Pursuing a quote from the “scribbler” Imre Roboz

Occasionally the detective emerges in all of us with any intellectual curiosity. That is what happened to me yesterday when for the second time I read about the Jewish bolshevik Imre Roboz (1892-1945) in the "sterling prose" of Zsolt Bayer.

It seems that Imre Roboz always comes in handy when Bayer makes a frontal attack on Hungarian Jews who allegedly hate their own country. The first time he used a quotation from Roboz was in his op/ed piece about those Hungarian and foreign Jews who say all sorts of nasty things about Hungary. Like András Schiff or Cohn-Bendit. The title of this incredible piece was "The same stench." It appeared in the far-right Magyar Hírlap. I wrote about this article at length earlier.

At that time I was satisfied to check the most basic details about Imre Roboz's life and ascertain that Roboz was not "a scribbler" as Bayer claimed but a very well known and respected theater director who was murdered by the Hungarian Nazis only a few days before the Soviet troops liberated the Hungarian capital.

Yesterday, however, my intellectual curiosity about Imre Roboz was further piqued because Zsolt Bayer invoked him again. The occasion for using the same Roboz quotation that he cited last January was of course another tirade, this time against Ákos Kertész. The same quotation and an attempt to equate all bolshevik murderers with the Hungarian Jewry. But Bayer often reveals his ignorance of history. For example, he quotes József Cserny, the leader of the murderous Lenin Boys, as a typical case of Jewish terror. The problem is that Cserny was a Protestant shoemaker's assistant. Bayer also tries to teach Ákos Kertész a thing or two. For example, that "we were among the first ones in Europe who emancipated the Jews." One doesn't have to be an expert on the history of Jewish emancipation to suspect that this is untrue. And indeed. Hungary was one of the laggards, emancipating the Jews in 1867, beating out only Bulgaria, Serbia, Spain, Portugal, and Russia (1917).

The Roboz quotation, it turns out, has had quite a career in right-wing scribbling. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) The anti-Semitic István Csurka, chairman of MIÉP, also fell in love with the Roboz quotation, which he introduced as having been written by "a newspaperman, a Jew called Imre Roboz." Csurka quoted the passage at length in which the theater director asks: "Why should I be a good son, a faithful son of a bad and unfaithful country…. It didn't need me, I don't need it. My weak people, my cowardly people, contemptible people, I have nothing to do with you." These sentences remind Csurka of the words of Ágnes Heller, János Kis, Gábor Halmai, Bálint Magyar and the others "talking about the rule of law."

A book review of "the much sought after best-seller of this year's book week," Francia Kiss Mihály élete és halála (Life and Death of Mihály Francia Kiss) by László Domonkos, also repeats the words of the Hungarian-hater Imre Roboz. Keep in mind that the "hero" of the Domonkos's book, Mihály Francia Kiss, was a murderous counterrevolutionary who was sentenced to death in 1945 but escaped his fate by hiding until 1957.

Károly Szalay, a frequent contributor to Magyar Demokrata, writing on January 22, 2011, brought up Roboz in connection with the "red emigration." He claims that he just happened to read Elemér Mályusz's Vörös emigráció (1931) where he found the same quotation Bayer cited only three weeks earlier. Szalay seems to know that Roboz wasn't a writer as Bayer claimed but a "busy-body [mitugrász] theater director."

The Hungarist (Arrow Cross) László Tompó (Brother Tompó) suggests reading Elemér Mályusz's book on the red emigration which, although written in 1931, was reprinted in 2006 by Attraktor Press. One can buy it in bookstores specializing in far-right publications and can also order it from a website called "Nemzeti Könyvek boltja." 

Malyusz

Assuming that Imre Roboz was part of the "red emigration" in Vienna after 1919, he couldn't have stayed there for long because on October 12, 1920 Pesti Hírlap announced that a certain Ben Blumenthal from New York had negotiated a deal between the United Play Corporation and Vígszinház, the famous Budapest theater. Blumenthal had to return to New York, but in his absence his lawyer, Mór Bedő, and Imre Roboz, director of Projetograph, were designated to represent him. According to the deal, Roboz would be the director of Vígszinház. Not only must Roboz have returned to Hungary after only a few months, but surely his "sins" couldn't have been that grave because at this point counterrevolutionary atrocities were daily occurrences and yet he was a respectable member of Budapest's cultural life only a year after the fall of the Hungarian Soviet Republic.

