of reference for the
issue is the Slovak Peoples Party of Hlinka and its leaders, because the Party was closely
interwoven with the Catholic clergy. It was rooted in the Catholic Peoples Party of Zichy and
the teachings of Ottokr Prohszka had a significant part in shaping its ideology. Its founding
chairman, Andrej Hlinka, who was a Catholic priest himself, referred on several occasions to
the Christian anti-Semitism of Prohszka as its inspiring force. Hlinka - although this is
generally denied by Slovak historians - could never get rid of his anti-Semitic views and
practically laid the foundations for his party, led by another Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso after
his death, to become the main player of Holocaust in Slovakia. In the period of the first
Czechoslovak Republic, however, father Hlinka was not the only person connecting the party
and the church, because there were a series of village priests who were almost the elongated
hands of party activity. So the anti-Jewish attitude displayed by the party may not be
separated from the structures of the Slovak Catholic church.

195

Igazsgot a felvidki zsidsgnak! [Justice for the Jews in the Felvidk!] Budapest, Pester Lloyd Kiad, 1939,
p. 15. Taken from here, the figures are published in Gusztv Tams Filep: Zsid magyarok a kt vilghbor
kztti csehszlovkiai magyar kzletben. Szljegyzetek egy elhanyagolt tmakrhz. [Jewish Hungarians in the
Czechoslovak Hungarian public life between the two world wars. Marginal notes to a topic neglected.] Irodalmi
Szemle, 2001, Vol. 7, p. 64.
196
Slovensk dennk, 7 May, 1938, p. 4.
59

The Jewish-Christian coexistence and the Christian churches in Southern Slovakia and
Dunaszerdahely
If we want to investigate the Jewish-Christian coexistence at Dunaszerdahely between the two
wars, the atmosphere surrounding the Jewish issue in Czechoslovakia and the characteristic
features of the relationship of Slovakian Hungarians and Hungarian politics with the Jewish
issue were decisive factors. In addition, however, you should not forget the local traditions of
Jewish-Christian coexistence which also had a major impact on the attitude and behaviour of
the local Christian society and its churches to the Jewish community of the town.
Jews appeared at the small city of Szerdahely constituting the core of the town of
Dunaszerdahely in 1709 and the Plffy family settling them there confirmed their position
with a charter in 1736. The community benefiting from its proximity to both Pozsony and
Vienna developed fast. Israelites represented 46% of the about 3 thousand population of
Dunaszerdahely, which was legally merged in 1854 from four settlements (Szerdahely,
Nemesszeg, jfalu and Eltejed), and their ratio did not significantly change until the
Holocaust. By that time, the second half the 19th century, the specific structure of the town
had been formed. Accordingly, the Jews mainly engaged in commerce (including many
peddlers) and crafts took up the central areas of the town, while the Christian population
mainly living from agriculture was confined to the peripheries of the town. The division of
labour probably useful for both parties and the balance of power may have been the reason
why the sources reflect much more collaboration than conflicts. Although Pozsony where
major anti-Jewish riots broke out in spring 1848 was close, the chronicles only spoke about a
few failed attempts by foreigners arriving into the town of Szerdahely, when they were trying
to incite the Christian craftsmens lads against the Jews. The only major Jewish-Christian
conflict of the pre-Trianon period was linked to the 1887 elections, when a campaign meeting
of the candidate of the Anti-Semitic Party at the town was followed by minor disquiet at the
town and fire broke out in the town centre where the Jews lived on the evening of the
elections. And although the investigation by the authorities excluded wilfulness, neither the
contemporary press nor local tradition believed the fire burning down 38 houses had been an
accident.
197

198

The nature of the local power also contributed to minimising conflicts, because the Israelite
community was always represented in the local government after it was regained in 1861.
What is more, the local Jewry had already been taking part in the elections before civil
equality became the law the 1867. The judge of the town was almost always Christian but his
first deputy usually represented the Jewish community. Jews were not infrequently the
majority in the 40-strong local government. For instance, between 1894 and 1896, over half of
the elected 20 representatives may be assumed having Jewish origins because of their names,
and their weight was further increased in the assembly as the majority of the other 20 people
in the assembly as virilis (i.e., largest taxpayers) were also Israelites.
When on 8 January, 1919, the first advance parties of the army of the Czechoslovak Republic
just established arrived at Dunaszerdahely from the direction of Galnta, they found a
community speaking one language (practically only Hungarian) but divided by religion and
therefore culturally. About half of the population were Israelites whose ratio was the highest
(49%) by the 1919 extraordinary census, while it always exceeded 40% in the period between
the two wars. The duality of the Christian and Jewish population characterised everyday life
as well. Although the Christian and the Jewish population did not live separate from each
197
198

Attila Nagy at al: Dunaszerdahely. Dunaszerdahely, Dunaszerdahely vros nkormnyzata, 2012, p. 63.
The contemporary Hungarian and European press also reported on the event.
60

other, there were streets (for instance, Teleki street or Rzsa street) where almost all residents
were Jewish who also represented the majority of people engaged in commerce or working in
the banking industry. Therefore, the rhythm of trading at Szerdahely was adjusted to the
cultural and religious habits of the local Jewry: life came to a standstill for the Sabbath (i.e.,
from sundown on Friday), while shops were open until 10 a.m. on Sunday and this could not
be changed although Christian Socialists tried to do so on several occasions.
The majority of associations and federations were also organised on the basis of different
religious communities in that half-Christian half-Jewish town, called Small Palestine in the
contemporary language, but of course there were leagues including both Jews and Christians.
According to a note in 1931, 7 out of 13 formerly registered associations at Dunaszerdahely
were explicitly Jewish in their nature. The Chevra Kdisa was outstanding among them
which had been operating at the town since the beginning of the 18th century. Its main
responsibility was to take care of the cemetery and of the elderly. The Chevra had its own
prayer house and it operated an Old Peoples Home, where elderly people who were single or
ill were given accommodation, board and medical supervision. The next charity association
was Chevrat Mlbis rumim, i.e., an organisation supporting poor children. The Chevras
Thoras Chesed had a similar part to play supporting Talmudists. The Bikus Cholim was an
association taking care of the sick, while the Menza provided meals for Talmudists. The
Michael Ppe Association had also been established for the Talmudists, while the ladies of the
community could join the Israelite Womens League established in 1895.
199

Different Zionist organisations also appeared at Dunaszerdahely in the period between the
two wars and many youth had become their enthusiastic followers. They included the
Hasomr Hacair, the Betr or the Mizrachi. Due to the operation of such organisations, the
idea of immigrating to Palestine had become popular among the Jewish youth of
Dunaszerdahely, although only a few of them opted for actual immigration at the time. The
Zionist organisations mainly used sports to attract the local youth. For instance, the Betr had
a table tennis team, but Makkabea had also had a sports club at the town. The sports loving
youth of Dunaszerdahely also maintained the team of the Dunaszerdahely Athletics Club
(DAC), which was the most important sports club at the city. Bla Wiener had been chairman
and rmin Kornfeld deputy chairman of the club and there were a great number of Jewish
youth among the players of DAC.
The new state did not only set forth a new social and political environment but it also resulted
in a new situation in the relationship of Jews and Christians in which forces converging and
alienating appeared at the same time. The foreign occupation, which hit the people of
Dunaszerdahely disregarding their religion, initially increased the internal unity of the
population, Christians and Israelites alike. The Jewish and Christian original population of the
town was uniformly Hungarian in the eyes of the Czechoslovak power, so when hostages
were taken from among the residents in the early summer of 1919, the followers of both
denominations were included. It is no accident, either, that when the Czechoslovak
authorities banned the celebrations of the day of Saint Stephen in summer 1919, a leading
personality of the local Jewish public, Bla Pick, defended the Christian holiday on the pages
of Csallkz Papers, because it had been an expression of their loyalty to Hungary, so Pick
200

ttny archv v Bratislave (hereinafter: ABA P), fond Notrsky rad Dunajsk Streda (N DS), k. 71,
2315/1921.adm.
200
ABA, f. Slunovsk rad v Dunajskej Strede 1862 1922 (hereinafter: S DS), k. 3, 33/1919; Csallkz
Papers, 11 June, 1919, p. 3.
199

61

called it to be a festival for the Jewry as well.

201

The coexistence of Christians and Jews at Dunaszerdahely between the two wars were
basically characterised by fair relations and mutual cooperation. Two Hungarian weeklies
were published at the city. Csallkz Papers was the older one printed at the printing house of
Jzsu Goldstein supported mainly by local Jewish businessmen and edited by Jews. The
other one, the Csallkz News was under the influence of the local leaders of the National
Christian Socialist Party but it was also printed in a Jewish printing house, that of Mr dler.
The two weeklies showed respect towards each other, which might seem unusual today. The
Csallkz Papers also served the Christian community and always celebrated Christian
holidays with long articles. And the News although written in a Christian spirit - never
attacked either the competitor paper or the Jewry itself.
The lack of conflicts between the two religions was probably also the result of the Orthodox
character of the local Jewry, because it did not only mean a more marked separation but also
some quite transparent division of responsibilities as well. As we can learn from Sndor
Mrai, the Christian community mostly looked at the assimilated Jews trying to adapt to the
Christian society as their competitors, which was also the origin of anti-Semitic feelings, and
not in the Orthodox Jewry.
202

If there was any tension between the two communities at Dunaszerdahely, it mostly appeared
on the political scene including local and high politics. Exploiting the liberal system of the
Czechoslovak Republic practising tolerance towards the Jews, the local Jewry could quickly
find its place in political life, while it used markedly different strategies in high and local
politics.
The National Jewish Party was not too welcome for the Orthodox Community of
Dunaszerdahely as it was mainly supported by Neologues and Zionists. That is the reason
while only 3% of the votes went to that Party in 1925. In accordance with the nationwide
trend, the local Jewish community supported the Czechoslovak government parties, which
was a kind of means for them to express their loyalty to the state and its leaders. That was
why the Czechoslovak parties obtained 46% of the Dunaszerdahely votes at the 1925
Parliamentary elections although - by 1921 data - Czechs and Slovaks only constituted 3% of
the population. The Tradesmens Party was particularly popular among local Jews obtaining
19% of all votes cast at Dunaszerdahely in the 1929 elections.
On the other hand, there was a strong interest representation of Jews in local politics. 2-3
clearly Jewish parties competed in local elections, while there also were Jewish candidates of
the other parties (such as on the lists of the Communists or of the Czechoslovak parties). In
that way, several kinds of competition took place in the local elections, because in addition to
Christians competing Jews, there was an internal struggle among Jews as well measured
mainly by the degree of devoutness. Contrary to the Parliamentary elections, the local
Christian society accepted that the Jews failed to vote for the list of the Christian Socialist
Party because it did not mean a support for the Czechoslovak powers. Although the
An article termed the voice of the Jewry recalls the event: Csallkz News, 5 February, 1939.
We all who lived in the house found the Galician relatives of the Jnap family, who wore caftans and flying
locks of hair, nicer than the totally civilised owner of the glass factory and his family. We watched the high style
bourgeois life of the Weinrb family with particular jealousy; we were afraid of them we did not know why? In
limited social contacts, the man was polite and neutral to Christians, while he was condescending and haughty
with the poor Jews of the ground floor. Sndor Mrai: Memoirs of a citizen. Budapest, Eurpa, 2000, p. 16.
201
202

62

opposition Hungarian parties and Jewish parties were competitors in the local government,
their cooperation can be said to be good and they took an identical stand regarding national
issues. Major differences arose, however, on symbolic topics linked to the expression of
loyalty to the Czechoslovak State: for instance, whether or not to send a greeting cable on the
birthday of the President of the Republic.
Although the Hungarian character of the Jews of Dunaszerdahely was not doubted either by
them or their environment, only a few Jewish votes were cast on the two important Hungarian
parties, the National Christian Socialist Party (OKP) and the Hungarian National Party (MNP)
at local elections in Dunaszerdahely and they received few votes at Parliamentary elections
too although it was known of the MNP that there were several Jews among its important
leaders and the local Jews of Kassa belonged to the main supporters of the Party - as referred
to above. On the other hand, the Party was unable to attract the local Jewry at
Dunaszerdahely.
It is easier to understand that only a negligible number of votes were cast for OKP, because
the party built on Christian Socialist ideology was closely connected to the Catholic clergy.
Priests played a decisive part in its leading bodies and regional organisations and no important
decisions could be made without the approval of the so-termed clerical wing operating within
the party. It was also due to the Catholic clergy that no Jews were admitted. Subsequently it
was acknowledged by Gza Szll, who had been the chairman and the decisive person in the
party for many years; although he believed that there had not been any Jews or any antiSemitism within the party. However, he was mistaken there, because there were several
incidents indicating the moderate anti-Semitism of the OKP. For instance, Jen Lelley, the
Chairman of the Party until 1925 supported, together with two other MPs, the so-termed
numerus clausus law submitted to Parliament as a motion by the German Christian
Socialists, which was to restrict the number of Jews at the German University of Prague. The
leading officers of the party and the party press did use, albeit not frequently, the means of
anti-Semitic rhetoric. It is not an accident that the merger of the two Hungarian parties had
been prevented for many years by the OKP objecting to the presence of Jews in MNP.
The OKP had a strong position at the town where it regularly obtained the highest number of
votes both at Parliamentary and local elections. The local organisation of the party and its
leaders (Gza Szeiff, Vendel Uhrovics or Lajos Srenker, who also had been the town judge
for a long time) did not use anti-Semitic means either at the time of election campaigns or at
any other times, and the Jewish issue as such did not play a part in local politics. The topic
was also absent from the pages of Csallkz News edited by Gza Szeiff and we have no
information indicating anti-Semitism by the local Catholic parish, either. The parish did not
have its own paper but the Saint George Calendar published by it was free of the Jewish issue.
The only momentum where the Christian-Jewish conflict openly appeared in town politics
was the opening of shops on Sundays. The heads of the Catholic community including the
parish priest tried in vain to achieve that the Israelite merchants should also close their shops
on Sundays.
203

204

205

Gusztv Filep Tams: A jog hatalma a hatalom joga. Szll Gzrl. [The power of law - the law of power.
On Gza Szll.] Kommentr, 2007, Vol. 3, p. 57.
204
Regarding this, see: Reggel, 30 April, 1925, p. 3.; Prgai Magyar Hrlap, 5 December, 1923, p. 3.; Digitln
knihovna NS RS 19201925, Poslaneck snmovna stenoprotokoly, 246. schze, Ptek 20. prosince 1923.
http://www.snem.cz/eknih/1920ns/ps/stenprot/246schuz/s246010.htm.
205
At the 1926 negotiations on the cooperation of the two parties, one of the conditions of OKP was the
expansion of liberal Jewish elements from MNP. Bla Angyal: Dokumentumok az Orszgos
Keresztnyszocialista Prt trtnethez [Documents to the history of the National Christian Socialist Party]
19191936. Somorja, Frum Kisebbsgkutat Intzet, 2004, p. 70. document, p. 336338.
203

63

Since no archive sources are available on the topic, and no regional church press publications
appeared at Dunaszerdahely or even in the whole of Csallkz, only indirect sources can be
used to assess how the local churches related to the Jewry. We can be assisted here by
analysing the attitude of the Slovak churches to the issue, the behaviour of the Hungarian
Slovakian clergy and the local - not religious - papers.
The Catholic Church was the most important Christian church at Dunaszerdahely, because
almost 90% of the Christian population were Catholics. Relying on press sources (there are
no archive sources in that regard), the relationship between the Catholic parish and Catholic
population of Dunaszerdahely and the local Jewry can be said to be free of conflicts. It
practically corresponded to the atmosphere characterising the Slovak Catholic church
including the Hungarian clergy and its politics, where there was no place for open antiSemitism. The Hungarian church press in Slovakia was also free of anti-Jewish articles; we
can only meet some in the second part of the 1930s. Two such articles have been found in the
Hungarian paper of Actio Catholica, the Parish News in 1937. The first was published in
relation to the Easter holidays, and it is no accident the atmosphere is created by images of
Jews responsible for the death of Christ. Then reiterating that the Jews wanted to control
the global economy and all the nations, it emphasised the settlement of the Jewish issue was
unavoidable. Although the article rejected looking at the Jewish issue as a racial one, it
proposed to introduce a numerus clausus to prevent Jews from having a monopoly in certain
branches of the economy. However, the author of the article could have realised the potential
consequences of such measures, so he proposed to open free spaces of some ancient trades
for the Jews hit by numerus clausus.
206

The article entitled The Catholic press and the Jewish issue mainly attacks the Catholic
community and not the Jews. Although it says the accusations of rising anti-Semitism i.e.,
that Jews control certain branches of the economy and also the public via the press are true, it
is of the opinion that not the Jews but the Christians themselves are responsible for the
situation. The author believes the carelessness of Christians and their insufficient religious
conscience was the reason for the economic expansion of the Jews. The solution is not to
restrict it but Christians should be more assertive and should learn from the Jews.
In addition to Catholics, the followers of the Reformed Church were significant at the town
and its neighbourhood, but their voice could hardly be heard in the local press. The Reformed
Church was considered a Hungarian national church in Slovakia as it consisted of Hungarians
except for a few Slovak-language groups or communities in Eastern Slovakia. The Hungarian
followers of the Reformed Church had the tradition of balanced relationship with the Israelites
and it was not different in Southern Slovakia or in the Csallkz either. As a result of the
more tolerant attitude of the followers of the Reformed Church to Israelites, the converts of
the Israelites usually embraced that confession, which caused no tension between the two
communities.
207

Their problem-free relationship is indicated by the fact that the Jewish issue practically never
appeared in the papers of the Hungarian Reformed Church in the Felvidk between the two
wars. The official paper of the Uniform Reformed Church of Slovensko and Rusinsko
Reformed Church and School only took up the topic in 1938. The topic of settling the Jewish
issue was first addressed by Ignc Darnyi when the so-termed Gyr Program was
announced. In response, an editorial by Sndor goston was published in the 21 May issue of
rnyak a fny krl. [Shadows around the light.] In Plbniai rtest, 1-4 April, 1937.
A katolikus sajt s a zsidkrds. [The Catholic press and the Jewish issue.] In Plbniai rtest,
December, 1937, pp. 2-4.
206
207

64

the above paper entitled Is there a Jewish issue? In an age when you could only read about
the detrimental nature of the Jewry, the article with its tolerance is a good indication of the
attitude of the Reformed Church in Slovakia. The author of the article mainly deals with the
question why Hungarian Israelites have not converted to the Reformed Church as opposed to
the Jewry of the Netherlands. He believes the reason for that is not mainly in the Jews but in
the followers of the Reformed Church that cannot be properly attractive for Israelites with the
strength of its own religious life. In that regard, he defends converted Jews expressing the
opinion that the life they live is not less Christian than that of thoroughbred followers of the
Reformed Church. The response of the article to the question whether or not there is a Jewish
issue is that the real problem is not represented by the Jewry but by the loss of faith of
Christians.
208

Summary
The liberal atmosphere of the first Czechoslovak Republic did not only provide favourable
conditions for the Jewish community living in Slovakia, but it also let the Jewry identify with
the Czechoslovak State and be loyal to it. They expressed their loyalty, among others, by
supporting the Czechoslovak parties at Parliamentary elections or by confessing they
belonged to the Jewish or Czechoslovak nationality.
On the other hand, the Slovak population was unable to get rid of its aversion to the Jewry
that had its roots partly in traditional anti-Judaism, partly in economic factors and partly in
nationalism. The Jews were not only accused of being the promoters of liberal and Bolshevik
ideals alien to the nature of Slovaks but also of being the vehicle of Magyarization. Such
accusations were particularly strong among the followers of the Slovak Peoples Party, which
had had strong links to the Catholic clergy with Andrej Hlinka, a priest not free of antiSemitism, as its leader. It might be assumed that anti-Semitism had strong positions within the
Catholic Church, but it is true the Church had never taken any anti-Jewish steps or
communicated such views formally.
The Orthodox Jewish community of Dunaszerdahely called Small Palestine faced similar
problems as Jews living in other parts of Southern Slovakia. It stood in the cross-fire of the
Slovak and Hungarian nationalism, since the former expected it to distance itself from the
Hungarian culture in its language, while the latter wanted it to identify with the Hungarian
efforts politically.
It also meant the Jewry living in Slovakia did not primarily have to face the traditional antiJudaism advertised by the Christian churches but had become the target of the ethnic and
nationalistic strife typical of the Felvidk. The Slovaks accused them of serving Hungarian
interests while the Hungarians said they were traitors to the Hungarian cause. An escape
route from that situation was to reject both types of nationalism and to approach the idea of
Zionism or to find refuge in the internationalism of the Bolshevik ideology. Both were
actually popular at Dunaszerdahely.
Most Hungarians living in Southern Slovakia were either Catholics or followers of the
Reformed Church. Both had to face a number of problems that were related to the dissolution
of historic Hungary and the establishment of the Czechoslovak state. As a result of
208

Reformed Church and School, 21 May, 1938. pp. 1-2.


65

nationalisation, which had been fairly fast in the Catholic Church, the pontifical posts had
been transferred to Slovaks, and the Hungarian followers fought in vain to establish a separate
Hungarian Diocese. The Czechoslovak state regarded the Reformed Church as a Hungarian
church right from the beginning, and it related to it accordingly: its clerical constitution was
not accepted and it provided no training of theologians for it.
For that reason, the Hungarian churches of Slovakia looked at the state power as their main
adversary rather than the Jewry also speaking Hungarian, which also meant that they
manifested no anti-Semitism. The review of the Hungarian church press indicates the Jewish
issue was only discovered as a topic immediately preceding the First Vienna Award, in 1938,
but the tone used was still different from that of similar press manifestations in Hungary.
It is paradoxical, however, that the life of the Jewish community at Dunaszerdahely took a
similar turn after 1938 as their fellow Jews in Hungary although anti-Semitism was totally
absent in the public life of Hungarians living in Slovakia or at Dunaszerdahely from 1918 to
1938 including the attitude of the Christian churches there. In 1944, they perished in the Shoa
and the local Christian society or the Christian churches did not express any more sympathy
or helpfulness towards them than in other Hungarian regions.

Literature and sources


Archive sources
ttny archv Bratislava poboka ala
Fond Notrsk rad Dunajsk Streda
ttny archv v Bratislave
Fond fond upa Bratislavsk II.
Contemporary press
Csallkz News 19251938
Csallkz Papers, 19201938
Parish News, 19361938
Reformed Church and School, 19211938
Slovensk dennk, 19351938
Literature
Bla Angyal: Dokumentumok az Orszgos Keresztnyszocialista Prt trtnethez
[Documents to the history of National Christian Socialist Party] 19191936. Somorja, Frum
Kisebbsgkutat Intzet, 2004
ermkov, Radka: eskoslovensk republika - Nov tt ve stedn Evrop a id. In
Soukupov, Blanka Zahradnkov, Marie (ed.): idovsk menina v eskoslovensku ve
dvactych letech. Praha, idovsk mzeum v Prahe, 2003, 918.
Alfrd Engel: A dunaszerdahelyi zsid hitkzsg emlkknyve. [the diary of the Jewish
community at Dunaszerdahely], Pozsony: Kalligram, 1995.
Gusztv Filep Tams: A jog hatalma a hatalom joga. Szll Gzrl. [The power of law the law of power. On Gza Szll.] Kommentr, 2007, Vol. 3, pp. 4557.
Gusztv Filep Tams: Zsid magyarok a kt vilghbor kztti csehszlovkiai magyar
kzletben. Szljegyzetek egy elhanyagolt tmakrhz. [Jewish Hungarians in the
Czechoslovak Hungarian public life between the two world wars. Marginal notes to a topic
neglected.] Irodalmi Szemle, 2001, Vol. 7, pp. 58-65.
Hradsk, Katarna: idovsk komunita poas prvej SR. Vzah slovenskej majoritnej

66

spolonosti voi idovskej menine. esko-Slovensk Historick Roenka, 2001, 4958.


Igazsgot a felvidki zsidsgnak! [Justice for the Jews in the Felvidk!] Budapest, Pester
Lloyd Kiad, 1939.
Jelnek, Jeajahu Andrej: Dvidova hviezda pod Tatrami. idia na Slovensku v 20. storo.
Praha, 2009.
Lszl Karsai - Judit Molnr (ed.): Az Endre-Baky-Jaross per. [The Endre-Baky-Jaross trial]
Cserpfalvy Kiad, 1994.
Jzsef Kepecs: Jzsef Kepecs (ed.): A Felvidk teleplseinek nemzetisgi (anyanyelvi) adatai
szzalkos megoszlsban [The nationality (mother tongue) figures of the settlements of
Felvidk in percentage] (1880-1941). Budapest, KSH, 1996.
Jzsef Kepecs (ed.): A Felvidk teleplseinek vallsi adatai I. [Religious data of the
settlements of the Felvidk I.] Budapest, KSH, 1999.
va Kovcs: Felems asszimilci. A kassai zsidsg a kt vilghbor kztt [Odd
assimilation. The Jewry of Kassa between the two world wars] (1918-1938). Frum
Kisebbsgkutat Intzet, Somorja, 2004.
Sndor Mrai: Memoirs of a citizen. Budapest, Eurpa, 2000.
Medveck, Karol Anton: Slovensk prevrat I-IV. Bratislava, 1930.
Mlynrik, Jn: Dejiny idu na Slovensku. Praha, Academia, 2005.
Attila Nagy at al: Dunaszerdahely. Dunaszerdahely, Dunaszerdahely vros nkormnyzata,
2012.
Gyula Poply: Npfogyatkozs. A Csehszlovkiai magyarsg a npszmllsok tkrben
19181945. [Diminition of people. Hungarians in Czechoslovakia as reflected by censuses
1918-1945] Budapest, Regio, 1991.
Stn lidu v republice eskoslovensk ze dne 1. prosince 1930. Dl I. Praha, SS, 1934.
Soukupov, Blanka: T. G. Masaryk a id (id), id (id) a T. G. Masaryk: legenda
a skutenost. In Soukupov, Blanka Zahradnkov, Marie (ed.): idovsk menina v
eskoslovensku ve dvactych letech. Praha, idovsk mzeum v Prahe, 2003, 113125.
Szab, Miloslav: Od slov k inom. Slovensk nrodn hnutie a antisemitizmus (18751922).
Bratislava, Kalligram, 2014.

