Catastrophe And Utopia: Jewish Intellectuals In Central And Eastern Europe In The 1930s And 1940s 3110555433, 9783110555431, 3110557088, 9783110557084

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Catastrophe And Utopia: Jewish Intellectuals In Central And Eastern Europe In The 1930s And 1940s
 3110555433,  9783110555431,  3110557088,  9783110557084

Table of contents :
Foreword......Page 6
Table of contents......Page 8
Introduction......Page 10
Part I: The Rupture of 1933 and New Expressions of Jewishness in the Age of Nazi Germany......Page 22
Utopia as Everyday Practice......Page 24
‘What Will Become of the German Jews?’......Page 54
‘Jewishness’ in the Diary of Milán Füst......Page 80
Part II: Modernity and the Search for Identity......Page 98
The New Type of Internationalist......Page 100
‘Europe’ – It’s such a strange word for me!......Page 122
Part III: Unprecedented Catastrophe and Lines of Discursive Continuity......Page 162
A Liberal Utopia Againt All Odds......Page 164
From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews......Page 184
Across the Rupture......Page 214
Part IV: From Utopias to Post-war Trajectories......Page 230
From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism......Page 232
Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest in the First Half of the Twentieth Century......Page 272
On the Ice Floe: Rachel Auerbach – The Life of a Yiddishist Intellectual in Early Twentieth Century Poland......Page 313
List of Contributors......Page 362

Citation preview

Ferenc Laczó and Joachim von Puttkamer (eds.) Catastrophe and Utopia

Europas Osten im 20. Jahrhundert Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century  Schriften des Imre Kertész Kollegs Jena Publications of the Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena Herausgegeben von/Edited by Włodzimierz Borodziej Michal Kopeček Joachim von Puttkamer

Band/Volume 7

Catastrophe and Utopia  Jewish Intellectuals in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1930s and 1940s Edited by Ferenc Laczó and Joachim von Puttkamer

The Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena “Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Comparative Historical Experience” at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena is an institute for the advanced study of the history of Eastern Europe in the twentieth century. The Kolleg was founded in October 2010 as the ninth Käte Hamburger Kolleg of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). The directors of the Kolleg are Professor Dr Joachim von Puttkamer and PhDr. Michal Kopeček.

ISBN 978-3-11-055543-1 e-ISBN (PDF) 978-3-11-055934-7 e-ISBN (EPUB) 978-3-11-055708-4 ISSN 2366-9489 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress. Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über abrufbar. © 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston Satz: bsix information exchange GmbH, Braunschweig Druck und Bindung: CPI books GmbH, Leck ♾ Gedruckt auf säurefreiem Papier Printed in Germany

Foreword Some of the core ideas of this volume were first raised at the panel ‘Catastrophe and Engagement: On Jewish Intellectual Trajectories’, which was part of Catastrophe and Utopia: Central and Eastern European Intellectual Horizons, 1933 to 1958, the 2013 annual conference of the Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena held in cooperation with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. The volume took more concrete shape as the result of a one-day authorial workshop hosted by the Center for Historical Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin on 9 May 2015. The editors are grateful to both institutions for their cooperation and hospitality. We are especially grateful to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research for its generous financial support of our initiative. We would also like to thank Jasper Tilbury, David Burnett, Thomas N. Lampert and Peter Sherwood for their excellent translations of those four chapters that were originally submitted in Polish, German and Hungarian. Jonathan Lutes, Adam Bresnahan, Dylan J. Cram and Ben Robbins put great efforts into copy-editing the remaining papers. Daniela Gruber and Jaime Hyatt have held together the strings from all over Europe and successfully managed the editing process. Finally, we wish to thank Jaime Hyatt for all the highly diligent and conscientious work she has invested into ironing out many minor and a few major flaws, and for giving this manuscript its final touch.

Ferenc Laczó Joachim von Puttkamer

Table of contents Ferenc Laczó Introduction  1

Part I: The Rupture of 1933 and New Expressions of Jewishness in the Age of Nazi Germany Ines Koeltzsch Utopia as Everyday Practice Jewish Intellectuals and Cultural Translation in Prague before and after 1933  15 Marija Vulesica What Will Become of the German Jews? National Socialism, Flight and Resistance in the Intellectual Debate of Yugoslav Zionists in the 1930s  45 Gábor Schein ‘Jewishness’ in the Diary of Milán Füst  71

Part II: Modernity and the Search for Identity Eszter Gantner The New Type of Internationalist The Case of Béla Balázs  91 Małgorzata A. Quinkenstein ‘Europe’ – It’s such a strange word for me! A Portrait of Arthur Bryks against the Background of the Events of the Mid-Twentieth Century  113 Camelia Crăciun ‘Virtually ex nihilo’ The Emergence of Yiddish Bucharest during the Interwar Period  133

VIII  Table of contents

Part III: Unprecedented Catastrophe and Lines of Discursive Continuity Clara Royer A Liberal Utopia Against All Odds The Survivor Writers of The Progress (Haladás), 1945–1948  155 Ferenc Laczó From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews Early Hungarian Jewish Monographs on the Holocaust  175 Ilse Josepha Lazaroms Across the Rupture Jewish Survivor-Writers and the Landscapes of War in Post-war East-Central Europe  205

Part IV: From Utopias to Post-war Trajectories Tamás Scheibner From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism Imre Keszi in the Thrall of Utopias  223 Felicia Waldman Avatars of Being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest in the First Half of the Twentieth Century  263 Karolina Szymaniak Rachel Auerbach, or the Trajectory of a Yiddishist Intellectual in Poland in the First Half of the Twentieth Century  304

List of Contributors  353

Ferenc Laczó

Introduction The present volume studies the biographical trajectories, intellectual agendas and major accomplishments of select Jewish intellectuals during the age of Nazism, and the partly simultaneous, partly subsequent period of the incipient Stalinization of Central and Eastern Europe.1 This region may have been the primary centre of Jewish life prior to the Holocaust, may have served as the main geographical setting of the Nazi genocide and may also have had notable communities of survivors, but its highly varied Jewish intellectual history has nonetheless remained relatively underexplored in international scholarship. Being guided by the key concepts of catastrophe and utopia, the twelve case studies offered here thus aspire to make important contributions to a European Jewish intellectual history of the twentieth century. Exploring specific historical experiences in their diverse local contexts, individual papers analyze various Jewish reactions to the most abysmal discontinuity represented by the Holocaust while also exploring more subtle lines of continuity in Jewish thinking. They are based on the perception that there is a shortage of theoretically informed and empirically detailed studies on how Central and Eastern European Jewish intellectuals responded to the unprecedented catastrophe and renegotiated their utopian commitments over time and how the complex relationship between the two evolved. All that seemed clear when we first began our explorations was that surviving the Holocaust could as much lead one to support various forms of utopianism – and in some cases, even to temporary moral blindness – as it could foster profound dissections of oppressive systems and result in courageous condemnations of their crimes. As the cases of several formidable intellectuals demonstrate, the two would at times form a sequence.2 Upon the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism, historians of Nazi Germany have increasingly turned their attention eastwards without losing sight of the all-European dimensions of the Holocaust.3 This trend has more re1 I would like to thank Włodzimierz Borodziej for his helpful suggestions. 2 See the exceptionally lucid explanation of such processes in János Kornai, By Force of Thought: Irregular Memoirs of an Intellectual Journey (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006). See also Felicia Waldman’s contribution in this volume in particular. 3 Dieter Pohl, Von der ‘Judenpolitik’ zum Judenmord: Der Distrikt Lublin des Generalgouvernements 1939–1944 (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1993); Dieter Pohl, Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung in Ostgalizien 1941–1944 (München: Oldenbourg, 1996); Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte

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cently been complemented by the emergence of the Polish-language series Zagłada Żydów as a leading forum for new research.4 Innovative studies into the Eastern theatres of war resulted in altered images of both the perpetrators and the Judeocide as such.5 However, this momentous shift was not accompanied by a similarly marked focus on Central and Eastern Europe as a site of Jewish life and death in the age of catastrophe.6 In the German scholarly context in particular, despite the laudable openness of many researchers towards Central and Eastern European themes, German Jewish historiography has only partially been transformed into a more inclusive Central and Eastern European one. Beyond the rather exceptional case of Poland, Central and Eastern European subjects have not yet received sufficient attention in Jewish historiography outside Germany either. This is all the more regrettable since few topics in the intellectual history of several Central and Eastern European countries – besides Poland, Hungary and Romania also offer key examples in this regard – have remained so sensitive as the trajectories, agendas and roles of Jewish intellectuals in the period of Stalinism. In light of the continued influence of the Judeo-Bolshevik myth in Central and Eastern Europe, it comes as no surprise that Jewish intellectuals’ engagement with and reactions to the promises and practices of Sovietization in Central and Eastern Europe remain especially controversial subjects. Considering the anti-Zionist campaigns of the post-war period epitomized, above all, by the events of 1968 in Poland, a similar statement may be formulated concerning how local Jewish intellectuals have related to Jewish nation building. We ought to recall that the imposition of Stalinist regimes implied a large-scale tabooiza-

Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weißrussland 1941 bis 1944 (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1999); Christian Gerlach and Götz Aly, Das letzte Kapitel: Realpolitik, Ideologie und der Mord an den ungarischen Juden 1944/45 (Stuttgart/Munich: S. Fischer, 2002); Tatjana Tönsmeyer, Das Dritte Reich und die Slowakei 1939–1945 (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2005); Christoph Dieckmann, Deutsche Besatzungspolitik in Litauen 1941–1944 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2011); Simon Geissbühler, Blutiger Juli: Rumäniens Vernichtungskrieg und der vergessene Massenmord an den Juden 1941 (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2013). 4 See Zagłada Żydów: Studia i Materiały, I–X [Holocaust Studies and materials, I–X] (2005– 2014). 5 See Ulrich Herbert, ‘Holocaust-Forschung in Deutschland: Geschichte und Perspektiven einer schwierigen Disziplin’ in Der Holocaust: Ergebnisse und neue Fragen der Forschung, eds, Frank Bajohr and Andrea Löw (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 2015). 6 In her recent discussion of the aforementioned Editionsprojekt, project coordinator Susanne Heim highlighted in particular that the cases of Hungary and South-East European countries remain under-researched. See Susanne Heim, ‘Neue Quellen, neue Fragen? Eine Zwischenbilanz des Editionsprojekts “Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäische Juden”’ in Bajohr and Löw, Der Holocaust: Ergebnisse und neue Fragen.

Introduction 


tion of Jewish themes in Central and Eastern Europe, which – ironically – coincided in time with the foundation of the state of Israel. The late 1940s would thus bring a rather paradoxical reassessment of Jewish intellectuals’ relation to Zionism; celebrating the accomplishment of the movement’s main goal and the forced suppression of any open affiliation to it proved to be parallel developments. It is widely agreed that upon the publication of the two volumes of Nazi Germany and the Jews, Saul Friedländer’s integrated history of the Holocaust, the latest, mainstream historiography has come to conceive of the study of Jewish perspectives as an essential part of depicting the Nazi era as it unfolded.7 Several ongoing scholarly publications, such as the Jewish Responses to Persecution, 1933–1946 series or the German-language Editionsprojekt Judenverfolgung, aim to map diverse Jewish perspectives in the age of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust on an unprecedented scale. The five volumes of the former project, a key part of the larger Documenting Life and Destruction: Holocaust Sources in Context series released under the auspices of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, is exclusively devoted to such perspectives in a transnational manner.8 The planned 16 volumes of the latter German-language project with an all-European scope may also be seen as a clear step toward the increased incorporation of such perspectives in a national academic context where they

7 Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, 1933–1939 (New York: Harper Collins, 1997); Saul Friedländer, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939–1945 (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007). On Friedländer’s work and historiographical context in English, see Christian Wiese and Paul Betts, eds, Years of Persecution, Years of Extermination: Saul Friedländer and the Future of Holocaust Studies (London: Continuum, 2010). For a most recent reconsideration of Friedländer’s impact in the broader context of the transformation and new challenges of Holocaust culture, see Claudio Fogu, Wulf Kansteiner and Todd Presner, eds, Probing the Ethics of Holocaust Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2016). 8 See: Jürgen Matthäus and Mark Roseman, eds, Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume I, 1933–1938 (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2010); Alexandra Garbarini with Emil Kerenji, Jan Lambertz and Avinoam Patt, eds, Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume II, 1938–1940 (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2011); Jürgen Matthäus with Emil Kerenji, Jan Lambertz and Leah Wolfson, eds, Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume III, 1941–1942 (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2013); Emil Kerenji, ed., Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume IV, 1942–1943 (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015); Leah Wolfson, ed., Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume V, 1944–1946 (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). For a review essay on the series, see my own Ferenc Laczó, ‘Agency and Unpredictability’ in Yad Vashem Studies 44, no. 1 (2016).

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tended to be rather marginalized in previous decades or may even have been entirely ignored.9 There is a long-standing historiographical debate on the extent to which 1945 ought to be qualified as a rupture. Where Nazi mass violence and their survivors are concerned, recent years have not only seen a special scholarly interest in the last phases of the war,10 but several newer studies have also devoted attention to the aftermath of liberation.11 The debate on continuities was thus relaunched in novel ways. In recent years, the plethora of early Jewish intellectual responses to the Holocaust have been rediscovered and analyzed more thoroughly than ever before. Laura Jockusch published a widely praised transnational overview of major historical commissions and documentation centres that persecuted Jews had already established during the war years in occupied Poland and France or survivors had launched practically immediately upon their liberation.12 Scholars such as Boaz Cohen or Hasia Diner have in the meantime focused attention on early post-war reactions to the Holocaust in the two major Jewish centres outside Europe: the newly founded state of Israel and the United States, respectively.13 It may also be seen as indicative of wider changes in Jewish historiography that, in recognition of the irreparable destruction, historians of German Jewry had long preferred to end their narratives with the time of Nazism and the expulsion or murder of German Jews, referencing the years since 1945 in postscripts at most, but that more recently they have also began to devote detailed attention to the post-war period. This ongoing process is perhaps best symbolized by the release of what might be seen as an unofficial fifth volume of the

9 The first volume in the series was published in 2008. At the time of writing in 2016, nine out of the planned sixteen volumes have been released. According to current plans, all sixteen of them will also appear in English translation. 10 Ian Kershaw, The End: Hitler’s Germany, 1944–45 (London: Allen Lane, 2011); Daniel Blatman, The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010); Stefan Hördler, Ordnung und Inferno: Das KZ-System in letzten Kriegsjahr (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2015). 11 For this, see David Cesarani, Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933–1949 (London: Macmillan, 2015). On the consequences of liberation, now see Dan Stone, The Liberation of the Camps: The End of the Holocaust and its Aftermath (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015). 12 Laura Jockusch, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). 13 Hasia Diner, We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945–1962 (New York: NYU Press, 2009); Boaz Cohen, Israeli Holocaust Research: Birth and Evolution (London: Routledge, 2012).



Leo Baeck Institute’s German-Jewish History in Modern Times.14 The growing interest in the seven decades since 1945 has already yielded intriguing intellectual historical works as well.15 The present volume draws on key lessons of such documentation and research projects with an all-European or more narrowly Central European scope to offer case studies on the biographies, agendas and accomplishments of Central and Eastern European Jewish intellectuals from the interwar years up to the Holocaust, and, in the case of the minority of survivors, from the Holocaust until the late 1940s in particular. We are convinced that the study of this relatively neglected region promises to yield important original insights into Jewish intellectual history and, more particularly, into Jewish intellectuals’ complex negotiation of catastrophe and utopia. After all, Central and Eastern Europe served as the major stage of Jewish life until the Holocaust. On the eve of the Second World War in early 1939, the Polish, Romanian, Hungarian and Czechoslovak Jewish communities constituted the four largest in Europe west of the Soviet Union. In the course of the next six years, the great majority of them – and others from all over Europe – were murdered by the German Nazis and their accomplices within the territory of the historical region stretching from the Baltics to the Adriatic – above all, in that of occupied Poland. These territories were subsequently Sovietized with momentous consequences for their post-war memory regimes and arguably also for the post-war memory regime regarding Jewish history and the Holocaust across the globe. The exact definition of who qualifies as a Holocaust survivor may have remained contested up to today, but it is among the uncontroversial facts that in the early post-war period, Central and Eastern Europe had some of the largest communities of survivors. With the nearly complete annihilation of the largest and most prolific Polish Jewish community, Paris, Bucharest and Budapest

14 See Michael Brenner, ed., Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland von 1945 bis zur Gegenwart (München: C.H. Beck, 2012); the four volumes covering German-Jewish history until 1945 that were published in 1996 as Michael A. Meyer and Michael Brenner, eds, German-Jewish History in Modern Times I–IV (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). The original four volumes were respectively titled Tradition and Enlightenment 1600–1780; Emancipation and Acculturation 1780–1871; Integration in Dispute 1871–1918; Renewal and Destruction 1918–1945. (Note the telling change in the German title to a history of Jews in Germany.) 15 For example, leading Jewish intellectuals’ relations to and activities in post-war Germany serve as the subject of the following intriguing volume: Monika Boll and Raphael Gross, eds, ‘Ich staune, dass Sie in dieser Luft atmen können’: Jüdische Intellektuelle in Deutschland nach 1945 (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer, 2013).

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emerged as the three most sizable urban communities on the continent.16 After the end of the Holocaust, two of the four largest Jewish communities in Europe west of the Soviet Union may have resided in its western half – in France and in Great Britain – but the other two lived in Central and Eastern Europe with Romania’s being, despite the massive early involvement of Romania in the Holocaust, the largest of them all.17 The presence of such substantial communities of survivors in what by 1945 belonged to the Soviet-dominated parts of Europe make the question of intellectual continuities and change – whether they are of a personal, discursive or, to employ Clara Royer’s apt phrase from her study in the present volume, illusory kind – all the more relevant to explore. It stands to reason that, irrespective of how much we may be inclined to perceive the Holocaust as the ultimate rupture in human civilization, intellectuals of the time tried to respond to the Nazi genocide through means already at their disposal. However, we currently possess too little precise knowledge in which ways such intellectual continuities were manifest in Central and Eastern Europe and, more particularly, what specific expressions such continuities found with regard to the unprecedented Jewish catastrophe. Scholarly discussions of Jewish responses beyond Central and Eastern Europe have in fact already repeatedly addressed the question of continuity.18 As illustrated by a recent scholarly exchange between Beate Meyer, Andrea Löw and Dan Michman, a key point of difference seems to be whether to conceptualize Jewish behaviour between 1933 and 1945 as a more immediate reaction to the drastically worsening circumstances under Nazi rule, as both Löw and Meyer have done in their respective monographs on the Litzmannstadt ghetto and the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland,19 or to try to embed them in 16 For figures concerning 1948, see Michael Brenner, Kleine jüdische Geschichte (München: C. H.Beck, 2008), 365. With 234,000 Jewish inhabitants, London had by far the largest Jewish community in Europe, followed by Bucharest, Paris and Budapest, with 160,000, 125,000 and 110,000 inhabitants, respectively. 17 Ibid., 364. According to the figures Michael Brenner provides, Romania had 380,000 Jewish citizens, Great Britain 345,000, France 235,000 and Hungary 174,000. 18 See Andrea Löw, ‘Handlungsspeilräume und Reaktionen des jüdischen Bevölkerung in Ostmitteleuropa’, Beate Meyer, ‘Nicht nur Objekte staatlichen Handelns: Juden im Deutschen Reich und Westeuropa’, Dan Michman, ‘Handeln und Erfahrung: Bewältigungsstrategien im Kontext der jüdischen Geschichte’, all in Bajohr and Löw, Der Holocaust: Ergebnisse und neue Fragen. 19 See Andrea Löw, Juden im Getto Litzmannstadt: Lebensbedingungen, Selbstwahrnehmung, Verhalten (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006); Beate Meyer, Tödliche Gratwanderung: Die Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland zwischen Hoffnung, Zwang, Selbstbehauptung und Verstrickung (1939–1945) (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006).



longer continuities of Jewish history as was suggested by Dan Michman.20 Regarding the major intellectual activities of survivors in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, Laura Jockusch’s abovementioned monograph similarly revealed intriguing lines of methodological as well as interpretative continuity with responses to brutal forms of anti-Jewish violence from the late nineteenth century onwards. One of the key motivating factors behind this volume was our sense that Jockusch’s thesis would be worth testing on additional pools of sources in further languages of Central and Eastern Europe. We suggested to our group of authors to try to approach this issue through analyzing the dialectic between catastrophe and utopia, hoping that they might be usefully employed as key analytical categories in the diverse cases they study. As the reader shall see, these concepts, one might say inevitably, ended up playing more central roles in some case studies than others – they may not have proven especially relevant in all cases but do guide crucial arguments of the majority. We as editors fully realize that the concept of Central and Eastern Europe does not belong among the most frequently employed regional labels in Jewish historiography, the Jewish geographical-ethnic imaginary being dominated rather by an opposition between Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The profound impact of extreme forms of violence – anti-Semitic but also otherwise – across the region and their much contested relation to spatial categories nonetheless makes a special focus on Central and Eastern Europe worthwhile for the decades under analysis.21 To a certain extent, the geographical framing of our volume overlaps with the bloodlands as conceptualized by Timothy Snyder.22 However, our coverage, while admittedly neglecting the eastern parts treated in Snyder’s much-discussed book, also includes places to their south and southwest, such as Romania, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Not being directly impacted by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with the sole exception of Romania, the historical trajectories of the aforementioned places significantly differed from that of Poland, especially regarding the roles played by Hungary and Romania as well as the newly established states of Slovakia and Croatia during 20 See Michman, ‘Handeln und Erfahrung’. See also his earlier: Dan Michman, ‘Understanding the Jewish Dimension of the Holocaust’ in The Fate of the European Jews, 1939–1945: Continuity or Contingency?, ed. Jonathan Frankel (New York: Oxford University Press USA, 1997); see also Norman J. W. Goda, ed., Jewish Histories of the Holocaust: New Transnational Approaches (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014). 21 See, most recently, Jörg Baberowski, Räume der Gewalt (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 2015). 22 Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

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the Second World War as allies of Nazi Germany and co-perpetrators of the Holocaust. It was the factum of widespread and relatively autonomous support of the Axis cause and profound involvement in the continent-wide radicalization of anti-Semitism that led us to raise our second research question, namely how did the relations of Central and Eastern European Jewish intellectuals to the national cultures and political traditions of their countries transform between the 1930s and the early post-war period? More concretely, what characterized their intellectual reactions to policies of exclusion, persecution and extermination in comparative and transnational frames? How important were the often-remarked externalization attempts in Jewish intellectual circles – attempts to symbolically marginalize local responsibility by an almost exclusive focus on the role of Nazi Germany – and what was their exact function in various contexts and at different moments in time?23 Reflecting on these two main questions in a, for Jewish intellectual history, rather original regional frame, the twelve case studies are ultimately meant to offer insights into how the Jewish catastrophe and the utopian commitments of intellectuals were negotiated. They are further meant as a preliminary inquiry into the added value that a novel dialogue between intellectual histories of Central and Eastern European countries might bring. The first section ‘The Rupture of 1933 and New Expressions of Jewishness in the Age of Nazi Germany’ focuses on divergent attempts of Jewish intellectuals to redefine their place and role when the Nazi threat was already tangible and growing but not yet at its most horrendously acute. As the articles in this section show, the refugee problem emerged as a key concern among Yugoslav Zionists and intellectual mediation turned into an ever more timely and urgent pursuit in Prague. However, a profound sense of alienation from all things Jewish and a deepening crisis of the self may also have resulted from the radicalization of anti-Semitism. The section begins with Ines Koeltzsch’s ‘Utopia as Everyday Practice: Jewish Intellectuals and Cultural Translation in Prague before and after 1933’, which looks at attempts of cultural mediation between Ger23 Regarding Hungary in particular, Guy Miron has focused attention on Hungarian Jewish attempts at an externalization of anti-Semitism prior to the Holocaust, their recurrent ambition to depict it as something alien to the true spirit of the country. In his comparative study, Miron maintained that such attempts had close parallels among French Jews. See Guy Miron, The Waning of Emancipation: Jewish History, Memory, and the Rise of Fascism in Germany, France, and Hungary (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2011). Intriguingly, the thesis of externalization is central to the argument of Regina Fritz in her book on Hungarian history politics’ treatment of the Holocaust since 1944. See Regina Fritz, Nach Krieg und Judenmord: Ungarns Geschichtspolitik seit 1944 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2012).



man and Czech literatures, a cultural-political strategy of special importance in interwar Czechoslovakia. Studying a loose and permeable network of mutual promotion of German and Czech, Jewish and non-Jewish writers who did not easily fit dominant conceptions of identity, Koeltzsch argues that the everyday practices of these intellectual mediators could be seen as a reaction to the rise of Nazi Germany and growing radical nationalism within Czechoslovakia, even if such mediators did not fully break with nation-centred visions either. The paper by Marija Vulesica titled ‘“What Will Become of the German Jews?” National Socialism, Flight and Resistance in the Intellectual Debate of Yugoslav Zionists in the 1930s’ looks at the positions, opinions and demands articulated by three crucial Zionist personalities of interwar Yugoslavia in reaction to the early – but already radical – anti-Semitic policies of Nazi Germany and the consequent flight of a substantial number of German Jews to Yugoslavia. Vulesica shows how important the German Jews’ situation proved to be in the Yugoslav Zionist milieu, both as a practical matter and as a topic in intellectual discussion; yet, she also notes that the latter, being influenced by ideological visions, did not always address the – often traumatic – everyday experiences of persecuted Jews in an adequate manner. ‘“Jewishness” in the Diary of Milán Füst’ by Gábor Schein offers psychological, aesthetic and social historical reflections on poet and writer Milán Füst, a writer of Jewish ‘origin’ in increasingly anti-Semitic Hungary. As Schein shows, Füst may have avoided Jewish themes in his published works, but on the pages of his diary, his deep crisis of self-perception became manifest in recurrent – and at times, pointed – discussions of Jewishness as something alien to the author. The papers assembled under the heading ‘Modernity and the Search for Identity’ analyze three attempts by Jewish intellectuals to deal with the prevalent sense of crisis of the interwar years: the rather desperate search for new artistic expressions and networks, the conscious construction of a new internationalist role, and the redeployment of Yiddish, a previously much-stigmatized Jewish language through key mediums of modern culture. In her contribution titled ‘The New Type of Internationalist: The Case of Béla Balázs’, Eszter Gantner provides new insights into the much-debated presence and roles of Jewish intellectuals in radical-progressivist movements through a case study of Béla Balázs’ biography and major works. Gantner explains that Balázs, a key representative of cultural modernity, was permanently seeking for communal bonds and universal beliefs, and also shows how – having partially absorbed the often anti-Semitically coded topoi of rootlessness – he eventually constructed a cosmological model of a new internationalist intellectual. Małgorzata A. Quinkenstein’s ‘“Europe” – It’s such a strange word for me! A Portrait of Arthur Bryks against the Background of the Events of the Mid-Twentieth Century’, a paper on

10  Ferenc Laczó

a related theme, focuses on the international activities of a Hasidic emigré artist from Poland. Sketching the rather unusual geographical mobility and networks of Arthur Bryks in the decades prior to the Holocaust, Quinkenstein’s contribution embeds this Jewish artist’s post-war attempts to find his place in a ruined world in a broader context. Camelia Crăciun’s “‘Virtually ex nihilo’: The Emergence of Yiddish Bucharest during the Interwar Period” in turn provides an explanation of how Bucharest emerged as a centre of Yiddish culture in interwar Romania. Highlighting the key role of Yankev Sternberg and theatre in particular, but noting also that of a newly emerging Yiddish-language belletristic and press, Crăciun shows that Yiddish cultural expressions attracted acculturated Jews in interwar Bucharest and at the height of their popularity could also count on non-Jewish audiences. Section three includes three studies under the heading ‘Unprecedented Catastrophe and Lines of Continuity’. They explore publicistic, monographic and belletristic early post-war responses to what came to be conceived as the seminal catastrophe of twentieth-century Europe while also reflecting on the meaning of personal and discursive continuities in their original historical contexts. Clara Royer’s ‘A Liberal Utopia Against All Odds: The Survivor Writers of The Progress (Haladás), 1945–1948’ focuses on Haladás during the early post-war years, a weekly written by representatives of the urbánus intellectual tradition of Hungary. It shows that key contributors of Haladás relentlessly covered topics related to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust (avant la lettre) while pursuing an agenda of Hungarian re-assimilation. As Royer underlines, a widely shared ‘illusion of continuity’ could at times make their polemics appear like mere resumption of pre-war quarrels – despite the radical rupture of the war years. Ferenc Laczó’s study ‘From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews: Early Hungarian Jewish Monographs on the Holocaust’ analyzes and compares the intellectual responses articulated on the pages of three of the most significant Hungarian Jewish monographs published on the very recent catastrophe right before the Stalinization of the country. Emphasizing how sophisticated and pluralistic early Hungarian Jewish intellectual responses were, the author explores both the discursive traditions Hungarian Jewish survivors in the early post-war years drew on and their impressive intellectual achievements which have barely been matched since. Ilse Lazaroms’ ‘Across the Rupture: Jewish Survivor-Writers and the Landscapes of War in Post-war East-Central Europe’ probes the literary imagination of Ernő Szép and Jiří Weil, two writers accomplishing significant works of documentary fiction amidst the ruins of the Nazi genocide. As Lazaroms highlights, Szép’s and Weil’s reflections on the recent catastrophe were embedded in a longer-term perspective on Jewish life in Europe. She also shows that, far from offering heroic tales, these early post-war



works rather tell of living through death and re-emerging into the world, tattered and broken. Last but not least, ‘From Utopias to Post-war Trajectories’ focuses on Jewish intellectuals from Central and Eastern Europe whose current fame stems primarily from their post-war activities. As all three articles underline and explore in their different ways, Jewish post-war intellectual trajectories need to be related to those of the pre-Holocaust and Holocaust era in order to be properly understood. Felicia Waldman’s overview ‘Avatars of Being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest in the First Half of the Twentieth Century’ systematically compares the various choices as well as the divergent fates of Jewish professors in the humanities and the sciences at Romania’s key university in the age of catastrophe and utopia. More concretely, Waldman’s contribution analyzes the respective levels of merit, concessions, suffering and professional gains of professors appointed at the University of Bucharest before 1944, between 1944 and 1948, and in 1948. Tamás Scheibner’s ‘From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism: Imre Keszi in the Thrall of Utopias’ provides an examination of the social and intellectual background of Imre Keszi’s career, showing how Keszi conjoined several intellectual stimulants in the initial, more impressive phase of his career, being clearly influenced by contemporary professional discourses on the German Volk in his native Hungary when formulating his vision of the role of Jews. Even though Keszi, who became a fierce Marxist-Leninist literary critic of the early post-war period, has often been depicted as a renegade, Scheibner’s study highlights the continuities in his thinking revolving around key questions of Jewish existence. Last but certainly not least, Karolina Szymaniak’s ‘Rachel Auerbach, or the Trajectory of a Yiddishist Intellectual in Poland in the First Half of the Twentieth Century’ shows that Auerbach – one of only three survivors of the underground Warsaw ghetto archive – was equally shaped by her Polish education and culture and her Yiddishism in interwar Poland. Szymaniak argues that understanding both of these dimensions of her intellectual formation is indispensable to fully appreciate Auerbach’s later activities as the creator and manager of Yad Vashem’s testimony collection. Through her case study of Auerbach, Szymaniak also explores the self-definitions and ideologies of multilingual Yiddishists and their relation to other projects of Jewish modernity to ultimately reflect on key challenges of the Yiddish-speaking intelligentsia in Eastern Europe in an age of catastrophe and utopia.

 Part I: The Rupture of 1933 and New Expressions of Jewishness in the Age of Nazi Germany

Ines Koeltzsch

Utopia as Everyday Practice Jewish Intellectuals and Cultural Translation in Prague before and after 1933

Introduction In October 1933, eight months after the National Socialists came to power in neighbouring Germany, a new German intellectual weekly titled Die Welt im Wort appeared in the Czechoslovak capital, Prague. On the title page of the first issue was a large cartoon by the Czech leftist artist Adolf Hoffmeister that depicted a relaxed and lively gathering of writers, translators and journalists at a virtual Parnassus of Prague. The eleven intellectuals1 – Jewish and non-Jewish, German-speaking, Czech-speaking and bilingual – were introduced to the reader in short self-portraits beneath the cartoon. The two editors of the new weekly, Willy Haas and Otto Pick, are not in the picture, but could have been part of the gathering, as could have many other Prague writers and translators. Haas, a Prague native, German-Jewish publicist and editor of the famous Weimar republican intellectual journal Die literarische Welt, had lived in Germany since 1919, and was forced into exile in the summer of 1933. Otto Pick was a Prague writer and translator with a Jewish background who mainly worked for the German daily Prager Presse. 1 Hoffmeister takes on the well-known motif of the Parnassus, drawing particularly on the representation of the Parnassus by the painter Anton Raphael Mengs, who placed 11 personalities – Apollo, Mnemosyne and the 9 muses – at the mountain in his famous classicist fresco in the Villa Albani (1760/61). Hoffmeister might have also been familiar with the cartoon Wiener Parnass (The Viennese Parnassus, 1862) by Franz Gaul, who depicted numerous non-Jewish and Jewish writers and journalists, among them the Bohemian Jewish writers and journalists Leopold Kompert and David Kuh. I would like to thank Štěpan Zbytovský and Dieter Hecht for pointing out the references to Mengs and Gaul. On Gaul see Dieter Hecht, ‘Self-Assertion in the Public Sphere: The Jewish Press on the Eve of Legal Emancipation’, Religions 7, no. 8 (2016): 109–19. Annotation: Research on this article is partly based on my book Geteilte Kulturen: Eine Geschichte der tschechisch-jüdisch-deutschen Beziehungen in Prag 1918–1938 (published in 2012); my additional research in 2014 was enabled by the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences (research scheme: RVO 67985921) and the Viennese Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies in 2014/2015.

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It was not a matter of chance that Haas and Pick founded the journal in the autumn of 1933. About 20 years earlier they had edited a short-lived, but very important literary and philosophical magazine on Bohemian culture: the Herder-Blätter. The magazine had published German fiction and poetry as well as Czech works in German translation. Neither journal reported on the politics of the day, but as Haas wrote to the office of Czechoslovak President Tomáš G. Masaryk in 1933, the new journal aimed to stimulate discussion on ‘literary, cultural and artistic problems of all nations and countries with a special emphasis on Slavic literatures’.2 Like the Herder-Blätter, the new journal failed after just a few issues. What does the seemingly naïve cartoon tell us about the cultural, social and political visions of intellectuals in the Czechoslovak capital in the 1930s? Does it represent an immediate reaction to the rise of Nazi Germany, or should it be viewed in the broader context of intellectual life in Prague in the first decades of the twentieth century? As I will show in the following, Die Welt im Wort was one example of the intensifying attempts of intellectuals to mediate between German and Czech culture and German and Slovak literature in and after 1933. Intellectuals engaged in cultural mediation wanted to help create a new Czechoslovak culture based on cultural creativity and the principles of democracy, a culture that was supposed to include local intellectuals, returning expatriates, and refugees. In the autumn of 1933, Haas and Pick could build on an already existing network of Czech- and German-speaking intellectuals, which had its roots in the decades before the First World War and was bolstered in the 1920s. As Scott Spector has pointed out, Prague writers, translators and journalists formed a loose ‘network of mutual promotio’.3 that was not identical with the Prager Kreis, the label Max Brod retrospectively attached to the circle around Franz Kafka. Rather, the loose network consisted of several circles of German- and Czech-speaking, Jewish and non-Jewish writers.4 The huge range of cultural activities of Bohemian Jewish intellectuals – and especially their literary translations from Czech into German and vice versa – have stoked the interests of scholars since they began in the second decade of 2 Archiv Kanceláře prezidenta republiky [Archive of the office of the President of the Czechoslovak Republic, in the following AKPR], box 140, D 13444/38, Složka B – redaktoři [File B – editors], Willy Haas to Antonín Schenk, 4 September 1933. 3 Scott Spector, ‘Mittel-Europa? Some Afterthoughts on Prague Jews, “Hybriditiy”, and Translation’, Bohemia 46, no. 1 (2005): 28–38. For his concept of a ‘middle ground’ see also Scott Spector, Prague Territories: National Conflict and Cultural Innovation in Franz Kafka’s Fin de Siècle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). 4 Spector, ‘Mittel-Europa?’, 17–20.

Utopia as Everyday Practice 


the twentieth century. Some contemporary studies describe the Prague Jewish writers and translators as marginalized yet influential intellectuals, as ‘voices of dissent’ in times of rampant nationalism.5 Others have suggested that their activities were doomed to fail from the very beginning because of the seemingly sharp national division of Prague society.6 In both cases, the protagonists are often highly romanticized. Yet Scott Spector has warned against romanticizing Jewish cultural mediators in Prague. According to Spector, ‘these translations and translators can be understood not as pluralistic attempts to render closed cultural spheres more open to one another, nor as creatively hybridized products of cultural interaction, but as the very tension between identity and otherness itself’.7 Arguing against Homi Bhaba’s concept of ‘hybridity’, Spector claims that Jewish intellectuals in Prague created a subversive (not Jewish) literature and a ‘middle ground’ as an alternative ‘to the ideological complex binding essential peoples to eternal literatures and sovereign territories’.8 Spector’s concept of a ‘middle ground’ or a ‘middle nation’ remains somewhat abstract, similar to Bhaba’s ‘third space’. In contrast to Spector, I argue that we should consider cultural translation in early twentieth-century Prague not only as a concept or ‘ideological complex’, but as an everyday practice that took place in a nationalistically charged, multi-ethnic society. Cultural translation has recently been analyzed both as an approach to and as an object of history. As historian Simone Lässig shows, the concept was developed in reaction to the limitations of (early) conceptions of cultural transfer and their (implicit) presupposition of a linear (and often successful and harmonious) exchange between two cultures within the nation-state framework. Similar to revised conceptions of cultural transfer and the concept of histoire croisée, the notion of cultural translation addresses complex processes ‘of negotiating and appropriating ideas and practices and the production of meaning’ as well as ‘the political, cultural and social environments in which these processes take place’.9 The analysis of cultural translation covers transfer and transformation

5 Hillel J. Kieval, ‘Choosing to Bridge: Revisiting the Phenomenon of Cultural Mediation’, in Bohemia 46, no. 1 (2005): 15–27. 6 See especially Ulrike von Hirschhausen, Die Grenzen der Gemeinsamkeit: Deutsche, Letten, Russen und Juden in Riga 1860–1914 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 371 and 375. 7 Spector, ‘Mittel-Europa?’, 38. 8 Ibid. 9 Simone Lässig, ‘Übersetzungen in der Geschichte – Geschichte als Übersetzung? Überlegungen zu einem analytischen Konzept und Forschungsgegenstand für die Geschichtswissenschaft’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft 38, no. 2 (2012): 189–216, quotation 195. See also Gertrud Pickhan, ‘Übersetzung, Interkulturalität, Kontakte: Themen der osteuropäisch-jüdischen Geschichte’, Osteuropa 3 (2008): 117–25.

18  Ines Koeltzsch

as well as misunderstandings and the failure of translation; translation should not be misunderstood as a frictionless process of intercultural understanding. One advantage of the concept of cultural translation is that it offers a new perspective on multi-ethnic spaces, especially in East Central Europe and the Czechoslovak capital. While historians have often viewed these spaces from a normative perspective, describing the complexity of multi-ethnic societies in terms of conflict and/or ‘symbiosis’, these recent approaches underline the importance of translation as ‘a linguistic and cultural practice’ that constituted both an everyday experience and a challenge.10 In the first part of my article I will reconstruct the translational activities of Jewish writers and intellectuals in Prague before 1933. I will show that these writers and translators did not formulate a clear concept of cultural translation, or, to use a contemporary term, cultural mediation.11 The importance of their activities lay rather on the level of everyday practice and in the establishment of a permeable ‘network of mutual promotion’. Although the ‘mutual understanding of nations’ – another contemporaneous phrase – was not their starting point, they became aware of the cultural-political significance of their translation work in a nationalistically charged urban society. In their public and private reflections on their role as writers and translators, the discussion of their ‘Jewishness’ or the ‘Jewish difference’ played an important role, regardless of whether they were members of the Jewish community or had converted to Protestantism or Catholicism.12 In the second part of my article I argue that the writers and translators intensified their translational activities in reaction to the Nazi Party’s rise to power in neighbouring Germany and the growing radical nationalisms in Czechoslovakia. Together with returning expatriates and refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria, local Jewish (and non-Jewish) intellectuals informed the public about the politics and the persecution of cultural activists in Nazi Germany, organized readings and lectures by persecuted Jewish and non-Jewish authors, and doubled down on activities promoting cultural mediation within 10 Ibid., 200. 11 On the lack of theoretical reflections on translation among the Prague ‘German’ writers, see Lucy Topol’ská, ‘Die Prager deutschen Dichter als Lyrik-Übersetzer’, in Beiträge zur deutschsprachigen Literatur in Tschechien, ed. Lucy Topol’ská and Ludvík Václavek: (Olomouc: University of Palackeho, 2000), 215–25 (Czech original 1973). 12 Lisa Silverman has suggested the term ‘Jewish difference’ to signify the invisible ‘relationship between the socially constructed categories of “Jew” and “non-Jew”’ as an alternative to studying conceptions of Jewish self-identification or the ‘Jewish content’ of a work. Lisa Silverman, Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 7.

Utopia as Everyday Practice  19

Czechoslovak society. However, the few attempts to conceptualize translation that came out of this experience remained metaphorical. Despite their everyday experiences of the absurdity of essentialist identities, the Jewish/non-Jewish translators in Prague did not radically break with a worldview oriented around the nation-state. Deeply rooted and ‘caught’ in the situation of Prague, they were unable to formulate a more general and positive concept of an existence beyond nations, such as that conceived of by their contemporary Joseph Roth. However, in the 1930s they became more and more aware that their translational work also contributed to the utopian vision of a world without militant nationalisms. Finally, I will follow the activities of the cultural translators after 1938, which continued in exile, in the ghetto of Terezín, and in isolation and hiding places in Prague. Writing essays and fiction and translating fiction and lectures about Czech- and German-speaking culture in Czechoslovakia now became strategies for survival. Although their scope of action was heavily restricted, the few Jewish intellectuals who survived the Second World War and the Shoah continued with cultural translation in post-war and Stalinist Czechoslovakia. For instance, Paul/Pavel Eisner published his Czech translation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial as well as an influential essay about 1930s German-Jewish writers in the 1950s. Cultural translation now had become a practice of memory.

A Network of Mutual Promotion: Literary Translators in Prague before 1933 Bilingualism in its various forms naturally played an important role in multiethnic societies like Czechoslovakia and its capital, Prague. It was not until the rise of modern nationalism in the second half of the nineteenth century and the concomitant view of language as a significant marker of national difference that bilingualism came to be perceived as something unnatural and monolingualism became a political objective.13 This was reflected, for instance, in the modern 13 See above all, Michaela Wolf, Die vielsprachige Seele Kakaniens: Translation als soziale und kulturelle Praxis in der Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918 (Vienna: Böhlau, 2012), esp. 67–72. There are also a number of studies dealing with the politics of language, the use of languages in state institutions and the decline of bilingualism in the Bohemian lands and Czechoslovakia. See Hannelore Burger, Sprachenrecht und Sprachengerechtigkeit im österreichischen Unterrichtswesen 1867–1918 (Vienna: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1995); Klaas-Hinrich Ehlers, Marek Nekula, Martina Niedhammer and Hermann Scheuringer, eds, Sprache, Gesellschaft und Nation in Ostmitteleuropa: Institutionalisierung und Alltagspraxis

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census in Cisleithania and later in Czechoslovakia, which did not record the multilingual skills of the population. However, bilingualism and translation remained an important everyday experience of many Bohemians and Moravians, both Christians and Jews.14 The prominence of bilingualism among Bohemian (and to a lesser degree, Moravian) Jews can be traced back to the beginning of the emancipation process, when Joseph II introduced German as the official language of the Habsburg Empire. German was also welcomed by most of the Jewish enlighteners as the primary language of Jewish education and communication (rather than Hebrew and Judendeutsch) in the Bohemian lands. Given that the vast majority of Bohemian Jews had lived in the Bohemian countryside where Czech speakers were in the majority, Czech-German/German-Czech bilingualism became a widespread phenomenon. Taking the example of Prague Zionists, Dimitry Shumsky has demonstrated that the bilingualism of Jewish intellectuals in fin-de-siècle Prague was caused by two distinct factors: while those from the Czech countryside learned German, Jewish natives of Prague embraced Czech because of their opposition to a hegemonic concept of German (Jewish) liberal culture and their growing empathy with Czech language and culture. Thus, many of Prague’s Jewish intellectuals – who were widely perceived as ‘German-Jewish’ because they attended German schools – were educated in Czech (as their second language). Furthermore, the Czech language was part of their everyday experience in the Bohemian capital with its mostly Czech inhabitants, similar to the countryside (with the exception of the border regions).15 Five of the poets in Hoffmeister’s Parnassus were primarily educated in German but had knowledge of Czech: Oskar Baum (Pilsen, 1883–1941), Max Brod (Prague, 1884–1968), Paul Kornfeld (Prague, 1889–1942), Paul Leppin (Prague, 1878–1945) and Walter Seidl (Troppau, 1905–1937). Three writers were educated in Czech with some knowledge of German: Karel Čapek (Úpice, 1890– 1938), František Kubka (Prague, 1894–1969) and František Langer (Královské (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014); Jaroslav Kučera, Minderheit im Nationalstaat: Die Sprachenfrage in den tschechisch-deutschen Beziehungen 1918–1938 (Munich: de Gruyter, 1999); Ines Koeltzsch, Geteilte Kulturen: Eine Geschichte der tschechisch-jüdisch-deutschen Beziehungen in Prag (1918–1938) (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2012), 29–46. 14 Robert Luft, ‘Zwischen Tschechen und Deutschen in Prag um 1900: Zweisprachige Welten, nationale Interferenzen und Verbindungen über ethnische Grenzen’, brücken 4 (1996): 143–69; Ingrid Stöhr, Zweisprachigkeit in Böhmen: Deutsche Volksschulen und Gymnasien im Prag der Kafka-Zeit (Cologne: Böhlau, 2010). On publicly staged lingual ‘conversions’ of bilingual writers see Václav Petrbok, ‘“Sprache als Waffe”: Deutsch-tschechischer Sprachwechsel im literarischen Leben in den böhmischen Ländern 1860–1890’, in Ehlers, Nekula, Niedhammer and Scheuringer, Sprache, Gesellschaft und Nation, 185–200. 15 Dimitry Shumsky, Zweisprachigkeit und binationale Idee: Der Prager Zionismus 1900–1930 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013), especially 89–109.

Utopia as Everyday Practice 


Vinohrady/later Prague, 1888–1965). Three switched between Czech and German schools and universities: Paul/Pavel Eisner (Královské Vinohrady/later Prague, 1889–1958), Otokar Fischer (Kolín, 1883–1938) and Rudolf Fuchs (Poděbrady, 1890–1942). Eisner was the only person in Hoffmeister’s Parnassus who worked in both languages. As a journalist, he wrote primarily in German; as an essayist primarily in Czech; and as a translator he worked in both directions.16 Thus, literary translations from Czech into German and from German into Czech were not something completely new at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the nationalist atmosphere of fin-de-siècle Prague, however, literary translation had become a political matter.17 As Rudolf Illový wrote in his 1913 article ‘Němečtí básníci pražští a Češi’ [German Poets in Prague and the Czechs], the generation of Max Brod and his colleagues and friends like Otto Pick, Rudolf Fuchs and Oskar Baum opposed Bohemian German politics with their translations and reception of Czech literature and culture. They viewed the Czech nation and its culture with an open mind and took an active part in Czech culture. Illový particularly welcomed the fact that these ‘German’ writers were introducing Czech literature to a wider international public and opening the doors to German publishing houses (mainly Kurt Wolff in Leipzig) for many writers, such as Otakar Březina, Fráňa Šrámek and the dramatist František Langer.18 Conversely, writers such as Max Brod, Franz Werfel and Egon Erwin Kisch were also translated into Czech and thus became known to the Czech intellectual public.19 Paradoxically, literary translations of modern Czech literature into German first peaked during the First World War. In 1916, the first anthology of modern Czech poetry in German was published by the editor Franz Pfemfert in Berlin.20 16 Ines Koeltzsch, Michaela Kuklová and Michael Wögerbauer, eds, Übersetzer zwischen den Kulturen: Der Prager Publizist Paul/Pavel Eisner (Cologne: Böhlau, 2011). 17 For a critical and nuanced approach to cultural mediation/translation between Czech and (Austrian) German intellectuals in the early twentieth century see Lucie Kostrbová, Kurt Ifkovits and Vratislav Doubek, Die Wiener Wochenschrift Die Zeit (1894–1904) als Mittler zwischen der Tschechischen und Wiener Moderne (Prague/Vienna: Österreichisches Theatermuseum, 2011). See also Gary B. Cohen, ‘Cultural Crossings in Prague, 1900: Scenes from Late Imperial Austria’, Austrian History Yearbook 45 (2014): 1–30, especially, 21–8; Lucie Merhautová, Paralely a průniky: Česká literatura v časopisech německé moderny (1880–1910) [Parallels and intersections: Czech literature in German modernist journals (1880–1910)] (Praha: Masarykův ústav AV ČR, 2016). 18 Rudolf Illový, ‘Němečtí básníci pražští a Češi’, Veřejné mínění 2, no. 8 (16 November 1913), Národní archiv (National Archive, in the following NA), Collection of Rudolf Fuchs. 19 On the first generations of writers who also worked as professional literary translators see Otto Pick, ‘Poznámky překladatelovy’ [Translator’s notes], Přítomnost (24 April 1924): 232–3. 20 Franz Pfemfert, ed., Jüngste tschechische Lyrik. Eine Anthologie (Berlin-Wilmersdorf: Verlag der Wochenschrift Die Aktion, 1916).