Only a few days ago Múlt-kor announced that an old Hungarian film from 1917 called "Az utolsó hajnal" (The last dawn) was recovered and placed in the Hungarian film archives. From the article we learn that "'Hungarian film was the child of the war' as Imre Roboz, the Hungarian film producer of the teens said." Raphael Patai's book entitled The Jews of Hungary: History, Culture, Psychology describes Imre Roboz as "another multitalented man whose career included the ownership of a cabaret…. He started as secretary of the Projectograph Film Company, then became editor of the first Hungarian motion picture magazine, Mozgófénykép Hiradó (Motion Picture News), and went on to direct the Phoenix Film Company and the Apollo Cabaret. In 1921 he also became director of the Vigszinház.”

As for Elemér Mályusz (1898-1989), he was a renowned medieval historian whose work, as long as he stayed with the Middle Ages, was outstanding although somewhat on the nationalist side. He and Gyula Szekfű, another giant of Hungarian historiography, were at odds over the essence of Hungarian history. Szekfű looked at progressivism as being intertwined with Hungary's connection with Vienna while Mályusz was searching for models for Hungary in the East. He envisaged some kind of singular Hungarian road whose inspiration was the semi-independent Transylvania.

If Mályusz had stuck to history he would have had fewer troubles after 1945. Unfortunately he was not only an anti-communist and an anti-semite but also an admirer of Hitler's Germany. Thus after the war Mályusz got into trouble because of two books he wrote. One was Vörös emigráció (also translated into German as Sturm auf Ungarn. Volkskommissäre und Genossen im Auslande and into English under the title The Fugitive Bolsheviks). This is the book from which publicists of the Hungarian extreme right like to quote. The other was a series of articles, later published in book form under the title A magyar történelemtudomány (1942; Hungarian Historiography). In these articles he talked about deporting the Jews from the country in order "to shape a life truly our own." He talked approvingly about the German solution to the "Jewish question."

Historian István Papp, who wrote an article about Mályusz's troubles with the political police in 1945, remarks that A vörös emigráció was Mályusz's worst effort. During his questioning Mályusz told the investigators that it was Pál Teleki, former prime minister, who asked him and Gyula Szekfű to write such a book. The original idea was that Mályusz would write about the events themselves while Szekfű would provide the ideological background. In the end Szekfű bailed out and thus Mályusz came to be the sole author. Teleki took care of the publication of the work into German and English. Surely, on money supplied by the Hungarian government. After 1945 Mályusz was relieved of his professorship, but eventually he was rehabilitated and became a senior researcher at the Hungarian Academy's Historical Institute.

And a final word on Imre Roboz. His daughter, the painter Zsuzsi Roboz, in 1991 established an Imre Roboz Prize for actors or actresses of Vígszinház who beyond their performances on the stage spread the good name of the theater by pursuing public roles.

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Member

Why are we so concerned about what Zsolt Bayer or or Istvan Csurka has to say? They are clearly not Hungarians. Hungary includes gypsy music and the Great Synagogue, Turkish Baths, Anyone who denies that are simply does not deserve to be called Hungarians. There were and are many True Hungarians, who would do everything in their power to protect other Hungarians, not like this phony bunch, who try to find any excuse for their own personal or political failure. THey are simply losers, and no one takes them seriously but their own pitiful buddies. Let’s concentrate on issues that is worth concentrating on instead of trying to prove how wrong this sorry bunch is. Intelligent people already know that, and the rest will find out on their own.

Kirsten
Guest

Eva, you cite Mr Bayer with this: “we were among the first ones in Europe who emancipated the Jews.” Correct or not, I would not have expected that it is so important for the right-wingers to assert how good “they” have behaved (and that it would have certainly been them who would have voted for their emancipation). But if they are so proud of it, it is depressing that they do not continue in this line of thought and instead consider this emancipation sufficient to overlook what followed and in particular to keep this distinction between Magyar and Jew alive.

