Mária Schmidt’s revisionist history of World War II and the Holocaust. Part II

In order to demonstrate Mária Schmidt’s revisionism when it comes to Hungary’s role in the war, the re-evaluation of the Horthy regime, and the twentieth-century history of the Hungarian Jewish community, I have chosen two articles, both from a collection of essays entitled Diktatúrák ördögszekerén. The first, covered yesterday, dealt with World War II and, to Schmidt’s mind, the inappropriate punishment of Germany and the Axis Powers. The second article, “Place of the Holocaust in the Modern History of the Hungarian Jewry (1945-1956)” is the subject of today’s post. In it Schmidt is allegedly seeking an answer to the question of whether the Holocaust altered and, if yes, to what extent, the relations between Jews and non-Jews. The answer? Well, that is not clear from the twenty-three pages that follow. There are places where she categorically states that the peaceful coexistence between Jews and non-Jews came to an abrupt end. Although in the 1920s there were signs  of reconciliation, the good old days could never be restored. On the other hand, she sometimes indicates that the ties between the two groups were always strong, even after 1928, especially in comparison to the situation in the neighboring countries.

The article on the Holocaust and its effect on Hungarian-Jewish relations actually covers a great deal more than the title would indicate. Almost half of the article covers the 1919-1944 period. Her thesis is that “the Hungarian liberal nobility and the leaders of Hungarian Jewry signed a pact in the middle of the nineteenth century.” What did this so-called “pact” entail? An understanding that the Hungarian nobility would provide Hungary’s political leadership and that the Jewish leaders would stay away from politics and busy themselves in the economic sphere and the professions. Continuing this line of reasoning, she argues that because Hungarian Jews became leaders of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, after 1919 the Hungarian political elite, the liberal nobility in Schmidt’s words, “considered the agreement null and void.”

I guess I don’t have to dwell much on the improbability of such an arrangement, formal or informal. Schmidt, however, takes this “unwritten rule” for granted and therefore maintains that the non-Jewish political elite after World War I was fully justified in changing their attitude toward the country’s Jewish citizens. The members of the political elite “believed that the representatives of Hungarian Jewry in 1918 and 1919 not only demanded a share of political power but made an attempt at their total annihilation.” Schmidt provides no supporting evidence for this stark claim.

From the above one would think that Jewish/non-Jewish relations had suffered such a blow that reconciliation between the groups was out of the question. A few lines later, however, we read about “the second flowering  of Hungarian Jewry” between 1928 and 1938. On the one hand, she talks about the partnership between the political elite and the Jewish community while, on the other, she mentions “the subordinate position of the Jews.” As if she couldn’t decide, or did not want to decide about the precise nature of that relationship. The Horthy regime “was not friendly to the Jews but until 1938 its representatives were not antagonistic either.” This is how Schmidt skirts the issue throughout the article. As an apologist for the Horthy regime she has every reason not to be forthright. The fact is that both the political leaders and a large segment of Hungarian society were imbued with anti-Semitism during the period under investigation.

After this unsatisfactory “analysis” of the interwar years we get to a very important date: “On March 19, 1944 Hungary’s sovereignty ceased to exist.” Schmidt wrote this article in 1998, but in 2011 it found its way into the preamble of the new constitution. In her description of this period almost every sentence sounds familiar: “The country that was directed by Nazi puppets no longer defended its Jewish citizens.” The Nazi puppets in Viktor Orbán’s latest formulation are “Nazi collaborators.” The portion of the sentence that talks about the country’s inability to defend its Jewish citizens is echoed in one of János Áder’s recent speeches on the Holocaust. Not a word about the personnel of the governments formed after March that was practically identical to the composition of earlier cabinets. On the contrary, she gives the impression that the political elite of the interwar period actively tried to save Hungary’s Jewish citizens. She claims that “in the last minute some members of the traditional elite managed to call up 40,000 Jewish men for labor service and thus saved them from deportation.”

Finally, we arrive at the 1945-1956 period which is in many ways the most fascinating part of this essay. I should mention that Mária Schmidt is also the foremost ideologue of the fierce anti-communism of the Orbán regime. This anti-communism is of relatively new vintage and has managed to give a less than accurate picture of the 1945-1989 period. I also assume that Schmidt’s influence on Viktor Orbán and his colleagues is considerable when it comes to the undifferentiated treatment of the period because she does the same in her own writings.

