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.
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.
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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.