22  Ines Koeltzsch

Paul Eisner, Rudolf Fuchs, Otto Pick, the now almost forgotten J. V. Löwenbach,21 Ernst Pollak, Emil Saudek and Hans Janowitz all contributed to the anthology as translators. In the same year, the Leipzig publisher Kurt Wolff printed Rudolf Fuchs’ German translation of the Slezské písně [Silesian Songs/ Schlesische Lieder] by Petr Bezruč, whose work was banned by the Austrian authorities because of its social criticism. Fuchs’ translation and the foreword by Franz Werfel were well received by Czech political exiles in Switzerland. 22 Despite the fact that some German-language writers left Prague (e.g. Willy Haas, Franz Carl Weiskopf and Egon Erwin Kisch), the network of Czech- and German-speaking translators and writers grew after the establishment of the Czechoslovak state. Some writers born in the 1880s and 1890s who had held rather marginal positions as students before and during the First World War now became successful artists and journalists. It is not by chance that the two friends František Langer and Karel Čapek were positioned at the very centre of the cartoon Parnassus of Prague. Both became key figures in Prague intellectual life and Czechoslovak cultural politics, and Karel Čapek’s role was so significant that a whole generation of Czech modernist writers were influenced by him.23 As influential journalists of the liberal daily Lidové noviny [People’s Newspaper], as the founder (Čapek) and a member (Langer) of Pátečníci [Friday Men] – a group of President Masaryk’s intellectual advisers, called Friday Men because they met on Friday afternoons in Čapek’s flat – and as founders and members of the Czechoslovak PEN club, they strongly supported the political ideas of Masaryk. Čapek, Langer and their colleagues and friends fought against Czech chauvinism and for ‘an inclusive and democratic, if Czech dominated, state’.24 In opposition to conservative Czech artistic circles, Jewish writers like Langer, Fischer (who converted but was still perceived as Jewish by the public), Karel Poláček and Josef Kodíček were an integral part of these circles. And in opposition to the younger generation of radical leftist artists around the avant-garde 21 On the interesting, but almost forgotten translator J. V. Löwenbach, a friend and mentor of Max Brod who worked in both languages see Barbora Šrámková, ‘Max Brod und die tschechische Kultur’, in Juden zwischen Tschechen und Deutschen: Sprachliche und kulturelle Identitäten in Böhmen 1800–1945, ed. Marek Nekula and Walter Koschmal (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2006), 249–71, especially 254–5. 22 Otto Pick, ‘Die kulturelle Annäherung zwischen Deutschen und Čechen’, Union 58, no. 195 (15 July 1919): 1–2; Otokar Fischer, ‘Ein deutscher Blumenstrauss: Deutsche Übersetzung eines Artikels in Tvorba’, 1927. Both in NA, personal collection of Rudolf Fuchs. 23 Thomas Ort, Art and Life in Modernist Prague: Karel Čapek and His Generation 1911–1938 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). On the Friday Men see Andrea Orzoff, Battle for the Castle: The Myth of Czechoslovakia in Europe, 1914–1948 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 88–92. 24 Ort, Art and Life, 22.

Utopia as Everyday Practice  23

group Děvětsil – among them the illustrator of the Parnassus cartoon, Adolf Hoffmeister – Čapek and Langer defended liberalism as the answer to the militarism and autocracy experienced in First World War.25 Together with their brothers Georg (Jiří Mordechai) Langer and Josef Čapek, they maintained close professional contacts and friendships with their German-speaking colleagues and translators, above all with Rudolf Fuchs, who is depicted as a fisherman close to the centre of the cartoon, and to Otto Pick, the second editor of Die Welt im Wort. Čapekʼs inclusive politics is also reflected in his engagement for the Czechoslovak PEN Club. Without transforming the club into a supranational institution, Čapek did invite a dozen German-speaking writers as full members into the club, a move that was not welcomed by some of the Czech-speaking members.26 Similarly, Otokar Fischer and his colleagues tried to make the translational and literary activities of their German-speaking colleagues more public and portray them as important cultural-political contributions to the founding of a democratic Czechoslovak culture. For instance, in a review of the anthology Ein Erntekranz aus hundert Jahren tschechischer Dichtung published in the Czech weekly Tvorba [Creation] in 1927, Fischer wrote: The German writers who deal with Slavic questions are engaged with translation not only as an activity, but as a problem. … The majority of those who translate from Czech to German are of Jewish origin. … It is moving to see how these writers of German – who feel foreign among the Germans in Bohemia and resist and feel ashamed of the war and postwar ideology of the Germans in the Reich – support Czech nationalism and affirm its symbols.27

Indeed, translators into German like Fuchs, Pick and Brod (who is sitting in an armchair close to the fishpond in the cartoon) explicitly supported the new democratic order and were seen by their Czech democratic colleagues as ʻGerman activistsʼ avant la lettre. But the German-speaking intellectuals perceived themselves first and foremost as writers and poets. They also became translators and journalists for financial reasons and because these professions complimented their artistic activities. Translators like Pick and Fuchs, however, were well aware of the cultural-political functions of translation in the Bohemian 25 Ibid. 26 Andrea Orzoff, ‘Prague PEN and Central European Cultural Nationalism, 1924–1935’, Nationalities Papers 29, no. 2 (2001): 243–65, especially 248–51; Orzoff, Battle for the Castle, 160–165. See also Petra Krátká, Český PEN-klub v letech 1925–1938 [Czech PEN-Club in the years 1925–1938] (Prague: Libri, 2003), 42–5. 27 Quoted after the German translation: Otokar Fischer, ‘Ein deutscher Blumenstrauss’, Tvorba (1927), NA, personal collection of Rudolf Fuchs.

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lands and in Czechoslovakia before and after the First World War, even if they understood the cultural-political dimension of their work as secondary to its aesthetic dimension – at least in the 1920s. As Otto Pick wrote in the article ‘Poznámky překladatelovy’ [Remarks of a Translator] for the Czech intellectual journal Přítomnost [Present] in 1924: The fact that translation serves the grand idea of the comity of nations is a fruitful sideeffect that I as a free-thinking person have always welcomed with joy. However, the humanistic, social and pacifist motivations of my work as a translator have nothing in common with the work’s artistic foundations.28

By the end of the 1920s, the Prague writers and translators had developed plenty of strategies for mutually promoting one another’s work, including book reviews, translations of short stories and poetry for dailies and weeklies such as the Prager Tagblatt, Prager Presse, Die Wahrheit, Lidové noviny, Právo lidu [The Right of the People], and Přítomnost, and the publication of anthologies.29 Otto Pick’s translation of Karel Čapek’s plays and Grete Straschnov’s translation of Jaroslav Hašek’s Die Abenteuer des braven Soldaten Schwejk introduced Czech literature to a wider European public. Female translators like Grete Straschnov, Milena Jesenská, Jarmila Haasová-Nečasová and Anna Auředníček/Auředníčková were not as visible as their male colleagues in the intellectual public, and did not belong to the core of the loose network depicted in Hoffmeister’s cartoon. While Jesenská became posthumously known as one of Franz Kafka’s girlfriends and less as his first translator, the other women remained almost unknown. Nevertheless, Grete Straschnov’s business card with a handwritten message for Otokar Fischer asking for a meeting is one of the few personal documents left by her, which indicates that the female translators were also part of the network depicted in the Prague Parnassus, even if they were mostly invisible.30 Besides gender, Jewishness was another category of invisibility in the network of writers and translators. Seven of the eleven writers depicted in the car28 Otto Pick, ‘Poznámky překladatelovy’, Přítomnost 1, no. 15 (1924): 232–3, here 232. 29 Paul Eisner, ed., Tschechische Anthologie: Vrchlický – Sova – Březina (Leipzig: Insel, 1917); Otto Pick, ed., Deutsche Erzähler aus der Tschechoslowakei (Reichenberg/Prague: Heris Verlag, 1922); F. C. Weiskopf, ed., Tschechische Lieder (Berlin: Malik Verlag, 1925); Rudolf Fuchs, ed., Ein Erntekranz: Aus hundert Jahren tschechischer Dichtung (Munich: Kurt Wolff, 1926); Rudolf Fuchs, ed., Deutsche Lyrik aus der Čechoslovakei (Prague: Státní nakladatelství, 1931); Anna Auředníček, Dreissig tschechische Erzähler (Darmstadt: Darmstädter Verlag, 1932). 30 Business card of Grete Straschnov, dated 9 November 1923, Literární archiv Památníku národního písemnictví [Literary Archive of the Memorial of National Writings, in the following LA PNP], personal collection of Otokar Fischer.

Utopia as Everyday Practice 


toon and both editors of Die Welt im Wort were born into Jewish families. However, their affiliations with Jewish religion and culture varied widely. Max Brod represented one specific form of Prague’s Zionism(s): a ‘national humanism’ [Nationalhumanismus] that he formulated together with the philosopher Felix Weltsch as a moderate, anti-imperialistic, social form of Zionism.31 Yet others like Willy Haas were more attracted to a kind of diaspora nationalism in the years immediately after the First World War. Similar to the Zionists, he and his friends who penned the manifesto of the short-lived Jüdische Aktion in 1919 aimed for an ethical ‘Jewish self-consciousness’, not in the Land of Israel, but in the diaspora.32 In most cases, the writers and translators pursued varying conceptions of Czech-Jewish or German-Jewish integration – or ‘assimilation’ in the language of the time – that were attached to Czech or German liberalism. Thus, Jewishness was for them mainly a private concern. In some cases, as with Otokar Fischer and Paul/Pavel Eisner, it also led to conversion. However, their conversion did not mean that they had wholly dispensed with their sense of belonging to Jewish culture. Especially when confronted with the limits of integration, many returned to their Jewish roots. The ambivalent feeling of ‘being at home in no-man’s land’ [Zuhause(sein) im Niemandsland], as expressed in Paul Eisner’s ironic self-description at the bottom of the cartoon, was especially symptomatic of those writers who worked towards Czech- and/or German-Jewish ‘assimilation’ and at the same time experienced the limits of integration into Czechoslovak society, which was perceived as one of the most tolerant towards Jews in Central Europe at the time.33 Several years after his conversion, Paul/ Pavel Eisner wrote an essay for the Zionist publication Židovský kalendář [Jew31 On the general history of Zionism in Prague see Kateřina Čapková, Czechs, Germans, Jews? National Identity and the Jews of Bohemia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 171–240; Shumsky, Zweisprachigkeit; Scott Spector: ‘“any reality, however small”: Prague Zionisms between the Nations’, in Kafka, Zionism, and Beyond, ed. Mark H. Gelber (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 2004), 7–22. 32 Čapková, Czech, German, Jews?, 84–6. 33 Although there is good research on the liberal politics of the Czechoslovak government and above all, of President Masaryk, there is only little extant research on the attitudes of Czechs, Slovaks and Germans towards the Jewish population in interwar Czechoslovakia. See above all, Martin Schulze Wessel, ‘Entwürfe und Wirklichkeiten: Die Politik gegenüber den Juden in der Ersten Tschechoslowakischen Republik 1918 bis 1938’, in Zwischen großen Erwartungen und bösem Erwachen: Juden, Politik und Antisemitismus in Ost- und Südosteuropa 1918–1945, ed. Dittmar Dahlmann and Anke Hilbrenner (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoeningh, 2007), 121–36. For a critical perspective on Czechoslovak politics and anti-Semitism, see Michal Frankl and Miloslav Szabó, Budování státu bez antisemitismu? Násilí, diskurz loajality a vznik Československa [State-building without anti-Semitism? Violence, loyalty, and the foundation of Czechoslovakia] (Prague: Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2015).

26  Ines Koeltzsch

ish Calendar] in which he emphasized the limits of integration and supported Jewish self-consciousness [jüdisches Selbstbewusstsein].34 In a letter to Otokar Fischer from the same period, he went even further by affirming the marginal position of Jews in society: I don’t speak a word of Hebrew. Like you, I took assimilation as far as possible, I reject Zionism, and yet I know that today WE are more than THEM and that we will outlive them in the last life of spirit if we want to … We are higher, we are deeper, we are outside: one can be friends with them and trust them, but it is imperative to go one’s own way. And they are completely different than their relatives. Higher, deeper, outside.35

Ambivalent feelings towards their Jewishness were not unique to those writers who subscribed to varying conceptions of ‘assimilation’. They were also prominent among those writers and translators who sympathized with socialism and communism, such as Rudolf Fuchs and the more famous writers Egon Erwin Kisch and Franz Carl Weiskopf, who are not depicted in the cartoon. However, according to Scott Spector, it was Rudolf Fuchs who embodied ‘the paradigmatic example of the Prague Jewish translator’ because of ‘his close identification with the spiritual and historical base of Judaism, his tireless attachment to Czech culture and a Bohemian culture that included the Germans, and his ultimate commitment to socialism’.36 Rudolf Fuchs also became politically engaged in the intellectual circles of locals and emigrants from Nazi Germany in 1930s Prague and tried to formulate a rigorous concept of translation. As I will show in the next section, the growing political engagement of Fuchs and his colleagues in the 1930s was an explicit reaction to the rise of National Socialism and its persecution of political opponents and Jews as well as to the radicalization of German, Czech and Slovak nationalisms in Czechoslovakia. However, their cultural and cultural-political activities faced certain limits.

34 Pavel Eisner, ‘Básník a asimilace’ [The poet and assimilation], Židovský kalendář 10 (1929/ 1930): 49–52. 35 Pavel Eisner, Letter to Otokar Fischer, 21 November 1928. Quoted after the German translation in: Jarmila Mourková, ‘Von Paul Eisner zu Pavel Eisner: Einige von der Korrespondenz Pavel Eisners mit Otokar Fischer inspirierte Gedanken’, brücken 5 (1988/89): 11–24, 17, capitalization in original. 36 Spector, Prague Territories, 207.

Utopia as Everyday Practice 


Between Literature and Politics: Cultural Translation in Prague and its Limits between 1933 and 1938 I was not rooted in Prague any longer and as a 40-year-old man I had to build up my life from scratch. I was not an emigrant in the true sense of the word, but I had not lived in Prague for 13 years; my father had died in the meantime; many of my boyhood friends were scattered abroad. However, my way of life was different from an emigrant’s way of life. I was able to speak Czech, and I was able to perfect or at least improve it through daily use.37

In these words, Willy Haas described his return to Prague in the summer of 1933. Although he had been away from his birthplace for more than ten years, he still had contact with friends and former colleagues who helped him re-establish a professional life in Prague, the most important of which was his friendship with Otto Pick. Despite all the difficulties he experienced and the failure of Die Welt im Wort, Haas managed his professional ‘restart’ in Prague remarkably well. Equally successful was the communist writer and translator Franz Carl Weiskopf. However, other intellectuals were less successful, such as Ernst Weiss and Paul Kornfeld, the former co-editor of Haas’s Literarische Welt in Berlin who was also depicted in the Parnassus of Prague. Both Kornfeld and Weiss returned to Prague, but they did not actively take part in Prague’s literary and social life during and after 1933. They experienced depression and loneliness. As Ernst Weiss wrote in a letter to his friend Hermann Kesten in November 1933: Here I am living in great loneliness and depression, but I do not give up my hope that everything will be better and that our ideas, even if probably not spoken by us, will take up their due reign during our lifetime. Here, Willy Haas edits a decent, purely literary journal called Welt im Wort which disrespects the political movements by remaining silent about them. Thus, the journal has an uncanny presence: it could have just as well been written 3,000 years before the common era; one cannot turn a blind eye to the events going on now.38

Weiss’s criticism of the apolitical nature of the new weekly Die Welt im Wort is to the point. The few issues published before the paper’s collapse in early 1934 37 Willy Haas, Die literarische Welt: Erinnerungen (Munich: Fischer, 1957), 187. On his return to Prague see Willy Haas, ‘Za třináct let z Prahy do Prahy. II. část’ [In 13 years from Prague and back, part 2], Přítomnost 13 (25 March 1936): 188–91. 38 Ernst Weiss, Letter to Hermann Kesten, Prague, 19 November 1933, in Deutsche Literatur im Exil: Briefe europäischer Autoren 1933–1949, ed. Hermann Kesten (Vienna: Fischer, 1964), 63.

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did not explicitly refer to the politics of Nazi Germany, nor to the situation of the refugees from Germany in Czechoslovakia. The readers got to know much about the literary oeuvre of humanistic writers and poets from Germany as well as from Czechoslovakia. The paper also published on literary life in other parts of Europe, such as France and the Soviet Union, but failed to say anything about its relation to political life. According to a letter Willy Haas sent to the office of president Masaryk in September 1933, it seems that the journal’s apolitical nature could have been a (self-)perceived precondition for receiving financial support from the government. In this letter, Haas refers to the fact that Karel Čapek had told the president about the idea for the new weekly. Čapek had underlined that the new journal wanted to focus on literary and cultural problems ‘without intervening in politics’.39 The apolitical orientation of the weekly also had to do with the convictions of translator Otto Pick. In their editorial, Otto Pick and Willy Haas painted an idealistic portrait of Prague and Bohemia as the centre of humanism and cultural crossings since the renaissance. They recalled the tradition of the humanists Jan Amos Komenský and especially of the Catholic thinker Bernard Bolzano, who was the spiritual founder of Bohemism [Bohemismus], an intellectual concept based on the idea of Landespatriotismus which included all inhabitants of Bohemia irrespective of their language (and faith).40 Even if indirectly, Haas and Pick expressed their utopian vision of an encounter of literatures and cultures, a vision they had already pursued with their journal Herder-Blätter about 20 years before. Referring to Adolf Hoffmeister’s cartoon – which was printed instead of an interview with Masaryk, who had refused to give an interview to the new German weekly – the editors underlined the ‘multicultural’ condition of Prague, the capital of Bohemia, and now of Czechoslovakia, by stressing the importance of place: For us, so many things are knotted together in this place, our native city. And so it is not a matter of chance that the name ‘Prague’ is printed on our paper and above its first article. And it is not unintended that this first issue – seemingly against our agenda, which aims to be a paper with very broad appeal and not just a local one – speaks to all people of this country. It is not just an homage to our native city, but a vow to our youth, to the dreams and plans of this youth.41

39 AKPR, Willy Haas to Antonín Schenk, 4 September 1933. 40 On the reception of Bohemism among Bohemian Jewish intellectuals in the nineteenth century, see Shumsky, Zweisprachigkeit, 199–218; Kateřina Čapková, ‘Anti-Jewish Discourses in the Czech National Movement: Havlíèek, Neruda and Kapper’, Judaica Bohemiae 46, no. 2 (2011): 77–93. 41 Prague, 5 October 1933, in Die Welt im Wort 1, no. 1 (1933): 1–2, here 2.

Utopia as Everyday Practice 


This passage shows that while Haas and Pick did not formulate a rigorous concept of cultural pluralism and translation, they were well aware of the origins and the impact of their translational activities. At about the same time, in the autumn of 1933, the Zionist intellectual Felix Weltsch published an essay describing Prague as a ‘point of intersection of many cultures’ [Schnittpunkt vieler Kulturen] located at the ‘borders between East and West, … North and South’. Weltsch continued that Prague was ‘a real city of the centre’, in which ‘German and Czech and Jewish culture’ stood in close contact. From Weltsch’s Jewish perspective, the ‘encounter of intellects’ [Zusammenstoß der Geister] was alive and well: ‘the obvious differences increase awareness, sharpen the critical faculties, refine empathy’.42 In contrast to Pick and Haas, Weltsch refers to the special connection between cultural creativity and the experiences of Prague’s Jews. Of course, Weltsch’s essay was primarily addressed to a Jewish audience, namely the members of the philanthropic order B’nai B’rith in Czechoslovakia, who played an important role in cultural politics and supported numerous literary and scientific projects that mediated between Czech and German, Jewish and non-Jewish cultures.43 In a lecture titled ‘Židé a literatura’ [Jews and Literature] held at the Prague public library for the bilingual Zionist student organization Lese- und Redehalle jüdischer Hochschüler in February 1933, Otokar Fischer claimed that the Jewish writers of Prague had an ethical responsibility to mediate between cultures. Because of their ‘language skills and cultural richness’, it was their task to ‘go beyond their time and seek something that can overcome the madness and friction of the chaotic days of Europe’s darkest hour’.44 In his lecture, which was immediately published by the socialist journal Čin [Action], Fischer outlines a pluralistic concept of ‘Jewish literatures’ that comprise Hebrew, Yiddish and the given 42 Felix Weltsch, ‘Der Geist des čechoslovakischen Judentums’, B’nai B’rith 12, no. 10 (1933): 397–9, here 399. 43 Čapková, Czech, German, Jews?, 74–83. 44 Otokar Fischer, ‘Židé a literatura. Přednáška proslovená 20: února 1933 spolu s projevem Arnolda Zweiga’ [Jews and Literature: Lecture held on 20 February 1933 together with an address by Arnold Zweig], Čin 32 (6 April 1933): 747–58, here 758, reprinted as Otokar Fischer, ‘Židé a literatura’, in Slovo a svět (Prague: Francis Borový, 1937), 230–43. See also Oskar Donath, ‘O Židech v literatuře’ [The Jews in literature], B’nai B’rith 12, no. 6 (1933): 210–5. Fischer’s lecture was held together with a lecture by the German-Jewish émigré writer Arnold Zweig on anti-Semitism in contemporary Europe, which was not published in Czechoslovakia, as far as I know. See also the Archive of the Capital Prague, Magistrate I, Executive committee of the council and the magistrate, box 746, 2284/14/2302, Čtenářská beseda židovských akademiků v Praze/Lese- und Redehalle jüdischer Hochschüler in Prag Presidiu městské rady hlavního města Prahy [Jewish student’s association to the executive committee of the council of Prague], 14 February 1933.

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national language.45 As an advocate of Czech-Jewish integration, he was mainly interested in the participation of Jewish authors in the given ‘national literature’. He asked whether ‘the Jewish part melts with the work of other nations into an organic unity’ or if ‘the contribution of the Jews’ to the different literatures represented a ‘separate chapter’ that might be described as Jewish. According to Fischer, this question is not easy to answer because the relationships between Jewish and non-Jewish writers are complex and literary works are always a product of ‘mixture’ and ‘synthesis’. He supports his argument of mixture as a matter of principle with the fact that even the medieval ghettos were not hermetically sealed.46 This argument is particularly remarkable when one considers that in the contemporaneous German and Czech press, metaphors like ‘the (Jewish) ghetto’ and ‘the Chinese wall’ served as descriptions of the seemingly clear-cut borders between the different ethnic groups. According to Fischer, ‘the amalgamation’ between Jewish and non-Jewish literatures/cultures was most successful in French society. Fischer described the ‘Jewish contribution’ to German literature and culture as being less ‘organic’ than in France. According to him, this was the reason for the incipient exclusion of Jewish authors from German culture by the National Socialists.47 Interestingly, Fischer talks about the negative side of mixture or amalgamation when discussing Jewish writers in the Bohemian lands. As an ‘integrationist’ and an adherent of Masaryk’s moderate nationalism, Fischer demanded that there should be ‘no simple mixture of two forms of expression’ and ‘no see-sawing outside of national interests’, but rather that Bohemian/Czech-Jewish writers should contribute to the cultural development of ‘only one national union’.48 Fischer’s ambivalent conclusions about the relations between different cultures and literatures, which oscillated between ‘separation’ and ‘synthesis’, were bound up with his own conflict of identity as a Czech and a Czech-Jewish author. In an obituary for Fischer published in Kalendář česko-židovský [CzechJewish calendar] in the spring of 1938, Paul/Pavel Eisner mentioned that his intellectual return to his Jewish ‘roots’ in the 1930s challenged his previous positions. According to Eisner, Fischer was ‘an assimilationist with a maximalist program and practice’. In his midlife, he experienced ‘the problems of blood, background and environment’ and saw himself increasingly ‘as a guest, as a foreigner, as an exul in patria’.49 The young Zionist writer Viktor Fischl wrote 45 Fischer, ‘Židé a literatura’, 748–50. 46 Ibid., 750–1. 47 Ibid., 752–5. 48 Ibid., 757. 49 Pavel Eisner, ‘Host Otokar Fischer’, Kalendář česko-židovský 58 (1938/39): 70–2, here 71. Original: ‘Assimilant mit einer maximalistischen Konzeption und Praxis’.

Utopia as Everyday Practice 


about Fischer in his obituary for the weekly Selbstwehr in a similar vein.50 Although the socialist writer Franz Carl Weiskopf did not mention Fischer’s Jewish origins like other authors did, he emphasized that Fischer had noticeably intensified his engagement for the mediation of German culture in Czechoslovakia since 1933.51 Indeed, most of the writers and translators represented at the Parnassus and their colleagues and friends supported German and German-Jewish writers and artists from Nazi Germany in Czechoslovakia through organizations like Deutsche Schriftsteller-Schutzverband in der ČSR, Thomas-Mann-Gesellschaft, Oskar-Kokoschka-Bund, the Bert-Brecht-Klub, the Liga für Menschenrechte and the Liga gegen Antisemitismus. Some of them also worked for charity organizations like the Hilfskomitee für deutsche Flüchtlinge, which was initiated by the translator Grete Reiner and named after the Czech literary critic F. X. Šalda. However, the history of the Šalda-Comitee shows that the collaboration between writers and translators of different political beliefs did not last for long, because communist activists began taking control most of the activities.52 The intellectuals and artists also organized a growing number of official events. The organized lectures often took place in the public library of Prague. German and Czech, Jewish and non-Jewish intellectuals and artists, locals and (re)emigrants also contributed to various publications and theatrical productions. Publications like the book Prag heute, which was edited by the émigré writer Frank Warschauer in collaboration with local Czech and German writers, and the special issue of the bilingual journal Die Brücke/Most on the occasion of Otto Pick’s 50th birthday represented the intensified network of ‘mutual promotion’, now made larger by the returning expatriates who needed every chance they could get to publish and earn money. Just as well, these publications served as positive indicators of the health of Czechoslovakia’s democratic culture.53 Rudolf Fuchs in particular promoted an inclusive Czechoslovak culture based on his socialist beliefs, but he did not officially break with Masaryk’s po50 Viktor Fischl, ‘Otokar Fischer’, Selbstwehr 13 (1 April 1938): 3. See also his memories on Fischer and Eisner: Viktor Fischl, Setkání [Encounters] (Prague: Martin, 1994), 22–34. 51 fcw [Franz Carl Weiskopf], ‘Am Morgen des 13. März’, Das Wort 3, no. 6 (1938): 149. 52 On the activities of intellectuals and the frictions between communist and non-communist activists see Kateřina Čapková and Michal Frankl, Unsichere Zuflucht: Die Tschechoslowakei und ihre Flüchtlinge aus NS-Deutschland und Österreich 1933–1938 (Vienna: Böhlau, 2012), 90–4, 111–2, 133, 155–62. 53 Frank Warschauer, ed., Prag heute (Prague: Orbis, 1937); Otto Pick zum 50. Geburtstag, 1937 (special edition of the journal Die Brücke, with contributions by Paul Eisner, Oskar Baum, Max Brod, Karel Čapek, Otokar Fischer, Rudolf Fuchs and others).

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litical order. In his lecture on ‘Czech and German Poetry and Literature in Czechoslovakia’, which he held at the Bert-Brecht-Klub for a crowd mostly made up of émigré writers from Nazi Germany, Fuchs compared both literatures from an ‘inner perspective’. He highlighted the richness of Czech literature from an aesthetic and political point of view, mentioning his favourite social poet, Petr Bezruč, and the ‘cosmopolitan’ liberal literature of Karel Čapek. He also explained the shortcomings of German literature in Czechoslovakia. In Fuchs’ view, German literature in Czechoslovakia suffered from a lack of common cultural foundations with Czech writers as well as from the divisions between writers from Prague and those from the borderlands, who generally subscribed to provincial, nationalist and in some cases National Socialist agendas. In contrast, the (mainly Jewish) writers and translators from Prague ‘have shown by their [translational, I. K.] activities their tie to their homeland (vlast) and rendered a service not only to Czech but also to German poetry’.54 Thus, Fuchs, who was raised in a Czech Jewish family in Poděbrady and later became a German-Jewish writer in Prague, did not believe that the primary division was between German and Czech writers, but between both literatures as a whole. Due to its internal divisions, German literature in Czechoslovakia lacked the liveliness and plurality of Czech literature. The writers from the borderlands, as well as some Prague-born writers did not perceive Czechoslovakia as their homeland and did not create their art with a focus on Czechoslovakia. The bitterness of Fuchs’ words, in particular towards his (Sudeten) German colleagues, was in part fed by (Sudeten) German agitation against his work and the work of other Jewish writers and translators. German nationalists campaigned against Fuchs and others in 1935 because of the fact that the Ministry for Public Education had bought Fuchs’ translation of the Schlesische Lieder by Petr Bezruč and his anthology of Czech poetry and distributed them to German schools in Czechoslovakia. The nationalists criticized the Jewish authors and translators – and particularly Fuchs and Werfel – for admiring Bezruč in spite of the latter’s anti-Semitic views.55 The recipient of the 1937/38 Herder-Preis, Fuchs believed that the only way German literature could undergo a renaissance in Czechoslovakia and the only way ‘brotherhood’ could be established between the nations was if German and Czech workers came together to create a common union.56 54 Rudolf Fuchs, České a německé básnictví v Československu. Přednáška pro německé spisovatele v klubu Berta Brechta v Praze v únoru 1936 [Czech and German poetry in Czechoslovakia: lecture for German writers in Bert-Brecht-Klub in Prague in February 1936] (Prague: Borový, 1937), 18. 55 Rudolf Fuchs, ‘Deutsche Lehrer und tschechische Dichter’, Die Wahrheit 34 (4 December 1935): 6. 56 Fuchs, České a německé básnictví, 28–9.

Utopia as Everyday Practice  33

Rudolf Fuchs left out these political views in his essay on translation published in 1938 in the journal Das Wort, a communist émigré journal in Moscow. This was the first time he had written on translation as a creative practice, but the article did not appear in the Czechoslovak German or Czech press. In his essay ‘Translating as Art and Fate’, Fuchs was primarily interested in the artistic and individual dimensions of translation,57 discussing his own conception of translation and the more poetic theories of Otto Pick and Otokar Fischer. In his poem Der Übersetzer, Pick focused on the tragedy and the shortcomings of the translator, ‘because he has to follow in foreign footsteps’ and work in a time and context different from his own. By contrast, Fischer understood translation first and foremost as a ‘mission’. In his poem Překladatel [Translator], Fischer used the metaphor of a sailor: ‘Like a wind coming from the ocean to carry fragrant pollen from very far countries into the country that I love most of all.’58 Similar to Fischer, Fuchs understood translation as a mission, and believed that the translator had an important message to give to his homeland as a gift. In contrast to Fischer, he used the metaphor of a ferryman: ‘Translating is also ferrying across the river, across division. He who translates has to be a good ferryman. He has to know both banks.’59 Later in his essay, Fuchs discusses how he came to literature and translation, emphasizing the importance of his Czech Jewish ‘roots’ and explaining how he became a German writer and translator from Czech into German in Prague: ‘Although I might not be a German man according to the rules of the “Third Reich”, I am a German poet. And as a German poet, I became a translator of Czech poets.’60 Fuchs’ essay remains metaphorical when he reflects on translation. He underlines the need for good translations, writes about his competition with another translator of Petr Bezruč, Georg Mannheimer, whose translations he found dilettantish, and claims that the task of the translator is to mediate between cultures. His essay demonstrates that while Fuchs and his colleagues were aware of the cultural-political impact of their translations, they did not want to be misunderstood as (cultural) politicians. Instead, they primarily understood themselves as artists. However, their awareness of the cultural political function of their translations grew during the 1930s. As Otokar Fischer pointed out in Lidové noviny in 1937:

57 Rudolf Fuchs, ‘Übersetzen als Kunst und Schicksal’, Das Wort 3, no. 12 (1938): 96–107. 58 Ibid., 102–4, here 103–4. 59 Ibid., 104. Original: ‘Übersetzen ist auch das Hinübersetzen über einen Strom, über Trennendes. Der, welcher übersetzt, muß ein guter Fährmann sein. Er muß beide Ufer kennen.’ 60 Ibid.

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One cannot but recognize that Rudolf Fuchs’s long-standing efforts to translate the national works of our poetry – and in particular Erben and Bezruc [sic] – are not only motivated by his artistic convictions, but also by his role as a non-egoistic, non-profit-oriented, militant, in a word, heroic mediator.61

No matter if the visible and invisible writers and translators of Hoffmeister’s Parnassus identified as Czech-Jewish, German-Jewish, Zionist, Czechoslovak liberal or Czechoslovak socialist, none of them denied the importance of belonging to a nation or a national culture. Their understanding of mediation was first and foremost situated within the framework of more or less clearly defined Czech, German and Jewish cultures. Although their everyday experience showed them the absurdity of ‘national cultures’, they did not radically question their existence. The limits of this Czechoslovak debate on Jewish identity also became readily apparent in several articles and letters published in the intellectual journal Die Wahrheit in 1933/34. The journal, which existed between 1921 and 1938, pursued a humanistic agenda aimed at forging ‘mutual understanding’ between German and Slavic cultures, Christians and Jews in Central Europe; in its later years it primarily focused on Czechoslovakia. The editor Georg Mannheimer, who was born in Vienna and moved to Prague before the First World War, where he became a journalist and translator, initially supported a liberal conception of German-Jewish identity. During the 1930s he became a Zionist while maintaining his support for Czechoslovak democratic culture. Amidst the debates on German-Jewish identities sparked by the rise of the Nazis in Germany, Die Wahrheit published an essay by Joseph Roth titled ‘Der Segen des ewigen Juden’ in 1934. In his essay, Roth not only criticized the patriotic self-understandings of German Jews in Germany before 1933, but criticized Zionism too. According to him, Zionism was not a ‘sufficient measure against the chauvinism of modern nations’. Referring to the ubiquity of modern nationalism, he believed that the Jews should instead realize that they were dispersed ‘throughout the world to spread the name of God’ and that ‘modern nations were a fashion, only a hundred years of age, an indirect outcome of the Enlightenment and the sciences, which are as all fashions short-lived.’ Roth wrote that there was nothing wrong with not feeling a sense of belonging to one nation. In contrast, he thought that being ‘between nations’ or ‘between races’ was something very positive:

61 Otokar Fischer, ‘Bezruč německý’, Lidové noviny (22 November 1937), quoted after a copy of the Czech original and its German translation in: NA, personal collection of Rudolf Fuchs.

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Why is everybody ashamed when somebody accuses him of not having a fatherland? Is it not more honourable to be a human being (or a Christ) than a German, a French, an Englishman? To stand between the races seems to me more acceptable than to be rooted in one of them – and if only for the reason that it makes it easier to go above the races. And probably this is one of the causes of anti-Semitism: it is the envy of the prisoners, for whom the freemen are an anathema.62

Most of the published readers’ reactions rejected the essay from a Zionist perspective. According to them, the ‘migration’ [Wandern] and ‘dispersion’ of the Jews was a bad thing. For instance, the Zionist Michael Rosenbaum noted in his reaction that the ‘homecoming to Palestine’ was the only way in which to realize ‘the divine within humankind’ and the ‘constitution of a community between true humans’.63 Not one of the authors agreed with Roth’s conception of the Jewish community as a ‘supra-nation’ [Übernation]. In contrast to the leading Zionists in Prague like Brod and Weltsch, Roth did not use this term to signify an ethical exaggeration of the national. Rather, according to the historian Tobias Brinkmann, he was referring to a nation beyond the nation, a non-territorial ‘trans-nation’.64 Although none of the more prominent intellectuals, writers and translators in Prague took part in the discussion of the article in Die Wahrheit, the predominantly Zionist reactions underlined once more the importance of national belonging in Jewish and non-Jewish intellectual debates in interwar Czechoslovakia. The writers and translators in Prague did not go as far as Joseph Roth and radically question the concept of nation or national culture. But this also had to do with their rootedness in Prague. In contrast, Roth was a migrant who had met people of different backgrounds and identities during his migration.65 In most cases, this rootedness hindered the intellectuals of Prague from fully transcending the nation-state paradigm of their time. They thus failed to formulate a clear concept of a pluralistic culture not only in public state62 Joseph Roth, ‘Der Segen des ewigen Juden: Zur Diskussion’, Die Wahrheit 35 (30 August 1934): 4–5, here 5. 63 Michael Rosenbaum, ‘Die Sendung des Judentums’, Die Wahrheit 38, no. 5 (22 September 1934): 5; see also Felix Stössinger, ‘Assimilation und Zionismus’, Die Wahrheit 38 (22 September 1934): 6; Paul Kohn, ‘Der Segen des ewigen Juden am Ziel’, Die Wahrheit 37 (15 September 1934): 5–6. 64 On Roth’s term Übernation, see Tobias Brinkmann, ‘Topographien der Migration – Jüdische Durchwanderung in Berlin nach 1918’, in Synchrone Welten: Zeitenräume jüdischer Geschichte, ed. Dan Diner (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005), 175–98, especially 192–4. 65 On Roth’s reflections on being a migrant in Berlin see also Anne-Christin Saß, Berliner Luftmenschen: Osteuropäisch-jüdische Migranten in der Weimarer Republik (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012), 130 and 203. On diasporic identities of Jewish intellectuals in interwar Europe, see Ilse Josepha Lazaroms, The Grace of Misery: Joseph Roth and the Politics of Exile, 1919–1939 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 52–4.

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ments, but also in private correspondence. Irrespective of their political convictions and cultural affiliations, however, they opposed the worldview of nationalists inside and outside of Czechoslovakia in the 1930s through their translational activities.

From Practice to Memory: The Legacies of Cultural Translators during and after the Shoah When Otokar Fischer died in March 1938, the network of mutual promotion in Prague began to crumble.66 By the end of 1938 Karel Čapek, one of the most influential writers in Czechoslovakia at the time, had died at a relatively young age. However, he lived long enough to experience the growing anti-democratic and anti-Semitic atmosphere in Prague. Beginning in September 1938, he and other non-Jewish representatives of democratic Czechoslovak culture were maligned as ‘white Jews’ in pamphlets distributed by radical Czech fascists.67 Most of the writers and translators of the network – including those represented in Hoffmeister’s cartoon – lost their jobs as journalists and translators because of their Jewish background and their political convictions. Čapek’s close friend František Langer emigrated to London, where he worked with the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. In 1939, Rudolf Fuchs and Otto Pick emigrated to London too. Pick died a few months after arriving. Max Brod emigrated to Palestine, where he maintained close contact with the writer Jiří/Georg Mordechai Langer, the brother of František. Jiří Langer died in Tel Aviv in 1943 as a result of the strain put on him by the trip to Palestine.68 Oskar Baum’s attempts to emigrate to Palestine were not successful and he died in 1941 in the Jewish hospital in Prague. Paul Kornfeld was murdered in the ghetto Litzmannstadt/Łódź in 1942.69

66 Fischer was the second of the writers and translators depicted in Hoffmeister’s Parnassus to die; the first was the writer Walter Seidl, who died in 1937 at the age of 32 on a trip in Italy. 67 On Čapek’s death see Ort, Art and Life, 24. On fascist and anti-Semitic propaganda in Prague in the autumn of 1938 and the accusations against the democratic establishment see several documents in NA, Presidium Ministerstva vnitra – Archiv Ministerstva vnitra (PMV– AMV), sign. 225–1324–1. 68 For instance, see the Czech letters from Max Brod and Jiří Langer to František Langer from 1941 and 1942 in: LA PNP, personal collection of František Langer. 69 Sabine Dominik, ‘Oskar Baum (1883–1941), ein Schriftsteller des “Prager Kreises”: Monografische Untersuchung zu Leben und Werk von Oskar Baum’, unpublished Dr. phil. disserta-

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The other writers from Hoffmeister’s cartoon – Paul Eisner, František Kubka and Paul Leppin – survived in Prague. While the non-Jewish writers Kubka and Leppin were shortly imprisoned by the Gestapo and then returned to ‘normal’ life, Eisner’s marriage to a Christian woman made it possible for him to elude deportation. In the final months of the Second World War he survived in a hiding place in Prague,70 as did his colleague and friend Jiří Weil, a Czech-Jewish writer and former communist.71 Despite the physical dissolution of the loose network in Prague after 1938, some of their visible and invisible ties were preserved. Some of the writers and translators intensified their translational work and writings even during the catastrophe. In Palestine and later Israel, Max Brod, Felix Weltsch and others tried to promote the legacy of German-Jewish literature and culture from Prague, and especially the works of Franz Kafka.72 The illustrator Adolf Hoffmeister, the young Czech Jewish author Egon Hostovský and the prominent socialist writer Franz Carl Weiskopf all emigrated to the United States, where they remained in close contact with other Czechoslovak German and Czech, Jewish and non-Jewish émigrés. Weiskopf published an anthology of Czech and Slovak literature in English and continued working to bring Czechoslovak culture to international, mainly socialist, audiences. Although he placed socialist writers at the centre of his anthology, he also selected a few pieces by liberal Czech and Slovak writers. Significant is the fact that he discussed the legacy of Tomáš G. Masaryk in his introduction. Weiskopf understood his anthology as the confession of a Czechoslovak German to his homeland. However, his anthology makes clear that his activities as a literary translator and mediator were not exclusively motivated by artistic interests, but that his socialist convictions played an important role as well. For Weiskopf, literature and translation were important instruments of socialist cultural politics.73 tion, Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, 1988; Wilhelm Haumann, Paul Kornfeld: Leben – Werk – Wirkung (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1995). 70 Daniel Řehák, ‘Ein Nachlass zu Lebzeiten: Eisners Schaffen während der Okkupation’, in Koeltzsch, Kuklová and Wögerbauer, Übersetzer, 87–108. 71 On Weil, see the article by Ilse Josepha Lazaroms in this volume and Andrea Daniela Schutte, ‘Die jüdische Thematik im Werk Jiří Weils’, Digitale Osteuropa-Bibliothek: Sprache und Kultur I, (accessed 21 October 2015). 72 The editor Hugo Gold and the writer Viktor Fischl worked to raise awareness about the literary heritage of the Prague Jewish writers in Israel. 73 See above all the anthology edited by Franz Carl Weiskopf in collaboration with Egon Hostovsky, Hundred Towers: A Czechoslovak Anthology of Creative Writing (New York: L.B. Fischer, 1945).

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Rudolf Fuchs continued to pursue his work as a translator and ambassador of Czechoslovak literature and culture more than most Czechoslovak exiles in Great Britain. Although he had to fight to be recognized as a Czechoslovak writer in exile in order to receive monthly support from the Czech Refugee Trust Fund, Fuchs wrote several poems and essays about the situation of emigrants as well as several articles and speeches about democratic German Czechoslovaks and their integration into post-war Czechoslovak society.74 Fuchs also continued thinking about the role of cultural translation and mediation in the democratic cultural politics of Czechoslovak Germans. Particularly interesting is the account of how Germans and Czechs might collaborate in post-war Czechoslovakia that he outlined in a 1941 speech titled ‘’Kulturprobleme der Deutschen in der Tschechoslovakei’. Speaking at the Czechoslovak-British Friendship Club, one of the centres of social and cultural life for Czechoslovak emigrants, Fuchs first described the democratic traditions of the Germans in Czechoslovakia. He said that despite conflicts, the republic’s two decades of existence demonstrated that Czechs and Germans were willing to work together to support democratic institutions and organizations. At the end of the speech, he formulated eight theses on the integration of Germans into a future Czechoslovak society: besides the ‘eradication of Nazi ideology’, Fuchs claimed that scholars should work on writing a cultural history of the Germans in Czechoslovakia. The purpose of the history would be to underscore the importance of democratic traditions and raise awareness about the common cultural heritage of Czechoslovaks and Germans. The history was most likely conceived not only as a tool to help facilitate the integration of Germans into the new Czechoslovakia, but also to show Czechs and Slovaks the extent to which some Germans had agitated for democratic politics and worked against Nazism. Fuchs also claimed that Czechoslovak Germans had to recognize their function as ‘lingual mediators’ between ‘the Czech nation and the world’. Thus, he thought that Czechoslovak Germans had to have knowledge of Czech.75 While his public speech had an optimistic undertone, Fuchs was less optimistic in his essay ‘Mit brennender Sorge’, which was probably never published. The essay criticized Czechoslovak and Central European emigrants in Britain along with some of their organizations for failing to

74 Rudolf Fuchs, ‘Kulturprobleme der Deutschen in der Tschechoslovakei’ (lecture held at the Czechoslovak-British Friendship Club on 15 October 1941), in Ein wissender Soldat: Gedichte und Schriften aus dem Nachlass von Rudolf Fuchs (London: Einheit, 1943), 108–19; Rudolf Fuchs, ‘Der tschechoslowakische PEN-Klub…’, (manuscript): NA, personal collection of Rudolf Fuchs. 75 Fuchs, ‘Kulturprobleme der Deutschen’, 116–7.

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create a cultural home abroad and failing to recognize the importance of intellectual and artistic work.76 Rudolf Fuchs died in February 1942 in a car accident. František Langer delivered an important eulogy at his funeral in London. It demonstrated that Fuchs played an important role not only for the socialist émigré writers with whom he felt the most affinity, but also for Czechoslovak liberals. Langer honoured Fuchs as an outstanding Czechoslovak poet and translator because of both his creativity and his humanism.77 Just as in the autobiographical and literary writings Fuchs composed while in exile, Langer’s eulogy did not mention Fuchs’ Jewish roots. While Judaism played a role in Fuchs’ early writings, he rarely mentioned his connection to Jewish religion and culture in his later works (with one exception: his 1938 essay on translation). After his death, Czechoslovak socialists held up Fuchs as a symbol of Czech-German anti-fascist resistance in interwar Czechoslovakia and in the Czechoslovak exile community. Studies on Czechoslovak Germans of the 1960s also wrote about the importance of his work,78 and he was ‘rediscovered’ by the official literary historiography of the German Democratic Republic in the 1980s.79 The German socialist narrative on Fuchs focused on his commitment to anti-fascist activities, leaving out his relation to Judaism and his contacts with non-socialist Jewish colleagues and friends. At the same time, Fuchs was mostly forgotten in non-socialist post-war studies on German-Jewish literature and literary life in Prague. He did not belong to the most famous poets of the Parnassus and did not fit into a fixed ethnic identity, a fact which became even more important after the Second World War, the Holocaust and the post-1945 forced migrations.80 While Fuchs focused on cultural politics and his own literary work, Pavel Eisner intensified his translational activities ‘at home’ in Prague. Constantly harassed by the police and living in social isolation, translation became a strat76 Rudolf Fuchs, ‘Mit brennender Sorge’, 8 June 1941, NA, personal collection of Rudolf Fuchs. 77 František Langer, ‘Za Rudolfem Fuchsem’ [In memoriam Rudolf Fuchs], in Tvorba z exilu (Prague: Akropolis, 2003), 186–7. 78 Fuchs, Ein wissender Soldat; Paul Reimann, ed., Von Herder bis Kisch: Studien zur Geschichte der deutsch-österreichisch-tschechischen Literaturbeziehungen (Berlin: Dietz, 1961), 116–29. Paul (Pavel) Reimann, born in 1906 to a Czech German Jewish family in Brünn/Brno, was the head of the Institute of the History of the Czech Communist Party in the 1960s and one of the organizers of the 1963 Kafka conference in Liblice. 79 Rudolf Fuchs, Die Prager Aposteluhr: Gedichte, Prosa, Briefe, ed. Ilse Seehase (Halle/Leipzig: Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 1985). 80 For instance, František Langer, who gave the aforementioned eulogy at Fuchs’ funeral, did not mention his colleague in his memoirs at all. See Langer, ‘Za Rudolfem Fuchsem’; František Langer, Byli a bylo: Vzpomínky [They were and it was: memories] (Prague: Acropolis, 2003). On the reception of Fuchs, see also Spector, Prague Territories, 207–10.

