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Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive: Hungary

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The Hungarian experience is one of the largest subjects of the USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive. More than 8,250 of the archive's interviewees talk about Hungary in the periods before, during, and after World War II - and over 6,000 of them were born there. Additionally, almost 5,000 interviewees talk about the areas of Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia that Hungary annexed during World War II. The collection includes 1,370 interviews in the Hungarian language and 808 conducted in Hungary.

The expansion of the Hungary's borders between 1938 and 1941 was an attempt to rectify the perceived injustices of the Versailles Treaty, by which significant portions of what was once traditionally considered Hungary had been given to its neighbors after World War I. The country's association with Nazi Germany assisted the process.

As Czechoslovakia was dismembered by Germany, Hungary acquired territory. In November 1938, in accordance with the First Vienna Award, Hungary gained a strip of southern Slovakia and western Subcarpathia referred to as Felvidék. In March 1939, the Hungarians annexed the remaining part of Subcarpathia, known as Kárpátalja (today part of Western Ukraine). Around 4,900 interviewees were born in these two regions. Under the Second Vienna Award, Hungary acquired large sections of prewar Romania too, in August 1940 annexing Northern Transylvania, birthplace of almost 1,700 interviewees.

In the wake of the German invasion of Yugoslavia of April 1941, Hungary was able to annex parts of that country. Collectively known as Delvidék, these were sections of the Baranja, Backa, and Banat (today part of northern Serbia), as well as small portions of Medjumurje (northern Croatia) and Prekomurje (north eastern Slovenia); this was the birthplace of almost 250 interviewees. Some testimonies from these areas refer to the Novi Sad Massacre (January 21-23, 1942).

The expansion of Hungary's borders brought with it an increase in the number of non-Hungarian citizens, something that concerned the Külföldieket Ellenõrzõ Országos Központi Hatóság (National Center Alien Control Office). Many internment camps were established in Hungary. After the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in summer 1941, Hungarian forces briefly administered some towns in south-western Ukraine (prewar Poland), including Skala and Kolomyja. Hungarian authorities deported a large number of Jews without Hungarian citizenship to this area. In August, over 23,000 of these "alien" Jews were massacred by German and Ukrainian forces in Kamenets-Podol'skii.

Within the borders of the expanded Hungary, anti-Jewish laws were enacted. From 1939 on, men of draft age were conscripted into the forced labor service (Munkaszolgálat), part of the Hungarian army not given weapons and that performed menial and dangerous tasks on the front lines (at least 2,700 interviews relate to this experience). Conscripts to the forced labor battalions often avoided deportation to Auschwitz and were generally marched to camps in Germany and Austria only in late 1944-early 1945. Others were shot, for example in the Pusztavám Massacre (October 16, 1944).

To head off Hungary's negotiations with the Allies, Germany invaded on March 19, 1944. Immediately, they set about enacting the Final Solution at unprecedented speed, assisted by the Hungarian authorities and gendarmerie. Ghettos were established across Hungary and its annexed territories as early as April 1944 (the archive contains information on 172 ghettos in wartime Hungary). Shortly afterwards Jews were being deported en masse to Auschwitz. By that summer, the countryside—everywhere except for Budapest—was Judenrein.

Attempts were made to rescue Hungarian Jewry. Almost 190 testimonies discuss the Kasztner transport, a trainload of Jews from Cluj/Koloszvar who were saved from deportation to Auschwitz by Rezsö Kazstner's negotiations with Adolf Eichmann. Others were also diverted from Auschwitz, such as the "Strasshof transports".

In the capital Budapest, there was initially no ghetto. Instead in summer 1944, Jews were required to move to "Yellow Star houses" (discussed in over 1,000 testimonies). Others were sheltered in the so-called "international ghetto"—Swedish, Swiss, and Spanish protected houses (830 interviews). The actions of consular officials of those nations and of the Vatican contributed to the rescue of thousands. Many Jews in Budapest went into hiding (over 700 testimonies) and/or assumed false identities (over 1,100 testimonies). There are over 230 interviews with survivors who hid in Budapest and who were involved in the underground. Various Zionist organizations were active in the underground in the city, including the Va'adat Ezra ve'Hatzalah.

In numerous testimonies, the role of the Arrow Cross (Hungarian fascist party) is discussed, especially after its leader Ferenc Szálasi came to power in a coup in October 1944.

In November 1944, the Budapest ghetto was established (over 800 interviews). Deportations from the ghetto soon became impossible as the Soviets surrounded the city; executions took place in a nearby racetrack. The archive contains over 1,600 survivors who were liberated in Budapest, including around 370 from the Budapest ghetto in January 1945.

With the end of the war, Budapest became a city through which people traveled searching for relatives, and en route to former homes. Many opted to leave, some immediately, some after the Communist takeover. Over 360 testimonies discuss the 1956 Revolution, around the time of which many more interviewees fled Hungary. Some of those who remained were involved in the Communist administration.


