“There Was Once…”: A documentary about the Jewish community of Kalocsa, Hungary

I recently watched a very moving documentary film about the fate of Jewish Hungarians in the town of Kalocsa, the seat of one of the four archbishoprics in the country. When the archbishopric was established in the Middle Ages, Kalocsa was a much more important city than it is now with its 18,000 inhabitants. As one would expect, the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Kalocsa are Roman Catholics. However, there was also a robust Jewish community that made up 5.9% of the population at the time of the Second World War.

The history and fate of the Hungarian Jews of Kalocsa has become known worldwide as a result of the collaboration of two people living far away from one another: Mrs. Gyöngyi Magó, a high school history teacher in Kalocsa, and Gabor Kalman, an award-winning film director from Los Angeles.

In 2004 Gyöngyi Magó was writing a thesis for the University of Szeged. Her adviser was Judit Pihurik, whose specialty is the history of World War II. Magó was always interested in local history and  noticed that, although several histories of Kalocsa had been written over the years, researchers ignored the Jewish community of the town. She decided to fill the void. Once her 61-page paper was finished, she realized that she must share her new knowledge with her students. Moreover, she decided to pursue the topic further by conducting interviews with possible survivors and older people in Kalocsa who still remembered some of the people she mentioned in her thesis.

She managed to find one survivor, Gabor Kalman. The two began exchanging e-mails. Gyöngyi Magó found out that Kalman was a film maker and Kalman became fascinated with Gyöngyi’s project. As Kalman said, “I was immensely touched that after 64 years a non-Jew would take on the task, not only of digging up this lost culture but also of using what she found to educate, to inform, to enlighten, and to fight prejudice and hatred — which unfortunately is very much in evidence throughout Hungary today.”

Only five children survived among four grades of pupils in Kalocsa's Jewish elementary school in 1942. Credit: Courtesy of Gabor Kalman, "There Was Once"

Only five children survived among four grades of pupils in Kalocsa’s Jewish elementary school in 1942. Credit: Courtesy of Gabor Kalman, “There Was Once”

The two began searching for others from Kalocsa, and the result is a gripping documentary on the lives and fate of Kalocsa’s Jewish population. In the final scenes the few survivors travelling from all over the world meet in Kalocsa for a reunion attended by the mayor and the archbishop. Among the visitors there was even a woman from Canada who swore that she would never return to Hungary.

Gyöngyi Mangó receiving the Medal of Valor, May 5, 2011 in Hollywood. On her left is Gabor Kalman, the director of "There Was Once..."

Gyöngyi Magó receiving a proclamation from the mayor of Los Angeles, May 5, 2011. To her left is Gabor Kalman, the director of “There Was Once…”

Since then not only has the documentary been highly acclaimed but Gyöngyi Magó also received  the Medal of Valor from the Museum of Tolerance. She shared the stage with Tom Cruise, a fellow recipient. Far away from Kalocsa in Hollywood.

Why do I write about this film now? Because tomorrow is United Nations’ Human Rights Day. It will be observed in the Library of Congress and the D. C. Jewish Community Center where the documentary film will be shown. Representative Alcee Hastings urged members of Congress to see the film, especially in light of the “resurgent anti-Semitism in Hungary.”

On Monday, December 10, at noon, Gabor Kalman will talk about the film and will show clips at the Library of Congress. At 7:00 p.m. there will be a screening of the film, followed by a panel discussion. The moderator of the discussion will be Steven Feldman, book publications officer, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Members of the panel will consist of Ambassador Michael Kozak, U.S. State Department and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; Gabor Kalman; and Professor Charles Gati. For those in the Washington area who want to attend, the  Jewish Community Center is located at 1529 16th Street NW.

As for the film, I watched it and can attest to the fact that it is superbly done. I hope that very soon we might be able to see it on television.  For now, you can view segments of the documentary online and learn more about how it came into being.

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Member

The screenings are tomorrow, not on December 12 (it’s Monday).

Member

The few clips that are available through the documentary’s website are very touching and shocking at the same time. I would love to see this documentary, and would love my children to see it too.
I found the Facebook page of the movie, so if you have a Facebook page that would be the best way to bring to your friends’ attention, and to get updates about possible screenings in your own city.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/There-Was-Once/221174487898682

Member
Csaba
Guest

How sad…. when will there be a documentary about the genocided Hungarian population of Kassa or Temesvár , or the deportations of 600 000 Hungarians? Its always the minorities, but never Hungarians..

Bowen
Guest

“Where were 600,000 Hungarians deported?”

I understand that more than half a million Hungarians were deported between 1941-1945.

Ellen Hume
Guest

The minorities ARE Hungarians, Csaba. That’s the crazy part of the prejudice against Jews and Roma.

Csaba
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Csaba :
How sad…. when will there be a documentary about the genocided Hungarian population of Kassa or Temesvár , or the deportations of 600 000 Hungarians? Its always the minorities, but never Hungarians..