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egy of survival for him. Eisner translated numerous books from different European languages into Czech, some of which were published under pseudonyms. He also wrote his most important linguistic studies on the Czech language, which were published shortly after the war. His work as a publisher and translator also enabled him to re-establish himself in intellectual circles in post-war Czechoslovakia. However, things did not always go smoothly. Although Eisner had only survived in the Protectorate’s Prague because of a small, but functioning network of colleagues and friends who supported him with work and had officially ‘rejected’ German culture after the Second World War, he became a person of ‘suspicion’ in 1945/46. In his letter to Václav Černý, an influential literary critic, Eisner mentioned a list that contained the names of all the ʻGermansʼ in Prague. The list was published by the magistrate of Prague on the basis of the census data from 1930: this ‘list of Germans’ included all the Czechoslovak citizens of Prague who declared German nationality in 1930, and who were now forced to reapply for Czechoslovak citizenship – among them, Jewish survivors and Nazis, as well as Eisner who saw himself forced to explain why he was declared as a ‘German’.81 He wrote: I feel that I owe you an explanation. Here it is: I am the son of Jewish parents whose mother tongue was German. My mother and father also spoke Czech, and my father in particular had a close relation to normal Czech people. … Thus, one can say that I have two mother tongues.82

Eisner wrote to Černý that the list had incited constant harassment not only from Czech colleagues, but also from German communists, who hardly knew any Czech. Eisner asked his non-socialist colleague to support him in his application for membership to the Union of Writers since he was not a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, which had already become an important criteria for participating in cultural life.83 Like other translators and writers from Jewish backgrounds, such as the Holocaust survivors Anna Auředníčková and Norbert Fried (who changed his last name to Frýd after the Second World War), Eisner repeatedly affirmed his ‘Czechness’ and his engagement with socialist ideas in various public statements after 1945.84 These statements demonstrate that Czech-German Jews did 81 Seznam osob německé národnosti, žádajících za československou státní příslušnost. Zvláštní vydání Věstníku hlavního města Prahy [List of persons of German nationality requesting Czechoslovak Citizenship: Special Edition of the Journal of the Capital of Prague], Praha 1946. 82 Pavel Eisner to Václav Černý (in Czech), 22 August 1946. German translation printed in Václav Petrbok, ‘Die ‘Tatsache zweier Muttersprachen’. Paul Eisners Schul- und Studienjahre im Prag des frühen 20. Jahrhunderts’, in Koeltzsch, Kuklová and Wögerbauer, Übersetzer, 41–3. 83 Ibid.

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not believe that acceptance in the newly proposed, ethnically homogenous Czechoslovak nation was a given for them. At the same time, these intellectuals – some of whom had broken with the Jewish religion a long time before the Holocaust – tried to live and work in Czechoslovakia without neglecting their German-Czech-Jewish identities. For instance, in a 1946 article for Věstník židovské obce náboženské v Praze [Journal of Jewish Religious Communities in Prague] titled ‘Heine and Us: In the Name of all Pariahs of the World’, Eisner wrote: ‘It is time to declare ourselves members of the droves who find themselves rejected again and again by their surroundings. Everything failed and fails, but that is not our fault.’85 Pavel Eisner was also one of those most engaged in promoting the work of Franz Kafka in Czechoslovakia and, after 1945, abroad. His efforts long preceded the famous 1963 Liblice Kafka conference, which officially incorporated Kafka into the socialist literary canon.86 In 1950, Eisner wrote an influential essay on Franz Kafka for a New York publisher, and in 1958 – shortly before his death – his Czech translation of The Trial was published for the first time. In his essay on Kafka, Eisner continued to develop his concept of a ‘triple’ or ‘multiple ghetto’, an idea he had already developed in the 1930s to help explain the outstanding character of the work of Franz Kafka and other GermanJewish writers in Prague. Last but not least, his analysis of the various social, cultural, lingual and national forms of isolation might also be seen as an attempt to come to terms with his own multiple identities and his role as a ‘cultural mediator’.87 Eisner and others continued to publish on Jewish topics, even after February 1948 and the Communist take-over, when it became more difficult to freely express. Many younger writers like Jiří Weil and Norbert Frýd wrote about their Jewish family backgrounds and above all about the Holocaust, about those who were murdered and about survivors. While some of their books gained a broad84 See above all, Lisa Peschelová, ‘Touha po milované vlasti. Svědectví o české kultuře v terezínském ghettu a o poválečné reintegraci’ [The desire for the beloved homeland: testimonies of Czech culture in the Terezín ghetto and of post-war reintegration], Česká literatura, 58, no. 4 (2010): 444–63. 85 Quoted in: Ibid., 445. 86 Veronika Tuckerova is currently working on a book based on her PhD manuscript ‘Reading Kafka during the (Cold)War’ (Columbia University 2012), which critically examines the interpretation of Kafka after 1945 in the East and West and the self-mythologization of some of his interpreters. The book will also include a chapter on Eisner. On Liblice see Ines Koeltzsch, ‘Liblice’, in Enzyklopädie jüdischer Geschichte und Kultur, vol. 3, ed. Dan Diner (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2012), 511–5. 87 For a critical discussion of Eisner’s concept of the ‘triple/multiple ghetto’ see Georg Escher, ‘“But one cannot live without a people”: Paul/Pavel Eisners Kafka-Lektüre und die Literaturwissenschaft’, in Koeltzsch, Kuklová and Wögerbauer, Übersetzer, 257–70.

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er audience, their articles on Bohemian-, Czech- and German-Jewish literature and literary translations primarily appeared in the Czechoslovak Jewish papers Věstník židovské obce náboženské v Praze (which, after 1952, changed its name to the Journal of Jewish Communities in Czechoslovakia) and Židovská ročenka [The Jewish Yearbook] (founded in 1954 and edited by the Jewish community). Both journals had a rather small audience. The latter, in particular, often reprinted poems and short stories from the authors depicted in Hoffmeister’s Parnassus. These journals constituted two of the few places where these writers of diverse cultural, political and religious backgrounds were brought together again.88 Surviving members of the literary network of the Parnassus of Prague were also reunited in the summer of 1964 during the cultural-political thaw in Czechoslovakia. On the occasion of the first Kafka exhibition in Prague, Max Brod visited his hometown for the first time after more than 20 years of living abroad. According to Eduard Goldstücker – former Czechoslovak ambassador to Israel, victim of the political trials and in the 1960s, professor for German literature at Charles University – Max Brod met him, František Langer and Arnošt Kolman – a Marxist philosopher – in Langerʼs apartment in Prague Vinohrady. While discussing life in pre-war Prague, they also talked about their different conceptions of Jewish identity. Goldstücker stated that they represented the four ‘cultural options’ of Bohemian Jewry since emancipation (German-Jewish, CzechJewish, Zionist and Socialist). Max Brod countered that there were at least two more options that were not represented in the room: the Hasidic (embodied by Jiří Langer) and that of religious conversion (the path taken by Alfred Fuchs and Otokar Fischer). Goldstücker told this anecdote to historian Hillel J. Kieval, who summarized it in his book Languages of Communities: The very categories German, Czech, Jew; liberal, Communist, patriot; mystic, rationalist, Orthodox, and assimilationist, which were reported to be present in the Langer apartment (in body or spirit) on that June day in 1964, existed in a state of perpetual movement – seeming to appear only to collapse, regroup, and melt away.89

88 See for example Pavel Eisner, ‘Otokar Fischer’, VŽNOvČs 20, no. 4 (1958): 2; Lev Brod, ‘Pražský spisovatel dr. Max Brod pětasedmdesátníkem’ [The Prague-born writer dr. Max Brod on his 75th birthday anniversary], VŽNOvČs 21, no. 7 (1959): 5–6; ‘U hrobu Rudolfa Fuchse’ [At the graveyard of Rudolf Fuchs], VŽNOvČs 29, no. 10 (1967): 8; Oskar Baum, ‘Odvracená kletba’ [A defeated curse], Židovská ročenka 4 (1957/58): 104–7; František Langer, ‘Můj bratr Jiří’ [My brother Jiří], Židovská ročenka 6 (1959/60): 83–99; Otto Pick, ‘Na předměstí’ [In the suburbs], Židovská ročenka 7 (1960/61): 76. 89 Hillel J. Kieval, Languages of Community (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 224.

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 43

The encounter between Max Brod and František Langer, who were at the very centre of the Prague Parnassus, was one of the last times that members of the loose network of writers and translators of pre-war Prague came together. By the summer of 1964, the Parnassus had already become a memorial.

Conclusion: The Parnassus of Prague as a Reality and a Utopia Adolf Hoffmeister’s cartoon obviously cannot be read as a simple picture of the reality of writers, translators and journalists in Prague before the Shoah – of an easy-going professional network founded on the peaceful coexistence of Czech and German, Jewish and non-Jewish artists in the Czechoslovak capital. However, it is the only (or at least one of very few) visual testimonies to the existence of this loose literary network. It has an ironic undertone that is reinforced by the captions below the picture. In fact, the cartoon is a snapshot of a powerful and productive network of writers that was not free from tensions and conflict. The relationships between the visible and non-visible colleagues were not always friendly as the cartoon suggests, but were also marked by misunderstandings, competition, ignorance and struggles for recognition, prestige and power. However, it is not by chance that the cartoon appeared in the autumn of 1933 in a journal that sought to mediate between German and Slavic, German and Czech/Slovak cultures. The editors, both German-Jewish natives of Prague, explicitly placed their journal in the tradition of Bolzano’s Bohemism, the territorial, non-ethnic patriotism of early nineteenth century Bohemian intellectual thought. The cartoon thus might be read as an ironic representation of these writers’ self-understanding as cultural mediators. They did not begin their careers as mediators and translators, but came to cultural translation through their own writings and professional interests. Because of the nationalist framework of Czechoslovak society in the first decades of the twentieth century, translation became both a cultural-political issue and a strategy. Although Scott Spector is right to emphasize that the Prague writers and translators did not subscribe to a ‘[postmodern] ideology of pluralism’,90 they were well aware of the cultural-political significance of their literary translations. Not surprisingly, this awareness became greater after the spring of 1933. Thus, the cartoon might also be interpreted as a representation of these intellectuals’ utopian vision, in 90 Spector, Prague Territories, 233.

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which different cultural, religious, aesthetic, and political orientations constituted an inspiration rather than a barrier. If we account for the conflicts and restrictions of the Parnassus of Prague, then it does not matter if we call it a ‘middle ground’, a ‘third space’, a contact zone or a transnational space. The cultural creativity of the Parnassus of Prague was not the product of a theoretical concept, but of the everyday practice of translation. As Hannah Arendt explained in her essay on the intellectual legacy of fin-de-siècle Central European thinkers and artists, translation contributed to the ‘cultural atmosphere’ created by Jews and addressed mainly to non-Jews in the post-emancipation period.91 The writers and translators from Prague did not act as a collective, but their individual achievements created a cultural atmosphere – an elusive yet productive atmosphere that became especially important in 1933, when many returning expatriates and refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria began coming to Prague. The translational activities of Prague Jewish authors might be seen as an excellent example of the ‘structural pacifism’ that Victor Karady hypothesized to be one of the most important aspects of European Jewish history.92 Cultural translation as an everyday utopian practice in Prague in the first decades of the twentieth century was ultimately not condemned to fail, because it survived in memory.

91 Hannah Arendt, ‘Creating a Cultural Atmosphere’, in Hannah Arendt: The Jewish Writings, ed. Jerome Kohn and Ron H. Feldman (New York: Schocken, 2007), 298–302. 92 Victor Karady, Gewalterfahrung und Utopie: Juden in der europäischen Moderne (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1999), 18.

Marija Vulesica

‘What Will Become of the German Jews?’ National Socialism, Flight and Resistance in the Intellectual Debate of Yugoslav Zionists in the 1930s

Introduction In September 1930, after the Nazis and the National Socialist Party (NSDAP) won the election, Židov [The Jew], the official journal of the Yugoslav Zionists, commented that the Jews in Germany were now facing hard times. The journal said they would have to ‘confront the new threats resolutely and vigilantly in a united defence front’.1 Several weeks later, Meier Weltmann, a Zionist who originated from Serbia, wrote an article for Židov describing the situation in Germany and Austria. He warned that ‘brutal anti-Semitism’ was becoming increasingly dominant, not only in Central European political culture, but gradually on the streets as well. At the same time, he noted that both Zionists and non-Zionists in the two countries were ‘disoriented’ by the recent developments.2 Židov, which began publication at the end of 1917, had thus far consistently monitored, discussed and debated incidents and acts of anti-Semitism occurring across Europe. The authors and editors of Židov and its predecessor Židovska smotra [The Jewish Review] which was in print from 1906 to 1914, were very aware of anti-Jewish events and declarations and consistently called on the Jews to react militantly. Moreover, Yugoslavia’s Zionists – who were mostly male – invariably recommended how this battle should be fought and what the Jewish reaction should be. Following the enormous success of the Nazis in Germany from 1930 onward, they pointed out that the Jews should start to position themselves decisively and consciously as Zionists and should defend themselves as such against any attacks. Meier Weltmann’s observation that German and Austrian Jews were ‘disoriented’ must have also been seen as a warning by Yugoslav Zionists at that time, because only a determined attitude toward all 1 Anonymous, ‘107 nacionalnih socijalista u Reichstagu’ [107 National Socialists in the Reichstag], in Židov (22 September 1930): 6. 2 Meier Weltmann, ‘Alarm antisemitizma. Trijumf brutalnog antisemitizma u Centralnoj Evropi’ [Alarming anti-Semitism: triumph of brutal anti-Semitism in Central Europe], Židov (17 October 1930): 2. Translation: From the German by Karen Margolis, edited by Jaime Hyatt

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attacks against Jews and the boosting of Jewish self-confidence could prevent this disorientation and simultaneously serve as a resolute reaction to anti-Semitism and Nazism. Almost every internal intellectual debate within Jewish circles, or rather, Zionist circles in Yugoslavia, focused on these positions. These initial reactions to the Nazis’ electoral successes were just the beginning of an extensive and broadly based debate within Yugoslav Zionism about Nazi policy toward the Jews, the reaction of German (and European) Jewry, and the specific results of this policy and the reaction it evoked. Nearly everybody in Yugoslavia could see the consequences: by March 1933, German Jewish refugees and emigrants had already started arriving in several Yugoslav cities. In the following article, I shall present and analyze the positions, opinions and demands of three leading Zionist figures on this cluster of themes. I shall also examine whether the topic of ‘catastrophe’ played a part in the intellectual debates regarding the situation of German Jews. After the realization that some kind of ‘great misfortune or disaster’ had struck the Jews in 1933, was there an idea, or concept, or answer as to how this misfortune could be overcome? Did the catastrophe have an intellectual counterpart? A utopia perhaps? The journal Židov served the Zionists as a forum for arguments, ideas and debates. Throughout its existence this Zionist publication and its editors claimed to illustrate and represent not only the interests of Zionism but also those of Yugoslav Jewry as a whole. In fact, Židov included many reports and news items relating to the Jewish community and Jewish individuals that cannot be described as primarily Zionist. For this reason, Židov is also the most important source in the present article for reconstructing and analyzing the relevant intellectual contributions. Zionism was the dominant tendency and political position in Yugoslav Jewry from the 1920s onward.3 Beginning with a closer look at prominent Zionist men and women and their way of reasoning, especially those who were engaged in the debates at the time, seems a clear starting point; indeed, there is no doubt that many Yugoslavian intellectuals with Zionist sympathies expressed their opinions on the burning issues of the period. This is evidenced by private literary estates and correspondence, and pamphlets and magazines that were published nationwide and are preserved in various international archives today.4 As examples, I would like to present three outstanding individuals and the scope of their political thought: Aleksandar Licht (1884–1948), the undis3 Harriet Pass Freidenreich, The Jews of Yugoslavia: A Quest for Community (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979), 157–8. 4 It is certainly indicative of Yugoslavian Jewry that public statements or private notes by nonZionists are rarely found in the archives.

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puted intellectual leader of Yugoslavia’s Zionist movement in his time; Lavoslav Schick (1882–1942), an active, committed Zionist and scholar of Judaism; and the ethnologist Vera Stein-Ehrlich (1897–1980), who became an internationallyrenowned anthropologist after 1945. I have chosen to concentrate specifically on the first month following the Nazis’ procurement of power in Germany as the focus of my analysis of these intellectuals. It is precisely this initial period, when the Nazis secured power and instituted their openly anti-democratic and anti-Jewish policies, that represented an enormous intellectual challenge for the Jews of Yugoslavia. Zionism in Europe – including in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – was certainly marked by its diverse forms. Not every Zionist shared the same opinion on the meaning of the Jewish homeland in Palestine, or on the status of the (Yugoslav) galut, or, evidently, on the events taking place in Germany. Each of the three figures I have selected was clearly committed to his or her Jewish identity; all three believed in the Jewish homeland in Palestine and all three resolutely opposed the Nazis’ anti-Jewish policies. However, their personal actions and attitudes differed with respect to both individual and practical questions. In addition, what Licht, Schick and Stein-Ehrlich had in common is that they lived and worked in Zagreb. This geographical connection was indicative: Zagreb was the intellectual and organizational centre of Zionism in Yugoslavia. This certainly does not mean that the other major centres in the country – particularly Belgrade – did not also produce confirmed and committed intellectual Zionist personalities, as indeed, they did: the Zionist leaders David Alkalaj (1862–1933), David Albala (1886–1942) and Friedrich Pops (1874–1948) among them.5 In my research thus far, however, I have focused mainly on the archives in the Croatian territories of the former kingdom of Yugoslavia. On the one hand, this approach reflects the primary focus of Yugoslavia’s Zionist work, and on the other hand, the practical considerations of my research to date. All the same, these three figures and their attitudes can be taken as illustrative examples of the internal discourse on Zionism at the beginning of 1933. Before outlining and explaining the intellectual debates, I would like to take a closer look at the biographies of these three selected figures and the different environments from which they came. First, however, I will briefly digress into the history and origins of Zionism in the southern Slav countries (particularly the countries of Yugoslavia) from the turn of the century until the Second World War. This historical background is almost entirely unknown, both in post-Yugoslavian and in (Western) European studies. That alone provides a solid reason for studying this rich and uncharted history. Moreover, understanding 5 Freidenreich, The Jews of Yugoslavia, 78, 153–5.

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the historical background may help to contextualize the social and intellectual framework in which the Zionist protagonists in the 1930s made their contributions. Finally, I will discuss the contributions and patterns of thought and emotion that were publicly expressed after 1933.

Zionism and Zionists in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918–1941) Up until the end of the First World War and the creation, of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918 (renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929), Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian and Macedonian Jews lived in different empires and nation states.6 At the beginning of the twentieth century, young Jews in particular began to intentionally make closer contact with other Jewish populations. The decisive impetus for this, and for the spread of Zionism in the South Slav countries, came from a group founded in Vienna in 1902 called The Society of Jewish Academics from the South Slav Countries ‘Bar Giora’ [Društvo Židova akademičara iz jugoslavenskih zemalja ’Bar Giora’]. This group brought together students from Croatia-Slavonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Serbia and Bulgaria in order to stimulate and strengthen the ‘nationalist Jewish feelings of Jewish university students from the Slav South, to cultivate the Hebrew language and Jewish history and to unify and forge bonds between Sephardi and Ashkenazy Jews’.7 The spread of the Zionist idea in the South Slav countries in the early years of the twentieth century occurred solely through the individual work of students who had personally brought Zionism from Vienna to their respective home regions.8 In their second annual report of 1903–04, the members announced that Bar Giora had 22 active and 4 inactive members, with 14 mem-

6 See, Holm Sundhaussen, ‘Jugoslawien: Zahl und räumliche Verteilung der Juden im Jahre 1941’, in Dimension des Völkermordes: Die Zahl der jüdischen Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, ed. Wolfgang Benz (Munich: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 1991), 311–30, particularly 311. Around 65,000 Jews lived in the territory according to the first national census in 1921 in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. 7 Cited from Adolf Benau and Oskar Grof, ‘Mrtvim drugovima’ [The dead comrades], in Gideon (18 June 1922): 176. 8 CAHJP [Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People], Eventov-Archiv, B-138, Fuhrmann to the Action Committee; CAHJP, Eventov-Archiv, B-138, Schön to Mihael Agmon.

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bers in Zagreb and Budapest.9 The Zagreb members included Aleksandar Licht, who was immediately elected as president of Bar Giora in 1905 during his academic year abroad in Vienna.10 The membership was exclusively male until the academic year 1911–1912. In that year, Erna Hofmann, a medical student from Zagreb, became the first female member to join. She was the half-sister of Lavoslav Schick.11 By 1914, Bar Giora’s political and literary gatherings in Vienna, and the attraction it held for students from Slav countries, resulted in the founding of many Zionist organizations and other Zionist activities in the South Slav countries. For example, the first congress of Jewish university students from the South Slav countries was held in Osijek in 1904. Speakers from Croatia-Slavonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria reported on the situation of Zionism in their respective countries. At that time, Zionist meetings in the region still roused the anger of non-Zionists. Indeed, during Lavoslav Schick’s speech on the necessity of the Zionist movement, the Zionists and their opponents came to blows, which resulted in the intervention of the authorities and the cessation of the meeting altogether.12 Despite such protest among Jews, in the following years several Zionist clubs, associations and shekel groups were set up in all the South Slav countries.13 The Zionists’ level of organization in these countries grew steadily until the outbreak of the war. Further conferences were held in 1908 in Zemun, in 1909 in Brod na Savi (now Slavonski Brod) and in 1910 in Sarajevo. The scheduled conference in Belgrade in 1912 had to be cancelled because the outbreak of the first Balkan War put a stop to the plans of the local association there.14 One of the most important signs of intensified Zionist organization was the founding of the Zionist publication Židovska smotra in November 1906 by Aleksandar and Hermann Licht. Until 1914, when it had to stop publication, it gave full coverage 9 Izvještaj društva Židova akademičara iz jugoslavenskih zemalja ‘Bar Giora’ u Beču, 1903– 1904 [Report of the society of Jewish academics from the South Slav countries, ‘Bar Giora’, in Vienna], 21. 10 CAHJP, Eventov-Archiv, A-18, Nachruf von Robert Veith: Novi Omanut (1999) 32/331–6. 11 Mihael Agmon, ‘Sa članovima Bar Giora od prije I. svjetskog rata’ [With the members of Bar Giora before the First World War], Bilten Hitahadut Olej Yugoslavya (subsequently Bilten), 30 September 1976. Erna Hofmann studied medicine and immigrated to Palestine in 1936 with Josip Cohen, whom she later married. 12 HDA (Hrvatski državni arhiv/ Croatian State Archive], PRZV, Document No. 3578, Box 698. 13 ’Izvještaj društva Židova akademičara iz jugo-slavenskih zemalja ‘Bar Giora’ u Beču. Za godinu 1911–12. [Report of the society of Jewish academics from the Yugoslav countries ‘Bar Giora’ in Vienna. For the year 1911–12.], 10. 14 Odgoda kongresa [Motions rejected by the congress], in Židovska smotra [ŽS] (1 August 1912); CAHJP, Eventov-Archiv, B-138, Report on the beginnings of Bar Giora.

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to the events of the Zionist movement, attacked anti-Semitism, defended the rights of South Slav Jews and simultaneously promoted awareness of Jewish culture. Both Židovska smotra and its successor Židov can be consulted today as excellent sources and testimonies for Jewish history in the territories of Yugoslavia. When the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was proclaimed in 1918, the Zionists inhabiting the territory declared support for their homeland. They regarded themselves as ‘nationalist Jews’ and ‘political Yugoslavians’ alike. Moreover, they referred particularly to their persistent efforts (beginning in 1902) to unite the Jewish populations of the South Slav countries. At the end of 1918, they believed they had achieved this goal.15 The first disappointment followed only a few weeks later, however, when violent riots broke-out in large parts of Croatia which targeted the Jews and their property.16 In the following years, especially from the Zionists’ viewpoint, the Jews of Yugoslavia experienced repeated political and legal setbacks such as the refusal to explicitly recognize the Jews as a people, or the persistent recurrence of anti-Semitic attacks in the press and the public arena.17 However, in the constitutions of 1921 and 1931, the Jews’ political and civic rights were guaranteed; indeed, they were officially regarded as a religious minority and as such they enjoyed state protection. In 1921 around 65,000 Jews lived in the newly established Yugoslav state; by 1941 their total numbers had grown to around 70,000.18 In 1941, at the beginning of the war in Yugoslavia, the country had 121 Jewish communities, of which 73 were Ashkenazy, 36 Sephardi and 13 Orthodox.19 The Jewish populations in Yugoslavia had a dense network of social, cultural and political organizations at their disposal. The most important umbrella associations included the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities, the Federation of Rabbis, and the Federation of Zionists. By the end of the 1920s, Zionist ideas dominated the political and cultural life of the Yugoslav Jewish communities. Most of the Jewish communities had a Zionist-oriented leadership by the end of the 1920s and the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities and the Federation of Rabbis were also Zionist-led, or their

15 Anonymous, ‘Cijonizam i jugoslavenski pokret’ [Zionism and the Yugoslav movement], Židov (23 October 1918): 2. 16 Marija Vulesica, ‘Antisemitismus im ersten Jugoslawien 1918–1941’, Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung 17, (2008): 131–52, particularly 135–8. 17 Ibid. 18 Freidenreich, The Jews of Yugoslavia, 56; Sundhaussen, ‘Jugoslawien. Zahl und räumliche’, 311–30, particularly, 311–12. 19 Ante Sorić, ed., Jews in Yugoslavia: A Catalogue (Zagreb: Muzejski proctor, 1989), 69.

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executive committees sympathized with Zionism.20 As evidenced by the numerous clubs and associations publishing periodicals and other material, as well as organizing cultural events, Zionists in Yugoslavia represented a thoroughly nationalistic and self-confident form of Judaism.21 Despite the dominance of a Zionist ideology that was able to evolve successfully and become established in Yugoslavia (which was partly the result of existing national and religious diversity in the country), by 1941, only a few hundred Yugoslav Zionist men and women had actually immigrated to Palestine. Zionism in Yugoslavia, just as elsewhere in Europe, was not a homogenous movement. Although the General Zionists, headed by Aleksandar Licht, clearly comprised the majority and were able to maintain their leadership position until 1941, two further factions emerged during the 1930s: the Poale Zion [Workers of Zion] and the Revisionist movement. In addition, particularly in Bosnia, there was a strong Sephardic Jewish movement that was close to the Zionist movement and its philosophy in principle, but which demanded some kind of special status for the Sephardi people, their history and culture.22 There were undoubtedly internal struggles amongst factions and debates about the respective goals and methods in the Zionist movement(s) in Yugoslavia. To date, however, there is still no coherent examination of these issues. In any case, the rise of Nazism and the perils this brought for the German Jews, and gradually the European Jews as well, brought about additional intellectual challenges, and indeed, required more intensive discussion and debate.

Aleksandar Licht, Lavoslav Schick and Vera SteinEhrlich Aleksander Licht Aleksandar Licht was not only the intellectual leader of Yugoslav Jewry, but also undoubtedly the leading Jewish intellectual in Yugoslavia of his time. Born 20 Cvi Loker, Začeci i razvoj cionizma u južnoslavenskim krajevima [The beginning and the development of Zionism in the South Slav regions], in Dva stoljeća povijesti i kulture Židova u Zagrebu i Hrvatskoj, ed. Ognjen Kraus (Zagreb: Jewish Community Zagreb, 1998), 166–78, particularly 174. 21 Ivo Goldstein, Židovi u Zagrebu 1918–1941 [Jews in Zagreb 1918–1941], (Zagreb: Novi liber, 2004), 108–24, 230–58. 22 Freidenreich, The Jews of Yugoslavia, 146–54.

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on 28 March 1884 in Lepavina, a small town in northern Croatia, he studied law in Zagreb and Vienna and received his doctorate in Zagreb in 1909. While still in high school, he attended the Literary Club of Jewish Middle School Students founded in 1898 by the Zagreb rabbi Hosea Jacobi and the young university student Lavoslav Schick. The meetings, an early melting pot of Zionist ideas, offered a platform for young men interested in Zionism. As a student, Licht was incredibly active in helping to spread Zionist ideas in the South Slav countries of the Habsburg Monarchy and Serbia. He assisted the organizers of the first congresses of Zionist academics and high school graduates in Croatia in 1904, 1906 and 1908. As previously stated, Aleksander and his brother Hermann – with the support of their mother Paulina and their other siblings – edited and published Židovska smotra, the first journal of the Zionist movement in the South Slav countries. The journal was dedicated to cultivating Jewish culture and history while vigorously intervening in political debate. It served as a mouthpiece and a corrective influence for supporting and defending the interests of the Jews in Croatia. Both the publication of the journal and Licht’s work as a Zionist and lawyer – he opened his law office in Zagreb at the end of 1913 – ended shortly after the start of the First World War. Licht was drafted into the army and spent most of the duration of the war in military service.23 Those four years of his life were not very well documented. The same is true, incidentally, of all the Zionists in the Kingdom of Croatia under the Habsburg Monarchy, as well as the Jews of its former enemy territory, Serbia. There must have been an agreement, on principle, for the former enemies to maintain mutual silence about the war. There is no other explanation for the lack of discussion and sources related to experiences during the First World War in the interwar period in Yugoslavia. After the war, Licht resumed his work in Zionism and continued to practice law. He married Ester (or Erna) Montiljo and the couple had two children. Their daughter Tamar survived the Holocaust and lived in Israel after the war; their son Ruben died in 1933 at the age of 11. The proclamation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in December 1918, and particularly the early years of its existence, were followed by a period of insecurity for the Jews in the territory, with some fierce outbreaks of anti-Semitism and political campaigns against Jews.24 It was Aleksandar Licht who intervened for the Jews of Yugoslavia and against the anti-Semitic policy of the new state in a memorandum to the National Council, submitted in 1918, and 23 Anonymous, ‘Biografija Dra. Lichta’ [Biography of Dr Licht], Židov (6 April 1934): 7. Special supplement for Aleksandar Licht’s 50th birthday. 24 Vulesica, Antisemitismus im ersten Jugoslawien, 131–52.

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his passionate speeches at the First Zionist Congress of Yugoslav Zionists in January 1919.25 Licht’s honest, untiring commitment to supporting the interests of the Jews and spreading Zionist ideas earned him great respect and prestige in Yugoslav Zionist circles. In time, he became a universally admired and recognized leadership figure. An acknowledgement in Židov on the occasion of his 50th birthday in April 1934 described him as ‘Dr Licht: Yugoslavia’s greatest Zionist intellect and best Zionist orator.’ His non-Jewish contemporaries also appreciated his intellectual acuity and presumably his delightful company. Notable among them were the Croatian intellectual Ivo Politeo and the Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović, who was internationally renowned – Licht had close friendships with both men.26 Aleksandar Licht held several offices in Zionist organizations until 1933 when he was elected president of the Federation of Yugoslavian Zionists. He held this office until the beginning of the Second World War in Yugoslavia in April 1941. In the period of Nazi rule in Germany in the 1930s, when open hatred against the Jews increasingly spread across Europe, Licht tirelessly gave speeches and wrote articles in the campaign against unjust treatment and argued for a firm Jewish position. On 6 April 1941, Nazi troops invaded Yugoslavia and divided up the country, which resulted in the founding of the fascist puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia (ISC). Thus began the process by which Jews were deprived of their rights, persecuted and eventually murdered throughout the entire former Yugoslav territory. At the outset, Aleksandar Licht, along with many other prominent Jews, was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to Graz in April 1941. The Gestapo did not release him until March 1942. Following his release, Licht went to Ljubljana, where his wife and daughter were waiting for him, and where he met up with a group of children and young people (led by the Croatian Zionist Josef Indig) who had fled the ISC.27 Helped by DELASEM, a Jewish-Italian refugee aid organization, Licht and the group managed to escape to Italy and eventually reach Switzerland.28

25 Lav Stern, ‘Naš vođa Aleksandar Licht’ [Our leader Aleksandar Licht], Židov (6 April 1934): 3; Anonymous, ‘Biografija Dra. Lichta’, 7. Special supplement for Aleksandar Licht’s 50th birthday. 26 Jakir Eventov, ‘Nostalgije evropljanina. Uz desetgodišnjicu smrti Aleksandra Lichta’ [Nostalgic feelings of a European: on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the death of Aleksandar Licht], Jevrejski Almanah: 1957–1958, (1958): 197–205. 27 Klaus Voigt, ed., Joškos Kinder, Flucht und Alija durch Europa 1940 –1943: Josef Indigs Bericht, (Berlin: Das Arsenal, 2006). 28 CAHJP, A-18-II-B/C; ‘Bericht von Aleksa Arnon über die Verhaftung und Flucht von Aleksandar Licht’.

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Until his death on 8 June 1948, Licht remained in exile in Switzerland where he wrote many letters of correspondence with comrades and supporters; letters which shed light on his critical analysis of the situation of the Yugoslav and European Jews. These letters, which are held today in the Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) in Jerusalem have not yet been studied in detail. Even in exile, after all the Yugoslav Zionist organizations had been disbanded and thousands of Yugoslav Jews had been murdered in the death camps, Licht’s comrades (already in Switzerland, Italy or Palestine) continued to see him as the beloved and respected Zionist leader he had once been. His former followers never forgot his words and his influence, and in 1955, a group of them finally had his mortal remains transported to Israel, where they were buried on 10 November 1955.29 Although Licht never visited Palestine in his lifetime, some of his followers felt it their duty to bring their esteemed leader to the ‘Promised Land’ and to continue nurturing his memory there. After the war, in his home country of Yugoslavia, it was explicitly prohibited to support the cause of Zionism or to honour former Zionist leaders.30 In 1934, Lavoslav Schick made the prediction that, ‘as long as Yugoslav Jews exist, the name of Aleksandar Licht will always mean something great and illustrious, and it will remain alive for many, many generations to come’.31 Schick was mistaken. It was not just the succeeding Zionist generations of Israel that forgot Aleksandar Licht, but also the Jews of Yugoslavia in particular. Not a single scholarly work is devoted to his charismatic personality and his influential role in Jewish Zionist history in Yugoslavia. The present article is an initial exception.

Lavoslav (Leo) Schick The lawyer, journalist and Judaic scholar Lavoslav Schick was less popular but was certainly an equally respected figure in Yugoslav Zionism.32 Schick was born into a Viennese Jewish family on 27 November 1881; at the age of 10 he left 29 CAHJP, A-18-II-K/h; Booklet to mark the ceremonial transfer of his mortal remains to Israel. 30 Ari Kerkkänen, Yugoslav Jewry: Aspects of Post-World War II and Post-Yugoslav Developments, (Helsinki: Finish Oriental Society, 2001), 43–4. 31 Lavoslav Schick, ‘Marginalije uz Jubilej’ [Mariginalia on the occasion of a jubilee], in Židov (6 April 1934): 6. Special supplement to mark Aleksandar Licht’s 50th birthday. 32 On the spelling of his second name, Schick himself used both variations: Schick and the Slav variant of his name, Šik. He also signed many publications with the pseudonym Jehuda Arje. That name was most probably a reference to the early modern Jewish scholar and author Leone di Moden (Jehuda Arje di Modena). This would have concurred with Schick’s idea of himself as a scholar of Yugoslav-Jewish themes.

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Vienna with his widowed mother, her new husband, and his older brother Otto, and moved to the Croatian capital of Zagreb. In 1909, after studying law in Zagreb, Vienna and Budapest, Schick opened his own law office in Zagreb.33 While studying, he mostly earned his money as a journalist. In 1903 he was already writing for publications such as the Zionist newspapers Die Welt and the Wiener Jüdische Volksblatt. He also worked for the Croatian newspaper Agramer Tagblatt and later co-founded the daily paper Der Morgen.34 By the end of the 1930s, Schick had published a large, as of yet uncounted, number of articles and essays. He also published several monographs including the works Slovenci i Židovi [The Slavs and the Jews] in 1919 and Jüdische Ärzte in Jugoslawien [Jewish Doctors in Yugoslavia] in 1931.35 Schick’s first writing on Zionism appeared in the Bericht des Vereins jüdischer Akademiker aus den südslawischen Ländern ‘Bar Giora’ in 1903–04 in Vienna.36 Like Aleksandar Licht, he had already come in contact with Zionist ideas as a high school student in Zagreb, primarily through the group he jointly initiated, the Literary Club of Jewish Middle School Students.37 Establishing a home for the Jews in Palestine, the education of young people toward the goals of Jewish nationalism and the reinforcement of Jewish self-confidence were major themes that dominated Schick’s work as a journalist and author. He saw the research and reappraisal of Jewish history in the Yugoslav countries as a way to consolidate and expand Jewish self-confidence. Many of his published essays were devoted to different aspects of Jewish history, including some dealing with family history or histories. He also researched his own genealogy and published the results in 1928 in the German journal Jüdische Familien-Forschung.38 Schick lived a full private and professional life, busy with the re-appraisal and presentation of Jewish history, with substantial work for Zagreb’s Jewish community (he was their vice-chairman from 1920 onwards) and his work in the Zionist organizations. He was a gifted speaker who enjoyed lecturing on historical events at various types of gatherings.39 He was also a passionate collector

33 HDA, Državno ravnateljstvo za ponovu u Zagrebu [State directorate for reconsideration in Zagreb], 1016/3 Dr Lavoslav Šik (Schick), odvjetnik [lawyer]. 34 Salomon Wininger, ‘Lavoslav Schick’, in Große Jüdische National-Biographie, vol. 5 (Czernowitz: Orient, 1931), 420. 35 The monograph was simultaneously published in Croatian and German. 36 Lavoslav Schick, ‘Cijonizam i patriotizam’ [Zionism and patriotism], in Izvještaj društva Židova akademičara iz jugoslavenskih zemalja ‘Bar Giora’ u Beču, 1903–1904, 8–10. 37 Wininger, ‘Lavoslav Schick’, 420. 38 Lavoslav Schick, ‘Beiträge zur Genealogie der Familie Schick (Šik)’, Jüdische Familien-Forschung 4, no. 1 (1928): 6–8; Jüdische Familien-Forschung 4, no. 2 (1928): 47–51. 39 Lavoslav Glesinger, ‘Dr. Lavoslav Šik’, in Jevrejski pregled 25 (1974): 9–10, 66–72.

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of books about Jewish history and he had hoped to create a Jewish library. In 1941, when Croatian Jews were forced to surrender all their possessions, Schick, with the help of a Croatian friend, managed to save his private library of five thousand volumes from seizure by the Ustasha (the radical nationalist regime in the ISC). Today, this library is the property of the Jewish Community of Zagreb.40 The Croatian National Library houses Schick’s personal estate, which includes over three thousand letters and items of the correspondence he maintained with people all over Europe. The estate is regrettably incomplete and the question as to the whereabouts of the missing correspondence will probably never be answered. Nevertheless, the estate offers a unique glimpse into the world of Schick’s ideas and his Zionist work. He sincerely believed in Palestine and in the creation of a Jewish state there; to be sure, he was aware of the daily sacrifices people would have to make, yet he did not allow for any doubts about the goal. This sentiment pervades the correspondence with his younger halfbrother, Srećko Hoffmann, who did in fact immigrate to Palestine.41 Schick himself had visited Palestine at least once, staying there for a period of several weeks. He wrote a fairly long report on this trip that appeared in Židov in July 1938. After his return, he pursued more concrete plans for Palestine. His aim was to create business ties between Yugoslavia and Palestine that would allow him to alternate working in both countries. He had also deposited, for the purposes of his immigration, a ‘capitalist certificate’ and the reserve sum of one thousand pounds in an English bank in Palestine.42 His plans and goals could not be fulfilled, however. Schick was arrested in 1941 and deported to the Croatian extermination camp Jasenovac, where he was eventually murdered. The Ustasha confiscated all of his property. The Yad Vashem databank gives his date of death as 2 January 1942. His wife Ela Schick, née Friedrich – the couple married in Zagreb in 1911 – survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel after the war. The circumstances of her survival are unknown. The memory of Lavoslav Schick has been obscured to a greater degree than that of Aleksandar Licht. In 1974 Lavoslav Glesinger (1901–1986), a doctor and historian of medicine, wrote about Schick’s life and work in the Yugoslav Jewish journal Jevrejski Pregled [Jewish Review]. In Glesinger’s opinion, if Schick had died in ‘normal times and under normal circumstances’ a great number of me40 Julia Koš, ‘Lavoslav Šik i njegova knjižnica’ [Lavoslav Schick and his library], in Kraus (ed.), Dva stoljeća povijesti i kulture, 78–83. 41 NSK, R7883 a) Letter to Srećko Hoffman. 42 HDA, Ponova, Schick file.

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morial events would have been held, and several foundations bearing his name would have been created in his honour. Instead, there is very little offered in memory of Lavoslav Schick.43 Glesinger knew Schick, had spent many hours in his library as a young man and had enjoyed Schick’s friendship and hospitality. Yet, hardly anyone today, most notably in the field of research, is aware of Lavoslav Schick’s commitment to the interests of the Jews and to Zionism.

Vera Stein-Ehrlich Vera Stein-Ehrlich came from a well-known and established Jewish family in Zagreb. In contrast to Licht and Schick, she expressed her Zionist views less forcefully and publicly, which may have been because she was a woman. Although Jewish women were taken seriously in the communities and in Zionist organizations, and their work and dedication were both needed and valued, their general presence and their scope for action were clearly limited in comparison with their male counterparts. Indeed, since the nineteenth century in Croatia and Slavonia, Jewish women had been very active in their communities and involved in social work, particularly in the Slavonian capital, Osijek. Such involvement, while normal in Europe, was considered unusual in the South Slav regions. However, the male Zionists in the region realized very early on that they had to persuade women to support the idea of Jewish nationalism.44 In 1908, at the third congress of Jewish university students from the South Slav countries in Zemun, for instance, they stressed ‘the equal status of woman in the Zionist movement’.45 The first Zionist women’s club in the South Slav countries was organized the previous year in the Slavonian city of Đakovo. It was called Moriah (the Hebrew name for Temple Mount), numbered around 50 founding members and was led by Frida Kaiser, who was its first president.46 Zionist women were involved more actively and in larger numbers, however, during the interwar period. The first Yugoslavian branch of WIZO [Women´s In-

43 Glesinger, ‘Dr Lavoslav Šik’, 67. 44 H.E. Kaufmann, ‘Frauen im Dienste des Zionismus’, [Women working for Zionism], Židovska smotra, no. 13 (1909): 221–3. 45 Anonymous, ‘Bericht: III. zionistischer Hochschüler-und Abiturienten-Kongress in Zemun’, [Third congress of university students and senior high school students in Zemun], Židovska smotra, no. 9 (1908): 234–41, here 238 (Report in German). 46 Anonymous, ‘Ein zionistischer Damenverein in Djakovo’ [A Zionist women’s club in Djakovo], Židovska smotra, no. 12 (1907): 298–9.

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ternational Zionist Organization] was founded in Zagreb in 1927. In the period shortly before the break-up of Yugoslavia, WIZO comprised of 64 local clubs.47 Zionist women additionally organized their own childcare and educational support for young people from South Serbia or Jewish refugees from Germany. Židov, for instance, regularly reported on the work of Zionist women throughout the 1930s, and beginning in 1933, the journal had its own women’s supplement. Vera Stein-Ehrlich was born in Zagreb in 1897. There is very little information known about her Zionist activities apart from the fact that she was a member of WIZO.48 However, she was undoubtedly also involved in Židov and various Zionist youth publications. She inherited her close relationship to Zionism to some extent from her family: her father, Adolf Ehrlich, a well-known and successful entrepreneur in Zagreb, was regarded as a supporter and sympathizer of the Zionist movement.49 Moreover, her husband Benno Stein, whom she married in 1920 when she was 23 years old, was a respected doctor known throughout the city and was involved in Zionist circles. He was also one of Aleksandar Licht’s closest friends.50 Stein-Ehrlich began studying art and later moved to psychology, ethnology and educational science. She even studied in Berlin between 1929 and 1933. In the 1930s she published several books on child psychology and educational methods in schools. From 1936 onwards, she engaged in research on her most well-known scholarly work: the investigation of family relationships in rural areas. It would first be published in Zagreb in 1964 under the title Porodica u Transformaciji [Family in Transition].51 Although Vera Stein-Ehrlich was regarded as a sincere, active supporter of the Zionist movement, her priority was academic research. In 1941, she and her sister Ina Jun-Broda, who later became a well-known poet and translator, managed to escape to Dalmatia. They were taken to southern Italy in the company of partisan units and refugees in 1944. During the war, and in the refugee camps in southern Italy, Stein-Ehrlich became heavily involved in caring for the refugees. Immediately after the war she worked as a social worker for the UNRRA

47 Harriet Freidenreich, ‘Yugoslavia’, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopaedia, 20 March 2009 in the Jewish Women’s Archive, (accessed 29 November 2014) 48 Jakir Eventov, ‘Vera Stein-Ehrlich 1897–1980’, Bilten Hitahdut Oley Jugoslavia, (1980): 16. 49 Anonymous, ‘Umro ing. Adolf Ehrlich’ [The death of Adolf Ehrlich], Židov (7 June 1935): 6. 50 Eventov, Nostalgije evropljanina, 200–1. Benno Stein was one of Zagreb’s leading intellectuals. He was in contact with many German refugees in Yugoslavia. The statements about his fate after 1941 are contradictory. 51 Eventov, ‘Vera Stein-Ehrlich’, 16.

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[United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration] in Italy, concentrating on displaced persons. Stein-Ehrlich immigrated to the United States in 1951 and taught anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. She returned to Yugoslavia in 1960 and taught anthropology in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Zagreb.52 Vera Stein-Ehrlich died a committed Zionist in Zagreb in 1980. It is apparent that she supported the immigration of Yugoslav Jews to Israel from 1948 onward, but it is still unclear why she returned to socialist Yugoslavia – whatever the case, she enjoyed an outstanding reputation as a scientist there. Unfortunately, there are still gaps in her biography. The National Library of Zagreb, however, has recently collated and registered her estate, including several diaries, which may, in time, offer valuable insights into the life and work of this renowned researcher and dedicated Zionist.

‘What will become of the German Jews?’ On the Zionist Discussion about the Consequences of Nazism Although the initial reaction to the Nazi’s success in 1930 was that of alarm in the Yugoslav Zionist press, in 1931, there was little coverage of the developments in Germany. Instead, they focussed on internal Zionist and Yugoslav affairs. Yet, by the end of 1931, and particularly during 1932, there was a steady increase in news of the situation in Germany. Indeed, there was sharp criticism of the ‘fierce anti-Jewish propaganda’ and ‘Hitler’s bloodthirsty anti-Semitism’.53 Numerous articles, reports and news items described and discussed the political situation in Germany and the legal and social situation of the Jews there. Correspondents from Židov were among those who wrote these reports – including Cvi Rothmüller, a Zionist who was studying in Berlin. Other reports originated from the foreign press. The reporting in Židov clearly shows that the editorial board was constantly trying to grapple with the impact of Nazism and to monitor cases of anti-Semitism. The magazine’s regular readers and supporters must have been familiar with these issues as well. At the same time, the coverage surely generated many questions and feelings of insecurity. Aleksandar Licht spoke to an audience of 52 Ibid. 53 For various reports on the situation in Germany, see Židov (11 March 1932): 1; Židov (18 March 1932): 1; Židov (1 April 1932): 1.

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several hundred people when he gave a public lecture in February 1932 titled ‘Judaism and Present-day Ideological Tendencies’ in which he spoke of the constitution of Judaism and Zionism in that period and explored the challenges of fascism, Nazism and ‘Hitlerism’. Židov commented that the meeting was more popular and had aroused more interest than any other recent event.54 In the lecture, Licht warned against underestimating the dangers of those political movements. Yet, he urged the Jews not to organize in reaction to the negativity in their environment. He said they – meaning especially the Zionists – had to affirm their positive values and come together on this positive basis.55 In saying this, Licht was trying to give Yugoslav Zionism a specific spiritual and intellectual orientation in the face of the dangerous and anti-Jewish movements in Europe. This orientation – the process by which Yugoslav Zionists established and aligned their own personal positions – defined the public debates in the subsequent period. The Yugoslav Zionists’ fears came true at the beginning of 1933. The Nazis gained power, bringing with them their policy of ‘bloodthirsty antiSemitism’. Many Jewish men and women in Yugoslavia, all the Zionist organizations and most of the Jewish communities were shocked and horrified by the news from Germany. At the same time, the publications of the various groups began to feature more intensive debates on the questions raised by the political change in Germany. The main topic was the issue of Jewish emigration and the positioning of Zionists in Europe. On 14 February 1933, a large Jewish audience gathered again on the premises of the Jewish National Association in Zagreb to hear Aleksandar Licht’s lecture on Leo Pinsker’s book Self-emancipation.56 Licht had not chosen this topic by chance: rather than summarizing and presenting the principal statements of Pinsker’s book, a proto-Zionist work dating back to 1882, he was evidently concerned with studying the analogies between the historical events of 1881 and 1933. Pinsker made his demands for Jewish self-emancipation under the impact of the pogroms in Russia. Referring to those demands, Licht also emphasized that the idea of legal emancipation granted by others had to be replaced by emancipation based on conviction and led and achieved from within Jewry itself. According to Licht, ‘the dignity of a human being’ was linked to his ‘national dignity’. The ‘national regeneration’ of the Jews could only develop from 54 Lecture on ‘Judaism and Present-day Ideological Tendencies’, appeared in Židov (26 February 1932): 1. 55 Ibid. 56 Leo Pinsker (1821–1891) wrote Self-emancipation in 1882. He called for the self-emancipation of the Jews as a nation. See, Michael Brenner, Geschichte des Zionismus, (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2005), 15.