67

Case study 4
Characteristic features of anti-Semitism in the period of the first Czechoslovak Republic
(based on some contemporary political and ecclesiastic press publications and
documents)
By Aranka Spos and Mikula Janura

Introduction
The domestic politics of the Czechoslovak Republic before Munich was mostly characterised
by conflicting interests of the Czechs and Slovaks. The conflict of the two nations
constituting the state stigmatized the non-Slav national minorities living in the country. The
Slovak political life between the two World Wars was characterised by autonomy efforts and
the reduction of the rights of the national minorities although the peace treaty signed in St.
Germaine in 1919 obliged the new Czechoslovak State to ensure their rights.
Assumed or real inequalities, grievances, advantages provided to the historical territories as
opposed to the periphery of the country and preference of companies close to the ruling
political parties when government orders were allocated, etc. led to increasingly strong
conflicts.
The contradictory part played by Slovakia had become in the focus of domestic policy. After
the Parliamentary elections in 1925, the strength of the Slovak oppositional parties could
already be seen. The highest number of mandates was acquired by the Slovak Popular Party
fighting for autonomy, which entered the government in 1927 led by Andrej Hlinka. They
achieved their goal, the acknowledgement of Slovak autonomy in 1938.
In the first period of its independence, the Slovak nation could not find a place within the
framework of the common state, it expected the new state to provide more than it was actually
able to.
The common state comprised of two partners unequal economically and socially. The Czech
party was conscious both of its leading role and the backward position of the Slovak nation
and abused its power on more than one occasions.
One of the reasons of conflicts between Czechs and Slovaks was the presence of over 100
thousand Czech civil servants in Slovakia. The Slovak population disliked the leading
positions and well-paid jobs held by the Czechs. They objected to the further superfluous
inflow of Czech administrators into different government agencies and expressed
disappointment because almost all Slovaks retire from several offices and now people from
Czechia are invited to fill the vacant positions. They did not only object to the Czech
administrators but to Germans, Hungarians and Jews more compliant with the present
government.209 The Czech employees coming from a better, more stable social environment
or the national minorities (Hungarians, Germans or Jews) mostly irritated the better educated
209

iadme aby zbyton prliv eskch ud orstal. In. Slovak. Vol. XV, issue 147 (2 July, 1933).
68

but unemployed or poorly paid Slovaks. 210


The different economic standards and cultural features of the parts of the country resulted in
major conflicts. The differences of religion and lifestyle of the two nations also caused
misunderstandings and discord. Some Czechs were insensitive to the traditional Slovak
lifestyle, religious beliefs, customs or emotions.211
Religious intolerance had been present in the attitudes of Czech and Slovak immigrants in
America even before the common state was declared. 212 The Catholic Slovak immigrants in
America had reservations regarding the common state established with the Czechs, because
the progressive Czech movements considered the Catholic Church to be the greatest enemy of
the Czech nation, so they wanted to get rid of it.213
Catholic Slovaks, on the other hand, were displeased by Czech liberalism. They believed its
open, profane lifestyle to be superficial and materialistic. They found it difficult to accept that
Czech historic personalities were taught at schools because they considered them foreigners.
The Slovak Catholic Church had to face several difficulties in the new state, such as:
- the Slovak Roman Catholic Church did not have a Slovak bishop immediately after the
declaration of the republic214
- open appearance of anti-Catholicism via Czech teachers who had removed the cross from
the walls of some Slovak schools
- the Czechoslovak Government introduced several measures rejected or considered
inimical by the Catholic Church, for instance: the termination of mandatory religious
education, which was changed later and remained in effect at every school in Slovakia
- the nationalisation of the schools of the Catholic Church 215
- termination of some Catholic church holidays 216
Despite the anti-Church steps of the state, the Slovak Catholic PM-s were able to achieve that
a move on the separation of the Church from the State submitted to Parliament was rejected.
The Slovak Roman Catholic Church did not only fight a war with the state but also with the
Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church played a leading part among Slovak intellectuals, but
lost that position in the first decade of the 20th century. Its place was taken over by the
KVARNA, Duan. Slovensko-esk vzahy v medzivojnovom (1918-38) obdob ovplyvnila asynchrnnos
vvoja. (Online access: www. voltaire.netkoice.sk).
211
KVARNA, Duan. Zvltn cesta slovenskch dejn a nachdzanie vlastnej identity. Od polarizcie
k spasnej diferencicii. http://blisky.cz/art/12796.html.
212
The foundations of the common state were laid by Czech and Slovak immigrants in America. The public at
home was little aware of the movements in America. The Slovak political life was activated in May 1918 led by
Andrej Hlinka Catholic priest.
213
HIWM, Cyril. Cirkev v novovzniknutej eskoslovenskej republike. In. Crkev v esk a slovensk
historii.Spolonos pre dialog crkve a sttu. Olomouc, 2004. p. 13.
214
The bishops at Nyitra, (Nitra) Vilmos Battynyi and Besztercebnya (Banska Bistrica), Wolfgang Radnai
were expulsed by the government due to their Hungarian sympathies. Bishops Sndor Parvay at Szepessg (Spi)
and Lajos Balsz at Rozsny (Roava) had died. Bishop Dr. Augustn Fischer-Colbrie of German-Hungarian
descent alone remained in position in Kassa (Kosice).
215
While all 20 Catholic grammar schools were nationalised, the schools of the Lutherans remained in the
management of the Church. Only 3 out of 17 Catholic teacher training institutions remained in possession of the
Church, one of them teaching in Hungarian. Church-managed elementary schools were not nationalised, but
lacking support, more and more Catholic schools had to close their gates and continued operating as government
schools.
216
The Prague Parliament terminated certain church holidays, e.g.: Days of Mary - 2 February, 25 March and 8
September. On the other hand, 6 July, the Day of burning Jn Hus was declared a holiday.
210

69

Roman Catholic Church, which was, naturally, difficult to accept . using his PhariseeJesuit logic, Hlinka was unable to distort the fact that 95% of the Slovak patriotic
intelligentsia was Lutheran when the takeover of power took place and the majority Catholics
only made up a ridiculous 5% of the Slovak patriotic intelligentsia. 217
Squabbles and accusations had been common between the two churches even before the first
Parliamentary elections (1920). Both sides had been trying to influence their followers and
present a positive image. We, Lutherans do not take religion into politics, we do not establish
political parties on religious basis, we do not make a difference between Slovak Lutherans
and Slovak Catholics. An honest Slovak Catholic is better for us than a Hungarian Lutheran.
We dislike the Popular Party because it incites conflicts among Slovaks just because one of
them is Lutheran and the other is Catholic. Since we do not have our own Lutheran political
party, we have to think twice which political party to support as Lutherans.218
The Lutheran Church had no confidence in the politics of the Catholic Popular Party ... the
Popular Party is led by Roman Catholic priests headed by Tiso who has proved several times
being a real Jesuit vis--vis the Lutherans and hostility is in his blood. The whole politics of
the Party is led in the same spirit. ... 219
The Slovak autonomy and then the declaration of an independent Slovak state further
accentuated the animosity of the two churches. The winner Slovak Popular Party of Hlinka
took every opportunity to underline the importance of the Party and the Catholic ideas in
achieving Slovak independence. The Lutheran Church, on the other hand, was also persistent
to criticise self-praise, Catholic hegemony and the cult of Hlinka. The Pribina festival was
again an occasion to celebrate the victory of Catholicism. The way Hlinka behaved joined by
the adorations of the Catholic hierarchy present, their attitude was to the detriment of
mutuality and the good reputation of the Republic. It was not the tradition of the first Slovak
prince or his historic past in focus but the Catholic conquest and victory. .... Pribina was
monopolised and the Lutherans were ignored. The Ludk (Popular Party) paper Slovak wrote
Pribina was Catholic just as the first church. Pharisee! He was a Christian and belonged to
all Christians.
There were some within the Lutheran Church, who , indirectly support Ludk politics via
the Popular Party; they believe Hlinka would provide the Lutherans with the advantages of
autonomy if achieved, but they are mistaken. Hlinka has never acknowledged anybody but
himself, Jesuit Catholicism and is even willing to plough through dead bodies to achieve his
goal. It would happen in the same way in the case of the autonomy.220
The articles of contemporary ecclesiastic papers also reflect the conflict between the two
churches. 221 The two churches tried to take any opportunity to express their inimical
Dr. SLVIK, Michal. Vallsi gyllet. [Religious hatred.] Cirkevn listy. Vol. XLIII, issue 17 (30
September, 1929).
218
Cirkevn listy. Kit vlasztanak a szlovk evanglikusok? [Who should Slovak Lutherans vote for?] 1920.
219
Kit vlasztanak a szlovk evanglikusok? [Who should Slovak Lutherans vote for?] In. Cirkevn listy. 1920.
220
MIKL, tefan: Veszlyben a szlovk evanglikussg! Hol kell keresni a hibkat? [Slovak Lutherans in
danger! Where to look for the mistakes?] In. Cirkevn listy, Vol. XLVIII, issue 18 (1 September, 1933);
Address of Jn Vojtak Chatolic Bishop at the Pribina festival: Pribinovsk oslavy maj by prejavom
primnej radostiIn. Slovk, Vol. XV. issue 147 (2 July, 1933),
221
Most of them were national, but important ecclesiastic papers were also published regionally such as
Evanjelick vchod (Lutheran East), Evanjelick Bratislava (Lutheran Bratislava) or Koick katolcke cirkevn
sprvy (Kosice Chatolic Church News).
217

70

feelings, mutual accusations and to discredit each other As a witness in the Tuka trial,
Andrej Hlinka said under oath that the whole issue against his Catholic Party had been
triggered by the Lutheran-liberal faction and he repeated it without any grounds.222 They
kept pointing accusing fingers at each other, reiterating when, where and what positions were
filled in public administration by priests and ministers of one or the other church. Andrej
Hlinka said the Protestants took all positions. Except for Medveck, robr and Houdek,
everybody was Protestant.. And the Lutherans answered And what was reality? Ever since
the take-over and also at present, the Catholics hold most of the offices, most of them being
Moravians or Czechs - just to mention the bailiff, there were Catholic priests among them.
Ironic remarks on the origin of the riches of one or the other church were not infrequent,
either: There are hardly 300 Protestants at Rzsahegy and an excellent Luther portal, a
church and school and parsonage were built. There are no more than 50 Lutherans at
Nagyszombat and the nicest business building was built. Using what funds? 223
The articles published in church papers and other documents reflected well that the churches
consciously used the media to influence their followers. Rivalry between the churches,
despising each others religious belief and rancour poisoned the society. That society incited
and affected from several directions was unable to understand and accept the non-Christian
religious community that had been living together with them for centuries.
The Slovak society could not face either itself or its problems, and passed on responsibility
for the situation to the national minorities, mainly to the Jews. Whatever steps the Jewish
community took, they were rejected by the contemporary society; the Jews could only play
the part of the perfect scapegoat. We have had and we still have reason to look at the Jews
with reservation and contempt, and we have a right to accuse them for all the failure and
catastrophe hitting our nation therefore, the anti-Jewish fight and a radical solution of the
Jewish issue must be considered unavoidable, furthermore, it is necessary if we want to save
our nation. 224
The Jewish community had to find a place in such a society full of sometimes latent,
sometimes open conflicts there and then when the constituent nation the Slovaks - survived
the most contradictory and most decisive period of the development of their national identity.

Anti-Semitism in Czechoslovakia (based on articles in the contemporary press)


The Czechoslovak Republic between the two World Wars opened new perspectives for its
Jewish citizens and provided an environment (not restricting them with different special
measures) that allowed the Jewish community to become part of the social life of the country,
but it could only prevent the open political appearance of anti-Semitism for a certain time. It
was the period, when there was hope to build fair relations - anti-Jewish attacks were pushed
into the background. As a result of Masaryks liberal and democratic politics, no open
political anti-Semitism could be present in Czechoslovakia until the middle of 1930s, which
Dr. SLVIK, Michal. Vallsi gyllet. [Religious hatred.] In. Cirkevn listy. Vol. XLIII, issue 17. (30
September, 1929).
223
Dr. SLVIK, Michal. Vallsi gyllet. [Religious hatred.] In. Cirkev listy. Vol. XLIII, issue 17. (30
September, 1929).
224
Cited: KAMENEC, Ivan: Vystenie konenho rieenia idovskej otzky na Slovensku. In. JUROV,
Anna ALAMON, Pavol (eds.) Koice a deportcie idov v roku 1944. Sv SAV a Oddelnie idoveskej
kultry Slovenskho nrodnho mzea v Bratislave, 1994. p. 10.
222

71

does not mean that it did not poison the society in latent and hidden form.225
The anti-Semitism in the period of the first Republic did not cross the borders of politics; the
opposition had no strength or power to implement its propaganda in practice.226
In the first decade of the Republic, the Jewish issue was not in the focus of the interest of the
papers, it was a topic on the periphery. In the Slovak papers, the attacks against the Jewish
communities and the Jewish policy of the first Czechoslovak Republic were reported for
information only with a certain distance held. From time to time, news were published
about events in the Jewish communities, e.g., on the appointment of new rabbis, on financial
matters, Jewish customs, on the religious and ethnic differences between Slovaks and Jews.
The traces of anti-Semitism could not be found in those papers in the 1920s. 227
In the second half of the 1920s only a minor part of the articles published incitement against
the Jewish community but articles warning the people about the cunning of Jewish people
were also published. A Jew lives at Rzsahegy in Nmet street. Nobody knows where he
comes from. One thing is sure, he is ingenious and cunning. All the papers are on display on
his ramshackle house. He is not afraid to display Dennk or Rud Prvo side by side with
Slovk. He will happily sell you both Nrodn Listy, Autonmia or Vla udu. He
ordered 200 pieces of the first issue of Autonmia. His son is a permanent correspondent to
Hungarian papers at Kosice and Prague.228
Several articles were published that were translations of writings of foreign authors. They
were mostly trying to reflect on contemporary social problems touching upon the Jewish issue
as well. For instance, a paper by Gisle Johnson was published in Slovak translation,229 which
was trying to find an answer to the indifference of European people. Europe is surviving a
cultural crisis. People are tired of the events survived they could not process. They are tired
of their feelings, they are tired to think, they are tired to want something and they are tired to
become themselves. And so they run into the arms of those who promise peace, security and
new experiences to their disheartened, languid spirit. The author regarded Catholicism and
the Jewish community as the two powers with the greatest influence over people: We have to
start out from the source of two powers who could be the judges over the humanity of our
days, and they are Roman Catholicism and the Jewry.230 The article also speaks about the
225

The first Czechoslovak fascist organisation RODOBRANA was established in 1923. The omnipotent
governor of Slovakia, robr and his subordinates launched an anti-Semitic campaign under the pretext of
reviewing trade licences with the slogan Buy from Christian merchants only. 3,300 out of 4,600 Jewish trade
licences were rejected; the German students at the Bratislava University organised an anti-Jewish campaign;
organised demonstrations took place at the Prague German University against foreigners; the youth organisation
of the Slovak National Party broke shop windows in 1936; physical abuse after the launch of the film GOLEM;
35 Jewish families driven away from Nagymihly.
226
MIKLOKOV, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionlnych periodikch v rokoch 1918-1938 v Koiciach. In.
loha knh a periodk v ivote v mnohonrodnostn Koc. TV, Koice, 2013. p. 233.
227
In the 1930s, articles were still published that were free of open anti-Semitism ...the film in addition to
propagating and describing the beauty of our capital, is a cultural film of eminent Jews, emphasising the values
of Bratislava Jews mostly in the religious sphere. Everything is captured in this film from the sports
achievements of Jewish gyms to Boy Scout organisations, interesting Jewish buildings or old religious
memorials. The efforts of Dr Neumann and of those who produce this film from their own funds and with their
own work has noble intentions. .....dr. Neumanns film will be successful among the people he produced it for.
Jewish cultural film in Bratislava. Slovk, 8 December, 1930, issue 275.
228
Zsid tallkonysg. [Jewish ingenuity.] Slovk, Vol. X, issue 26 (1 February, 1928).
229
Gisle Johnson. Napjaink zsidsga. [Jews in our days.] In. Cirkevn listy Vol. XLII, issue 7 (7 April, 1928).
230
Gisle Johnson. Napjaink zsidsga. [Jews in our days.] In. Cirkevn listy Vol. XLII, issue 7 (7 April, 1928).
72

strengths of the Jewry, which is not in their diversity or energy. They are not in majority
in one or the other. But their spirit and the power of their have developed differently from
other people. First you could name shrewd patience and last intensive perseverance. Their
strength is mainly in being intuitive people first of all, which can be said of few nations in
Europe.231
By the end of the 1920s, anti-Jewish articles published in the papers had become almost an
everyday feature. The papers also reported on Jewish related events abroad. A regional
Lutheran paper reported on an event related to Hungarian Jews In Hungary, a new Jewish
religious community is expanding Jews believing in Christ. They are headed by Dr Dezs
Fldes, attorney. The members of the new religious community respect Jesus Christ and
acknowledge him as Messiah. They advocate that the acknowledgement of Christ is not in
opposition to the Jewish religion. They do not reject their church. There are followers of this
new religious community also in Slovakia; they state it is spreading in other countries as well,
mainly in Western Europe. It is true; it is a phenomenon worth attention. We want to know
whether or not the members of the new religious community embrace the only and eternal
truth related to Jesus: You are Christ, the son of the living God.232
Most of the above articles expressed their dissatisfaction with and expectations of the Jews in
a nicer, more sophisticated form.
In Slovakia, the Jews were mainly expected to be loyal and to assimilate as soon as possible,
i.e., to achieve Slovak awareness. The objective of the Organisation of Slovak Jews
established a few months ago is to organise the Jews, to promote their national i.e., cultural
and economic identity by ensuring the use of the Slovak language in Jewish schools; to
promote Slovak culture among Jews and finally to encourage adjustment to the consolidation
processes of the country. So it is a pure assimilation programme. Even if it is a programme of
the Czech Jews translated into Slovak, it might be attractive for the first sight for the believers
of Jewish assimilation.233
Both the political and the ecclesiastic elite recognised the opportunities provided by the press
early enough as the simplest and most influential means to influence public opinion and
utilise emotions. In addition to nationwide papers, mainly regional papers provided by the
political parties with connections to their members and sympathisers. There were no political
parties without their own media. In the last decade of the first Republic, the independent press
had become a trumpet of the parties and an instrument of political power and the state.
Playing the Jewish card, anti-Semitism proved to be the best instrument for political parties
to divert attention from the problems accumulating in the society. In Slovakia, it was also
used to release the tensions due to national frustration.
When Hitler took power (1933), the media devoted even more attention to the Jewish issue.
First of all, the consequences of the anti-Jewish measures in Germany were followed with
attention. They focused on the impact of the immigration of German Jews into
Czechoslovakia. Although it mainly affected Czech cities, the Slovak regional press was also
seriously interested. The press presented Jewish immigrants as parasites, non-desirable
elements of the society. If Hitler retains power, it can be expected that whole nations will
231

Gisle Johnson. Napjaink zsidsga. [Jews in our days.] In. Cirkevn listy Vol. XLII, issue 7 (7 April, 1928).
j vallsi kzssg. [New religious community.] In. Evanjelick Posol zpod Tatier. 1928., Vol. 18, issue 112.
233
Szlovk (?) Zsidk Szvetsge. [Federation of Slovak Jews.] Slovk, Vol. IX., issue 3 (3 January, 1927).
232

73

move in Germany. But where to? To Palestine? There is no place at all for unsere Leute.
Or to Poland? There are enough Jews there. The Jews can best find a place in
Czechoslovakia mainly in Slovakia and in the Trans-Carpathian territories. So we can hope
that if events turn to the worst in Germany, the Cains, Moses, Elias and other sons of the
Israeli tribes will take the road to the promised land - Czechoslovakia. This is happy news!
234
In addition to Jewish immigration, other Jew-related events were also reported on, such as:
A war was declared on the Jews in Germany or Prayers are said in France for the
persecuted German Jews, etc. 235
The strongest anti-Jewish articles (you can call them primitive) were published anonymously,
which was not surprising in Czechoslovak press publications between the two World Wars,
because so-termed mandatory anonymity was introduced by several publishing houses.
Journalists were not allowed to sign their articles mainly if they were published in papers
owned by different parties. Unfortunately, anonymity opened the way to the dirtiest,
groundless accusations, mockery and misinformation.
The social atmosphere was also affected by anti-Jewish measures in Germany. Several articles
were published in which the authors welcomed the events in Germany The Jew is not only a
race but it is a mysterious creature by its nature which needs a hard hand and nothing
else.236
The domestic political elite viewed the open anti-Jewish politics of Germany and the
measures implemented there as a confirmation of its own anti-Jewish politics. Anti-Semitism
had become an organic part of both Slovak and Czech nationalism.
Ecclesiastical papers were not left out of discussing the Jewish issue. They followed events
related to the Jewish issue with attention and expressed their opinion. Lutheran papers did not
only report on anti-Jewish measures but also criticised the political part played by church
leaders and warned about the consequences Political blindness and hatred often results in
bad things - unfortunately in the field of religion too. We read a short article about the wellknown dr. Al. Raffay, Hungarian Lutheran bishop, who is the main representative of the
Hungarian Lutheran Church at international ecclesiastic fora. He degraded himself due to
his political blindness so much that as a member of the revision delegation of peace
conditions went to kiss the slippers of the Pope. . German churches were also criticised
for their political role The followers of Hitler commit not less assaults and unfortunately
Prussian Lutherans greatly help them there. There are cases bordering on blasphemy. A
priest, Leuthuser wrote the following in a political paper We can see Adolf Hitler
permeated with the same power that had been given to Jesus Christ our Saviour earlier.
Resurrection comes after the Golgotha! We hand our souls to you, we are happy to die for
Adolf Hitler. The attention was called to the blindness of German priests too A series of
articles can be found by major ecclesiastic officers in which Hitler is placed above Jesus and
politics above religion. They are mitigating their statements hiding behind Luther Hitler
works in the spirit of Luther - one of the priests, Teitisch writes - if he values religion less
than the state and the nation. There is nothing like a Christian state, there are only Christian
STAVAROV, Monika. Prejavy antisemitizmu v regionlnej tlai na vchodnom slovensku v 30. rokoch 20.
storoia. (online access: http://www.pulib.sk/elpub2/FF/Chovanec1/pdf_doc/46.pdf).
235
STAVAROV, Monika. Prejavy antisemitizmu v regionlnej tlai na vchodnom slovensku v 30. rokoch
20. storoia. (online access: http://www.pulib.sk/elpub2/FF/Chovanec1/pdf_doc/46.pdf).
236
STAVAROV, Monika. Prejavy antisemitizmu v regionlnej tlai na vchodnom slovensku v 30. rokoch 20.
storoia. (online access: http://www.pulib.sk/elpub2/FF/Chovanec1/pdf_doc/46.pdf).
234

74

residents in the state, and therefore, we cannot request the state to make its politics in line
with Christian principles.237
The articles also addressed German Christians warning them not to follow the ideology of
Jewish racial theory In other words, German Christians, why do you commit the same
mistakes you have been criticising and cursing the Jews for. You preach water but drink
wine. Why are you attracted to the God of the people who cannot save their people from your
hands? Why do you idealise the Jewish beliefs and their racism? Why do you think racism is
only hideous if it is anti-German but it is acceptable if presented by you? . German
Christians, do not bow to a God that has fallen with another nation, do not want to transform
Jewish racism into German racism. There is only one power to help you: Jesus Christ that
you have sold. Return to him. Racism for you is the bishops courtyard where you denied the
Lord with Peter 238

Anti-Semitism in Czechoslovakia
In the period between the two World Wars, anti-Semitism can be traced as a national trend
(the Jews are not Slovaks), as an economic trend (the Jews are exploiters), as a political trend
(the Jews are liberals, Bolsheviks and Judo-Bolsheviks) and as a religious trend (the Jews are
the murderers of the Saviour).
Economy
In some small towns of Slovakia, the Jewish shops were only patches of colour among other
local shops but in other places, the economic and business life of the city depended on Jewish
merchants. The reason for the part they played in the economy should be found in the
tradition of commerce and the success of operating their shops, and not in the demagogy
advertised in the Slovak State Slovak companies, Christian factories, plants and lands are
mostly owned by non-Christians. Insurance and other corporations and finance are mostly in
the hands of Jews.239
The majority nation was jealous of the part played by Jews in business life. The majority of
Slovak Jews belonged to the middle classes. In addition to a high number of Jews in cities and
towns, quite many of them lived in the countryside. There they were mostly present in local
enterprises, such as small shops, pubs, etc. Among rural residents, the Jew was the
embodiment of the exploiter, the usurer.
Slovaks also felt their national riches to be threatened by the Jews The forests and woods are
among the greatest treasures of Slovakia. Profits of several million have been reached in the
logging industry and timber trade. And Jewish companies usurped our greatest Slovak
treasure, our forests, with many of their shareholders not residents here but in Budapest or
Vienna, where they are the majority shareholders and send the millions of profits there.

237

Politika s valls. [Politics and religion.] In. Cirkevn listy. Vol. XLVII., issue 3 (3 February, 1933).
EDREFFY, Jn. Mire a kakas megszlal. [When the cock cries.] Cirkevn listy. Ronk XLVIII., 2 March,
1934, issue 5.
239
MIKLOKOV, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionlnych periodikch v rokoch 1918-1938 v Koiciach. In.
loha knh a periodk v ivote v mnohonrodnostn Koc. TV, Koice, 2013. p. 233.
238

75

Things are as in the saying: Slovak woods - Jewish gold.240


The economic position and influence of the Jews was a topic of attention for every social
stratum, therefore the political elite also approached the topic with gratitude and used it to
increase the support and popularity of its party.241 Jozef Tiso emphasised in an address given
to foreign journalists that In Slovakia, the Jews may only have as much power as is in
proportion to their numbers compared to the total population of Slovakia. Slovaks will be
given such education as to allow them to fully find their place in the economic and industrial
life and to take over the positions filled by Jews. 242
Politics
The political representation of Jewry was active in the liberal and leftist parties. Right wing
political propaganda also accused the Jews with spreading the idea of Socialism. the
Socialist - Communist politics found its major supporter in the Jewry. We can see armies of
Jews in activities dangerous to Slovaks, which breaks down and damages the Slovak nation';
On the day the autonomy was declared on 6 October, 1938, the politicians of the Popular
Party (Ludks) expressed in their article Manifesto of the Slovak nation: we take side with
the nations that fight against the subversive, violent Marxist-Jewish ideology243
The national perspective
Even after the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was dissolved, the Slovak population was still
convinced that the deprivation of poor people and the Magyarization of the Slovaks were
due to the Jews. The Nrodn noviny (Paper of the Nation) wrote the following in 1933:
Before the political change of power, the Jews had been the most ardent and most effective
means of Magyarization and after the change of political power we can see them as
conspirators against the nation. In Slovak towns, the Jews are supporters of the Hungarian
language even today, they are the most loyal subscribers to Hungarian newspapers. // It is
a historic fact that our towns had become Magyarized so quickly because the Hungarians
had found the social instrument in the Jews that had carried out the work of denationalisation linguistically, economically and culturally and not to our benefit.
Taking the Jews responsible for the Magyarization of Slovaks had already appeared in the
press earlier. In a publication at the beginning of the 19th century, kultty regarded the Jews
as the servants of Hungarians in Slovak villages, the public notaries and the postmen were
usually Jewish - that is why the Jews were in the service of Magyarization 244
The political elite built effective propaganda on the fact that after the establishment of the
240

In the end, the law (Slovak woods - Jewish gold) will apply in Kysuca In./Slovk, Vol. XII. Issue 237, 17
October, 1930.
241
This also was true to opposition politicians. Jnos Eszterhzi delivered a lecture at the Debrecen summer
university on organising the life of Hungarian national minorities. In his address, he also discussed the
difficulties arising in the economy, one of which was the economic presence of Jews, the Jewry flooded the
free professions and the financial institutions we would need are in their hands. Jnos ESZTERHZY.
Cselekedjunk mindannyian egyetrtsben s szeretetben. [Let us all act in agreement and love.] Cseh-szlovkiai
magyar fuzetek. Pannnia konyvkiad. Pozsony.
242
TURK, Peter. Spoloensko-nboensk situcia v eskoslovensku v rokoch 1918-1927
http://www.zoe.sk/pub/doc/theologos/t_spolocensko_nabozenska_situacia_1918_1927.pdf).
243
Nrodn noviny, 1933.
244
KULTTY, J.: Turiansky Sv. Martin, 1931, issue 19.
76

