Budapest 1944

Changing the Shape of the Ghetto
  • Tim Cole


Ghettoization has generally been taken as an unproblematic given in the historiography of the Hungarian Holocaust. This paper argues that it should not be. The accepted assumption is that the establishing of ghettos — as part-and-the Nazi destruction process — was more or less ‘inevitable’ after the Nazi occupation of Hungary. For Braham — whose work dominates the field — the ‘master plan worked out by the German and Hungarian dejewification experts’,1 called for ghettoiza-tion, followed by deportation.2 Cohen adopts a similar approach, in pointing to the post-occupation implementation of ghettoization and ‘mass evictions’ as elements of ‘the process … characteristic of the German policy during the period of the Holocaust’.3 A picture is painted therefore, of the rapid implementation in Hungary of the ‘characteristic’ elements of a Nazi ‘master plan’. It is the rapidity of implementation which is seen to be significant, with Braham writing that ‘in no other country was the Final Solution program — the establishment of the Judenrate, the isolation, expropriation, ghettoization, concentration, and deportation of the Jews — carried out with as much barbarity and speed as in Hungary.’4


Master Plan City Official Apartment Block Black Book Pragmatic Concern 
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  1. 1.
    Randolph L. Braham, The Politics of Genocide. The Holocaust in Hungary (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), vol.1, p.535. (A revised and enlarged second edition was published in 1994, however in the second edition Braham does not alter his interpretation of ghettoization and thus I reference the first edition throughout.)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Randolph L. Braham, The Destruction of Hungarian Jewry: A Documentary Account (New York: World Federation of Hungarian Jews, 1963), vol.1, p.xviii, where he argues that in Hungary ‘the Eichmann Sonderkommando followed the well-tested approach which had been employed successfully in other Nazi-occupied countries … marking the Jews, placing them into ghettos, and deporting them “upon the request of the local authorities”.’Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A. Cohen, ‘Continuity in the Change: Hungary, 19 March 1944’, Jewish Social Studies 46/2 (1984): 131.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Randolph L. Braham, ‘The Holocaust in Hungary’, in Randolph L. Braham and Scott Miller (eds.), The Nazis’ Last Victims. The Holocaust in Hungary (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), p.38.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For my use of quotation marks to stress the constructed nature of the category ‘Jew’ see Tim Cole, ‘Constructing the “Jew”, Writing the Holocaust: Hungary 1920–45’, Patterns of Prejudice 33/3 (1999): 19–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 9.
    Carlyle A. Macartney, October Fifteenth. A History of Modern Hungary (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1957), vol.2, p.285.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Braham (1981), vol 1, p.529. See also Mario D. Fenyo, Hitler, Horthy and Hungary. German-Hungarian relations, 1941–1944 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), p.183, who describes it as ‘the order for the deportation of the Hungarian Jews’.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Cf. Jenõ Lévai, Black Book on the Martyrdom of Hungarian Jewry (Zurich: The Central European Times Publishing Company, 1948), pp.112–113 and .Google Scholar
  9. Jenõ Lévai, Eichmann in Hungary. Documents (Budapest: Pannonia Press, 1961), pp.72–3.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    See text in Ilona Benoschofsky and Elek Karsai (eds.), Vádirat a Nácizmus Ellen. Dokumentumok a Magyarországi Zsidóuldozés Torténetéhez (Budapest: A Magyar Izraeliták Országos Képviselete Kiadása, 1958), vol.1, p.244.Google Scholar
  11. 31.
    See for example, Yehuda Don, ‘Economic Implications of the Anti-Jewish Legislation in Hungary’ in David Cesarani (ed.), Genocide and Rescue. The Holocaust in Hungary 1944 (Oxford: Berg, 1997).Google Scholar
  12. 32.
    Klein suggests this, writing of the seizure of apartments in early April, that ‘this was actually the beginning of a ghetto, since the Jews were evicted from certain sections of the town’, in Bernard Klein, ‘The Judenrat’, Jewish Social Studies 22/1 (1960): 32.Google Scholar
  13. 38.
    Ernö Munkácsi, Hogyan Történt? Adatok és Okmányok a Magyar Zsidóság Tragédiájához (Budapest: Renaissance Kiadás, 1947), pp 129–30.Google Scholar
  14. 41.
    Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jems (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1961), p.537.Google Scholar
  15. 45.
    Bp.F.L. (Budapest City Archives),. IX/2786. 1944, Bp.Szék. Pol., 147.794, (17 June 1944). See also the reproduction in Ilona Benoschofsky and Elek Karsai (eds.), Vádirat a Nácizmus Ellen. Dokumentumok a Magyarországi Zsidóuldozés Torténetéhez (Budapest: A Magyar Izraeliták Országos Képviselete Kiadása, 1960), vol.2, facing p. 112.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Tim Cole

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