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that.57 This was the interpretation of a convinced Zionist. Licht argued that, 50 years after Pinsker, the need for self-assertive liberation was as urgent as it had been then. Just as it had happened 50 years earlier in Russia, Germany was now gripped by a ‘psychosis of anti-Jewish phobia’. All attempts to overcome this psychosis with speeches and explanations had failed.58 Referring to the Russian pogroms of 1881 that had shocked the European world, Licht noted that 50 years later, they – the non-German Jews – would experience the same thing and would have to stand by and watch what Pinsker had witnessed in his time. Licht used this historical analogy to emphasize the importance of Zionist action. Indeed, he went one step further in expressing the question or warning: ‘Can any Jew anywhere say that what is happening to the German Jews at the moment will never happen to him?’59 It is difficult to judge how much Licht really believed that Nazi politics would reach beyond the German border, or if it would fail to find imitators in other European countries. Nonetheless, his words should be interpreted first as an expression of deep concern, and second, as showing precise awareness of the political realities in Europe. His task as the intellectual and spiritual leader of the Yugoslav Zionists was evidently to recognize and identify the dangers and present a solution: a goal to be achieved. Without a doubt, this goal involved making people aware of the encroaching dangers and called for the Jews to militantly assert their status as a nation. At the beginning of April 1933, Licht’s advice came to fruition in the form of concrete action. Following the Nazi boycott of Jewish shops and businesses on 1 April 1933, and only two days after the Nazi ‘Law for the Restoration of Professional Civil Service’ was passed on 7 April (the law that removed Jewish civil servants from public office), the Jewish National Association in Zagreb organized a protest meeting. In light of the events in Germany, what was originally planned as a ‘shekel event’ (a fundraiser for Palestine), turned into a spontaneous political demonstration. The sports hall of the Maccabi-Zagreb Club was crowded. Aside from Aleksandar Licht, Lav Stern (the association’s chairman), and Cvi Rothmüller gave fiery speeches demanding the construction of Palestine and repeatedly reminding the audience of the ‘catastrophe of the German Jews’.60 Indeed, by April 1933 the Zionists had already chosen the term ‘catastrophe’ to describe the situation of the German Jews. We can assume that this was more

57 Lecture: ‘On Pinsker’s Self-emancipation’, Židov (17 March 1933): 2. 58 Ibid. 59 Ibid. 60 Speech by Lav Stern and Cvi Rothmüller at the protest meeting on 9 April 1933: Židov (14 April 1933): 2.

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than a mere slogan. By that time, the Zionists of Yugoslavia had been watching the rise of the Nazis and their increasing demands for many years. They had always taken Nazi proclamations and threats seriously. The speed and resolve with which the German Jews at that time were already being disenfranchised and persecuted ultimately opened the way for the Zionists in Yugoslavia to define the catastrophe as such; and by 1934, if not before, catastrophe had become the general term used for the situation of the German Jews.61 The issue of how to counter it and the nature of a solution was already being negotiated during the course of 1933. To be sure, in his speech during the protest meeting in April 1933, Licht made firm demands for tackling the catastrophe that the Jews of Germany were then facing. He described the situation of the German Jews knowledgeably and in detail, he reported on the raids in Berlin and he affirmed that non-German Jews were justifiably outraged. His personal outrage was also directed at German scholars, none of whom had stood up against the anti-Jewish measures in that situation. He asked whether it was a matter for the Jews alone and demanded, if that were true, that they think about their ‘self-defence’ all the more urgently. ‘Our protest’, Licht went on, must be aimed at this ‘shameless barbarism’, it must show ‘solidarity’ and it must also be ‘a protest that takes action’. This time Licht repeated again the concern he had already expressed in February: ‘if a nation with a great culture can fall into the trap of such phobia against Jews … who can claim that existing relationships cannot change elsewhere as well?’62 He ended by appealing to the audience, who appear to have frenetically cheered him on, to build the future ‘firmly and resolutely’ in their pioneering movement.63 Licht’s initial proposal for the Jewish response to the catastrophe involved a self-confident position as Jews and a realistic assessment of the events in Germany. He did not explicitly mention Palestine and it is not entirely clear what he meant by building the future – a homeland, or the continuing consolidation of Jewish self-confidence in the galut. Both variants are possible. However, his demands were unambiguous, and his attitude towards protest and resistance, against the anti-Jewish measures and against the indifference and passivity of non-Jews was clear. Licht underlined his demands for a militant attitude by describing their ‘present’ situation while simultaneously issuing a warning or a call for critical reflection on the conditions in which they – the non-German Jews – would live. He evidently wanted to raise the awareness and sensitivity of the audience to the anti-Jewish policies, to the legal and political measures and positions. 61 Cvi Rothmüller, ‘Jevrejska katastrofa’ [The Jewish catastrophe], Židov (26 January 1934): 1. 62 Aleksandar Licht’s speech at the protest meeting on 9 April 1933, Židov (14 April 1933): 2–3. 63 Ibid.

‘What Will Become of the German Jews?’ 


The concept of making the Yugoslav Jews more sensitive and aware was unambiguously confirmed by the coverage in Židov. Each edition of the magazine contained detailed reports from Germany and critical discussions about recent events there. Licht – together with the Yugoslav Zionist leadership – advocated that the Yugoslav Jews should by no means relativize or ignore the German policies, nor should they dismiss them altogether as a German affair. Quite the opposite: they should adopt a position of protest. Licht, as leader of the Zionists, took a clear line on this and further clarified and endorsed this approach at another protest meeting at the end of May 1933. Unlike his previous speeches, this time Licht spoke of Palestine as a concrete geographical goal. He specifically mentioned aid for the German Jews and explained that working for them was equivalent to working for the future of the whole Jewish nation. The only correct way to protect European Jews from persecution was not by the granting of ‘night shelter’ – Licht used the German word ‘Nachtasyl’ here – but by helping the persecuted people reach Palestine. At the end of his speech Licht made the demand for a Jewish state more explicitly than ever before, postulating its establishment ‘around Zion, around Jerusalem, up to the River Jordan and across the Jordan’.64 This state would be the home base and safe haven for all persecuted Jews. Palestine, and the foundation of a Jewish state there that would offer protection and a homeland to all persecuted Jews, ultimately represented the utopia that would allow them to overcome the catastrophe. Licht spelled out his response to the consequences of the Nazi policy more clearly in the early months after the Nazis took power. Whereas his speeches and demands were at first shaped by intellectual defensiveness and the attempt to boost self-confidence, he soon after changed his position to that of concrete support for Jewish immigration to Palestine. The concept of utopia was transformed from an intellectual position into a political vision. There is no doubt that this vision was enhanced by the arrival of German Jews and by the future questions raised by their fate and their presence in Yugoslavia. ‘What will become of the German Jews?’ asked the headline of Židov on 3 March 1933. This recurring question would dominate articles and reports in the following year. Aside from taking an intellectual position against Nazism and its politics, this concrete question, which demanded a very concrete answer, was particularly challenging for Yugoslavia’s Zionists. During the fifth congress of the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities of Yugoslavia, which was held in Belgrade at the beginning of April 1933, federation representatives not only discussed numerous internal Yugoslavian topics, but also the events tak64 Speech by Aleksandar Licht at the protest meeting in Zagreb on 21 May 1933, appearing in Židov (26 May 1933): 3.

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ing place in Germany and their consequences. Along with the proclamations of concern and solidarity in relation to their ‘Jewish brothers’ in Germany, the federation resolved to set up a Central Aid Committee for the German Jews. In his speech to the congress, Lavoslav Schick – a delegate from the Zagreb community and a member of the new aid committee – reminded listeners of how much the Jews had suffered in their history and warned against a repetition of this suffering. In his opinion, the only way to prevent or at least minimize this was to ‘build [the] Palestinian homeland’.65 Leading Zionists were united on the basic principle that the refugees had to immigrate to Palestine and create a new homeland there. Židov repeatedly wrote that the ‘honour, the life, and the future of our people’ had to be saved by their own strength.66 The phrase ‘their own strength’ stood for the immigration and construction of the Jewish utopia in Palestine. Alternatives, such as the choice to remain in Yugoslavia were not openly discussed; in fact, they were not even mentioned. But the reality of the everyday treatment of the refugees often looked different. The coordination of aid for the Jewish refugees from Germany in the spring of 1933 certainly defined Zionist activity, especially in Croatia. This was where most of the refugees came from and where the first spontaneous committees emerged. At the beginning of May 1933, Aleksandar Licht also wrote to the Federation of Jewish Religious Committees to pledge his support and to make several demands to the aid committee. Licht gave clear instructions on the way to approach and handle the refugee question. He said it was particularly important that aid for the German Jews did not dissipate into simple ‘philanthropy’ because this would only cause renewed ‘psychological and economic crises’. Instead, Licht urged that philanthropic help should be kept at a minimum and he said it was essential for every Jew to understand that ‘Eretz Yisrael’ is the only territory where it will be possible to accommodate the German refugees in a way that would satisfy them morally, socially, and ultimately economically, now and in the future.67 In Licht’s Zionist worldview it was easy to deal with the disenfranchised, persecuted German Jews: only the most urgently needed aid was to be provided, and within a specific time limit. Each refugee had to be made to understand that he or she would soon have to leave Yugoslavia and travel to Palestine to realize the goals of the Zionists. Admittedly, Licht did not say this explicitly, and per65 Speech by Lavoslav Schick, excerpts printed in Židov (7 April 1933): 7. 66 Karlo Fridman, ‘Lasst uns nicht mehr warten’, Židov (8 December 1933): 3. 67 Letter from Alexander Licht to the Federation of Religious Communities of Yugoslavia and to the aid committee, Židov (5 May 1933): 1.

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haps it never occurred to him. However, his opinion, attitude and intellectual perception, as well as the demands he made, certainly allow for this conclusion. Despite, or rather because of the intellectual debates on the problem of the Jewish refugees which leading Zionists engaged in in their publications, at congresses and during public events, Yugoslavia’s Jewish communities and Zionist organizations provided excellent refugee aid. The few existing scholarly contributions on Yugoslav Jews’ aid to refugees claim that more than 55,000 German and Austrian Jews fled to Yugoslavia between 1933 and 1941. More than 50,000 of them were able to escape safely to Italy, Bulgaria and overseas, or to Turkey and Palestine.68 In the years 1933 and 1934 alone, around 8,000 German Jews are estimated to have passed through Yugoslavia.69 Most of them actually left the Kingdom of Yugoslavia again after only a few months. Nevertheless, feeding and housing each individual fugitive who registered through the Jewish community required considerable effort and work. For example, The Central Aid Committee for the German Jews was responsible for material aid and accommodation. At the beginning of 1934, the Zionists founded another organization, the Central Office for Social and Productive Aid. Its aim was to persuade both Yugoslav and foreign Jews, younger ones in particular, to move on from the traditional professions: young people were to devote themselves to factory production and farming as their contribution to the construction of the Jewish utopia in Palestine, with new professional structures devoted to subsistence in order to prevent the impoverishment of Jews in bleak economic periods.70 By November 1933 the Federation of Zionists had already set up a hachshara [training] farm in Croatia where around 80 young people from Germany (and 20 from South Serbia) were prepared for life in Palestine.71 Lavoslav Schick was undoubtedly one of the most active and committed helpers. Many of the letters he wrote to individuals and organizations in Berlin, Wrocław or Munich show the effort he made for the refugees.72 He organized job opportunities, donated money, invited refugees to dinner and ordered German68 Milan Ristović, ‘Jugoslavija i jevrejske izbeglice 1938–1941’ [Yugoslavia and the Jewish refugees 1938–1941], Istorija 20 veka 15, no. 1 (1996): 21–43; Freidenreich, Jews of Yugoslavia, 188; Katrin Boeckh, ‘Jugoslawien’, in Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration 1933–1945, eds, Claus-Dieter Krohn, Patrik von zur Mühlen, Gerhard Paul and Lutz Winckler (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1998), 279–84. 69 Goldstein, Židovi u Zagrebu, 448. I assume that these figures are overstated. 70 See various articles, in Židov (16 February 1934): 1, 3–4 71 See various articles, in Židov (15 June 1934): 3; Židov (16 November 1934): 3. 72 NSK, Personal Estate of Lavoslav Schick, R 7883 a) und R7883 b). Letters from the years 1933 and 1934.

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language newspapers and magazines for them to read in his library, which was famed throughout the city. Regardless of his daily activities as a helper and even though he was certainly aware of the individual situation and emotional state of the people he met, in his opinion, their only salvation was to emigrate and help to build a Jewish state in Palestine. He condemned the refugees for not being sufficiently aware of their Jewish identity and, despite their experiences in Germany, for still seeing themselves as members of the German nation and wanting to return to Germany.73 He was particularly critical of the Germans during a speaking tour in Banja Luka in Bosnia in May 1933. In a speech to Zionist youth he said, ‘In some ways the German Jews are responsible for their own downfall. They wanted to be Germans with a Mosaic religion, some even had themselves baptized, but it didn’t help them. Today these Jews are suffering more than the ones who had confessed honourably to being Jewish. Now they are starting to see their errors and now they all see Palestine as their salvation’.74 In the following months and years, Schick continued stubbornly to demand that Jewish refugees should identify with Judaism and immigrate to Palestine. Speaking to the editors of the Jüdische Rundschau in Berlin in October 1933, he repeated his position and appeared almost outraged at the ‘expatriates who sneer when I explain the benefits of immigration to Palestine to them. They say this is the political party spirit and that they have suffered enough in Germany, they don’t need lectures … Some women in particular get very angry when they are urged to leave Europe and retire to the uncultivated backwater of Asia’.75 Schick’s Zionist philosophy was influenced by the romantic nationalist idea of Jewish immigration to Palestine that prioritized the construction of the new homeland over any kind of individual difficulty – such as people’s emotional and cultural bonds with their former home country. In this attitude and position Schick represented and propagated the Zionist line of his comrades, especially Aleksandar Licht. The same was true in Schick’s intellectual worldview: the task of the German Jewish refugees was to fulfil the goals of the Zionists. There was no room in the public discourse of the male Zionist world for the refugees’ personal destinies, traumas and problems. In November 1933, then ethnologist and psychologist Vera Stein-Ehrlich, publicly intervened in this one-sided debate with a series of articles titled Prob73 NSK, Lavoslav Schick, R 7883a): Letter to Gustav Cohn, 14 November 1933; Letter to Julius Dessauer, 4 May 1933; Letter to Sally Guggenheim, 25 September 1933; Letter to the Jüdische Rundschau, 5 October 1933. 74 Speech by Lavoslav Schick in Banja Luka on 13 May 1933, excerpts printed in Židov (19 May 1933): 7. 75 NSK, R7883a): Letter to the Jüdische Rundschau of 5 October 1933.

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lems of Jewish Emigration. She depicted the situation of the refugees in a far more differentiated way and with a degree of humanism. She unequivocally criticized the male Zionists’ general, publicly propounded view that GermanJewish refugees should immediately travel to Palestine and help build the Jewish state there. Stein-Ehrlich wrote, ‘The tendency of pushing emigrants across a border somewhere as quickly as possible is not even a solution for the present because … all the emigration centres are doing the same thing at the same time … it is not possible to hide 60,000 Jews.’76 Stein-Ehrlich argued in a manner completely different from the way the Zionists had done up to that point. She also deliberately used other terminology, consistently describing the Jewish refugees as ‘emigrants’. In the first part of her series she focused on the psychological condition of the expelled people. She described their former life in Germany as well-regulated and usually under comfortable circumstances, and she pointed out that these people were now trying to keep their pride and fight social decline. By writing this, Stein-Ehrlich offered a different perspective on the Jewish refugees. At the same time, she criticized the majority position of the local Yugoslav Jews – and explicitly women involved in welfare associations – who kept saying, ‘we have to do something’, but hardly did anything at all. Instead they even accused the new arrivals of provoking anti-Semitic attitudes in the resident population by worsening the economic situation, and speaking German, which meant spreading German culture. It was also said that the refugees lacked Jewish consciousness, that they were not Zionists and had therefore not known how to oppose the Nazis. Stein-Ehrlich called on the indigenous Jews of Yugoslavia to help the refugees unconditionally and not to make the importance of anti-Semitism and Palestine a condition of their willingness to help. She argued that although these questions were historically linked, the main point at that moment was to prevent the emigrants from becoming unorganized, unpolitical lumpenproletariat – she used the German word ‘Lumpenproletarier’.77 In the second article of the series, Stein-Ehrlich tackled the problem of antiSemitism in Yugoslavia and Germany. She warned against the adoption of economically determined anti-Semitism and, above all, the Nazi slogans that facilitated this. In the same article, she made it clear that ‘Palestine cannot be the solution for the lives of this entire generation’ because the settlement and construction of the new Jewish nation would occur at a far slower rate than every-

76 Vera Stein-Ehrlich, ‘Problemi jevrejske emigracije I’ [Problems with Jewish emigration I], Židov (3 November 1933): 3. 77 Ibid.

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body imagined. ‘Not to recognize this fact would mean closing our eyes to the real difficulties’.78 Vera Stein-Ehrlich’s contribution to the refugee debate and all matters related to their arrival was more coherent and realistic than anything before it. As a woman and an academic, she called to both Zionists and non-Zionists to begin by first developing empathy and understanding for the emigrants, to demonstrate solidarity and willingness to help, and not to further burden them with the issue of emigration to Palestine.79 At the same time, she clearly demonstrated to the Zionists that, from a distance, the real conditions in Palestine certainly looked different than the desired image. It is difficult to estimate the impact of her arguments within the Zionist movement. Examining the arguments and demands made by the Zionists in the following years, however, confirms that they remained loyal to their idealized concept that the task of the refugees was to re-establish the Jewish homeland in Palestine. Stein-Ehrlich’s proposals and observation came from everyday practice and her knowledge of the emotional state of the individual, knowledge that was, in part, scientifically based. The ‘great’ intellectual debates, contributions and ideas of the years 1933 and 1934 simply overlooked the everyday experience of people – in this case that of Jewish people.

Conclusions What will become of the German Jews? This question, which Yugoslav Zionists were faced with from 1933 onward, and which resonated with sincere concern for their Jewish brothers and sisters, not only stimulated solidarity and a willingness to help within Yugoslav Jewry, but also stimulated debates and made demands on the German Jews. Only a few weeks after the Nazis came to power in Germany, several hundred Jewish refugees from the German Reich arrived in Yugoslavia – mostly in Croatia. Local Jewish communities and Zionist organizations very quickly began to create an infrastructure; a number of aid committees were formed and many individuals joined the effort to help the newly-arrived refugees. The personal distress of these people, as well as the political and cultural dimension of the Nazi policies toward Jews, conditioned and fostered a de78 Vera Stein-Ehrlich, ‘Problemi jevrejske emigracije II’ [Problems with Jewish emigration II], Židov (10 November 1933): 5. 79 Vera Stein-Ehrlich, ‘Problemi jevrejske emigracije III’ [Problems with Jewish emigration III], Židov (17 November 1933): 3; Stein-Ehrlich, in Židov (1 December 1933): 5. She emphasized psychological aspects of emigration mainly in the third and fourth parts of her series of articles.

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bate within Yugoslav Zionism. During 1933, Zionist publications – primarily the flagship journal Židov – published countless articles, news items, reports, analyses and speeches on the topic of Jewish refugees and the necessary, adequate response of the German, European and Yugoslav Jewry to Nazism. In the present article, I have outlined the debate, particularly the Zionist position on these questions. Using three selected biographies, little known to researchers thus far, I have presented the essential standpoints of Yugoslav Zionism as they were expressed in the period immediately after the Nazis seized power. The Yugoslav Zionist leader and intellectual pioneer Aleksandar Licht was initially concerned with defining the Zionist position in relation to Nazism and antiSemitism. His idea of a defensive position was based on Jewish self-assertion and he urged the Jews to be self-confident and proud. Licht’s ideas became solidified as the Nazi measures against German Jews became increasingly tangible. The evident catastrophe of the German Jews – as it was described – evoked a specific response: Licht defined the construction of the Jewish homeland in Palestine as the clear goal of the European Jews. In his view, the possession of a homeland and international acknowledgement of the Jewish nation would be the protective shield needed to provide security for the Jews who were persecuted and victimized by discrimination. Licht thought the Jewish refugees should also fall in line with this overarching idea. For Licht and his Zionist comrades, Palestine was the utopia that could save them. It was a dream that would come true with hard work and Jewish self-assertion. The majority of Jewish refugees in Yugoslavia, however, saw Palestine as a utopia that was too far removed from their present living situation, but their doubts and their individuality were not addressed in Licht’s public speeches and contributions. His convictions and explications were designed for European Jewry as a whole. He had frequently warned people not to dismiss events in Germany as isolated or to think they were safe from anti-Jewish policies. In light of the events of the 1930s and 1940s, and given our knowledge of the radicalization of Nazi policies against the Jews which culminated in the systematic extermination of a large part of the European Jewry, Licht’s standpoints and warnings could be interpreted as wise, prescient and realistic. He did not take his own warnings and demands to heart, however. He survived the Holocaust in exile in Switzerland. Only his mortal remains reached Palestine in 1955. Lavoslav Schick – Licht’s comrade from Zagreb – maintained a position that was very close to that of Licht. Despite his great commitment to the refugees, Schick seems to have had relatively little interest in their actual, individual situations. Instead, in his public speeches and private correspondence he, too, demanded unconditionally that the Jewish people who had been forced to leave Germany should travel onward to Palestine. Like Aleksandar Licht, Schick ad-

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vocated the romantic nationalist concept of a Palestinian homeland whose construction would make the Jews forget their everyday problems. There is some evidence that Schick made preparations for his own Aliyah (emigration to Israel) and that he wanted to put his idea into action. However, he failed to achieve this goal. He died at the end of 1941 in the Jasenovac concentration and extermination camp in Croatia. In the fall of 1933, the Zionist Vera Stein-Ehrlich publicly expressed her doubts and criticized the leading Zionist view of how to deal with the German refugees and the issue of Palestine, and to some extent, she voiced the concerns of the exiled German Jews. To be sure, critical comments such as hers were very rare. The fact that they were printed serially in the most important Zionist magazine of the day and did not provoke any letters of protest – or at least, none were subsequently published – suggests that she expressed the heartfelt feelings of a number of Zionist men and women. As a woman, an ethnologist and a committed aid to the refugees, she was familiar with the refugees’ psychological and emotional concerns and took them seriously. She warned the leading Zionists against being blind to the reality of Palestine and seeing the refugees only as the object of their Zionist dream. Stein-Ehrlich provided aid to wartime victims, and having survived the Holocaust herself, continued to do so in the years following. Using the above analysis, I have shown that Nazi policy and the dangers it signified for European Jewry were taken very seriously in the Yugoslav Zionists’ intellectual circles. By asking the question ‘What will become of the German Jews?’, they were indeed asking about all the Jews of Europe – including themselves. From the beginning of the Nazi rise to power, debate and discussion about anti-Semitism and Jewish persecution – the catastrophe – and about possible solutions and responses – the utopia – defined the Zionist sphere of thought and action in Yugoslavia. The protagonists of this sphere whom I have presented here were just three, among many, who themselves became the victims of brutal persecution only a few years later.

Gábor Schein

‘Jewishness’ in the Diary of Milán Füst Milán Füst1 kept a diary from 1905 to 1944. The irregular entries are particularly valuable not only because they were written by one of the most important authors of modern Hungarian literature, but above all, because they give us a highly-educated intellectual’s perspective on a historical period that continues to have a profound impact on the political and cultural mentality of the country even today. Studying the diary brings us into the domain of microhistory. Füst belonged to the social class that expressed itself most frequently – as opposed to the silent masses of society. And yet, macro-historical approaches have taught us precious little about the conceptual world of individuals and motives for change in individual mentalities even among the upper classes of Hungarian society. The value of Füst’s text for this kind of microhistorical research is difficult to overestimate, since ‘we know very little about what contemporaries in the twentieth century noticed about the processes and changes that influenced their lives and how they interpreted the historical events that subsequently came to be regarded by posterity as symbolic.’2 Modern historical research has been characterized by a turn to the history of experience, compelling historians to begin focusing on those types of sources ‘that allow the most direct access possible to individual and collective interpretations, evaluations and social knowledge’.3 Diaries, however, are a highly nuanced form in which psychological, aesthetic, and socio-historical points of view can hardly be separated from one another. In investigating this form, we have to reckon with the continuing presence and intersection of these different perspectives, which, for this reason, poses a considerable methodological challenge, thus making room for interdisciplinary interpretations. 1 Milán Füst (1888–1967) was one of the most important authors of twentieth-century modern Hungarian literature. He debuted as a poet in 1909 in the literary journal Nyugat, and his work was praised for its singular voice. He went on to publish significant works as a dramatist and author. His most successful work was The Story of My Wife, a novel that has been translated into more than forty languages. Following the publication of the French edition by Gallimard in 1967, Füst was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. 2 Gábor Gyáni, Budapest—túl jón és rosszon [Budapest: beyond good and evil] (Budapest: Napvilág, 2008), 7. 3 Winfried Schulze, ed., Sozialgeschichte, Alltagsgeschichte, Micro-Historie (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 9. Translation: From the German by Thomas N. Lampert

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This chapter will focus on the ways in which the diary constructs the figures of the ‘Jew’ and ‘Jewess’, and the concept of ‘Jewishness’. The ethno-typical and racist-biological symbolism used to construct the figure of ‘the Jew’ or ‘the Jewess’ played a significant role in Hungarian cultural and political life. I follow Bryan Cheyette in placing the word in quotes: in his book Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society (1993) and in an article in the volume Modernity, Culture and ‘the Jew’ (1998), Cheyette treated the notion of ‘the Jew’ as a social-psychological and cultural construct,4 placing the word in quotes to avoid essentializing use. Cheyette’s aim was to understand the representations of the ‘Jewish race’ formulated by proponents of the liberalism predominant during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, meticulously analyzing works by authors like Matthew Arnold, James Joyce, George Eliot, John Buchan, George Bernard Shaw, G. K. Chesterton, and T. S. Eliot. In his analysis, Cheyette used language that aimed to break the traumatic silence following the Holocaust,5 combining perspectives from cultural theory, historiography, and discourse analysis. Bracketing moral judgments, he was able to demonstrate how representations of ‘the Jew’ and ‘the Jewess’ mobilized entire systems of political discourse such as those of imperialism or socialism, and that they thus represented the conscious and unconscious political and cultural priorities of individual authors. Works that consciously grapple with the representation of ‘Jewishness’ or place it centre stage – such as the figure of Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s epochal novel Ulysses – simultaneously take on all the important questions of nationalism, religiosity and bourgeois liberalism.6 With the use of scare quotes inspired by Cheyette, I would like to distance myself especially from the assumption that the meaning of the words ‘Jewish’, ‘Jew’ and ‘Jewess’ is static and given, and that who should be regarded as a ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewess’ is a trans-historical constant. The socio-political view of the ‘Jew’, the ‘Jewess’ and ‘Jewishness’ as the ‘other’ has its origins in the age of 4 Bryan Cheyette, Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), xi. ‘In an attempt to redress the balance, this book demonstrates the extent to which race-thinking about Jews was, in fact, a key ingredient in the emerging cultural identity of modern Britain. From Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy onwards, I have located Semitic racial representations at the centre of literary production and more widespread social and political discourses. Instead of a colonial or genocidal history of racism and antisemitism, this book is at pains to show the way in which racialized constructions of Jews and other “races” were at the heart of domestic liberalism.’ 5 Ibid., xii. ‘I wish to use a language that is generally enabling and not morally loaded. Instead of the uneasy silence that currently surrounds the subject of this book, I have tried to develop ways of reading that allow other literary critics and cultural theorists to discuss the question of racial representations in different social and political contexts.’ 6 Ibid., 267.

‘Jewishness’ in the Diary of Milán Füst


assimilation. In the course of the assimilation of ‘the Jews’, anti-Semitic movements and political parties became more prominent throughout Europe. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the different forms of modern nationalism transformed a theologically grounded anti-Semitism into a biological, socio-political racism, which caused a shift in the perception of ‘Jews’ and ‘Jewesses’.7 The individual social stereotypes associated with ‘the Jew’, ‘the Jewess’ and ‘Jewishness’ were not necessarily new, but together they composed a new anti-Semitic system of imagination. The imaginative stereotypes that were propagated through images, slogans, songs, sayings, textbooks, newspapers, films, political and ecclesiastical speeches, and scholarly and artistic works, and which entered into the everyday world of individual members of society in a completely self-evident way built upon the traditional cultures of Central Europe.8 These stereotypes were stable and consistent: they were present in the conceptual world of the lower classes as well as in the imagination of the elite, in urban environments as well as in the countryside. As such, they have had a palpable influence on social and cultural relations in the twentieth century and remain with us today. The stereotypes that construct ‘Jewishness’ have had a very important function in the formation of social and political identities in East Central European societies. They have taught and even teach people today about the capacity of social and political self-perception. Stereotypes of ‘the Jew’ as ‘the other’ contributed to the formation of group and national identities and helped reinforce group affiliation. The construction of ‘the Jew’ is thus a form of projection that serves to constitute the identity of the ‘non-Jewish’ group, which means that those who are perceived as a ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewess’ as well as those who perceive another person as a ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewess’ attain their identity in the space of projection.9 In this chapter, I am particularly interested in the co-constitutive relation between ‘Jewish’ and ‘Hungarian’, which in the first half of the twentieth century possessed a very powerful identity-making efficiency within the social framework, both in Budapest and in the countryside. I follow Melanie Klein in using the term ‘projective identification’. Klein describes it as a defence mechanism for conflict, in which parts of one’s own self – or even the entire self – split off and are transferred onto an external object or 7 Marvin Perry and Fredrick M. Schwitzer, Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 74. 8 Andrei Oişteanu, Antisemitic Stereotypes in Romanian and Other Central-East-European Cultures (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009), 1–7. 9 Rhoda Rosen, ‘Die Inszenierung des jüdischen Körpers: Zwischen Identifikation und Projektion’, in ‘Der schejne Jid’: Das Bild des ‘jüdischen Körpers’ in Mythos und Ritual, ed. Sander L. Gilman, Robert Jütte and Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz (Vienna: Picus Verlag, 1998), 11–22.

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another person in order to injure it, control it, or take possession of it.10 Klein’s concept, which continues today to provoke a sustained and quite diverse reception in the various psychoanalytic schools,11 has been taken from its roots in the psychoanalysis of small children and made fruitful in other domains of psychology and even social psychology. Here, as well, the issue is the social-psychological phenomenon of anti-Semitism. Psychoanalytic developmental psychology has succeeded in bridging individual and social psychology. Understanding anti-Semitism as a defence mechanism for social conflicts is, of course, not a new idea, and one of the key aspects of this notion is that the defence mechanism is bound up with the idealization of power. Arno Gruen has drawn a direct connection between a traumatic childhood and the subsequent readiness to aggression: It has often been presumed that childhood for many people occurs traumatically. [Otto] Rank thought that it was the trauma of birth. Melanie Klein assumed there was an evil mother; [Joseph] Rheingold even saw a death complex in mothers, as they themselves feared their own mothers. However, what unified all of these pioneers was the attention to the traumatization bound up with early-childhood development. And it is the idealization of power that promotes this, that separates people from empathy and in this way, creates a division of consciousness. This then leads to aggression, violence and murder.12

10 Melanie Klein, ‘Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms’, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 27 (1946): 99–110. 11 Melanie Klein’s basic theses have not only been relativized, but also supplemented. See Michael Rotmann, ‘Die Triangulierung der frühkindlichen Sozialbeziehung’, Psyche—Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse und ihre Anwendungen 32 (1978): 1105–1147. For Rotmann, the father figure is the centre of interest, ‘the other’, the ‘third object’, the representative of the alien outside world, who thus has the potential to become the first stranger. The function of the father in early childhood, Rotmann argues, is to help the child have a safe relationship with the mother and make it possible for the child to live in temporary separation from her. The early emergence of the internal conception of a three-person relationship allows the child to integrate frustration and hatred toward the mother. The integration of this hatred means that there does not have to be a separation into completely good and completely evil part objects and that establishing contact with the stranger does not have to be characterized by confusion. Through the integration of the relationships between the child and the parents, the personal ego supplements itself with a social identity. See also Alexander Mitscherlich, ‘Das persönliche Ich und die soziale Identität’, Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 18 (1966): 21–36; Alexander Mitscherlich, ‘Der unsichtbare Vater: Ein Problem für Psychoanalyse und, Soziologie’, Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 7 (1955): 188–201. According to Mitscherlich, the absence or the invisibility of the father can, however, impede the child’s relationship to the stranger. The child may experience overpowering fears that can lead to the projection of hatred. 12 Arno Gruen, Der Verlust des Mitgefühls (Munich: DTV, 1997), 132.

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Milán Füst was very young when his father died, and thus had hardly any memories of him. When Füst spoke of his father – which he did very rarely – he recounted a gravely ill man, an invalid who could not be spoken to. For his entire life, he identified as the only son of a poor widow, with whom life could easily have become burdensome because she was always dissatisfied with him. By the time Füst was a well-known writer and thus able to fulfil her maternal expectations, she was no longer alive. Was this one reason for his self-hatred as a Jew, or rather, for distancing his own personality from the symbolic alien, the hated ‘Jew’? Despite the insights of psychoanalysis, I am hesitant to simplify the matter in this way. There is no doubt, however, that identity construction always changes most where one’s personality is forced to experience the greatest disruptions, which impede the interpretation of social space or even cause a crisis of interpretation. Such disruptions occur, for example, when the demarcation of ‘Jewish’ and ‘non-Jewish’ is no longer tenable. Constructions of ‘Jewishness’ emerge very early in Füst’s diary and do not change for a long time. His negative attitude toward ‘Jewishness’ is also supported by narcissism: the diary entries make clear that from the beginning, the author’s personality exhibited a strong desire for dissimilarity and autonomy, which can be seen in his emphatically distanced self-determination. In certain cases, however, narcissism can also be traced back to the fear of being overpowered, persecuted, tormented and destroyed by an alien, non-integrated object. Füst always wanted to distance himself from ‘Jewishness’. Although anti-Semitic stereotypes permeated Füst’s diary from the beginning, anti-Semitic laws and the Jewish hatred that spread throughout society led to the emergence of new figures of identification in the diary over the course of the 1930s, and these relativized the previous demarcations. Anti-Semitism incorporated ‘the Jew’ and ‘the Jewess’ into the referential framework of a discursive system in which individual members of ethnic groups became carriers of ethno-typical characteristics. Increasingly influenced by Nazi eugenics, Hungarian anti-Semitism constructed ‘Jewishness’ as an ugly and hated social body. Anti-Semitic rhetoric and body politics also shaped the selfperception of ‘Jews’ and ‘Jewesses’ who often regarded themselves as flawed or diseased.13 It will probably surprise no one that even one’s own body, ‘without which a person would not exist and which thus belongs entirely to that person, 13 Sander L. Gilman, ‘“Die Rasse ist nicht schön” – “Nein, wir Juden sind keine hübsche Rasse!” Der schöne und der häßliche Jude’, in Gilman, Jütte and Kohlbauer-Fritz, ‘Der schejne Jid’, 57–74, here 62; Sander L. Gilman, Franz Kafka, the Jewish Patient (New York: Routledge, 1995), 5.

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can be experienced as something foreign, as a foreign body’.14 Here Hans-Jürgen Wirth draws upon Donald Winnicott, who stressed in his book Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis that the self must first learn to appropriate its own body and to inhabit it. If this insight can be transferred from developmental psychology onto social psychology, then we can argue that anti-Semitism obstructs the appropriation of one’s own social body or loads it with negative connotations. When we speak of the construction of the racist body politic and the social body of ‘the Jew’, however, we have to bear in mind that representatives of Nazi racial theory depicted ‘the Jews’ not only as the bearers of certain psychological traits, but also as a cultural phenomenon. Hans Günther, who was subsequently appointed professor at the University of Berlin, argued in his book Rassenkunde des jüdischen Volkes (1930) that the Jews were not dangerous because of their economic power and that the core of the Jewish question was not the problem of mixing blood: ‘What makes it so urgent today is the Jewish impact on the spirit of Western peoples.’15 Important to note is that racist stereotypes have influenced and shaped the self-image of ‘the Jews’ in a similar way. In the Prague Zionist journal Selbstwehr – in which Kafka’s story ‘Before the Law’ was first published in September 1915 – Felix Weltsch, the editor of the journal and a member of Kafka’s circle of friends, argued that Jews wasted too much time debating and that they should spend more time strengthening their bodies. Weltsch believed that what made someone a man was not his capacity to speak, his spirit or his morality, but rather discipline.16 There are a number of remarks and passages in Füst’s diary that should be evaluated as anti-Semitic in the sense of anti-Semitic body politics. ‘Mór Weisz perfume: this name stinks’,17 he wrote in 1914. ‘Jewish men, they wash themselves for hours,’ he noted in 1917. In addition to the anti-Semitic association of ‘Jews’ with sickness, weakness and ugliness, ‘Jewesses’ also came to be associated with tempting sexuality and exaggerated sensuality in anti-Semitic discourse. Jewish women were made responsible for the fragility of bourgeois marriage and family. Füst deploys these stereotypes in his diary. For instance, he writes: ‘I hear of many Jewish women from good families who, however, sink down. One of them rented two hotel rooms. She invited a man over, and after

14 Hans-Jürgen Wirth, ‘Fremdenhass und Gewalt als familiäre und psychosoziale Krankheit’, Psyche – Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse und ihre Anwendungen 11 (2011): 1217–44, here 1226. 15 Hans Günther, Rassenkunde des jüdischen Volkes (Berlin: J. F. Lehmann, 1930), 9. 16 Cited in Gilman, Franz Kafka, 106. 17 Milán Füst, Teljes Napló [Complete diary] (Budapest: Fekete Sas, 1999), vol. 1, 78.

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dinner she led him to the other room. She stood naked before him: I am yours.’18 In another passage he writes: Jews in the train, wealthy young men and a woman. All of their phrases have a clearly sexual character. The woman spoke of a good stick with which she could have beaten herself. The young men amused themselves about this with Jewish levity: they sang: exhibitionism and rivalry could be heard very precisely from the voices … When I entered the compartment I found them in the midst of an operetta-like insanity. The Jewish-warped mood and the boisterous manners of intimate society.19

Cultural features also factor into Füst’s negative, derogatory construction of ‘Jewishness’. One example is his depiction of the ‘Jewish language’, although it is impossible to determine what Milán Füst really meant by ‘the language of the Jews’: ‘Jewish language: any tone that can be produced that is wild, fat and powerful can be heard in the Jewish language.’20 Milán Füst’s negative judgments about the ‘Jewish language’ also encompass passages that address the ‘Jewish language’ and yet omit any linguistic recollections of his own mother, who often spoke to him in a mixture of German and Yiddish. He consistently identifies the language of his mother as German.21 That German was his mother’s language was of considerable importance for Füst, who held it higher than Hungarian or the ‘Jewish’ language. ‘Anyone who speaks to me about the German language of my mother I find sympathetic. German is a sacred language for me.’22 ‘The German language is like a flower, clean: it has a metabolism in and for itself, is not so impure and soiled as the Hungarian language.’23 Religion and religiosity, Jewish customs and traditions are also important parts of Füst’s entries on Jewish culture. In Füst’s diary, the Jewish religion is described from the beginning as ‘brutal’,24 ‘embittered’,25 ‘superstitious’,26 and ‘egoistic’.27 Accordingly, the Jewish mentality is said to be provocative,28 self-

18 Ibid., vol. 1, 306. 19 Ibid., vol. 1, 383. 20 Ibid., vol. 1, 210 21 Ibid., vol. 1, 188–90. 22 Ibid., vol. 1, 262. 23 Ibid., vol. 1, 37. 24 Ibid., vol. 1, 107. 25 Ibid., vol. 1, 143. 26 Ibid., vol. 1, 246. 27 Ibid., vol. 1, 282. 28 Ibid., vol. 1, 385.

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serving,29 rudely know-it-all,30 and aggressively ambitious.31 Crucially important for Füst’s negative views on ‘Jewish’ behaviour were his experiences in the hinterland during the First World War and the Hungarian Soviet Republic. In 1914, he evaluated the same, or at least very similar, forms of behaviour differently: ‘The egoistic neutrality of the lascivious Jew during the war, he has no compassion at all.’32 ‘Judaism: endless patience (An old Jew: It is war. It will end at some time. Until then we’ll eat less.)’33 He regards the political actions of ‘the Jews’ who acquired political power during the Hungarian Soviet Republic much less ambiguously. In line with the social stereotypes prevalent at the time, he viewed them first and foremost as ‘Jews’ and not as representatives of a new power: Siófok was the headquarters – it was horrible to see what primitive idiots can obtain the leader’s staff. Dr. P. J. Commissioner: he walked around the beach as if he were an army commander. Loud, almost shouting, he gave orders like a Napoleon. He organized public festivals and horse races and imitated the emperor. He was in his element: the Jewish fellow assumed power and was completely obsessed with it; he enjoyed it, posing ridiculously and tastelessly. And moreover, he was deaf, like a copulating animal – one week before the downfall he had no idea of the crisis. And the careerists around him, how odious they were.34

Until 1919, Füst’s depictions of ‘Jewishness’ stood entirely under the influence of anti-Semitic stereotypes, which he used to separate himself from ‘Jewishness’. His depictions of himself included no ‘Jewish’ character traits. For Füst, ‘the Jews’ were always ‘they’. He never included himself in a collective with them. This is evident even in cases in which ‘the Jew’ or ‘the Jewess’ elicited compassion from him: ‘Two Jews sit motionless on a bench. Jews from Hallstatt, a fat man with a cap and a withered, scrawny old woman. They sit dead still and they look straight ahead. The Jews may indeed be everywhere – I pity them that they have to live here.’35 Despite Füst’s own heritage, ‘the Jew’ and ‘the Jewess’ embodied the alien for him. In his diary, the alienness of ‘the Jews’ can be traced back to their provocative, often confusing placelessness. Following Merleau-Ponty, the placelessness of the alien means not simply that ‘the Jew’ or ‘the Jewess’ is else29 Ibid., vol. 1, 278. 30 Ibid., vol. 1, 294. ‘Posing many questions and wanting to learn are Jewish, brave, but illbred things.’ 31 Ibid., vol. 1, 105. ‘The Jews are more aggressive, but more loving.’ 32 Ibid., vol. 1, 48. 33 Ibid., vol. 1, 49. 34 Ibid., vol. 1, 462. 35 Ibid., vol. 1, 223.

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where, but that they themselves are the elsewhere,36 whereby Waldenfels emphasizes that ‘the alien does not represent a deficit in the sense of everything that we do not yet know, but that awaits being known and in itself is knowable; we are dealing here rather with an incarnate absence.’37 Merleau-Ponty’s formulation of the problem can also contribute to an examination not only of psychological representations of ‘Jewishness’, but also cultural representations. In his aforementioned work, Cheyette notes that T. S. Eliot produced a Semitic discourse at precisely the point at which he wanted to demarcate his poetics from a shocking identification with the racist ‘other’.38 As we will see below, a cultural-poetic concern informed Milán Füst’s response to Lajos Fülep’s critique of his novel The Story of My Wife: ‘I belong nowhere. (Least of all to the Jewish people.)’39 Positive remarks about ‘Jewish’ mentality and culture first appear in Füst’s diary in October 1919.40 While there may not have been a direct connection between this and the anti-Semitic violence that followed the collapse of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, the two are perhaps not entirely unrelated. Even though Füst had treated ‘the Jew’ as an alien and does not himself identify with ‘the Jews’, several diary entries make clear that others perceived him as a ‘Jew’ and that strangers’ eyes constructed his personality as that of a ‘Jew’. Witnessing acts of anti-Semitic violence increasingly influenced Füst’s selfimage during the first half of the 1920s, and not only in general terms: Füst also experienced this hatred in very concrete situations. This experience split the internal and the external aspects of his notion of the self. Expressions of anti-Semitism offended Füst in an increasingly profound way because his own self was constructed externally as a ‘Jew’, while ‘Jewishness’ played no affirmative part at all in his own self-interpretation; his own ego arose through a demarcation from it. ‘I had an experience unlike any before.’41 Thus begins Milán Füst’s long and detailed narrative about what happened to him during the Romanian occupation. He had wanted to go to Síp Street with a female acquaintance, but she told him that they should avoid the area because it was too dangerous. Síp Street is located in a district of the Budapest city centre where many poor ‘Jews’ lived. For this reason, the police frequently checked people’s identification pa36 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1968), 259–60. 37 Bernhard Waldenfels, Topographie des Fremden (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997), 26. 38 Cheyette, Constructions of ‘the Jew’, 267. 39 Milán Füst, Összegyűjtött levelek [collected letters] (Budapest: Fekete Sas, 2002), 402. 40 Füst, Teljes Napló, vol. 1, 488. 41 Ibid., vol. 1, 476.

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pers there. However, Füst replied that there was no reason for them to be afraid, so they proceeded unnoticed. In the meantime, the police had cordoned off a passageway in the street, detained all of the pedestrians there, and refused to tell them what was going to happen to them. Occurrences like this were not uncommon in Budapest at the time. However, armed Romanian soldiers suddenly pushed into the passageway. The sound of gunshots from the upper stories of the house could be heard. In the passageway below the Hungarian police lined up the people who had been detained. It looked as if they were preparing to execute them. Füst recalled: Another policeman shouted at those who had hidden. They were beaten horribly. But they are innocent. Without interrogation it is a pogrom! ‘You abominable dirty Jew, I’ll stomp you to death, I’ll drink your blood.’ … A young physician asked what they actually wanted from him; he was simply trying to go through the passageway. The same policeman hit him over the head with an iron bar. His face was covered with blood.42

Afterwards the entire group was taken to the Romanian garrison that had been set up in the Hotel Royal. The Hungarian policemen tried to convince the Romanian officers that they had arrested Bolsheviks who had conspired against the Romanian Army and the group was then taken to the high command. When they arrived, the police beat them again, as did some of the gawking passersby. At the high command, it turned out that there were four rabbis and religious teachers among those arrested. Fortunately, Füst’s acquaintance was released, thus sparing her family an unpleasant scandal. The prisoners were registered as ‘Jews’ with the high command, although a number of them were ‘Christians’. They were still in prison the next morning. We squatted there like suffering animals – we could not even complain because no one understood us. Several times I was filled with a boundless hatred of life: all of life seems to be only a hopeless and arduous struggle. Why does one cling to it? – The soldiers are coarse and harsh. They lead an animal existence. They make fun of us. Now I see how we humans treat the poor animals.43

In the afternoon, Füst almost fainted. The Romanians insulted him by calling him Moishi. He suddenly realized that they intended to search his house and that his papers would certainly be scattered. He was finally interrogated in the evening. He had to confess that he was the main organizer of the conspiracy. They threatened that if he didn’t do it, they would send him to jail. He con-

42 Ibid., vol. 1, 477. 43 Ibid., vol. 1, 478.

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fessed to everything that the interrogator told him to say. Then, completely unexpectedly, he was released. On the way home, he passed by a church. Why can’t I believe that they are doing something good when they hold their devotions? Why does it send shivers up and down my spine? Because they bring with them hatred from the church – the bright flame of the oil lamp irradiates ghastly eeriness – because they transfer their egoism, the hatred of their ignorance, onto the world; they worship the god of egoism. And not the symbol of love, Jesus.44

A long diary entry written in September 1919 shows how profoundly the experience of placelessness had permeated the author’s identity.45 Here, for the first time, Füst raises the possibility of converting to Christianity. In the entries after September 1919, anti-Semitic stereotypes play a less prominent role in Füst’s self-representation, although they do not disappear entirely. When they do appear, they are in part contradictory and contain significant disruptions.46 In the first half of the 1920s, Füst’s concrete experience of anti-Semitism also affected his self-image and his self-determination. He was firmly convinced that he had been fired from the economics school where he had taught from 1912 to 1921 because of an anti-Semitic campaign against him. Direct experience of anti-Semitic violence would have made it impossible for Füst to construct a positive self-image if he had continued to depict ‘Jewishness’ on the basis of generally-accepted anti-Semitic stereotypes. Social-psychological factors are always very significant in the personality structure of a nar-

44 Ibid., vol. 1, 480. 45 Ibid., vol. 1, 482. ‘It is so sad. I don’t feel at home in my homeland, whose culture I have worked for my entire life. I was proud when I was abroad and someone praised its virtues. Eyes touch me, … I must defend myself, I’m like an itchy animal: I am ashamed, I run away as if I were guilty … Not long ago I suddenly realized that I should abandon the Jewish religion, not because I am afraid, but rather because I have no relation to either the religion or the race. I grew up in a Christian environment, received a Christian education, and when I was fifteen or sixteen years old, Christian thought gripped me much more than anything else. And still more: I have no reason to make myself a martyr: my relatives have treated me poorly, and Judaism has not been better to me. Finally, I changed my mind, contempt and pride did not allow me to convert to Christianity. Would I be perhaps better or different if I were baptized? Am I not your writer, whose hard work brings results for you – for me it can bring nothing beyond itself. Do you no longer need me, do you no longer need my efforts? What am I then? Do I not belong to those people who stand above every religion because they strive instead to be better, to perfect themselves much more than everyone else.’ 46 Ibid., vol. 1, 775. For example: ‘A physician who is a bad person, merciless, brutal, egoistic, but all the same an outstanding physician: Rosenthal. He’s not interested in people; he has eyes only for science. And here we have another old physician, a ferocious Nazi: he won’t treat a Jew, but he is a well-disposed, cordial old man, a good patriot. What a curious hodgepodge.’