The article under consideration is especially interesting because in it Schmidt’s two interests intersect: the history of Hungarian Jewry and communist crimes. Early in the article she spends some time on the Hungarian Jews’ heavy involvement with the workers’ movement and with liberal politics. Their interest in left-wing politics only strengthened after the war until practically all the political leaders, legal or illegal, of leftist parties were Jewish. She quotes Robert Michels (1959) as the foremost authority on the history of the European working class movement, who claims that “in Hungary the parties of the working class were entirely in Jewish hands.” At this point Schmidt parenthetically notes: “Let us add to this that in Hungary’s case this statement with more or less modifications was true until 1956.” This sentence encapsulates her assessment of the Jewish presence in politics between 1945 and 1956. They were the ones who were mostly responsible for the Stalinist dictatorship of the Rákosi period.

The judges and the prosecutors of the people’s courts that passed some 400 death sentences were almost exclusively Jewish. The leadership of the Hungarian Communist Party was heavily Jewish (Mátyás Rákosi, Mihály Farkas, Ernő Gerő, and József Révai), and Schmidt is not moved by the argument that they were first and foremost committed to communism and did not consider themselves Jewish. Anti-Semitism arose because the people who were in positions of political power all came from what she calls and puts into quotation marks “the persecuted.” And she continues thus: “After twenty-five years of frightening  of the right-wing press, a Jewish-communist world conspiracy seemed to materialize.”

After the old non-communist elite was removed and accused of war crimes, “the comrades of Jewish origin managed to get themselves into important positions in the new democracy.” Prior to 1945 Hungarian Jews had a double identity: they were Hungarians and they were Jews. But socialism offered something that replaced both. “Instead of Hungarian, internationalism and instead of Jewish, comrade.” Or a little later: “When the old political elite lost its positions in many cases their places were taken by Jewish comrades.” They received important, well paid jobs, uniforms, ranks, fabulous careers.” I don’t know what you call this, but I call it anti-Semitic discourse.

Victims of Communism Memorial, Washington, DC / commons.wikimedia.org

Victims of Communism Memorial, Washington, D.C. commons.wikimedia.org

And let me add a footnote to all this. A few weeks ago Viktor Orbán announced that Hungary is ready to contribute one million dollars for the establishment of a museum in Washington, D.C. dedicated to the victims of communism. In 1994 the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation was established. Originally, the founders planned to raise $100 million for a museum and memorial, but by 1999 only $500,000 had been raised. Viktor Orbán is trying to resuscitate this abortive plan. But $1 million is peanuts for such an undertaking, and therefore he is trying to convince other countries in Eastern Europe to contribute to the fund. In Schmidt’s and Orbán’s worldview, if there is a museum for the victims of Nazi Germany it is only appropriate to have one for the victims of communism.

I don’t know whether the supporters of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation know much about Viktor Orbán’s cozy relationship with former KGB agent Vladimir Putin and his recent friendship with the president of Kazakhstan, who is a leftover from communist times and who today is a bloody dictator. I also wonder how much these people know about the background of a fair number of Fidesz politicians who are such rabid anti-communists today but who in the past were high-ranking party members. Some of them were even agents spying on their fellow citizens during the Kádár regime. Do they know that Viktor Orbán’s father was party secretary of the company he owns today? Or that Orbán himself was secretary of KISZ, the youth organization of the Hungarian communist party? And that László Kövér worked for a while after graduation at the institute attached to the party’s central committee?

Well, in any case, the Hungarian Embassy in Washington and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation jointly organized an event scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. It will be a panel discussion on the “History and Legacy of Communism in Europe.” Mária Schmidt will be one of the participants. Let’s hope that the audience will appreciate her vast knowledge of the subject.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
petofi
Guest

@ Eva

“I don’t know whether the supporters of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation know much about Viktor Orbán’s cozy relationship with former KGB agent Vladimir Putin…”

This is a good time to repeat a past post of mind re one Megdet Rahimkulov–one of the richest man in Hungary and majority owner of OTP shares, formerly of Gazprom, prior to that a KGB agent. As a billionaire he eschewed living in the cities of London or Paris or New York for (get this) the wonderful environs of Felcsut!

(Mull that one for a while…)

2vereinto
Guest

Who are the real owners of Hungarian, Croation, Transylvanian banking, energy, transportation sectors?

They are probably these glorious Russian, Ukrainian oligarchs, while allowing some minority ownership to the key political and military leaders.

