What happened in Kamenets-Podolskii in 1941?

It would be utterly foolish to attempt a thorough description of what happened in Kamenets-Podolskii (or, in Ukrainian, Kamianets-Podilskyi), today a fair sized city in Ukraine. In earlier times it was an important Jewish center of learning, but even in Soviet times it was a multi-ethnic community of Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews. Internet descriptions of the city’s history always mention that Kamenets-Podolskii was the place where “one of the first and largest Holocaust mass-murders” took place. They usually also note that most of the 23,600 victims were Hungarian Jews.

Luckily there are some excellent English-language sources dealing with the subject. Among them is a volume devoted solely to the topic: Kinga Frojimovics’s I Have Been a Stranger in a Strange Land: The Hungarian State and Jewish Refugees in Hungary, 1933-1945 (2007), which is still available through Amazon. Randolph L. Braham’s monumental The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, 2 vols. (1994) can still be obtained in an abbreviated edition. In Hungarian Tamás Majsai wrote a book about the deportations that took place in July-August 1941. I learned a lot from Mária Ormos’s Egy magyar médiavezér: Kozma Miklós, 2 vols. Kozma served at that time as a kind of governor of the territory, acquired in March 1939, which was known in Hungary as Kárpátalja or, in English, Carpatho-Ruthenia.

Yesterday I wrote that Sándor Szakály, the new director of the Veritas Historical Institute, called the deportation and murder of about 25,000 people a simple “police action against aliens.” It was not part of the Hungarian Holocaust. Why is it so important for Szakály and therefore, I suspect, for the Veritas Institute and the Orbán government to disassociate the 1941 atrocities from what happened after March 19, 1944, when allegedly Hungary lost its sovereignty? The answer, I think, is obvious. No one, not even far-right historians of Szakály’s ilk, can claim that Hungary was not a sovereign state in 1941. And yet with the approval and support of Miklós Horthy, László Bárdossy, the prime minister, Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer, minister of the interior, and Miklós Kozma, one of the promoters of the idea, all agreed to begin the deportation of Jews who had escaped from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria and after 1939 from Poland as well. In fact, although the official record of the cabinet meeting doesn’t indicate it, the whole cabinet gave the plan its blessing. The evidence can be found in notes jotted down by Miklós Kozma, who was present.

One must keep in mind that the northeastern corner of Greater Hungary was an underdeveloped region with a very large Orthodox Jewish community who were, especially in smaller towns, quite unassimilated. They were the ones Horthy hated most and wanted to get rid of. Kozma’s aversion to these people was most likely reinforced by living in the area. There were places where there were more religious Orthodox Jews than non-Jews. So, already in the fall of 1940 he entertained the idea of deporting them at the earliest opportunity, which came when Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. When Hungary joined the war effort on June 27 of the same year, conditions were ideal for the mass deportation of the unwanted Jews, foreign as well as domestic, because Hungarian troops were temporarily in possession of territories just across the border.

Hungarian gendarmes collected the victims, who were allowed to take along only 30 pengős and food for three days, herded them into cattle cars or in a few cases trucks, and took them to Kőrösmező/Yasinia, still inside of Hungary. The first group started to move across the border to Galicia and Ukraine on July 14. In the next few weeks 13,400 people were deported from Carpathian Ruthenia and 4,000 from other parts of the country, including Budapest. The majority of the deportees were taken to Kamenets-Podolskii by Hungarian soldiers, who took over the job of the gendarmes. Once there, the deportees were left to their own devices. No shelter, no food, no nothing. The few Jews in town tried to help, but they themselves were poor.

Soon enough the conditions became indescribable. Yet more and more transports arrived daily. Finally the Germans had had enough; they asked the Hungarian government to stop the deportations. In response, Keresztes-Fischer temporarily halted the deportation of Hungarian Jews, but the others continued to arrive daily in Kamenets-Podolskii. It was at that time that the Germans decided to “solve the problem.” They simply killed them and buried them in common graves. Some were still alive when they were thrown into the pit. A few Jews survived and even managed to get back to Hungary, although the Hungarian authorities doubled the number of gendarmes in order to prevent their return.