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cissistic individual and make it difficult to integrate aggressively invested selfrepresentations. Indeed, Otto Kernberg argues: A healthy self integrates not only libidinally invested self-representations, but also aggressively invested ones. In contrast to this, a grandiose self, as characterized by the narcissistic personality, is incapable of such an integration of aggressively invested self-representations and accordingly fails also to integrate libidinally and aggressively invested object representations.47

According to Kernberg, something like self-hatred arises when the aggressive self-representations confronting the everyday fantasies of the narcissist-type result in a negative image of the self.48 The tension between the libidinally and the aggressively invested self-representations whose integration is increasingly obstructed by social-psychological factors, can be reduced only if the negative dimensions of ‘Jewishness’ are confronted with the most positive interpretative possibilities available, a conflict most often played out in cultural life. As an entry in Füst’s diary in January 1924 makes clear, however, new formulations of ‘Jewishness’ that work against racist anti-Semitism nevertheless remain within the discursive space opened up by the interaction between Christian anti-Judaism and modern racial theory. In this diary entry, the symbolization of ‘Jewishness’ is connected for the first time with personal identification: Jews! … Jewish heritage … Today it is a blemish, as if with this word ‘Jew’ one wanted to identify demonized, stigmatized people and their inferiority. But no one wants to be reminded that Jesus Christ and his apostles as well as the prophets whose sculptures stand in the churches were Jews, yes, red-haired, Hebrew-speaking Jews! One assumes that among the Jews living today no one comes from the line of the apostles and the prophets, but instead descends only from those who had been enemies of Jesus and who maliciously persecuted him … And that I, for example, could be an heir of King David or the Prophet Zacharias – who thinks of this possibility? This life is incomprehensible idiocy.49

Even in 1932, Füst’s generalized representations of ‘Jewishness’ continued to be associated with negative stereotypes. Nevertheless, his perspective underwent a profound shift. Although Füst still failed to clearly recognize how social stereotypes and racist ethno-typology function, he confronted for the first time the brutal rules of seeing: 47 Otto F. Kernberg, ‘Eine zeitgenössische Interpretation von “Zur Einführung des Narzissmus”’, in Über Freuds ‘Zur Einführung des Narzissmus’, ed. Joseph Sandler, Ethel Spector Person and Peter Fonagy (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 2000), 187. 48 Sebastian Stauss, Zwischen Narzissmus und Selbsthass (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010), 44. 49 Füst, Teljes Napló, vol. 2, 16.

‘Jewishness’ in the Diary of Milán Füst 


The Jewish face is characteristic … Judaism, too, must have its own character, however inexpressible it may be, however contradictory its components are as well. Do not let these character traits in yourself disappear … You would like to wipe away completely the traces of your Jewish heritage in your accent and clothing… because this heritage is harmful to you, because you must be ashamed of it … You regard all its manifestations as ugly. Why? You are tied to conventions … You should remain what you are all the more so because you cannot be otherwise … do not run back and forth like a degenerate mutt.50

In this passage, Füst presumes that a person, including all of his or her characteristics and behaviour, is simply the objectification of genetics. That is the basic premise of every form of racism. In perceiving himself as a ‘Jew’, Füst dispenses with autonomy, with the individual’s freedom of identification. This results in a crisis of self-perception: by adopting the Jewish identity provided for him, he internalizes the norms and the conceptions of anti-Semitism even more profoundly than before. This charged issue of social-psychological identification also appears in Füst’s literary works and literary relationships. We now turn to the poetic-cultural parameters of the position – implied by Merleau-Ponty and Bernhard Waldenfels – of the incarnate absence of one’s own being. In 1930, Zsigmond Móricz, one of the most important novelists in the history of Hungarian literature, wrote an article on András Komor’s novel Fischmann S. utódai [Successors of S. Fischmann]51 in which he argued that Komor had finally succeeded in depicting the ‘Jewish soul’ beyond all the imposed falsehoods. The novel, Móricz continued, was of high literary quality because Komor had written about what he knew best: ‘Hungarian literature opens its gates to you, too, when you write about your Jewish self, and when you write about yourself you will also be able to write better. The interest of art demands of you that you write about yourself.’ With these words, Móricz sought to provide a cultural programme for his colleagues of Jewish descent and to integrate them into Hungarian literature according to a predetermined position. This misguided attempt at integration was made more dubious by the fact that many authors and editors of modern Hungarian literature were ‘Jewish’ writers who, of course, had not written about their ‘Jewish selves’ and had not published literary journals as ‘Jews’. The article sparked a debate in Nyugat [West], an important journal of modern Hungarian literature. Milán Füst took no public position on the debate. However, he reflected on it two years later in a diary entry. The entry also gives

50 Ibid., vol. 2, 363. 51 Zsigmond Móricz, ‘A zsidó lélek az irodalomban’, Nyugat 2 (1930): 421–2.

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us insights into the artistic dilemma and the problems of identity that inform the poetic resolutions of his novel The Story of My Wife:52 And to pretend to me that I don’t like the present world, that I flee into the past. Why should I take flight? Because I don’t know this world as well as a writer should know it. – Whoever knows his surroundings well has an easy time of it. He discovers thousands of subjects for himself. He can write about everything that he knows well. (By knowledge I do not mean information and observations, but rather imagination capable of creating something new on the basis of observations.) – And the Jewish author: in vain he considers an event interesting; he can’t even begin to write. He has to wait until he comes across a subject that enables him to write the novel of worldlessness … He can engage in psychologizing and philosophizing. He can also be a good stylist … Yes, he may well be that.53

As suggested above, the poetic aspects of the absence of one’s own being were articulated most clearly at the time that Füst was completing the novel The Story of My Wife. He finished the work in April 1942. The novel appeared in the same year despite the fact that it was almost impossible for a Jewish author to be published at that time. Lajos Fülep, a well-known art theorist and a close friend of the author, wrote about the novel in several letters to Füst in April and May of 1942. Füst had sent his friend extensive reports about the most important developments in composing the novel, about the process of selecting the title, and about how he decided on the narrator’s name. In his letter from April 20, Lajos Fülep initially praised the novel as a remarkable accomplishment, only to proceed to sharp criticism. One important point of criticism was that the novel spoke in the ‘language of Budapest’, which Fülep not only regarded – in accordance with widespread views of the time – as degenerate, depraved, and decadent; he even disputed its national character. Fülep stated quite openly that it could not be called Hungarian. The language that one speaks in Budapest, he continued, is a dialect of Yiddish, whose unpleasant smell he could never bear anywhere.54 The association of an unpleasant smell with ‘Jewishness’ or, in this case, with Yiddish was a common part of the vocabulary of coded anti-Semitism. Milán Füst emphatically rejected this position. He understood the accusation clearly: as an author, he was not even capable of writing in Hungarian without a foreign accent, to say nothing of his novel being of high aesthetic quality. According to the literary standards of 1940s Hungary, the task of literature was to employ the Hungarian language in an exemplary way in order to express the cultural ideals of the nation. 52 The novel was published in English as The Story of My Wife: Reminiscences of Captain Storr, trans. Ivan Sanders with an introduction by George Konrad (New York: PAJ Publications, 1988). 53 Füst, Teljes Napló, vol. 2, 371–2. 54 Füst, Összegyűjtött levelek, 399.

‘Jewishness’ in the Diary of Milán Füst


In his response, Füst pointed out that he had sought to imitate the actual living language, in which words could be used incorrectly, and that for this reason one should not expect him to use language in a proper way. Füst wanted to make absolutely clear to his friend Fülep that what the latter was hearing in the novel was not Füst’s own language, but rather the voices of the protagonists in the narrative. This did not mean, however, that Füst’s work was lacking in beauty and aesthetic quality in comparison to traditional models. Furthermore, he accused Fülep of failing to hear ‘the wonderful melody of the Hungarian language’ in the novel. Füst believed he had composed ‘veritable sonnets, and indeed the sonnets of the Hungarian language’.55 The second point of Fülep’s criticism appears to have nothing to do with the first. ‘A private matter between two people is not sufficient to fill out the form of the novel,’56 Fülep argued. He claimed that a world full of ephemeral things and particularities had to populate the background, while in the foreground the protagonists of the novel are made recognizable as contemporary psychological entities. Fülep’s expectations were derived from the characteristics of bourgeois-realist novels. Fülep did, however, connect the lack of objectivity to the issue of placelessness, one of the key themes of the work.57 Füst’s response brought together Lajos Fülep’s and Zsigmond Móricz’s expectations of a novel, thereby giving a completely new poetic meaning to the phenomenon of the lack of objectivity, an aesthetic choice that was intimately bound up with Füst’s personal identity: For decades I believed that the major form of a novel should sprout up from the ground upon which the writer lives, that it is therefore the task of a novel to reflect the world, to depict the society from which he comes. It is therefore entirely appropriate – Gogol writes about Russians, Flaubert speaks about the French, and so on. But what can someone do who has always been alone, whose gaze has never been directed outwards, who has always had only his own internal world, who belongs nowhere, from whose mouth location-specific particularities would have a very bad ring. I belong nowhere. (Least of all to the Jewish people).58

Milán Füst’s internal crisis of personal identification deepened profoundly in 1937. By this time anti-Semitism had long since ceased to be merely a widespread form of discourse in everyday life; indeed, it had become a serious polit55 Ibid., 400. 56 Lajos Fülep’s letter of 20 April 1942 to Milán Füst, in Szellemek utcája, ed. Imre Kis Pintér (Budapest: Nap Kiadó, 1998), 148. 57 Milán Füst’s response to Lajos Fülep’s letter: ‘It is remarkable, my dear friend, how easily this work has passed you by without you noticing it.’ 58 Füst, Összegyűjtött levelek, 402.

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ical force, both in Nazi Germany and in other European countries, and anti-Semitic violence committed by common people became an everyday occurrence. It provided the possibility and the platform from which to humiliate one’s fellow human being both spiritually and psychologically, and it greatly disrupted personal relationships. In his diary, Füst increasingly capitulated to the prosaic practices of anti-Semitism and resigned himself to a world open to evil and the psychological and spiritual degradation of others at the hands of racial theory.59 Füst was well aware that the ‘Jew’ and the ‘Jewess’ are constructed through social stereotypes by those who view their bearers as ‘other’. At the time, antiSemitism was also the official policy of a state that denied ‘Jews’, as inferior people, legal guarantees to defend their rights, their property, and their very lives. Füst relates the structure of the anti-Semitic public – which denied the object of its hatred the freedom to lead a civil existence – to himself as if the ontological premises of the Kantian understanding of the autonomous subject still had binding validity. For this reason, there is nothing for him to do but try to wipe away the ‘Jew’ from himself. He no longer wanted to be a Jew either internally or externally. In the oppressive environment in which he was living, however, this was impossible: If I observe myself carefully and I am honest, I must admit that I even pay attention to the face of the policeman at the streetcar station to see whether or not he regards me as a Jew. I try to make an expression on my face such that he cannot despise me, and I attempt to speak Hungarian as correctly as I can. I want to evoke sympathy and compassion, and I would like to assuage the hatred of the world against me, even that of the simplest people – I have come this far.60

Could Füst’s internal crisis be contained though baptism? In March 1938 he wrote to Józef Patai, editor-in-chief of the Jewish cultural journal Múlt és Jövo [Past and Future]: ‘I am a Jew, and I also want to remain one.’61 On 2 December 1938, however, Füst and his wife were baptized in St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest. While we do not know the author’s reasons, his diary contains an ac59 Füst, Teljes Napló, vol. 2, 426. ‘And when someone on the street spits in my eyes, I no longer think that I have equal rights, that it was therefore an extraordinary insult. Previously I would have prayed to vengeful gods because I thought that I was a Hungarian, that I thus had the same need for dignity, recognition, and proper treatment as all of my fellow humans. But today? It is a world movement. And as far as its injustice is concerned, I have gotten used to the fact that this world is made up of few persecutors and many victims … Why should the fate of the Jews surprise me? – There is only one thing about my behaviour that I cannot affirm: that I am prepared to understand anti-Semitism and to accept that degenerate Judaism deserves to be rejected a little.’ 60 Ibid., vol. 2, 457. 61 Füst, Összegyűjtött levelek, 332.

‘Jewishness’ in the Diary of Milán Füst


count of the event. The baptism, which Füst prepared rather festively in accordance with the occasion, was a great disappointment to him. Striking is the way he describes the priest’s use of the stereotypes of anti-Semitic body politics: During the preparations I was somewhat touched, as the New Testament was the most important book of my youth … The face of the priest today, however, was so fat; the entire man was so fleshy and thick, almost unclean and grey. His face was avaricious, his behaviour insidiously submissive … And all the others who were present there! The poor people!62

The baptism could not prevent Füst’s psychological collapse.63 His soul gave way in the end: ‘There are tiny plants on the meadow’, he wrote in his diary at the end of 1938: They manage to survive thanks to all kinds of intrigues … – Look, you Jews, that was your fate, to engage in shady tricks and business deals in the ghetto because everyone else was ashamed to perform them … Now the Germans have made this impossible as well … You are probably supposed to die … But today I say it is not worth preserving this hybrid character at such a heavy cost and serving as a target for human vileness because of your special position.64

The author of this statement assumed the theoretical-prophetic position of an outsider, which, however, no longer existed. He might have done this in order to establish distance between the fatally heavy burden of what he had written and his own existence. The tone of these sentences returned in the diary on 15 March 1944, only four days before the German invasion of Hungary: Today I say already that the Jews are to be exterminated. Because of this fate! I hear of gas chambers near Dresden, where they were transported to die due to the will of a single man. And here? In their own country they were despised and hounded … and now the

62 Füst, Teljes Napló, vol. 2, 479. 63 Judging by currently known documents, it seems clear that Milán Füst later inwardly rejected his own baptism. This is suggested by a diary entry from 1943, in which Füst discusses quite ironically or even dismissively Henri Bergson’s conversion to Catholicism: ‘I heard the following today about Bergson, that before his death he became in his heart a great Catholic and that he had wanted to convert, but then realized that it would not be a gracious gesture to let Judaism down now. For this reason he did not convert, but remained in his heart a committed Catholic and finally, in the midst of a great spiritual convulsion, he decided that he should be laid to rest by two priests, one Jewish and one Catholic … So much for the story. I ask myself, however, how it should be understood. Can a philosopher also be a blockhead?’ Ibid., vol. 2, 592. Füst does not mention his own baptism at all in this diary entry and was silent about it in public for the rest of his life. 64 Ibid., vol. 2, 479.

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Jews, as the most important enemy, will be eradicated from the world … Like a hunted animal – everywhere … Why exist in this way? Oh, if only this minute lay behind me!65

This was one of the last entries in Füst’s diary. In the literary works he composed between 1905 and 1944, he hardly reflected at all on the part of his internal history alluded to here. Even the diary disappeared during the occupation of Budapest and Füst thought it had been lost. The Füst family home, a nice villa in Buda, was hit by a bomb and almost completely destroyed. In the pauses between air raids the isolated remains of the building were looted. Everything of value was taken. At the time, Füst was living with the relatives of his wife in Budapest, and it was almost impossible to travel across the Danube from one side of the city to the other. The collapsed bridge frames jutted out of the river up toward the gloomy skies. Füst experienced the painful lack of personal solidarity. He wrote to Fülep on 12 May 1945: Today it no longer matters how it happened; the only fact that counts is that the world let me perish. No word, no voice, no compassion reached me; no friends, no enemies who succeeded in surviving the difficulties; no fellow authors asked me if I was still alive. And that is a great lesson.66

Milán Füst and his wife survived the Holocaust. The diary entries were discovered again only decades later. The suitcase in which the dairy had been placed was returned, but the author never opened it. Not once after the Second World War did Füst write about the ‘Jewish’ side of his personal and social identity. During the 1950s and 60s, questions of personal identity were not discussed in public in Hungary. There was no language for them.

65 Ibid., vol. 2, 598. 66 Füst, Összegyűjtött levelek, 452.

 Part II: Modernity and the Search for Identity

Eszter Gantner

The New Type of Internationalist The Case of Béla Balázs Few historians would deny that ‘Jewish Communism’, a variant of the ‘Jewish World Conspiracy’, has been one of the most powerful and destructive political myths in early-twentieth century Europe.1

Hungarian historians have repeatedly addressed the phenomenon of Jewish intellectuals in the early twentieth century being active not only in the ranks of the ‘bourgeois radicals’2 but in the Social Democratic Party and the Galileo Circle3 as well. The strong Jewish involvement in ‘progressive’ groups,4 or movements, at the turn of the century was pointed out even by contemporaries, whose ‘negative’ impressions of this were only strengthened by the ‘pronounced Jewish presence’ in the leadership of the Hungarian Republic of Councils.5 These Jewish connections have since been interpreted from a variety of perspectives. They have been addressed in a multitude of historiographical discourses as well as at the official level, in the Hungarian state’s politics of memory. The initial question has usually been formulated as follows: how can the significant presence of Jews in radical, progressive movements be explained? Three basic lines of thought can be made out in the literature. According to Vik-

1 André Gerrits, The Myth of Jewish Communism: A Historical Interpretation (Brussels: PIE Peter Lang, 2009), 9. 2 The ‘bourgeois radicals’ were a group of radical intellectuals at the turn of the twentieth century whose members later formed the Sociological Society. See Attila Pók, A magyarországi radikális demokrata ideológia kialakulása. A ‘Huszadik Század’ társadalomelmélete 1900–1907 [The formation of radical democratic ideology in Hungary: ‘Twentieth Century’ social theory 1900–1907] (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1990). 3 The Galileo Circle was founded in 1908 by radical and leftist students at Budapest University. It was also a cultural and scholarly movement supported by workers and high-school students. 4 György Litván, ‘Szellemi progresszió a századelőn’ [Intellectual progressiveness at the beginning of the 20th century], in Zsidók a Magyar társadalomban, ed. Géza Komoróczy (Pozsony: Kalligram, 2015), 633–42. 5 The leading functionaries of the Republic of Councils did not view themselves as Jews of course, but the non-Jewish environment perceived them as such. Translation: From the German by David Burnett

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tor Karády6 and Enzo Traverso,7 the radical Jewish intelligentsia at the turn of the twentieth century was drawn to socialist ideas, social democracy and communism because they offered an alternative to marginalized Jewish intellectuals who found themselves on the periphery of Hungarian society. Walter Pietsch8 and Michael Löwy9 asked if it was the ‘messianic’ legacy of Judaism manifesting itself in ‘reformist’ and ‘revolutionary’ ambitions. William McCagg and Hans Dieter Hellige,10 on the other hand, advocated the theory that the phenomenon was explained primarily by a father-son conflict, i.e. the conflict between a liberal, assimilated, well-off generation of fathers and their sons who (at the turn of the century) rebelled against their fathers’ success by turning to radicalism. Still others, such as György Litván and to some extent Enzo Traverso, focused on the marginal social position of aspiring Jewish intellectuals and, following Hannah Arendt, looked deeper into the historical causes of this.11 More recent research, by contrast, tends to ignore this aspect completely. As André Gerrits put it: ‘given the impact of Jewish Communism, remarkably little research has been conducted on the subject.’12 As different as these answers and explanatory models may be, they all overlap on one point, at least in the older literature: all the historians cited above construe Judaism as an independent and homogeneous entity. It is from this conception that they approach the initial question using the terms, ‘Judaism’, ‘Jewishness’ at the turn of the twentieth century, and ‘assimilation’ as starting points for their argumentation. A different picture emerges, however, when the basic question is inverted, as Stanislaw Krajewski has done: ‘the correct question is … Why was communism so attractive to Jews?’13

6 László Marjanucz, ‘Zsidó identitás és asszimiláció Magyarországon: Interjú Karády Viktorral’ [Jewish identity and assimilation in Hungary: Interview with Viktor Karády], Mozgó Világ 8–9 (1988): 46. 7 Enzo Traverso, Die Marxisten und die jüdische Frage: Geschichte einer Debatte 1843–1943 (Mainz: Decaton-Verlag, 1995), 51–9. 8 Walter Pietsch, ‘Jászi Oszkár és magatartása a magyarországi zsidókérdésben’ [Jászi Oszkár and his view on the Hungarian Jewish question], in Reform és Ortodoxia (Budapest: Múlt és Jövő K., 2000), 108. 9 Michael Löwy, Erlösung und Utopie (Berlin: Kramer, 1997). 10 Hans Dieter Hellige, ‘Generationskonflikt, Selbsthaß und die Entstehung antikapitalistischer Positionen im Judentum’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft 4 (1979): 476–518. 11 See Hannah Arendt, Rahel Varnhagen (Munich/Zurich: Piper, 1990), 11. 12 Gerrits, The Myth of Jewish Communism, 10. 13 Stanislaw Krajewski, Jews, Communism and the Jewish Communists (Budapest: CEU Press, 1999–2000), 129.

The New Type of Internationalist 


Taking this question as a starting point, this essay will attempt to provide some kind of answer to this complex question by reconstructing and reflecting on the biography and selected works of Béla Balázs.

Szeged and Budapest It was evening when we arrived in Szeged. The level, one-story buildings seemed firmly attached to the immense plains, rising from the ground with considerable difficulty. Splayed streets, a flat, sprawling city, half scattered by puszta sand, recumbent in heavy dreams. Hot and dusty.14 Szeged, the hometown of Béla Balázs, not only appears in his literary biography as a place to ‘put down roots’; it is present in many of his writings as a concrete expression of his desire to belong to ‘Magyardom’.15 Szeged not only influenced Balázs’ ‘sense of home’: his father Simon Bauer, too, was – like many Hungarian Jews in the last third of the nineteenth century – a Hungarian ‘nationalist’, in the romantic sense of the word. He worked as a high school teacher in Szeged and later in Lőcse (now Levoča, Slovakia), and hoped to pursue an academic career in Budapest. These plans were thwarted by his early death. His beloved father having passed away, the remaining family moved back to Szeged to fulfil his father’s last wish: ‘Don’t let yourself be declassed in a small town! [It is my wish that] Herbert should grow up in a genuine Hungarian city, where he can truly learn his mother tongue and strike roots in Hungarian soil.’16 But this deep attachment to Hungarian culture and language still allowed room for the German language as both a means of communication and a vehicle of literary expression. German was often spoken in the Balázs family home, his mother, Jenny Lewy, having come to Szeged from the East Prussian town of Elbing (now Elbląg, Poland) to work as a German teacher. Balázs went to high school in Szeged and later studied at Budapest University. He was accepted at Eötvös College,17 where he lived together with future composer Zoltán Kodály. In 1904, Balázs and Kodály met the young György Lukács while organizing the ‘Thália’ experimental theatre. It was likewise during this period in 1905 that Béla Balázs, through Kodály, met the soon-to-be world14 Béla Balázs, Die Jugend eines Träumers (Berlin: Das Arsenal Verlag, 1949), 183 15 Béla Balázs, Napló 1903–1914 [Diary 1903–1914], vol. 1 (Budapest: Gondolat, 1982), 490. 16 Balázs, Die Jugend eines Träumers, 165. 17 Eötvös College was founded in 1895 by physician Baron Lóránd Eötvös after the model of the École normale supérieure.

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famous composer Béla Bartók. The three of them went on a number of excursions around Szeged with the aim of ‘collecting’ folk songs. These excursions left a deep impression on Balázs and were later incorporated into his semi-autobiographical novels, Impossible People and The Youth of a Dreamer. In a position paper about the question of belonging, written in the Soviet Union and unpublished, he recalled: ‘No music could be more rooted in the soul of a people than Zoltán Kodály’s in the Hungarian.’18 Balázs soon became well known in Budapest circles of the progressive movement,19 having contacts to both the Sociological Society20 as well as to The Eight21 and the Galileo Circle.22 His success continued in the 1910s. Two of his plays were set to music by Béla Bartók and were performed in the opera,23 books of his poetry24 were published and reviewed in Nyugat [West],25 his fairy tales26 appeared in Nyugat, and his play Doctor Margit Szelpal27 was performed in the national theatre. In his autobiographical sketches, he later reflected (in the third person) on his role as an ambassador of modernity, or even as the ‘embodiment’ of modernity: ‘besides being considered the first so-called ‘modern playwright’ in Hungary, Béla Balázs was also one of the leading and most respected Hungarian poets.’28 Balázs had ties to virtually all the movements of Hungarian modernism, his network – reconstructed using the names in his diary – ranged from The Eight to Lajos Kassák’s, artist group, Ma [Today]. As a high school teacher, however, he was just as active in the progressive teachers’ association as he was in the Freemasons. This network was not just centred in Budapest but extended to Berlin, where his contacts, as of 1906, included the likes of Georg Simmel. Balázs lived in Berlin for one year, from 1906 to 1907, studying

18 Unpublished manuscript, Balázs estate in the archives of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA), Budapest, call no.: Ms. 5024/2, p. 3. 19 See Eszter Gantner, Budapest–Berlin: Die Koordinaten einer Emigration (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2011), 177. 20 Ibid., 178. 21 Ibid., 178. 22 Ibid., 179. 23 The opera Bluebeard’s Castle was based on the libretto Kékszakállú [Bluebeard, 1911] by Béla Balázs and premiered in 1918; the ballet The Wooden Prince premiered in Budapest in 1917. 24 Béla Balázs, Trisztán hajóján [On Tristan’s Ship] (Gyoma: Kner I., 1916). 25 György Lukács, ‘Megjegyzések Balázs Béla új verseiről’ [Comments on the new poems by Béla Balázs], Nyugat 2 (1916): 751–759. 26 Béla Balázs, Halálos fiatalság [Deadly Youth] (Gyoma: Kner, 1917). 27 Ibid. 28 Béla Balázs, Einige biographische Fakten. Unpublished manuscript, Balázs estate in the MTA archives, Ms. 5020/145, p. 2.

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with the help of a state scholarship of a thousand crowns per month.29 He described his first encounter with the city in his diary entry of 22 October 1906: My room is one and a half paces wide and six and a half paces long. … I’m struggling. Foreign noises, foreign lights … unknown droning, flames glowing through fog and smoke, a giant riptide. Even the large buildings are giant brown surging waves of stone. … I must overcome and master all of this.30

Balázs achieved what he set out to do. He soon belonged to the inner circle of philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel, who supervised his dissertation on the aesthetics of death.31 Balázs, like many of his contemporaries, was not only impressed by Simmel’s human qualities, but also by his erudition and rhetorical brilliance. Finally I have the opportunity to meet people steeped in hyper-cultivation, intellectual refinement, aestheticism and symbolism – and at Simmel’s I can even keep company with them at his private lectures on the ‘philosophy of art’. He holds them in his apartment, and only admits ten [students], who along with his wife and some female doctor make up his audience. … Simmel is an exceptionally interesting man with a wonderfully subtle receptivity. … The thoughts he expresses are delicate and surprising.32

The fact that both men were of Jewish descent and may have had similar experiences of being Jewish was probably not openly discussed between them.33 Their experiences could have indeed been similar, since both the Simmel and Balázs families had turned their backs on religious Judaism, a phenomenon described by Oszkár Jászi in his biographical sketches published in 1955.34 Jászi, the founder of the Sociological Society at the turn of the century, and one of the most important political thinkers of the bourgeois radicals in Budapest, had no ties to Judaism as a child. His Jewish ancestry was even kept secret from him. Like Simmel and Balázs, he was raised in the ‘spirit of the Enlightenment’ and the ideals of Goethe and Schiller, an intellectual space which left no room for Judaism. György Lukács reported having similar experiences. In this respect Balázs’ conversion seems logical. In 1913 he married a woman from a wealthy as29 Balázs shared the one-year scholarship with composer Zoltán Kodály, who wasn’t studying at the university. See Hilda Bauer, Emlékeim [My Memories] (Budapest: MTA Filozófiai Intézet, 1985), 19. 30 Balázs, Napló, 355. 31 Balázs’ dissertation was published in 1907 under the title Halálesztétika [The Aesthetics of Death]. 32 Balázs, Napló, 365. 33 There is no mention of it in Balázs’ diary. 34 Oszkár Jászi, ‘Emlékeimből, szülőföldemen’ [From My Memories], in Jászi Oszkár publicisztikája, ed. György Litván, (Budapest: Magvető 1982).

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similated Jewish family, Edit Hajós, and together they converted to Catholicism. Whereas Lukács viewed this step as a purely ‘administrative’ measure35 (he converted to Protestantism), Balázs endeavoured to explain his decision as something emotional: ‘I did it out of conviction. If you must have a religious affiliation, then this one was the most sympathetic to me.’36 He was nonetheless aware of his ambivalent situation: I’ve been baptized, changed my name and gotten married. I’ve entered a new skin. I’m now Roman Catholic and my official name is Béla Balázs. … The baptism has brought me no advantages. Only disadvantages. The Jews are angry with me, and the ‘Christians’ still consider me little more than a Jew. My brother has even lost his Jewish scholarship because of it.37

As an intellectual, too, he bemoaned not being ‘Hungarian’ enough, that he didn’t belong anywhere: ‘My diary shows that I’ve always been anxious about not having ties to society, to the nation, to the country, not even knowing anything about them.’38 A turning point in this identity crisis seemed to come in 1914. Balázs signed up for the war and in 1915 wrote a programmatic manifesto (a kind of war diary) titled Menj és szenvedj te is [Go and Suffer Too]39 for the periodical Nyugat. Its focus was again the question of belonging, which now, in the historic moment of war, seemed to have an answer: filled with a ‘mystical patriotism’, he had to serve his ‘nation’ and ‘homeland’.40 In 1916 he collected his writings on war in a book titled Lélek a háborúban [Soul in the War],41 which was reviewed by the poet Árpád Tóth in Nyugat. Ironically, the reviewer mentioned that Balázs had been attacked for his ‘anti-Hungarian sentiments’. The two columns of reviews were a source of doubt and disappointment for Balázs. As he put it in his diary: ‘An irresolvable situation, and all I do is make it worse. I recently ran into Lorsy, who informed me about the widespread loathing and fury against me. To the nationalists I’m an ‘Austrian Hungarian’, to the radicals a militaristic pig. I’m going to remain hopelessly alone.’42 The rejection of his book and the often hostile reviews it received reinforced his feeling of isolation. In response to this he 35 See György Lukács, Gelebtes Denken: Eine Autobiografie im Dialog, eds, István Eörsi and Erzsébet Vezér (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1981). 36 Balázs, Napló, 602–603. 37 Ibid., 602–3. 38 Ibid., 604. 39 Béla Balázs, Menj és szenvedj te is! [Go and suffer too!], Nyugat 1 (1915): 13. 40 Ibid., 13. 41 Béla Balázs, Lélek a háborúban [Soul in the war] (Gyoma: Kner I., 1916). 42 Béla Balázs: Napló 1914–1922 [Diary Vol. 2], (Budapest 1982), 164.

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once again embraced the idea of internationalism as his true home, which he had often pondered before in his diaries. ‘They say that, in general, wars strengthen the spirit of nationalism and chauvinism. I’m convinced that this war will have the opposite effect. … After this war, the time will come for me to found the sect of the internationalist spiritual worldview.’43 This, combined with his newly experienced disappointment and rejection, resulted in the programme he had formulated for himself in August 1916: ‘I have no ‘nationalist’ hopes anymore. Nothing will become of me here. I have no nation/nationality anymore. Europe is my nation/nationality.’44 This ambivalence and rejection, which can also be found in other contemporary Jewish biographies, was reinforced by a renewed interest in the ‘Jewish question’ during the war years. This public debate fostered a sense of unease towards Judaism and one’s own ‘Jewishness’, as a 1917 survey in the periodical Huszadik Század [Twentieth century]45 shows. The editors of the magazine, one of the most important organs of the Hungarian progressives, surveyed about 150 intellectuals – politicians, artists, scientists and leading academics – asking them to answer the following questions as representatives of an elite social group: is there a Jewish question in Hungary, and if there is one what do you think is at its core? What are the reasons for the Jewish question in Hungary? Which phenomena of Hungarian society, which social relationships, institutions, characteristics and customs of Hungarian Jews and/or Gentiles play a role in the formation of the Jewish question? What do you think is the solution to the Jewish question in Hungary? Which social and legal reforms do you consider necessary? The answers were a representative cross-section, both socially and in terms of this discourse. They not were not only a compendium of the existing arguments and the opinions current in public debate with respect to the Jewish question, they also offered a picture of the varied ideas concerning the essence of Judaism and the interpretation of Jewishness in Jewish society. The respondents were, of course, for the most part ‘successful’ and well known Jewish intellectuals (i.e. assimilated and Hungarian-speaking), but their responses still gave an impression of how varied their identities and self-images were. Anna Lesznai, one of Béla Balázs’ closest friends and an important figure in the Sunday Circle, can be cited here as an example. Her written response contained such terms as ‘cultural Jew’, ‘Jewish psyche’, and ‘Jewish nervousness’ – terms 43 Balázs, Napló, vol. 2, 31. 44 Balázs, Napló, vol. 2, 182. 45 Körkérdés: Van-e zsidókérdés Magyarországon? [Special Edition: Survey – Is There a Jewish Question in Hungary?], Huszadik Század (1917): 2–161.

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that, to her mind, adequately described the precarious status of ‘cultural Jews’. She felt acutely that the cultural Jew, who had left the ghetto and embraced the culture of mainstream society, had nonetheless still not arrived. This ‘nervousness rooted in insecurity’ was, in her opinion, the specific quality of the assimilated Jew. Lesznai wrote about this existence between two cultures, between two dispositions: In the dense pipe smoke of respected ‘gentlemen’, those who went hunting and talked about politics, I, an eight-year-old, was the ‘little Hungarian aristocratic child’ who grew up in a patriotic atmosphere, nay, much more – as far as I was capable of absorbing it unconsciously at all – with the ‘sentiments of the ruling class’. And, at the same time, in the Budapest home of my religious Jewish grandparents. Their strict rules, the old man with the white beard who observed the prohibitions of the Day of Atonement, were also part of my mental inventory. Fasting on Yom Kippur and Good Friday were entirely compatible in my mind. The tolling bells of the Catholic Church regulated my prayers.46

The answers to this survey clearly indicate that the universal belief in the success of assimilation had begun to falter.47 The uncertainty about one’s allegiance and social status was becoming more and more pronounced, especially for the generation born around the turn of the century.48 The Jewish question and the question of identity was not only to be found in personal diaries like those of Béla Balázs or his close companion the artist and writer Anna Lesznai; it was also a matter of heated debate within the Sunday Circle. This is evident in the frequently-quoted diary entries of Balázs from 1913, referring to the ‘Hassidic’ books of Martin Buber discussed at the Sunday Circle: The Tales of Rabbi Nachman (1906) and The Legend of the Baal-Shem (1908). ‘Gyuri [György Lukács] has discovered the Jew in himself and openly accepts it! The search for his ancestors. The Hassidic sects. Baal Shem.’49 Balázs and his friends were under the influence of the Europe-wide New Kantian movement and the new, romantic-mystical ideologies. Aware of their ‘conflicting nature’ – consciously converted but still ‘not belonging’ – they created a spiritual home for themselves in the form of the Sunday Circle or, as Lukács called it, ‘romantic anti-capitalism’.50

46 Response of Anna Lesznai to the survey in Huszadik Század (1917): 104. 47 See Gantner, Budapest–Berlin, 62. 48 See Mary Gluck, György Lukács and His Generation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), 60–3. 49 Balázs, Napló, vol. 1, 614. 50 Lukács, Gelebtes Denken, 77; see Károly Kókai, Im Nebel: Der junge Lukács und Wien (Wien: Böhlau Verlag, 2002).

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Romantic Anti-capitalism: The Sunday Circle in Budapest ‘Sundays (more recently Sunday afternoons), a men’s club meets at my place … Only serious individuals with an inclination to metaphysics are invited’,51 wrote Béla Balázs in his diary in 1915. These few lines hardly let on that the Sunday Circle – though not an organization, having no set rules, and merely comprising a group of friends – was one of the most important intellectual formations of Hungarian modernism in terms of its impact and influence. Many of its members, all of whom were involved in the bourgeois revolution of 1918 and/or in the Republic of Councils, had a defining influence on modern Hungarian culture or later, in emigration, joined a broader, international movement. The Sunday Circle52 was not a political group; it was similar to the one around Stefan George in Heidelberg, or the philosophical group of Marianne and Max Weber, which György Lukács regularly attended. The Sunday Circle was meant to be a place to discuss ethical and philosophical questions or intellectual positions. Simmel’s private lectures served as a model for the Sunday Circle, Lukács and Béla Balázs having both been his students.53 ‘Internationality’, in the cultural sense, was a matter of course for the members of the circle. As children of the Jewish middle class, they enjoyed the privileges of a multilingual education, study abroad, music lessons etc. The members were characterized by a variety 51 Balázs, Napló, vol. 2, 105. 52 The following is an overview of the members of the Sunday Circle. Founding and permanent members, 1915: writer Béla Balázs, philosopher György Lukács, writer Emma Ritóok, art historian Frigyes Antal, philosopher Béla Fogarasi, physician (and Balázs’ first wife) Edit Hajós, Anna Schlamadinger (Balázs’ second wife), art historian Arnold Hauser, philosopher, and future sociologist Károly Mannheim. Subsequent members: artist Anna Lesznai (the wife of Oszkár Jászi), psychoanalyst Juliska Láng (the future wife of Károly Mannheim), and art historian Lajos Fülep. Temporary members and visitors: publisher Imre Kner, writer and journalist Ernő Lorsy, psychoanalyst René Spitz, Elza Stephani, economist Jenő Varga, Sándor Varjas, and psychonalayst János Wilde. After 1918: painter and printmaker Tibor Gergely (second husband of Anna Lesznai), journalist György Káldor, student László Radványi, art historian Károly Tolnay, psychoanalyst Edit Gyömrői, and writer Ervin Sinkó. Occasional participants: Mihály Polányi, Géza Révész, József Nemes Lampérth, composers Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, as well as Károly Polányi and artist Béni Ferenczy. The painter József Nemes Lampérth served as a link between the Sunday Circle and the Ma group around Lajos Kassák. Lampérth joined the MA circle in 1916 and began attending the Sunday Circle in 1917 through the offices of Károly Mannheim, where he was particularly influenced by the aesthetics of Georg Simmel as presented by Ritoók, Balázs and Lukács. László Radványi, who later became the main initiator of MASCH in Berlin, was a go-between for the Galileo Circle and the Sunday Circle. 53 Béla Balázs was Georg Simmel’s student in 1906–07.

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of backgrounds and cultural influences and a varied social status, but were bound together by their sympathies, friendship, and sometimes marital ties. Their lives as intellectuals, which for many of them was linked to an ambivalent relationship to their own Jewishness, also brought these individuals together. Béla Balázs’ guests came from his own circle of friends.54 The topics they discussed were usually of a philosophical nature, in keeping with the spirit of German idealism. It did not remain a closed circle of friends for long, however, and was not just devoted to idealistic themes, e.g. the possibility of re-founding a total metaphysics;55 rather, its members wanted to spread their ideals and ideas of high culture, using their networks to reach a wider audience. In the spring of 1917 the circle established the Free School of the Humanities, with the aim of spreading a new philosophical spiritualism and metaphysical idealism.56 In the year of its founding, the school had presentations, among other things, on the following subjects: dramaturgy (Béla Balázs), the theory of philosophical thought (Béla Fogarasi), the problems of aesthetics according to Kant (Arnold Hauser), ethics (György Lukács), and the problems of aesthetic impact (Emma Ritóok).57 I had started reading Ervin Szabó, Zsigmond Kunffy, Oszkár Jászi a few years before, when I was fifteen … I had been interested in socialism, in social issues, and so I came into contact with the lectures at the Sunday and the Humanities Society [sic] … The first lecture was held by Károly Mannheim, I believe. I don’t remember what it was about. The talks continued, two to three a week, and I soon took part in all of them. Mannheim, György Lukács, Arnold Hauser, Frigyes Antal – I remember these speakers. After the lectures came a question-and-answer session, and I, a young child, asked questions they must have found interesting, because they invited me to their coffeehouse table. … After I’d been there a couple of times they invited me to their Sunday meetings, which was purely

54 The Sunday Circle demonstrates that even non-Jewish intellectuals had found the path to a certain radicalism. Philosopher Emma Ritóok and art historian Lajos Fülep were core members of the group. Emma Ritóok was the daughter of an eminent Hungarian aristocratic intellectual family. She was among the first female students at the philosophy department of Budapest University, studied under Georg Simmel in Berlin together with Béla Balázs, and later earned a name for herself as a philosopher and feminist writer. The family of Lajos Fülep lived in a small town in the south of Hungary where they were part of the local elite. Fülep studied in Italy, had a strong Protestant background, and was later active as a Calvinist minister and theologian after the Republic of Councils. 55 See Hanno Löwy, Medium und Initiation. Béla Balázs: Märchen, Ästhetik, Kino (PhD diss., Frankfurt am Main, 1999), 265, (accessed 20 April 2017). 56 Éva Karádi and Erzsébet Vezér, A Vasárnapi kör [The Sunday circle] (Budapest: Gondolat, 1980), 10. 57 Ibid., 10.

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a circle of friends with nothing institutional about it. The four of us were the ‘young ones’ there.58

The initiative was a great success: About 70 listeners on average took part in our lectures, and didn’t stop coming as we’d originally expected. We were surprised by our own capabilities, as Fogarasi put it. Fogarasi’s talks (on the theory of philosophical thought) were first-rate. Hauser’s (on the aesthetics of Kant), by contrast, were less so, but he put in an impressive amount of work. Antal’s lecture was a little bit weak. Mannheim’s (epistemology, logic), though, was wonderful, exciting, magnificent – the first performance of a budding philosopher and future great. … The school provided for heated debate at university and other philosophical circles.59

The Free School of the Humanities was disbanded in 1918, since many of its lecturers were able to continue teaching at Budapest University after the democratic revolution, rendering an alternative to the ‘official’ university and ‘official’ scholarly life unnecessary. All the members of the Sunday Circle, with the exception of Emma Ritoók, took part in the subsequent revolutionary events of 1918–19. When this communist revolution failed, all of the Sunday Circle members – with the exception of Fülep und Ritoók – were forced to emigrate, not only because of their political activities, but also for fear of anti-Semitism in the wake of counterrevolution. Just how intensely the Sunday Circle had preoccupied contemporaries can be seen in the extent to which the individuals involved, their discussions, meetings, and salons became the subject of Hungarian literature. Some of these are still considered important romans à clef to help us understand the atmosphere of that era.60 The members of the circle later emphasized in their memoirs that they held great debates in 1918 during the bourgeois-democratic revolution and did ‘not belong to those who wanted to wage their adolescent revolution by joining the Communist Party and fighting against their fathers.’61 Their statements challenge the notion put forward by some historians that the radicalization of the Sunday Circle can be reduced to a generational conflict.62 Rather, participation in the events was a conscious decision. 58 Beszélgetés Gergely Tiborral [Interview with Tibor Gergely led by Áron Tóbiás, Ágnes Somogyi, Lóránd Kabebó, Görgy Tverdota], 7 October 1974. Sign: 659/5/B, Archiv des Petőfi Literarischen Museums. 59 Balázs, Napló, vol. 2, 224. 60 See Ervin Sinkó, Optimisták [The optimists] (Budapest: Magvető, 1979); Anna Lesznai, Kezdetben volt a kert [In the beginning was the garden] (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1966). 61 Karádi and Vezér, A Vasárnapi kör, 64. 62 Such as Hans Dieter Hellige and Mary Gluck. See M. Gluck, György Lukács and his generation, 76.

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The meetings of the former Sunday Circle members were continued in Vienna, in emigration. There were new members, and some of the older ones, such as Arnold Hauser and Károly Mannheim, left the circle. ‘Now we are really scattered. Edith is in Milan, and the Antals are [somewhere] in Italy. … Fogarasi is in Prague, Máli in Körtvélyes, Mannheim and Juliska Láng in Bavaria, Hauser in Italy, Tolnay, Káldor and Lampérth in Berlin, Gyuri in Vienna. But the bonds don’t break. A strong network now extends across Europe,’ wrote Béla Balázs in his diary from Vienna, his next station in life. What the Sunday Circle meant to its members was summed up forty years later by the artist and writer Anna Lesznai, who died in the United States: ‘The Sunday meetings remained the most beautiful memories, not only in my life but in the lives of many others as well.’63

The Communist: Vienna and Berlin During the Republic of Councils, Balázs worked at the People’s Commissariat for Education directed by György Lukács. The Republic of Councils was an intellectual and political turning point in Balázs’ life, just as it was in the lives of many in his generation. It was the moment he joined the Hungarian Communist Party, founded in 1918: [A]nd in 1919, when upheaval and revolution ended the war, Béla Balázs immediately joined the Communists, without ever having belonged to a party – say, the Social Democrats – before. It was not his knowledge of Marxism – which he lacked – that helped him do so, but a certain idealistic ethic that rejected every form of opportunism, hated insincerity, and only believed in radical methods that carried things to their conclusion. In short, he was an emotional communist.64

István Eörsi, who later became a pupil of Lukács and edited the Lukács autobiography Record of a Life, called this phenomenon a ‘religious need’.65 In Balázs’ case this clearly rings true. His writings – especially his diaries, but also his novels – reveal a constant search for community, for a universal belief, which he hoped would dispel his permanent sense of loneliness, as an intellectual and as a Jew. At this point Balázs could view himself as an established writer. He was now an émigré who, because of his activities during the Hungarian Republic of 63 Memoirs of Anna Lesznai, 1965. Cited in: Karádi and Vezér, A Vasárnapi kör, 55. 64 Balázs, Einige biographische Fakten, 6–7. 65 Lukács, Gelebtes Denken, 79.

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Councils between March and August 1919, had to flee after its collapse. Yet the contacts to the German-speaking world – Vienna and Berlin – he had built up during his time in Budapest helped him set up a new life in emigration: There was something exhilarating and liberating about entering the world of German culture, and Balázs was more fortunate than some of his fellow exiles because he could write in German without difficulty. He was therefore eager to establish contacts with Germanlanguage publishers and journal editors … Lukács wrote to Martin Buber, asking that he help introduce Balázs around German literary circles.66

After the fall of the Republic of Councils, he undertook a dramatic escape to Vienna. Balázs knew well enough that they were hunting him down – as well as Lukács, Oszkár Jászi and others – on charges of murder as former officials of the Republic of Councils. In Vienna, he established himself as a journalist and worked for four years as a feuilleton writer on theatre and film for the leftist newspaper Der Tag. He also wrote for other papers, such as the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and the Prager Presse.67 Apart from his literary activities in Hungarian, he tried to build up ties to the German-language world of letters. His aim was clearly to establish himself as a German-language novelist. His circle of acquaintances included Max Reinhardt, Robert Musil, Kurt Wolff, Franz Blei, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, and Leonhard Frank.68 He corresponded with Paul Cassirer’s Drei-Masken publishing house, and he kept up ties to earlier friends despite his better situation. The former members of the Sunday Circle met on a regular basis in Vienna and tried to support each other financially as best they could. Balázs frequented coffeehouses where he often debated with members of the Ma group, met with György Lukács or Oszkár Jászi, and cultivated contacts with various other groups in emigration. The diaries of Béla Balázs written between 1903 and 1922 are not only an important source for researching the turn of the twentieth century and Hungarian modernism, they also reveal that he long cherished the ambition of carving out a ‘career in German’, even and especially as a student in Berlin in 1906–07. It was not exile that gave rise to this desire but his family background, having grown up like many others of his generation with two or more languages (and cultures), which always allowed him a certain flexibility to move between cultures, especially in the German-speaking world of Central Europe. His change in language was not determined by his place of exile; in his case, it was the exact opposite.

