Mária M. Kovács’s laudatory remarks on Randolph L. Braham and his work on the Hungarian Holocaust

The 95-year-old Randolph L. Braham, professor emeritus at the City University of New York, gave a lecture in Goldmark Hall on Wesselényi utca, Budapest. Professor Braham’s list of publications is long, but his monumental work The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary is the one that established his reputation as one of the foremost Holocaust researchers of our times.

After the welcoming speech of András Heisler, president of Mazsihisz, Professors Mária M. Kovács and András Kovács, both of Central European University, delivered laudatory remarks on the extraordinary accomplishments of Professor Braham, who has devoted his life to the study of the Hungarian Holocaust.

Professor Braham is no stranger to Hungarian Spectrum. Several of his articles were published here. I’m most proud of the fact that Professor Braham specifically designated Hungarian Spectrum as the best place for his scholarly article “The assault on the historical memory of the Holocaust.”

The lecture that he delivered in Budapest, without notes, was titled “Anatomy of the Hungarian Holocaust.” After his lecture he was awarded the Laurea Honoris Causa award from the University of Szeged. Ever since the 1990s the university has had close working relations with Professor Braham. Moreover, the students and faculty of the university have been the beneficiaries of the J. and O. Winter Fund, administered by Professor Braham.

Professor Randolph L. Braham with Zsolt Szomora, associate dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Szeged

Here one can read the remarks of Professor Mária M. Kovács, who is also well known to the readers of Hungarian Spectrum. We published several of her articles, including her polemics with Mária Schmidt. The video of the event can be seen online, although the simultaneous translation from English to Hungarian and from Hungarian to English makes it difficult to follow the speeches.

♦ ♦ ♦

Dear Professor Braham, dear President Heisler, dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honor to be able to welcome Professor Braham, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the City University of New York, on this occasion. We are all very grateful for his visit here, in Budapest.

Professor Braham’s presence here, in the Goldmark Hall, is more than just a ceremonial occasion. It is an exceptional opportunity for us to pay tribute to the world’s most important scholar of the Hungarian Holocaust.

Professor Braham has, single-handedly, done more for recording the history of the Hungarian Holocaust than anyone else has. We owe it to him, more than to anyone else that this history did not disappear in the Orwellian black hole of forgotten memory.

When Braham began this work in New York in the 1960s, in Hungary itself, the topic of the Holocaust was still outlawed from historical scholarship. At that time, Braham realized that unless the work of recording the Holocaust was set in motion from outside Hungary, the dignity and memory of over half a million Hungarian Jewish victims of the Holocaust would, perhaps, never be protected.

Since then Braham has produced and edited over sixty books, hundreds of articles and bibliographies, and a magisterial Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary.

As a result of Braham’s gigantic work, the Hungarian Holocaust is regarded today to be among the best-documented chapters in the entire tragedy of the Shoah. This immense achievement – as György Ránki put it – is not likely to be surpassed anytime soon in the future.

And now, let me also say a few personal words about what Randolph Braham means to us, Hungarian historians. As we began our own work, we began by reading Braham’s works, first without even knowing if the term “Braham” referred to an institution or a person. “Just go to Braham” – was the first piece of advice we heard if we were interested in issues of the Holocaust.

And there still is no better advice we could give to our own students.

By today, the term “Braham” came to refer to an entire school of scholarship that our guest has established. A school of an immensely precise, panoramic and microscopic study of the Hungarian Holocaust.

But Braham is not only a great historian. He is also a moral compass for our profession and beyond, for our entire community. He speaks for us even when we may be at a loss for words.

When, a few years back, he was asked in an interview what it is in other people that he dislikes the most, his reply was: “indecency, unreliability, and hypocrisy.” And if he discovers any of these, his personal response is unyielding.

This was precisely the case three years ago when the Hungarian government established the infamous Veritas Institute and erected the German Occupation Memorial.

In response, Braham returned his medal of honor to the government to protest against the blatant drive to falsify history and to whitewash the historical record of the Horthy era. “I reached this decision with a heavy heart” – Braham said. But “I cannot remain silent, especially since it was my destiny to work on the preservation of the historical record of the Holocaust.”

Yes. This is exactly what Braham’s destiny has been. Elie Wiesel put this into more eloquent words than I ever could. To recommend Braham’s work to the public – Elie Wiesel said –, “is more than an act of friendship, it is the duty of remembrance that belongs to the realm of the sacred.”

Welcome in Budapest, Professor Braham.

October 11, 2017
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Gabor Toka
Guest

What a laudatio, so few words, and so much covered in a moving way!

Michael Kaplan
Guest

Wonderful article. Thank you for the fine article on Randolph L. Braham, which is not only a great portrait of Professor Braham, but his scholarship. The moral compass of this great historian can not be over stated. The last point alone is enough to establish the moral bankruptcy of the current regime. I first read Braham before the change when we had precious few works devoted to the Shoah in Hungary. As a first generation Jewish American, I was and am in his intellectual debt.

1956
Guest

Where is the true listing of the low ranking soldiers, policemen, prison guards, gendarme etc. who killed or assisted in killing, looting etc. during the Holocaust?

Too many joined the killing machine, and too few chose resistance.

From the current weak society, it will be a long road to a redemption.

petofi
Guest

@ 1956

Quite correct.
I reference the film (based on the screenwriter’s own father) The Music Box. The film clearly shows that the Hungarian police department and political hierarchy still support ex-nazis.

Hajra Magyarok!