Republic, the Jews used German, Yiddish and Hungarian as a language of communication.
The Jews were attacked for knowing and speaking Hungarian. A few years after the
establishment of the state, the majority of Jews publicly used the Hungarian language, which
was regarded as treason by the Slovaks. They failed to notice 13 years later that they had been
settled in a new state due to the circumstances. That from the Hungarian town of Kassa,
where Hungarian was the official language, they moved into the Slovak city of Koice,
where the Slovak language is the official one.245
The Slovaks would rather tolerate the use of the Hebrew language than of Hungarian. A Jew
who wanted to live in Czechoslovakia could not speak Hungarian. Were they to use Hebrew
or its jargon, we would have no right to stop them for cultivating a national language, but due
to the circumstances of the past, we have to ask whether Hungarian is the national and
official language of the Jews?246The Slovak population expected full linguistic assimilation
of the Jews. If the Kosice Jews want to live among us, they must convert completely before
we lose our patience. Because Kosice must be a purely Slovak city where Slovak is the official
language.247
According to articles published in the press, the Jewish community was responsible for the
forced Magyarization in the past, for the factors preventing the development of the Slovak
national conscience and, last but not least, for a permanent feeling of national oppression.
Such accusations had grown in intensity by the end of the 1930s and the Jews were made
responsible for historic failures the Slovaks could not face.248 So, the Jews were to account for
the consequences of the Vienna Awards (2 November, 1938), which was shameful for the
Slovaks: We know well who these patriots are. We remember the days when their youngsters
of a beastly language were sent to the streets to protect the Republic. We also know that
foreigners wanted to lacerate the body of the Slovak nation. It was not enough that the nation
had been harmed in the field of agriculture. The whole lot should be taken out from there;
they had moved in from foreign lands and we should not feel sorry for the fast departure of
those who yearn for other homes.249
The articles of the daily Slovensk sloboda (Slovak Liberty) owned by the Slovak Peoples
Party (1941) fully reflected the Jewish policy of the Slovak Government. The paper had a
preference to deal with Jewish-Hungarian propaganda, mainly with different Jewish
atrocities, in addition, it monitored and commented on the events in Hungary. There was no
other country in Europe where that issue had to be solved so fast and so thoroughly as in
Hungary. the average annual pension of a Hungarian Jew (1930) was 2,506 Pengo, while
of non-Jews, 427. . The Jews served the enemy not only in internal subversion but ... they
also actively participated in denunciations and sabotage
Christian - based on classical anti-Judaism.
The articles in this group were built on the classical confessional anti-Semitism: Israel
MIKLOKOV, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionlnych periodikch v rokoch 1918-1938 v Koiciach. In.
loha knh a periodk v ivote v mnohonrodnostn Koc. TV, Koice, 2013, p. 236.
246
MIKLOKOV, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionlnych periodikch v rokoch 1918-1938 v Koiciach. In.
loha knh a periodk v ivote v mnohonrodnostn Koc. TV, Koice, 2013. p. 236.
247
MIKLOKOV, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionlnych periodikch v rokoch 1918-1938 v Koiciach. In.
loha knh a periodk v ivote v mnohonrodnostn Koc. TV, Koice, 2013. p. 233.
248
Immediately after the Vienna Awards, on 4 November, 1938, Tiso ordered the deportation of poor Jews,
which was changed to the deportation of refugee Jews of foreign citizenship.
249
Slovk, 29 October, 1938, issue 247.
245

77

should have been among the nations of the world as the carrier and guardian of the divine
idea used by God to prepare people for salvation. In the life available to him, he should have
participated of the greatest good. But ever since ancient times Israel had often failed to
understand the divine idea and in the end when the world was preparing for salvation, it
resigned its historic task and became the murderer of the One sent to the world by God.
Israels historic mission had been to prepare for the reception of the Saviour. By crucifying
the Messiah, that nation rejected all its previous history and said judgement over itself. Its act
killing the Messiah meant a religious and national suicide, and with that, all its previous
history both as a nation and as a religious group had lost its meaning... That is the greatest
tragedy in the history of the nations.250

Slovakia in 1939-1944
National minorities constituted a significant part of the total population of Slovakia, although
the figures of referenda during the first Czechoslovak Republic (in 1919, 1921 and 1930)
indicated a gradual decline of their numbers. According to the census in 1920251 and 1930, 2%
and 39% or 2.01% reported to belong to the Jewish national minority, while 4.53% and 4.11%
said were of the Israelite confession. According to the summary figures of the 1930
referendum, 136,737 residents of the Jewish religion lived in Slovakia making up 4.11% of
the total population.252 Of the Israelite population, 44,019 (32.19%) reported to belong to the
Czechoslovak, 9,945 (7.27 %) to the German and 65,385 (47.81%) to the Jewish national
minority.
After the Vienna Awards, both the ethnic and religious composition of the population of
Slovakia changed significantly. According to the figures of the 1940 census, the new
independent country had 2,650,000 residents. Of that 2 million reported to belong to the
Slovak nation (83 %). The most important national minority were the Germans of 130,000
people and the Jews of 90,000 people (they could only report to belong to the Jewish national
minority at that time). In addition, 80,000 Czechs, 80,000 Rusyns-Ukrainians, 65 thousand
Hungarians and 30,000 Gypsies (migrating Gypsies only) were reported in the census.
From a religious perspective, the majority of Roman Catholic believers was clear (almost 2
million people), 400 thousand belonged to one of the Reformed Churches and 90 thousand to
the Israelite confession.
The national minorities were present in the life of Slovak towns as constituent factors. During
the war and after the years of the war that historic role (constituents) was finished for German
and mainly for Jewish citizens. The events of the war and of the post-war years changed the
ethnic and religious composition of different towns (Jewish Holocaust, the deportation of
German residents, expulsions). The Jewish community, which had been playing a decisive
part in the social and economic life of the towns, was exterminated by the political power
helped with the indifference of the society and human jealousy.
Dr. ZLATO, tefan. o hovor Psmo sv. o idovskej otzke. (Mit mond a szent rs a zsid krdsrol)
[What the Bible says about the Jewish issue] In. Duchovn pastier. Vol. XXI., 1940., issue 1-2. (a paper of
Christian clerics).
251
After 1918, approximately 135 thousand residents reported to belong to the Jewish national minority or the
Israelite confession in Slovakia. The number slightly increased in the 1930s due to immigration. Jewish refugees
arrived to Slovakia mainly from Germany, Poland and Austria. (cf. KAMENEC, Ivn. Spolonos, politika,
historiografia. Bratislava, Prodama 2009, p. 35.
252
ZEMKO, Milan. K problematike vskumu dejn nrodnostnch menn na Slovensku za prvej SR (online
http://www.shs.sav.sk/smolenice2001/Smolenice/Zjazdove%20rokovanie/Diskusne%20prispevky/Zemko.htm.
250

78

The Slovak society was jealous of the economic part played by the Jews and made them
responsible for its own failure. Most people accused the Jews for the spread of Bolshevism,
made them responsible for the forceful Magyarizing politics prevalent before World War 1,
and questioned the loyalty of the Jews to the new state.

The relationship of the Catholic Church and the Slovak State


The Catholic ecclesiastic leaders welcomed the establishment of the first independent Slovak
State in a pastoral letter (24 October, 1939). They requested wisdom and Gods blessing on
the leaders of the State and warned that only a state founded on Christian ideals could ensure
well-being for all its citizens. The Slovak Constitution adopted in 1939 was built on the
principle of every power and rights originating from God and supported it already by its first
sentence: The Slovak nation had been staying on the land due to Him from the beginning
under the protection of the Almighty God where it established its own independent state with
the help of Him who is the origin of all power and law.
The clerical-Fascist Slovak State (1938 1945) was a perfect example of state power and
church entwined. The state ensured the Roman Catholic religion a privileged position in the
life of the society and also in the operation of the state (the church had become part of public
administration and participated in the implementation of government policy). So the fate of
the Catholic Church was one with the fate of the clerical-Fascist state. That entwining cannot
be disputed (the majority of Slovak historians do not argue it, either). The priests of the
Church actively participated in the political life of the state. The Catholic priest, Josef Tiso
filled the highest government positions; he was first the head of the government then head of
state. Three Catholic priests, Jn Vojtak the Bishop of Spi, Jn Pstnyi - curator of
Saint Bla Society and Andrej Marsina Papal Prelate were members of the Council of State of
the Slovak Republic. 7 out of its 8 ministers were Catholic and 1 Lutheran. 2 out of 6 county
presidents were priests and 16 of 60 district presidents were priests as well. In the Slovak
Peoples Party of Hlinka priests were mainly secretaries or presidents. 253 5% of MPs also
belonged to the Catholic Church. According to the results of the 1938 elections, 11 Roman
Catholic priests, 1 Greek Catholic and 1 Lutheran clergyman were members of Parliament.
The clergy continued to retain its 20 % ratio among MPs in the following years as well.
The political elite in power and the groups around them playing different parts in political life
accepted the leading position of the Catholic Church in issues related to national minorities, in
the political and economic and spiritual life. The Slovak State advocating Christian ideas tried
to shape its citizens to its own image on an ideological basis.
On 4 November, 1938, the autonomous Slovak Government carried out its first openly antiJewish step. With the help of the Hlinka Guard, it collected and evicted the refugee Jews who
did not have Slovak citizenship from the country. With that step, the Government launched
an open political attack against the Jews (discriminatory decrees, contempt, arizci,
deportation), although the leaders of the state emphasised, nobody should be afraid of the
Christian regime. 254
KAMENEC, PREAN, KORVNEK. Vatikn a Slovensk Republika. Bratsilava, H SAV SD AV,
1992, p. 45.
254
Cited: KAMENEC, Ivan: Vystenie konenho rieenia idovskej otzky na Slovensku. In. JUROV,
Anna ALAMON, Pavol (eds.) Koice a deportcie idov v roku 1944. Sv SAV a Oddelnie idoveskej
kultry Slovenskho nrodnho mzea v Bratislave, 1994, p. 11.
253

79

Anti-Semitism was present in every group of the society; sometimes openly and sometimes
latent and the churches were no exception. Anti-Semitism appeared in ecclesiastic circles
with different strength and intensity. The Lutheran Church and the minor churches tried to
distance themselves from anti-Semitic manifestations but there were clergymen among them
who could identify with that ideal and voiced their opinion openly.

Summary
Although the entwining of the Catholic Church and the State and so the responsibility of the
Church in the actions of the Slovak State during the war is undisputable, the majority of the
Slovak society has been unable to face the events of the past and the responsibility of its
Church to date.
The Catholic Church itself is unable to face its responsibility and the part it played it cannot
interpret Church history and theology as an open scholarly branch searching for the truth,
without trying to justify and support what has happened. Traditionally, the problematic
periods of Church history are attributed to certain individuals while the system as such is
considered to be good. 255
To this we can add that the fate of the Jewry in Slovakia was somewhat veiled by the fact not only during but also after World War II - that Slovakia had not been an independent state
before 1939 and it returned to the Czechoslovak Republic in 1945. 256

Researching
the problems of conversion requires investigations in several directions
The churches mainly expressed their opinion regarding the Jews and the relevant events in
pastoral letters. The Catholic Bishops Bench expressed its opinion on the solution of the
Jewish issue in its pastoral letter dated 23 April, 1942. It pointed out the harmful influence of
Jews on the social, economic and political life, but emphasised the Jewish issue cannot be
solved in the spirit of revenge; it is self-protection within the framework of Gods laws and
the laws in effect. That meant that according to the principle of justice, the property obtained
unjustly could be taken from the Jews. Exploitation by the Jews and demoralisation of the
nation can be prevented if Jews are relocated to other countries in a humane manner.257
In the same way, the Roman Catholic Church rejected the accusation of the press on the mass
baptisms of Jews in a pastoral letter (26 April, 1942). The Church admitted that as a result of
the circumstances Jews applied to be baptised in the Roman Catholic confession but when the
conditions of Baptism were explained to them, many stood down.
The Church also responded to the deportation of baptised Jews in a pastoral letter (16
February, 1943). The following was said:
255

Miroslav Kocur, former Catholic priest.


Sas Andor. A szlovkiai zsidk ldzse 19391945). [persecution of Jews in Slovakia]
http://www.kalligram.eu/Kalligram/Archivum/1993/II.-evf.-1993.-januar/A-szlovakiai-zsidok-ueldoezese-19391945.
257
HODR, Jn. Rubrika: Cirkev http://nss.sk/178/postoj-katolickej-cirkvi-k-zidovskej-otazke-pocas-1slovenskej-republiky.
256

80

1. The Church makes no difference among its followers on the basis of nationality because
there is no difference between Jew and Greek, because the same is the Lord for all who calls
and believes in Him. (Rim 10, 12).
2. Slovak Catholic people would accept with difficulty if the Slovak Catholic Government
should send away Christians - Catholics.
3. The Catholic Church only allowed adult people to be baptised, who had a true intention to
become Catholics, who had learnt the Catholic truth and broken all links with Jewry.
4. Our future generation would understand it with difficulty if it should hear in explanation of
universal history that converted people had to leave our Christian State just as they were
admitted to the Holy Church.
On the other hand, the Lutheran Church expressed no opinion but issued a law on conversion
and the new members of the Church in November, 1938. 258 It informed and guided its
ministers in a pastoral letter on how to behave with the Jews applying to be baptised.
The law of the Lutheran Church triggered aversion or fear in some of its followers and
ministers and some hard-boiled anti-Semites complained their Church would become a shelter
for the Jews.
Who is a Christian and who is a Slovak259
Some Jews in Slovakia believed conversion to Christianity was the chance for their survival.
Conversion involved that the Jews had to comply with different conditions and requirements.
Some members of the Slovak Catholic society linked the issue of conversion with the
assimilation of the Jews and raised the question will conversion make a Slovak out of a Jew?
. how many generations are required to make a Christian out of a Jew so that he should
become the useful member of the Slovak Christian community?260
Those questions arose among Catholics because they considered themselves responsible for
the future of the Slovak nation.
Even the Council of State was trying to find an answer to the question. An argument arose on
who was Christian and who was Slovak. When would a Jew become a non-Jew and when he
would become a normal Slovak?
The public opinion was also interested in the answer.
The dispute highlighted the contempt and aversion felt towards the Jews not only among
average people but also in the highest clerical and political circles.
Cf. Baranov, Daniela. Postoj evanjelickej augsburskho vyznania cirkvi k rieeniu idovskej otzky v
rokoch 1938- 1945. In: Holokaust ako historick a morlny problm v minulosti a v sasnosti = Holocaust as a
Hitorical and Moral Problem of the Past and the Present. [Ed.]: Vrzgulov, Monika - Richterov, Daniela. Br.,
EVT pre rad vldy SR a Dokumentan stredisko holokaustu 2008, s. 15-34, v angl. issue 222-243.
259
Jeajahu A. Jelnek. Krstenie idov na Slovensku v obdob holokaustu. Online access:
http://www.druhasvetova.sk/OLD/view.php?cisloclanku=2012080006.
260
Jeajahu A. Jelnek. Krstenie idov na Slovensku v obdob holokaustu. Online access:
http://www.druhasvetova.sk/OLD/view.php?cisloclanku=2012080006.
258

81

The Churches and conversion261


Some Roman Catholic priests believed the conversion of the Jews was a final solution once
and for all of the Jewish issue. Several of them regarded the process that pagan Jews were
managed to take up the yoke of the Church.
The Lutheran Church was more open in handling the problem, but worried voices were also
heard, some feared their Church would be flooded by Jewish refugees.
Minor churches such as the Greek Catholic were not so dismissive or unyielding towards
Jews applying for conversion.
The question rises why there were obvious differences among the churches with regard to
their relationship to the Jewry?

The process and time-scale of Baptism


The process of conversion was not the same for everybody. It was strongly affected by
subjective reasons such as sympathy or antipathy. In that way the process could be fairly fast
but also lengthy. There were priests who had an aversion to Jews and made efforts to
lengthen the process, striving to achieve perfect preparation (they gave homework to write,
they made tests to pass, etc.). It occurred in several cases that the candidate could not be
baptised for lack of time; the process was not facilitated, although everybody was aware what
was going to happen to the Jews.

Behaviour of the population


Complaints and police reports of baptised Jews occurred fairly frequently (they do not
regularly attend church service, they converted out of comfort, ... etc.) .
Clarification of the position of baptised Jews 262
Christian Jews were also obliged to wear the yellow star. Initially, the Church bodies and
priests were perplexed on how to regard the events; however, despite objections later on, they
did not achieve the cancellation of the obligation to wear the yellow star. They were most
disturbed by the presence of Christian Jews wearing the yellow star in the church, so they
could achieve that Christian Jews were exempted from wearing the star in the church.

Accusations against Churches and their priests


The accusation of accepting money from Jews for baptism was the most frequent. Also filling
the forms for money was attributed to the Churches several times. Baptising priests were
Jeajahu A. Jelnek. Krstenie idov na Slovensku v obdob holokaustu. Online access:
http://www.druhasvetova.sk/OLD/view.php?cisloclanku=2012080006.
262
Jeajahu A. Jelnek. Krstenie idov na Slovensku v obdob holokaustu. Online access:
http://www.druhasvetova.sk/OLD/view.php?cisloclanku=2012080006.
261

82

accused to perform baptism at an industrial level.

Accusations against the Jews applying to be baptised


The Jews were accused of bribing priests to be admitted into the Church. Mainly the minor
churches were attacked. Mainly the Ludk paper dealt with such cases.

What was achieved by Baptism?


Those baptised were also put in the transports despite objections.

The problem of the deportation of the baptised Jews


There were some Church leaders who were worried about the fate of the baptised Jews
deported. To reassure worried priests, the German administration promised to provide special
circumstances for the converts at their new homes, to allow the visit of priests and to provide
opportunity for them to practise their religion.
Those promises were never kept; they were only used to convince the Slovak civil servants to
support the deportation of the converts.
The number of baptised Jews263
The exact number of converted Jews is unknown, we only have estimations partly by Slovak
government agencies and partly by Jewish officers. Approximately 10,000 people are
estimated to have been baptised.

263

The following figures are known: 2 February, 1944: out of 12,812 Jewish people in Slovakia (by law) 3,988
were of the Israelite confession 31.12 %; 3,269 were Roman Catholics 25.51 %; 905 Greek Catholics 7.06%;
3,160 Lutheran 24.66 %; 976 Reformed 7.61%; 168 Greek Orthodox 1.31%; 51 Other 0.39 %; 285 Universalist
2.22%.
83

Case study 5
The relationship of the Jews and Christians at Cskszereda as reflected in the local press
By Izabella Pter

Cskszereda, or Miercurea Ciuc at its Romanian name, is a town of 42 thousand, the


administrative centre of Hargita County, where, unfortunately, not a single Jewish resident
can be found today. Although there have never been a great number of Jewish people at the
town because it has been known of its intolerance towards individuals of not Sekler
origin264, the Jews did settle in Cskszereda beginning from the last decades of the 19th
century.
There was a long road from the settlement of the first Jew, Mric Hetman until deportations in
the course of which not only the settled Jewry but the population of the town changed a lot:
the interactions of Christians and the Jews covered a wide range from bravado antiJewishness until recognising some Jews as full-right citizens; to the denunciation of Jews at
the time of the deportations and acquisitioning the apartments left unused by them or to
safeguarding their belongings in the case they would ever return.
The objective of this study is to investigate the above interactions relying on the documents of
the Hargita County Archives, the contemporary Cskszereda press, the documents in the
private archives of the Cskszereda Community and in-depth interviews made by Katalin
Szab.
To start with, let us review briefly the history of the Jewry at Cskszereda.

Some statistical figures on the settlement of the Jewry in Csk County and at
Cskszereda
The Jews settled on the territory of Csk County and at Cskszereda relatively late and in no
great numbers. This was partly due to the isolation of the region it was only connected to
other parts of Transylvania quite late, at the end of the 19th century as well as the traditional
Catholic conscience, which had been an important part of the identity of Seklers living in Csk
County.
In accordance with the figures of the 1869 census, the County had 305 residents of the
Israelite confession265, which gradually increased and reached 2357 by 1910. After the big
losses of World War 1, the 1920 census only showed 1861 Jewish nationals, but the number
of the Jewry started to increase slowly reaching the level of 1910 by 1930, when 2345 people
reported to be Jewish. It is, however, important to note that the change can only be regarded
The private archives of the Cskszereda Jewish Community 70/1974 letter by Dr Mikls Adler to Zoltn
Vntsa, Minister of the Reformed Church.
265
Regarding census data, I relied on the work Ethnic and denominational statistics of Transylvania by rpd
Varga E. (Hargita megye teleplseinek etnikai (anyanyelvi/nemzetisgi) adatai 1850-2002 valamint Hargita
megye teleplseinek felekezeti adatai http://www.kia.hu/konyvtar/erdely/erd2002.htm.
264

84

an increase in absolute figures, because the total number of the population increased much
faster in the same period, so the percentage ratio of Jews actually declined compared to the
Hungarian population.266
There followed a slow migration out of the place; according to some data, 2067 Jews lived on
the territory of the County when Hungary took over power.267 The 1941 census registered 70
converted Jews on the territory of the County who were deemed Jewish by the anti-Jewish
laws.268
The figures were similar at Cskszereda: including the villages of Zsgd, Taploca and
Somly 5 Jews lived at the city in 1869 and 19 in 1880. In 1910, however, 241 Israelites lived
at the town and in the villages being an organic part of the town. The population of the
Cskszereda Jewry was reduced as a result of the Great War. The town had 205 Jewish
citizens in 1920 and only reached the level of 1910 with 302 Israelite residents by 1930. The
figure only slightly changed in the next decade; the 1941 Hungarian census found 299 Jews at
Cskszereda. Three of them returned from the deportations. Their numbers were 126 in 1947
including those exempted from labour service, the surviving victims of forced labour service
and Jews settling there from Csernovic.
Compared to the number of the Hungarian population, the above figures are low in percentage
as it is illustrated in the following table:
Year
1850
1857
1869
1880
1890
1900
1910
1920n
1930**
1941
1947*
1948a
1956a
1956n
1977n
1992
1999

Total population
961
1016
1247
1597
1789
2858
3701
2675
4807
6926
6143
11 996
11 996
30 069
45 769
47 000

Israelites
5
19
13
160
241
188
268
299
126
69
7
61
15
5
4

Ratio
0
0
0.4
1.19
0.73
5.60
6.51
7.03
5.58
4.32
1.12
0.06
0.51
0.05
0.01
0.008

266

This can probably be explained by the effort of Romanian census officers encouraging the Jews to report
themselves to be Israelites and Jewish. It was part of the official propaganda of the Romanian Government
aimed at reducing the number of Hungarian population by separating the Hungarian Jews from them. Probably,
that politics and the spread of Zionism resulted in a part of Hungarian Jews not reporting themselves to belong to
the Hungarian national minority at that time and at the next census. Cf.: Zoltn Tibori Szab: Csk vrmegye
zsidsga a beteleplstl a megsemmistsig. [The Jewry of Csk County from their settlement until their
annihilation.] I-III. http://www.adatbank.ro/inchtm.php?kod=230.
267
Ferencz S. Alpr: A cskszeredai zsidkrl. [About the Cskszereda Jewry.] In: Szkelyfld [Cskszereda], IV.
vf., 1. sz., 2000. janur, 72. old.
268
Tibori, op.id.
85

Nevertheless, that slight increase of the population triggered intolerance by the locals. Mzes
Vitos269 spoke about the settlement of the Jewry with annoyance in his work Csk County
Booklets. Data to the description and history of Csk County published between 1894 and
1902:
We must take it as a sign of the pure Catholicism of Csk County that there had never been
national minority issues here in the past. Thus, the idea of religious and national unity of Csk
County may not be and must not be imagined separately from each other. (...) Therefore, I
look at the distant future of our Sekler blood with a sense of foreboding due to the current
invasion of the alien Semitic race.270

The hosts
The immigration of people of another religion triggered significant objections in a
community, for which the Csksomly Pilgrimage was part of its national identity, which had
created a myth for itself from keeping its religion. Therefore, the Jews were at a disadvantage
compared to immigrant Armenians, who were similarly merchants but they were Catholic,
which had become the basis of acceptance in the county with a Catholic majority.
Mzes Vitos was lamenting that the ratio of the Jewry in Csk County used to be 0.61%, but it
increased a hundred times within a short period of time. He listed all accusations of classical
anti-Semitism against the Jews: they live on renting village inns, they are money lenders and
cheating a Christian is a virtue for them.271 We can see they have conquered both heavy and
small industry, wholesale and retail trade, the whole press in a country of land owners
(Hungary - Transylvania), they have falsified Hungarian public opinion and conquered the
Hungarian political public life, in other words, they have become the controllers of the
situation, i.e., Hungary has become an Eldorado of the Jewry.272
So, the Jews immigrated into that closed community, which was intolerant to foreigners and
backward economically.
You can also read about the economic situation of the County in the work of Mzes Vitos,
who assessed the situation of the County relatively objectively, except for the national
minority issues: its commerce and industry are hardly more than rudimentary273, only the
exports of wood and mineral waters had a major part to play in the economy. The railways,
which were built quite late, did not mean a real step forward, because the sale of the produce
could not be organised: if by any chance, people would work more than is absolutely
necessary for the internal consumption of Csk Land, they would not know what to do with
it.274
269

Mzes Vitos, (1847-1902) local historian, editor and Roman Catholic priest. Its main work is the Csk County
Booklet. Data to the description and history of Csk County, which was published between 1894 and 1902. The
monography is of 1022 pages; it was published in 34 booklets as a series to make it easily accessible for the
people. Since Mzes Vitos was a correspondent of Cski Papers, its impact on the public opinion of Csk was
significant.
270
Vitos, I. p. 9.
271
Ibidem, p. 37.
272
Ibidem, p. 36.
273
Ibidem, p. 6.
274
Vitos, I. p. 261.
86

Balzs Orbn did not speak of Cskszereda flatteringly either: (Csk)Szereda is a weak little
place; many are there in Csk larger and more city-like in appearance. The whole is made up
of two streets meeting at a right angle giving the whole a T shape. There is a castle at the
southern end of the street running from north to south surrounded by prettier officers cottages
of the former border guard company. The only church (not very decorative) of the town is at
the western end of the other street running from east to west, and in between there are small
one-storey houses covered with planks, a few mean shops, a few tradesmen and bakers and a
number of inns and pubs marked with a sign of planed board to indicate that we are in a town.
As the present of this country is coarse, we do not know much about its past either.275
The town was still regarded as the most backward of all Sekler towns with respect to
architectural investments in 1900 as well.276 Only 24 out of 541 houses had an upper storey
and only 5 had a bathroom!
That religious, closed community had already been anti-Semitic before there were any Jews
among them, although many thought it was because the Christian population did not known
them and therefore treated them as something strange, something weird. 277 But when several
Jews got settled in Csk, that attitude slowly changed; the Jews were accepted. It was mainly
due to the economic impact triggered by the immigration of the Jews: new jobs were created,
there was a high standard of health care, a sanatorium, and a diversification of the range of
consumer goods offered.
Despite the above, we can conclude from different memoirs and newspaper articles that
acceptance had never been complete; however much the Jews tried to integrate, the Catholic
community always regarded them as strangers and made them feel outsiders all the time.