66 Ibid., 101. 67 Balázs, Napló, vol. 2, 481. 68 Ibid., 471–82.

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His exile in Vienna and Berlin was linked to, and informed by, various continuities with his period in Budapest before and during the First World War and was therefore by no means a break in his life. While it is true that he was forced to flee his old life along with his friends and colleagues, the communist movement and the milieu of the German Communist Party offered him and his comrades-in-arms a political and intellectual climate comparable to that of the progressive movement in Budapest some years earlier. It offered a structured environment at the intellectual, existential, and human level, one with universal ethical claims that rendered their ‘peripheral status’ as intellectuals, Jews, or émigrés obsolete. In 1926, he travelled even farther, from Vienna to Berlin. He explained this move later on as follows: ‘In 1927 [sic] Balázs had to leave Vienna. His communist tendencies, which he never denied, had become intolerable to the newspaper he worked for, and no other paper picked him up.’69 This step was of course not only influenced by an invitation from the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), but also by his conviction that Berlin offered him more opportunities for personal development. When Balázs arrived in Berlin in 1926, he was already a well-known film theorist and writer. His plan, dating back to Vienna, to become a German-language writer had succeeded. In 1926, he was invited to Berlin to give a talk on the essence of cinema. Once there, he decided to stay, and henceforth collaborated with Alexander (Sándor) Korda, who had his own film company. Edith Gyömrői, whom Balázs knew from the Sunday Circle, worked as a costume designer on the movie Madame Wants No Children. Balázs could boast of having made a career for himself in Berlin. He earned a name as a screenwriter, a film critic and aesthete, as a collaborator and organizer of the Workers’ Theatre League, serving as its artistic director from 1927 to 1929, and also wrote theatre critiques at Die Weltbühne for a period of five years.70 In a letter to Herbert Ihering, Balázs described his activities in Berlin in hindsight: It was not only the largest theatre organization in Berlin and all of Germany … in 1930 it had almost ten thousand members. It was a mass movement … the Workers’ Theatre League of Germany. I had the good fortune and the great honour to serve as artistic director of the national organization for a number of years, and during my entire time in Berlin was the producer of a company called ‘The Heretics’.71

69 Balázs, Einige biographische Fakten, 9. 70 Résumé of Béla Balázs; manuscript, MTA-Archiv, Ms. 5014/91. 71 Béla Balázs: Theater auf der Strasse, MTA-Archiv, MS 5014/92, p. 2.

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His activities – and this is a testimony to the importance of his work in the leftist theatre organization and the KPD – were closely watched by both the Hungarian and the Berlin police. To the Vice-Ispán of all counties and the Regional Chief of the Hungarian Royal Police. It has come to my knowledge that Dr Béla Balázs, who during the so-called Republic of Councils was director of a Bolshevist theatre group and after the fall of the Republic of Councils was engaged in subversive activities in Germany, is now planning to shoot a film with a Hungarian Bolshevist theme. The film is to have the title ‘Barricades’ or ‘When the Tisza Burns’ and is supposed to contain passages relevant to Hungary and allegedly filmed on Hungarian territory. The directors purportedly want to contract a neutral German company to shoot these sequences. I hereby notify the addressees to instruct the subordinate police authorities to unconditionally deny permission to shoot this film, in accordance with Directive No. 91.095/1920 B.M. Budapest, May 25, 193272

This information was passed on to Budapest from the Hungarian embassy in Berlin, which monitored the German press not only for news on Hungary but also to glean what information they could about Hungarian émigrés. Since an article detailing Balázs’ plans had appeared in the Münchner Zeitung just a few days before the dispatch quoted above,73 it is fair to assume that this article served as the source of information in this case. On the other hand, it was a well-known fact that the Hungarian police had informers in the Hungarian émigré community of Berlin. These persons communicated directly with the embassy, their reports being sent from there to Budapest. Royal Hungarian Consulate General, Munich (appendix to 4143/pol.1932.) – Munich, May 5, 1932 130/3/1932 Re.: Bolshevist film with Hungarian theme

72 Documents of the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior. VIIth Department. Manuscript in the Hungarian State Archives (MOL); Call no.: M. kir. Belügyminisztérium VII. osztály MOL K- 149651/2-1932-3-5635 73 Documents of the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior; VIIth Department. Manuscript in the Hungarian State Archives (MOL); Call no.: MOL: K 149-651/2-1932-3-5635, p. 7.

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On April 30, the following news item appeared in the Münchener [sic] Zeitung under the heading ‘Film Bolshevism’: ‘The Berlin-based Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, author of a number of film scripts and most recently a collaborator on the Riefenstahl movie The Blue Light, once again found a spot in his heart for the Bolshevists and has now turned up in Moscow, where he’s planning to make a film called Barricades with the Russian director Leiter. The film takes its theme from the Hungarian revolutionary novel by Béla Illés. Is it not time for the Germans to remember that Balázs has lost his currency here by placing himself at the service of Russian revolutionary filmmaking?’ Based on information from well-informed quarters, I would like to make the following comment about this rather noteworthy piece of news: Béla Balázs is a known Communist who directed a Bolshevist theatre company during the Republic of Councils, emigrated after the fall of the Republic of Councils, and has been very successful in recent years in Germany with his book Peculiar People. This novel portrays social relations in Hungary in a consistently negative light. According to my information from local film circles, the aforementioned news item is mistaken in that the planned film with a Hungarian Bolshevist theme will not be called ‘Barricades’ but ‘When the Tisza Burns’. The film is meant to portray Bolshevist rule in Hungary and truly shows the hand of Moscow. The directors and/or producers purportedly want to contract a neutral German company to shoot the scenes in Hungary.74

Balázs, as this report correctly mentions, was in fact very successful, especially in cinema. But political theatre also had much to thank him for. Although the Workers’ Theatre League was banned in 1929, Balázs continued to work with a variety of theatre groups underground. The Communist Party also gave him the task of prepping Soviet silent movies for the Western European market. It was Balázs who arranged subtitles for movies by Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and others. Balázs also did much to pave the way for Soviet literature and cinema in the West by penning regular reviews and critiques. Despite his manifold activities for the Party and the communist cause, Balázs was generally viewed with scepticism by other Hungarian functionaries and Party members. He belonged to that group of intellectuals who, while having close contacts to the Party, still retained a certain creative independence. He supported the Republic of Councils, went into emigration, considered himself an early communist, was accepted in the KPD in 1931 – and yet part of his work would always remain autonomous. He succeeded in joining leftist cultural life and finding his way there. He was appreciated not only as a KPD member but in broad circles for his distinctive intellectual abilities. Balázs’ networks – from film to theatre – extended to various circles of the Berlin intellectual and 74 Manuscript in the Hungarian State Archives (MOL); Sign.: K 149-651/2-1932-3-5635, appendix.

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art scene, and included vastly different individuals with varied political sympathies. His writings on film theory and a number of his literary works reveal a completely different side of the writer than is seen in his novels and short stories written in the spirit of the Party. This ‘independence’ was perceived by some as a lack of discipline, as in this rather sceptical portrayal by fellow comrade and graphic artist Jolán Szilágyi: What many people didn’t see coming: there was a downright mass migration in the twenties. Ordinary people travelled from Hungary to Paris via Berlin … shoemakers, tailors, furriers … by the thousands, with their families. Sometimes they were stranded for months in Berlin. … For years the emigration committee did not concern itself with transients at all … [before] it assigned Béla Balázs to deal with them. But anyone who knew Béla Balázs, knew what would become of it. And nothing did.75

It was probably for this reason that Balázs even seemed ideologically ‘unreliable’ to his former friend György Lukács: Balázs was on the left politically. But he underwent a transformation of worldviews – that is to say, he incorporated his old worldviews into official communism. This resulted in a duality I couldn’t bear, neither theoretically nor artistically. … I had always advised Balázs not to join the Party.76

The new type of internationalist: Moscow In his résumé77 Balázs wrote that he left Berlin in 1931 after receiving an invitation to the film academy in Moscow. From 1933 to 1945, with a number of interruptions, he taught film aesthetics at this institution.78 Little is known about his Moscow years. In 1937 he purchased a dacha in Istra, and as of 1938, he worked for the Moscow-based Hungarian newspaper Új hang [New Voice]. In late 1941 he was evacuated with his wife to Alma-Ata (now Almaty, Kazakhstan), returning to Moscow in 1944. Apart from this résumé, he makes no other mention of the above-mentioned film project When the Tisza Burns, which was the reason he went to Moscow in the first place. The film about the Hungarian Republic of

75 Szilágyi is describing how the emigration committee gave Balázs the task of helping find work for Hungarians passing through on their way to France: Jolán Szilágyi, Emlékeim, 34. 76 Lukács, Gelebtes Denken, 144. 77 Balázs, Einige biographische Fakten, 6. 78 Всесоюзный государственный институт кинематографии [the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography].

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Councils was shot but subsequently forbidden and all copies destroyed. Balázs recounted the project with bitterness in his unpublished Moscow memoirs: The first years were fruitless for my work due to the unfortunate struggle for the film ‘Tisza garit.’ Surrounded by wreckers, imbeciles, technical and organizational difficulties caused by Béla Kun’s gang, who had the say in the Hungarian party back then … with not so much as a single friend or helper. … It was the bitterest time of my life. … I turned grey during these three years.79

What exactly happened to him – the smear campaigns he was the subject of – can only be surmised over without further research into his years in the Soviet Union. At one point he complains about the hostility of Andor Gábors and Lukács towards him,80 which he links to the ‘bourgeois success’ he enjoyed in Berlin. This success fuelled accusations of Balázs being ‘unreliable’. And yet despite his successes in cinema and literature, and despite his belonging to a community (the communists), he wrote, in retrospect, about these years as a period of uprooted-ness, which he partly blamed on his being an émigré. A few years later, in his unpublished Moscow memoirs, he referred to himself as a German writer who was also a Hungarian, characterizing himself in a few brief lines as a new type of ‘internationalist’: This type of internationalist is new because he is not defined by predominantly negative qualities, namely, that he belongs to no nation unreservedly and does not merely have patriotic interests and ideologies in mind. The new type is not generic; he maintains a deep connection to the nation and landscapes of his origins. It’s a cultural development that allows him to grow from a national to an intercultural internationality.81

He described his idea of this ‘new type of internationalist’ in more detail in a sketch for a short story about the ‘Wandering Jew’:82 [T]he individual, this greatest good of human development, born in blood and agonies, can no longer be ignored. This is the prospect, the hope of his salvation: that assimilation will be possible, that is not the task of the individual consciousness. In this new, higher

79 Béla Balázs, 2 January 1940, MTA Archive, MS. 5024/2, p. 12. 80 He described his worsening relationship to Lukács, ultimately leading to a lawsuit against the latter, as follows: ‘This is my conflict with Georg Lukács, one that has been ongoing for a long time and has now found public expression in a heated polemic. My alienation [from him], my differences and conflicts, in which the personal is intimately linked to the impersonal and objective so that only subtle analysis could keep them apart, are a big chapter in my life.’ MTAArchiv, Ms. 5024/2, p. 23. 81 Béla Balázs, ‘Rechtfertigung’, 1940, MTA Archive, Ms. 5014/91, p. 3. 82 He signed a contract for this work, commissioned by the Soviet authorities, and called it ‘Skitalec: Der Wanderer.’

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entity the personality remains intact. Communism of the future is the dialectic repetition of primitive communism at a higher level of synthesis.

This sketch underlines two closely intertwined components of his concept of the new type of internationalist: he was presumably of Jewish descent and uprooted, without a nation or homeland. Balázs seems to take up two contemporary anti-Semitic topoi and fashion them into a cosmological, almost metaphysical model of the new type of internationalist. These prejudices were not only manifest in the context of an explicitly anti-Semitic discourse,83 but were current to a similar degree in leftist and bourgeois-liberal intellectual circles.84 The latter were thus reacting to the development of an artistic intellectual scene with a ‘utopian-futuristic’ orientation that historian Detlev Peukert described as follows with reference to the Weimar Republic: There were first glimpses of the possible emergence of a new international, secularized culture which would sweep aside the traditional and nationalistic barriers on which antiJewish discrimination had rested.85

The uprooting or uprooted-ness that was a recurrent theme in Balázs’ writing was something he considered a mental and intellectual state: When is a human being uprooted? When is he rooted? Nowadays the question is discussed in a vulgar way, almost biologically, and it is claimed that the uprooted individual is one whose life, whose work, whose whole mentality is not embedded in the bosom of some nation … If this spiritual and moral phenomenon is taken as a starting point, the deracinated man is the one who is nothing more than himself, whose thoughts and feelings are not influenced by transpersonal ideologies. Conversely, the rooted man is tied down and restricted. … We should therefore establish the premise that we are dealing with the ‘roots’ of thought, of emotions, of an attitude and mind-set … The second premise: The roots of this emotional and mental makeup are exclusively to be found in the traditions of this emotional and mental makeup. Even if this mentality has passed into the blood, it is not determined by the blood. … When we claim that someone is rooted in a people, a race, a nation, it can only mean the spirit of this people, this race, this nation.86

83 See, among others: Dieter Gessner, Die Weimarer Republik (Darmstadt: Wisenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2002), 68; Viktor Karády, Gewalterfahrung und Utopie (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1999), 203–26; Jacob Katz, Vom Vorurteil bis zur Vernichtung: Der Antisemitismus 1700– 1933, (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1989). 84 See, among others: János Gyurgyák, A zsidókérdés Magyarországon [The Jewish Question in Hungary] (Budapest: Osiris, 2001); Hans Helmuth Knütter, Die Juden und die deutsche Linke in der Weimarer Republik (Düsseldorf: Droster, 1971). 85 Detlev J. K. Peukert, The Weimar Republic: The Crisis of Classical Modernity, trans. Richard Deveson (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), 159. 86 MTA Archive, Ms. 2024/2, p. 36–7.

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Following this argument, an individual can choose his spiritual and moral environment (what he calls ‘soil’): If the emotional, mental makeup can thus only be rooted in emotional, mental soil … or tradition, these roots must not necessarily be national or völkisch ones. Only then can someone have strong roots in other traditions and ideologies that are more expansive than an individual life.87

For him, communism was a way to dissolve the discrepancy between national identity and internationality, at the same time offering an alternative to the rootless ‘wandering’ Jew: So long as there’s a contradiction between nationalism and internationalism, he remains a wayfarer. He remains immortal because a real life is denied to him. Only world communism, or at least the security of its imminent arrival, enables one to merge into a people or nation, because there must be some kind of door to enter the common house.88

Balázs inverted the complaint about the ‘uprooted and homeless internationalist’ and argued as such: ‘What is certain is that nowadays a nationalist is more uprooted than an internationalist,’ since the communist with ‘his reason, his insight, his heart and his instincts, bound up as they are in his entire constitution like a monk in an order of old, cannot for one second feel uprooted.’89 Despite this ‘belief’, he tormented himself time and again with the question of his ethnic and national identity, and in this context also with the question of which culture his literature belonged to: Hungarian, German, or socialist? His attempt to construe internationalism as a cultural and moral position and communism as a spiritual and intellectual home can be interpreted as an answer to his inner conflict: ‘Justification.’ I start writing down my memoirs in the winter of 1940. … I lost my fatherland and found my homeland. I’m firmly rooted, even if the ground that holds me might not be clearly definable geographically. I am far from my fatherland and the spheres of my mother tongue and yet I feel neither lost nor derailed, neither ambivalent nor without a perspective. What I have to say can be understood in more than one language and by more than one people. … My path makes a wide detour back to my fatherland, even if I don’t get there alive myself. We international communists are not vagabonds, but sometimes we are wayfarers, who, travelling to a fixed destination, feel they are on a safe path home.90

87 88 89 90

MTA Archive, Ms. 2024/2, p. 37. MTA Archive, Ms. 2024/2, p. 37. MTA Archive, Ms. 2024/2, p. 38. MTA Archive, Ms. 5014/91, p. 3.

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Epilogue Balázs was able to return to Hungary after 27 years of emigration and died there in 1949 at the age of 65 – embittered, disappointed and despairing over the communist regime that was beginning to form there under the leadership of his former fellow émigrés Mátyás Rákosi and Ernő Gerő. While some of his plans did materialize, such as the film Somewhere in Europe and the publication of his autobiographical novel in Hungarian, he was increasingly relegated to the sidelines after 1947. Ultimately, he lost his job and was no longer allowed to teach at the Academy of Film and Theatre Arts.

Conclusions For many of his contemporaries, and for the subsequent specialist literature as well, Balázs utterly embodied the myth of the leftist Jewish intellectual.91 The course of his life, his writings, in which he repeatedly emphasized his uprooted-ness and ‘transnationality’, his conversion to Catholicism, then his rather romantic-idealist sympathy for the Republic of Councils, later his joining of the Communist Party, all the while searching for community92 – all of these things are ‘qualities’ that make him a ‘typical’ Jewish, international intellectual.93 His ‘self-enactment’ is hardly any different than that of his friends and contemporaries. Their self-awareness as artists and intellectuals, as political émigrés (revolutionaries from Hungary) who were close to the KPD or members of it, formed the basis of a ‘new’ identity and a new ‘role’. The sources of his day took increasing note of this political role. Jewishness, the fact of being Jewish, and in this context the whole complex of other Jewish issues – anti-Semitism, Zionism, East European Jewry – were completely overlooked. Balázs and his friends made a clear decision in the new phase of their lives for the identity model of the ‘international revolutionary’, which to a certain extent had already begun to form in Hungary, but was closely intertwined there with an obvious outsider role as Jews and progressive thinkers. In emigration, this outsider status as Jews and intellectuals in general seemed to dissolve into the category of the ‘foreigner’ and the status of political émigrés. With that, the process begun

91 See Enzo Traverso, Die Marxisten und die jüdische Frage (Mainz, 1995). 92 Balázs, Einige biographische Fakten. 93 See Lee Congdon, Exile and Social Thought: Hungarian Intellectuals in Germany and Austria 1919–1933 (Princeton 1991).

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at the turn of the century in many individual biographies was concluded, one that Viktor Karády described as follows: A typical, extreme form of this endeavour to assimilate was the political radicalization of many Jewish youths, who joined the … political movements with a universalist (socialist or communist) ideology. … The ‘international’ or ‘leftist’ political option was merely an alternative to ‘national assimilation’, an option you embraced when the latter turned out to be a dead end.94

Returning to the question posed by Krajewksi, we can answer that the universal, socialist movement undoubtedly seemed to offer an escape from a peripheral existence and inner conflict, as this case study of Balázs shows. The universality of socialism, its internationalism, the possibility, in other words, to leave behind the ‘narrow confines’ of the ‘nation’ and its inherent Jewish-Gentile social conflict was at any rate a welcome alternative. Balázs himself tried to conceptualize and justify this model through his notion of the ‘new type of internationalist’, whose emotional appeal of completely fusing and identifying with the oppressed made religious or ethnic differences a thing of the past.

94 Viktor Karády, Gewalterfahrung und Utopie, 176.

Małgorzata Quinkenstein

‘Europe’ – It’s such a strange word for me! A Portrait of Arthur Bryks against the Background of the Events of the Mid-Twentieth Century Artists and art critics contemporary to Arthur Bryks described him as a painter whose works were underpinned by Jewish mysticism and a surprisingly good knowledge of the history of philosophy. Käthe Kollwitz and Alexei Jawlensky encouraged Bryks to continue his studies in fine art, as did the Antikvaryus Gallery, which successfully sold his works in Zurich. However, he was unable to fully dedicate himself to his own art as he primarily earned his living as an art restorer, which absorbed much more of his time than he would have liked. And yet, despite constant financial problems, Bryks was a social activist. He was the initiator and one of the founders of the Porza Association, an international organization for art and culture. In the 1930s, together with his wife Vena Weinmann, he established the Tissus Bryks textile factory in Amsterdam.1 After 1913, the young Arthur lived away from home. He took up rabbinical studies – first in Basel and then in Vienna. In 1917, he went to Switzerland, where he was cared for by the Weinmann family, who were supposed to send him to the USA to continue his education. However, he fell in love with one of the Weinmann daughters; the feeling was reciprocated and he stayed in Europe. The couple married and lived together in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and in various cities in Switzerland. During this period Bryks founded several companies and organizations, worked all over Europe, and maintained close contacts with his family, artistic circles in Poland, and Jewish intellectual associations. After Poland regained independence in 1918, he only retained Polish citizenship. When he wanted to emigrate to Israel, the Polish Embassy in Switzerland tried

1 Arthur Bryks, ‘Schilderijen en teekeningen’ [Arthur Bryks, paintings and drawings], Handelsblad van Donderdag (6 July 1939). Translation: From the Polish by Jasper Tilbury Annotation: So far, no studies have been published on Arthur Bryks. This article is based on archival research conducted in the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem (CZAJ), where Arthur Bryks’ correspondence with Nadia Stein is contained in files A 242 to A 247 (with no sheet numbers), and in the Arthur Bryks family archive, which is now held privately in Lugano, Switzerland (PAL). These materials were supplemented by interviews with surviving family members in Tel Aviv (ITLV) and Lugano (IL).

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to force him to give up his Polish citizenship, which he refused to do. Finally, an intervention by Nadia Stein and persons connected to the Israeli government enabled Bryks to obtain an Israeli entry visa.

Biography Arthur Bryks’ life story (his given name was Zakan) began in the village of Fałków near Radom, where he was born in 1894 as the eldest son of Mojżesz and Sara Freude Bryks. Bryks’ mother was born on 3 September 1862.2 His father’s date of birth is unknown, but a preserved photograph3 enables us to surmise that the age difference between them could not have been more than ten years. They led the life of a conservative Jewish family typical of their time and region. They participated in the religious and social life of their community, which combined Hasidic Judaism with folk mysticism and new social currents such as Zionism, which had been gaining in popularity among many European Jews. For many years after their wedding, Sara and Mojżesz Bryks were unable to conceive, which led them to undertake pilgrimages to a ‘Wunder Rabbi’ in a remote village4 in the hope that his renowned miracles would help them have children. The pilgrimages did indeed have a positive outcome in the form of three children: Zakan (1894), Lea (1897) and Chilusz (1900). The name Zakan was given to the eldest son in honour of a vision of the ‘miraculous rabbi’, who prophesied that the child would reach a very old age.5 Around 1915 or 1916, Zakan, probably at the suggestion of his future in-laws, changed his name to one that sounded more ‘European’. He chose the name Arthur because he thought it was related to the German word alt, which would have made it the equivalent of his Jewish name Zakan. At that time, different spellings of his surname (Brüks and Briks) appeared as well. Around the beginning of 1917, his full name was recorded as Arthur Bryks. As a long-awaited child who was treated as a prodigy by his God-fearing parents, the little Zakan was raised to become a rabbi. In 1911, he graduated

2 3 4 5

Handwritten note by Arthur Bryks, PAL. PAL. Unfortunately, the sources do not give its exact name. A Hebrew word meaning ‘old’ – ‫( זקן‬zaken).

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from a yeshiva in Lithuania, probably the so-called Reines Yeshiva in Lida.6 The school founder’s modern views and his Zionist political leanings had a permanent influence on Bryks’ attitude and worldview. Throughout his life, Bryks promoted charitable activities and held profoundly Zionist beliefs. After he graduated from the yeshiva, Bryks faced being conscripted into the Russian army. To escape this fate, he decided to seek further educational opportunities abroad. The Weinmann family in Switzerland ultimately helped him find the money and connections he needed. The Weinmanns were a well-to-do Jewish family from Bielsko whose members had decided to try their luck at business in various parts of Europe. One of the brothers, Ezechiel, founded a meat canning factory in Basel. He and his wife Malka Manela allocated part of their income from the factory to scholarships that were offered to outstanding rabbinical students from Eastern Europe, mainly from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. They corresponded in Polish and Yiddish.7 The young Bryks was offered such a scholarship along with a proposal to continue his studies in the United States. Unfortunately, we do not know how candidates for the scholarships were chosen. It can be assumed that the Polish members of the Weinmann family served as a contact for Ezechiel and Malka and provided information about future scholars. Some of the Weinmanns were connected with the Bryks’ home region around Radom, where they maintained good relations with conservative Jewish families from Eastern Europe. Important to note is that Ezechiel began to assimilate as soon as he settled in Switzerland. In spite of this, and probably under Malka’s influence, the Weinmanns continued to lead the life of a moderately religious Jewish family. Malka also insisted that all children be born in Bielsko or in Przedbórz, surrounded by their family. This was because she was expecting to bear a son (which did not happen) and wanted the circumcision ritual to be performed in the presence of the family.8 Recipients of the Weinmanns’ scholarship first came to Switzerland so that the family could meet them. They would then begin preparatory studies there. In 1913, Bryks came to Basel, where he graduated two years later as a cantor with the highest honours. The Weinmanns’ daughter Vena studied violin at the same school.9 While at the conservatory, Bryks also started studying painting at the Kunstgewerbeschule Basel, from which he graduated in 1916.

6 Icchak Jakob ben Salomon Neftali Reines proposed a secular curriculum so that young men could study the Talmud and the Torah while gaining secular knowledge at the same time. He held Zionist views and was one of the founders of the Mizrachi movement. 7 Correspondence in PAL and CZAJ. 8 Information obtained during an interview in IL. 9 Her full name was Vena Miryam Charlotte Weinmann (later Bryks).

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It soon became apparent that the relationship between Arthur and Vena was more than just a friendship, and her parents consented to Bryks receiving the scholarship in Switzerland without the need for him to study in the USA. The financial support that Arthur received from the Weinmanns was also reflected in the assistance he gave to his family in Poland, which at that time was engulfed by the First World War and the October Revolution. Indeed, thanks to the support from her eldest brother, Lea learned a profession and set up a tailor’s shop (first in Radom and Przedbórz, and later in Łódź), and Chilusz left for Brussels, where he worked as an economist.10 Much of Ezechiel Weinmann’s stock market investments collapsed during and immediately after the First World War. This affected the family’s finances and the scholarship system was discontinued. At the beginning of 1918, Arthur Bryks found work as a cantor in a Zurich synagogue; in October of the same year, he married Vena.11 At the time, Zurich was evolving into an important destination for European intellectuals, scholars and artists. With his open mind and artistic interests, Bryks moved in the company of the Dadaists associated with the Cabaret Voltaire.12 He struck up a friendship with Richard Huelsenbeck,13 who wrote the introduction to the catalogue for Bryks’ exhibition14 and subsequently supported the artist’s plan to establish the Porza Association. Raoul Hausmann also wrote a letter15 to Arthur Bryks16 in November 1923 in the form of a Dada manifesto. In the summer of 1919, Arthur and Vena Bryks travelled to Ascona for vacation, where they spent time with the Monte Verità artists’ colony.17 Inspired by lively conversations on a variety of subjects and numerous meetings, they de10 He probably graduated from a Brussels business school, which enabled him to find work as an economist before he later changed direction and became a diamond cutter. 11 Wedding invitation and commemorative book in PAL. 12 Preserved is an invitation to the 8th Dada-Soirée held in Zurich on 9 April 1919 with Arthur Bryks’ handwritten notes. 13 Founder and chronicler of the Dada movement. See Manfred Engel, ‘Wildes Zürich: Dadaistischer Primitivismus und Richard Huelsenbecks Gedicht “Ebene”’, in Poetik des Wilden, ed. Jörg Robert and Friederike Felicitas Günther (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2012), 393–419. 14 The exhibition was organized in Zurich by the PORZA Foundation at the Antikvaryus Gallery, Bahnhofstr. 16. 15 An artist associated with the Dada movement. See Kurt Bartsch, Ralf Burmeister, Adelheid Koch-Didier, and Stefan Schwar, Raoul Hausmann (1886–1971): Werkverzeichnis – Biografie – Bibliografie (Stuttgart/Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 2011). 16 In PAL. 17 Robert Landmann, Ascona-Monte Verità: Auf der Suche nach dem Paradies (Frauenfeld: Huber, 2000).

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cided to stay in Ascona until 1921, where Arthur devoted all his time there to his artistic work. Bryks’ views on art evolved during that period. He also became firmly convinced that the artistic vocation demanded social and political engagement. The artists who worked or stayed at Monte Verità made a strong and positive impression on Bryks. He maintained close contacts with the Romanian painter Marcel Janco18 and the Moldavian artist Arthur Segal,19 and became a particularly close friend of Alexey Jawlensky20 and Marianne Werefkin,21 who both supported him in his artistic endeavours. The surviving photographs and correspondence demonstrate that Jawlensky and Segal were the spiritus movens in Bryks and his wife’s search for new avenues in their work. An important part of life in the Monte Verità artists’ colony were the modern dance activities pioneered by Isadora Duncan. The time that Bryks spent in Ascona (1919–1921) was reflected in the themes of his work22 and in his studies on how to portray motion on canvas.23 In 1919, Segal painted Samson. Dedicated to Bryks,24 the painting was the outcome of their joint reflections on artistic structure and composition. The Brykses were often visited at their home by Andreas Jawlensky (Alexey’s son), who was closely collaborating with his father at the time. The younger Jawlensky left some drawings dedicated to Vena that were inspired by their lively discussions, and a photograph from 191925 taken at the Bryks home in Ascona depicts three young men who were on intimate terms: Andreas Jawlensky, Arthur Bryks and Ernst Meyer.26

18 A writer, painter and architect who was among the founders of the Dada movement. During the Second World War he emigrated permanently to Israel. See Harry Seiwert, Marcel Janco: Dadaist, Zeitgenosse, wohltemperierter morgenländischer Konstruktivist (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1993). 19 Born as Aron Sigalu in Romania. See Wulf Herzogenrath and Pavel Liska, eds, Arthur Segal 1875–1944 (Berlin: Argon Verlag, 1987). 20 An expressionist painter, co-founder of Der Blaue Reiter group. See Ingrid Mössinger and Thomas Bauer-Friedrich, eds, Jawlensky: Neu gesehen, exhibition catalogue (Dresden: Sandstein Verlag, 2013). 21 An expressionist painter who died in forced exile in Ascona in 1938. See Brigitte Roßbeck, ‘Marianne Werefkin, Ihr Leben – im Russischen Reich – in Deutschland – in der Schweiz’, in Marianne Werefkin, Vom Blauen Reiter zum Großen Bären, exhibition catalogue (BietigheimBissingen: Städtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen, 2014). 22 Portraits of Mary Wigman dancing, private collection – Bryks Art Collection (BAC). 23 Letters to Nadia Stein, file 242, CZAJ. 24 BAC. 25 In PAL. 26 German painter and graphic artist born in 1897 who lived in Switzerland – information obtained from PAL. No studies exist on him.

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Another major influence on Bryks’ artistic work was César Domela,27 with whom he maintained contact until the end of his life. Under his influence, Bryks began experimenting with cubism and constructivism, which then became the main formal themes of most of his work. The works inspired by those movements include Testa Astratta [Abstract Head] (1920),28 which was among the first paintings accepted by the Museum of Modern Art in Ascona.29 The museum was established in 1921 with donations by artists from Monte Verità. The museum’s goals were informed by the artists’ thoughts on the social role of art as well as by a need that Winfried Gebhard expressed as follows: The reformist Bohemians of Monte Verità were, if not the prototype, then at least the root out of which all of today’s attempts [to reorganize society] grew and continue to grow. Their idea of a new form of community was the ‘mad’ attempt to make a consistent form of life out of all the modern ideas of reason brought together by liberalism, socialism, idealism, anarchism [and, importantly, vegetarianism].30

During this period, Bryks also became acquainted with the poet, writer and translator Bruno Goetz.31 In February 1921, the poet gave Bryks a 25-page manuscript of his poems as a gift: Neue Gedichte. Abgeschrieben für A. Bryks zur Erinnerung an Ascona, Ascona, Februar 1921.32 Their experiences in Ascona encouraged the Brykses to press on with their artistic careers, and in 1921 they moved to Berlin. There they obtained considerable assistance from Arthur Segal and from Vena’s sister Esther and her future husband, the graphic artist Hans Looser, who helped them find domicile and work, and introduced them to the artistic milieu of the Weimar Republic. The year-long stay in Berlin turned out to be a breakthrough for the Brykses. Vena

27 César Domela Nieuwenhuis, a painter, graphic artist and photographer who first created works in the spirit of constructivism, and then geometric abstraction and neo-plasticism. See Marcel Brion, César Domela (Paris: Le Musée de Poche, 1961). 28 A reproduction of the painting and a description of it are included in the catalogue: Mara Folini and Veronica Provenyale, Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna Ascona 1922: Le origini della Collezione (Ascona: Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna Ascona, 2010). 29 The Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna Ascona was established in 1922. 30 Winfried Gebhardt, Charisma als Lebensform: Zur Soziologie des alternativen Leben (Berlin: Reimer, 1994, 170). 31 Born in Riga in 1885, he died in 1954. See Manfred Bosch, ‘Bruno Goetz als Mittelpunkt: Der Künstlerkreis auf der Überlinger Rehmenhalde’, in Bohème am Bodensee: Literarisches Leben am See von 1900 bis 1950 (Lengwil: Libelle Verlag, 1997), 138–47. 32 PAL.

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graduated from the famous Reimann-Schule,33 and her diploma and profession subsequently affected most of the decisions taken by the couple, and later by Arthur himself after Vena’s death in December 1943.34 The school’s founder Albert Reimann wanted to connect the practice of crafts and industrial design to contemporary socialist ideas. He also translated the ‘free art’ slogans promoted by European academies of fine arts into the area of design in order to establish design as a unique form of artistic practice in its own right. It was during his stay in this thriving multicultural city that Arthur developed his first plans to establish an international association. He also became more closely connected with the Polish community, which played an active role in shaping Berlin’s artistic scene.

Porza In 1923, the Brykses settled in Switzerland again. This time they chose Porza, a village near Lugano. Their education and previous experiences had turned both Arthur and Vena into socially engaged artists with strong socialist views and associations with the Zionist movement. They were assisted in their activities by Arthur’s old friend Nadia Stein,35 a journalist and art critic who helped Bryks put on exhibitions of his works. The years 1923–1939 saw the painter intensify his contacts with the Polish artistic milieu, and primarily with Mieczysław Szczuka36 and Teresa Żarnowerówna37 – artists associated first with the Blok 33 Swantje Wickenheiser, Die Reimann-Schule in Berlin und London (1902–1943): Ein jüdisches Unternehmen zur Kunst- und Designausbildung internationaler Prägung bis zur Vernichtung durch das Hitlerregime (Aachen: Shaker Media, 2009). 34 Ibid. 35 Małgorzata Maksymiak, ‘Wohnungsbaureform und Klub des Goldenen Alters: Nadja Steins Engagement gegen soziale Ungleichheiten im jungen Staat Israel’, in Deutsche und zentraleuropäische Juden in Palästina und Israel: Kulturtransfers, Lebenswelten, Identitäten. Beispiele aus Haifa, ed. Anja Siegemund (Berlin: Neofelis, 2016), 278–91. Małgorzata A. Maksymiak, ‘Nadja Steins Präsentation ihrer pädagogischen Initiative für eine jüdisch-arabische Annäherung auf der Levante-Messe in Tel Aviv 1932’, in Promised Lands, Transformed Neighbourhoods and Other Spaces: Migration and the Art of Display 1920–1950 / Länder der Verheißung, Verpflanzte Nachbarschaften und Andere Räume: Migration und die Kunst ihrer Darstellung, 1920–1950, ed. Susanne Marten-Finnis, Malgorzata A. Maksymiak and Michael Nagel (Bremen: edition lumière, 2016), 125–42. 36 A painter and graphic artist and an exponent of constructivism and productivism. Szczuka was a mountaineer and died while climbing in the mountains. See Irena Kossowska, ‘Mieczysław Szczuka’,,, accessed 9 January 2017.

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[Block] magazine and later with the overtly communist Dźwignia [Lever] magazine, which was published until Szczuka’s tragic death in 1927. Bryks probably met Szczuka and Żarnowerówna in 1922 during an exhibition of their films and sculpture at the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin. The Bryks family archive includes a selection of magazine issues collected by Arthur Bryks along with handwritten notes and comments that indicate that the artist personally knew the authors of the articles and the works printed. The notes mainly address his ideas for meetings, discussions and joint exhibitions. Bryks’ brief notes from the 1920s and early 1930s on the latest Polish publications he had read have also been preserved. Bryks’ local activity led to the establishment of one of the most important artistic organizations – the Porza Association, which he founded together with the Italian sculptor Mario Bernasconi38 and the German writer and poet Werner Alvo von Alvensleben. The organization had the goal of creating an international platform for the exchange of ideas about art and society. In the first issue of the Porza magazine, Nadia Stein wrote: The Porza Society aims to bring together intellectually intense, creative people of all nations and interests with the aim of giving them suitable places of rest in various countries. Leisure and atmosphere will enable them to refresh their nerves and their bodies. Just as Porza already has German, Italian, French, and Dutch groups, we would like to see a Palestinian group in our internationally conceived, internationally thinking circle.39

Just a few months after the organization was registered, Bryks held a bal paré40 in Berlin hosted by the organization’s founders, where more than 200 people signed up to be members.41 Similar events took place in France, the Netherlands and Italy. Within just a few years, Porza managed to open 27 artist retreats in various countries, including the most important one in the eponymous town in

37 A Polish sculptor and graphic artist who emigrated permanently from Poland in 1937 and probably committed suicide in New York in 1949. During the Second World War, she drew a series of propaganda posters for the Information and Documentation Office of the Ministry of Propaganda of the Polish Government-in-Exile, none of which have been preserved. See Andrzej Turowski and Milada Ślizińska, Teresa Żarnowerówna (1897–1949): Artystka końca utopii [Teresa Żarnowerówna (1897–1949): an artist of the end of utopia] (Łódź: Łódź Museum of Art, 2014). 38 Mario’s catalogue. 39 Nadia Stein, Porza und das Neue Palästina, in Porza 1, no. 1 (1929): 14. 40 An invitation from Arthur Bryks has been preserved. The ball took place at the Logenhaus, Kleiststr. 10. Apart from the founders, the Festcomité included, among others, Viktor Barsch, Dr Bernhard Diebold, Georg Grosz, Richard Huelsenbeck and Jaro Jaretzki. 41 The original list, along with Arthur Bryks’ handwritten notes, is included in PAL.

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Switzerland.42 Their terms of use were common to all the retreats and insisted that guests had to pursue creative activities during their stay. Whoever sees a comfortable artistic tourist experience in the Porza Society misses the point. The idea of Porza is informed first and foremost by the value of the international exchange of ideas. Porza harbours our time’s intellectual tendencies. It is a wholly timely idea that embodies modern creative activity.43

The most active branches of the Association operated in Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam, and, of course, in Porza. The newsletter44 of the French branch stated that in Germany, the organization had more than 1,300 members divided into ten sections; in Paris itself, it had upwards of 200 members. The main disciplines represented were architecture, ethnology, graphic art, music, sculpture, painting, theatre, film, dance and design. Beginning in the mid-1930s, members of the French branch included artists, craftsmen, writers and intellectuals from countries such as Great Britain, Greece, Finland, USA, Brazil and India. The branches had their own publishing houses and galleries, and regularly hosted exhibitions, scholarly lectures and meetings. The Porza magazine was published in Berlin in several languages. According to the preserved correspondence, the ‘official’ languages of the Association were German and French. Thanks to Bryks and Stein, contacts were also established with Polish art circles: Porza in Poland was to be organized by the writer and art historian Dr Stefania Zahorska.45 The preserved 1932 list of Porza representatives/heads in various countries indicates that these posts were held by persons with both

42 Switzerland: Ronchetto in Lugano-Cadempino, Schloß Marthèray; Germany: Villa Alpenblick, Burg Gleichenstein, Haus Sonne bei Ründeroth, Haus Heide-Hernig im Schwarzwald, Erlenhaus, Pension Strohe in Cologne, Haus Sauerländer-Müngersdorf, Villa Primavera, Haus Bühnte in Ahrenshop, Landhaus Elfriede in Baden-Baden, Haus Schöffer, Haus Hotinghoven, Landhaus Seehöhe in Starnberg, Pension Roma in Berlin, Rittergut Neuendorf, Hütte Hagal in Riesengebirge, Pension Mori in Frankfurt am Main; Bohemia: Haus Hohe Warte in Karlsbad; Austria: Rinner-Hof in Innsbruck, Schloß Fünfthurm, Schloß Sachsengang; France: Abbage de Pontiny, Hotel Mono in Nizza, Maison M. Coulon de Pimentel in Villeneuve de Riviere; Italy: Pension Münchhausen in Florence. 43 Jacques Vienot, ‘Porza – von Eiffelturm gesehen’, Porza 1, no. 1 (1929): 1. 44 Nouvelles Brèves (1932): 2–4. The magazine was published from 1932–1938. 45 For information about the beginnings of Porza in Poland, see Porza 1, no. 2/3 (1929): 23–4. On Stefania Zahorska, see Anna Nasiłowska, ‘Interdyscyplinarny umysł Stefanii Zahorskiej’ [The interdisciplinary mind of Stefania Zahorska], Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki [History of Science and Technology Quarterly] 3/4 (2012): 237–46.

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well-established positions in academic and artistic milieus and strong socialist views.46 After the Nazis came to power, the artist retreat in Porza, which was formally owned by Werner Alvo von Alvensleben and his wife, became a staging post for Jews fleeing Germany, and the organization itself helped refugees find professional contacts in various European countries.47 A similar role was performed by the branch in Amsterdam together with the Tissus Bryks textile factory, which continued to operate until 1939. In September 1938, Bryks reassured Nadia Stein, who was already in Palestine, about the living conditions and whereabouts of her family and friends. ‘Dear Nadia, I understand your concerns and have done everything in my power. … I am in constant contact with Goslar, your uncle, and others.’48 The rise of the Nazis eventually forced the Association to discontinue its activities. The Berlin branch was the first to close (1933), followed by the Netherlands and, after war had broken out, Paris.49 In the summary of her book about the founder of the Paris branch, author Jocelyne Le Bœuf wrote in her blog: Porza was an association of international renown in which great men of art and ideas believed they could defend Enlightenment thinking in the face of totalitarian threats. Jacques Viénot, founder of the French branch of Porza, always remained firmly attached to these values.50

In 1937, despite the political situation and the closure of the Berlin branch, the Porza founders themselves wrote in an English-language leaflet: ‘Porza is activities on the belief that men capable of realizing and achieving creative work whether in the domain of arts or of letters, derive profound advantage from

46 General Secretary: Dr Ruth Galischewski; Czechoslovakia: Dr Otto Arje, Prague; England: Dr Henry Brose, Nottingham; Greece: Dr Nico P. Caravias, Athens; Poland: Dr Stefania Zahorska and M. Lubelski, Warsaw; Finland: Hans Esdras Mutzenbecher, Helsingfors. 47 Among the first people to take advantage of this opportunity were the Segal family. After leaving for Porza at the end of 1933 and staying there for several months, they moved via Mallorca to London, where Arthur Segal continued to run his Berlin painting school under the name ‘Arthur Segal Painting School’. Letters from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, file 243, CZAJ. 48 Letter from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, Amsterdam, 8 September 1938, PAL. 49 For information about Porza, see Jocelyne Le Bœuf, Jacques Viénot (1893–1959), pionnier de l’esthétique industrielle en France (Rennes: PUR, 2006). 50 Jocelyne Leboeuf, ‘Porza and Jacques Viénot: From an Artists’ Melting Pot to a Program for French Industrial Design’, Design et Histoires (blog), 26 February 2014, http://designethistoires. (accessed 17 July 2015).

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gaining a better knowledge of one another through mutual international intercourse.’51 This idea was one of the motivations behind organizing joint exhibitions and projects that presented new trends in modern art. Among the most interesting Berlin events were a series of exhibitions held at the Porza Gallery in 1931 that included an exhibition of works by Professor Werner Heuser with a catalogue text by Dr Luise Straus-Ernst and the Sezession Graz and Fahrende Leute exhibitions, which were curated by Helmut Jaro Jaretzki and featured works by Jankiel Adler, Otto Dix, Erich Heckel, Pablo Picasso, Georg Grosz and others.52 Since its inception, Porza’s activities in art, science and culture were closely followed by the international press, and archives contain numerous press clippings from the 1923–1932 period on both the idea of the association and its activities.53

War Arthur Bryks spent the war years in Switzerland with his daughter (born in 1926) and his wife. From 1942 onwards, they ran a special weaving workshop whose aim was to teach refugees from Nazi-occupied countries a new profession. After Vena’s death, Arthur continued the activities that they had jointly initiated. When news began to arrive from Europe about the murder of his sister Lea, his brother Chilusz and the remaining part of his family as well as his Jewish friends, Bryks gradually withdrew, despite remaining active in the community.54 ‘Most of my close friends have been murdered by the German barbarians,’ he wrote.55 One year earlier, however, his daughter Ly had written to her father: ‘but life goes on! … I have been with the following people: Cotti, Nella, Sulzberger, Fried Wescher, Mez (Mezt), Tante Schaindl, Inge, Eva, Brita, Frau Aeschlima Moll, Herr Blum.’56 Paintings by Bryks from the 1944–1949 period depict51 Porza 3, no. 3 (1931): 4. 52 Prof Werner Heuser von Düsseldorf, exhibition, 18 January – 18 February 1931; Sezession Graz, 22 March – 22 April 1931; Fahrende Leute, exhibition, 10 May –10 June 1931, lead curator: Helmut Jaro Jaretzki. 53 Dr A.S., ‘Das Tessina Porzahaus’, Nationale Zeitung 543 (21 November 192); ‘Cosa e Porza?’ [What is Porza?] Corriere del Ticino (23 August 1928); Erna Dinner, ‘Das erste Porza-Haus in Tessin’, Abendblatt Berlin (22 October 1928); Siegfried von Begefad, ‘Porza’, Vossische Zeitung (14 February 1930). 54 Letters from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, file 252, CZAJ. 55 Letter from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, Lugano, 3 August 1946, PAL. 56 Letter from Ly to Arthur Bryks, Lugano, 15 May 1945, PAL.

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ing groups of people being murdered, lonely women and the frightened faces of children are evidence of his deep despair and helplessness. ‘In my painting and sculpture I have tried to tell about what has happened over the last five, sad years (and what continues to happen).’57 After the war, his daughter Ly and Nadia Stein – his painter friend from Odessa who had been living in Palestine since 1937 – became the most important people in his life. They persuaded him to go to Israel, where he stayed for more than 10 years and worked as an industrial design teacher, focusing his attention on designing furniture and appliances that made life easier for people with disabilities.58 Arthur Bryks returned to Europe in 1964 and resided in Switzerland and Italy. He died in 1970 near Milan, where Ly was living with her children.

Contacts with Poland Family Contacts In the two studies on the Porza Association I am familiar with,59 Arthur Bryks is referred to as a Russian painter. This attribution of nationality probably stems from the fact that the place where Bryks was born was still held by Russia at the time of his birth. However, after Poland regained independence, his home region once again came under Polish rule. In mid-1920, Bryks stayed in Poland, probably in order to obtain a Polish passport. This was guaranteed by the law of January 1920,60 the first article of which also stipulated that a Polish citizen could not simultaneously be the citizen of another country. The law adopted the principle of jus soli, which was also confirmed in the renewed and amended Act of 1951. When Bryks left his home village, he was 19 years old and Europe was on the verge of the First World War. One of the reasons he went to Basel was to escape compulsory military service. This was probably due to the young Arthur’s pacifist outlook and his general dislike of the military; on the other hand, he also had professional plans that involved art and rabbinical studies. He left 57 Letter from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, Lugano, 13 November 1945, PAL. 58 Jerusalem Post, 7 June 1954. 59 Jocelyne Le Bœuf, Jacques Viénot (1893–1959); Elena Spoerl, ‘Echi da “La Porza” ottant’anni dopo’ [Echoes from ‘Porza’ eighty years later], La Regione Ticino, Lugano e dintorni (2 June 2012). 60 Act on Polish Citizenship of 20 January 1920 (Journal of Laws No. 7, item 44).

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behind his younger siblings and parents. From his correspondence, we also know that Arthur’s paternal uncle Rachmiel looked after the family after Mojżesz died. Little is known about the rest of the family. Arthur’s sister Lea Bryks became a seamstress. Probably enabled by the financial assistance of her elder brother, she managed to set up a tailor’s shop and employed several people. She moved from Fałków to Przedbórz, taking her mother with her. The year 1926 marked a change in Lea’s relationship with Arthur, because it was the year their mother died and the year that Arthur’s daughter Ly61 was born.62 Lea remained unmarried and had no children. Her mother’s death released her from the obligation to provide stationary care. Around that time she moved her tailor’s shop to Łódź and began visiting Switzerland frequently, where she helped Vena care for the child. Both Vena and Arthur often travelled on business, so Lea’s presence was much needed. Lea, who had extensive contacts in the Polish textile industry and a thorough professional knowledge of textiles and related goods, proved instrumental in the establishment and administration of ‘Tissus Bryks’.63 She advised her brother on which fabrics to purchase and acted as an intermediary in his contacts with Polish designers. Lea’s final stay in Switzerland probably ended in the first half of 1939. In 1940, Arthur asked the Red Cross to help him locate his sister, as he had not received any news from her for some time. A few months later, he was informed that Lea had been moved to a ghetto. The family’s private collection in Lugano contains letters from Lea to her brother in which she describes her life in Litzmannstadt. She wrote that her life was in grave danger and requested financial assistance. The letters suggest that right up until her death, Arthur’s replies and the money he sent never reached Lea. The preserved correspondence provides far fewer clues about the relationship between Arthur and the youngest of the siblings, Chilusz. It was probably his employment as a cantor that allowed Arthur to give his younger brother the financial support he needed to eventually become a diamond cutter. Moreover, Chilusz’s education was also probably secured by the compensation Rachmiel Bryks64 received after Mojżesz’s death, since that money allowed him to study 61 The daughter’s name is associated with a quote from Pirkei Avot (Im ein ani Ly mi Ly?), which can be translated as: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’ 62 On 15 February 1926, Arthur Bryks received a telegram from his sister about their mother’s poor health. In the same month, he went to Przedbórz to attend her funeral. He returned to Switzerland immediately after the burial because Vena was expected to give birth in midMarch. However, Ly was born a few weeks later, on 14 April 1926. Bryks wrote to his siblings in Poland to inform them about the birth. 63 Correspondence between Lea Bryks and Arthur Bryks from the years 1933–1938, PAL.