Judith
Guest

For the Hungarian-speaking readers, I must quote the characterizations used by István Eörsi of Mária Schmidt in 2003: “közéletünk jobboldalának legzüllöttebb figurája”, “történelemhamisításra specializálódott üzletasszony”, “bizniszértelmiségi pártholdudvaronc”.

Chabodeux
Guest

“and did not consider themselves Jewish” There are multiple layers of human thinking. The whole communist internationalism goes against everything what we stand for. Its obvious that it roots in the jews special situation (scatteredness).
“On March 19, 1944 Hungary’s sovereignty ceased to exist.” Didn’t we get invaded a half year later or something :)?
“Or that Orbán himself was secretary of KISZ” So if the political atmosphere isn’t ideal, one should stay away from the politics and let the jews=communists rule over us? Orbán took an active role to bring down the regime, yet you DARE to use it up against him.

To summarize: You claim to be THE historian, YALE DEGREE, yet you completely ignore the given attributes of the era and analyze everything through the standards and expectations of 2014. And the funny thing is, that you fail to realize that things haven’t changed much. People are still hating the jews, and this aggressive campaign to make US feel responsible, just makes things worse. You see, this antisemitism isn’t a decision, but a REACTION.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Thanks Éva for both of your articles.
The Historian László Karsai called at ATV Budapest Schmidt “történelemhamisitó” és “Holokausztrelativizáló” History-falsifier and Holocaust-relativizer. Schmidt does not go to court to sue Karsai.
History falsifying: There was an anti-Semitic party in Hungarian parliament in the XIX century. Bishop Ottokár Prohászka has published anti-Semitic incitement in 1918 one year before the communist rule.
What does the rule of Rákosi & Co to do with the Jews? What does the fact that Kádár let hang more Hungarians than Rákosi do with the fact that he was a baptized catholic?
The answer to both questions is NOTHING
One can’t forget, that at the time of Rákosi ruling Hungary there were bloody anti-Semitic purges in the CSSR and USSR. I mention here only the Slansky trial, when 14 leading communists were hanged in the CSSR, 11 of them were of Jewish origin and in the USSR the doctors affair.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

QChabodeuxQ “this anti-Semitism isn’t a decision, but a REACTION.” So according to you the Jews are collectively responsible for Rákosi because he was borne as a Jew. This is a typical anti-Semitic argumentation if you do not blame the Catholics because Kádár was baptized as a baby as a catholic. This is anti-Semitic double standard.
One can of course establish a “House of Terror” highlighting suffering under Communism (deflecting thus the attention from the fact, that many of those Fidesz “fighters against Communism” were not victims of Communism) while downplaying the mass murder of Jewish Hungarians during Horthy’s rule.
So no wonder that the “history cleansers” are blaming Jews for bringing Communist tyranny. In this nationalist narrative, the “Red Holocaust” supposedly masterminded by Jews, has supplanted and repressed the evils of the Final Solution.

Guest

Chabodeux – Orbán is an opportunist: either communist, liberal or conservative depending on the era.

jon
Guest

In a discussion yesterday someone said that Maria Schmidt is definitely not Jewish.

So just by coincidence she chose to research Jewish issues for years, she chose to spend years in Israel, then to study “antisemitism-research”, then to study for years the “Jewry in Hungary”, then to go to the Tel-Aviv university, to do research at Yad Vashem, then to get married to Andras Ungar of SZDSZ, the brother of Klara Ungar of SZDSZ. The life of Maria Schmidt is just full of coincidence then.

But that is not the scary part because coincidences happen all the time. The scary thing is : How do they know with so much authority who is Jewish and who is not?

To say with such definite authority that she is NOT Jewish. How is it possible. How do they know, the persons who know???

Is there a list of some type? Or birth certificate, or how do they KNOW, so sure? It is very scary that someone not only has so personal information about others but how do they come to possess it? What else do they know about???

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@jon@ the discussion about Schmidt being Jewish or non-Jewish reminds me of the book of the Holocaust-denier and anti-Semite David Irwing about the Revolution of 1956. According to Irwing, this was directed against the Jewish rulers. In his who is who he qualified Ferenc Erdei as Jewish. Looking up rightwing Hungarian blogs this dictum of Irwing is repeated.
However, András Hegedüs (former prime minister of Hungary) said to me, Erdei would rotate in his grave if he would know that he was called a Jew. Erdei was a lifelong anti-Semite.