Genocide of Hungarians in Kassa and Temesvár? Would you give us some details? Where were 600,000 Hungarians deported? I would like to hear about this too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_labor_of_Hungarians_in_the_Soviet_Union

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bene%C5%A1_decrees#Deportation_of_Germans_and_Hungarians_after_World_War_II

About Kassa and Temesvár, just look at demographics, Hungarian majority cities became Hungarian minority cities, both their actual numbers, and % wise they shrunk.

Csaba
Guest

Ellen Hume :
The minorities ARE Hungarians, Csaba. That’s the crazy part of the prejudice against Jews and Roma.

If they were Hungarians, then there wouldn’t be a “Jewish community” in Kalocsa, would there?

Paul
Guest

“Gyöngyi Magó receiving a proclamation from the mayor of Los Angeles, May 5, 2011. On her left is Gabor Kalman, the director of “There Was Once…””

He looks remarkably young for a Holocaust survivor…

Member

@csaba “when will there be a documentary about the genocided Hungarian population of Kassa or Temesvár”

When your lazy wingnut ass makes one. That’s when.

Paul
Guest

Bowen :
“Where were 600,000 Hungarians deported?”
I understand that more than half a million Hungarians were deported between 1941-1945.

Where to? Whom by? Why? (genuine questions)

Member

muttdamon :
…When your… makes one. That’s when.

It’s Eva’s blog, but in her place I would reject rude commentaries no matter what direction they come from. They just drive the discourse into the mud on all sides.

buddy
Guest

Paul :

Bowen :
“Where were 600,000 Hungarians deported?”
I understand that more than half a million Hungarians were deported between 1941-1945.

Where to? Whom by? Why? (genuine questions)

It was obviously a Holocaust reference, but I think Bowen was trying to make the point that Hungarians and Jews are not mutually exclusive.

Member

stevanharnad :

muttdamon :
…When your… makes one. That’s when.

It’s Eva’s blog, but in her place I would reject rude commentaries no matter what direction they come from. They just drive the discourse into the mud on all sides.

Oops. My bad. Let me rephrase my commentary.

It’s so typical that if there is good movie, a well written book or even a cool, successful and popular blog, like this one, some guys can only comment that “why isn’t there one, that underscores my views”. Well because you are not willing to commit to make one.

Because the best they can do is collect 100 million for Bajnai bashing banners and lame YouTube Video’s just to loose big time the elections in Szolnok in a FIDESZ stronghold.

Because your culture commissars, with all the financial tailwind of the Orban government, can only come up with ridiculous kitsch, like Kerenyi’s constitution paintings.

So there is no movie about their “history” because they didn’t make one.

Paul
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Paul :
“Gyöngyi Magó receiving a proclamation from the mayor of Los Angeles, May 5, 2011. On her left is Gabor Kalman, the director of “There Was Once…””
He looks remarkably young for a Holocaust survivor…

Well, we just checked each other’s birthday and Gábor was born in December 1934.

Sorry, Éva, it was the “on her left” I was questioning.

But even so, he still looks very young for 78.

Paul
Guest

buddy :

Paul :

Bowen :
“Where were 600,000 Hungarians deported?”
I understand that more than half a million Hungarians were deported between 1941-1945.

Where to? Whom by? Why? (genuine questions)

It was obviously a Holocaust reference, but I think Bowen was trying to make the point that Hungarians and Jews are not mutually exclusive.

Right, silly me. I thought this was a reference to some post-war or Nazi enforced rellocation of people, as happened to the Poles and Germans – as indeed to the Hungarians and Slovacs after Trianon.

Member

Csaba :

Eva S. Balogh :

Csaba :
How sad…. when will there be a documentary about the genocided Hungarian population of Kassa or Temesvár , or the deportations of 600 000 Hungarians? Its always the minorities, but never Hungarians..

Genocide of Hungarians in Kassa and Temesvár? Would you give us some details? Where were 600,000 Hungarians deported? I would like to hear about this too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_labor_of_Hungarians_in_the_Soviet_Union
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bene%C5%A1_decrees#Deportation_of_Germans_and_Hungarians_after_World_War_II
About Kassa and Temesvár, just look at demographics, Hungarian majority cities became Hungarian minority cities, both their actual numbers, and % wise they shrunk.

Csaba, did you know that it was actually the Soviets who stopped the Maniu-Guard to commit the genocide of Hungarians in Transylvania?

Member

Csaba :

Ellen Hume :
The minorities ARE Hungarians, Csaba. That’s the crazy part of the prejudice against Jews and Roma.

If they were Hungarians, then there wouldn’t be a “Jewish community” in Kalocsa, would there?