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abroad. Like Lea, Chilusz never started his own family, which was reflected in his frequent contacts with Arthur and Vena’s family. He probably also helped Arthur set up the ‘Tissus Bryks’ factory in Amsterdam. The exact date of Arthur’s last contact with his brother is unknown. Chilusz’s name figured on the lists of Jewish addresses compiled by the Brussels authorities and he was deported in 1942.65 Arthur and Vena often travelled to Poland, mainly to visit their home region. Those visits were usually documented with photographs rather than in writing.66 The photos show the couple accompanied by various family members and friends during parties or religious rituals. While undated, they still allow us to determine the places that the Brykses visited most often: They frequented the uplands where Vena’s father was born and where they went on sleigh rides in winter. There are also several photographs from Fałków and Radom showing the couple on walking expeditions.

Professional Contacts Correspondence with friends from Poland, which has not been preserved in its entirety (sometimes only single letters survive), gives us some interesting information. A letter from Izabela Kiełbasińska (the sister of the renowned pediatrician Professor Hanna Hirszfeldowa) tells us about Arthur’s attempts to make a name for himself as a painter in Poland.67 In 1934, Izabela received a dozen paintings from Arthur and was asked to find a suitable gallery for them. She herself purchased two works by Bryks, which unfortunately did not survive the war. The rest of the paintings, which remained in Warsaw, were probably also destroyed. Whether there were other attempts to hold exhibitions of Bryks’ works in Poland is not known, but professional correspondence on the reproduction of the painter’s works in cultural and art magazines survives.68 A good example of this is the correspondence between Nadia Stein and Arthur Bryks on the publi64 Correspondence between Arthur Bryks and Rachmiel Bryks, PAL. 65 Information from the Red Cross, letter in PAL. 66 PAL. 67 Letter from 1936, PAL. 68 A letter – probably from Henryk Barciński – concerning the reproduction of works by Arthur Bryks in one of the Jung Jidysz issues has been preserved from as early as 1919. There was also a letter from the late 1920s concerning the reproduction of a painting and an article about Arthur Bryks in the left-leaning W drodze newspaper, which was published by the Hashomer Hatzair movement; PAL.

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cation of articles about art movements in Europe, which focused on the movements’ Zionist and social aspects. In his letters to Stein, Bryks mentions proposals to collaborate with the Blok and Dźwignia magazines, of which he was a subscriber. After the Blok group had disintegrated, Bryks became more closely involved with the Praesens group, which operated from 1926 to 1930; its manifesto alluded to the activities of the Bauhaus, De Stijl and the Moscow Vkhutemas. Bryks’ notes suggest that the ideas of both Blok and Praesens were close to his heart – he envisaged bringing artistic activities closer to production work and, following Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński, perceived art as a catalyst for human action.69 Because both Bryks and his daughter, who inherited his estate, lived in many places throughout their lives, the painter’s library is completely dispersed. We only know about his literary tastes from fragments of his letters and his book illustrations. The Polish authors whose work he knew included Aleksander Wat, Bruno Jasieński and Stanisław Młodożeniec. In one of his hurried letters from 1928, he wrote to his wife about the 1927 book Bezrobotny Lucyfer [ Lucifer Unemployed]: ‘Venuschka … yesterday I read half of a book by Wat. It is brilliantly written.’70 Documents in the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem and in the family collection in Lugano confirm that Bryks was in contact with Professor Otto Schneid.71 The distinguished scholar from Bohemia was a pioneer of studies on Jewish art in Poland, both classical and modern. In 1930, he started to gather material for a book about contemporary Jewish artists: Die Juden und die Kunst.72 From 1934 to 1938, he cooperated with the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) in an attempt to establish one of the world’s first museums of Jewish art in Vilnius. Bryks initially corresponded with him to offer his portfolio as a contribution to the planned book. After Schneid encouraged him (‘You were already well known to me earlier’),73 the two began corresponding about art. Arthur Bryks’ portfolio is preserved in the archives of the University of Toronto

69 The group was founded primarily by architects, who were later joined by visual artists. The chairman of the board was Szymon Syrkus, and after 1928 the organization functioned as the Polish branch of the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne. 70 Correspondence between Arthur Bryks and Vena Bryks, 8 April 1928, PAL. 71 An art historian, archaeologist and philosopher. He was born in Jablunkova on 30 January 1900 and died in Toronto in 1974. After the war broke out, Schneid went into hiding in occupied Poland, helped by his friends, and then fled to Palestine. He moved to the United States in 1960 and to Canada in 1963. 72 The manuscript, which was being prepared for publication in Vienna in 1938, was confiscated by the Nazis. 73 Letter from Otto Schneid to Arthur Bryks, Bielsko, 17 January 1931, PAL.

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and includes handwritten notes by Schneid and comments such as: ‘close to his [Jewish] roots, a good ambassador [of Jewish art]’.74 Bryks’ pre-war contacts with Poland culminated in his attempts to establish a branch of the Porza Association there. He persuaded the outstanding scholar Dr Stefania Zahorska to set up the branch. Zahorska’s contacts with Bryks probably began in Berlin, where the future art historian was studying. Their views on social issues and artistic matters were very similar and they also shared a deeply pacifist outlook. Bryks’ pacifism was repeatedly expressed in his community activities and his artwork. In 1929 he met with Erich Maria Remarque, who was visiting Switzerland at the time, and designed the cover for the forthcoming new edition of All Quiet on the Western Front.75 When organizing assistance for victims of war and the weaving workshop, Bryks followed the practical guidelines contained in a dissertation by Zahorska’s life partner Adam Pragier, which was written at the University of Zurich and titled Die Produktivgenossenschaften der schweizerischen Arbeiter.76 Bryks’ professional contacts with Zahorska also involved the Porza Association organizing her lectures on contemporary Polish art in Berlin.77 Stefania Zahorska and Adam Pragier left Poland in 1939, first for France and then for Britain, where they worked for the Londonbased émigré weekly Wiadomości [News].78

Post-War Period Among the first major documents that testify to Bryks’ contacts with his Polish relatives and acquaintances is the poignant letter that his cousin Rachmil Bryks (1912–1974)79 (not to be confused with his uncle Rachmiel Byrks) wrote to him from a refugee camp in Sweden. Rachmil was one of the greatest Yiddish writers and poets, and survived both the Litzmannstadt ghetto and Auschwitz.80 After the end of the war, Rachmil’s only surviving brother was murdered in Łódź, 74 University of Toronto Archive, Otto Schneid Papers – Correspondence before 1939, files 57:16. 75 Original drawing in the Remarque family collection. 76 Based on an August 2015 interview with Arthur Bryks’ daughter Ly. 77 Advertisement for the planned lectures in Porza 3, no. 2/3 (1931): 23. 78 Stefania Zahorska, Wybór pism, reportaże, publicystyka, eseje [A selection of documents, feature articles, essays and news reports], introduction and selection by Anna Nasiłowska (Warsaw: The Institute of Literary Research, 2010). 79 Letter in Yiddish dated 22 August 1945 from the refugee camp in Öreryd (Hestra). 80 His most important literary testimonies include Ḥatul ba-geto and Di vos zaynen nisht gibliben.

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which played a significant role in the writer’s decision to leave for Sweden. In his letter, Rachmil describes the Holocaust – mainly the events of 1944 – and the atmosphere in Poland immediately after the war. He openly writes about his fear of the Poles and his unwillingness to have any dealings with them. Rachmil remained in Sweden until 1949 and then went to the United States and later to Israel. He was one of the main people involved in organizing a US exhibition of Bryks’ works that were thematically linked to the Jewish tradition.81 According to information obtained from Rachmil’s daughter Bella Bryks-Klein, Arthur contacted his cousin frequently during his stay in Israel.82 Another Polish intellectual with whom Bryks maintained a friendship after the war was Stefania Zahorska. The friendship lasted until her death, but was interrupted between 1944 and 1949, when Bryks hardly engaged in any correspondence with his close friends. However, we know about the contact between Bryks, Zahorska and Pragier from a 1950 letter to Nadia Stein.83 Bryks introduced Nadia, who was visiting London, to the editors of the Puszka column in Wiadomości, with whom she was to discuss the publication of an article about Bryks’ community work on behalf of Polish refugees.84 At the end of 1949, Arthur Bryks was persuaded by Nadia Stein to move to Israel. Of Arthur and Vena’s closest relatives, one of Vena’s sisters already lived there with her family, as did Vena’s nephew and Arthur’s cousin Rachmil. With his departure came the closure of the weaving school for disabled people and Eastern European immigrants. Because of the large number of continuing and new students, the process took until the end of 1951. Bryks continued this work despite his personal circumstances and Vena’s death. In 1945, he wrote to Nadia: ‘I have work … for the next 3 months with about 25–30 young people from … Buchenwald.’85 Bryks’ methods, commitment and empathy attracted considerable interest. The Red Cross, with which the artist collaborated, was constantly sending him new groups of students. After late 1949 and early 1950, they were people with war-related disabilities. These invalids are now under the guidance of our friend, the painter, Arturo Bryks who in recent years has devoted himself to the rehabilitation of young victims of the war and its horrors. Arturo Bryks offers his teachings in a very personal way, so that many people 81 The exhibition was held in New York in 1951. The author does not know the name of the gallery. Correspondence in PAL. 82 Bella Bryks-Klein also owns a portfolio of Arthur Bryks’ drawings that he gifted Rachmil in Israel (ITLV). 83 PAL. The precise affinity between Rachmil and Arthur is not known. In his letter, Rachmil addresses Arthur as ‘Liber Kuzin’ [dear cousin]. 84 This meeting took place, but we do not know what became of the idea for the article. 85 Letter from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, Lugano, 13 November 1945, PAL.

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who thought themselves forever excluded from the community and from all form of work, gradually return to life. Bryks introduces these invalids to several branches of art, such as weaving and printing fabrics.86

At the beginning of 1951, Arthur Bryks visited a Polish diplomatic mission in Bern in order to obtain a new Polish passport. The correspondence from that period both with Nadia Stein and with other intellectuals reflects the huge formal hurdles that the artist faced. Nadia Stein wrote to Leo Picard:87 ‘My dear! Please use all your influence to ensure that Arthur can get a Polish passport and thus also a visa to Israel. His energy, strength and ideas are essential if we are to build a new state!’88 In another letter, Bryks himself wrote to Ruth Kammerman:89 ‘The Polish mission [in Switzerland] offered so much help to the Jews who fled the Germans, and yet now they want me to pretend that I will no longer be a Pole.’90 In his letters, he stated that the Polish Embassy had refused to issue him a new passport and had even asked him to renounce his Polish citizenship. Urged on by his friends, Bryks cited the 1951 Act on Polish Citizenship,91 and specifically article two, which stated that all persons who ‘hold Polish citizenship under previous regulations’ were Polish citizens,92 presenting his 1920 passport as evidence. Although many people intervened on his behalf, we do not know much about this process except that in April 1951, Arthur Bryks finally obtained a new passport and an Israeli visa. We do not know whether Arthur Bryks intended to make aliyah or whether he treated his move to Israel as temporary. Moreover, in his correspondence he never explained why he did not try to obtain Swiss citizenship – under the Polish Act on Citizenship, this would have automatically resulted in him no longer being a Polish citizen but it would have certainly been the most practical solution to his problems. This topic was touched upon in Bryks’ correspondence with his daughter Ly. After obtaining his Polish passport, Bryks wrote to his daughter that all the formal hurdles had been successfully overcome and mentioned the help and support he had received from Leo Picard: ‘Prof. Picard helped me much with the “embassy” (you know that he was here with me).’93 86 ‘Ritorno della vita’, ASCONE, Lugano (5 June 1950). 87 Yehudah Leo Picard (1900–1997), an eminent geologist, was one of the co-founders of the technical sciences in the State of Israel. He emigrated to Palestine in 1934. At the time of the correspondence cited here, he was in Switzerland. 88 CZAJ, file 247. 89 Probably one of Arthur Bryks’ distant cousins. 90 A letter dated February 1951, PAL. 91 Act on Polish Citizenship of 8 January 1951 (Journal of Laws No. 4, item 25). 92 Article 2, part 1 of the 1951 Act on Polish Citizenship. 93 Letter from Lugano, 27 December 1952, PAL.

‘Europe’ – It’s such a strange word for me! 


After a period of struggle with the administration and his efforts to close the school, just before leaving for Israel, Bryks wrote: There would have been a huge difference if I had come to Eretz a year ago. Things are much different now … The loss of energy during the year of waiting has aged me a couple of years. And yet, seen from a bird’s eye perspective, everything was probably right, and it is pretty certain that I will never again desire to be in Europe … ‘Europe’ – It’s such a strange word for me!94

In her reply, Nadia Stein assured him that Israel needed people like him. She wrote that the construction of the new state would give him renewed strength and courage. She also offered him the hope that in Israel he would witness the realization of all his socialist and communitarian ideas. Arthur Bryks was soon recognized in Israel as a designer of products for the disabled. A chair he designed for disabled people that began production in 1958 was especially acclaimed in the press.95 He achieved recognition, was addressed as a professor and received considerable assistance from the state administration.96 Despite his professional success, Bryks harboured a nostalgia that Nadia Stein could not understand. She rebuked him for it in her letters, urging him to become even more engaged in the community. Bryks was involved in Israeli cultural life and appreciated the right to self-determination offered to Jews, which he often emphasized in his correspondence: ‘The … Jews remind me of our forefathers when they sit, stand and walk.’97 However, after several years in Israel he grew ever more doubtful about his ability and desire to live outside Europe. In 1963, he wrote to his daughter: ‘We still breathe in the beauty of the sky, land and sea and think of the millions.’98 That same year he reported on his correspondence with Ly to Nadia Stein: ‘Ly sometimes asks me why I always write in German. My Nadia, dear Nadia, I do not know, I do not know.’99 Arthur Bryks returned to Europe in 1964 after 10 years of hard work and intense commitment to the construction of the new Israeli state. At first he settled

94 Letter from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, Porza, 27 December 1952, PAL. The last line in original German reads: ‘“Europa” – och ist das Wort, ein eigentümlicher Begriff für mich’. 95 A series of articles about Bryks appeared in the Jerusalem Post after the artist arrived in Israel. In the first mention of Bryks’ post-war years and his assistance to refugees, it was stated, ‘he gave all for his workshop and his brothers’ (quoted in a March 1954 letter from Nadia Stein to Arthur Bryks). 96 Letters to Arthur Bryks from the Israeli authorities and private individuals, 1954–1964, PAL. 97 Letter from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, Tel Aviv, 25 January 1956, PAL. 98 Letter from Arthur Bryks to Ly Bryks, Tel Aviv, 21 September 1963, PAL. 99 Letter from Arthur Bryks to Nadia Stein, 22 November 1963, file 247, CZAJ.

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in a small studio in Via Pretoria in Lugano, and then moved to a small house in Cernobbio. On the kitchen wall of his house in Lugano, he painted a monochromatic fresco – a horizontal composition with thick outlines of naked bodies of women and children shown against a schematic Italian landscape, suggesting that the figures are playing by the water. There is a stark, poignant contrast between the joy depicted by Bryks and his austere, formal approach. This clash makes the characters in the fresco seem unreal – as if they were negatives of themselves. The author wrote on the back of the only photograph of this work:100 Auf zwei verschiedene Planeten, which might be treated as the title of the work. This is a paraphrase of the title of a popular 1920s novel by Kurd Laßwitz called Auf zwei Planeten;101 the book’s pacifist and deeply humanistic message was often referenced by Nadia Stein and Arthur Bryks in their letters. Arthur Bryks spent his last years in Italy, where his daughter lived with her children. During this period he hardly wrote any letters at all. Nadia Stein was one of the few people with whom he maintained regular contact. The notarized copy of his death certificate is not preserved in the family archive, but the municipal archive in Milan holds a document which confirms Bryks’ residence and death in that region. In 1968, under point seven of that document, an entry was made: Nazionalità: polacco/ebreo.102

100 The original fresco was discovered by the author of this article with the help of Sasha Horowitz and Arthur Bryks’ grandson, Lugano-Porza, 13 August 2015. Photograph in PAL. 101 The first edition was published by Felber, Weimar 1897. 102 Archivo di Stato di Milano, AD (1966–1976). It reads: ‘Nationality: Polish/Jewish’.

Camelia Crăciun

‘Virtually ex nihilo’ The Emergence of Yiddish Bucharest during the Interwar Period In his book The Jews of East Central Europe between the World Wars, Ezra Mendelsohn remarked that: In the interwar period a number of Yiddish writers came to Bucharest from the newly annexed territories … and brought to the Romanian capital the new Yiddish literature and the new Yiddish theater … The interwar period, therefore, witnessed what one observer has termed the ‘flourishing’ of Yiddish culture in Romania and its appearance, virtually ex nihilo, in the capital of Wallachia. It is extremely doubtful, however, that this new cultural growth would have truly taken root in the Regat … Certainly the prevailing cultural tendencies among the Jews of the Regat were not favorable to a long-term flourishing of Yiddish culture. The war years, of course, put an end to this new era of Yiddish culture in the Romanian heartland.1

Obviously, the emergence of Bucharest, the capital of Greater Romania,2 as a new centre for Yiddish culture came as an unexpected development in sociocultural terms. Far away from other renowned centres of Yiddish culture which were located in the Moldavian and Bessarabian areas (i.e. Cernăuți, Chișinău or even the Moldavian capital Iaşi), Bucharest became the new scene for Yiddish culture in Romania during the interwar period despite the absence of a significant local tradition; given the circumstances, this fact represented a symptomatic development in the history of Yiddish culture during post-First World War Romania. Attracted to Bucharest due to its status as the capital of the recently unified state, and also due to the fact that the city had a sizable Jewish population, many Yiddish-speaking intellectuals from the periphery, especially some of the most important writers, moved there shortly before, and particularly after, the

1 Ezra Mendelsohn, The Jews of East Central Europe between the World Wars (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1983), 201. 2 Within the current article, references to the Romanian territory, namely, the Old Kingdom (Regat) and Greater Romania (România Mare), need clarification due to the distinct political structures in Romanian history to which they refer; thus, the Old Kingdom represents the political structure established in 1859 when the unification of Moldavia and Wallachia occurred, while Greater Romania represents the outcome of the 1918 unification when Bessarabia, Bukovina, Dobrudja and Transylvania joined the Old Regat.

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end of the First World War. During the interwar period, these intellectuals set the tone for Yiddish culture from Bucharest, particularly concerning theatre, while the influence of long-established regional centres of Yiddish culture (Iași, Cernăuți and Chișinău) began to fade away, slowly becoming part of the new periphery. The project of establishing a new Yiddish cultural centre ‘virtually ex nihilo’ in Bucharest appears today as an intellectual utopia in the absence of a pre-existent Yiddish tradition able to provide a large public and to support such initiatives; nevertheless, the project succeeded especially due to Yiddish theatre which gathered mainstream Romanian intellectuals who publicized the project even further. The anti-Jewish legislation and the Holocaust halted these initiatives and represented a catastrophic finale for the project of maintaining Bucharest as an important Yiddish centre; and in the absence of its main activists, the post-Second World War period did not succeed in reviving it. This article analyses the determining factors, the subsequent process and the eventual impact of the emergence of Bucharest as a centre for Yiddish culture during the interwar period.

Jewish Bucharest The Romanian Jewry was highly diverse, including as many as seven different identity types as, in each historical region of Romania, the Jewish community developed a specific cultural and religious profile according to the greater political structure in which it had been integrated and under whose influence it had evolved.3 The linguistic situation, obviously connected with the general process of acculturation, secularization and modernization, was complex indeed. In Wallachia, the great majority spoke Romanian at the expense of Yiddish, while in Transylvania (including Banat), the population was divided between speakers of Hungarian, German and Yiddish respectively (especially in the Northern part). In Moldavia, acculturation was the least advanced when compared to the rest of the Old Kingdom areas: a great majority still spoke Yiddish or were bilingual (with Romanian), while Bessarabia and Bukovina were the least acculturated areas of Greater Romania, with a minority of Russian- and German-speaking intellectuals within compact areas of Yiddish culture. To sum up, during the

3 See my article ‘Représentations de la vie et de l’espace juifs dans la littérature roumaine de l’entre-deux-guerres: Le Bucarest juif reflété dans l’oeuvres d’Isac Peltz’, Études Balkaniques: Recherches interdisciplinaires sur les mondes hellénique et balkanique, no. 17 (2010): 85–105.

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interwar period, the only areas with a significant Yiddish culture were Bessarabia, Bukovina and Northern Moldavia. The Wallachian Jewry, which also included the Bucharest community, was long-established, small in number, mostly urban, resided mainly in Bucharest and was inevitably subjected to a profound process of acculturation to Romanian culture. According to Ezra Mendelsohn, the Wallachian population belonged rather to the Western type of Jewry as the degree of acculturation was significant and the community was more secular and modern if compared with a more traditional Moldavian community. In the 1930 census, the total Jewish population of Greater Romania counted 756,930 individuals, while the Wallachian community rose to 97,739 persons, most of them living in the capital – a fact which represented, for Ezra Mendelsohn, another characteristic of the Western type of Jewish community. Although the Jewish presence in Bucharest has been documented starting as early as the sixteenth century4 as the local rulers invited and supported the Jewish population through special legislation in order to develop the local economy, commerce and crafts, the impact on economic and social life became more visible only in the nineteenth century when the community significantly increased. Concentrating one of the greatest Jewish communities among the capitals of the region, Bucharest gathered roughly ten per cent of the Jewish community in Romania and exerted a great influence on the rest of the Romanian Jewry. According to the same 1930 census, the Jewish population of Bucharest rose to 76,480 individuals, representing 11 per cent of the city’s population. Indeed, as Mendelsohn concluded, the Jewish community of Bucharest resembled more of a Western European style community as it was more acculturated and modern, Romanian-speaking, and less inclined to traditional life, especially when compared to populations from the most vibrant Eastern European Jewish centres such as Warsaw, Vilnius, Cernăuţi or Iaşi. Unlike the situation in Bukovina and Bessarabia, where the least acculturated communities of the country resided, in Wallachia the ‘great majority regarded Romanian as their mother tongue’5 and only 19,842 individuals in Muntenia and 601 in Oltenia declared Yiddish their mother tongue in the 1930 census. Even in Moldavia, the only region of the Old Kingdom where Yiddish was still widely spoken, Yiddish modern culture and education were less developed in comparison to similar Eastern European cases (i.e. Poland) where Jewish culture was grounded in a 4 Irina Heinic, ‘Comunitatea evreilor din Bucureşti la începutul secolului al 19-lea’ [The Bucharest Jewish community in the beginning of the 19th century], Revista Cultului Mozaic, no. 255 (15 June 1971), Year XVI. 5 Mendelsohn, The Jews of East Central Europe, 182.

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rich heritage of Hebrew and Yiddish local cultures.6 This is the socio-cultural context in which the emergence of Bucharest as a new Yiddish cultural centre came as a surprise; in order to better understand the process, important social, political and cultural factors arising after the end of the First World War and Jewish emancipation must be taken into account.

Social and Political Factors Favouring the Emergence of Yiddish Bucharest In his History of Yiddish Literature, Sol Liptzin mentioned Romania among the ‘minor European centres’7 of Yiddish literature which played a marginal role within the development of Jewish culture; not completely undeserved, Romania earned such a reputation as acculturation and secularization were significant in Wallachia at the expense of traditional, and especially Yiddish, culture. Liptzin notices how, during the interwar period, Yiddish culture in Romania ‘experienced new vitality because of shifting national boundaries and greater population mobility’8 as: ‘After World War I, Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania, with their large Yiddish-speaking populations, were added to Rumania. Only then did a reading public arise of sufficient magnitude to support quality journals and Yiddish publishing ventures. From these newer provinces, rather than from Old Rumania, stemmed the majority of the Yiddish writers of the next half century.’9 For Liptzin, the main explanation for this process resides in the expansion of the Yiddish language public, offering a new market for cultural products and a significant stimulus for Yiddish-language intellectuals. Nevertheless, Liptzin fails to explain how Bucharest, out of all the Yiddish-language Romanian centres, emerged as a new venue for cultural initiatives, especially as Yiddish-language cultural offers were limited in the capital. The new geo-political situation created after the end of the First World War generated a favourable context for major changes. In general terms, the Eastern European map was redesigned as old important cultural and political centres became less prominent while being integrated into lesser political structures; on the contrary, previously minor centres became central due to their increased influence in the new geo-political order. In this context, in 1918, Bukovina, Bes6 7 8 9

Ibid., 183. Sol Liptzin, A History of Yiddish Literature (New York: Jonathan David, 1988), ix. Ibid., 354. Ibid., 356.

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sarabia and Transylvania eventually joined the Romanian Old Kingdom consisting previously of Moldova and Wallachia, and ultimately, Greater Romania was created. The new political structure benefited from the fall of Tsarist and Austro-Hungarian Empires – events which radically altered the Eastern European map. Important urban cultural centres such as Cernăuţi or Chișinău, although peripheral on the imperial scale, faced their decline to provincial cities within a state whose capital (Bucharest) maintained and enforced its position as an administrative and cultural centre for a political structure much larger than before 1918. Within the area inhabited by Yiddish speakers, an enormous territory overlapping nearly all of Eastern Europe and representing the symbolic geography of Ashkenazi culture, intellectual mobility and cultural communication greatly stimulated the creativity and the transfer of ideas across empires––from the Baltic Sea to provincial Moldavia, and from Warsaw to Odessa. The itinerant troupe Broder Singers, followed by Avram Goldfaden’s10 companies and other vagrant performing poets, would travel extensively and spread the seeds of Yiddish culture within this large territory, just as much as the maskils promoting Haskala [Jewish Enlightenment] or the talmid chachams [Torah scholars] sharing their religious knowledge; conflicting intellectual trends coexisted within Yiddish Eastern Europe, stimulating one another and benefiting from this large cultural territory that was unhampered by geo-political borders. In the aftermath of the First World War, this symbolic cultural territory was eventually fractured and the resulting fragments were integrated in the newly formed states, altering and slowing down the communication process and the previous exchange of ideas. In this context, former vibrant Yiddish centres lost their prominence in the region and saw their status decline from imperial cultural centres to more modest peripheral cities. Yiddish cultural life in the newly created state of Romania, previously animated by centres such as Cernăuți or Chișinău, started gravitating toward Bucharest instead of the former imperial cultural centres (Vienna, Odessa, Lviv) with whom close communication used to exist. In the context of these geo-political changes, the prestigious imperial periphery (replaced by a more modest one) imposed a radically new order and status in terms of relevance within the newly formed political unit. Additionally, the fragmentation of the

10 Avram Goldfaden (1840–1908) was the founder of Yiddish theatre in terms of acting school and original repertory, serving at the same time as a playwright, composer, manager and director. Originally coming from the Tsarist Empire where he was the editor of several Yiddish journals, in 1876 he travelled to Iași where he created the first Yiddish-language theatre company in the world.

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old structures and the decline of their respective centres radically changed the symbolic structure and function of the former Yiddish Eastern Europe. A second factor responsible for the migration of Yiddish-language intellectuals to Bucharest was the belated legal emancipation of the Romanian Jewry occurring as late as the end of the First World War when the 1919 Minorities’ Law was enacted. Unlike the situation in the post-1867 Austro-Hungarian Empire, where the recently emancipated Jewry were more and more attracted to the assimilationist cultural and social policies of the imperial authorities, the post-1919 Greater Romania secured, at least theoretically, a space for the assertion of Jewish identity in political, social and cultural terms. This new context created favourable conditions for continuing the intellectual project of promoting Yiddish culture (initiated prior to the First World War), starting with the Cernăuți Conference of 190811 and with the manifestations of such cultural journals as Licht [Light]. This ideological trend coexisted with the emerging discourse coming from a group of Romanian-language Jewish intellectuals who started to create a ‘Jewish literature in Romanian’12 able to illustrate and integrate Jewish identity within Romanian culture; this discourse flourished especially after 1919, reaching its peak in the 1930s when a series of novels on the life of Romanian Jewry were published in Romanian. The journal Di Vokh [The Week] initiated a cultural project that aimed to bring together Yiddish- and Romanian-language Jewish writers for a literary evening in order to collect the funds they needed to publish an anthology in both languages. It was not, however, such a unique event of this type, yet it suggested the importance of the cultural assertion of identity13 during that period. These two trends, which were active within Jewish intellectual life, replicated a symptomatic ideological debate animating 11 The Cernăuți Conference of 1908 was the first international event dedicated to the role of Yiddish language and culture in the life of the Eastern European Jewish population. The conference (30 August – 4 September 1908) was organized at the initiative of Nathan Birnbaum, important pedagogue and cultural activist, and a number of important Yiddish authors attended (I. L. Peretz, Shalom Asch, A. Reisen). It represented the starting point for a major cultural trend among intellectuals, Yiddishism, defining Yiddish as the national language of Eastern European Jewry. 12 See my article ‘The Emergence of a “Jewish Romanian Literature”: A Socio-cultural Approach’, Bruckenthalia, no. 1, (2011): 57–64; and ‘Apariţia unei “literaturi evreieşti de limbă română”. O abordare socio-culturală’ [The emergence of a ‘Jewish Romanian literature’: A socio-cultural approach], in Lumea evreiască reflectată în literatura română (Iași: Alexandru Ioan Cuza, 2014), 67–85. 13 Leon Volovici, ‘Scriitor român – Scriitor Evreu’ [Romanian writer – Jewish writer]; ‘Utopie, ideologie şi literatură: Intelectuali şi scriitori evrei în România în secolul XX’ [Utopia, ideology and literature: Jewish intellectuals and writers in 20th-century Romania], Vatra, no. 10/11 (2000): 16–20.

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Romanian intellectual life in its search for ‘national specificity’,14 a direct reaction to the crisis that the creation of Greater Romania, with its diverse cultural and political regions, posed to the state and to the intellectuals struggling with integration. All these new regional characteristics and the emerging diversity were shared by the differing Jewish groups creating the highly fragmented Romanian Jewry. As a direct response, Yiddish was perceived by many Jewish intellectuals in Romania as the element capable of connecting all regional communities with their cultural and political characteristics. Thus, developing Yiddish culture in areas where acculturation was already significant became a long-term political and cultural project. According to the 1908 Cernăuți Conference, the plan of establishing a renewed Yiddish cultural scene in Romania was already in progress: for example, Yiddish-language cultural journal Licht,15 although it only lasted for a short time, launched a solid platform to which many interwar intellectual initiatives would later relate. The development of Yiddish theatre and literature were the two major objectives listed in the first issues of the journal, and quite a few of the interwar Yiddish cultural activists who subscribed to these points with a sense of continuity and cultural mission came from the nucleus of the Licht group. To summarize, with the creation of Greater Romania and eventually the legal emancipation of the Jewish community at the end of the First World War, factors came into play that secured a new socio-cultural and political context creating favourable conditions and allowing Yiddish activists to move to Bucharest and revive Jewish cultural life on the national level, beginning, of course, in the capital. The prestige of the old imperial centres of Yiddish culture declined, while the importance of the capital increased; in this context, a centripetal movement may be identified as intellectuals from the newly redesigned periphery moved to Bucharest, while previously, during the imperial period, a centrifugal cultural process, generated by settlement restrictions and by the impact of acculturation and modernization, dominated Yiddish-language cultural life, many choosing vibrant and active peripheral centres. In this case, the Pale of Settlement situation in the Tsarist Empire was eloquent. In Romania, favourable conditions for developing Yiddish theatre and press existed, beginning 14 The ‘national specificity’ debate animated interwar period Romanian intellectual life in the 1920s and 1930s, with contributions from the traditionalist intellectual camp. For further contextualization, see Balazs Trencsenyi’s unpublished paper, ‘Autochthonous Modernity: Romanian “Westernizers” and the Discourse of National Specificity in the Interwar Period’. 15 P. Almoni, Epoca ‘Licht’: Istoria unei epoci de lumină în trecutul evreilor din România [The ’Licht’ Era: The history of a glorious era in the history of the Romanian Jewry] (Bucuresti: Biblioteca Evreească, 1943).

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with the last decades of the nineteenth century in areas where the Jewish population represented the majority, still speaking Yiddish, but more inclined towards secular modern life and culture (e.g. Northern Moldavia). On the other hand, during the interwar period, the cultural debates, the Yiddish activists and the creation of Yiddish-language cultural products (literature and press) moved to Bucharest where traditionally the largest acculturated population resided. Thus, in Bucharest, Yiddish culture began to attract not only the acculturated public, but also the non-Jewish intellectuals who were fascinated by Yiddish theatre during the interwar period.

Yiddish Culture in Romania on the Eve of the First World War: Theoretical Debates The Licht intellectual group and its activity represented one of the most significant initiatives of reviving and stimulating Yiddish culture in Romania and was a direct result of the Cernăuți Conference of 1908 as Iacob Groper,16 the most important activist of the group, had participated in the conference a few years before. The group’s most important initiative was the creation of the first Yiddish-language literary journal in the Romanian Old Kingdom, bearing the same name as the group itself, Licht. It was published in Iaşi between 1914 and 1915 and was edited by a small group of intellectuals: Efraim Waldman, Iacob Groper, Matatiahu Friedman and Moti Rabinovici and, later, Yankev Botoshanski. First published in December 1914 at Kadimah Publishing House, the journal Licht organized public events in the provincial towns and shtetls,17 including Yiddish literature readings promoting classics such as I. L. Peretz, and featuring young Botoshanski, Rabinovici and Waldman as lecturers. Commemorating Peretz’s death, Licht journal and the Toynbee Hall Association of Iași published 2,000 copies of a one-issue publication (two pages in Yiddish and two in Romanian) that was dedicated to the great writer and distributed for free in all communities. Thus, in Licht’s programmatic articles, Yiddish literature represented

16 Iacob Groper (1890–1966) was a Yiddish-language poet and cultural activist. Born in Northern Moldavia, he spent his youth in Iași and eventually moved to Bucharest in 1918, where he quickly established himself as the most important modern Yiddish-language poet. Unable to adapt to the communist regime after the end of the Second World War, he made aliyah in 1964, settling in Israel. 17 The shtetl (the Yiddish term for ‘town’) represents the common semi-urban settlement inhabited mostly by Jewish population in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe.

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an important means for promoting Jewish identity and culture among the communities of Romania. From the beginning, the journal included substantial articles dedicated to the importance of Yiddish theatre in Romania as being an essential and mostly accessible means for promoting Yiddish culture within the masses. In the programmatic articles of the journal, the editors declared: Our program is interested … in Jewish theatre. The only way to preserve Yiddish culture, more effective than anything else, is this theatre … the Jewish scene should be a means of educating the public, of bringing the Jews closer through Yiddish … The Jewish theatre is the only way to bring closer and to facilitate communication among different layers of the Jewish population.18 Indeed, Licht’s enthusiastic presentation of Yiddish theatre was based on a whole Yiddish theatre culture and history in Romania, even before the journal’s theoretical platform and initiatives. In 1876, Iași, a major Yiddish cultural centre with a Jewish community reaching 40 per cent of the city’s population, became the place where the first Yiddish professional theatre in the world was created when Avram Goldfaden founded his company. Touring successfully across Eastern Europe, Goldfaden promoted Romania as a popular destination for Yiddish actors and companies who travelled extensively and performed in the country, attracting and educating a large public on Yiddish drama. Thus, immediately after the end of the First World War, many local companies started to perform different types of theatrical productions, including musical, revue and drama. In the post-war context, many famous Yiddish-language actors came to Romania from all over the world: Misha Fishzon, Paul Baratoff (‘Freie Yiddishe Folksbiene’ of Vienna), Solomon Stramer (Jewish theatre ‘Habimah’ performing in Transylvania), Sara Kanner, Maurice Siegler, Molly Picon, Yosef Bulov, Nelly Kassman, Chaim Prizant, Jacob Rechtzeit, Ludwig Satz, Maurice Schwartz, Herz Grossbart, Sidi Thal, Benny Adler, Seidy Gluck, the Siegler company, Herman Yablokoff and Jacob Kalich who performed plays that had been successful in America and in other Western European countries. Thus, Yiddish theatre played an important role in Jewish cultural life in Romania both before and after the First World War. Stimulating and reflecting a dynamic cultural life in which Yiddish literature and cultural press (theatre in particular) were highly active and popular in the first decades of the twentieth century, the Licht journal’s initiatives promoted the ideals voiced during the Cernăuți Conference, not only offering a the18 Licht, year I, no. 2 (1914): 97, apud Israil Bercovici, O sută de ani de teatru evreiesc în România [One hundred years of Jewish theatre in Romania] (București: Editura Integral, 1998), 117 [my translation].

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oretical and intellectual platform, but also a space for dissemination. The Licht group and their journal essentially paved the road for the emergence of interwar Yiddish cultural life while setting up theoretical platforms and action programmes, transposing the ideas of the Cernăuți Conference of 1908 into a locally adapted programme.

Yiddish Culture in Interwar Bucharest The Yiddish-language intellectuals who dominated cultural life in Romania during the interwar period were all roughly part of the same generation, most of them in their twenties at the time of legal emancipation. All of them moved to Bucharest from Cernăuți, Chișinău or Iași. They were especially active within the theatrical scene, but they also enriched Yiddish literature and press from Bucharest which was just beginning to compete with the other provincial centres. Therefore, a new generation of intellectuals, who were already mature at the time of emancipation and the Great Union, made strategic moves in their careers following the new political and economic poles of power, deciding to settle in Bucharest and to leave behind their respective historical cities. The only notable exception was Eliezer Shteynbarg, who belonged to an elder generation and was already an established writer in Bukovina by the end of the First World War. On a side note, although Yiddish culture was also significantly represented in Northern Transylvania, the natural intellectual routes used to take the previous generations of young activists to old imperial centres such as Budapest or Vienna rather than to Bucharest. Undisputedly, the most active and prolific intellectual personality within Yiddish cultural life in Romania during the interwar period was Yankev Shternberg (1890–1973), poet, journalist, and most importantly, theatre director. Shternberg initiated many projects that helped transform Bucharest into a new Yiddish cultural centre and managed to attract many Yiddish-language intellectuals around him. During the interwar period, he was considered a pivotal figure in Yiddish culture in Romania not only as a director, playwright and theoretician of theatre, but also as a journalist and poet. Born in 1890 in Bessarabia, specifically in Lipkan (a shtetl famous for being the birthplace of many Yiddish-language writers), Yankev Shternberg received a religious education at the heder, later attending five grades in the Russian secondary school of Kamenets Podolski. In 1913, at age 23, young Shternberg decided to move to Bucharest, his home until 1940 when he moved back to Chișinău, Bessarabia then becoming Soviet territory. Fleeing from the Nazi threat, he

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found refuge in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 1941, and in Moscow in 1943. In 1949, he was sentenced to spend 10 years in Stalinist work camps for Zionist activity and returned to Moscow in 1954 after being rehabilitated shortly following Stalin’s death. Shternberg’s Romanian period was mostly dominated by his theatrical endeavours, but also included literary and journalistic projects. He started to write poetry early: his first poem, ‘In a shlitn’ [In a sleigh], was published in Vilnius’ Yiddish newspaper, Folks-shtime in 1907. When he moved to Bucharest in 1913, he began working as a journalist and doing some editorial work during the First World War; soon after, he started to become involved in theatrical projects. After the First World War, Yiddish theatre went through some very important changes. After a period of development that phased-out at the beginning of the twentieth century (due to economic and political reasons), most of the actors and companies decided to leave Eastern Europe and move to America where the Eastern European Yiddish-speaking migrants had already been settling. The actors and companies who were still active in Eastern Europe suffered a period of stagnation; however, the end of the war brought a drastic change from which Shternberg fully profited. People were in desperate need of entertainment and distraction, and were already following popular Romanian playwrights such as Vasile Alecsandri and Matei Millo in hopes of compensating for the trauma experienced in the war; as a result, musical and cabaret shows became very popular. Following the discourse of Licht’s journal, Yiddish theatre became important within the cultural platform of many intellectual associations and publications as a means of preserving and supporting Yiddish culture in Romania. In this complex context, Yankev Shternberg formulated his vision about the Yiddish theatrical scene saying: I owe my personal development, from a literary and theatrical perspective, to the Romanian environment, just as my great predecessor, the father of Yiddish theatre, Avram Goldfaden, who reached his potential as a theatre creator only in Romania, although he travelled through the whole world, through Jewish centres of different sizes and development stages … I have understood that the only way to attract the great Jewish masses is to propose a traditional-cultural theatre. Not even a literary theatre which I greatly supported during that time … This is why I created a socio-political theatre, a revue-theatre which, I think, was at the time the first ever theatre of this type in Yiddish. This type of theatre was born in Bucharest on the eve of the October Revolution … I presented on stage in ironical terms the bourgeois assimilation process, I attacked the rabbinical authorities, I have fought for progressist Jewish culture, for Jewish emancipation, for their citizenship rights … for Yiddish-language progressist literature.19 19 Bercovici, O sută de ani, 118 [my translation].

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Following his ideas and integrating the public’s needs, in 1917 Yankev Shternberg created a theatre-revue in Yiddish, an avant-gardist project20 also known as the Yiddish Theatre of Bucharest; it was the first of its type in Yiddish and it managed to attract a significant audience. In this theatre, Shternberg staged satirical revues based on scripts written by himself and his collaborators, writers Yankev Botoshanski and Moyshe Altman.21 Between 1917 and 1918, he wrote and produced nine plays and satirical revues in Yiddish, adding new artistic trends to the popular ‘Goldfadenian’ tradition while taking audience preference into account, including theatrical innovation brought by I. L. Peretz and other modernist Yiddish writers. During these years, Shternberg started to assert himself as one of the most popular directors in interwar Romania. His two collaborators, Botoshanski and Altman, both equally fascinating Yiddish-speaking intellectuals of the period, had moved to Bucharest from other parts of the newly created Greater Romania. Altman, born in the same year and in the same shtetl as Shternberg, was a prose writer and journalist who received the same religious education as his theatre director friend, later attending the Russian school in Kamenets Podolski. Unlike Shternberg, however, in 1919 Altman moved to Cernăuți and worked as a lecturer on Jewish and world literature, travelling within Bessarabian shtetls for different Jewish cultural institutions and publications (e.g. Yiddish Cultural Federation of Romania). After an early start in Yiddish poetry at age 14, he made his debut with Blendenish [Radiance], a volume of prose published in Cernăuți in 1926. Although his decision to move to Bucharest came late (in the early 1930s), his collaboration with Shternberg and the Romanian Yiddish press began much earlier and had already secured him a solid reputation in Romania. Shternberg’s second collaborator, Botoshanski, was a writer, journalist and playwright. A few years younger than Shternberg, Botoshanski was born in 1892 (or, according to other sources, in 1895) in the same Bessarabian province and received a traditional religious education which was still common during that period. For a while, Botoshanski had entertained the idea of continuing his studies in a yeshiva, but he abandoned it after a few years and finished his education in Russian schools, both in Odessa and in Chișinău. The intensive process of acculturating to the Russian language, common amongst the Jewish pop20 Ibid., 119. 21 Moyshe Altman (1890–1981) was a Yiddish-language writer and journalist. Born in Bessarabia, he moved in 1919 to Cernăuți and eventually to Bucharest in the early 1930s, working mainly for Jewish cultural institutions. He wrote about the life of Bessarabian Jews. Leaving for Chișinău in 1940 and later to Central Asia during the Second World War, Altman was sentenced to 10 years in Stalinist work camps. Released after five years, he returned to Cernăuți where he continued to write in Yiddish till the end of his life.

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ulation of Bessarabia, thus determined that Botoshanski’s literary debut (in 1912) would indeed be published in both Russian and Yiddish; however, this did not alter his plan to move to Bucharest instead of another Russian city. In 1914 Botoshanski arrived in Bucharest, one year after Shternberg; he had strong Socialist sympathies and quickly became engaged in leftist politics. As he was involved in the publication of the journal Licht as one of the founders and editors, Botoshanski wrote and staged many short plays with Shternberg. Nevertheless, after more than a decade in Bucharest, he left Romania in 1926 and moved to Buenos Aires where he became an important figure within Yiddish cultural life as a successful playwright and the editor of some of the most important periodicals of the time. After the theatre-revue project, Shternberg’s second initiative to animate Yiddish cultural life in Romania was managing and promoting Vilner Trupe, well-known for being the first company to perform An-ski’s masterpiece Der dibek [Dibbuk] in 1920. Already a theatrical sensation for the Yiddish-speaking audience by the time it arrived in Bucharest, Vilner Trupe was a well-reputed company from the former Tsarist Empire which enjoyed European-wide notoriety due to its extensive tours. Brought to Romania by Isidor Goldenberg, Vilner Trupe not only had a repertory of classic and contemporary Yiddish theatre, but they also performed plays translated from classic Russian, German and French drama during the first eight years of activity. Due to its exceptional artistic quality, the presence of Vilner Trupe in Bucharest represented a great cultural turning-point not only for the Yiddish-speaking public, but also for the Romanianspeaking audience. Founded as a literary company from the beginning, Vilner Trupe brought many actors together who had trained in Russian and Polish theatrical schools, being directly influenced by the Moscow Art Theatre and by Konstantin Stanislavsky’s views. Vilner Trupe’s performances also followed I. L. Peretz’s ideas of a literary theatre capable of taking Yiddish drama to the level of the greatest theatrical cultures in Europe: going beyond the comedic function of Yiddish drama from Goldfaden’s time, and bringing together modernist and symbolist influences such as folklore, romanticism or expressionism. In Romania, Vilner Trupe enjoyed great success and counted over 150 performances of its most popular show, Yankev Shternberg and Yosef Bulov’s adaptation of Osip Dymov’s Der zinger fun zayn troyer, also known as Yoshke muzikant [The Singer of His Sorrow, or Yoshke the Musician], bringing together both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences,22 Romanian-language press and intellectuals, and even the Royal Court. The company quickly became a sensation 22 Nahma Sandrow, Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theatre (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1996), 221.

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within Romanian circles (ignoring any linguistic barriers), having been enthusiastically introduced to the larger public by well-known intellectuals and journalists such as Ion Marin Sadoveanu or Victor Eftimiu, or by popular actors such as Tanți Cutava. Furthermore, the songs of Vilner Trupe immediately became hits. Romanian-language theatres proposed various collaborative projects to the company management, subsequently generating a general increase of interest in Yiddish culture which materialized in requests to stage Yiddish plays in Romanian and to organize Yiddish literary evenings involving Romanian actors. Vilner Trupe’s widespread popularity led to the founding of a number of ‘Friends of the Jewish Theatre’ associations in Bucharest and in provincial cities with the purpose of financially supporting the company. In Romania, Vilner Trupe’s activity was coordinated and managed by Shternberg who was the artistic director of the company between 1924 and 1927. During these years, Shternberg produced plays by I. L. Peretz, Sholem Aleichem, Osip Dymov, Gogol and Tolstoy which represented important events not only for the Yiddish-speaking public, but also for cultural life in Bucharest in general. With Shternberg managing the artistic direction of the company, Vilner Trupe achieved great success; this was largely due to Shternberg’s interest in modernism and avant-gardism which transformed the company into an avantgarde theatre and further offered innovative perspectives on directing and staging. Between 1924 and 1927, the company resided in Romania; however, despite their popularity, Vilner Trupe dissolved due to financial difficulties and to the fact that some of the actors were offered professional contracts in the US and Eastern Europe. Shternberg’s next theatrical project was Bucharest Yiddish Theatre Studio (BITS) in 1930 which brought together talented artists such as M. H. Maxy, Arthur Kolnik, Moise Rubingher, Max Halm, M. Poleanski, Haim Schwartzmann, as well as actors from the Kovno Trupe, e.g. Levitas, David Licht, Glezer, Kaplan, Olshanetzkaya, Ruth Taro, Scheinbaum. From the beginning, BITS was very successful, although Shternberg’s innovative modernist approach earned him some critics. His staging of Peretz’s Bay nakht afn altn mark [At night at the Old Market] was highly acclaimed and well-received in the local reviews; the reputed cultural journal Adam dedicated a whole issue23 to the impact of the premiere, bringing together reactions from Jewish and non-Jewish intellectuals 23 The Romanian-language Jewish cultural journal Adam dedicated its sixteenth issue of the first year of the publication, appearing on 1 February 1930, to Yankev Shternberg’s version of I. L. Peretz’s ‘Bay nakht afn altn mark’; A. Toma, ‘Însuflețitorul’ [The animator]; Dr. L. Ghelerter, ‘Se face ziuă…’ [The dawn has come…]; Ury Benador, ‘Sternberg’; Tudor Arghezi, ‘Studio Teatrului Idiș, din București. ‘Noaptea în Târgul Vechi’ [Bucharest Yiddish theatre studio: ‘a night in the old marketplace’]; H. St. Streitman, ‘Un creator’ [A creator].

