Marked by Violence: Hungarian Jewish Histories in the Wake of the White Terror, 1919–1922

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  • 1 The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This essay presents a close reading of testimonies of Jewish victim-narrators in the wake of the White Terror, the counter-revolutionary violence that terrorized Hungary in the years following the First World War. It takes a narrative perspective to this remarkable set of sources by looking at how the immediate experiences of violence were narrated and placed into a larger discourse of Jewish national belonging to the Hungarian nation. As such, it brings to light the voices of unknown historical actors in the specific context of post-war Jewish Hungary, as well as in the larger history of anti-Jewish violence in the European diaspora.

  • 3

    J. Katz, ‘The Uniqueness of Hungarian Jewry,’ Forum on the Jewish People, Zionism and Israel 27 (1977) 45–53.

  • 7

    See M. Rigó, ‘Ordinary Women and Men: Superintendents and Jews in the Budapest Yellow-Star Houses in 1944–1945,’ Urban History 40 (2013) 71–91.

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  • 11

    After its initial publication in 1945, The Smell of Humans was not reissued in Hungary until 1984; the first English translation appeared in 1994. The Communists judged Szép unfavourably and he spent his remaining years in poverty and without an audience; contemporaries thought of him as a ‘remnant from a bygone world.’ He died in 1953. For a short biographical account, see the entry ‘Szép, Ernő’ by I. Sanders in The yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe (

  • 12

    Ibid., 33.

  • 13

    Ibid., 85.

  • 14

    Ibid., 13.

  • 15

    Ibid., 33–34. This exemption, however, did not spare his life. Molnár and his wife were murdered in February 1945 by Arrow Cross youths on the streets of Buda. Szép dates their deaths to December 1944 (34), an indication of his ‘exhausted mind’ (32) and the horror of these months.

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