Guest

Eva: ““On March 19, 1944 Hungary’s sovereignty ceased to exist.” Schmidt wrote this article in 1998, but in 2011 it found its way into the preamble of the new constitution. In her description of this period almost every sentence sounds familiar.”

So, the Hungarian Constitution is a copy-and-paste document not naming the owner of itellectuals right. She should sue them.

O'derongy
Guest

The current regime is illegitimate, and represent a major damage to Hungary.

Its supporters are blind and uninformed senile citizens, who are part of the same masses, which gave support to Horthy, Szalasi, Rakosi, Kadar. The leading media man, Zsolt Bayer will continue to organize the supporting souls into Peace Marches. Will he be Jewish one day, too?

Another future Christian Maria Schmidt will use the old discredited demagogy argument again, namely that all guilt belonged to all powerful Jews. This old recycled idea has been always very comforting for this nation.

It could be a good Hungarian start to take responsibility for all Hungarian political sins by all eternal fancy Hungarians.

Tyrker
Guest

“I don’t know what you call this, but I call it anti-Semitic discourse.”

No, anti-Semitism means a hatred of Jews (or, in the religious sense, a hatred of Judaism). Saying that Jews were overrepresented among communist leaders in Hungary – regardless of whether it is true or not – does not, in and of itself, consitute hate speech or anti-Semitism.

Never again
Guest

@tyrker Yes it is anti- semitic discourse and argument.
1 . Jews identified as Hungarians and had no connection with religion. Speaking about them as Jews is already a racist act
2. Maria Schmidt and in the last days Kerenyi justify sentiments against the Jews, because of the Jews caused them. This is a classic anti-semitic argument.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Thousand of books and articles have been written on Jews and the left. Very interesting: http://www.fathomjournal.org/conversation/jews-and-the-left/ Let us see things in the historical context. During the mid-1930s the degree of attachment to Fascism and National Socialism became the new criterion for determining “true” rightism. One of the main themes of Nazi propaganda was the allegedly Jewish character of the Bolshevik Rev olution and of the post-War revolutions in Germany. Nevertheless, during the early years of the Nazi movement, not even Hitler ignored the presence of Jews in the German rightist camp. Indeed, he endeavored to “explain away” this phenomenon, wich contradicted one of his fundamentatl theses. The Hungarian ruling Right, showed after WW1 less willingness to cooperate politically with the Jews than its Romanian counterpart. The main interwar ruling party, the MEP (Magyar Élet Pártja, the Party of Hungarian Life) was both earlier and more zealously pro-Fascist (and later pro-Nazi too) than,f.e. the Romanian National Liberal Party. The anti-Semitism of the Horthy era was both less tolerant and more aggressive that that of the ruling rightist circles in Romania prior to the Iron Guard seizure of power in 1940. Even during Count Stephen Bethlen’s consolidation era (1921-31), when the ruling… Read more »
blood research
Guest

Oh I get it now, so if a historian is asked: “Based on historical research and sources, what percentage of the Communist leadership was Jewish in 1918-1919”, Then the historian is not allowed to answer? Or if the historian answers you will call him antisemitic “never again”?

But a historian is allowed to answer whether Maria Schmidt is Jewish or not? And do blood research on her to find out that only her husband and children are Jewish and she is not? And then try to show this fact in a negative light?

So how does this work with historians and researching people’s Jewishness? If it is a historical question 100 years in the past you are not allowed, but you are allowed in the case of Maria Schmidt who is a currently living person? What sort of twisted logic is that?

Never Again
Guest

@blood research I never cared or participated in a discussion about Maria Schmidt being Jewish or not. I don’t care and it is irrelevant.
Based on what she writes she is the best student of the authors of the Protocol of Elders of Zion.

O'Mise
Guest

blood research June 11, 2014 at 9:32 am asked a few shallow questions.

too much prejudice can be suspected….

all Hungarians decent, all Jews indecent….

what is the suggestion ….