The short history of the Jewry at Cskszereda


The Jews immigrated to Sekler Land from Moldova, Bukovina and Galicia, although some
scattered groups had arrived from other areas of Transylvania as well. Some of them were
migrant peddlers, who got settled there in the end. However, Jews were mostly attracted by
logging, the timber industry and in the trade of cereals. Although there had been efforts for
settlement earlier, migrant peddlers usually left before 1890 because they could not get
adjusted to the population accepting with difficulty anybody of a non-Sekler origin.278
Their immigration was accelerated because Cskszereda became a county seat in 1875 and the
so-termed Sekler Line was built279 attracting Jews to Csk mainly from Hromszk. Since
wealthy Jews, the owners mainly of timber plants, created jobs and promoted the life standard
of the population in that way, and because highly qualified Jewish physicians gained respect,
275

Balzs Orbn: A szkelyfld lersa trtnelmi, rgszeti, termszetrajzi s npismei szempontbl, [A


description of Sekler Land from historical, archaeological, natural history and anthropological perspective] Pest,
1868, http://mek.oszk.hu/04800/04804/html.
276
Mikls Frank: Cskszereda vros fejldse ptipari szempontbl in: Az 50 ves ipartestlet 1884-1934,
kiad: Cskszereda s vidke ipartestlete, [Evolution of the town of Cskszereda from the perspective of the
construction industry. ] 1934, 80.
277
Tivai: The public at large had no idea about Jews with us. Op. id. p. 55.
278
Ibidem.
279
The railway BrassSepsiszentgyrgyCskszeredaGyergyszentmiklsDdaMarosvsrhely inaugurated
in 1897 but only completed by 1909.
87

the animosity towards them was slowly mitigated and they were admitted into the society of
Csk. However, their admission did not really mean inclusion. Their status was rather that of
the tolerated one.
However, that was a step forward compared to the situation of the first Jews setting at
Cskszereda. Mric Hetman might have moved into Cskszereda with his family sometime in
the second half the 1860s. According to the records available, although the people of the town
allowed the vinegar seller to live among them, but they bored holes in his casks out of sport,
they damaged his porch with their wagons or they broke his windows because he was a Jew,
which was the greatest fault!280 Although they had never seen a Jew before Hetman, all the
people of Csk had been anti-Semitic to a man.281 He had no chance for legal remedy, the
town management did not help. In his book Memories of the old Csk Imre Tivai Nagy
explained that by saying it was a great shame for the residents of the town that a living Jew
dared to lurk behind its walls and everybody blamed him and made his life difficult, what is
more, bravado with the Jew was deemed a kind of obligation!282 The town management
played its part in it, because it ordered the door and windows of his ramshackle wooden hut to
be removed in the coldest winter. Mric Hetman only lost his patience once and in his misery
wrote a letter to Vienna: Euer Majistt, hier ist ribillion... but he received no answer.
Immigration however continued although not at a large scale and slowly by slowly the people
of Csk learned to coexist with the Jews. The advertisements of the Jews could find their place
in the papers, such as Cski News and Cski Papers, and articles on Jewish topics could also
be published. In the meantime, the community continued to develop, a Chevra Kadisha was
established, then a prayer house was built and a shochet were contracted. A Jewish school was
established in the first decade of the 20th century, land was purchased for the cemetery and a
Jewish temple was built.
Several Jewish families lived in the small street where the temple was that is why it was
called Zsid (Jewish) street: the Ngler family, Dr Mikls Adler, Bla Mandel shoe merchant,
the Berkovics and the Popper families. In addition, other Jewish families lived scattered in
other parts of town: Jakab Friedman, owner of a caf, the Adler family, Samu Berkovics,
tinsmith, Hermann Hauzer, watchmaker and jeweller, Hug Hirsch, physician, Ignc
Ackermann, retail trader, Smuel Klein, owner of a sawmill and Emil Friedlander, timber
merchant.283
A step made by Dr Gbor Pl, the director of the Csksomly Grammar School made
integration complete because he admitted Mikls Adler, the son of Jzsef Adler, a
Hromszk tradesman to the students of the Catholic Grammar School as the first student of
the Israelite confession opening in that way the road to the sons of the Jews to study.284
In 1913, a rabbi was elected in the person of Jakab Glasner. The small community belonging
earlier to the Tlgyes Israelite Community became independent: the Cskszereda Orthodox
Israelite Community was established.
The selection of the rabbi divided not only the Israelite but also the Christian residents of the
280

Imre Tivai Nagy: Emlkezs rgi cskiakrl. [Memories of the old Csk.] Cskszereda, 2009, p. 55.
Ibidem.
282
Tivai, 56.
283
Ferencz S. 20.
284
Dr Adler 70/1974.
281

88

town, and it was also followed with interest both at Cskszereda and in other cities of
Transylvania. The two dailies of the town, the Cski Papers and the Cski News reported on
the campaign contradictorily subject to their party stance, but their reports did not lack some
anti-Semitism either. Since Gusztv Klmn, an Under-Secretary of State for commerce also
took part in the election of the rabbi, the election had become a nationwide scandal. Cski
Papers assessed the events as follows in the first issue of its Volume XXV 25, in 1913:
In that honest Sekler town (...) the Israelite citizens were preparing for the election of their
chief rabbi. Needless to say political aspects were also involved in the election by those
hoping to benefit from it, who tried to reach their goals by using the traditional means of
elections: violence, terrorism or promising licences to open tobacco shops or pubs. As a true
follower, Guszti Klmn also had a finger in the pie and that is why he - taking the side of a
certain rabbi called Jakab Glasner - tried to convince all voters using the assistance of the
relevant authorities to find their redemption in Glasner.
() We have heard about pressure by the High Sheriff in the neighbourhood but all noises
were calmed soon () In fact, our Israelite compatriots say and all the other papers confirmed
the election ended peacefully with an overwhelming majority for Jakab Glasner without
pressure or promises of tobacco shops.285
After the election, the inauguration of the rabbi was peaceful on 19 January, 1913: all the
decorated carriages of the town made a presence to receive the rabbi and the honourable
procession marched into the town carrying bunches of flowers and banners in front.286
Indicating the importance of the event, the correspondents of Cski News said: Cskszereda
was in a real fervour due to the event287
After the inauguration, there was a banquet where funds were raised for the orphans and
poorhouse of Csk County, to which the Jewry contributed significantly.288
Imre Tivai Nagy put pen to paper to express his views on the Cski Jewry on the occasion of
the inauguration. Giving a brief account of the obstinate endurance of the Jews, which meant
that in less than forty years beginning from the first Jew settled, the town had its own
community, temple and cemetery, he predicted a great future for the Jewish community: The
generation living fifty years from now should not wonder if the Jewish temple should be built
in the best part of the city at Cskszereda and the rabbi should be the most important
governing man in city life. The Jewish temple will not be hidden in a corner of the former
pigs market for long, it will be moved to the best part of the market, because serious religious
belief and solidarity prevail over the hardest obstacles, while faithless internationalism will
cower and turn up to kiss the Golden Calf hoarded with tenacious perseverance.289 That tone,
which is scorning even if it is praising, accompanied even the most positive expressions about
285

Cski Papers, 1 January, 1913, issue 1, p. 2.


Tivai, op.id. 53.
287
Cski News, Vol 3, 25 January, 1913, issue 4, p. 3.
288
On the occasion of the inauguration of rabbi-registrar Jakab Glasner (...) the following provided donations to
the orphans and poorgouse of Csk County: Adolf Zimmermann, Dr Le Harmat, chief doctor at the public
hospital 20-20 Crowns, Boskovitz of Klaus, Mr Habzelman of Klaus 3-3 Crowns, Lzs Lazs railway
supervisor of Klaus, dn Aczl 2-2 Crowns, Adolf Niszel Adolf, jun. Lzr Berkovits, Gza Gottlieb 1-1
Crown, Hermann Magyar 5 Crowns, Ignc Mtrai 4 Crowns. We express our grateful thanks to the noble donors.
The managing assembly of the orphans and poorhouse of Csk County. Cskszereda 31 March, 1913. Jzsef
Birtha, Chairman. Cski Papers, Vol 25, 9 April, 1913, issue 15, p. 3.
289
Tivai, 54.
286

89

the Jews in the life of the town.


The Jews of Cskszereda had become more and more integrated into the community by the
end of World War 1; a number of Jewish names appeared among the servicemen of the Sekler
infantry No. 82. The War, however, did not spare the town; a part of the houses were
destroyed in a fire, the population was reduced and the remnants of the destruction could also
be seen in 1922. The Jewish community also suffered major losses both in materials and
human life. The heroic dead of the War included Herman Magyar, Frigyes Fischer, Hoffman
D. Josheph, Dezs Grnwald, Flp Breier, but dr. Mikls Adler and Ignc Ackermann
returned from the front. In the meantime, the ritual bath and some houses had been plundered
and the temple had been damaged. Fortunately, the Romanian Jewish servicemen of the Regat
Army passing through took the Torah scrolls of the Temple and they found refuge in a
community in Romania. They put a note on the door of the Torah cabinet, to say where it
could be found after the War, and it was actually returned later on. 290
Losing the war and the Trianon Treaty forced all citizens of Cskszereda into a basically new
situation. The change of power was not such a shock for the Jews, who had been a minority
earlier, as it was for the Hungarians; actually it brought about a slight improvement from the
perspective of national minority issues. The Romanian authorities tried to strengthen Jewish
nationalism against the Hungarians and Jews were encouraged to talk Yiddish and to confess
to be Jewish and not Hungarian at the time of the census.291
As a result, a high degree of assimilation was replaced by post-assimilation or postemancipation trends, and local Jews were oriented to Zionism.292 The goal of the National
Federation of Transylvanian Jews founded on 20 November, 1918 was to get the Jews be
declared as a national minority. The Jewish Party was established in 1930. Nevertheless, the
efforts of Romanian politics to divide Jews and Hungarians and get Jews confess to belong to
the Jewish national minority reducing the number of the Hungarians failed in most cases. The
local Jews including those of Cskszereda regarded themselves to be Hungarians of the
Israelite confession.
That might have be the reason why Romanian politics were characterised by growing antiSemitism between the two World Wars while there had been no anti-Jewish movements
although the people of Csk, in fact, did not love the Jews.
After the war, in 1920-21, the community re-built its temple, the number of followers
increased and the Jews took part in the life of the town unimpeded. In 1928, a new president
of the community was elected in the person of Mtys Grnberg who operated a steam
machine at Madfalva, and as Jakab Glasner was elected chief rabbi at Kolozsvr, his place
was taken by Romeo Krausz.
The political background, however, was the spread and strengthening of Romanian antiSemitism: In 1930, the ill-famed Vasgrda (Iron Guard) was established from the legion of
Saint Michael Archangel founded by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, then more and more antiSemitic decrees were published from 1937. Under the Goga-Cuza Government, more and
290

Alpr Salamon Ferencz: A Holokauszt helytrtnetnek oktatsa V-VIII. osztlyban. A cskszeredai zsidsg
trtnete. [Teaching the local history of the Holocaust in grades 5-8. The history of the Cskszereda Jewry.]
Unpublished, p. 29.
291
Randolph L. Braham: The Hungarian Holocaust, Gondolat, Budapest, 1988, I. 141.
292
Ferencz S. 32.
90

more anti-Jewish laws were passed in Romania to curb the invasion of the Jewry and to
protect the Romanian national interests. The Cskszereda media regularly informed its
readers about those measures, since the Jewish community belonged among the citizens of the
town.
The situation, however, changed after the Second Vienna Award, when the anti-Jewish laws
of Hungary were also introduced in Cskszereda, the Jewish papers were banned everywhere
in Transylvania and the citizenship of the Jews was withdrawn. Nevertheless, in an interesting
way, the Cski Papers only carried anti-Jewish articles infrequently, while the Gyergy Papers
and the Sekler Word of Sepsiszentgyrgy openly took sides with anti-Semitism.
A city commander, Elemr der appointed to Csk from the mother-country is said to have
been behind the abuse of Jews. He could only recruit a low number of followers mostly from
among individuals of a doubtful existence: In general, the evil, bad and impatient spirit
imported by the conquering second-rate class of administrators was only received with the
sympathy of a minority of the population, those who had been hot-blooded, wanted positions
or an easy life, while the more serious part distanced itself and we felt their willingness to
help and their empathy towards our humiliation. There were some who took part in
plundering the assets of the Greek Orthodox Church committed by the infamous colonel
der... on the other hand, our gratitude and acknowledgement goes to Dr. Kroly Kovcs, Dr.
Gbor Pl, Dr Andrs Nagy. Jun. Dr. Jzsef Gl, Pl Kovcs and many other compatriots at
Cskszereda, who rose above the lowly atmosphere of the times, and did not allow to be
dirtied by mud.293
The behaviour of the representatives of the Christian churches - Catholic parish priest Ferenc
Br and Minister of the Reformed Church Pl Kovcs - gained importance at that time.
Mainly because Ferenc Br had a great influence on the members of town management.
Mikls Adler said of him he had been a main manipulator of all political city issues.294
While Pl Kovcs often tried to intervene to mitigate anti-Jewish measures, Ferenc Br
openly expressed his disapproval if somebody tried to involve him in similar interventions.
Actually, the active intervention of the top management of the town would have been
necessary when general Elemr der - quite illegally - ordered the Jewry of the city to pay a
blood money of 80,000 Pengo and threatened those delaying or unable to pay to be evicted.
der divided the Jews into three categories: those who had to be evicted from the country, that
meant about 20% of the Jews; those who only had to be relocated to other parts of the
country - about 60%, and the remaining 20% was considered to be reliable enough to be
allowed to stay in the town.295 He actually implemented his idea later on: 81 people of 24
families, who were unable to pay the required 100-150 Pengo of repayment of public work,
were transported to Gyimesfelslok and he tried repeatedly to get them over the Romanian
border in November, 1940. It failed due to the resistance of the Romanian Border Guards, so
they were returned to the city jail, and then they were deported to Krsmez on 16
November. Margit Slachta, the mother superior of the Social Sisters intervened in the interest
of those deported, as a result of which the deportations were stopped but 21 out of 36 people
moved across the Ukrainian border disappeared. Gbor Pl, a well-known figure of public life
at Csk intervened in their interest as well. However, the Catholic priest Ferenc Br
293

Adler, 70/1974.
Ibidem.
295
Bodea, 63.
294

91

demanded indignantly that Margit Slachta who had turned to him should leave him out of
such things because its got nothing to me, I am not interested296Only Ben Shultz and his
wife survived the deportations.
In 1942, at the next deportations, 19 and then another 22 families were ordered to be deported
in accordance with Act 8130/1939. The reason referred to was that their presence had been
threatening the interests of national security. Although a social worker at Cskszereda, Judit
Veres tried to turn to Imre Sndor episcopal representative at Kolozsvr (Cluj) for help, her
efforts failed. Slachta received a rudely rejecting letter from Ferenc Br, when she tried to
reach the termination of further deportations: I apologise, if you have such power available to
you there, please, do not involve me anymore, because I cannot undertake such clerical
part.297
The intervention by Emma Strbl with police captain Pl Farkas proved more efficient,
because she was promised the same day no more deportations would take place until appeals
are evaluated.
Despite of that, several families were moved across the border to Ruthenia in 1942.
In the meantime the position of the Jews remaining in the city deteriorated: they were under
police control, they had to report to National Central Authority Controlling Foreigners
(KEOKH) because their citizenship had been withdrawn. Jewish youth were at the beginning
still conscripted for military service, but they were banned from wearing their awards. At the
beginning, graduates from high schools served as volunteers with armbands, but they were
gradually deprived of the armband, the bayonet and then the uniform. An example for that is a
request by Andor Lempert, requesting recognition of his eligibility for the armband, which
was rejected under the title he was deemed a Jew in accordance with his own statement.298
Similarly, Lipt Trk and his son were also conscripted and he was banned from wearing his
awards gained in World War I.
The Defence Act (1939:II) taking effect in March, 1939 laid the foundations for forced labour
service: unreliable elements, such as Jews, communists and other national minorities were
conscripted into unarmed units of labour service. At the beginning, they mainly built roads or
airfields, or drained swamps, later they were placed under the control of the second Hungarian
army.
Several companies of forced labourers operated at Sekler Land. Two workers companies
were commanded to Gyimeskzplok and Uzvlgye from Bihar County in summer 1942.
Most Jews of Csk and Hromszk were conscripted into the labour company No. 110/40,
whose main task was to dig the foundations of a hotel at Cskszereda. Later, they were
commanded to the Ukraine, from where several of them managed to return home in the course
of a disordered retreat. In spite of that, many died as a result of different diseases, undernourishment, the cold and - last but not least - the cruelty of their own superiors.299 In
296

Adler, 70/1974.
Tams Majsai, Egy epizd az szak-Erdlyi zsidsg msodik vilghbor alatti trtnetbl. Margit Slachta
fellpse a Cskszeredrl kiutastott zsidk rdekben. [En episode from the history of the Jewry in Northern
Transylvania during World War 2. The intervention of Margit Slachta in the interest of Jews expulsed from
Cskszereda.] In: MEDVETNC, 1988/4, 1989/1, p. 15.
298
Cskszereda Vros Polgrmesteri Hivatalnak iratai [Documents of the Mayors Office of the Town of
Cskszereda] 1859-1968, 239/ 29 cs. pp. 215, 216., 3 October, 1941.
299
Ferencz S. op.id. p. 44.
297

92

memoirs, Zoltn Szab of Taploca is mentioned, who had harnessed the Jewish forced
labourers to torment them. The conductor Elek Sarkadi, who died of typhoid fever somewhere
in the Ukraine was one of the famous victims of the forced labour service.
Getting baptised might have been an escape route for the Jews in forced labour service.
Christian forced labourers were given a white armband and they were treated differently from
the Jews. A request of Gyula Reiszmann an Israelite from Budapest to be baptised can be
found in the archives of the Gyulafehrvr Catholic Diocese, which was submitted to the
Kolozsvr Municipality. Gyula Reiszmann served in the labour company No. 101/72 at
Cskcsics working at the rebuilding of the Szereda railway line. His wife and daughter had
already been converted, but he had not been able to take part in preparatory sessions due to
his illness. The parish priest at Csics, Imre Buzs, taught him every Sunday and he
recommended Gyula Reiszmann to be baptised. The governor, however, referred to the
Decree No. 1939/376 by ron Mrton300 to say that Reiszmann could be baptised six month
later at the earliest after he had fully interiorised religious knowledge.301
The case of Franciska Rosenthal of Cskszereda is not unique. The arch deacon of Szereda,
Ferenc Br, only submitted her application when the preparations provided in the decree had
been completed a year after she had applied. The arch deacon stated it is an internal turn of
consciousness and any lay motive can be fully excluded302. A reply was soon received: she
may be baptised provided her marriage is settled or can be settled.
On the whole, the population did not sympathise with the racist elements, it was rather the
imported officers of administration that were considered anti-Semitic in the town. When
following the German occupation of Hungary, the obligation of wearing the yellow star was
introduced in Csk as well, many residents looked at the wearers of the star with emphatic
respect. Dr. Andrs Nagy wrote: The yellow star has been introduced for the Jews; we
regarded it as mean cruelty and greeted those wearing it with almost emphatic respect, after
all, the Star of David is an honourable sign, similar to what the cross is for the followers of
Christ.303
Confining people to a ghetto and deportations, however, started on 3 May, 1944. The Jewry of
Csk County was interned in two ghettos: the Jews of Csk and Kszonszk to
Sepsiszentgyrgy and those of Gyergy-szk to Szszrgen. Police captain Farkas, who had
been so generous in 1942, celebrated now the de-Jewishness of the town with flying colours:
After this four-year period of struggles, the dawn of 4 May, 1944 came304, when teams of
detectives and policemen appeared at the door of each house where Jews had been living.
They roused those sleeping there and hurriedly drove them to police cells - all members of the
300

ron Mrton issued his instructions regarding the baptism of Jews in his first Episcopal circular in 1939
numbered 1939/376. Accordingly, the sacraments of Christianity can only be provided if the sincerity of the
intention has been proved. As a result, he required a year of preparation in principle and practice. The
preparation meant minimum an hour a week of academic education and introduction to the liturgy. In addition,
other conditions had to be met: e.g., the provisions of valid civil laws had to be observed, and Jews from other
Dioceses could not be given permission to be baptised. People whose previous marriage could not be settled in
accordance with church law were also excluded from getting permissions.
301
Gyulafehrvri rseki Levltr, Helytartsgi Iratok [Arch Bishops Archives of Gyulafehrvr, Municipality
Documents], 25. 2604/ 15 August, 1943.
302
Ibidem, 433/ 22 January, 1944.
303
Dr Andrs Nagy: Lt visszanz [Lot looking back], Cskszereda, 2001, p. 216.
304
Doctor Adlers memory is mistaken here, deportations started at Cskszereda also on 3 May.
93

community with their modest bundles, those employed there had a last chance to pillage them
and the elderly and the children spent the night, the last one for most of them, lying on the
floor. Police captain Farkas managing the process did not go to church that afternoon contrary
to his habit but as a general of a winning battle was sitting astride his chair in the courtyard
watching the subdued enemy with pleasure.305
312 Jewish residents of the town and its neighbourhood were transported to the
Sepsiszentgyrgy collection camp on trucks. The families of chief engineer Mihly Sznt as
well as the Fried and Ackermann families could remain in the town. Although Pl Farkas
offered exemption to the Adler family, they did not make use of it and left together with the
deported ones.
After the deportation of the Jews, the police searched the houses of families that had been
known as friends of Jews trying to find valuables left behind. Although few people dared to
take sides openly with the Jews, everybody was afraid, because those employing the services
of Jewish physicians were harassed even before the deportations there were still some who
agreed to keep the valuables of the Jews.306
The Cskszereda Jews were transported to Szszrgen from the ghetto at Szentgyrgy and
then deported to Auschwitz. Of them, Klra Trk, Dr Ferdinnd Kiszelnik and Doctor Adler
managed to return home. The Jews ordered to provide labour service had a better chance for
survival: Zoltn Popper, Samu Bermann and his brother, Arnold Berkovics and one of his
brothers also returned home from the Ukraine where the 110/40 company was commanded,
although many of their Christian mates had wanted to get rid of them at any price.
Those returning home had to face the same problems as the returning Jews in other cities of
Hungary: their goods had disappeared, Christians had moved into their houses or
businesses.307 An interesting momentum of the situation is that while the requisitioning of
Jewish properties in other parts of Hungary only started in 1944, according to the documents
of the Mayors Office of the Town of Cskszereda, the properties the owners of which have
been away for at least a year, their place of residence is unknown and they are hindered in
returning home and managing their belongings were already placed under control in 1943.308
The residents of Cskszereda did make use of the opportunity. The documents of the Mayors
Office of the Town of Cskszereda include section No. 72 named the administration of Jewish
properties, in which widow Ferencn Dvid requested already on 5 October, 1943 to allot her
a vacant room in the courtyard of 66, Kossuth Lajos Street owned by widow Sndorn
Dazbek. A similar request was rejected saying such flats could only be allotted to reliable
individuals loyal to the nation, and anyway the town management was still waiting with the
issue.309
Not only the individual damage was huge; the community itself suffered losses of such size it
305

Dr. Nagy, op.id. p. 216.


Bla Bcs, Katalin Szab, Voltak. Emlkezs a cskszeredai zsid kzssgre [They were. Memories of the
Cskszereda Jewish Community], Cskszereda, 1999, Memories of Klra Lszl, p. 17.
307
Terz Nagy remembers that after the deportation of her Jewish tenants she found her house empty when she
returned home: By the time I got back, the house had been sealed. There had been a big cauldron there for
rainwater, but even that had been taken off. I found a completely empty flat. Ibidem, p. 25.
308
The flats of the victims of the 1941 and 1942 deportations also belong there. The documents of the Mayors
Office of the Town of Cskszereda, 1859-1968, 239/ 28. p. 53., 12 May, 1943.
309
Documents of Mayors Office of the Town of Cskszereda 1859-1968, 239/72, p. 178.
306

94

could never recover from completely: The insides of the Synagogue was broken completely,
the Hebrew books were damaged as well as the buildings. The facilities of the ritual bath were
completely destroyed, the flat of the shochet was damaged, the fence of the cemetery was
removed and the graves were damaged during the war.310 So, the immigration of the Jews of
Cskszereda to Israel started in the 1960s. The number of the population of 129 in 1947 was
diminishing continuously with only 5 remaining by 1992. Today not one Jew is living in Csk.

The relationship of Jews and Christians as reflected in the local press


Several printed papers were published at Cskszereda in the period researched. Cski Papers
had an outstanding importance. The economic and social weekly had been published from
1888 till 1944, first by the printing house of Mrton Gyrgyjakab and then after Lajos Vkr
had taken over the Book and Stationery Shop of Jzsef Szvoboda, in his edition. The
managing editors of the weekly included Mzes Vitos, Catholic priest; Gyula lthes and Dr.
Lajos Csipak, canon, then Viktor Rszegh had been the editor-in-chief from 1926 till 1944.
In the period under Romanian control, the title of the paper had to be written in Romanian as
well, so it was published under the title Ziarul Ciucului, then in the 1930s, the names of the
editor-in-chief and the owner of the weekly were also printed in Romanian. Initially a social
paper, it also monitored the events of Romanian and Hungarian politics and reported on major
political events influencing the life of the town.
Two other short lived weeklies were also published at the town in the same time, the Cski
News as a weekly in 1911 as a competitor of Cski Papers. The founders, Gbor Pl and
Jzsef Gl formulated independence, public service and justice as the main goals of the
weekly.
The Csk Peoples Weekly had been published from 1931 to 1944 at Cskszereda as a
political, social and economic weekly. At the beginning its editor-in-chief was Pl Pter
Domokos then Ferenc Pter, owner of the printing house from 1933. The weekly provided
space for the literary attempts of neighbouring authors, and represented the democratic spirit
of public life at Csk as opposed to the imported spirit of decorousness of the 1940s.
Although the weeklies reported on the events from opposing perspectives at a given point of
time, their analysis reflects the relationship between the Jewry at Cskszereda and the
indigenous population of Hungarian nationality. The concept is used consciously, because despite a high degree of immigration - all foreigners are considered strangers in the villages
becoming parts of Cskszereda, such as Zsgd, Csksomly or Taploca although not in the
city itself.
The history of Jews at Cskszereda comprises three different periods. They are characterised
by the county or the town belonging to different state-forms in different times. The laws of the
Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy had applied to the Jews until the end of World War I or the
Trianon Treaty, Cskszereda had become part of Romania after 1919, and it was returned to
Hungary in 1940 by the Second Vienna Award. The laws of the three state powers involved
had different attitudes to the Jewry. At the same time, the behaviour of the local population
was also different regarding the application of the laws subject to how much they felt the
310

Alpr Ferencz S.: A Holocaust trtnetnek tantsa V-VIII osztlyban. A cskszeredai zsidsg trtnete.
[Teaching the local history of the Holocaust in grades 5-8. The history of the Cskszereda Jewry.]
95

given political formation to be their own. The laws identified the rights of the Jewry or their
constraints at Cskszereda.
The Olmtz Constitution proclaimed on 30 December, 1849 was an important point of
emancipation for the Jews living on the territory of the Monarchy. It included the religious
equality of all residents of the state as well as the independence of civil and political rights of
religious denominations. Although the Constitution was repelled in 1851, the equality of
citizens before the law remained in effect. The issue of emancipation, however, was taken off
the agenda at the time of neo-absolutism and a re-negotiation of the topic was only brought
along by the 1867 Reconciliation. Equality, in the end, was implemented, when the
Parliament adopted a draft law by Prime Minister Gyula Andrssy, in which Article
1867/XVII said the Israelite population of the country was given equal rights with Christian
residents with respect to all civil and political rights. The last step of emancipation was the
declaration of the Jewish religion as an accepted religion on 2 November, 1895 in Article
1895/ XLII. In the same year, the law on civil marriage was published legalising marriages
between Jews and Christians that had been deemed proselytism earlier.311 In that way, the
road was open to mixed marriages (which was objected to by the Catholic Church312),
promoting and accelerating the assimilation of the Jews in that way.
The above laws meant safety for the Jews although they could not protect them from local
acts of bravado as we could see in the case of Mric Hetman of Cskszereda. Despite that,
the Jews were considered having equal rights with Christians at court and they represented an
integral part of Cskszereda. It can also be followed in the articles of local papers; their
advertisements were published in the papers, notifications of the Jews marriage or death were
also customary, while they took every opportunity to donate for public causes.
The following advertisements can be read in the Cski Papers:
Clothes for men, ladies, boys and children in the shop of Jzsef Mzes in the new
Grnwald house in Kossuth Lajos street.
Main warehouse of the Niszel brothers distributors of Drher beer at Cskszereda.313
Phonographs with waking device sold by Igncz Ackermann.
An advertisement for tinsmith Berkovics and Kka appeared in almost every issue in
1921.314
Marriage notices were also frequent: Emil Friedlander, timber merchant at Cskszereda
celebrates his marriage to Ms. Ella Schuller in Pacani (Romania) on 11 August this year.
Applications for changing somebodys name were also published in the papers expressing the
intention for assimilation: Smuel Kesztenbaum a resident of Cskszereda applied to the
Lszl Gymnt: Evrei din Transilvania n epoca emanciprii (1790-1967), Editura Enciclopedic, Bukarest,
2000, p. 211.
312
Although the Catholic Church objected to the introduction of civil marriage as one impairing its rights, the
same was used for reference to reject the third anti-Jewish law. Esztergom Archbishop Jusztinin Serdi spoke at
the 18 July, 1941 session of the Upper House as follows: The law 1894: XXXI was a grave mistake, when it
referred marriage to within the scope of the state: the present draft supporting it is consistent in the same mistake
as it establishes new obstacles to marriage. On the other hand, the esteemed Bishops Bench together with the
Catholic followers is consistent with truth when relying on Gods laws it objects to the new obstacles to marriage
in the same way as it objected to the idea of civil marriage earlier. A pspki kar tancskozsai. Az 1939. vi
jnius h 10-re sszehvott orszggyls felshznak naplja [Meetings of the Bishops Bench. The Minutes
of the upper house of the Parliament convened on 10 June, 1939] (1939-1944). Vol. II. Az Athenaeum Irodalmi
s Nyomdai Rszvnytrsulat nyomsa, Bp., 1942.II.k.) p. 283.
313
Cski Papers, 20 December, 1911, issue 51, 6.
314
Cski Papers, 6 January, 1921, issue 2, 3.
311