See also: Czechoslovakia, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Yugoslavia


Selected Indexing Terms

Alpan, Moshe

Arrow Cross

Arrow Cross members

Berend, Béla

Brand, Joel

Budapest (Hungary : Ghetto)

Carpathian Sich

Castellanos, I.H.

Császár, Sergeant

Deportáltakat Gondozó Országos Bizottság

deportation centers

deportation of "alien" Jews (Hungary 1941)

Endre, László

Esterházy, Count Móric

Fábián, Dr. Béla

Festetics, Sándor

Fischer, Dr. József

forced labor battalion commanders

forced labor battalion military guard personnel

Freudiger, Fülöp

German invasion of Hungary (March 19, 1944)

Gidófalvy Unit

Glass House (Budapest)

Gömbös, Gyula

Göncz, Árpád

Grosz, Andor

Hain, Péter

Hamvas, Endre

Horthy, Miklós

Hungarian annexation of Carpatho-Ruthenia and Felvidék (November 1938 and March 1939)*

Hungarian annexation of Northern Transylvania (August 1940)**

Hungarian armed forces

Hungarian forced labor battalions

Hungarian invasion of Yugoslavia (April 7, 1941)***

Hungarian occupation conditions

Hungarian police and security forces

Hungarian resistance groups

Hungarian Revolution (October 23-November 4, 1956)

Hungarian soldiers

Imrédy, Béla

Jewish labor servicemen

Kádár, János

Kádár, János

Kállay, Miklós

Kamenets-Podol'skii Massacre

Kassák, Lajos

Kasztner transport

Kasztner, Rezsö

Kéthly, Anna

Kommunisták Magyarországi Pártja

Komoly, Ottó

Krausz, Miklós

Külföldieket Ellenõrzõ Országos Központi Hatóság

Kun, András

KÚT Alapítvány

labor servicewomen


Levente members

Lutz, Charles

Magyar Demokrata Ifjúsági Szövetség

Magyar Függetlenségi Mozgalom

Magyar Izraeliták Országos Irodája

Magyar Szocialista Munkás Párt

Magyarországi Keresztény Zsidók Szövetsége

Magyarországi Szociáldemokrata Párt

Marton, Áron


Miklós Radnóti

military labor conscription

Mindszenty, Cardinal József

Muray, Lipót

Nagy, Imre

Nagy, Vilmos


Novi Sad Massacre (January 21-23, 1942)

Ocskay, László

Országos Magyar Zsidó Segítö Akció

Perlasca, Giorgio

Petö, Ernö

Peyer, Károly

protected houses (Budapest)

protected workshops (Budapest)

protection papers

Pusztavám Massacre

Rákosi, Mátyás

Raoul Wallenberg

Reviczky, Imre

Rotta, Monsignor Angelo

Sanz-Briz, Angel

Serédi, Jusztinián

Sinti and Roma labor servicemen

Slachta, Margit

Strasshoff (Austria : Concentration Camp)

Szakasits, Árpád

Szálasi, Ferenc

Sztehló, Gábor

Sztójay, Döme

Va'adat Ezra ve'Hatzalah

Vas, Zoltán

Wagner, Gyula

Weisz, Arthúr

Wisliceny, Dieter

Yellow Star Houses

Zöldi, Márton


*To find all locations in Hungarian-occupied Slovakia and western Subcarpathia, search for terms which have the word “Felvidék” as part of the synonym. To find all locations in Hungarian-occupied eastern Subcarpathia, search for terms which have the word “Kárpátalja” as part of the synonym.

**To find all locations in Hungarian-occupied Romania, search for terms which have the word “Northern Transylvania” as part of the synonym.

***To find all locations in Hungarian-occupied Yugoslavia, search for terms which have the word “Delvidék” as part of the synonym; the more specific areas can also be searched, e.g “Bacska”, “Baranya”, “Banat”, “Muraköz”, and “Muravidék”.




Selected Bibliography

Bauer, Yehuda. Jews for Sale?: Nazi-Jewish Negotiations, 1933-1945, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

Braham, Randolph. The Politics of Genocide: the Holocaust in Hungary, New York: Columbia University Press, 1981.

Cole, Tim. Holocaust City. The Making of a Jewish Ghetto, New York: Routledge, 2003.

Cole, Tim. Traces of the Holocaust. Journeying in and out of the Ghettos, London: Continuum, 2011.

Gerlach, Christian and Aly, Gotz. Das letze Kapitel. Der Mord an den ungarischen Juden, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2002.

Vági, Zoltán; Csősz, László; and Kádár, Gábor. The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide, Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press in association with the United States Holocaust Museum, 2013.


Visual History Archive Curator

Profile Photo
Anne Grant
Cooper Library
Room 405