Deported Jews from Hungary in Kamenets-Podolskii / Source: www.memorialashoah.org

Deported Jews from Hungary in Kamenets-Podolskii / Source: www.memorialashoah.org

Yes, at the end of August the deportations stopped, but the Hungarian government didn’t give up the idea of resuming the deportations, especially from this particular corner of Hungary. László Bárdossy announced that because of the German request they halted the action but they have every intention of continuing it when the situation in that part of Galicia and Ukraine improves enough to accept the deportees.

Kamenets-Podolskiii was a dress rehearsal for the deportation of over 600,000 Hungarian citizens. Gendarmes were employed to gather and herd the victims into cattle cars in both cases. In 1944 as in 1941 the Hungarian authorities were the ones who seemed most eager to get rid of their Jewish citizens, and in both cases the Germans were the ones who tried to slow down the transports because they were overburdened.

So, it’s no wonder that the current Hungarian government wants to transform Kamenets-Podolskii into an innocent police action against illegal aliens. Sándor Szakály and the Orbán government are a perfect fit, and I’m certain that his Veritas Institute will do its level best to whitewash the Hungarian governments of the interwar period and make sure that Governor Miklós Horthy, whom Szakály seems to admire, is portrayed as an innocent victim of circumstances. And since soon enough all school books will be published by a state publishing house, I have no doubt that Szakály’s version of Hungary’s modern history will be the “true and only one.” After all, he is heading an institute called Veritas.

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Steve
Guest

Prof. Balogh’s blog is timely as the Horthy support is gathering it’s strength. In 1941 under the “benevolent” Horthy’s regime these “Galicianers” as he called them, were kicked out of Hungary. That he and the others involved, namely Bardossy, Keresztes-Fisher and Kozma, etc had no knowledge of what may happen to these people is ridiculous to contemplate, as every Hungarian soldier who was in the area knew what happened to these and other Jews commencing soon after the Germans conquered Poland in 1939.

My own half-Jew relation who served in the Hungarian Army as a sergeant came back from the East in 1941 with photographs of Jews floating in the river and some Jewish dead in the streets and fields and tales we found hard to believe. Can anyone imagine that Horthy and the others did not know? Even if it would be suggested that they did not know, did they accept the fact that the Germans will use labour by newborn babies, young children and the old and ancient Jews which were deported from Hungary as early as 1941 and who were supposed to work in Poland and occupied Russia.

Kave
Guest

These are issues that the Germans, French, Austrians and, yes, even the Polish people dealt with in the 1980s and 90’s. The Hungarians authorities are trying to prevent that self-awareness now. It is one long, sad PR campaign that will only hurt Hungary’s national image in the long term… As if any of the Government’s half-baked PR campaigns ever helped Hungary at all.

tappanch
Guest

The claim of the anti-Semitic propaganda of substantial Jewish immigration into Carpatho-Ukraine is not supported by the census data. Their percentage went DOWN between the censuses of 1910 and 1941.

In Ung, Bereg, Ugocsa, Maramaros counties combined:

1910: 129 thousand “Israelites”, 15.2% of the total population
1941: 158 thousand, 13.7% of the total population

Percentage of Israelites who declared themselves Jewish by ethnicity in 1941:

pre-1938 territory: 2.4%
1938 acquisitions (Southern Slovakia & Lower Rusinsko): 18.4%
1939 acquisition (Upper Rusinsko): 79.3%
1940 acquisition (Northern Transylvania): 31.3%
1941 conquests from Yugoslavia: 27.1%

TimeForTruth
Guest

Despite of the distortion produced by the well known revisionists, Szakaly, Romsics etc., we can find the truth in the precise ES article of Karsai : http://www.es.hu/?view=doc;14784