96

Hungarian Royal Ministry of the Interior to change his name and that of his dependent
children to Kertsz.315
The paper also regularly published the list of donors in different situations. Jews could often
be found among them: ...the following persons gave donations to the purchase of instruments
for the orchestra of the Cskszereda Voluntary Firemen: The timber plant of Smuel Klein,
Emil Friedlander (50 Crowns), Samu Fried, Herman Magyar (20 Crowns), Adolf
Zimmermann, Gyula Lacher, Dr Man Zakaris, Adolf Friedman, Jakab Niszel and Lzr
Lebovits (10 Crowns), Adolf Niszel and Albert Grnwald (6 Crowns).316
On selecting their topics of public and social life, the managing editors of the papers took into
account that many of their subscribers were Jewish, so you can see frequent articles dealing
with issues affecting the Jewry in the period. Such returning topic is the position of the Jewry
in Romania. The Cski Papers often published articles comparing the position of Jews in
Hungary and in the Regat assessing the position of the local Jews to be advantageous and
condemning at the same time the barbarism of Romania: The position hitting the Jewry in
Romania is really insupportable. Every modern state shares the benefits of legal equality with
the Jewry. There are only a few backward eastern countries that still allow the social stigma
separating the Jewry from Christian people. Romania, however, had got to the gate of
civilised states. There is no reason to repel the Jewry on this land.317
While the Cski Papers was more of a philo-Semitic attitude, the Cski News had an opposing
view. An article was published in the News a few months later reporting on the struggle of
Jews for their rights: the Romanian Jews recently want to achieve equal political and civil
rights. The Jews in Romania do not have the same free playing field as elsewhere including
our country. The attitude still prevails that the Jews are not citizens (...) and they should only
be there as tolerated foreigners. (...) The attitude of Romania is that of self-protection, because
they are aware that Jews, particularly the immigrants, may cause more damage than benefit to
the state.318
Nevertheless, none of the papers uses the style applied by Mzes Vitos in Csk County
booklets. On the contrary, Cski News tries to mitigate the negative attitude of the article
stating at the end: Explaining the above, we bow to our Jewish compatriots, who assimilated
under the Hungarian aegis share our good or bad fate.319
The orientation did not seem to change emphatically after the Trianon Treaty. Since both
nations were in the minority, you can discover an attitude of supporting each other in the
articles. The editorial of issue 12 in 1921 was published under the title Building a new Babel.
In it, Ignc goston emphasised: Loving our race and loyalty to our religion does not
exclude the altruist love of our fellow men and respecting the religious beliefs of others.320
Although there are some short news indicating hidden anti-Semitism, they are not outstanding
among the many articles on public life. For instance, you can find some aphorisms like that:
The money-lender is like a vampire with the difference that a vampire will leave its victim
315

Cski Papers, 2 July, 1913, issue 27, p. 2, apud: Alpr Ferencz S, op.id.
Cski Papers, 15 March, 1911, issue 11.
317
Cski News, 1 February, 1913, issue 5, p. 4. Jews requesting their rights again. apud: Alpr Ferencz S, op.id.
318
Cski News, 12 July, 1913, issue 28.
319
Cski News, 12 July, 1913, issue 28.
320
Ignc goston: j Bbelt ptnk , Cski Papers, 1921, issue 12, p. 1.
316

97

when it has had enough, while a money-lender can never have enough and will continue to
suck. (San-Toy)321 Although the aphorism is not about the Jews, the concepts of moneylenders and Jews had been linked so much in the public mind that everybody understood the
hint.322
Unfortunately, no issues of the Cski Papers of 1921 to 1936 have remained. The
advertisements by the Jews, however, were continued in that period. Several advertisements
can be found by Jews from the music events of the Hutter Caf to the wine seller of widow
Mrn Grishaber wholesale wine merchant at the Daradics-house.323
The period between the two world wars, however, was more and more characterised by
escalating anti-Semitism in Romania. The Goga-Cuza Government, which came into power
on 29 December, 1937, raised anti-Semitism to the rank of state politics and started to expel
the Jews from public life: Jewish papers were banned, licences of pubs were withdrawn, Jews
were excluded from public transport, they were forbidden to have Christian household help
and, what was the worst, a review of the citizenship of the Jews was ordered. The activities of
the Vasgrda (Iron Guard) also contributed to the Jewry feeling threatened in the country.
It had led to a gradual disappearance of articles on Jewish topics in the papers of Csk,
although Jewish advertisements were still published:
Dr. Mikls Adler physician returned from military service and opened his surgery. Dr.
Mano Fejr (Emanuel) physician for internal medicine, genecology, paediatrics, skin and
venereal patients.324
On the other hand, it was reported in the 28 July issue that 8 Jewish physicians were placed
into availability service in Csk County: Dr. Edvard Jzsef of Gyergyditr, Dr Mric Weisz
of Kszonaltz, Dr Kahan Jen Pokenaru of Szentdomokos, Dr. Samu Gerson of
Gyergytlgyes, Jzsef Berkovics of Cskszereda, Marcel Harnisch of zvlgy, Dr Emil
Siegler of Ditr-hodos and Jzsef Herskovits of Gyimeskzplok were dismissed from
service.325
The Paper also reported in the month preceding the Second Vienna Award that the State
Monopoly Treasury closes down all tobacco shops owned by Jews with a 30-day notice.326
The 36th issue of the Paper, however, was published after the Second Vienna Award; and a
crack in Christian-Jewish relationship can be felt in its tone. Although a significant number of
anti-Jewish articles had not been published earlier, the Paper took over the official
government politics from then on and a covered anti-Jewish attach could already be found in
the first issue after the political takeover:
The author said only a few days have passed since the Vienna Award, but those few days
have triggered a stream of price increases in the commerce of the town. Therefore, it urged
321

Cski Papers, 6 January, 1921, issue 1, p. 3.


The implication became quite interesting during World War II, when the police took action against
profiteers. In those cases, the profiteers were not the Jews as it appeared from the lists, but the social response
of the articles led to the condemnation of the Jews.
323
Cski Papers 1291. issue 12, p. 3 and issue 18, p. 6.
324
Cski Papers, 14 July, 1940, issue 27, p. 3.
325
Cski Papers, 11 August, 1940, issue 32, p. 4.
326
Cski Papers, 18 August, 1940, issue 33, p. 4.
322

98

quick and strict measures noting it is a first rate racial obligation today to be understood both
by traders and consumers.327
In spite of the above, the tricolour flagpoles by Salamon Alter were still advertised in the
same issue.328 The return of Northern Transylvania resulted in satisfaction in the majority of
the Transylvanian Jewry, who hoped they would be freed from increasing humiliations by
Romania.329 Since, however, they had no information on the situation in Hungary, their
happiness proved to be premature: the Jews in Northern Transylvania had actually got into a
worse situation after the return than their fellow citizens remaining on the territory of
Romania.330 At the time of the Second Vienna Award, on 30 August, 1940, the first two antiJewish laws331 had already been in effect in Hungary, which were immediately applied to the
Jews of Northern Transylvania after the military occupation of the region. Jewish illusions on
the improvement of their status as a result of the change of power quickly vanished. Jewish
papers, leagues or federations were banned. The anti-Jewish measures of military authorities
were even supplemented by the civil authorities.
The Hungarian press of Transylvania was reorganised, which resulted in newspapers
becoming the trumpets of the right wing. Although the Transylvanian Papers had used antiSemitic attitudes ever since its foundations in 1932, the papers published in smaller towns
have not published any open anti-Jewish attacks until the political change. Then together with
larger papers (such as for instance, the Hitel [Credit], Psztortz [Shepherd's Fire] or the
Katolikus Szemle [Catholic Review]) journalists at small towns took over a tone of
humiliation of the Jews under the aegis of racial protection. Such papers included
Szamosvlgye of Ds, Szkely Sz of Sepsiszentgyrgy or Gyergyi Lapok of
Gyergyszentmikls.
It is interesting to note that Cskszereda papers were more reserved in that regard. Although
articles disapproving the behaviour of the Jews were published from 1940 to 1944 and the
Cski Papers took over the imported spirit of decorousness emphasising the protection of
Sekler blood, you can hardly find any openly abusive or inciting articles in the whole of five
volumes.

327

Cski Papers, 8 September, 1940, issue 36, p. 3.


Ibidem, p. 4.
329
Braham, op.id. I. p. 144.
330
Ibidem, p. 143.
331
Act No. 1938/XV, or First anti-Jewish Law A trsadalmi s gazdasgi let egyenslynak hatlyosabb
biztostsrl [On the more effective provision of the balance of social and economic life] took effect on 29
May, 1938. The law provided the ratio of Jews could not exceed 20% in the liberal professions or at companies
employing more than 10 people.
Act No. 1939:IV a zsidk kzleti s gazdasgi trfoglalsnak korltozsrl [On restricting the penetration
of Jews in public and economic life], or the Second Anti-Jewish Law was published a year later, on 5 May. The
law provided Jews could not obtain Hungarian citizenship either by naturalisation or by marriage, it banned them
from civil service, it provided judges and prosecutors of Jewish descent had to be placed in retirement and
teachers at high schools, elementary schools and public notaries had to be dismissed. The ratio of Jews was
maximised in 6% in the liberal professions, but Jews could not be directors or managers either in film production
or at theatres or at the media.
The law identified in detail who was to be regarded Jewish. A person was deemed Jewish if he/she, at least one
of his/her parents or at least two of his/her grandparents were the members of the Israelite confession when the
law took effect or before that. (Cf. Braham, op.id. pp. 106 and 130).
328

99

Two interesting facts can be observed in the period: at first, immediately after the political
takeover, the racial consciousness is strongly emphasised and celebratory addresses with
loyalty to the nation as their main motive are often quoted in full. At the same time, articles
on Jewish topics disappeared from the papers, as if the Jews were not members of the society
of the town any longer. Quite few advertisements are published by Jews compared to previous
years, because you can find only four advertisements in the period from 30 August, 1940 to
1944 while there had been several advertisements in almost every issue in the 1920s. In them
Jewish physicians - Dr Jzsef Berkovits and Dr Man Jnos Fejr informed their patients they
had returned from military service and opened their practice. In the first issue of the 1941
volume restaurateur Jen Neumann wished its customers a Happy New Year. Previously the
papers reported on the position of Romanian Jews as well, then however, the decrees of the
town commandeer relating to Jews were not published.
Let us review how the first issues after the return related to the new situation. For instance,
in issue No. 41 of 13 October, 1940 the welcoming address to Mikls Horthy by Archdeacon
Ferenc Br known of his anti-Semitic attacks was published on the first page. Although the
address was not anti-Jewish, it reiterated the usual right-wing slogans:
A nation can only honour the great values of human life, freedom, esteem of its race and the
love it involves if that nation has been in possession of those values for hundreds of years. (...)
We preserved and saved our love of freedom at the time of oppression at that time the
awareness of our race has been clarified even more.332
That initial period was characterised by inauguration of national flags and great celebratory
addresses most of them including anti-Jewish attacks. However, the articles and addresses did
not so much strive to attack the Jews but to glorify the own nation, the own blood: now, on
the occasion of the return, we have to emphasise the objective of the paper is to keep awake
the Seklers racial consciousness.333 Nevertheless, the article identified the political
orientation of the paper too: the Sekler nation must have its place in a strong right wing in
national politics.334
Different celebratory addresses provided opportunities for the locals to express their
animosity towards the Jewry, and the papers also cited some of those in the beginning. In the
articles the nobility of the Hungarian national spirit, the glory and struggles of the Sekler
nation were emphasised, but obeisance to the racist ideal can also be found in the addresses
either hidden or more openly.
A statement by the Romanian press according to which the Sekler Land was crying to return
under Romanian rule resulted in huge protest: over 10 thousand people took an oath to the
Hungarian flag when a national flag was inaugurated at Cskszereda on 12 January, 1941. The
address by Ferenc Br at the event and its reception reflects to a certain extent the ideas of
the representatives of the church and their impact on the public at Cskszereda. According to
the journalist, The huge crowd broke into applause after each of his words.335
He said ...every nation should safeguard its spirit to keep it clear and strong. (...) the twelfth
hour of the revolution struck: liberalism and free masonry proliferating under its pretext have
332

Cski Papers, 13 October, 1940, issue 41, p. 1.


Cski Papers, 27 October, 1940, issue 43, p. 1.
334
Ibidem.
335
Cski Papers, 9 January, 1941, issue 3, p. 3.
333

100

finished their work destroying religion and nation: they deserve a dishonourable grave. 336 As
you can see, Br voiced the slogans of classical anti-Semitism identifying the Jews with
liberalism and free masonry and although the paper did not publish the other parts of his
address, it was obvious he was able to take control of its audience, i.e., the ideas voiced by
him were favourably received.
On the other hand, it should be noted that no right-wing statements affirmative of racism can
be found in any addresses by canon Dr. Lajos Csipak.
A visit by army chaplain Istvn Zadravecz337 at Cskszereda and his pilgrimage at Csksomly
are similarly interesting. So many people took part at the mass held on the occasion of his
visit that the majority of the followers could not fit into the church. 338 Therefore, there were
some villages, where he delivered 3-4 addresses in the course of his pilgrimage.
The papers only published articles openly attacking the Jews infrequently. They rather
practised a method of hints, in which they did not speak of Jews but of liberals, free masons,
Bolsheviks or money-lenders or profiteers. That is why the following quotation delivered by
lieutenant-colonel Ferenc Virg when recruits took their oath after deliberation can be deemed
an unusual example: That impostor, swindler race did not hesitate to wring the arms from the
hands of noble Seklers from behind to promote its own material advantage when we were
shedding our blood on the battlefield and fought for our beautiful country.
Such articles were, however, infrequent and you could see them immediately after the change
of power and then later in the course of 1944. They, however, express the political opinion of
the paper. The same, however, did not prevent the editor-in-chief of the paper to remember in
issue 45 a famous physician of the city, Hug Hirsch, a converted Jew who moved to
Kolozsvr with his wife.
The surgeon Hug Hirsch settled at Cskszereda during World War 1, and gained
acknowledgement among the people with his innovative procedures and with his generosity.
Hug Hirsch represented the assimilated Jews at the city, he had been baptised and had a
close connection with the Catholic Church and was an honorary member of the Franciscan
Order. Although he was regarded a Jew all the time and it was often told him in no
uncertain terms339 the people of Csk trusted and respected him.
He set up a surgical ward of the hospital in 1912 at Cskszereda, he introduced X-ray and
laboratory tests, and then he set up his own institution doubling the number of hospital beds in
the city in that way. Named Hirsch Sanatorium, the institution had become known all over
Transylvania. Since he treated the poor at low rates or even free of charge, and because he
was kind to children, many loved him in the town. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his
operation as a doctor, a ceremony involving everybody close and far was organised for him,
which cascaded as an avalanche lasting for weeks and during which about 5,000 people came
336

Ibidem.
Istvn Jnos Uzdczy Zadravecz (1884-1965) a Franciscan monk, one of the founders of the Anti-Bolshevik
Committee and the Etelkz Federation, the Roman Catholic army chaplain of the Prnay Commando and the
Hungarian Royal Army, the member of the Upper House of the Parliament, church speaker and author and
popular priest was known of his Anti-Bolshevist views.
338
Even the big churches at Ditr and Csksomly taking 8,000 people proved to be too small. 2 March, 1941,
issue 9, p. 3.
339
Dr Andrs Nagy, Vroskp s ami hozz tartozik [The city and what belongs to it], Pallas-Akadmia,
Cskszereda, 1995, p. 57.
337

101

to greet him placing a multitude of gifts to his feet. After the greetings, a public dinner of 300
people was held in the cinema hall of Vigad with speeches until the night340
It illustrates how people evaluated him as he influenced the spiritual and social life of the
town. Sometimes from the background but more often in a visible and tangible way
distributing generously both material and intellectual assets but also expecting
acknowledgement or even homage for it341
When he left the town, the Cski Papers remembered his activity in the following article:
Dr. Hug Hirsch has served our people for almost 3 decades. He has grown with his heart
and soul to the land of Csk, he loved and understood so much. Now he has left for Kolozsvr
to spend the remaining time of his retired life there and left all the memories of his activities
behind. We are moved to say goodbye to him on behalf of all who loved and respected him
not only as an erudite physician but a person of Hungarian build in all his culture and
undertaking the fate of Hungarians, who stood by our people together with his wife offering
so much to our people at the time of its greatest trials.342
When the chief physician died, an editorial of one and a half pages was dedicated to his
memory in the 15 June, 1941 issue, in which his loyalty to the Hungarian nation was again
emphasised: And we could see that he stood in his place, he shared the guard with us in a
Christian and Hungarian spirit, in times good and in times when the world collapsed and the
night seemed to bury Hungarians. He dreamt together with us about a Hungarian
resurrection.343 The Provincial of the Franciscan Order delivered an address at his funeral
and his body was consecrated by Ferenc Br.
It is interesting he had not been deemed a Hungarian in his life, but when he left the town and
people had to remember him, his national spirit was truly acknowledged.
Another outstanding Jewish personality of the town, Elek Sarkadi, was also given nice
praising articles in the Cski Papers. Elek Sarkadi who was called Lek by his friends, was
the teacher of music at the grammar school in the 1930s as well as the conductor of the citys
Song and Music League. Similarly to Hug Hirsch, he had also been baptised because he had
married a Christian woman. Under his leadership, the amateur string orchestra consisting of
only a few people had improved into a forty-member symphonic orchestra within a few years
time. Dr. Andrs Nagy remembered him as a jovial person easy to like who danced to the
accented rhythm of the operetta Mgns Miska on the podium.344
On the ceremonial reception for the military marching into Cskszereda after the Second
Vienna Award, Sarkadi conducted the Hungarian Anthem. He proved several times that the
music life of a small town may be outstanding. He was awarded the first prize at several
national musical competitions conducting Mtrai kpek [Images of the Mtra], Szkely
keserves [Sekler lament], Jzus s a kufrok [Jesus and the peddlers] (choir compositions by
Zoltn Kodly - translators note). The Cski Papers reported on his activities: The
Cskszereda Song and Music League that has been performing such honourable deeds led by

340

Dr Nagy, op.id. p. 57.


Ibidem.
342
Cski Papers, 10 November, 1940, issue 45, p. 5.
343
Cski Papers, 15 June, 1941, issue 24, p. 1.
344
Dr. Nagy, op.id. 49.
341

102

conductor Elek Sarkadi is travelling to Budapest345 . When Transylvania returned, the


National Hungarian Song Federation arranged a festive concert inviting only 4 choirs from
Transylvania. The Cski choir led by Elek Sarkadi was among them and according to a report
in issue 50, it was extremely successful. Of course, the Hungarian character of the choir was
not forgotten: the success was not only due to the Sekler character of the choir but also to the
renewed spirit of Hungarian choirs in which the Cskszereda Song and Music League led by
Elek Sarkadi was a pioneer in the life of Hungarian music. 346
The excellent conductor, however, was not saved from being a Jew by his Hungarian
activity: although he had been exempted from forced labour service until 1944 with reference
to his merits, he had to join the army in the end and died of typhoid fever in the Ukraine.
A similar short article remembered the merchant Rezs Michna on his death: He belonged to
our city he had been loyal to not only in the good times of peace but also when we were hit
hard by fate. His noble figure could be seen at all Hungarian appearances of the past 22
years.347
Jen Neumann an hotelier and restaurateur respected by all also deserved a few lines of
commemoration on his death.
As it could be seen, only a smaller part of articles referred directly to the Jews. They rather
spoke about Seklers as a superior race implying in that way contempt or sometimes
defamation of the Jews. Reviewing the article of five volumes, such articles constitute the
majority of writing on the Jews. The available publications can be roughly divided into four
groups:
1. The first and probably most important group of articles mentioned the Jews in relation to
logging- and timber trade. It is known that the majority of the Jews immigrating into Sekler
Land were engaged in logging. The issue was also vitally important for the Seklers. The
articles published on the topic all spoke about expelling the Jews from the timber trade; that
was demanded louder and louder. Already on 20 October, 1940, at the inauguration of a
national flag at Cskmenasg, ron Antal advised Jewish peddlers must be removed from
logging so that the woods that have remained from the plunder of the Wlach should be real
help for our people in its life.348
Similarly, the editorial of issue 43 published Seklers in the new situation discussing the
same topic: the timber trade is the most profitable branch of the business life of Seklers. It
must be taken out of the hand of the Jews. (...) Those unreliable and aggressive elements who
have been the traitors of the Hungarian cause under Wlach rule should disappear!349
The implementation of the principle of taking the whole of the timber trade in Transylvania
into the hands of Seklers was not so simple. Problems already arose in December, 1940: At
its latest session, the Transylvanian Business Council dealt with the position of the timber
industry in Sekler Land and found that the majority of that ancient industry was not in the
345

Cski Papers, 24 November, 1940, issue 47, p. 5.


Cski Papers, 15 December, 1940, issue 50, p. 3.
347
Michna Rezs, mint a Magyar trtnelmi esemnyek szmontartja. [rezs michna, as a chronicler of
Hungarian historic events],Cski Papers, 11 May, 1941, issue 19, p. 3.
348
Cski Papers, 20 October, 1940, issue 42, p. 1.
349
Cski Papers, 27 October, 1940, issue 4.3, p. 1.
346

103

hands of Christians any longer. Existing Christian companies are unable to employ the
sufficient number of Christians. In accordance with the provisions of the anti-Jewish law,
Christian workers must be found and new jobs must be created.350 Therefore, the issue of
transfer of the timber trade was raised again in January with a rather pessimistic conclusion:
all those measures are insufficient to solve the problem of the timber trade in Csk County; the
only possible solution would be to establish cooperatives.351 Accordingly, the topic was raised
again and again, and in 1942, audits by Balassa - instructed by the Minister of Culture - sued
logging merchants Simon Haim, Sulem Haim and Sulem Segal in the value of several
hundred thousand Crowns.352
2. A separate category of the articles touched upon the Jewish issue while introducing the
programme and activities of the Transylvanian Party. They are interesting because by
introducing the programme of the party to which Dr. Gbor Pl of Cskszereda also belonged
an interesting and paradoxical image is presented on the Christian-Jewish relationship at
Cskszereda. We know that Gbor Pl was the director of the grammar school, who first
admitted Jewish students to the Csksomly Grammar School promoting in that way the
integration of the Jews into the community of the small town. However, the same tolerance
remembered by doctor Adler or Andrs Nagy are not reflected in his speeches at Parliament
as the leader of Transylvanian MPs. In an address delivered in Parliament on 2 December,
1940, he addressed the Jewish issue separately: after the switch of power the Jewry parted
with the Hungarian people, they established a political party opposed to us. The immigrant
Jews from Budapest assisted in this controversy and separation, but he also acknowledges
there have been some Jews who have taken side with the interest of Hungarians.353
The Transylvanian Party emphasised on every possible occasion we regard the land and
capital our national assets, national perspectives must be enforced in the distribution and use
of both. Count Bla Teleki speaking at the Nagyvrad meeting of the Party emphasised:
more has been spoken of the Jewish issue than what has been done. Since the Jews are not
issued trade licences, they work in the black economy and are to the detriment of the
Hungarian homeland by not paying taxes. He believes the situation can be solved by evicting
those without Hungarian citizenship without delay.354
The same idea appeared in the transcript of an address by Mikls Kllay delivered at the great
assembly of the Transylvanian Party on 6 June: the possibly full-scale eviction of the Jewry is
the final solution. He also believed the lack of flats caused by the war could be solved by
taking flats from those who lived in big flats unjustified.355 Later on, an article reported on
how the principle was applied in practice: the property of the heirs of Lipt Rosenfeld of
Ditr was expropriated for the purposes of a girls middle school.
Jzsef Blint, Transylvanian MP advised on 17 December, 1943 regarding the Jewish issue
the Jewish issue has been with us for 2,000 years. It was born when condemning the Son of
God the Jews pronounced their own sentence. He said the right of existence of the Jewish
350

Cski Papers, 22 December, 1940, issue 51, p. 6.


Dr. Ferenc Karda: A cskmegyei erdgazdlkods tlltsa [Transfer of the timber trade in Csk County],
Cski Papers, 19 January, 1941, issue 3, p. 2. It will not solve the national task of excluding finally and for good
the persons and organisations from the timber trade in Csk, which have caused the moral and material decline of
our race by exploiting the timber trade.
352
Cski Papers, 8 March, 1942, issue 10, p. 3.
353
Cski Papers, 8 December, 1940, issue 43, p. 8.
354
Cski Papers, 4 April, 1943, issue 14, p. 1.
355
Cski Papers, 6 June, 1943, issue 23, p. 2.
351

104

religion ceased when the Christian churches were established.356 It was also him who
exclaimed when the anti-Jewish law was submitted to Parliament: debuisset fridem! i.e.,
why not earlier?
3. Articles reporting on the anti-Jewish laws and their application.
The reference to the anti-Jewish laws in the above article is interesting because - as it has been
shown above - surprisingly little information was provided by Cskszereda papers about the
Jews and the anti-Jewish laws. Not one line was written about the fact that the law of
numerus clausus took effect immediately after the takeover, and as a result, no Jewish
students were admitted to the grammar school of the town in the academic year 1940-41.
Similarly, nothing was reported about the effective two anti-Jewish laws.
The Cski Papers reported on 30 April, 1942 that in accordance with a government decree, the
Jewish-owned shops had been closed down with immediate effect, and it published on 15
November that the Government had introduced property tax for the Jews. Only a footnote
advises that tenders for the supply of stationery and printed forms are only open for people
who can certify the Law 1939/IV does not apply to them; or else that only Hungarian citizens
not deemed Jewish can be admitted to training courses for insurance agents. However, not one
report or interpretation of the anti-Jewish laws themselves can be found. In 1944, three short
articles reported on the conscription of Jews of drafting age, listing the data of Jewish
telephone subscribers or the fact that all Jewish schools ceased to operate in the country with
effect from 30 June. That is all to be found about the anti-Jewish laws in five volumes of the
Cski Papers. In addition, the paper quoted a few excerpts from speeches by Hitler or Gbbels
presenting the Jews as enemies: the eternal Jew forced us into a merciless war 357 and there
is no delay in preparation, we must clash that devastating race before the Jews trigger
revolutions in the whole world.358
4. In addition, a few articles dealt with price increases referring to Jews as the culprits,
however, it turned out from the actual list of arrests that most of them had been Hungarians.
The terms used, on the other hand, unambiguously refer to the Jews: This our nation has
already been corrupted by speculators and profiteers, so it is a national duty to support the
fight against price increase. An article mentions there has been a nationwide movement to
sentence everybody to execution by hanging who are deemed the enemy of the nation by their
actions threatening public supply. According to the author, such a motion would be voted for
unanimously by Csk County.359
There are a few more attacks on Aladars, which help to ruin or avoid the laws established
in the interest of the life and survival of the nation of course in return for a rich profit.360
Those attacks were not numerous - only 13 articles were found in the five volumes openly
referring to the Jews and including negative evaluation or incitement. On the other hand, it
must be also taken into account that none could be found offering protection for the Jews

356

Cski Papers, 23 April, 1944, issue 17, p. 1.