Member

Somebody should tell this piece of shit Bayer that his mother was a hamster …
I can’t believe that his is still obsessed with the 1919 bolshevik revolution in Hungary. Who the hell cares? Is there anybody below 60 who gives a hoot about it? I mean even the unfortunately growing extra-right youth is feeding on other things like the Mein kampf, poor Palestinians or evil bankers. Whatever they feel like hating today. This garbage about Jews, Bolsheviks and Lenin boys only resonates with old bitter guys in their 70s and 80s. Who is he writing to? Does this moron have some daddy issues?

Member

Csurka, ex secret police informant in the communist era, another great bastion of far right integrity.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “Correct or not, I would not have expected that it is so important for the right-wingers to assert how good “they” have behaved (and that it would have certainly been them who would have voted for their emancipation).”
But Kirsten, what Bayer is semi-saying in the next few sentences is that the Jews were so grateful then and we were so good and look what they did to us since.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “This garbage about Jews, Bolsheviks and Lenin boys only resonates with old bitter guys in their 70s and 80s. Who is he writing to? Does this moron have some daddy issues?”
But, just think, from 1919 they can move on to the Rákosi era and fron there straight on to SZDSZ. As, if I recall correctly all the junk I read today Csurka actually makes that connection. I’m afraid it resonates and given anti-Semitism in Hungary by a large segment of the population, this kind of garbage works. Who cares whether they know who Roboz was or wasn’t. Here is a guy who said ugly things about us. And here is Kertész or Schiff.

who-who
Guest

Kennedy: Ich bin ein Berliner!
When will we hear from a Hungarian: I am a Jew!
Or: I am an Akos Kertesz?

Member

“Kennedy: Ich bin ein Berliner!’
What’s the final verdict on this? Was this actually correct “oder” .. the doughnut?

Jano
Guest

Mutt: As far as I’ve heard it’s the doughnut:)
“I can’t believe that his is still obsessed with the 1919 bolshevik revolution in Hungary. Who the hell cares?”
I see what you might mean, but this is very similar to people saying who cares about the holocaust which happened more than 60 years ago.

rokonok-haltak-ott
Guest

60 years since the Holocaust.
500 years since Mohacs.
Why do we remember Mohacs?
Being a relative of victims is still pain.

Member

rokonok-haltak-ott: “Being a relative of victims is still pain.”
For the record, I had relatives who died at Isonzo (Hungarian Army, blowing up a bridge), and I had relatives who were murdered under the White Terror. WHat does that make me as a Hungarian? Simply a Hungarian. Does any of these so called True Hungarians can let us know what side their family stood throughout history? We know where Orban and his family stood under Kadar, we know where Csurka stood, and one of Orban’s pet on this board never answered that question, so we know the answer. THe point is that no one cares what your family did decades ago, but that should go for everyone. Yu cannot pick and choose who you are forgiving. THat is what this nationalist bunch tries to do in order to create division amongst Hungarians for their own gain. As many of them themselves would be implicated, they choose to go after the easiest targets to gain brownie point, they go after Jews and gypsies. Well, what kind of Hungarians are those who prey on the weaknesses (misinformation, misguidance, etc) of society ? THey are not Hungarians but self-serving, selfish mutts.

vinthund
Guest

“Soviet troops liberated the Hungarian capital.”
Do you really think that Soviets brought liberty to Hungary?

Member

vinthund: “Do you really think that Soviets brought liberty to Hungary?” What Eva wrote is “liberated the Hungarian capital” is not equal with liberty. Do not put words into Eva’s mouth.
By the way the Soviet troops liberated my family from nazis and their sympathizers before they were deported to Auschwitz. Would you rather choose to go with your family to Auschwitz as a subject or would you choose to live with your family in your own country under Soviet occupation? Let me help, the later is easier to survive.

meghaltak-oseink
Guest

@ some1 – some1’s reasoning points to the right direction.
relatives of all us have died in vain. the pain of Hungarians can fill a huge reservoir.
The incitement on the rightwing should cease, or it may lead to more deaths.