I am grateful to tappancs for pointing to this info-rich link:

tappanch:
January 17, 2014 at 10:14 pm | #9 Quote
In 1940, there were 96.2 thousand foreign citizens in Hungary, including 10.4 thousand Jews, according to the government data.

http://www.korosmezo1941.netai.net/files/mt_a_korosmezei_zsdep_1941_mt.pdf

Andy
Guest
Eva, in your third paragraph your phrase “It was not part of the Hungarian Holocaust.” seems to indicate a very narrow interpretation of the concept of “Hungarian Holocaust”. In my opinion, as long as Jews on Hungarian soil were being shipped away wantonly under such terrible circumstances by Hungarian government decision and command to a fate clearly known by the decision-makers (they knew the Germans were in the process of annihilating any and all Jews they could get their hands on) then these souls were being sent to their deaths by the Hungarian government of the time. Therefore this deed is part of the Holcaust History of Hungary i.e. “Hungarian Holocaust” irrespective of the national affiliation or provenance of the individuals. It’s like as if you were splitting the persons killed in the 9/11 bombing into ‘US’ and ‘other citizens’ – as regards victims of the tragedy and saying the latter group is not part of the story per se. If the Hungarians were responsible for the process, they are responsible for their action for each individual killed. And you can count them IN as far as the causation being of Hungarian origin is concerned. To summaarize, if the Hungarian… Read more »
An
Guest

@Andy: I think the “not part of the Hungarian Holocaust” is Eva’s interpretation of Szakaly’s words, not her own ideas.

VivaHungary
Guest

Let us close the holocaust issue for the time being.
The orban/jobbik clique, under the guidance of finkelstein divided, incited, insulted Hungary.
It is now time to lift the Hungarian tricolor high, and oust a large number of the fidesz/jobbik guard.

Guest

“And since soon enough all school books will be published by a state publishing house, I have no doubt that Szakály’s version of Hungary’s modern history will be the “true and only one.” After all, he is heading an institute called Veritas.”

Veritas is pravda in Russian.

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/putin-says-state-history-textbooks-will-not-impose-ideology/492892.html

tappanch
Guest

There are at least two words for truth in Russian: pravda and istyina. Something can be “pravda” but not “istyina” and vice versa.

tappanch
Guest
Nicky
Guest

This situation with the state textbooks is really worrying. A friend of mine, who teaches in a high school, informed me that from next year there will be a choice of two different textbooks for each subject. You can imagine what opportunities this will present for a government who want to either sweep the past under the carpet, or re-write history.

Guest

@Tappanch: The paper on the ideal Russian concepts of truth is very interesting. However, it does not throw any light on the systematic lying in the communist newspaper called Pravda and the systematic lying which is now prescribed for Putin’s new vsesojusnij schoolbooks.
It would have been helpful for the understanding of Orbán’s parallel initiative.

tappanch
Guest

Let me add another topic to the discussion. This is the fate of the Jewish people with Hungarian citizenship in the Nazi-occupied countries before March 19, 1944. We are talking about the fate of as much as 12,000 people. They lived in France, Germany, Bohemia, Belgium, Holland.

The Hungarian government argued with the German government a lot about the ownership of the assets of these Jews, but did not let them back to Hungary, and thousands died in concentration camps before 1944.

tappanch
Guest

Testimonies of 5,000 Hungarian Jewish survivors, written down in 1945 and 1946.

http://degob.org/

tappanch
Guest

About the deportations of 1941, in English!

http://degob.org/index.php?showarticle=2019

tappanch
Guest

MaZsiHiSz, the organization of the Neolog community demands the resignation of S. Szakaly in a statement today.