Address by Hitler, Cski Papers, 28 March, 1943, issue 13, p. 2.
358
Address by Gbbels, Cski Papers, 28 February, 1943, issue 9, p. 2.
359
Cski Papers, 11 January, 1942, issue 2, p. 3.
360
Cski Papers, 10 January, 1943, issue 2, p. 3 and 3 January, issue 1, p. 4.
357

105

except for some articles commemorating Jewish deaths. There were just a few faint remarks
according to which it is not timely today to tune peoples soul towards political rancour.361
People who did not allow being drenched in mud362 and took no part in incitements at
Cskszereda must have been very low in number. The papers did not promote anti-Jewish
incitement, which is surprising since we know the town commander Elemr der and the
police captain Pl Farkas were openly anti-Semitic. The deputy mayor Dr brahm was also
one who received with applause any anti-Jewish movement.
The market atmosphere of the times must have been general in the town. Two examples can
be shown. One of them is the memoirs of Andrs Grnberg in the booklet They were by
Katalin Szab and Bla Bcs. According to it when we were children at school, our
classmates tried to remind us of our being Jewish every time and not in a very nice form. We
had to be careful how we behaved, how we responded so as not to be given mocking
words.363
As it could be seen, even people doctor Adler remembered with appreciation did make antiJewish statements in other situations. It is also interesting that the Jews are missing from the
Cski Pantheon by Imre Tivai Nagy; only a few of them had been given a place in the book by
Dr Andrs Nagy. Although they voiced their philo-Semitism later on, it often turns out they
only belonged to the more moderate. Ilona Szab, Aunt Pici said there was nothing of
Jewish or Romanian and what else at the time, but a few sentences earlier she said when
Zoltn Popper tripped me I told him leave me alone you fucking Jew, I will rip your guts out.
It was however, a simple banter among friends... at least according to the memories of Aunt
Pici.364
The 14 May, 1944 issue of Cski Papers reported on a telling case. It will make our image
established on the relationship between Jews and Christians a bit more nuanced. In the
column of apologies, an indignant article was published that an architect who was
undoubtedly an original Christian was said to be Jew. The author of the article complained
about city gossip as follows: the news was planted in that excellent soil. Do not bewail. It
grew roots and started to grow with unimaginable speed. The city started to whisper and
commenced to eat up that dessert. Mouths frothed and fangs snapped. The small town had a
good time. In line with ancient habits it enjoyed to do something nasty, to defile somebody, to
fretting and killing somebody.365 It only turns out on the 4th page of the paper that the person
is Dezs Szab, who says he will sue everybody spreading the gossip. The inhumanity of the
whole thing was it happened at the time when the Jews of Cskszereda were deported 366, so
the persons life could have been endangered by deeming him Jewish.
Reviewing the history of the Jewry at Cskszereda as it turns out from archive documents,
memories and newspaper articles, a paradoxical image is revealed: the Jews settling in a
closed Catholic small town had to face rejection and exclusion right from the beginning.
Although the passing of time apparently improved their situation, they had to prove again and
361

The meeting of the Party of National Renewal at Cskszereda. Cski Papers, 10 January, 1943, issue 2, p. 2.
See Adler, 70/1974.
363
Voltak. [They were], p. 29.
364
Nobody would have thought he was a Jew... Interview with Ilona Szab, in: They were, p. 21
365
Cski Papers, 14 May, 1944, issue 20, p. 1.
366
It turns out from the article that Dezs Szab had sent it to the paper on 11 May, but the Jews of Csk had
been deported on 3 May.
362

106

again their loyalty to their hosts and despite that, they suffered the most among the Jewry of
Transylvania after the Hungarian takeover following the Second Vienna Award.
Reviewing the articles of Cski Papers can be misleading. Compared to other towns where
papers were openly anti-Jewish and propagated anti-Jewish incitement, the two deportations
to Krsmez and to Auschwitz on 3 May took place in silence at Cskszereda without any
trace of them in the contemporary press. Although there was not much incitement, there was
no outcry against inhumanities or in defence of the Jews among the numerous political social
articles. In those times, the Jews could not hope for any understanding or support by the town
management or the Catholic Church. If they received any help, it was individual and offered
in rare cases only.

Bibliography
1. A pspki kar tancskozsai. Az 1939. vi jnius h 10-re sszehvott orszggyls
felshznak naplja [Meetings of the Bishops Bench. The Minutes of the Upper House
of the Parliament convened on 10 June, 1939] (1939-1944). Vol. II. Az Athenaeum
Irodalmi s Nyomdai Rszvnytrsulat nyomsa, Bp., 1942
2. BODEA, Gheorghe I.: Tragedia evreilor din nordul Transilvaniei, Cluj-Napoca, 2001.
3. Dr Andrs Nagy: Lt visszanz [Lot looking back], Cskszereda, 2001
4. Dr Andrs NAGY: Vroskp s ami hozz tartozik. [the city and what belongs to it]
Cskszereda, 1995
5. Alpr Salamon FERENCZ: A cskszeredai zsidkrl. [About the Cskszereda Jewry.] In:
Sekler Land [Cskszereda], Vol. IV, Issue 1, January, 2000
6. Alpr Salamon FERENCZ: A Holokauszt helytrtnetnek oktatsa V-VIII. osztlyban. A
cskszeredai zsidsg trtnete. [Teaching the local history of the Holocaust in grades 5-8.
The history of the Cskszereda Jewry.] Unpublished Randolph L. Braham: The Hungarian
Holocaust, Gondolat, Budapest, 1988
7. Mikls FRANK: Cskszereda vros fejldse ptipari szempontbl in: Az 50 ves
ipartestlet 1884-1934, kiad: Cskszereda s vidke ipartestlete, [Evolution of the town
of Cskszereda from the perspective of the construction industry. ] 1934
8. Lszl GYMNT: Evrei din Transilvania n epoca emanciprii (1790-1967), Editura
Enciclopedic, Bukarest, 2000
9. KATZ, Jakob, Kifel a gettbl. A zsid emancipci vszzada 17701870. [out of the
ghetto. The century of Jewish emancipation] MTA Judaisztikai Kutatcsoport, Budapesta,
1995.
10.
Keresztny egyhzfk beszdei a zsidkrdsben.[addresses by Christian church
leaders on the Jewish issue], Editor: Fisch Henrik, Budapesta, 1947
11.
Ilona MONA: Margit Slachta, Bp., 1997. At: http://www.ppek.hu/k418.htm.
12.
Victor NEUMANN: Istoria evreilor din Romnia., Timisoara, 1996.
13.
Balzs ORBN: A szkelyfld lersa trtnelmi, rgszeti, termszetrajzi s npismei
szempontbl, [A description of Sekler Land from historical, archaeological, natural history
and anthropological perspective] Pest, 1868, http://mek.oszk.hu/04800/04804/html.
14.
PATAI, Raphael, The Jews of Hungary. History, Culture, Psychology, Detroit, Wayne
State University Press, 1996
15.
Zoltn TIBORI SZAB: Csk vrmegye zsidsga a beteleplstl a
megsemmistsig. [The Jewry of Csk County from their settlement until their
annihilation.] I-III. http://www.adatbank.ro/inchtm.php?kod=230

107

16.
Imre TIVAI NAGY: Emlkezs rgi cskiakrl. [Memories of the old Csk.]
Cskszereda, 2009
17.
VARGA E. rpd, Erdly etnikai s felekezeti statisztikja [the ethnic and religious
statistics of Transylvania], http://www.kia.hu/konyvtar/erdely/erd2002.htm.
18.
Mzes Vitos Cskmegyei fzetek. Adatok Cskmegye lershoz s trtnethez [Data
to the description and history of Csk County]
19.
Gyrgy VOFKORI: Cskszereda s Csksomly kpes trtnete, [the picture history of
Cskszereda and Csksomly], Bkscsaba, 2007.
20.
VOLTAK. Emlkezs a cskszeredai zsid kzssgre [THEY WERE. Memories of
the Cskszereda Jewish Community], Cskszereda, 1999 (Jnos Bla Bcs, Katalin Szab
ed.)

Archive sources
The private archives of the Cskszereda Jewish community 16/1971 Statement by Dr
Mikls Adler to the Federation of Jewish Communities in Bucuresti on the war losses of the
Jewish communities at Cskszereda, Gyergyszentmikls, Szkelyudvarhely and Maroshviz.
The private archives of the Cskszereda Jewish Community 70/1974 letter by Dr Mikls
Adler to Zoltn Vntsa, Minister of the Reformed Church.
Documents of the Archives of Hargita County
Documents of Mayors Office of the Town of Cskszereda 1859-1968: 237, 339, 340
cs/r854
Relevant documents: 239 groups:
o 13. Persoanele urmrite de autoritile maghiare 1940-1944
o 18. Recensmntul populaiei, 1941
o Decizii i hotrri
o Cereri i adeverine pentru obinerea ceteniei
o Lucrri privind administrarea bunurilor evreilor 1941
In-depth interviews by Katalin Szab with Klra Lszl, Pter Leitmann, Ilona Szab, Terz
Nagy and Gbor Szentes

Press publications:
- Cski Papers, Vol. 1913, 1921, 1936, 1939-1944.
- Cski News, Vol. III, 1913.

108

Case study 6
Relationships between the Romanian Orthodox Church and Anti-Semitism before the
Holocaust
By Gabriel Andreescu

Introduction
I did an analysis of the role played by the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) in the evolution
of anti-Semitism and its manifestations, from the creation of Greater Romania (1919) to the
genocide of Jews (the Holocaust), using previous research and archives367. Anti-Semitism is a
component of the more general national-orthodox anti-democratic drift. This research
provides a conceptual framework needed in order to take full advantage of the data on antiSemitism in Romania between the World Wars. I use the term Holocaust to have a different
meaning than that established in doctrine368; I distinguish between societal anti-Semitism
and institutionalized anti-Semitism; I concentrate on the study of the sources of antiSemitism and differentiate between actant resources and passive resources. I identified four
stages of anti-Semitism between the World Wars.
The Romanian Orthodox Church was both a passive resource and an actant resource
throughout the different stages of anti-Semitism until the Holocaust. The relationship of the
ROC with anti-Semitism took different forms for the church as an institution, for the clergy
and for the heterogeneous community of the faithful. ROC anti-Semitism was only one
component of Orthodox nationalism a body of ideas and practices, hostile towards other
religious communities and, more generally, hostile towards any form of otherness that could
affect the ideal of a homogenous orthodox nation.
The Romanian State and the Romanian Orthodox Church have been in a constant dispute over
who has the authority within Romanian society. However, throughout this period, the State
dominated the Church because of the ROCs dependence on the material resources provided
by the state and as a result of the state institutional power. During the second part of the 30s,
the ROC succeeded in pushing some of its objectives into the governmental agenda. Even so,
the state had the advantage over the church. The relationships between church leadership, the
orthodox clergy and the community of the faithful were influenced by this asymmetry of
power. The result was a rift within the Orthodox Church between its hierarchy and the clergy.
The main conflict was triggered by the involvement of the clergy in politics. The Orthodox
clergy entered the political arena and represented an important resource for nationalistOrthodoxist political movements. In critical situations, the hierarchy was forced to condemn
the actions of the clergy and the political involvement of its members.
In my research I stress that at the beginning of the 20s, contrary to the opinion of some
367

The study stems from looking at previous works in conjecture with two archives: the CNSAS archive, which
holds the files of the Securitate (including the files of the former State Security, between 1922 and 1945) and the
National Archive. The ROC did not allow access to its own archives.
368
This corresponds to the concept of genocide (against Jews) as defined by the Convention on the Prevention
and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
109

others369, the Romanian state was evolving towards modernity. The foundational laws of the
time, starting with the Constitution of 1923 and continuing with the 1928 Law on religious
denominations, assume that Romania is a secular state. There was a conflict between the
modernism of the majority of the political elites and the traditional culture and ideological
resources of the largest part of the population. Entrepreneurs of these latter resources created a
constant pressure on the state, and changed little by little the political ethos of the Romanian
state.
Research on anti-Semitism in Romania is done in the context of the adoption of a framework
doctrine for this phenomenon, in the form of the Final Report of the International
Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania (2004). That is why I repeatedly
highlight where our contribution deviates from the theses of the Final Report.

A. Concepts used in analyzing the four stages of anti-Semitism in Romania, 1918-1944


The Holocaust
The term anti-Semitism is used to refer to language, ideas, attitudes and practices that are
hostile toward Jews. We separate anti-Semitic manifestations in Romania between the World
Wars into four stages, and use the term Holocaust in its narrow sense to refer to the
genocide of Jews. The Holocaust, as presented by the Jewish peoples living memorial to the
Holocaust, Yad Vashem, is defined as the sum total of all anti-Jewish actions carried out by
the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945, including: stripping the German Jews of their legal
and economic status in the 1930s`; segregation and starvation in the various occupied
countries; the murder of close to six million Jews in Europe.370 The United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum has the same approach if in somewhat different terms: The Holocaust
was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately
six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators."371 In Romania, the Final report and
the studies in the journal Holocaust. Studies and research use the same definition. Therefore,
defining the Holocaust as the sum of actions, between 1933 and 1945, towards the
discrimination, segregation and starvation, and murder of Jews became a part of the doctrine
on anti-Semitism.
This definition mixes together acts of very different ethical and legal status: discrimination,
repression, murder and genocide against Jews. The choice to do so stems from the assumption
that the genocide of Jews was a necessary result of the repressive acts preceding it. We think
it would be wrong to say this assumption is supported by the evidence. Here, we will use the
term Holocaust (or Shoah) to mean the genocide of Jews, as defined by the Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: acts committed with the intent
to destroy, in whole or in part, the Jewish community. Hence, the Romanian Holocaust starts
with the Jassy pogrom of June 27, 1941, and lasts until 1943.
During the fourth stage of the Holocaust the Jews from Basarabia and Transnistria were
exterminated, through massacres or the living conditions imposed on them in the labor camps
in Transnistria. The Final Report estimates that between 280,000 and 370,000 Jews were
369

I am thinking also of the Final Report of the International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in
Romania.
370
http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/resource_center/the_holocaust.asp - accessed on 15 May, 2014.
371
http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005143- accessed on 15 May.
110

killed. Romanias contribution to the tragedy of European Jews also has several contradictory
elements. Marshall Ion Antonescu, the leader of Romania at the time, refused to hand over to
the Germans around 350,000 Jews living in the Old Kingdom, and thus they survived the
Second World War During the war, the Antonescu government allowed some Jews from
Poland and Hungary to transit Romania in order to save themselves by boarding ships on the
Black Sea or moving into Bulgaria.

Societal anti-Semitism, institutional anti-Semitism and the four stages


From September 1920, when Corneliu Zelea Codreanu managed to persuade the first student
congress in Greater Romania, in Cluj, to decide to expel Jews from student organizations, and
until the formation of the national legionary government on September 14th 1940, a powerful,
grassroots anti-Semitic movement developed and was structured within the larger society,
with separate resources and in opposition to the values of the state. We call this societal antiSemitism.
Between the formation of Greater Romania (1919) and until the National Christian Party
came to power in 1937 (the Goga government), state authorities supported the principles of
the democratic state based on the equality of citizens. During the 20s the foundational laws
of the modernization of the Romanian state were passed: the 1923 Constitution, which
granted citizenship to Jews (up to that point inhabitants of inferior legal status 372) and stated
that all are equal independent of ethnic or religious identity; and the 1928 Law on religious
denominations.373 But the pressure created by the anti-Semitism of extremist organizations
and parties managed to erode those constitutional principles during the `30s. On December
29th, 1933, the Prime Minister Ion G. Duca, who jailed thousands of Iron Guard members,
was shot to death by a legionnaire squad.
Starting in 1934, the Ttrscu government adopted several laws imposing a quota for
Romanian ethnics within economic institutions, laws that mainly affected the Jewish
community. However, between 1919 and 1937, the state was a counterweight to the escalating
anti-Semitic plans and actions. The Romanian society was still at a stage of societal antiSemitism.
The naming of Octavian Goga, a known, anti-Semitic, politician and cultural personality, as
Prime Minister, on December 29th, 1937, was the result of growing anti-Semitic pressure, but
also an attempt to stop the political rise of the Iron Guard, a more anti-Semitic and threatening
entity. Using decrees, the Goga government closed newspapers that were viewed as
dominated by Jews, stopped the aid provided by the state to Jewish institutions, and cancelled
liquor licenses. Decree no. 169/22 January 1938 for amending the citizenship of Jews led to a
loss of citizenship for 252.222 Jews. However, the measures implemented by the Goga
government were judged insufficient by the Romanian society. The result was political and
social instability. This is the context in which, on February 11th, 1938, the king declared the
Constitution invalid, dissolved political parties and installed on February 20th, 1938, the royal
dictatorship.
According to art. 7 of the 1866 Constitution, The Romanian citizenship is obtained, kept and lost according
to the rules stated by civil laws. Only Christian foreigners may obtain Romanian citizenship.
373
Although the National Liberal Party and the National Peasant Party were responsible for the adoption of the
two fundamental laws, the Final Report calls them at most indifferent to the situation of the Jewish minority
(Final Report, p. 20).
372

111

King Carols Constitution included ambiguous provisions that could be used against Jews.
The Miron Cristea government (created on February 13th, 1938) further amended the
citizenship of Jews. No new anti-Semitic laws were adopted, but administrative decisions and
rules were used to further the marginalization of the Jewish population. From December 1937
to September 14th, 1940, Romania was at a stage of institutional anti-Semitism, i.e., of
adopting anti-Semitic measures at the level of the state.
The ideology of the 1937-1940 governments was explicitly nationalistic, anti-Semitism was a
component of state nationalism, but the governments had to face nonetheless the violent antiSemitism of the Iron Guard. Prime Minister Armand Clinescu was assassinated in September
1939 because of his anti-legionnaires measures. The government arrested many members of
the Iron Guard, which was already banned, and attempted to repress its activity.

The institutionalized Anti-Semite anarchism during the National-Legionary State


The legionnaires rise to power and the formation of the national-legionary government on
September 14th, 1940 changed dramatically the situation of Jews in Romania. They were left
defenseless against people who hated them or just wanted to steal their property, whether
people on the street or public servants. Given the particularities of this stage, extremely
violent but not of genocidal proportions, we call it the institutionalized anti-Semite anarchism.
This apparent oxymoron stresses the organized destabilization (by the national-legionary
state) of the system of protection of Jewish citizens the exact opposite of the states duty to
its citizens. As a result, the Jews became prey to anarchist acts that went well beyond previous
anti-Semitic actions, in number and intensity, but also qualitatively. Their assets were taken
from them374, they lost residence and freedom to move rights, and children were killed375.
Many disappeared never to be found again376. It was a time for paybacks377. The victims were
beaten378, and then forced to give away houses and shops, they were blindfolded and told they
will be killed. The perpetrators became completely dehumanized, and the local authorities
remained passive379. When it got involved following requests for intervention, the central
government didnt punish the guilty.380

Notice by the Jewish Community of Rmnicu Vlcea from December 30 th, 1940: all Jewish merchants were
closed down. The merchandise was taken by the legionnaires, and we received 10% of its real value (many of the
parishioners left the city (Ibidem, f. 24).
375
Notice through which the parents announce the 16 years old son of the Gelber family was picked up by
legionnaires and taken to the Police, and then the hospital, where he died of intoxication (Ibidem, ff. 92-94).
376
Notice on November 24th, 1940: Dr. H. Fisher, the president of the Jewish Community of Piatra Neam was
picked up by legionnaires and was never seen again. His 17 years old daughter went to the Legionary Police and
was never seen again (Ibidem, f. 17).
377
On November 13th, 1940, Cohu Eugen was surrounded by 15 legionnaires and 6 policemen and taken to City
Hall. He was arrested and beaten repeatedly until he signed a confession admitting he had said bad things
about the legionnaires. He had been reported by D. Grozea, who had been sued many years before by the shop
where Cohu Eugen worked for not paying (Jewish Community in Romania Archive, 21/1940, ff. 8-9).
378
Notice to the fact that in Clrai-Ialomia, on the night of November 23rd, 1940, all the Jews were taken to a
cave at the Legion were they were beaten until morning. The attempt to run Jews out of the cities (43 Jews were
badly beaten) belong to the Legionary Police (Ibidem, ff. 98-99).
379
Notice from December 29th, 1940, to the Union of Jewish Communities in the Old Kingdom: several Jews in
Trgu Neam report that during the investigation by the Police and General State Security Commissariat
superhuman efforts were made to not write down the names of those that had beaten, mockingly cut our hair,
took our money or houses (Ibidem, f. 51).
380
Letter from a group of merchants addressed to Marshall Ion Antonescu (December 6th, 1940). Armed
legionnaires brought in young people who were taken into shops and put their names over the owners. This
374

112

This stage lasted until Marshall Ion Antonescus victory against the legionary rebellion, on
February 14th, 1941.

B. The Romanian Orthodox Church as a passive resource of chauvinism and antiSemitism


The passive resources of anti-Semitism consist of the language, attitudes and ideas that feed
anti-Semitism, a potential at the level of orthodox thought. It is passive because a
transformation of language, attitudes and ideas into active anti-Semitism depends on
opportunities and context. The Church is one of the best examples of the major consequences
that can stem from slight differences in interpretation of the same text381. A particular verse
may be given an exclusivist interpretation by chance, to later become a popular argument for
anti-Semitism. The potential anti-Semitism of the orthodox thought was also taken advantage
of through local and popular interpretations of dogma and traditions that are sometimes
contrary to the canonic interpretation.
The use of Christian dogma to support murder and violence is not unique to Orthodox antiSemitism in Romania, where the violent, aggressive and oppressive phobia against Jews
bears a "national-Christian" stamp and its every action, no matter how unchristian or
antichristian, is defined and made "sacred" by divine offices with priests in vestments.382
Other versions of European anti-Semitism in the 30s invoke Christianity: in Hungary, antiSemitic students pose as Crusaders; in Poland, the clergy supports and sometimes leads
the anti-Semitic movement, even though the latter is purely chauvinistic; in Austria, the
systematic removal of Jews from public life and away from their means of support is done in
the name of social Christianity, with the unconditional support of the church, and in England,
the leader of the fascists emphatically declared yesterday: Israel hates Jesus, hence it hates
us too 383.
The essential attribute of ROC-fueled anti-Semitism is its association with a nationalistic
vision. The relationship Orthodoxism-nationalism is described by Dumitru Stniloaie, "the
most important Romanian Orthodox theologian of the twentieth century" 384, thus: "a people is
an irreducible ontological space. It is the ultimate specific unit of humanity. It is the basis of
explaining individually and the medium of living. Humanity does not exist as a continuum or
a uniform discontinuum. God's creation can be found in no other place but in the expression
of ethnic communities."385 As a consequence, Christianity, which in the Romanian context is
Orthodoxy, is "a necessary path towards nationalism, and nationalism, in turn, is a necessary
path towards Christianity."386

lasted until December 7th, 1940, when, following the energetic response of the authorities, these young people
were taken out of the shops, their signs were removed and order was reestablished (Ibidem, f. 11).
381
The Old or the New Testament have been interpreted very differently and have generated very different
behaviors depending on epoch and denomination.
382
A. L. Zissu, Logos, Israel, Biserica. Viciile organice ale bisericii i criza omenirii cretine, Tipografia
Moderna, Bucureti, 1937, p. 4.
383
Idem, p. 5.
384
Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania, Oxford University Press,
New York, 2007, p. 45.
385
Dumitru Stniloaie, Biserica romneasc (1942), in Dumitru Stniloaie, Naiune i cretinism) Bucureti:
Elion, 2004), 145-146.
386
Dumitru Stniloaie ,Cretinism i naionalism (1940), in Stniloaie, 117-118.
113

ROC dogma is at the same time a source of anti-Semitism and of acts hostile towards other
churches and faiths. The positive fervor for Orthodoxy is transformed into a thesis of
uniqueness: Orthodoxy is the only authentic representation of heaven on earth."387
Theological thought is transformed into an exclusivist, patronizing or hostile view of other
beliefs and identities. While, for the ROC, Protestantism and Catholicism are inferior to
Orthodoxy, the other religious movements are real dangers. Dumitru Stniloaie welcomed the
measures taken by the legionary government to remove Masons from public office
and prohibit all sects: "...masonry and sects on the other hand were like worms consuming the
body of our State, bringing apathy into souls and decay of our national unity, pouring the
winning corrosive over the love of nation. Between all of them there is a connection, all of
them were united by the malicious conspiracy to lead this nation to the grave."388
Theological thought is a good example of a passive resource: one that incites or legitimizes
actions when the right societal circumstances appear. The extreme violence of the theological
language in the quote above should be noticed: "masonry and sects on the other hand were
like worms consuming the body of our State. This type of aggressiveness was also present in
the communications of the executive bodies of the ROC in the 30s. The public statements
move the conceptual framework towards an active role in public life. Just like Stniloaie, the
1937 ROC Synod condemned the Freemasonry in extremely harsh terms: Stark materialism
and opportunism in all actions are the necessary conclusion of Freemason premises.
Freemason lodges gather together Jews and Christians and the Freemasonry states that only
those gathered in its lodges know the truth and rise above other people. This means that
Christianity doesnt confer any advantage in knowing the truth and achieving the salvation of
its members. The Church cannot watch unmoved how Jesus mortal enemies are thought to be
above Christians in regard to knowing the highest truths and to salvation.389
Although this paragraph is concerned with freemasons, the views regarding Jews are also
apparent. They are the mortal enemies of Jesus. Such anti-freemason and anti-Semitic
messages nourish the clergy and the faithful. But the orthodox nationalism is the cause of
which anti-Semitism is just a result. That is why the hostile opinions, the propaganda and the
actions of the ROC between the World Wars were mainly directed at religious organizations
that were perceived as a threat to the Churchs dominant role. The Church that was closest
dogmatically to the ROC the Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic (RCUR)
was also the one which bore the brunt of the ROC attacks. The November 1937 General
Report of the "Agru" Central Committee referred to the campaign launched by the ROC against
Greek-Catholics in these terms: "An intense and tireless propaganda on behalf of Orthodoxy has
monopolized Romanian nationalism. Moreover, an equally continuous, and often heated,
campaign has depicted the United Church as a national danger, a foreign object in the body of
the nation. Nothing was spared in spreading this idea. Facts are reversed, evidence is distorted.
Our leaders are attacked in unworthy ways. History is falsified with amazing boldness. The city
of Blaj and its schools, the great teachers who awakened the Romanian soul and made of the
people of serfs of yore a nation aware, no longer exist; Clain, incai and Maior were alienated
from the core of the nation (...) Orthodox publications put forward this message of hatred and
enmity in all its forms. Large organizations, created for other goals, like the For, the Romanian
Anti-revisionist League, the Association of Romanian Clergy, put themselves in the service of
this false ideal of pure negationism."390
Dumitru Stniloaie, Ortodoxia i viaa social (1940), in Stniloaie, 109.
Dumitru Stniloaie , Restaurarea romnismului n destinul su istoric (1940), in Stniloaie, 114-115.
389
The ROC has never reversed its position.
390
The November 1937 General Congress in Satu Mare (Buletinul AGRU Bucureti, nr. 8-9, July-August 2002.)
387
388

114

These quotes are relevant to more than the issue of anti-Semitism, because they show how
Orthodox nationalism worked as a passive resource not only through its ideas, but also
through its intense opposition to otherness. The ROC was both a School in Hostility and a
School in Ideals of Exclusivity. Much of the previous research underestimates the place of the
ROC in the anti-Semitic movement between the World Wars because researchers have
concentrated on institutional positions and on the highest levels of the hierarchy. But most
often the passive resources fueled processes at the grassroots level. Therefore the best proofs
for the role of Orthodoxist dogma and attitudes in creating anti-Semites are the testimonies
of clergy that became legionnaires and were involved in anti-Semitic violence.
We will highlight one case study. Priest Ilie Imbrescu joined the legionary movement because
he was interested in nationalism, in a doctrinal and academic sense, because it was deep
and strengthened in his soul, since childhood, under the influence of the education in his
family391. His father had been a nationalist fighter against the oppressive Hungarian
domination.392 Imbrescu studied Theology in Cernui, where he joined the Student Center
of Cernui, and became at one point the president of the student movement. In his mind,
nationalism and Ortodoxism, through history and education, were two sides of the same coin.
Initially, he looked up to Professor A.C. Cuza, at the time president of the National Christian
Defense League and thought to be the father of Romanian Christian nationalism. During a
discussion on February 4th, 1930, Ilie Imbrescu asked the latter a question regarding the Old
Testament. A.C. Cuza rejected the Old Testament and stated that Jesus was not from the
body of a Jew 393. Faced with such major dogmatic errors, the theologian-to-be looked
toward other sources.
In this context of personal searches, he met Zelea Codreanu and read The Nest Leader's
Manual394, and in 1933 became a legionnaire because the meetings of these nests
convinced me that the legionary movement walks on the path of the old Orthodox-nationalist
law 395. Reading Ilie Imbrescus book of testimonies, we can find out how a priest
searches for and finds in the Holy Book arguments for murder: Therefore,, do I support
murder? This is a question whose answer requires the Priest to have the courage to not be
hypocritical! Because God stops murder, but punishes folly dreadfully! Jesus said to his
disciples: Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through
whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied
around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. (Luca 17, 1-2)396.
The case of Ilie Imbrescu highlights perfectly the connection between nationalism,
Ortodoxism and dogma, and the manner in which their components, as passive resources,
were transformed by circumstances and contexts into violent anti-Semitic actions. His case is
similar to those of tens of thousands of priests who supported anti-Semitism and to those of
many Orthodox faithful taught that Jews are Jesus mortal enemies, that the Jewish people
is an intruder on the "orthodox land" and that to be Romanian is to be Orthodox, and who
turned those ideas into political practice.

