A Hungarian high school textbook on the numerus clausus of 1920

A few days ago we had a new visitor to Hungarian Spectrum who called himself “Éljen Fidesz” (Long Live Fidesz). He had a peculiar notion about the meaning of numerus clausus as it was applied in a law enacted by the Hungarian parliament in 1920. He turned to Wikipedia and found that “Numerus clausus (‘closed number’  in Latin) is one of many methods used to limit the number of students who may study at a university. In many cases, the goal of the numerus clausus is simply to limit the number of students to the maximum feasible in some particularly sought-after areas of studies.” The Wikipedia article adds that “the numerus clausus is currently used in countries and universities where the number of applicants greatly exceeds the number of available places for students.”

This is a grave misunderstanding of the Hungarian version of the numerus clausus that aimed at restricting the number of Jewish students in all Hungarian universities.

Of course, I don’t know the age of our Fidesz fan, but if he is in his 30s he most likely used Konrád Salamon’s textbook, which is the most popular choice of high school teachers. Not necessarily because it is the best but because in the days when students had to pass a test to be admitted to college or university the test questions were based on this textbook. Salamon’s text is for grade 12 when the history of the twentieth century is taught. The cover is decorated with modern and folk art and perhaps not by accident at least two of the pictures contain religious motifs. It is published in a large-size format (28 x 20 cm) and is 300 pages long. So, as one can imagine, it is packed with facts.

One could write pages and pages about the shortcomings of the book. László Karsai, historian of the Holocaust, wrote a lengthy critique of the way in which several high school and college textbooks deal with Jewish themes and the Holocaust, including Salamon’s text, which I have in manuscript form. Page 57 of Salamon’s book has three sentences about the numerus clausus. The first sentence states that the “members of the right and the extreme right forced through the acceptance of the law that was devised to decrease the overproduction of university graduates.” He adds that this meant quotas for “races [népfajok] and nationalities” according to their proportion in the population as a whole. And finally, Salamon writes that this law “placed Hungarians of Jewish origin in a  disadvantageous position.”

Anyone who is familiar with the Hungarian political situation in 1920 and knows anything about the numerus clausus understands that the law had nothing to do with the overproduction of  university graduates. In fact, at the two new universities in Pécs and Szeged there was a shortage of students. The two new universities, by the way, weren’t really new. They existed before, one in Kolozsvár (Cluj) and the other in Pozsony (Bratislava), but after Trianon they were moved to Szeged and Pécs respectively.

It is also wrong to say, as Salamon does, that it was only the extreme right that insisted on the introduction of a law that restricted enrollment of students of Jewish origin. The greatest supporters of the bill came from the ranks of the Party of National Unity, and even people who were considered to be moderate, like Kunó Klebelsberg and István Bethlen, were in favor of it.

Mária M. Kovács, Afflicted by Law: The Numerous Clausus in Hungary, 1920-1945 / IPon.hu

Mária M. Kovács, Afflicted by Law: The Numerus Clausus in Hungary, 1920-1945 / IPon.hu

Currently I’m reading a book on the numerus clausus  (Törvénytől sújtva: A numerus clausus Magyarországon, 1920-1945 / Afflicted by Law: The Numerus Clausus in Hungary, 1920-1945) by Mária M. Kovács, a professor at the Central European University in Budapest. In it Kovács shows that if the removal of Jewish students was intended to encourage children of the Christian middle class to enter university in greater numbers it was clearly a failure. But this wasn’t the aim of the bill. The leading politicians of the period were trying to restrict the number of Jews in the professions and the arts. In order to achieve their goal they reinterpreted the meaning of “izraelita.” Until then the word simply meant someone who considered himself to be a member of a religious community. With the adoption of the numerus clausus suddenly Hungarian Jews were considered to be an ethnic minority. According to Kovács, the law was unconstitutional both formally and substantively.

And finally a few words about Jewish overrepresentation in higher education. Yes, on the surface that seems to have been the case. During the academic year of 1918-1919 there were 18,449 students enrolled; of this number 6,719 were Jewish. One reason for these lopsided figures was that very few students came from villages and  small towns. Most of them were city dwellers, and Hungary’s Jewish population was concentrated in larger cities. In Budapest 25% of the inhabitants were Jewish. The other reason for this overrepresentation was that a greater number of Jewish youngsters finished gymnasium and took matriculation exams than did their non-Jewish contemporaries. In 1910 among Jewish men over the age of eighteen 18.2% took matriculation exams, among Catholics only 4.2% and among Protestants only 3.9%. And since you needed to matriculate in order to enter university one mustn’t be terribly surprised at the lopsided statistics. Kovács quotes the antisemitic Alajos Kovács, head of the Central Statistical Office, who found the situation “terrifying.”