vinthund
Guest

“What Eva wrote is “liberated the Hungarian capital” is not equal with liberty. Do not put words into Eva’s mouth.”
According to MW dictionary, to liberate means:
“to set at liberty : free; specifically : to free (as a country) from domination by a foreign power”
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberate
I am therefore not putting words in anyone’s mouth.
And as regards your question: indeed, it is better to survive under communism than to be killed under nazis, but it is also better to survive under nazism than to be killed by communists.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

vinthund: “but it is also better to survive under nazism than to be killed by communists.”
May I remind vinthund that while over 500,000 Hungarians perished as a result of the Holocaust in Hungary only very few people were actually killed by the communists. Very often the victims were communists themselves.

Member

@Jano I hear you … Tibor Szamuely was the same trash as Albert Wass, Bela Kun was the same shame to the nation as Miklos Horthy. Now we’re getting somewhere.
How about playing the fascist bingo of the Hungarian history. If you see 3 names in a row promoted by the present right wing government shout “BINGO”!
Let’s not forget something. The fact that nation cannot come to terms with the Holocaust is just a symptom. The real problem is the rampant anti-Semitism in Hungary tolerated, even promoted, by our own government.

HungarianJew
Guest

@mutt damon “The real problem is the rampant anti-Semitism in Hungary tolerated, even promoted, by our own government.”
Look at the headlines of Orban’s speech today.
He used the words “kite (uzsoras), bloodsuccers (kizsakmanyolo)” Well in Hungary and in many other countries “kite” is often used in anti-semitic context. It is even a synonym for Jews. Orban may used elements from Hitler or other nazi leaders in today’s speech.

Kave
Guest

Actually, he used the term “uzsoras” which translates as “Shylock” using the Origo Sztaki Szotar. And I think the term you want to use is “kike” not “kite” and it is a bit of a stretch to equate that with “Shylock.” Orban’s speechwriters are crafty though. “Bankárok” almost always carries the connotation of a Jewish financier. It is a good indicator of the seriousness of the Parliament that much of the day’s session was spent denouncing Akos Kertesz and calling for his Kossuth Prize to be taken from him. All quite petty, and quite sad for a nation facing a serious economic crisis.

Vándorló
Guest

@ESBalogh: It’s a shame you haven’T lived in Hungary for 50 odd years, you might then know how irrelevant the poison spewed by Kertész and Bayer Zyolt was to people’s everyday lives. You should perhaps meet some hard-working professionals, you’d be surprised how little of any of this nonsense matters to them, they are to busy creating a future despite the useless political dross you wallow in.
Bayer libels all Jews (again), thus making Kertész’s racist and libellous remarks against all Hungarian justified. Pingpong, anyone?
@HungarianJew: uzsora has no connection with the pejorative ‘kite’, it comes from the Latin ‘usura’from which we get usury in English. Equally your translation of ‘kizsákmányoló’ betrays a degree of histrionics. If you want to say blood-sucker in Hungarian you’d use ‘vérszopó’ or ‘pióca’ (literally, leech), not kizsákmányoló (exploitative).
@Mutt Damon: Kennedy’s quote was grammatically correct and had nothing to do with declaring himself to be a doughnut. He correctly used the indefinite article to show his solidarity with the people of Berlin, whilst making it clear he was not from there, so could not claim directly to be an actual person from Berlin (“Ich bin Berliner”).

Member
@vinthund: You know it, and I know it what Eva meant. You playing your games of literary meanings does not help your case. By the way my problem is not with the action word liberate, it is with what do you have to apply it to, the context, as you already know. Hungary was liberated by the Soviets from fascism, nazism, from the occupation of Germans and their allies, from people who enjoyed killing Jews, gypsies and communists as a sport. Can you debunk the prior sentence? This is what we are talking about regarding Eva’s comment. we are not talking about what happened after that time. Get it? When we say “people who live in glass houses, should not throw rocks”, no one runs to grab a dictionary to prove the point that indeed people do not live in glass houses, so whoever said that must be wrong. You are missing the point, r mores so you want to miss the point in order to hammer home some half-baked non-sense that had nothing to do with what Eva meant. @ Vandorlo: “how irrelevant the poison spewed by Kertész and Bayer Zyolt was to people’s everyday lives.” I posted my… Read more »
Vándorló
Guest

@HungarianJew: I’ve just found out the first recorded occurence of ‘kike’ was in 1904 in reference to East-European Jews, many of whom were Russian bearing a surname ending in ‘ki’ and hence the term was born.
This further underlines the semantic distance between the practice of usury and socially or politically racial stereotype one may overlay on such behaviour.