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Blood Research. Oszkár Jászi was of Jewish descent and used a quasi-racial tone when writing about the “faults and failures” of the Jews. He was wrong not because of his Jewish descent, but because such arguments, such sweeping judgments are wrong.
I pointed out how in the Stalinist period after WW2 an anti-Semitic purge took place. So one has to be an idiot or an anti-Semite to connect the Jewish descent of Rákosi & Co with the rule of Stalinist in Eastern Europe.
Justifying and “explaining away of antisemitism” will isolate Hungary.
The Austrian elite learned this lesson. The Hungarian elite will learn it too. In the meantime part of it is happy with the mummery of the “Vitéz”, with Turul, Nyirö and Wass. And of course with blaming the Jews with everything foul in Orbanistan.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Those of the readers who understand Hungarian can read what I have written on subject matter in 2008
http://www.es.hu/karl_pfeifer;megoldottak;2008-06-23.html

petofi
Guest

Hungarian anti-semitism is quite logical. Since Hungarians feel themselves (in general) ‘lower than a frog’s arse’…hating the jew allows them to say, “Aha! These dirty, bloody jews are the lowest of the low.” And thereby elevate their station above…something or someone…even if it’s only a figment of their troubled imagination.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@petofi@ sweeping judgments against whosoever are never quite logical

googly
Guest
blood research, “Oh I get it now, so if a historian is asked: “Based on historical research and sources, what percentage of the Communist leadership was Jewish in 1918-1919″, Then the historian is not allowed to answer? Or if the historian answers you will call him antisemitic “never again”?” What do you mean, “if a historian is asked”? Are you saying that Mária Schmidt didn’t do this research of her own volition, that she was asked to do it? If you are saying that, then the question is what were the motivations of the questioner and the historian? The historian should know that the ancestry of these people is only relevant if you are making the anti-Semitic assertion that Jewish ancestry is relevant to who these people were. Therefore, if Mária didn’t take on this task of her own volition (which is almost certainly not the case, since her whole career seems to have been about linking religious ancestry with supposed anti-Hungarian crimes), then she was doing the anti-Semitic bidding of some other person, which is arguably worse than just being an anti-Semite. I’m sure that, if you took the time, you would find people who happened to be descended… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

A strange look on History of those Posters is manifested here who think there is a separate Hungarian and Jewish history and who believe one can counterbalance the Hungarian Soviet republic with the deportation of more than half a million Hungarian citizens to Auschwitz-Birkenau under Miklós Horthy and who see the rule of Rákosi & Co as Jewish revenge.
I have met many times the Hungarian Historian Miklós Szabó, who was non-Jewish who told me, the relative liberal cultural politics of the Kádár regime after consolidation had to do with the fact, that in Budapest intelligenzia Jews were overrepresented, who tried to maintain the good liberal traditions. One should compare that with the rigid cultural policy of the CSSR rulers (except of course 1967-69, which was followed by Soviet intervention).

Guest

Have you thought of the possibility, that the purpose of the Eagle/Archangel monument could be to keep critics busy so that the Fidesz mafia can continue its “legal” power grab unnoticed?

Guest

@Jean P:t

That thought has also crossed my mind – there are other “little” things like the pálinka distilling case and the tobacco shops which aren’t really that important but help make a diversion from the basic problems:

Fidesz is turning Hungary into a one party state, a class society and an intolerant and reactionary “Christian” society (comparable to the right wing republicans in the USA) – or feudal society like before WW and under Horthy, if you prefer that term …

Re what Eva wrote:

“he/she discovers that people of Jewish origin are overrepresented in a given sample”

Yes, for example in the group of Hungarian scientists, especially winners of the Nobel prize – but you’ll never hear that from our Fidesz loonies here …

The life and fate of those famous mathematicians and physicists for example and how most of them managed to leave Hungaryy were even forced to leave has been very interesting to me, since I’m a mathematician myself.

Guest

@Eva. If the original purpose of the monument was not to take the attention away from the execution of the power grab plan, it turned out to do so. Orban may not succeed in burying the past under a flower bed, but he has harvested great benefits from the monument anyway, by making the critics chase a wild goose in stead of concentrating on the daily deterioration of personal freedom and rule of law in Hungary. He has no reason to retract.

Kirsten
Guest

JeanP, that suggestion was indeed made by someone already. But what kind of distraction is that? It is 1) waste of money, probably into the hands of some friends of Orban, 2) the reinforcement of ideas that are in the national creed, 3) reinforcement of division of society, 4) power demonstration of Orban. So, just a shortcut for all that has been going on in the past years. The monument is as good as any of Orbans initiatives in representing the system. It appears that those who say that this is a distraction wish to actually distract from the fact that this is representative of Orbanisztan, and is as suited as the treatment of the press, teachers, doctors, academia, you name it. The standard answer to hints that some basic rights are being violated is by the way: “people are not interested in that”. So, this distraction argument is lame, because in other cases we are provided with other excuses or “explanations” for why people are not protesting more forcefully.

wpDiscuz