391

The legionary priest wrote his testimony in the detention camp near Miercurea-Ciuc. He sent his book of
testimonies from there, on December 7th, 1938, to Metropolitan Nicodim Munteanu, at the time ad-interim
President of the ROC Synod.
392
The Imbrescu family was from Banat (p. 20).
393
Ibidem, p. 21..
394
The Nest Leader's Manual collects Corneliu Zelea Codreanu's ideological teachings.
395
Ibidem, p. 55.
396
Ibidem, p. 60.
115

C. The Romanian Orthodox Church as an actant resource for anti-Semitism


The ROC as an actant resource for anti-Semitism encompasses the set of orthodox actants,
social actors that engaged in anti-Semitic acts because they saw them as arising from their
Orthodox faith, or that placed their anti-Semitic acts under an Orthodox banner. This set
includes the church as an institution, orthodox foundations and associations, the clergy and
the heterogeneous community of the faithful. The orthodox actants were an important
segment of Romanian society between the World Wars. Their behavior was often in conflict
with the place reserved at the time by the state for religious actors.

C1. The attitude of the Romanian state toward religion and the Churches
Mainstream studies on interwar anti-Semitism focus on documenting instances of antiSemitism. This focus leads to paradoxical phenomena: the borders separating social actors are
blurred, and the number of relevant actors and their role is underestimated. An ample study
like the Final Report of the International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in
Romania gives the ROC more of a supporting role in the evolution of anti-Semitism, limiting
it to the anti-Semitic statements of some clergy and members of the ROC hierarchy.
Our evaluation diverges most from the results of the Final Report in the role it assigns to state
authorities between the World Wars and in particular during the stage of societal antiSemitism. The authors of the Final Report state that the period between the Wars continues
the history of anti-Semitism on the same lines on which it was built in the 19th century. The
1937 movement towards an institutionalized anti-Semitism is not, then, a change in the nature
of the latter, but just a new phase in its evolution397. The political elites leading Greater
Romania, the leaders of the National Liberal Party and the National Peasant Party were at
most indifferent toward the situation of the Jewish minority in the country398. Anti-Semitism,
according to the Final Report, permeated the entire social body of Romania between the
World Wars.
This perspective cannot explain however the emancipation in terms of citizenship rights of the
Jewish community in the 20s or its widespread integration within the economic and cultural
system of the State. The emancipation of the Jews was a force oriented toward modernization.
During the second half of the 30s, in the international context of the rise of European
fascism, the actors for modernity gave up in the face of the anti-modernization tendencies of
the grassroots.
The modernizing actions of the State in the 20s
The 1923 Constitution confers full right to Jews. The fundamental law was written under
pressure from the Powers that had recognized the new borders of Greater Romania and went
against many voices at the national level. But the support of the Romanian state in 1923 was
not purely formal, as was demonstrated by the Law of religious denominations adopted in
1928. The explanatory memorandum of the law argues that
In defining the relationship between the state and religious denominations our draft
397
398

Final Report, p. 11.


Final Report, p. 20.
116

follows the principle of equal protection established by art. 22 of the Constitution. No


differentiation is being made between one denomination and another. All are equal and
all receive the same support and protection, because all have the same civilizing purpose
and because all correspond to the spiritual needs of a smaller or bigger part of the
population of the country. [] Paragraph f of the draft talks about the Mosaic
denomination, without addressing specifically the different branches in which it was
divided by historical circumstances. By using the general term of Mosaic denomination
we do not mean to prevent its organization according to the differences in rituals that
exist. Every branch shall have the freedom to organize itself independently, according to
the implementation rules of this law. Of course, in this division of the Mosaic
denomination into branches only those that have achieved a distinct and recognized
character during the historical development of the denomination shall be taken into
account.399
It is relevant that during prior parliamentary debate the main concern of the Mosaic
denomination, represented by Rabbi I. Niemirover, was that too much freedom of
conscience may affect the functioning of the denomination at a collective level. In particular,
there was suspicion toward the ease of changing religious identity:
The freedom of conscience is the basis of this law. In regard to some paragraphs that
deal with changing religious denominations, the freedom of conscience was the guide of
the legislator. Moves from one denomination to another cannot be seen positively by
priests. I am not talking about moving from one denomination to a related one, but of
moving from one denomination to another that is very different from the initial faith.
The freedom of denominations must also be limited in some situations, and it was well
said that no religious requirement can be used as a pretext for not doing ones duty to
the State. On the other hand the State is also required to respect as much as possible, in
order to preserve the order of the State, the religious and ritual options of every
denomination.400
The Ministry of Religious Denominations took this grievance into account401.
The parliamentary debates instigated by the Constitution and later by the Law of Religious
Denominations show the inclination toward modernity of historical party leaders and the
bureaucracy they had created, made apparent through legislation. Other motivations, like the
promises made at the international level and economic interests, may be seen in many ways.
But everything points to a push by the institutions of the state towards democracy.

*** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction
N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 22.
400
*** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction
N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 132.
401
According to Rabbi I. Niemirover: If provisions are made such that every locality may only have one
[religious] community, it is clear that the rights of the Spanish communities in the Kingdom and the separatist
Orthodox communities in Ardeal would not be in any way violated. If such measures to organize a single
community in each locality are not taken, there is a danger that our denomination will be pulverized through the
formation of sects. (Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor,
Introduction N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 134).
399

117

The relationship between the State and the ROC


The political regime created by the 1923 Constitution acknowledged the Orthodox religion as
dominant, but the differentiation of denominations was viewed from a democratic perspective.
The preamble for the 1928 Law on Religious Denominations talked about a secular state,
based on religious freedom, a fact that was noticed and highlighted by the leaders of different
religious communities.
The State was the administrator of this freedom and held the instruments that allowed it to
limit the abuses of the denominations. Religious freedom and the protection of all
denominations were guaranteed, and enhanced by the provision that religious beliefs cannot
stop anybody from gaining and exercising civil and political rights. At the same time, art. 2
also stated that religious beliefs cannot exempt anybody from obeying the law.402
This hierarchical relationship also affected the ROC. Some researchers insist on the privileged
relationship between the ROC and the state, while ignoring the other side of the coin: the
states control over the ROC. This preoccupation with the role of the state is apparent in the
legislation, among other things in the conditions imposed on the clergy and those who work
for denominations:
We establish in art. 8 of the draft the following three requirements for members of the
clergy, of the leadership and for public servants at any level of the denominations. That
is: a) they must be Romanian citizens, b) they must enjoy all civil and political rights
and c) they must not have been found guilty through a final decision for crimes against
morality, against State security and in general for any criminal act.403
The Romanian state recognized the right of denominations to create, administer and control
cultural and charitable institutions, but imposed some rules:
The study of history, Romanian language and literature and the Constitution of the
country is required in these establishments, and they will be taught according to a
curriculum established by the same authority, with the consent however of the
Ministries of Religious Denomination and of Education, such that they do not prevent
the specialized theological training and are compatible with the moral religious
character of these establishments.404
A key provision, meant to preserve the authority of the state over religious denominations,
was the prohibition of political involvement for members of the clergy, which included a ban
of denominational political organizations. These were the arguments of the Minister for
Religious Denominations and the Arts, Alexandru Lepdatu, in his support for the draft-law
on religious denominations:
Art. 4 prohibits the creation of denominational political organizations and the debate of
political issues within church institutions and bodies. We thought this provision was
See art. 2, art. 7, par. 1 ant art. 22 of the Law for Religious Denominations (Biserica noastr i cultele
minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 2).
403
Preamble to the Law for Religious Denominations: *** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie
parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 19.
404
Preamble to the Law for Religious Denominations: *** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie
parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 19.
402

118

necessary because, while religious beliefs are and remain a part of every citizens
conscience, in a State like ours, of secular tradition and character, it is dangerous, we
believe, for them to be used as a basis for political fights, in the same way in which it is
dangerous when the latter, the political fights, permeate the life of religious institutions
and bodies. This is true also because the denominations are, essentially, religious
organizations with ideal purposes, and hence must keep themselves within this sphere
and not get involved in issues that are not in accordance with their mission. Militant
politics must be completely excluded from the internal life of denominations, because it
may disturb the inner peace they have a duty to propagate and sustain.405
The government and its minister assumed the secular character of the state and the danger of
mixing religion and politics and turned them into general principles for the functioning of the
state. In the meantime, the Orthodox clergy moved in the opposite direction, not just getting
involved in politics but supporting precisely those movements that challenged public
authorities. The 1937 anti-democratic drift and the move towards an institutionalized antiSemitism were accompanied by a new symbolic position of the ROC. During the Goga
government, the Minister for Religious Denominations and Arts, Ioan Lupa, defined the role
of the ROC within the new government in a manner completely contrary to the spirit of the
Constitution:
We want to lay as the basis of the Romanian state the spiritual principles of
Christianity. We want the National Church to be considered as the supreme
representative of the force which generates a moral life ( ... ). We want a fighting clergy
that is an essential part of the organization of the State, according to Romanian tradition
and the ethical requirements of a sound national edifice.406
The Constitution that established the bases of the authoritarian regime of Carol the Second 407
also granted the status of dominant church to the Orthodox Church, with authority in the
canonic and spiritual spheres. Patriarch Miron Cristea was named Prime Minister a second
time (March 30th, 1938 February 1st, 1939). Nicolae Colan, a bishop of Vad, Feleac and Cluj
and member of the government, described in his statement to the King his aspiration for a
close relationship between church and state: Your Highness same trust called me to lead the
Department for Religious Denominations and the Arts. To be the connection between
denominations, the dominant Church in particular, and the state. To promote the realization of
the commandment: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to
God.408

*** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction
N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 2.
406
Letter on December 31st, 1937 addressed by the Minister to the Patriarch (Costel Coaj, Relaia stat-biseric
n perioada 1938-1948. Cazul Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, Princeps Edit, Iai , 2008, p. 18).
407
It is worth highlighting an analysis by Armin Heinen, according to which the dictatorship of Carol the Second
is not a totalitarian dictatorship or despotism since political figures are co-opted in the Crown Council, parties
were allowed to exist even if only outside the law , and media censorship allowed the expression of a
multitude of points of view (see Armin Heinen, Legiunea Arhanghelului Mihail ". O contribuie la problema
fascismului internaional, Humanitas, Bucureti 1999).
408
Costel Coaj, Relaia stat-biseric n perioada 1938-1948. Cazul Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, Princeps Edit,
Iai , 2008, p. 20.
405

119

Later, Marshall Ion Antonescu called Christianity a factor of equilibrium for the Romanian
nation. The leader of the state expected the Orthodox Church to promote Christian teachings
and values as an essential component of the process of national purification.409
But those dictators that proclaimed the high place held by the Orthodox Church within the
state were also the ones that demanded from it the highest level of obedience. Carol the
Second elevated to the level of constitutional principle the interdiction against priests of any
religious denomination to use their spiritual authority in the interest of political causes, in
their own spaces or through public office. Political propaganda is forbidden in places of
worship or during religious ceremonies. Any political organization built on religious grounds
was banned.410
This was the language used by the Ministry for National Education, Religious Denominations
and the Arts on February 1941, after the suppression of the legionary rebellion:
It is strictly forbidden for members of the clergy of any denomination, category or
hierarchic level to register with, join or pay contributions to any party or political
organization, or to participate in any political movement or manifestation. They may be
active in national-cultural or welfare organizations that are so registered according to
the law for legal entities but may not hold a salaried position.411
As the leader of the state, Ion Antonescu stressed on different occasions the submission of the
Church to the authority of the state:
The Church that always asks for the support of the State must integrate into the State
order. Otherwise, the Church is the first example of anarchy. The State fails under such
circumstances. The Church receives money from the State. The State sacrifices for the
benefit of the Church, it is its duty, because it is in the interest of the state and its
subjects412
Marshall Ion Antonescu also punished severely those priests that questioned the authority of
the State, among other things sending hundreds of priests involved in the legionary rebellion
to prison.

The confrontation between the State and societal anti-Semitism


At the same time that modernization projects were implemented in Romania, a current
contrary to Western values and the direction chosen by public institutions developed. Its main
roots were the nationalism inspired by the creation of Greater Romania, very present in
Transylvania, and Orthodoxism, present mainly in the Kingdom. The nationalist movements
and organizations, and the Orthodoxist and anti-Semitic political organizations, that appeared
one after the other in the 20s were in conflict with the state, which led to a spiral of violence
that marred the entire interwar period.
Costel Coaj, Relaia stat-biseric n perioada 1938-1948. Cazul Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, Princeps Edit,
Iai , 2008, p. 30.
410
Article 8 of the Constitution.
411
Decision no. 9349 on February 15th, 1941.
412
Costel Coaj, Relaia stat-biseric n perioada 1938-1948. Cazul Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, Princeps Edit,
Iai , 2008, p. 41.
409

120

Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the figure best known for using assassination in politics, founded in
1922 the Association of Christian Students. In the 20s, the Orthodoxist movement spread
among university students (the 1922 movement413), and became organized in the
universities from the major towns in Romania. The General Student Congress in Craiova, on
December 2nd, 1929, adopted the charter of the National Union of Romanian Christian
Students, which equated the Romanian identity and the Christian identity, the beginning of an
evolution toward the thesis Romanian = Orthodox, and the related Romanian = antiSemite Orthodox. According to one of the participants:
From this congress on in particular, it became more and more common and significant
to use the term: Romanian-Christian student for a higher purpose, to finally
establish the fact that Romanian nationalism allows a single outcome: either we are
faithful to death to the religion that will make us victors by the will of the One that gave
Romanian nationalism so many heroes and martyrs, or our decade-long rebellion and
battle is futile.414
In the case of the student organizations and other organizations created on the basis of an
Orthodox perspective, nationalism and Christianity (Orthodoxism) are indivisible. For
example, according to its charter, the organization The Orthodox Youth (registered with the
Chiinu Court) has as its purpose the unification of all youths under the banner of the
defense of Christianity against foreignness and the devastating socialist and anarchist
movements.415 Such an objective would have been as relevant under the name of The
Nationalist Youth.
The intense collaboration between nationalist and Orthodoxist organizations in the 20s and
30s shows that the partners see each other as sides of the same coin. As an example: on
May 20th, 1935, the Association of the clergy Assistance (Orthodoxist) thanked the
Worship of the Motherland organization (nationalist) for its support;416 on March 30th,
1936, a professor in the School of Theology, Marin Ionescu (an Orthodox priest) took part in
the board meeting of the Worship of the Motherland organization etc. The leader of the
Orthodox Society of Romanian Women (Orthodoxist), Alexandrina Cantacuzino, tried to
make the organization available to the Everything for the Fatherland party (an extremist
nationalist party).
The quote above also points to the close ties between civic and political organizations that
embrace nationalist-Orthodoxism. The authorities were aware of these ties and pressured the
organizations believed to be a threat to public order. Minister Petre Andrei proposed replacing
the Board of the Orthodox Society of Romanian Women because the president of the society
has close ties to political organizations that are a danger to public peace and the general
security of the Romanian state .417 The organization Worship of the Motherland created
in 1926 for the purpose of promoting the national ideal, was banned in 1932 by the Council of
Ministers.418 A report by State Security from 1936 described it as:

Preot Ilie I. Imbrescu, Biserica i Micarea Legionar, Ed. Cartea Romneasc, Bucureti, 1940, p. 20.
Preot Ilie I. Imbrescu, Biserica i Micarea Legionar, Ed. Cartea Romneasc, Bucureti, 1940, p. 42.
415
CNSAS Archive, Documents, Societatea Tinerimea Ortodox, D 11672, f. 8.
416
CNSAS Archive, Documents, Asociaia Cultul Patriei, D 015861, vol. 1, p. 88.
417
CNSAS Archive, Documents, D 012706, Societatea ortodox a femeilor romne, f. 19.
418
The decision was taken after activists of the organization kidnapped a policeman and took him to Army Corps
C. The High Court of Cassation and Justice reinstate the organization in March 1933.
413
414

121

an organization that uses as part of its manifestations the street and aggression
against authorities. Public meetings of this organization attempt to gather all the
nationalist student associations and even political groups, as a forum for censuring our
public life. [] The members of the organization, through their status as: university
professors, former magistrates and generals, in all their meetings, marches and
processions, ignore the requests of the authorities and through their presence and
attitude attempt to intimidate the representatives of the authorities and even those of the
military.419
Everything for the Fatherland was the latest name of the party created by Corneliu Zelea
Codreanu in 1930, the Legion of the Archangel Michael420. Previously, in 1923, Codreanu
founded together with A. C. Cuza, a theoretician of anti-Semitism, the National-Christian
Defense League. Corneliu Zelea Codreanus use of Christian symbols in party names would
stop here, but the name changes (the Legionary Movement, the Iron Guard - the
paramilitary political branch of the Legion -, and after June 1935, Everything for the
Fatherland), motivated by obstacles set against the partys participation in elections, did not
affect the Orthodoxist character of the party.
The Romanian Orthodox Church, as an institution, at the highest levels of the hierarchy,
never assisted the murderous political program of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. But Codreanus
case is a textbook example of how Romanian Orthodoxism acted as an anti-Semitic passive
resource that fueled the anti-Semitic actant resources. The family, school and university
education of Zelea Codreanu were both militantly nationalist and militantly Orthodox, an
embodiment of Orthodoxist dogma: Christianity is the path towards nationalism,
and nationalism is the path to Christianity 421. The plans for moral and spiritual renewal of
Romanian society as stated by many representatives of the ROC and by the Legionary
Movement were equivalent422. The Orthodox religious elements in legionary thinking and
public appearances, and the intense religiosity of the members and leaders of the movement,
were a significant part of their political and electoral capital. These facts prove the central role
played by Orthodoxism in anti-Semitic activism between the World Wars. The
conceptualization: anti-Semitic passive resource anti-Semite actant resources captures and
gives definition to this role. It is an answer to a tendency in the research on the relationship
ROC-anti-Semitism to underestimate the effect of the Romanian Orthodox Church on
interwar anti-Semitism423.

CNSAS Archive, Documents Asociaia Cultul Patriei, D 015861, vol. 1, pp. 40-41.
As a Christian activist, he shot in 1924 a police commissioner, but was acquitted for reasons of self-defense.
421
Codreanu was a volunteer fighter in World War I at 16. When the president of the University of Iai decided
to start the school year without a religious ceremony, Codreanu barricaded himself inside the building.
422
Marius Turda, Fascismul clerical n Romnia, in Mirel Bnic, Biserica Ortodox Romn, stat i
societate n anii `30, Polirom, 2007, p. 13.
423
The perspective that the ROC as a second-hand actor has different expressions: The priests were attracted to
the Legionary movement, believed it represented a true religion and not a political movement (Alexandru
Voicu, Relaia controversat a Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne cu Micarea Legionar, Historia http://www.historia.ro/exclusiv_web/general/articol/rela-ia-controversata-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-mi-carealegionara.); "the Church and its people didnt escape the nefarious influence of former Legionaries (Apud. Gina
Pan, Biserica Ortodoxa Romn i micarea legionar: clarificri i ambiguiti", Holocaust. Studii i
cercetri, Vol. III, Nr. 4 /2011, p. 144.); Lacking a firm opposition from the Church, Cuzas campaign
spreading religious anti-Semitism continued unchallenged (Oana Pan, Ortodoxia romneasc i atitudinea sa
fa de evrei, Holocaust. Studii i cercetri, Vol. II, Nr. 1 (3)/2010, p. 116.); The Romanian Orthodoxy
resisted the temptation of legionarism (Mirel Bnic, Biserica Ortodox Romn, stat i societate n anii `30,
Polirom, 2007, p. 245), etc. These statements suggest that between the World Wars the ROC was at the back of
419
420

122

The nationalist-Orthodoxist ideology and activity of civic and political organizations that had
a grave effect on democracy in the `30 continued to be a component of the anti-democratic
mobilization. The societal anti-Semitism was just a component of the societal anti-democratic
movement that created a conflict between the state elites and conservative forces. In the war
between legionnaires and state authorities, violent means were used by both sides, in an
increasingly destabilizing spiral. The legionnaires murdered two Prime Ministers (Ion Gh.
Duca on December 30th, 1933, and Armand Clinescu, on September 21st, 1939), Nicolae
Iorga and other cultural and political personalities. On the other side, the authorities killed
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and some members of Iron Guard death squads while moving them
from one prison to another, on November 30th, 1938. In the fall of the same year, hundreds of
legionnaires were executed without a trial after the discovery of a plot against Armand
Clinescu, at the time Minister of Interior. After Clinescus murder, the ten assassins were
shot in broad daylight, and their bodies were left in the street for several days, under a banner
reading: "From now on, this shall be the fate of those who betray the country."
These events show that the confrontation between the authorities and the extremist
organizations took the most violent forms, and the authorities themselves sometimes chose to
use murder in the place of law. This behavior bespeaks the low quality of Romanian
democracy between the Wars. But it does not negate the modernizing project to which the
political elites heading the state aspired until the second half of the 30s. The Romanian
society didnt have enough time to create a bridge between the forward-looking elites and a
population characterized by religiosity and nationalism. To ignore the modernizing tendencies
that were part of the Greater Romania project between 1919 and 1937, including the
emancipation of Jews, is to underestimate the negative role of those components of interwar
Romanian society that sabotaged the modernization project. Among them a central role was
held by Orthodoxism.