Other figures often cited are the very high percentages of Jews in the medical and legal profession: 49.4% of lawyers and 46.3% of physicians were Jewish. One must keep in mind, however, that these professions attracted only 20% of all people with higher education. It is practically never mentioned that among the 30,000 college-educated civil servants one could find very few Jews–4.9% to be precise.

All in all, Kovács argues, the numerus clausus of 1920 can be considered the first anti-Jewish discriminatory law in Europe. According to some of the creators of the law it was a form of punishment of the Jews for Trianon. István Haller, minister of education in 1920, wrote an autobiography in 1926 which included a chapter entitled “As long as there is Trianon there will be numerus clausus.” The Jews must use their influence in the world to restore the old borders of historical Hungary. This opinion was shared by the entire political elite. Klebelsberg, for instance, announced in one of his speeches in parliament: “Give us back the old Greater Hungary, then we will abrogate the numerus clausus.”

And finally, on a different topic, a real gem from Konrád Salamon’s book (p. 8). The author of this high school textbook lists six reasons for the sorry state of the civilized world in the twentieth century. One of the reasons is that “the media became a significant factor in politics … and could easily influence the uninformed masses with the promise of creating material wealth quickly.” Should we wonder why Hungarian youngsters have so little knowledge of or attraction to democratic institutions? Unfortunately, the new textbooks that are being planned by Rózsa Hoffmann’s ministry will most likely be even more slanted than Konrád Salamon’s opus.

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Paul
Guest

“members of the right and the extreme right forced through the acceptance of the law that was devised to decrease the overproduction of university graduates.”

This rang an ominous bell. When I questioned Orbán’s anti-university views, my Fidesz supporting in-laws justified his actions using almost exactly the same words. Hungary, according to them, produces too many graduates…

Member

Paul :
“members of the right and the extreme right forced through the acceptance of the law that was devised to decrease the overproduction of university graduates.”
This rang an ominous bell. When I questioned Orbán’s anti-university views, my Fidesz supporting in-laws justified his actions using almost exactly the same words. Hungary, according to them, produces too many graduates…

Did you suggest that their daughter maybe should give back her diploma to make room for those who will pay for their education? THis is exactly what bugs me about the Fidesz maniacs, what hypocrites they are.
I know that your in-laws, and I am sure your wife are truly lovely people, I just do not understand how come they do not wake up. THe Hungarian butcher in Toronto is the same. Lovely, lovely man, but all the propaganda he puts out, just makes you wonder.

ohevetliktov
Guest

“Klebelsberg, for instance, announced in one of his speeches in parliament: “Give us back the old Greater Hungary, then we will abrogate the numerus clausus.””

The Hungarian government named the new institution for education after this anti-semite politician. “Klebelsberg Intézményfenntartó Központ”

Yul
Guest

sadly, Canada also had jewish quotas at some universities, like McGill and Toronto in….. 1920. I’m not sure, but I think they lasted till about the II WW

Member

Online articles on this topic by MÁRIA M. KOVÁCS:

http://www.hdke.hu/files/csatolmanyok/08_KovacsMaria_A_Numerusclausus.pdf

http://bfl.archivportal.hu/id-122-kovacs_m_maria_numerus_clausus_es_az.html

See also the numbers I came up with on these pages on October 28 & 29, 2012.

Paul
Guest
Some1 – it’s like a religion, no logic or argument shakes their belief. When it all collapses and Hungary is just a smoking pile of rubble, their take on it will be that Orbán was prevented from making Hungary great again by his/Her enemies (especially the ‘global’ and ‘external’ ones – and I’m sure I don’t have to translate that). Their daughter’s diploma was actually awarded by the USSR (or possibly Ukraine by then), so I’m on dodgy ground with that line of argument. (And, strangely, for supporters of such an anti-communist party, they are quite nostalgic about the old Soviet education system.) On a related note – hearing people who spent most of their lives in the USSR, speaking so passionately about Hungary’s future and the crimes of the past, makes me wonder just how much of Fidesz-Jobbik’s support comes from such people? Until the early 90s, their knowledge of Hungary was almost entirely based on two brief visits a year and watching Hungarian TV, and yet they feel fully justified in having the most extreme opinions about what is wrong with the country, whose fault it is/was, and how it is to be remedied. There’s a similar situation… Read more »
dormant
Guest

Paul :

And, strangely, for supporters of such an anti-communist party, they are quite nostalgic about the old Soviet education system.