Hungarian Jews, Hungarian Catholics, Hungarian protestants…..
Also, I guess HUngarian CAtholics in Canada and in the USA should give back they Canadian and American Citizenship, as they use the “community”.
Hungarian Catholic Community in Maryland,
St. Stephen Of Hungary Hungarian Catholic Community
and the list goes on CSaba.

gdfxx
Guest

Csaba :
About Kassa and Temesvár, just look at demographics, Hungarian majority cities became Hungarian minority cities, both their actual numbers, and % wise they shrunk.

I am not familiar with the Kassa situation, however, the changes in the cities of Transylvania were not due to any genocide. There was a policy of promoting settlement of Romanian ethnic population into those cities and re-settlement of Hungarian ethnic population into other regions of the country. This was mainly achieved by a government control of who got jobs where and who got the permission to settle in certain cities (during the communist era one couldn’t just move into a city, permission from the authorities was required).

To call this genocide is quite an exaggeration, especially when compared to the holocaust in the portion of Transylvania belonging to Hungary during that period.

Future Endre
Guest

The Csabas are honest patriots, and the unfortunate victims of patriotic demagogues.
This is the old story of confused and tortured nations like Hungary.
The history of a Hungary, Romania, Serbia etc. is a continuing human tragedy.
The number 1 problem maybe the mutual reckless sell-ouf of leaders and resistors.
Most Hungarians will not realize how the current Orban cliques has sold them down the river.
So most of them just cry and whine about Trianon or 1848.
The Csabas will stop this tragedy only by understanding the Orbans of today.
The Csabas then can empower themselves if they decline to accept the lies of the current torturers.

Member

Eva S. Balogh :

stevanharnad :

muttdamon :
…When your… makes one. That’s when.

It’s Eva’s blog, but in her place I would reject rude commentaries no matter what direction they come from. They just drive the discourse into the mud on all sides.

As long they these people are polite and don’t insult people outright or carry on with their hate speeches I let them stay. .

Eva, I’m not talking about the one who said “How sad…. Its always the minorities, but never Hungarians…” repugnant though that view certainly is. But the one who was doing the personal insulting was one of the Forum’s regulars (see the original interpolation between “When your… makes one”_. It seems to me that letting such rudeness through, even when it comes from the side of the angels, would be a double standard, would it not?

Wondercat
Guest

Prof Balogh, thanks for calling our attention to these events — the film, the screening, the discussions, the devastation wrought upon the Jews of Kalocsa.

The mindset that says: Not Jew and Hungarian, not Croat and Hungarian, not Slovak and Hungarian, not Roma and Hungarian — only Magyar and Hungarian — well, it puzzles me.

Bowen
Guest

Paul :

Bowen :
“Where were 600,000 Hungarians deported?”
I understand that more than half a million Hungarians were deported between 1941-1945.

Where to? Whom by? Why? (genuine questions)

Yes, I was referring to the half-million-plus people who were deported from Hungary to southern Poland. At one point, the rounding-up was so massive that it became the largest and swiftest deportation in the entire Holocaust.

A trip to the Holocaust museum in Budapest is highly recommended. It very clearly makes the point that the Hungarian-Jewish community was a vital part of Hungarian society until their ‘othering’ and stigmatisation in the early 20th century. I think it’s entirely cynical (putting it mildly) to try and render (as Csaba was doing) the Hungarians and the Jews as separate, and that the Hungarians ‘also’ suffered during WWII. It may not fit in with certain far-right ideologies, but more than half a million *Hungarians* were rounded up and sent for extermination during WWII.

Petofi1
Guest

Wondercat :
Prof Balogh, thanks for calling our attention to these events — the film, the screening, the discussions, the devastation wrought upon the Jews of Kalocsa.
The mindset that says: Not Jew and Hungarian, not Croat and Hungarian, not Slovak and Hungarian, not Roma and Hungarian — only Magyar and Hungarian — well, it puzzles me.

You’re missing something: ” Only Magyar, CATHOLIC, and Hungarian”.

Future Andy
Guest

Finally good news, Hannah Rosenthal was removed from her post in the State Department.
She was the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
She was not the enlightened American. Too dogmatic, to represent openheartedly America.

In Hungary, similarly, the civil servants who are loyal to FIDESZ, are terrorizing the remaining staff. The current FIDESZ policy is madness. The restoration of Horthy ideals is madness.

It would be good to rescue some values from the old Hungary, while discarding most of the mistakes.

Especially, the young and inexperienced Hungarian civil servants feel empowerment in the mad Orban ideology. He and the young civil servants violate all rules of humanity.

Hungary 2012 is becoming the Rwanda 1994.

Urgent regime change is needed.

Congratulations to Gyöngyi Magó on her work. Many thanks to Eva Balogh for her caring dedicated reporting.

This is also honoring the memory of the Jewish people of Papa, Kapuvar, Ujkigyos, etc.

PS A report by Zsuzsa Sandor in Galamus details the horror story of the Horthy regime:

http://jogorvos.blogspot.com/2012/12/nemzetbiztonsagi-kockazat.html

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