“We are considering withdrawing from the events of the official Holocaust Memorial year”
because of the

1. “unknown ideology of the new Memorial Center in Jozsefvaros”,[M. Schmidt]
2. “talks at the recent Horthy conference in the House of Terror”,[M. Schmidt]
3. “history falsification on state radio”,
4. “planned memorial for the German occupation in Freedom square”,
5. “interview by the leader of the Veritas institute”. [S. Szakaly]

http://www.mazsihisz.hu/2014/01/19/szakaly-sandor-lemondasat-koveteli-a-mazsihisz-6722.html

An
Guest

@tappanch: Finally… some noise from Mazsihisz.

tappanch
Guest

As of today, “országos népi kezdeményezés” (popular initiative) to force Parliament to discuss an issue is erased from the Hungarian “Basic Law”.

tappanch
Guest

Here is another article about the 1941 deportations, by A & J Gellért

http://www.betekinto.hu/2012_2_gellert_gellert

tappanch
Guest
SeekTruth
Guest

UN Holocaust Day – do not visit it. What is the credibility of a conference like this?

Lead lecturer: Carol Rittner.

To a superficial observer, the two ladies look very similar.

http://mercywords.com/Mercywords/Carol%20Rittner.html

Do we need these Christian – Jewish studies?

Can we find scholars who teach true history?

JGrant
Guest
A few weeks ago I bought the 1988 first Hungarian edition of the Randolhp L. Braham book for 2800Ft.($12.50) On the link below you can still get it today for 4800Ft ($22). I presume they found a whole lot of old stock somewhere and pushed it out at a discount at Christmas. The really fascinating item I found in it was a slip which was advertising it back in 1988. It turned out that it was not available in the bookshops, you had to pre-order it to get it. No wonder they couldn’t shift them all. Perhaps most of the applicant had failed the positive vetting for having a copy. Who knows? Still, even at $22 it is extremely good value for these two wheighty volumes and would provide an excellent reference book for anyone who reads Hungarian and can’t get a copy of the abbreviated version Prof. Balogh wrote about. Another interesting feature is that there are two forewords in the Hungarian edition. One by Berend T. Iván, then president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and one by Braham himself. Berend did not write his foreword himself, but copy and pasted in (with acknowledgement) the text of the… Read more »
JGrant
Guest

Oh, and just another snippet of interest for you all that I forgot to include in my previous comment. Guess who proofread and checked the translation and was acknowledged and thanked by Braham in his foreword for being very helpful and co-operative in the publication of the Hungarian edition? Maria Schmidt. Assuming that it is the same Maria Schmidt whose present day conduct is, shall we say, less than acceptable, it just shows how many so called “experts” change their coats and how often in this country of ours!

tappanch
Guest

@Eva

The MaZsiHiSz website just republished an article from ES about the state radio program you mentioned.

http://www.mazsihisz.hu/2014/01/19/merjunk-nagyot-csusztatni-6723.html

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

JGrant :
Oh, and just another snippet of interest for you all that I forgot to include in my previous comment. Guess who proofread and checked the translation and was acknowledged and thanked by Braham in his foreword for being very helpful and co-operative in the publication of the Hungarian edition? Maria Schmidt. Assuming that it is the same Maria Schmidt whose present day conduct is, shall we say, less than acceptable, it just shows how many so called “experts” change their coats and how often in this country of ours!

Mrs Schmidt’s own early works on the Holocaust are still relevant. I don’t think anybody here ‘turned coats’; however, a divide certainly occurred among Hungarian historians in the 1990s, many of whom were effectively participating in the political transition. Assessments of the Horthy regime, of the Holocaust, of the communist regime all became highly politically charged stakes, and the current government’s ‘memorial policies’ have pushed the situation to the absurd. The ‘Veritas’ project is the cherry on the cake – and I’m afraid we’ll have the cake and have to eat it, too.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@tappanch: thanks for the news (and more generally your contributions on these subjects). “Veritas Institute for Holocaust relativisation”, they didn’t sugarcoat it. 🙂

tappanch
Guest

Szakaly is on ATV right now

tappanch
Guest

He is not sure that anti-Semitism played part in the 1941 deportations.
He states that Horthy did not take part in the deliberations of the government.

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