According to research by Maria Vasarhelyi, almost 50% of Fidesz voters are fond of Kadar. Then again, if you look at the way the party runs the country, it’s kind of a throwback.

Jano
Guest

I had to suffer through Salamon, it’s a big pile of crap. The best History textbook in my opinion is Herber-Martos-Moss-Tatár-Tisza: Történelem 1-6. Yes it also contains a lot of facts, but it is up to a teacher to make the students memorize them or just use it as a reference. It’s a lot more than what an average high school student should be expected to learn (I read them all outside of class when I was in high school anyway just out of enjoyment) but used well it is a great text.

Member

Paul :
Some1 – it’s like a religion, no logic or argument shakes their belief.

hahaha Good one.

Member

This made the news today in Hungary:

Newly surfaced 19th century painting of antisemitic nature (blood libel) is attributed to the Hungarian painter Munkacsy. The painting might have been owned by the Tsar Alexander III.

http://index.hu/kultur/2013/03/04/antiszemita_pornot_festett_munkacsy_mihaly/

——————
Reminder:
Verdict on Klubradio will be promulgated tomorrow, at 8:10 in the morning.

Location:
Fovárosi Törvényszék, II., Csalogány u. 47-49., fsz. 4.

http://www.birosag.hu/sites/default/files/allomanyok/ossz_targy_jegyzek/10.het__1.pdf

Éljen a Fidesz!
Guest
Numerus clausus in Hungary The Hungarian Numerus Clausus was introduced in 1920. Though the text did not use the term “Jew”, it was nearly the only group overrepresented in higher education[citation needed]. The policy is often seen as the first Anti-Jewish Act of twentieth century Europe.[3] Its aim was to restrict the number of Jews to 6%, which was their proportion in Hungary at that time; the rate of Jewish students was approximately 15% in the 1910s.[4] In 1928—because of the pressure of liberal capital and League of Nations—a less explicit version of the act was passed. In the period of 1938–1945 the anti-Jewish acts were revitalised and eventually much worsened, partly due to German Nazi pressure, but also due to the liquidation of left-wing or centrist Hungarian parties during the White Terror.[4] Many Hungarian scientists such as Edward Teller emigrated partly because of the Numerus Clausus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerus_clausus Numerus Cluasus in Canada: A Good book about the antisemite Numerus Clausus in Canada: Louis Rosenberg,Morton Weinfeld: Canada’s Jews: A Social and Economic Study of Jews in Canada in the 1930s http://books.google.hu/books?id=ORDFC43PDZwC&pg=PR14&lpg=PR14&dq=%22numerus+clausus%22+in+canada&source=bl&ots=8OMhu2isBv&sig=07jrkxZW8eM-Z3pE2IK0kSigWJg&hl=hu&sa=X&ei=dZk1UZrDFYeYO7LZgIAN&ved=0CE8Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=%22numerus%20clausus%22%20in%20canada&f=false NUMERUS CLAUSUS IN THE UNITED STATES: Numerus clausus in the United States Although never officially legislated, between 1918 and the… Read more »
13 13 13 13
Guest

Ne eljen a Fidesz!
The size of the Jewish population of Budapest was more than 15% in 1920.
Almost all of the student of the capital’s colleges came from the prosperous areas of Budapest. So their rate reflected the population ration of Budapest and surrounding.
The reduce the Jewish to 6% did not help the rural and urban poor.
The selfish non-Jewish Hungarians of Budapest benefited from it.
Just like now.
The resources will be allocated to a selfish inner minority.

Member

Éljen a Fidesz! :
Numerus clausus in Hungary
The Hungarian Numerus Clausus was introduced in 1920. Though the text did not use the term “Jew” …

We too can read the Wikipedia, thank you very much.

