March 11, 2004
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM CONFERENCE LOOKS AT THE HOLOCAUST IN HUNGARY SIXTY YEARS LATER
Elie Wiesel to Deliver Keynote Address at International Gathering
WASHINGTON, DC — The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (CAHS) of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) are hosting a major international conference on the Holocaust in Hungary at the Museum in Washington, DC, March 16 – 18, 2004. The conference coincides with worldwide commemorations of the 60th Anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary. The Museum’s Founding Chairman, Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel will deliver the keynote address on March 16 at the Museum.
The conference aims to promote international scholarly cooperation and present recent scholarship on the Hungarian Holocaust. Scholars and specialists from Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Romania, the United Kingdom, and the United States will present contemporary research and documentation on the Holocaust in Hungary and its postwar ramifications.
“The murder of Hungarian Jewry, occurring so late in the war, starkly illustrates something we have long come to accept—that for the Nazi leadership genocide was an objective as important as military victory,” states Paul Shapiro, Director of the Museum’s CAHS. “It is perhaps more troubling to consider, and certainly less known, that the Nazis' Hungarian collaborators pursued the destruction of their own countrymen, one of the great Jewish communities of Europe, with equal fervor and equal urgency, killing or delivering to certain death in Auschwitz-Birkenau several hundred thousand innocent men, women and children in the space of a few months. And just as disturbing is that a knowing world stood by and watched. This conference will offer cutting-edge scholarship and an international perspective on the Holocaust in Hungary, the way in which that history has been grappled with in Hungary since 1945, and its relevance today.”
The conference opens Tuesday, March 16, at 7:00 p.m., with a keynote address by Elie Wiesel. The session on Wednesday, March 17, begins at 10:00 a.m. and features a panel presentation with: The Honorable Tom Lantos, United States House of Representative and Member, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council; His Excellency András Simonyi, Ambassador of Hungary to the United States; Randolph Braham, Director, The Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, The Graduate Center, CUNY; and Paul Shapiro, Director, CAHS. For a complete schedule of sessions, please visit the Museum’s Web site, www.ushmm.org/research/center. All programs are free and open to the public.
Media interested in attending the keynote address by Elie Wiesel (March 16) or the conference discussions (March 17 and 18) should contact Andy Hollinger in the Museum’s Media Relations Office at 202-488-6133 or email@example.com.
On April 16 – 18, 2004, The Holocaust Documentation Center and Memorial Collection Public Foundation in Budapest is also organizing a scholars conference, “The Holocaust in Hungary: Sixty Years Later—A European Perspective,” taking place in Budapest.
The Holocaust in Hungary
Hungarian Jews were the only large Jewish population to be deported so late in the war, occurring well after German military defeat was almost a certainty. After World War I, Hungary was ruled by Miklós Horthy, whose regime fostered close ties with Nazi Germany. Horthy had several Prime Ministers who implemented anti-Jewish ordinances as the relationship between the two nations deepened. In March 1942 Horthy appointed Miklós Kállay Prime Minister. Kállay’s predecessor was considered too subservient to Germany, and Kállay sought to establish a more independent course. He resisted German requests to deport Hungarian Jews—although some 20,000 so-called “alien” Jews had been deported in the summer of 1941, most of whom were subsequently murdered near Kamenets-Podolsk in Ukraine.
Germany occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944, and with Horthy’s cooperation replaced Kállay with General Döme Sztójay. Under Sztójay, Hungarian Jews were expropriated, were forced into ghettos and deported from Hungary. In less than two months, nearly 440,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported, primarily to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In early July 1944 the worsening of the German military position and pressure from abroad caused Horthy to halt the deportations. By that time, however, Hungary – with the notable exception of Budapest – was already “judenrein” (cleared of Jews). The Germans replaced Horthy with Ferenc Szálasi, the fanatical leader of the fascist Arrow Cross Party. The anti-Jewish drive resumed and violent attacks were carried out on the remaining Jews living in Budapest until liberation.
At the war’s close, efforts were made to rescue the some 200,000 Jews living in Budapest. Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg worked with the U.S. War Refugee Board and the World Jewish Congress to protect tens of thousands of Jews from deportation. Wallenberg established hospitals, nurseries, a soup kitchen, and set up more than 30 safe houses. Other diplomats from neutral countries helped as well. Carl Lutz, a Swiss diplomat, issued certificates of emigration placing nearly 50,000 Jews under Swiss protection. Italian businessman Giorgio Perlasca posed as a Spanish diplomat, and forged Spanish visas and established safe houses. When Soviet forces liberated Budapest in February 1945, more then 100,000 Jews remained, mostly because of Wallenberg and his colleagues’ efforts.
In 1941, Hungary had approximately 825,000 Jews, including close to 100,000 converts. Approximately 60,000 died or were murdered by the collaborationist regime prior to the German occupation. During the German occupation, about 500,000 Jews were murdered or died from maltreatment.
The Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies promotes the development of the field of Holocaust studies through research, fellowship programs, archival collection, publications, seminars, and conferences. The Center is linked with institutions of higher education through activities that foster quality teaching about the Holocaust at American colleges and universities.
The Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies is one of the five institutes comprising the Center for Jewish Studies of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The Rosenthal Institute sponsors lectures as well as a variety of research and scholarship programs sponsored by the “J. and O. Winter Fund” supported by Gábor Várszegi. It also publishes a Holocaust Studies series.