2008–09 Gerald M. Fisch Memorial Fellow Professor László Karsai
László Karsai is Professor of History at the University of Szeged in Hungary. He received a Ph.D. in history from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and an M.A. in history from the University Eötvös Loránd in Budapest. For his Gerald M. Fisch Memorial Fellowship, Professor Karsai will conduct research for his project “Hitler’s Last Ally: Ferenc Szalasi (1897-1946): A Political Biography.”
In addition to his position at the University of Szeged, Professor Karsai is Director of the Holocaust Center of the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives and Head of the Yad Vashem Research Group in Hungary. He led the team of historians that organized Hungary’s first permanent exhibition on the Holocaust which is on display in Budapest. Professor Karsai is the author of The Hungarian Quisling-government: Döme Sztójay and His Associates before the People’s Court, in collaboration with Dr. Judit Molnár, (Párhuzamos Archívum, 2004); Holokauszt (Pannonica K., 2001); The Welcomers: Writings against Anti-Semitism 1882-1993 (Aura K., 1993); and The Gypsy Problem in Hungary 1919-1945: Toward the Gypsy Holocaust (Cserépfalvi K., 1992). He has also written many book chapters and articles in scholarly journals, including “The Last Chapter of the Holocaust” in Yad Vashem Studies (2006); “Shylock is Whetting His Blade”: Fear of the Jews’ Revenge in Hungary during World War II” in editor David Bankier’s The Jews are Coming Back: The Return of the Jews to Their Countries of Origin after WWII (2005); and “Die Rettung ungarischer Juden 1944” [Rescuing Hungarian Jews in 1944] in editor Stefan August Lütgenau’s Paul Esterházy 1901-1989 (2005). Professor Karsai is a native Hungarian speaker and has fluent in English and French.
During his tenure at the Center, Professor Karsai will conduct research for a political biography of Ferenc Szálasi, Hungarian right-wing extremist and founder of the Arrow Cross party. A self-proclaimed anti-Semite, Szálasi strove to rid all Jews from Hungary rather than limit their rights and nationalize their property. Before the U.S. Army took him into custody in May 1945 and later tried and executed him in Budapest (March 12, 1946.), Szálasi collaborated with Nazi-Germany and sent approximately 200,000 Jews to forced labor camps or ghettos during his six-month rule of German-occupied Hungary. Professor Karsai’s project seeks to not judge or condemn Szálasi but instead understand him and how he came to be a man of significant influence in Hungarian politics. To complete his research, Professor Karsai will use several of the Museum’s archival collections including Hungarian political and military records and legal documents pertaining to Arrow Cross leaders.