Jews of Budapest

“What took 5 years to achieve in Poland, was achieved in just 4 weeks in Hungary.”

Hungary was the biggest loser of World War I.  Bitter territorial losses inevitably increased the amount of anti-Semitism within the country.  Discriminatory laws were being created for the Jewish citizens as early as 1919.  Although Jews in Hungary were very comfortable for the latter part of the 19th century, by 1919 they were firmly placed in the enemy alien camp.  The Hungarian Jewish community continued to trudge forward with little turbulence, though, even after the Communist Revolution of 1919 was toppled and the new prime Minister Miklos Horthy instituted many anti-Semitic laws.

By 1944 it was clear that Germany and the Axis powers had lost the war.  Hungarian authorities tried to distance themselves from Hitler and associate with the Allies again (thinking that this might soften the terms for surrender.)  Hitler was very swift to put an end to any prospect of negotiations occuring between the Allies and Hungarians – he occupied the nation on March 19, 1944.

Between April and July 1944, the Nazis deported all the Jews in the outer provinces of Hungary.  At the end of July, only the Jews of Budapest remained.  Instead of pushing them into a ghetto, Hungarian authorities ordered the Jews into over 2,000 designated buildings scattered throughout the city. The buildings were marked with Stars of David.

Star of David marks houses.
Hungarian jewish family
(Above) Hungarian Jewish family takes a portrait. The family pictured would die in the coming months of 1944.

(Left) Jewish people of Budapest were the last surviving Jews in all of Hungary by June 1944. Instead of concentrating them into a ghetto, they were remanded to living in around 2,000 apartments that were all marked with a Star of David.

The Jews of Budapest were the only remaining Jews in all of Hungary by summer of 1944 – the rest had all been shipped to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Almost all the Hungarian Jews were selected for gassing when they arrived.  A shipment of about 25,000 Hungarian Jews from the suburbs of Budapest were deported right before they stopped deportations in July, 1944.

Unfortunately, the more moderate side of the Hungarian government lost out and by October of 1944 a new fascist regime had come into power.  The ultra-nationalist Arrow Cross party had usurped the presidency and they were more than willing to comply with Adolf Eichmann’s desires.

On November 8, 1944, the local Hungarian militia herded more than 70,000 Jews in the Ujlaki brickyards in Obuda, and from there forced them to begin the death march towards Austria. Stopping along the way for a break meant certain death as the guards shot anyone who couldn’t keep up. The survivors of the march were brought to various camps around Germany and Austria.

The final chapter of Hungarian Jewry was when the remaining Jews in Budapest were packed into a ghetto.  During the last two months of 1944, Hungarian police shot over 20,000 people on the banks of the Danube River.  Today a memorial stands to commemorate them.

Empty street of Sighet Ghetto after its liquidation.

Woman at entrance to Mukacs ghetto has her papers checked.

Hungarian Jews who perished on the death march, 1944.

Victims of Hungarian Arrow Cross party discovered in the courtyard of the Pestor street Synagogue in Budapest.

Members of the Fascist Arrow Cross Party taking over.

Arrow Cross party members execute Jewish civilians.

Read More about the Holocaust in Hungary