(It is wrong to blame Orban: he is the instrument of divine retribution for what Hungarian society clearly deserves.)

Michael Kaplan
Guest

Deak Istvan estimates that about 200,000 plus Hungarians were involved in the deportation of fellow Hungarians who were Jews and/or of “Jewish origin”, some 400,000 plus in spring/summer of 1944. Some included members of my family. The Germans had only a handful of SS. With out the the Hungarian involvement, no Shoah regarding the vast majority of Hungarian Jews.

Gardonista
Guest

It’s somehow fitting that the event is in the Goldmark Hall. Karl Goldmark was the most important German language opera composer in his time. He grew up in Keszthély but for a time was much less famous than his brother Joseph, who was a leader of the students in the 1848 revolution. Karl was banned by Hitler and since then has been obscure. Violin players know him because of his violin concerto, though my favorite movement of his is the slow movement of his piano trio #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-MhNXVzEn4

Were it not for Joseph Goldmark, I don’t think we’d have a March 15 revolution. Karl’s autobiography was translated from German to English by his aunt, Alice Goldmark Brandeis, wife of Louis Brandeis, one of the 3 most important Supreme Court Justice in American history.

I wonder if the Hungarian government will honor this history on March 15? I suspect not. They are continuing the tradition of ignoring Karl Goldmark. And who started that?

bimbi
Guest

Professor Randolph Braham devoted a life of work and study that the truth should be told and that half a million Hungarians should not be forgotten. A life well lived, surely.

Still today in Hungary the present (transient) government prefers to hide behind its inventions such as the “German Occupation memorial” (“Hungarians would never behave like that, it was all those awful Germans” – from a speech at the Magyarok Háza, Budapest, 1997)) and its historical revisionism. But the truth remains in print and accessible for those who wish to know it, thanks to the devotion, persistence and skill of Professor Braham. His work tells us why historians of courage and honesty are still and again vitally important.

petofi
Guest

@ bimbi

The argument that ‘Hungarians would never act like that’ does not hold water: one needs only to mention that the Hungaricos sent 400,000 jews to Auschwitz when Eichmann had only asked for 100,000.

bimbi
Guest

@petofi, 10:17 a.m.

The quotation above that “Hungarians would never behave like that, it was all those awful Germans” was made in 1997 at the Magyarok Háza in the centre of Budapest to an adult audience, none of whom had the presence of mind to stand up and say, “Rubbish!”. But, and this was my point, that is the way what you call “Hungaricos” like it – “No, it wasn’t us, it wasn’t our fault, it was them”: revisionist history or simply the history of the failed (or selective) memory.
Unfortunately, your number of those deported is much too
optimistic – Jews and Roma.

Marty
Guest

This may be hairsplitting but instead of “Hungarian Jewish victims” I think we should very consistently write “Jewish Hungarian victims”. They were primarily Hungarians. The Hungarian state murdered Hungarians – Hungarians who also happened to be Jewish under some kind of insane legal definition. Using the original wording the victims remain just Jewish victims or just Jews. Its important not to make “others” out of Hungarians whatever their purported ethic or religious origin. They were “us” and not “others”.

Ferenc
Guest

Reading this and the older linked posts about the Holocaust in Hungary, I start to wonder what is currently teached to the children at school about this. What is in the current history schoolbooks about the 1938-45 period? And are there differences regarding this subject between the latest and previous schoolbooks?
Anybody checked this and/or any info about it?

wrfree
Guest

To fulfill his vocation it is evident Prof Braham is made of strong and willful consitution for no doubt each and every day that he delves into the archives of that past event he is contemplating on the facts of mass murder and pure evil. And there cannot be an upside. There is only the cold hard brutal facts.

His feelings must be tempered with anguish yet he goes on burrowing into the evil and confronting death. It is individuals like Prof Braham who keep alive the moral conscience embedded in studying history. They surely are the courageous ones to dive into depths that can be unfathomable.

Istvan
Guest
Off the topic but meanwhile today Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and Pavlo Klimkin, Foreign Minister of Ukraine held a joint press conference in Budapest. Here is a link the Hungarian press report https://mno.hu/hatarontul/szijjarto-amig-a-karpataljaiak-kerik-harcolni-fogunk-nem-hatralunk-2421290 from Magyar Nemzet and here is a press report from the Kyiv Post which did not send a reporter to cover the meeting but instead used a report from the Irish Times https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/ukraine-seeks-to-soothe-hungary-s-anger-at-new-education-law-1.3254061 The Irish Times reports something only lightly discussed in the Magyar Nemzet article which is the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution criticizing the new education law, which Russian deputies described as “an act of ethnocide against the Russian people.” The Ukrainian weekly Zerkalo Nedeli, funded in part by Western NGOs, has an article on the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe discussion in this article https://dt.ua/POLITICS/ritorika-ugorskih-i-rumunskih-deputativ-u-parye-nosit-peredviborniy-harakter-geraschenko-256812_.html If the translation of it I am reading is correct it in part reads: “Aggressive statements by some representatives of the Hungarian and Romanian delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe ( PACE ) were similar to the hidden territorial claims to Ukraine, said the member of the Ukrainian delegation, First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Yes. The Russian interest in Ukraine sadly is the loci of all the underlying stupidities threatening to unravel the continent. Magyars, Romanians and others apparently cannot swoon enough to the tune Putin is spinning. And the Magyars particularly seem not to have learned of the traps again awaiting them.

wpDiscuz