The Budapest Ghetto
Tim Cole and Alberto Giordano
This case-study examines the process of ghettoization of the Budapest Jewish population as it unfolded between May 1944 and January 1945 and from the perspectives of the victim, the perpetrator, and the bystander. The spatial scale of analysis is that of the city.
Ghettos were created in Hungary towards the end of the war. According to the national ghetto legislation, Jews were to be concentrated in ghettos in towns and cities with a total population above 10,000. Ghettos reshaped – temporarily – the Hungarian urban environment. There was flexibility in Hungary with regards to the precise nature and shape of ghettoization. Broadly speaking, ghettos varied in terms of whether they were located in the centre v. periphery of towns and cities, and in their degree of concentration v. dispersion from place to place. In some places, a single closed ghetto was created. In other towns and cities, one or more ghetto areas were constructed. Elsewhere, ghettoization was enacted at the scale of the individual house. In Budapest, what we see across 1944 is an enacting of all three strategies, with ghettoization enacted at a variety of scales, down to the single apartment in a building.
A broad range of analytical frameworks are important in trying to understand the evolving shape of ghettoization in Budapest in 1944. Alongside the binaries of concentration v. dispersion and absence v. presence, we work here also with a series of other productive binaries: center v periphery, visibility v. invisibility, accessibility v. inaccessibility. The construction of a historical GIS of the Budapest ghetto allows for exploration of the spatiality of ghettoization at a variety of scales from the city, through the two banks of the Danube (Buda and Pest) and the fourteen wartime districts, to the scale of the street, apartment building and individual apartment. Here we are interested in the different narratives that emerge at differing scales.
Using a variety of spatial analytical tools and methodologies, we examine the dynamics of the ghettoization process in Budapest as an alternate of concentration and dispersion of Jews across the city and characterize the ghettoization process as a tension between creating spaces of absence and spaces of presence of Jews in the city. The Historical GIS we created allowed us to map spaces of potential interaction between Jews and bystanders at the scale of the single building and street. We also mapped the daily lives of the Jews as concerns accessibility to public places and to each other, building a hierarchy of residential segregation and isolation. Together, these analyses allow us to present a compelling multi-scale, multi-temporal study of the Budapest ghetto in its successive implementations.Return to Geographies of the Holocaust »