Member

@Vandorlo “Pingpong, anyone?”
I’m sure Bayer would have stopped writing openly anti-Semitic articles if the Kertesz “affair” didn’t happen. Bullying is not ping-pong. Or is this remark something constructive, subtly suggesting that the Hungarian Jewry should stop the bullying? Let’s give piece a chance?

Vándorló
Guest

@Mutt Damon and Some1: Clearly tries to justify one hatred with another. Kertész is implicitly justified in writing that all Hungarians, now and then, are personally responsible for committing atrocities, because there are people like Bayer Zsolt around.
I’m all for peace, so as why starve these cretins (on both sides) “of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend”.

Member

@Vandorlo This is not a Kertesz vs. Bayer jousting. This is about the government sponsored wide-spread antisemitism in Hungary.
When constantly bullied people just finally loose it and growl – that’s not justification for anything. Being for peace is stepping up against the bullies.
Peace.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Vandorlo: “you might then know how irrelevant the poison spewed by Kertész and Bayer Zyolt was to people’s everyday lives.”
This is a lame excuse. People are not interested in lot of things. But steady anti-Semitic propaganda has its very negative impact on the thinking of the people.
Perhaps people don’t care but it seems the Hungarian government does. They demand an apology from Kertész. Otherwise they will take away his Kossuth Prize. I would throw it into their faces. In any case, I would have gotten rid of this Soviet-type prizes twenty years ago, right after the change of regime.

Kirsten
Guest
Vandorlo: “you’d be surprised how little of any of this nonsense matters to them, they are to busy creating a future despite the useless political dross you wallow in. ” Reading that I was thinking (but last time at your comments, too) how exactly they are currently “creating the future”. The constitution and many other institutional arrangements within the country have been changed in the last year and this has been shaped by a handful of people in Fidesz who have (not uninterestingly) some basic principles (about these we are informed by Eva and I thank her for this). Highly relevant for the future are e.g. the reforms envisaged in the education system. With all these speedy reforms, I wonder a bit which areas are still open to “creative contributions” of the unpolitical citizen. I fully understand that ordinary people are absorbed in making a living. But those who rule spend their energy on that which you object to: inciting hatred (in what they say and in what they do). And it is very sad that this approach is well known also to opponents of Fidesz. However, the unpolitical citizen who does not wish to live with frequent emotional outbursts… Read more »
Member

@Eva “People are not interested in lot of things”
This is again an interesting part of the Hungarian soul. When the say “I’m not interested” this usually means “I don’t want to take sides, I don’t want to take responsibility”.
I just talked with somebody from Hungary. It went like this: “Yeah, I know .. morons everywhere. That’s why I’m not into politics”.

vinthund
Guest

@some1: Using words in accordance with their literal meaning is “playing games”? Come on 🙂
“Hungary was liberated by the Soviets from fascism, nazism, from the occupation of Germans and their allies, from people who enjoyed killing Jews, gypsies and communists as a sport. Can you debunk the prior sentence?”
Of course I would disagree, since apparently I undestand the word “liberty” in an literal meaning. Therefore I do not think that Stalin liberated Hungary or Poland. “Liberated” is simply not a proper word. Calling 1945 “liberation” reminds me of Orwell’s “1984”. There are more suitable words.
“This is what we are talking about regarding Eva’s comment. we are not talking about what happened after that time. Get it?”
I get it. What happened later – let’s not talk about it. So… would you say that in 1941 Hitler liberated Lithuania or Latvia from communists (not to mention what happened after that time)?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

vinthund: “So… would you say that in 1941 Hitler liberated Lithuania or Latvia from communists (not to mention what happened after that time)?”
What about Poland. Was Poland liberated from the Germans or not?

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