The institutional and operational authority of the State over the ROC
Guiding and coordinating the relationship between the State and religious denominations. A
main theme in the literature on the ROC is that the Orthodox Churches always saw the
collaboration with the ruler as a form of protection against danger. This attitude was the
mirror-image of the interest of secular powers in using the Orthodox Churches to strengthen
their control over an uneducated population, and maintain order in the community424. The
State-Church relationship was even useful in forging good relations with regional
neighbors.425 The concept used by the ROC to legitimize the partnership between the ruler
and the Church is the symphony between the secular powers and the Orthodox Church.426
Research shows that the theses above need to be expanded and qualified. I have already
pointed out that during the period between the World Wars the Orthodox actants were in an
the line of organizations with criminal anti-Semitic characters. Another variant of this interpretation is that the
ROC was responsible through inaction.
424
Cristian Romocea, Church and State: Religious Nationalism and State Identification in Post-Communist
Romania, Continuum Religious Studies, New York, 2011, p. 77.
425
Gabriel Andreescu, International Relations and Orthodoxy in Easter and South-Eastern Europe in International
Studies no. 4, 1998, p. 3-35.
426
Oliver Gillet, Religion et nationalisme. Lideologie de lEglise Orthodoxe Roumaine sous le regime
communiste, 1997. The book is considered required reading on the subject of the relationship between the ROC
and the Communist regime but, as expected, was highly criticized by Church theologians (see Prof. Dr.
Alexandru Dutu, Ortodoxie i laicitate, Almanah Bisericesc, Arhiepiscopia Bucuretilor, 1999, p. 65-69).
123

open conflict with the modernizing Romanian state. At the same time, the ROC hierarchy was
forced to cooperate in order to defend its interests, because the Ministry for Religious
Denominations and the Art, through its Department for Religious Minorities created in 1920
(Ministry for Public Education and Religious Denominations after August 2nd, 1929; Ministry
for National Education, Religious Denominations and the Arts from March 20th, 1940), had
vast authority over guiding and coordinating the relationships between the state and the
denominations: the right to control and supervise the activities of the Churches; proposals for
promoting, transferring, giving leave and retiring the Church personnel; as well as enforcing
all legal provisions and rules related to religious denominations. This explains why the
Church personnel tried to solve their problems by appealing to the good will of high level
public servants. Hundreds of papers document the nature of the requests and interventions.
Some requests sent by members of the ROC hierarchy to members of the government discuss
religious policy. In a letter addressed to Marshall Ion Antonescu it is stated: There appears to
be an evil genie in the Ministry of National Culture. The Church often feels its hostile breath.
Recently we felt its baleful presence in the attempt to remove Religion from among secondary
school subjects.427. A large number of complaints addressed to state authorities denounced
the activity of non-mainstream religious denominations, the financial assistance given to
Greek-Catholics, the advantages enjoyed by Roman-Catholics, etc. In other cases, the
authorities got involved in internal issues of the ROC, taking a role that should have belonged
to the Church. On June 13th, 1940, the General Department of the Police told the Minister of
Religious Denominations and the Arts that counties in Dobrogea did not have any secret
committees whose members swore to no longer recognize the authority of the bishop428.
Economic Control. Economic interests created a major dependency of the ROC hierarchy on
the secular powers. State institutions had the power to make decisions in many situations. For
example, in order to collect money for the Church, an authorization was required from the
Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare, and the Capital Police checked the running of this
activity429.
There were many interventions regarding filling available positions. The Government of
Basarabia nominated P.S. Efrem Tighineanul as Archbishop of Chiinu. His
recommendations: The best of results in fighting against religious sects, religious sects are
getting smaller and smaller in the Chiinului Eparchy430. Other times there were complaints
regarding financial issues. Gherontie, Bishop of Tomis, accused Minister I. Petrovici of
requiring his resignation in private and suspending his salary and those of another 100
priests who wrote a letter in his support431.
The Secretary General for Religious Denominations and the Arts, prof. Aurel Popa,
complained that although the Diocese of Ungro-Vlahiei owns a candle factory that can bring
in an income of at least 10.000.000 lei, and 200 ha of arable land and 500 ha of forests, the
Patriarch still thinks it is acceptable to request money from the Ministry. He also reported
427

Notice from the Archepiscopy of Alba Iulia and Sibiu on 9.09.1941, CNSAS Archive, Issues with the
Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 77.
428
CNSAS Archive, Documents, Clergy Issues in the Old Kingdom, D 008927, f. 17.
429
See notice from March 1st, 1941, which authorizes an extension for money collection by the Costescu Parish
in order to cover expenses related to the rebuilding of the church. (CNSAS Archive, Issues File, D 000057 f.
134).
430
Notice from December 29th, 1943 (CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox denomination 1937-1947, D
006910, vol. 4, f. 40).
431
CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 58.
124

the illegal ordination of priests in unpaid positions by the Diocese in order to save the
individuals from military service432.
Financial audits found constant irregularities. Money was received or charged without
justification; there were expenditures that could have been avoided, and overblown repair
expenditures on contracts awarded without bidding433. The ordination of priests was often
done for the purpose of avoiding military service434.
These are just a few instances of a general trend.
The Control exercised by the courts. The use of brute force by the authorities in order to
secure public peace doesnt mean that the state lacked modern institutions. There is a lot of
evidence for the professionalism of the court system. Decisions like the one released by the
High Court of Cassation and Justice in March 1933, which reinstated the Worship of the
Motherland organization after it was banned in 1932 by the Council of Ministers, also point
to the independence of judges. The Archives highlight the chasm between the thinking of
magistrates in key public positions and the popular mentality. A relevant and welldocumented example is the activity against members of non-dominant religious
denominations. Their harassment was the joint work of the Orthodox priest and the local
police. Usually the priest was told about the activity of the denomination by members of his
church, then went to the policeman and together they took the guilty person into custody.
Sometimes, the policemen went to the ROC representatives. The indictment and the trial came
next.
Often, the final result was an acquittal, and the reasoning for the decisions is surprisingly
modern. Four defendants, Jehovah Witnesses that had spread publicly Rule of Peace books,
were acquitted because there was no unrest that could lead to a danger to public safety.435
The Bli County Court acquitted I.E.S., who was taken into custody by a police patrol for
selling booklets critical of the Orthodox Church, because the booklets didnt include
propaganda or criticisms that could incite disobedience or disdain towards the dominant
religion or other religions436.
The Soroca County Court had to consider the guilt of several Jehovah Witnesses indicted by
the Chief of Police after the latter had searched their homes and found booklets. His first step
had been to submit them to the Bli Diocese. The bishop looked over them and concluded
that the denomination was a danger to the dominant Church and the State. The judges decided
that the texts support love towards others, belief in God and Jesus, but also criticize other
things that characterize Romanian society. But this didnt suggest an involvement of the
Jehovah Witnesses in acts that are a danger to the security of the State, as stated by the law for
controlling crimes against public peace, which was the basis for the indictment437.
432

CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 154.
Report from February 1943, financial audit office of the Archepiscopy of Bucharest (CNSAS Archive, Issues
with the Orthodox denomination 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 85).
434
CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 93.
435
Decision by the High Court of Cassation and Justice on May 24th, 1935 (CNSAS Archive, Documents, The
structure and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Hostile acts 1934-1938, D 000074, vol. 35, f. 2,
2v.).
436
CNSAS Archive, Documents, The structure and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Hostile acts
1934-1938, D 000074, vol. 35, f. 1.
437
Decision no. 3094 of September 30th, 1937 (CNSAS Archive, Documents, The structure and functioning of
the Romanian Orthodox Church. Hostile acts 1934-1938, D 000074, vol. 35, f. 3).
433

125

As a last case study, the Decision of March 3rd, 1937, in the trial against B.I.A for
disseminating booklets that may induce hatred, unrest against other denominations. He was
found not guilty because the texts do not intend to foment unrest, but to criticize a religious,
economic and social status quo, criticism that often, even in more serious forms, is
disseminated by political parties which are nonetheless not sanctioned, because it is
considered that they intend to improve the situation and not to produce unrest that may
endanger the state order438. This kind of judicial reasoning would be a reason for pride for
any European court in the 21st century.
The cases we mentioned prove the heterogeneity of Romanian society in the 30s, and the
presence of professional bodies capable of ensuring the functioning of a modern political
community. At the same time, they highlight the realities at the local level: the Orthodox
priests and policemen policed their fiefdom from an exclusivist perspective. The nationalistOrthodoxist attitude discernable in the court cases included a healthy dose of anti-Semitism.

C2. The involvement of the clergy in anti-Semitic politics


The highest levels of ROC hierarchy and anti-Semitism
The ROC hierarchy was a staunch supporter of Orthodox nationalism through the interwar
period. It condemned any form of religious otherness, which implied in many cases a
condemnation of ethnic otherness. The highest levels of the Orthodox hierarchy expressed
their anti-Semitism, which took the extreme form of supporting the banishment of Jews from
Greater Romania. This is clearly stated by Patriarch Miron Cristea: You want to cry out of
pity for the poor Romanian people, whose bone marrow is sucked out by the Jew. To not react
against Jews, is to walk us to our destruction. [] You have enough qualities and options, to
search for and find somewhere a place, a land, a country, a motherland not yet inhabited.
Live, help yourselves, defend yourselves, and exploit each other; but not us and other peoples,
whose abundance you seize through your ethnic and Talmudic sophistication.439
An indirect but visible form of anti-Semitism was the support for extremist anti-Semites.
Following the assassination of Prime Minister I.G. Duca, on January 31st, 1933, the Patriarch
Miron Cristea and the Holy Synod stated that the Legionary movement as a whole was not
responsible for this crime; the responsibility rested entirely with the perpetrators, and some
foreign, anarchic influences.
Such a statement, following an act of such seriousness as the assassination of a Prime
Minister, highlights the fact that the ROC hierarchy was sensitive to the power plays at the
highest levels of power. The disputes between the Royal Family and the Government allowed
the ROC leadership to express its view with more sincerity440.
The most eloquent proof of the co-operation between the Orthodox hierarchy and the
438

CNSAS Archive, Documents, The structure and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Hostile acts
1934-1938, D 000074, vol. 35, f. 18, 18v.
439
In the Curentul newspaper, August 19th, 1937.
440
Some sources say that the assassination of Prime Minister Duca was desired by King Carol the Second
himself. Since the ROC leadership has traditionally had access to the antechambers of power, this statement may
point to the kings acceptance of murder (Florin inca, Din istoria Poliiei Romne, Tipografia RCR Print,
Bucureti, 2006, p. 333).
126

members of the Iron Guard was the procession occasioned by the funerals of the Iron Guard
leaders Moa and Marin, in February 1937. During the procession tens of clerics officiated,
and the main divine service was celebrated by over 200 priests led by the Metropolitan of
Ardeal, Nicolae Blan, and by other bishops441. To place a Metropolitan at the head of the
procession and to have such numbers of clergy participate means that the ROC leadership
fully supported legionary leaders.
Although he was the leader of the ROC during the rise of anti-Semitism, including the
increase in the number of violent attacks against Jews (1925 1939), Patriarch Miron Cristea
never took a stand against anti-Semitism.
The ROC leadership was not able to openly support the Legion during times of stronger State
leadership. During the royal dictatorship, after the assassination of Prime Minister Armand
Clinescu, Patriarch Nicodim released a statement in which he blamed the legionary assassins
and invoked Gods punishment for every crime. He showed the same level of obedience
during the Ion Antonescu government. The Patriarch Nicodim congratulated Marshal
Antonescu for defeating the legionary rebellion, and promised to pray that God would give
Antonescu the power to succeed in bringing about the salvation of the country and the
Romanian people442. The lower clergy however continued to support the Legion in various
ways even after January 1941.443
Regarding the ROCs position on saving Jews by baptizing them, two documents describe it
unequivocally. In the first, the Patriarch agreed to a 1941 Decree than bans Jews from joining
the Orthodox Church, because [t]his ban was adopted by the State in the national interest, to
protect the ethnic nature of our Romanian nation from mixing with Jewish blood...444 On the
other hand the Patriarch was incensed that the Roman-Catholic Church continued to baptize
Jews, who have flourishing economic positions in the Capital as it is well known, and thus
the number of Catholics in Bucharest was increasing. He demanded that the arrangement
with the Papacy be denounced and the Roman-Catholic Church lose all its advantages and
support445.
There were some members of the hierarchy who were uneasy with the tragedy of the
deportation of Jews to Transnistria. The Final Report mentions the Metropolitan of Ardeal,
Nicolae Blan, as one of those responsible for the refusal to deport the Jews from South
Ardeal, Moldova and Muntenia to Nazi camps in Poland446.

Gabriel Catalan, "Legiune i slujitorii Domnului" (The Iron-Guard and the ministers of God, Dosarele
istoriei (History Files) no. 9, 2000, p. 29-32.
442
Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prpastiei, 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. 2, 1941, p. 163.
443
Ibidem.
444
Notice on March 2nd, 1942 (Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 47).
On the other hand, The Metropolitan of Transylvania, Nicolae Blan, officially protested in April 2nd, 1941,
against the Decree, which was an illegal intervention in the life of the Church (Brndua Costache, Mircea
Costache, Doru Costache Problema evreiasc n Romnia modern: Atitudinea Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne,
TABOR, Romanian cultural and spiritual monthly edited by the Diocese of Cluj, Alba, Criana and Maramure http://www.tabor-revista.ro/in_ro.php?module=content_full&id=10676).
445
Notice on 27.02.1942 (Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, ff. 44-45).
446
Final Report, p. 216.
441

127

The involvement of the clergy in politics


While discipline within the Church is much more severe than within other organizations, it is
not possible however to completely control the behavior of the clergy. Divisions may appear,
especially in turbulent circumstances. Although the 1928 Law for Religious Denominations
forbade the involvement of priests in politics, this was still an open issue among the clergy.
There were many voices that expressed, in religious journals, their wish for a role for the
ROC in public life: our clergy has not only the right but a holy duty to participate in the
political life of the state, while preserving its freedom and independence.447
Beyond the principled positions, there were specific situations that pushed the clergy into
politics and the search for new opportunities. One factor was the marked increase in the
number of Theology graduates entering a limited religious job market. According to Victor.
N. Popescu:
After the war, the number of seminaries was increased significantly, and so the number
of graduates ready to enter priesthood outpaced the number of available parishes. The
years between 1922 and 1933 were a period with a high production of seminary and
theology graduates [ ... ]. The vacant positions were still taken by the old members of
the profession, even though they already had much on their plates. Therefore, at the
graduation of those studying at the new theology schools, the positions were already
taken and defended, such that some had too much and others had nothing. Those who
had a parish forced those without to be subservient. The situation is absolutely unfair
and immoral.448
The Iron Guard and other parties were interested in winning the support of the clergy, whose
influence over a mostly rural population was well-known.449 From time immemorial, the
priests had all been in politics450 in order to gain certain advantages. But not for the purpose
of achieving through the party a Christian or religious ideology. The priest-politician type
still abundant in our old parties has always been detested451, said a supporter of nationalistOrthodoxism. The legionnaires seemed to offer a way to reconcile the personal and the
spiritual interest. There were calls for the clergys energetic intervention and guiding,
through its words, of the vote of the masses toward those parties that guarantee the defense of
the vital interests of the country and the Orthodox Church!". 452 The latent anti-Semitism453
of some priests had the opportunity to meet the official one of some parties:
In later years, the Church has been sought and courted, as the last source of renewal
from the disaster coming over the world. After the political parties made whatever they
wanted out of the Church instead of what they could have , now new political groups
have an increasingly specific attitude towards the Church. The religious issues hold a
place of honor under the leadership of Mr Goga, the Iron Guard of Corneliu Codreanu,
the Lance-bearers party of Mr Cuza.454

Veniamin, Preoimea n viaa public, Telegraful Romn (organ naional-bisericesc), Sibiu, 15 Decembrie
1928.
448
Victor N. Popescu, "Biserica i omajul", Viitorul, Iai, no. 3, February 1932. Apud Bnic p. 139.
449
Bnic, p. 154.
450
I. G. Savin, Preoimea i actualele alegeri, Viitorul, Iai no. 12, 1932.
451
Ibidem.
452
Ibidem.
453
Bnic, p. 152.
454
Gh. Coman, Biserica i partidele politice, Viitorul, Iai no. 8, April 1933 (apud. Bnic, p. 156).
447

128

In the most extreme case, an argument was made for an identity of feeling between the
Church and the Legion: the Iron Guard didnt practice a Christianity that was different from
that of the Orthodox Church. Its manner of living and practicing the Orthodox faith is not
directed against the Church, because it is its submissive and obedient daughter.455
The priests promoted the Legionary Movement among their parishioners and some became its
activists. According to research into the archives of the Ministry of the Interior conducted by
Gina Pan, in the 1937 elections, out of 103 candidates of the party "Everything for the
Fatherland", 33 were priests around a third, a considerable percentage. 55 priests had
leadership positions within the Legion.456 Some of the legionary priests were among the
Movements most fanatical activists. Alexandru Rzmeri, a Romanian Orthodox priest,
proposed a plan to expel the Jews entirely from cities and deport them into forced labor camps
in the country. Attempts to escape the camps were to be punished by death.457
The involvement of priests in the violent activity of the Legionary Movement is demonstrated
by the measures taken by the Antonescu government against the orthodox clergy that had
participated in the legionary rebellion. 218 priests were identified as having participated in the
skirmishes against the army and were arrested by order of Marshal Ion Antonescu 458. The
scope of the involvement of orthodox priests in active fighting, as legionaries, is suggested by
the following Communiqu of the Council of Ministers on February 1941:
Neither the Church nor its people escaped the nefarious influence of false legionaries.
218 priests are under investigation for taking part in the rebellion, leaving the cross and
the altar of peace to fight with the weapon of murder and terror against their own flock.
Many had active positions within the legionary movement, incompatible with their
pastoral position and mission. These lying servants of the Lord went as far as to make
arms and munitions deposits out of their places of worship."459

Conclusions
It was possible to discern the role of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the interwar antiSemitic phenomenon after undertaking a conceptual reorganization that starts with a criticism
of the definition of Holocaust as established in doctrine, as the sum of actions, between 1933
and 1945, towards the discrimination, segregation and starvation, and murder of Jews. This
definition, dominant in Romanian and international research on the issue, blends genocide,
the crime of crimes, and anti-Semitic acts, serious but of a different nature. In Romanian
context, this definition conceals the separation of anti-Semitism into four distinct periods: the
periods of societal anti-Semitism, institutional anti-Semitism, institutionalized anti-Semitic
anarchism and the Holocaust (defined here as the genocide of Jews, starting with the Jassy
pogrom of June 27th, 1941, and lasting until 1943).
The institutionalized anti-Semitic anarchism phenomenon is, in our opinion, a particular case
Priest Victor Moise, Garda de Fier i credina strmoeasc, Editura Majadahonda, Bucureti, 1994, p. 12,
apud. Mirel Bnic, p. 158.
456
Gina Pan, Biserica Ortodoxa Romn i micarea legionar: clarificri i ambiguiti", Holocaust. Studii i
cercetri, Vol. 3, Nr. 4 /2011, p. 143.
457
Alexandru Rzmeri, Cum s ne aprm de evrei Un plan de eliminare total (Turnu Severin, Tipografia
Minerva, 1938), pp.65-69.
458
Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prpastiei, 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. II, 1941, p. 163.
459
Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prpastiei. 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. II, 1941, p. 102.
455

129

of anti-Semitism. The decision of the authorities of the National-Legionary State to leave the
Jewish communities defenseless (between September 14th, 1940 and February 14th, 1941)
within a social medium dominated by hate of Jews and aspirations to benefit from their
property led to systematic inhumane acts, that happened across the country over a period of
months in an atmosphere of terror. Individual Jews were the victims, but Jews as a group were
also targeted. What happened during the National-Legionary State was more than the sum of
the thefts, beatings, and individual crimes. None of the current terms: discrimination,
segregation, repression, massacres, pogroms, adequately describes the nuances of the
phenomenon.
By dividing anti-Semitism into four periods we highlight the central role held by the
confrontation between state authorities and the interwar promoters of anti-Semitism in the
development of events. The political elites leading Greater Romania from 1919 on had a
modernization plan for the country that included the emancipation of Jews. On the other hand,
a part of the population, a large proportion of which was rural, was dominated by nationalist
and Orthodoxist traditions with anti-Semitic content. In the democratic context after World
War I, the supporters of nationalist-Orthodoxist traditions created a vast network of
organizations, movements and political parties that attacked the principles defined by the
1923 Constitution. The confrontation between the state and the multilayered nationalisticOrthodoxist opposition led to violent conflicts throughout the interwar period. In 1937, for the
first time, the nationalist-Orthodoxist movement managed to include a part of its agenda into
state policies. Nonetheless, between 1937 and the fall of 1940, the institutions of the state had
to fight against the conservative mainstream that clamored for a more radical anti-Semitic
policy than the governments. The stress put by many studies about interwar Romanian antiSemitism, and the Final Report, on the breadth and the continuity of anti-Semitism
underestimated the role of the competition between the forces of modernity and the societal
anti-democratic movement during the years between the World Wars.
I was able to describe comprehensively the role of the ROC in the competition between the
modernization project and anti-Semitic national-Orthodoxism by discussing resources and
differentiating between anti-Semitic actant resources and passive resources. As a passive
resource, Orthodoxy fueled, through Orthodox dogma, language, attitudes and ideas, the
interwar anti-Semitism. As actant resources, the church as an institution, the clergy, the
heterogeneous community of the faithful and their various forms of organization, participated
in various degrees to anti-Semitic activities.
The contribution of the ROC to interwar anti-Semitism was determined by the relationship of
dependence between state authorities and the Church. The State was able to control the ROC
through its prerogatives in religious matters, the resources it provided to the Church, and the
institutions with relevant responsibilities, like the courts. This created tension within the ROC,
and eventually led to chaotic behavior uncharacteristic of religious communities. The
hierarchy of the church most often abetted the authorities of the state, which pushed many
dissenting priests, and Orthodoxist organizations and foundations, into a conflict with the
ROC hierarchy. One phenomenon that the ROC lost control of was the involvement of priests
in politics.
The inner tensions, segregations and inconsistencies of the ROC led some researchers to
believe that the role of the ROC in interwar anti-Semitism manifestations, through dogma and
activism, was secondary. We disagree: in its double role as a passive resource and multiple
actant resource, Orthodoxy played a central role in the development and support of interwar

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anti-Semitism.
At the same time, there is a difference between the ROC and the main political forces that
fought the democratic state and won with the creation of the National-Legionary State and the
rise of the Ion Antonescu regime. In the case of the Legionary Movement and other extremist
organizations, anti-Semitism was the central theme of their programs. In the case of the ROC,
anti-Semitism was just a secondary component, because the purpose of the ROC was to create
a homogenous Orthodox state that banished any other types of religious identity. The energy
expended against Roman-Catholics, Greek-Catholics and other religious denominations
appears to exceed that expended on anti-Semitic goals.

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ANNEX
I. Status of the research on the relationship between anti-Semitism and the Romanian
Orthodox Church
There are several studies today that are dedicated specifically to the issue of the relationship
between anti-Semitism and the Romanian Orthodox Church: Paul Shapiro, "Faith, Murder,
Resurrection. The Iron Guard and the Romanian Orthodox Church, in anti-Semitism,
Christian Ambivalence and the Holocaust, Kevin Spicer (ed), Indiana University Press 2007;
Oana Pan, Ortodoxia romneasc i atitudinea sa fa de evrei ("Romanian Orthodoxy and
its attitude toward Jews"), Holocaust. Studii i cercetri, Vol. II, Nr. 1 (3) /2010, pp. 113-133;
Gina Pan, Biserica Ortodoxa Romn i micarea legionar: clarificri i ambiguiti" ("The
Romanian Orthodox Church and the Legionary Movement: clarifications and ambiguities"),
Holocaust. Studii i cercetri, Vol. III, Nr. 4 /2011, 142-167.
To this we can add several articles from a secondary bibliography like Alexandru Voicu,
Relaia controversat a Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne cu Micarea Legionar, ("The
questionable relationship of the Romanian Orthodox Church with the Legionary Movement")
Historia.460
Other published works, although discussing a different topic, include observations relevant to
the relationship between anti-Semitism and the Romanian Orthodox Church, or the ROC
doctrine that connects the church to chauvinistic nationalism. Among the long list with this
type of books I notice: Leon Volovici, ldeologia naionalist i problema evreiasc,
(Nationalistic ideology and the Jewish problem) Humanitas, Bucureti,1995; Armin Heinen,
Legiunea Arhanghelului o contribuie la problema fascismului mondial, (The Legion of the
Archangel - a contribution to the issue of world fascism) Humanitas, 1999; Florin Muller,
Metamorfoze ale politicului romnesc, 1938-1944, (Metamorphoses of Romanian politics,
1938-1944) Ed. Universitii din Bucureti, Bucureti, 2005; Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu,
Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania, Oxford University Press, New York,
2007; Cristian Romocea, Church and State: Religious Nationalism and State Identification in
Post-Communist Romania, Continuum Religious Studies, New York, 2011.
Information on the subject may also be found in a series of studies on the situation of the
Jewish minority between the World Wars and the Holocaust: from Matatias Carp's pioneering
work "Cartea neagr. Fapte i documente. Suferinele evreilor din Romnia: 1940-1944"
("Black Book. Facts and documents. The suffering of the Jews in Romania: 1940-1944), vol. I
i II (SAR, Bucureti, 1946 i Dacia Traiana, Bucureti, 1947, 1948), to the Final Report of
the International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, Polirom, Iai, 2005.
The third category of texts are those that promote and theorize anti-Semitism while invoking
the ROC as a source of legitimization. Among them: Hie Imbrescu, Biserica i Micarea
Legionar, (The Church and the Legionary Movement) Ed. Cartea Romneasca. Bucureti,
1940; Flor Strejnicu, Cretinismul Micrii Legionare (The Christianity of the Legionary
Movement) Ed. Imago, Sibiu, 2000 (second edition); Gheorghe Racoveanu, Micarea
legionar i biserica (The Legionary Movement and the church), Ed. Samizdat, Bucureti,
460

http://www.historia.ro/exclusiv_web/general/articol/rela-ia-controversata-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-micarea-legionara.
132

2002 (second edition). Other volumes are relevant because of the status of their authors: Ion
Antonescu, Pe marginea prpastiei (On the edge of the chasm) 21-23 ianuarie 1941, Scripta,
Bucureti, 1992; Preot Stefan Palaghi, Garda de Fier. Spre Renvierea Romniei (The Iron
Guard. Toward a Rebirth of Romania) Buenos Aires, Ed. Autorului, 1951 .a.
The manner in which works by authors affiliated to the Orthodox Church, or writing in ROC
sponsored journals, treat and generally conceal the anti-Semitism of the ROC is itself of
interest: e.g. Brndua Costache, Mircea Costache, Doru Costache Problema evreiasc n
Romnia modern: Atitudinea Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne ("The Jewish problem in modern
Romania: the attitude of the Romanian Orthodox Church"), TABOR, Revista lunar de cultur
i spiritualitate romneasc editat de Mitropolia Clujului, Albei, Crianei i Maramureului.
(Cultural and Spiritual Monthly edited by the Metropolitan of Cluj, Alba, Criana and
Maramure)461.
I also identified documents relevant to the research of the relationship between anti-Semitism
and the Romanian Orthodox Church in the National Archives of Bucharest (A1) and in the
CNSAS Archive (A2).

Research in archives
A1. Documents in National Archives Bucharest, partially studied
Collection
ID
Jewish communities in Romania
3001
League for Cultural Unity of All 1915
Romanians
League against terror
2648
Ministry of Religious Denominations and 2719
Arts - documents
Ministry of Religious Denominations and 2720
Arts documents
Student Organizations and Associations 2860
Collection
Democratic Jewish Organizations
2921

Years
1918-1959
1891-1949
1926-1936
1920-1929
1933-1944
19341938
1916-1952

A2. The collections most relevant to the topic, part of the CNSAS Archives, to be studied
Topic
ID
Notes of the Sigurana orthodox 2308
denomination
Lists of candidates
2309
Informant notes and press articles 2313

Volume
1

Years
1932

1
1

1940-1945
1940-43

Telegraful romn - lists


Reports
Conversions
Reports orthodox youth

1
3, 4, 5
1
1

1922-1955
1933-1950
1942
1920-1928

461

2320
2542
2921
4193

http://www.tabor-revista.ro/in_ro.php?module=content_full&id=10676.
133

Oastea Domnului
Cultul Patriei
Declarations, tables
Orthodox Women
Romanian Women

5981
5987-5988
7755
8758
8840

1
1
2, 3
1
1, 2

1938
1934-1936
1934-1938
1935-38
1938-1939

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Summarized results
The research carried out in 2013-14 confirmed the working hypothesis set out at the starting point in
2012. The paper by Gabriel Andreescu has proved that everything found in Hungary and
(Czecho)Slovakia also applies to Romania.
For a start, you can say basic archive research and source publications are missing; not to mention
that ecclesiastical archives can only be accessed with difficulties if at all. In some cases the local
Christian churches have no archives worth mentioning. On the other hand, the contemporary press
(mainly the church press) has provided sufficient source material, which is important but has hardly
been used before, to reveal how the local churches as institutions as well as the clergy and church
followers approached the Jewish community, how they thought about Jews, what the image of Jews
was for them in the period between the two World Wars. Press publications reflected the mentality and
spirit of the leaders of a given parish, which greatly determined the behaviour of its followers at the
time of the Holocaust, the deportations (see, for instance, the events at buda or Cskszereda). In that
way, the persecution of Jews in Hungary occurred with active collaboration by the authorities and a
high degree of passivity by the Christian population.
The case studies have revealed that following World War I anti-Semitism was organically built into the
allegedly homogeneous national-Christian identity both in Hungary, Slovakia and Orthodox Romania.
Although Gabriel Andreescu identified and isolated the concepts of social anti-Semitism and
institutionalised anti-Semitism with respect to Romania only, they were also real in Hungary and
Slovakia. It is interesting and worth attention because the churches in those countries played an
important social part and also had political influence. On the other hand, they also battled with each
other: Catholics with Protestants (Hungary), Catholics with Lutherans (Slovakia) or the Orthodox with
Greek Catholics (Romania). The conflicts for power and influence were verbalised as expressing the
nation, the national idea or the identification of the nation. Which church is more national - that
was the big issue. Since those nations identified themselves on the racial grounds of Christianity, the
Jews fate could be nothing but exclusion, which was also supported by quite strong economic
interests, the greed for property.
If you look for the origins of anti-Semitism, it is obvious that both ecclesiastical and lay press
publications written and read by the elites identifying themselves as Christian (mostly studied locally
so far) and the stance and opinion of the clergy (including the Romanian Orthodox, the Slovak Catholic
or the Hungarian Protestant clergy) played a major part in establishing and maintaining the
overwhelmingly negative image of Jews. The attitude of the churches and the mental tuning of their
followers for the continuous stigmatisation of a social group (the Jews) had no doubt immunised
society vis a vis the tribulations and sufferings of the group. It is also clear that the churches acted more
as factors strengthening discrimination and exclusion than mitigating them.
Discrimination and exclusion had reached such extent by the time of World War II that even converted
Jews were unable to escape the grip of racial discrimination. Baptised Jews, in fact, had been stuck
between the Christian churches, which had internalised racial categories to different extents, and the
Israelite denomination. While they were Christians by religion/denomination, they were deemed Jews
by race. Notwithstanding isolated initiatives by clergymen they were abandoned, left alone. In effect,
both sides rejected them. It is no accident that theirs is one of the least studied and revealed issues of
the research of the Holocaust.
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To sum up, the case studies have tried to shed light on the processes and preludes that led up to the
Holocaust in the end. It has turned out that anti-Semitism and the Holocaust is not only the tragedy of
the Jewish community but the drama of the contemporary national societies including the Christian
churches. It is a mirror reflecting the approach of contemporary Christians to man and society as well
as the set of ideas identifying them and their age.

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