Member

tappanch :
Reminder:
Verdict on Klubradio will be promulgated tomorrow, at 8:10 in the morning.
<p

This is getting soo ridiculous. It’s becoming a Hungaricum now. It’s like a tradition, like watching the groundhog coming out or the Busó-walking in Mohács, Hungary. One year from now our Porn Annie’s f-word hunter squad will lose the 23rd lawsuit against the Klubradio. We should make this a cult. We should go to the courthouse in costumes then hit the pubs when the ceremony is over. Life on Planet Hungary.

Member

I never-ever understood why the Fidesz Troopers and Fidesz itself thinks that the “but there are others who do this” or “it was done by others” or “there are worst examples” is any excuse ever for anything horrific. It is like taking part in some serious crime and saying that since others got away with it, we have the right too.
Well that is the message from Fidesz for sure, and that is their platform, and their little troopers without independent thinking capacity follow without questions. Their research is also limited to the most obvious and easily available resources, like wikipedia, and often the data is about things that happened decades ago. The difference is that other countries proudly evolved from their “previous state”, but never mind, as that small part of the info is never brought up by the little Fidesz Troopers or by Fidesz.

Guest

@some1:

I’ve observed the same on pol.hu – where you often read similar “excuses” and I usually link to this site on the different types of logical fallacies: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/

The Nizkor project btw is “intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. “

Éljen a FIDESZ!
Guest

On http://www.1000ev.hu site (the collection of Laws from 1000AD to 2003. The law did not contain the “Jew” or other ethnic terms. So it is fact.

Mutt :

Éljen a Fidesz! :
Numerus clausus in Hungary
The Hungarian Numerus Clausus was introduced in 1920. Though the text did not use the term “Jew” …

We too can read the Wikipedia, thank you very much.

Éljen a FIDESZ!
Guest

But what about the anti-semite Western Numerus clasus? USA Canada Western Europe etc..? Are there good anti-semites and bad anti-semites? Double standards?

An
Guest

@Éljen a FIDESZ!: See Eva’s post on that at March 4, 2013 at 7:01.

Member

Éljen a FIDESZ! :
But what about the anti-semite Western Numerus clasus? USA Canada Western Europe etc..? Are there good anti-semites and bad anti-semites? Double standards?

Nah. They are all pigs.

Guest

Don’t try to reason with our latest Fidesz troll – this creature is just a troll and won’t understand anything!

I’ve quoted the term “logical fallacy” so often – but it’s helpless, these guys don’t understand logic – so let’s just ignore them!

Paul
Guest

wolfi’s right, the troll’s aim is to disrupt the blog by getting everyone steamed up and arguing with him – he’s just trying to waste our time. He has no intention of learning from us, or changing his opinion one iota, so we really do waste our time bothering with him.

Ignore him, he’ll soon get fed up and go away.

Fidesz Control – why can’t we have the funny ones back? I enjoyed them!

An
Guest

Yes, he is a troll, and one of his aim is to spread false information. I think that should be addressed. Obviously, there is no point in getting into an argument with him.

Éljen a Fidesz!
Guest

Your dictionary is simple: “Troll” means a person who don’t share your political views.

Please talk about the western European and American Canadian Numerus Clausus and their anti-semitic motives in the higher education of the interwar period.

Eva: I repeat my question: “Are there good antisemites and bad antisemites? Double standards?

wolfi :
Don’t try to reason with our latest Fidesz troll – this creature is just a troll and won’t understand anything!
I’ve quoted the term “logical fallacy” so often – but it’s helpless, these guys don’t understand logic – so let’s just ignore them!

Nick
Guest

I think in a discussion board of this nature, one should not ignore a participant just because they do not share your opinions. (Provided that the discussion remains polite). I guess our Fidesz friend is simply trying to make the point that Hungary was not the only country to exercise prejudice, and he is right. Not that that makes prejudice any less wrong.

Guest

@Nick:

Our troll is trying to obfuscate – as they all do …

Don’t you see the difference between a (private!) university having a numerus clausus and a law that enforces this for all of the country ?

Typical troll behaviour: it doesn’t say that was wrong – it says: others do/did it too …

And anyway this site is about Hungary and what’s going on right now.

PS:

Just look at politics.hu and the comments in any thread that has “Jew” in the title and if you then still believe that there is no antisemitism in Hungary today, well …