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who attended the performance despite its limited linguistic accessibility. Shternberg’s perspective of the text enjoyed the appreciation of the most important intellectuals of the time, but was not without criticism. Without a doubt, Shternberg’s BITS promoted a new type of Yiddish theatre in tune with the latest modernist cultural trends of the European theatrical scene; it also led to the professionalization of the actors and to a refined artistic production addressing the larger public which included not only Yiddish speakers, but any kind of audience interested in high quality artistic performances.24 Together with Altman, Shternberg returned to his passion for musical revues and staged Rozhinkes mit Mandlen [Raisins and Almonds] using M. H. Maxy’s costumes; they also staged the revue Scotzl Kint with a text they wrote together. Tickets for Shternberg’s revues were in such high demand that a national tour was organized during 1933 and 1934 with shows in Bucharest and other major Romanian cities. To better understand the impact and success of Yiddish theatre as well as Yankev Shternberg’s prestige, we can look to Hayele Grober’s description of Jewish theatrical life in Romania. Grober was a renowned Yiddish actress who toured Eastern Europe in the mid-1930s; here she recalls how she came to perform in Romania: In 1935, I received the invitation to have a tour in Romania. Romania was known for having the best theatre audiences. Great actors from Europe and America were travelling far to act and perform there. In Romania, performances were organized all-year-round: in winter, performances were organized in the city’s theatre halls, while in the summer, they took place in summer gardens. Even the most remote and small shtetls were included. If a small shtetl did not host a theatre hall, the performance was organized in an improvised wooden barn. Old and young people hurried to the theatre shows. Actors recall that, when two performances were advertised for the same day, spectators came to the matinee with a small lunch bag and also stayed for the evening performance. I received the invitation for touring in Romania from two writers who were directing the theatre, Yankev Shternberg and Moyshe Altman. I started my tour in Bucharest where I met poet and theatre director Yankev Shternberg. By then, Shternberg-Altman was already a famous artistic brand in Romania. They introduced the genre of Yiddish-language revue shows to the Romanian audience … Yankev Shternberg also directed in the Romanian mainstream theatre. We were

24 Tudor Arghezi, ‘Studio Teatrului Idiș, din București. “Noaptea în Târgul Vechi”’, Adam, no. 16 (1 February 1930).

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travelling from midnight on, sleeping during the day and performing every evening in another city. Everywhere we went, the halls were full.25 Indeed, the cultural importance of the Yiddish theatre was of the utmost in Bucharest. To honour the creation of Yiddish theatre on Romania, the Jewish Cultural Federation held a jubilee on 9 May 1926 at ‘Jignița’ Garden in Bucharest. Among the guests were representatives from major Bucharest theatres: well-known actors such as Constantin Nottara and N. Soreanu were there on behalf of the National Theatre; V. Maximilian, one of the most important Bulandra company stars; Constantin Tănase, the manager of Cărăbuș company, participating on behalf of the artists’ trade union along with representatives of the artistic association Scena. When they began collecting funds for the creation of a permanent Jewish theatre named after Avram Goldfaden, the first who joined and made donations out of professional solidarity were actors Tănase and Nottara.26 In parallel with theatre and artistic performances (particularly in the 1930s), Yiddish literature and cultural press flourished in Bucharest when the theatrical boom was at its peak. After a decade spent in Bucharest, young poet and playwright Itsik Manger27 left Romania for Poland, aiming for a larger and more stimulating environment for his art. Still, before his departure, he published his debut volume of verse Shtern afn dakh: Lid un balade [Stars on the Roof: Songs and Ballads] with Șalom Alehem Publishing House in Bucharest, confirming the general intellectual trend already discussed, but also suggesting an alternative motivation for migration towards traditional major Yiddish cultural centres. Leaving his native Cernăuți for Iași and eventually Bucharest, Itsik Manger made the same career choices as many other Yiddish-speaking intellectuals; nevertheless, belonging to a younger generation than the intellectuals presented in the current article, Manger returned to the symbolic Eastern European routes of Yiddish culture, abandoning the newly established Yiddish centre of Bucharest for a more vibrant Warsaw which obviously offered more opportunities for the young poet. The following year, Manger was one of the 25 Chayele Grober, Mayn veg aleyn [My path alone] (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publishing, 1968), 60–65 apud Israil Bercovici, O sută de ani, 164 [my translation]. 26 Bercovici, O sută de ani, 140. 27 Itsik Manger (1901–1969) was a well-reputed Yiddish poet and playwright. Born in Cernăuți, he moved to Iași during the First World War and eventually to Bucharest in the early 1920s. After his editorial debut in 1929, he moved to Warsaw and was quickly recognized as one of the most important Yiddish poets of his time. Forced to leave Poland in 1938 due to the anti-Jewish legislation, he moved to Paris and subsequently to London in 1942. Surviving the Holocaust, Manger moved to New York in 1951 and settled eventually in Israel in 1966. His poems were included in the UNESCO Anthology of poetry (1961) representing Yiddish-language creations.

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four writers accepted in the Yiddish PEN Club (with Yisroel Rabon, Iosef Papiernikov and I. B. Singer) – a clear sign that his career choice to move towards the old Yiddish centres eventually paid off. Although he moved to Bucharest in 1918 and bore the reputation of being the most accomplished modern Yiddish Romanian poet (even before the interwar period), Iacob Groper made his editorial debut in print as late as 1934 with the volume In shotn fun a shtayn [In the Shadow of a Tombstone]. It was the only volume he published during his lifetime, and it was later also translated into Romanian. Born in 1890 in Mihăileni, Northern Moldavia, Iacob Groper attended the Israelite-Romanian school in his home town, continuing his studies at the University of Iași and eventually moving to Bucharest after the end of the First World War. Obviously, his secular education and training led him towards a more acculturated and modern approach to Yiddish and Romanian culture which, naturally, singled him among the other Yiddish-language intellectuals presented in the current article. Nevertheless, Groper had an important role in the promotion and development of the Yiddish language and Yiddish culture in Romania – due more so to his ideological creed than to his education and formation. At the start, he wrote poetry in Romanian, German and Yiddish, but after his participation in the Cernăuți Conference of 1908 which refined his cultural affiliation, he eventually chose to write in Yiddish for the rest of his literary career. After receiving positive feedback for his poems from the poet H. N. Bialik who encouraged him to publish his work, Groper made his debut in the literary press in 1914 in the Vilnius literary journal Di yudishe velt [The Jewish World] and continued to publish in other literary periodicals in Lviv, București, Cernăuți, Brăila, Chișinău and London. His ideological opinions, as well as his cultural activism had already manifested in Iași in 1914 when he founded the literary association and journal Licht (to which a separate section of the current article was dedicated). Groper’s creations became so popular that they permeated folklore and were even passed on orally to the non-Jewish population; they were translated into Romanian and widely praised by critics. Highly appreciated for his lectures, Groper was one of the most visible Yiddish-language intellectuals and activists in interwar Romania. After a period of initiatives and moderate development which covered the second half of the nineteenth century, the Yiddish press in Bucharest began to severely decline after 1900. According to historian Bianca Bretan,28 between 1900 and 1939 (the moment when anti-Jewish legislation was implemented), 28 Bianca Doris Bretan, Istoria presei sioniste de limbă română în perioada 1897–1938 [The history of Romanian-language Zionist press between 1897–1938] (Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2010), 86.

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Yiddish was not widely used in the press anymore, except for some publications appearing in limited geographical areas where Yiddish tradition already existed (Bessarabia, Bucovina and Moldavia). Nevertheless, a new Yiddish weekly publication, Di Vokh, appeared in Bucharest in 1934. Behind this initiative was an editorial team consisting of the prolific Shternberg (who had already edited modernist and socialist periodicals in Cernăuți and București) and his creative collaborator Moyshe Altman, along with the esteemed critic, Shlomo Bickel,29 who had recently joined their team. Born in 1896 in Ustechko, a shtetl in Austrian Galicia, Shlomo Bickel had access to a religious education, continuing with his high school studies in Kolomyia. Between 1915 and 1918, Bickel served as an officer in the Austrian army, while between 1919 and 1922, he studied law at the University of Cernăuți. At age 26, after receiving his law degree, Bickel moved to Bucharest to practice law and to become more involved in Yiddish cultural life. His religious education combined with his liberal professional training offered a double career for him; on one hand, Bickel worked as a lawyer, and on the other hand, he cultivated Yiddish culture and literature, became one of the most important cultural activists in the interwar period. He enjoyed the reputation of being the best analyst of Yiddish cultural phenomenon in Romania. For two decades, Bickel was at the centre of the Yiddish cultural revival in Cernăuți and Bucharest. Despite his cultural interests, however, Bickel’s official debut in print occurred rather late: in Cernăuți in Di frayhayt [Freedom], the Bukovinian Zionists’ weekly which he edited between 1920 and 1922. Later, his career as a literary critic and journalist developed in Bucharest where he and Yankev Shternberg edited a number of literary publications together. He also contributed numerous texts on Yiddish culture in Romania to many other Yiddish journals abroad, among them, the Literarishe Bleter [Literary pages] of Warsaw. Apart from his career as a literary critic and journalist, Bickel was involved in promoting Yiddish culture through the Kultur-Lige30 [Cultural league] of Bucharest for whom he served as presi29 Shlomo Bickel (1896–1969) was a literary critic, journalist and cultural activist for the Yiddish language. Born in Austrian Galicia, he studied law at Cernăuți University and eventually moved to Bucharest in 1922. After almost two decades in Bucharest, he moved to New York in 1939 and continued his activity as a Yiddish literary historian and critic, working for various Yiddish-language publications and as the head of research at YIVO. As president of Yiddish PEN Club (1956–1959), Bickel published studies on Yiddish culture and wrote a memoir on his cultural activity in interwar Romania. 30 Kultur-Lige was the name of a cultural organization founded in Eastern Europe with the purpose of supporting the development of Yiddish culture and language. While in Bukovina and Bessarabia branches of the organization were founded in 1919, it only became active in Bucharest in 1931.

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dent. Before leaving for the United States in 1939, where he continued his career as a cultural activist and critic by becoming head of research at YIVO, literary critic for daily Der Tog [The day] and co-editor for the monthly Die Zukunft [The future] in New York, Bickel managed to publish a collection of his best essays, Inzikh un arumzikh [Inside and around Oneself, 1936], the volume having been very well-received within the Yiddish community. In 1935, two very important volumes of Yiddish literature were published by both Shternberg and Altman. Although Altman published his first volume (Blendenish, a collection of short stories) in 1926 in Cernăuți, his first novel, Di viner karete [The Viennese Coach], didn’t appear until 1935 in Bucharest and won him the reputation of being the most important Yiddish-language novelist in Romania. That same year, Shternberg published his first book of poetry: although he was very present in the Yiddish press and well-known for more than a decade for his theatrical success, Shtot in profil: Lid un grotesk [City in Profile: Songs and Grotesque] turned him into a celebrated poet overnight. The following year, two other volumes strengthened the position of Bucharest as a new Yiddish literary centre: Bickel’s aforementioned volume of essays (Inzikh un arumzikh) was presented in the Yiddish press as a cultural turning-point; while Altman’s novel, Medrash Pinkhes [Midrash according to Pinkhes], was described by critics as the most interesting Yiddish-language novel published after the First World War. Altman’s next novel Shmeterlingen [Butterflies] was published in 1939 before the anti-Jewish legislation halted Yiddish cultural creativity in Romania. During the mid-1930s, Bucharest had certainly started to build its reputation as a dynamic centre for Yiddish literary creativity in competition with Cernăuți, for example, where the pre-First World War’s intense activity began to severely decline.

Conclusions The emergence of Bucharest as a centre of Yiddish culture during the interwar period occurred in the context generated by the end of the First World War and by the emancipation of the Jewish community of Romania. Indeed, the conditions created by the new geo-political reorganization of Eastern Europe, and subsequently by the newly created Romanian state with its new provinces, as well as by the long-awaited legal emancipation that granted full rights and citizenship to its Romanian Jewish population, stimulated a series of initiatives for the development, promotion and preservation of Yiddish cultural life.

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While Bucharest lacked a Yiddish cultural tradition, it managed to flourish ‘virtually ex nihilo’ due to the migration of young Yiddish intellectuals reacting to the change of centres of political power and, subsequently, to the theatrical boom generated by the protean figure Yankev Shternberg and by his literary and press projects. After the early beginnings represented by Avram Goldfaden’s efforts to educate the Yiddish-speaking masses, Shternberg succeeded in addressing the intellectual elite (regardless of their language) with his new theatrical approach, bringing new artistic forms of expression and dramatic genres on the scene. Although new Yiddish journals and volumes appeared in Bucharest, mass print culture was clearly more active in the old centres of Cernăuți and Chișinău as they had larger Yiddish-speaking populations. On the contrary, in Bucharest where the Yiddish-speaking population was smaller and acculturation more advanced, Yiddish theatre was more popular and ultimately more accessible to wider audiences than Yiddish literature – as we know, theatre has a way of getting its artistic message across despite language barriers. Unfortunately, the anti-Jewish legislation and the Holocaust halted the development of Yiddish culture in Romania. The vibrant Yiddish theatrical scene was reduced to a form of basic artistic survival. Jewish actors, marginalized and excluded from Romanian cultural life, founded Barașeum, a Jewish theatre which was only allowed to perform in Romanian. Between 1940 and 1944, the spirit of Yiddish theatre survived through this institution which brought Yiddish- and Romanian-language Jewish actors together. Unlike Romanian-speaking Jewish intellectuals who believed in the utopia of integration within Romanian society and cultural life during the 1920s and early 1930s (only to see their illusions shattered during the period of radicalization), Yiddish-speaking intellectuals made different choices during the interwar period, migrating to Bucharest to create a vibrant Yiddish scene or leaving for other traditional Yiddish centres. Ultimately, on the eve of the Holocaust, many Yiddish-speaking intellectuals, who animated Bucharest during the interwar period, fled Romania for America or returned to the USSR. As a result, post-Second World War Yiddish cultural life declined: few intellectuals were still active during the newly established communist regime and those who were active concentrated mostly on translation (Iacob Groper, Emil Dorian, I. Ludo); their work was often propagandistically manipulated to enforce the new political ideology. Other intellectuals focused on reconstructing Yiddish-language theatre through the Yidisher Kultur Farband (YKUF, Jewish Culture Association) and later through the Jewish State Theatre founded in București and Iași in 1948. The glorious days of Yiddish culture in Bucharest were over.

 Part III: Unprecedented Catastrophe and Lines of Discursive Continuity

Clara Royer

A Liberal Utopia Againt All Odds The Survivor Writers of The Progress (Haladás), 1945–1948 After being rescued by the Kasztner train along with 1,683 other Jews, 50-yearold Hungarian writer Béla Zsolt (1895–1949) chose to come back from Switzerland to Budapest in the summer of 1945.1 Amidst the ruins of the capital of the new ‘democratic’ Hungary occupied by the Soviets, he started a weekly by the name of Haladás [The Progress] on behalf of the Hungarian Radical Party, the MRP [Magyar Radikális Párt]. The MRP represented the Hungarian left-minded bourgeois liberals, but was also closely associated to socialist intellectuals. With a bunch of other survivor writers, Zsolt reshaped a utopian liberal Hungary that had very little chance to meet the actual historical trends on the eve of the Cold War. Being a radical meant being excluded from power; a power that until the 1947 election, was shared by the four main parties of the time: the Communist Party (MKP), the Social Democratic Party (SzDP), the National Peasant Party (NPP) and the Independent Small-Holder Party (FKgP), each of which stood within the Hungarian National Independent Front [Magyar Nemzeti Független Front]. In 1947, the MRP managed to send six MPs to the Assembly, including Zsolt himself. Notwithstanding the disillusions that post-war justice and political life poured on Zsolt and his fellow intellectuals, it seems they kept a pre-war faith in a better Hungary that would recognize Christian and Jewish Hungarians alike as its sons. Should such a commitment be considered as a vivid example of cognitive dissonance? 1 Rezső Kasztner (1906–1957), a Zionist activist from Cluj, co-founded the Relief and Rescue Committee in Budapest in 1942, a clandestine group that smuggled Jews from Slovakia and Poland to Hungary. During the deportations of Hungarian Jews in 1944, he negotiated the rescue of Jews with the SS, notably with H. Himmler’s envoy, Colonel Kurt Becher. On 30 June 1944, the ‘Kasztner train’ left Budapest with 1,684 Jews. They first arrived at a camp in BergenBelsen, and eventually reached Switzerland in two groups, on 21 August and 7 December 1944. After the war, in Israel, Kasztner was tried for collaborating with the Nazis but he was assassinated before the trial was over. See: Gábor Kádár and Zoltán Vági, Self-Financing Genocide: The Gold Train, the Becher Case and the Wealth of Jews, English trans. Enikő Koncz, Jim Tucker and András Kádár (Budapest/New York: CEU Press, 2004); and Anna Porter, Kastner’s Train: the True Story of an Unknown Hero of the Holocaust (New York: Walker & Co, 2008). Annotation: This research was supported by two grants, from the Rothschild Foundation (London) and from the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah (Paris).

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Jewish-Hungarian utopia: the assimilationist stance, or believing in a ‘healthy alphabet of 2 democracy’ Haladás was launched on 1 October 1945 when, after months of negotiations, the MRP was eventually legalized.3 The party was reborn at the instigation of Imre Csécsy (1893–1961), an important pre-war radical intellectual and friend of intellectual and former minister Oszkár Jászi’s. At the time, Csécsy believed in the political come back of the 1918 former Prime Minister Mihály Károlyi. In their youth, many radical intellectuals such as Csécsy had been members of the Galilean Circle, a pre-war student association in Budapest which was closely associated to the first modern monthly of social sciences called Huszadik Század [Twentieth Century]. Zsolt had also evolved in this circle and in 1935, he campaigned on behalf of his friend Rupert Rezső (1880–1961) for the radical electoral list. Before the war, Zsolt was a renowned writer and publicist, famous for the uncompromising editorials he published in liberal left-wing newspapers such as A Toll [The Pen] (1921–1938), of which he was editor in chief. A sharp critic of Hungarian society and a deep believer in democracy, like that of writer Sándor Márai, he was labelled both as a bourgeois writer and as the ‘publicist of the 6th and 7th districts’ (that is, the so-called Jewish neighbourhood in Pest).4 As he was resting in a Swiss sanatorium, Zsolt received a letter from businessman József Litván (1900–1988, father of renowned historian György Litván) who convinced him to come back to Budapest and join forces with Csécsy to create The Progress. Zsolt did not have to wait long to get back into Budapest’s cultural life: he was given a seat both at the National Committee of Hungarian Intellectuals [Magyar Értelmiségi Nemzeti Bizottsága] and at the Society of Writers [Íroszövetség] (re-established in April 1945). Hungarian historians describe his arrival within the MRP as a turning point – but since the party had barely been launched when the 1945 elections took place, they did not manage to obtain a single mandate. The party was quite small and mainly appealed to Budapest in-

2 In Béla Zsolt, ‘Kunmadaras’, Haladás, no. 20 (30 May 1946): 1. 3 See János F. Varga, ‘A Radikális Párt delegációja Rákosi Mátyásnál’ [The Radical Party delegation at Mátyás Rákosi], História, no. 2 (1980): 24–5. 4 On Zsolt’s pre-war life, see Clara Royer, ‘Le “journaliste des VIe et VIIe arrondissements” de Pest? L’engagement hongrois de Béla Zsolt (1895–1949)’ in Individu, communauté, nation. Identités juives et enjeux politiques en Europe centrale, eds, Daniel Baric, Tristan Coignard and Gaëlle Vassogne (Tours: Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2013).

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tellectuals and petit bourgeois voters.5 Yet, Zsolt created a trend within the party that diverged both from Csécsy’s group and from the pragmatic politicians gathered around Zsigmond Kende (1888–1971), the leader of the party at that time. Zsolt actually very quickly booted Csécsy out of The Progress and gathered together old friends and like-minded journalists such as social democrats Miksa Fenyő (1877–1972), László Faragó (1896–1967) and András Mihály Rónai (1913– 1992), but also traditionally less committed writers such as Aladár Komlós (1892–1982) and Ernő Szép (1884–1953) – most of whom were Jewish survivors. Yet, dissent within the party did not really manifest as both Csécsy and Zsolt claimed a common political and ethical stance in two parallel editorials in first issue of The Progress.6 The party was to be independent and unaligned with the coalition government, which was created under Zoltán Tildy on 15 November, and therefore in the opposition. In its programme, the MRP rejected any class distinctions and commited itself to defend private property, land reform and private business.7 Quickly enough, The Progress came to be seen as a pro-assimilationist, democratic and bourgeois platform; although, its editors tried to get rid of the ‘Jewish’ label and protested that their contributors were both Christians and ‘Israelites’ (a word clearly inherited from nineteenth century Hungarian liberal ideology).8 Even after the catastrophe of the deportations and the extermination, these Jewish Hungarian writers did not want to ‘dissimilate’ themselves, and like their contemporaries, most of them decided to stay in the country (in direct contrast to what was going on in Czechoslovakia or Poland at the time).9 But in the paper Politika, Jenő Katona (1905–1978), the Independent Small5 See the list presented for the town council elections (budapesti törvényhatósági választások) which gathers Zsolt, writer and actress Ilona Harmos (Dezső Kosztolányi’s widow) and other artists and journalists: Haladás, no. 1 (1 October 1945). 6 Imre Csécsy, ‘A pártatlanok pártja’ [The party of the non-partisans] and Béla Zsolt, ‘Miért járunk külön utakon?’ [Why do we walk separate roads?], Haladás, no. 1 (1 October 1945): 1. 7 See Lajos Izsák, ‘A polgári ellenzéki pártok Magyarország nemzetközi helyzetéről, külpolitikai lehetőségéről, 1944–1947’ [The bourgeois opposition parties on Hungary’s international situation and foreign policy options, 1944–1947], Századok, no. 5/6 (1990): 757–8. The programme of the party is reproduced pp. 297–304 in Lajos Izsák, Polgári ellezéki pártok Magyarországon 1944–1949 [The bourgeois opposition parties in Hungary 1944–1949] (Budapest: Kossuth Könyvkiadó, 1983), 35–43. 8 István Bródy, ‘Temessük el!’ [Let’s bury it!], Haladás, (8 February 1946): 2. 9 See András Kovács’s analysis on such peculiarity in his ‘Jewish Groups and Identity Strategies in Post-Communist Hungary’, in New Jewish Identities: Contemporary Europe and Beyond, eds, Zvi Gitelman, Barry Kosmin and András Kovács (Budapest/New York: CEU Press, 2002), 211–42.

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Holder Party’s chief of press and MP, claimed The Progress carried a ‘moral yellow stain’ on Hungarian intellectual life.10 And when distressed by an outburst of anti-Semitism in the daily they read, even communist readers would turn to The Progress to complain about it.11 Indeed, survivor writers published in The Progress more than in any other platform, which tends to show they could find in its columns a broader space for expression. To this, Hungarian Jewish poet György Faludi (1910–2006) testified as well when, as he broke away from The Progress in 1947, he declared the paper only pledged to defend the Jews in Hungary and lacked any other political vision.12 The Progress was indeed the weekly that published the most on Jewish topics, with at least one such article per issue, while the other parties’ periodicals barely published on Jewish topics at all.13 Such a discrepancy doesn’t necessarily imply that the other parties had little concern for the Holocaust, but rather shows how much our perception of the Holocaust today differs from that of the post-war period. In the field of Hungarian culture, one has to wait for János Pilinszky’s poems, and even more for Imre Kertész’s work to fully grasp the major turning point the Holocaust represented in European culture. Contemporaries were more obsessed with post-war reconstruction, the new world order and the domestic reforms in a so-called free Hungary. Furthermore, and this is more specific to Hungarian history, even after the Holocaust, men and women who were perceived as Jews, although this identity hardly mattered to them (such as Mátyás Rákosi, Ernő Gerő, György Lukács and so forth), were at the top of political and cultural life in Budapest. Still, it made it easier to forget that almost half a million Jews had been exterminated.14 10 ‘Lelki sárgafolttal vagy sárgafolt nélkül?’ [With or without the moral yellow stain?]; Rónai Mihály András, ‘Miért hadonászunk?’ [Why do we scramble?], Haladás, no. 22 (29 May 1947): 3. 11 For instance: Károly Posta, ‘“Judeodemokrata”: Levél a Haladás-hoz’ [‘Judeodemocrat’: letter to The Progress], Haladás, no. 20 (15 May 1947): 3. Posta wrote to The Progress to complain about anti-Semitic discourses in the periodical Tovább (regarding Andor Miklós, converted in 1919, described as ‘a Jew according to the Nurnberg laws’). 12 György Faludi, ‘Ave atque vale’ [Hail and farewell], Búcsú a Haladástól (26 August 1947): 5. Farewell to Haladás was a one-issue mock-paper gathering all the Socialist writers who split with The Progress because of the MRP’s electoral tactics for the 1947 parliament elections. See note 83. 13 See Viktor Karády, ‘Traumatisme, refoulement, oubli volontaire, tabou. La mémoire de la Shoah dans la Hongrie Soviétisée’, in Histoire de l’oubli en contexte post-socialiste et post-colonial, eds, Patrick Vauday and Paula Zupanc (Koper: Publishing House Annales, 2009), 173– 88. 14 See Paul Gradvohl, ‘Juifs et communisme en Hongrie’, in Cultures juives, Europe centrale et orientale, Amérique du Nord, eds, Cylvie Claveau, Didier Francfort and Stanislaw Fiszer (Paris: Le Manuscrit, 2012), 99–115.

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The Progress relentlessly covered three major topics: the politics and consequences of Jewish extermination, the trials of war criminals, and the post-war manifestations of anti-Semitism in Hungary and Europe (especially in Poland and Slovakia). But the idea behind it was that the struggle against anti-Semitism was a test for democracy. The Progress’ authors called for a clear break from pre-war politics that had corrupted the younger generations at school with its revisionist and anti-Semitic ideology.15 They insisted on the need to re-educate Hungarian society, and this became a main topic within the many polemics they launched against their fellow non-Jewish intellectuals – especially after an Institute for Popular Education [Népi Művelődési Intézet] was assigned to the care of poet Gyula Illyés (1902–1983) by the minister of Education (Dezső Keresztury 1904–1996), with the aim to improve education in the countryside.16 According to young poet Gábor Antal (1922–1995), this new institution could only be a new venue for political and cultural anti-Semitism since it welcomed in its midst such men who had propagated anti-Semitic ideas at school during the war.17 As in the rest of post-war Europe, anti-Semitism in Hungary did not vanish with the liberation of the camps. In 1946, The Progress published around fortyfour articles signed by ten different contributors on what Zsolt (quite incorrectly) called ‘new anti-Semitism’: a type of daily anti-Semitism which not only found its way into private conversation, but also had the power to ignite crowds. As he attended former Prime minister Béla Imrédy’s trial, social democrat journalist Dezső Király (1896–1966) who was of Jewish origin and the editor in chief of the satirical Szabad Száj [Free Mouth] at the time, mentioned with dismay a brief chat he overheard between two men in the hall: ‘This Imrédy guy sold our country to the Nazis … – Well, what could you expect from a Jew like

15 This is quite a relevant interpretation as Hungarian sociologist Ildikó Szabó shows in: Nemzet és szocializáció. A politika szerepe az identitások formálódásában Magyarországon 1867– 2006 [Nation and socialization: the role of politics in the formation of identities in Hungary 1867–2006] (Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2009). 16 Keresztury was the target of attacks by The Progress for his anti-Semitic remarks against government members of Jewish origin after the war. See: Gáspár Remete [Miksa Fenyő], ‘Levelék a Thelemei apátságból – Melyben Hilarios testvér Zsolt Bélával polémizál és az “átnevelés” problémájáról mond figyelemreméltó dolgokat’ [Letters from the Abbey of Thélème – In which Brother Hilarios disputes with Bela Zsolt and says things worthy of attention on the problem of ‘reeducation’], Haladás, no. 42 (31 October 1946): 4. Keresztury was also accused of hailing his pupils with the Hitler salute when he was a Hungarian lector at the Berlin University before the war: ‘Heil Keresztúry!’, no. 43 (7 November 1946): 5. Keresztury sued Zsolt for slander in 1947, but Zsolt was not tried for he then enjoyed parliamentary immunity. 17 a. g. [Gábor Antal], ‘Kultúrbotrány!’ [Culture scandal!], Haladás, (8 August 1946): 5.

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this?’18 Imrédy, who had enacted the first anti-Jewish law (law XV of 1938) that restricted the economic activities allowed to the Jews, had been compelled to resign in May 1939 after a Jewish forefather was discovered among his ancestors. The Progress largely commented upon the pogroms that took place in EastCentral Europe after the war. Hungarian post-war anti-Semitic violence is best illustrated by the Kunmadaras pogrom which took place on 21 May 1946 (two dead).19 But as the 1946 Polish pogrom of Kielce was part of a series of violent anti-Semitic outbursts in Poland (beginning in the summer of 1945), the Kunmadaras pogrom belongs to a complex cycle in which the return of the deported Jews, inflation and the black market, the myth of blood libel, the political tactics of the communist party and also the guilt of non-Jews each played a part.20 Kunmadaras had been preceded by anti-Jewish violence in Ózd and Sajószentpéter (in February), Szegvár (in March), Budapest (4 May 1946)21 and was followed by others such as Makó, where the synagogue was burnt down in June, or Miskolc (from 29 July to 1 August 1946, two dead).22 When commenting on the Kunmadaras pogrom, Béla Zsolt perceived the hatred that met the Jews who returned home as a sign of the bleak future awaiting Hungary should the society fail to sever its ties with fascism. Behind such a plea for maintaining the Hungarian Jewish community, Zsolt viewed its security as proof of democracy.23

18 Király Dezső, ‘Pillanatképek a nagy perről’ [Snapshots of the big trial], Haladás, no. 8 (17 November 1945): 2. 19 For a relevant analysis on the Kunmadaras pogrom, see Péter Apor, ‘The Lost Deportations and the Lost People of Kunmadaras: A Pogrom in Hungary, 1946’, Hungarian Historical Review 2, no. 3 (2013): 566–604. 20 On the importance of the blood libel myth, see the works of Joanna Tokarska-Bakir. In French: Légendes du sang: pour une anthropologie de l’antisémitisme chrétien, French trans. Malgorzata Maliszewska (Paris: Albin Michel, 2015). 21 On this pogrom, which started because of a rumor about a four year-old girl who was supposedly missing and was spread by a man renowned for his anti-Semitic acts during the war, see Andrea Pető, ‘About the Narratives of a Blood Libel Case in post-Shoah Hungary’, in Comparative Central European Holocaust Studies, eds, Louise Vasvari and Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek (West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2011), 240–53. As she relevantly shows, the guilt and fear felt by non-Jews were crucial triggers in this outburst of violence. 22 See Éva Standeisky, ‘Antiszemita megmozdulások Magyarországon a koalíciós időszakban’ [Anti-Semitic movements in Hungary during the coalition period], Századok, no. 2 (1992): 284– 308. Other blood libels resumed in the following years, such as in Szegvár in May 1948, Hajdúnánás in September 1948, and according to János Pelle, again in 1954 in Törökszentmiklós. János Pelle, ‘Az utolsó hazai vérvádak’ [The last Hungarian blood libels], História, no. 7 (1995): 25–7. 23 Béla Zsolt, ‘Kunmadaras’, art. cit.

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In its struggle against anti-Semitism, The Progress adopted a type of rhetoric akin to a broader post-war interpretation of the Holocaust and branded antiSemitism as the quintessence of fascism. It was also close to the communist interpretation of the Jewish extermination, and it is not by chance that by the end of 1947, twenty-nine articles were devoted to the writers who had fallen victim to persecution, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.24 For these survivors, it was a way for them to avoid further separating the Jews from other Hungarians. The Progress, therefore, defended its assimilationist stance in the hope that its non-Jewish readers would also feel involved when reading extermination narratives and surveys: indeed, they devoted 44 articles to the topic (half on the camps, half on German and Hungarian anti-Jewish policies), as well as four novels (or testimonials in instalments), of which Zsolt wrote one, titled Nine Suitcases, and Rezső Kasztner wrote another controversial one titled The Great Human Market, in which he recounts his negotiations with the Nazis.

Justice or vengeance? An unheard call for intellectual responsibility As literary life started anew, one could easily believe in its continuity with that of the pre-war period. Hungarian historian Ignác Romsics, for instance, argues that the post-war literary press was restarted along pre-war divide lines.25 Gathered in Debrecen (the temporary capital of Hungary until the liberation of Budapest) around the literary magazine Magyarok [Hungarians] (1945–1949), a literary group claimed the legacy of modernist literature as embodied by Nyugat [West] (1908–1941); the monthly Válasz [Answer] (1934–1938) was relaunched in 1946 by some of its first contributors, all characterized by a pro-peasant stance; The Progress itself, though the MRP’s paper, restored the spirit of former urbánus reviews such as The Pen and Szép Szó [Argument] (1936–1939), which was founded as a response to Answer by the poet Attila József (1905–1937) and two Jewish Hungarian intellectuals close to Zsolt, Ferenc Fejtő (1909–2008) and Pál Ignotus (1901–1978). When the conflict between two literary camps of a same generation was revived in 1946, the illusion of continuity was all the more strengthened. 24 Some of whom The Progress branded as moral authorities, for instance the journalist Géza K. Havas: Haladás, no. 15 (25 April 1946); László Faragó, ‘K. Havas Géza’, no. 23 (19 June 1946). 25 Ignác Romsics, Magyarország története a XX. század [The history of Hungary in the 20th century] (Budapest: Osiris, 2002), 329.

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Indeed, from January 1946 to the end of 1947, that is 102 issues, The Progress attacked the contributors of Answer in no less than 81 articles. Among these, 26 targeted writer Péter Veres (1897–1970), the leader of the National Peasant Party at the time; 12 railed against László Németh (1901–1975), a major writer and thinker whose anti-Semitism could hardly be questioned; and at least 7 articles were against Gyula Illyés, who had shown some ambivalence, to say the least, when the time came to voice protest against the first anti-Jewish law in 1938, and who, in the course of a literary polemic in 1935, had claimed the impossibility for a person to be part of two communities (i.e. Jewish and Hungarian).26 Németh and Illyés were the two spiritual leaders of the pre-war Answer. These intellectuals who claimed to be népi (or, ‘of the people’) had for the most part joined the NPP. Before the war, they had shared a common aim beyond their various political affiliations: the improvement of the peasant condition. This was to be achieved through a land reform in a country still plagued with a semi-feudal system of big latifundia (a third of the cultivable land belonged to one thousand large landowners) that were out of reach for the landless and small peasants who were then labelled as the ‘three million beggars’.27 In these intellectuals’ view, land reform was a priority to be achieved notwithstanding the nature of the regime, and in 1935, Németh, Illyés and other népi writers attempted to influence Prime Minister Gyula Gömbös, who for his part, was striving to apply Italian fascist ideas to Hungary.28 What was called the ‘New Spiritual Front’ proved quite vain and was heavily criticized by their former friends, the urbánus writers. To the latter, such a reform was unthinkable without a democratic regime, and they disparaged their colleagues’ view of peasantry as the sole reposit of ‘Hungarianness’ – often at the expense of a symbolical Budapest and its intellectuals of assimilated background whose part had been critical to the development of Hungarian culture.29 Indeed, since 1934, the gap within this one literary generation had deepened, specifically due to

26 On Illyés, see Clara Royer, Le Royaume littéraire (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2011), 407–9, and Pál Ács, ‘Fattyazás’, Beszélő, no. 11 (2009). 27 The phrase ‘three million beggars’ was used by economist György Oláh in a 1928 book denouncing rural impoverishment. It became a catchphrase for népi writers in the 1930s. 28 On this episode, the reference study remains that of Miklós Lackó, Válságok-választások [Crises and choices] (Budapest: Gondolat, 1975), 52–170. On the career and ideology of Gyula Gömbös, see: József Vonyó, Gömbös Gyula és a jobboldali radikalizmus. Tanulmányok [Gyula Gömbös and right-wing radicalism: studies] (Pécs: Pannónia, 2001). 29 It may not be irrelevant to remind here of the fact that Jewish writers in Hungary had for the most part adopted Hungarian as their writing language from the second half of the nineteenth century on. Between the wars, only one poet still wrote in Yiddish, József Holder (1893–1945), born in a Hassidic family near Sighetu Marmației (Hgr. Máramarossziget).

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László Németh’s public attack against Jewish writers whose part in Hungarian culture he judged to be too important.30 But this post-war polemics actually gives out the illusion of continuity in Hungarian literary life. For one, the literary milieu was now deprived of 72 of its writers.31 They had been murdered in camps, in forced marches or in ‘labour service’32 within the Hungarian army, which from the summer of 1940 only involved Jewish men – many of whom were placed in so-called Jewish companies and sent to the Ukraine after Hungarian troops entered the USSR territories. Such was the fate of Béla Zsolt who spent 19 months in the Ukraine between 1941 and 1943. For those who remained, the years between 1938 and 1945 had deeply changed them. Survivors’ traumas could not be ‘fixed’ by the act of writing anymore (some, such as Komlós, actually gave up on poetry and fiction altogether), as could have been the case before the extermination when literature seemed to offer a shelter and an ideal escape when confronted with anti-Semitism. To them it was necessary to break away from the past of the Horthy era and the war. Still, the polemic which unfolded on the pages of The Progress was not interpreted as a break: at best, it was seen as the resumption of old pre-war quarrels;33 at worst, as the proof of a desire for revenge on the part of survivor writers, especially of the review’s mastermind, Béla Zsolt.34 Yet, the analysis of such 30 On the népi-urbánus quarrel and the literary polemics around the ‘Jewish question’, see Clara Royer, ‘Un engagement paradoxal? Écrivains juifs et népi dans la Hongrie de l’entredeux-guerres’, in Cultures juives. Europe centrale et orientale, Amérique du Nord, eds, Cylvie Claveau, Stanisław Fiszer and Didier Francfort (Paris: Le Manuscrit, 2012), 367–415. 31 According to Romsics, Magyarország története, 320. 32 This labour service (munkaszolgálat, or musz) was initiated on 1 July 1939 by the decree 5070/1939. At first it involved both Jewish and non-Jewish men. The recruits, whose uniform carried a distinctive letter ‘M’, carried out tasks of general interest whether military or not. On 23 August 1940, the Defense Department regulated the musz so that only Jewish men would be recruited. Those who were older or ill and could not be sent to military troops, would carry out works of general interest (draining of marshes, land clearings and so forth). 33 As exposed by an anthology gathering pre-war and post-war articles, aiming at presenting the major texts published during the quarrel between urbánus and népi writers: Péter Sz. Nagy, ed., A népi-urbánus vita dokumentumai 1932–1947 [The documents of the debates between népi and urbánus writers, 1932–1947] (Budapest: Rakéta, 1990). 34 See: Zoltán Szőcs, ‘Szennyez az emléke is’ [His souvenir too contaminates], Havi Magyar Fórum, juin 2009. (last accessed 12 June 2013). Mr Szőcs, a journalist affiliated to the MIÉP (Life and Justice Party), merely lists The Progress’s so-called ‘attacks’ as evidence of Béla Zsolt’s hatred and contemptible nature, although the polemic was carried on by a dozen writers who were not all Jewish – such as László Bóka, who was from a reformed background and signed eleven articles, that is, as many as Zsolt himself.

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an intellectual divide after the war and the Holocaust demands taking into account elements that are too often overlooked: on the one hand, the commitment of these survivors to the idea of a democratic Hungary; on the other hand, the ambiguity of such népi writers, who far from being publicly scrutinized, were actually sought after as political partners by the left-wing parties. In the opinion of most of The Progress’ contributors, the népi writers kept on betraying anti-Semitic feelings under their claim to work for the greater good of the ‘people’ they claimed to represent. Such a suspicion was not entirely groundless. In an investigation on the ‘Jewish question’ after the war and published by the boulevard magazine The Illustrated Observator, Imre Kovács (1913–1980), vice-president of the NPP, drew a distinction between good and bad Jews (a dichotomy already used by Németh) and advocated a reconciliation based on the ‘mutual confession’ of the ‘errors’ of the past. As for Illyés, he denied the existence of a ‘Jewish question’ in post-war Hungary and saw in it sheer political agitation.35 Népi writers usually showed solidarity with their more compromised fellow writers: Veres defended László Németh, ‘who lived through and suffered all the evils of the Hungarian people in his sensitive soul. He made mistakes. But only those who do nothing can never make any mistakes.’36 The népi camp was not devoid of Jewish friendships: when Németh came under the fire of The Progress, survivor Zoltán Zelk (1906–1981), a poet and a communist, broke off with András Mihály Rónay in a violent article published in the socialist daily.37 ‘Is everything for sale?’ asked Béla Zsolt in an editorial commenting on József Erdélyi’s (1896–1978) defence at his trial in 1947 in Budapest. The poet had indeed blamed his anti-Semitic writings in far-right papers, and his commitment to the Arrow Cross Party during the war, on petty money issues.38 This népi poet, who had been awarded several times, was renowned for demanding justice for the Tiszaeszlár case in his poem ‘Eszter Solymosi’s Blood’ published in 1937 in the far-right newspaper Virradat [Dawn].39 As Hungarian historian 35 ‘Az új antiszemitizmus’ [The new anti-Semitism], Képes Figyelő, no. 4 (22 September 1945). 36 After the account of a literary conference held by népi writers in the communist daily: ‘Irók az idők sodrában. Népi írók vitadélutánja’ [Writers in the twist of time: the afternoon debate of the népi writers], Nép Szabad (12 May 1946): 7. 37 Zelk Zoltán, ‘Hozzászólás’ [Comment], Szabadság (29 March 1946): 2. 38 Béla Zsolt, ‘Minden eladó?’ [Is everything for sale?], Haladás (29 May 1947): 1. 39 The Tiszaeszlár case refers to the blood libel which divided Hungarian public opinion after the disappearence of a 15-year-old Christian maid, Eszter Solymosi, in April 1882 even after the 13 Jewish accused were acquitted in August 1883. See Andrew Handler, Blood Libel at Tiszaeszlár (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980); and György Kövér’s more recent social history, A tiszaeszlári dráma [The Tiszaeszlár drama] (Budapest: Osiris, 2011).

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Éva Standeisky has compellingly shown, Erdélyi’s trial was botched40 and The Progress’ contributors were not fooled. In an article titled ‘The Invisible Judgement’, writer Miklós Gyárfás (1915–1992), later to become a prolific author of comedies, described the trial as a ‘literary morning session’ in the course of which both prosecution and defence competed with quotes from the accused’s work: ‘In this academic atmosphere one was gradually led to believe that the hearing had no other goal but to show us who knew best József Erdélyi’s poems.’41 Erdélyi was sentenced to three years in prison and granted presidential pardon as quickly as 1948; and in 1955, he was exculpated. Erdélyi is the emblematic case of post-war literary purge in Hungary. Very few writers were summoned to appear in court. In September 1945, far-right writers Lajos Kádár (1898–1982) and Lajos Nagy Dövényi (1906–1964) were tried. The latter, who had rewritten the Tiszaeszlár myth in his play Ártatlanok [The Innocents] that was performed at the Mádach Theatre in the summer of 1944 (and again after the Arrow Cross putsch in October), was sentenced to death before he was saved by presidential pardon in January 1946. Ferenc Kiss, the stage director of the play, was also condemned on 27 November 1945 to eight years of hard labour for his ‘anti-Semitic and his anti-communist cultural policy’.42 However, with the exception of some of the leaders of the far-right press (e.g. Ferenc Rajniss [1893–1946] who was executed as the Arrow Cross minister of Education and Religious Affairs), in Hungary, there really was nothing like the French case of collaborationist writer Robert Brasillach. A writer like Géza Féja (1900–1978), also a member of the népi group who had published more than one anti-Semitic article during the war, sat in jail for only one day (15 March 1945) but was freed thanks to Péter Veres’ and the NPP’s pleading.43 Censorship did not weigh much on such compromised writers. At the beginning of 1947, László Bóka (1910–1964) criticized what he called a ‘two-tier’ censorship that did not prevent László Németh or poet Lőrinc Szabó (1900–1957) from publishing their literary works in the népi press.44 ‘Let’s not haste with re40 In Gúzsba kötve. A kulturális elit és a hatalom [Hands and feets tied: cultural elite and the power] (Budapest: 1956-os Intézet, Állambiztosági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára, 2005), 335– 50. 41 Miklós Gyárfás, ‘A láthatatlan ítélet’ [The invisible sentencing], Haladás, no. 21 (22 May 1947): 3 (Gyárfás’s emphasis). 42 See the articles devoted to his trial by the communist daily The Free People: ‘Kiss Ferenc a bíróság előtt’ [Ferenc Kiss in court], Szabad Nép (27 November 1945): 2, and Dezső Vozári’s article on the next day. 43 See ‘Féja Géza mentes az igazolás alól!’ [Géza Féja exempt from verification!], Haladás, no. 22 (13 June 1946): 7. 44 László Bóka, ‘Kétféle cenzura’ [Two-faced censorship], Haladás, (2 January 1947): 3.

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habilitation!’, he had already requested a year before.45 At the end of 1947, Bóka, Zsolt and writer Aurél Kárpáti (1884–1963) resigned from the Society of Writers to protest against Szabó’s admission. According to Bóka in his public letter, Szabó had ‘not only betrayed progressive thought and writer’s ethics, but has not even made a gesture or a step toward democracy since the liberation.’46 As Éva Standeisky puts it, Szabó, who was indifferent to politics, ‘never identified himself to Fascist Germany where he had taken part in official cultural events, but the part he played in Germany could justifiably look like a demonstration of sympathy to the persecuted and the outcast.’47 The Progress was one of the few newspapers that rejected the malfunctions of the post-war judicial system. The hearings behind the closed doors of the people’s courts, which were created by decree on 22 January 1945 to deal with war crimes, seemed to young journalist Zsuzsa Szegő (circa 1926–1963, married György Faludy in 1953) a hurdle to Hungarian collective awareness of its responsibility.48 Justice was overlooking ordinary people only to focus on famous criminals who became the scapegoats of the time.49 The system of people’s courts was heavily criticized at the time of the trials that took place in the wake of the 1946 Kunmadaras and Miskolc pogroms. After what Zsolt called 30 years of a counter-revolutionary regime, what was needed was not mob justice but the re-education of Hungarian society. The court members, who were headed by a professional judge and were comprised of representatives from each government party, were more concerned with their own political agendas than they were with the moral elevation of the people.50 The Progress published regular reports on the war criminals’ trials which took place at the Music Academy on Liszt Square in Budapest. Many contributors expressed their dismay and disappointment as they failed to bring any collective catharsis.51 Executions eventu45 Bóka László, ‘Lassabban a rehabilitációval!’ [Slow down with rehabilitation!], Haladás (11 July 1946): 3. 46 In Haladás, no. 52 (25 December 1947): 10. 47 Éva Standeisky, ‘Erkölcsök 1945-ben’ [Morals in 1945], Mozgó Világ, no. 2 (2006): 15–31. 48 On the functionning and malfunctionning of the people’s courts, see: Ildikó Barna and Andrea Pető, A politikai igazságszolgáltatás a II. világháború utáni Budapesten [Political justice in Budapest after the Second World War ] (Budapest: Gondolat, 2012). 49 Zsuzsanna Szegő, ‘Zárt tárgyalás’ [Closed trial], Haladás, no. 7 (10 November 1945): 3. 50 Béla Zsolt, ‘Kunmadaras’, Haladás, no. 20 (30 May 1946): 1–2, and ‘Miskolc, vagy a vesztett illúziók’ [Miskolc, or the lost illusions], Haladás, no. 30 (8 September 1946): 1–2. These critics were addressed by the communist daily: Gyula Kállay, ‘Antiszemitizmus, vérvád, népmozgalom’ [Anti-Semitism, blood libel, popular movement], Szabad Nép, (9 June 1946): 3. 51 See survivor István Bródy’s article, ‘Naplóm arról a napról, amelyiken Bárdossyt kivégezték’ [An entry from my diary about the day Bárdossy was executed], Haladás, no. 2 (12 January 1946): 3. As he attended Bárdossy’s execution, he was struck by the lack of redemption he felt

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ally did fit into the routine of Budapest between inflation and the peace negotiations that were led in Paris – that is, if they were not objected to, as was the case with László Bárdossy whose death sentence caused a great stir among the public.52 Aware of post-war anti-Semitism and faced with a biased justice system that spared writers who had betrayed the democratic ideal, the intellectuals of The Progress turned their paper in a symbolical court of justice, into their own ‘J’Accuse!’.53 Indeed, these writers did not conceal their approval of the French literary purges.54 For instance, Zsolt believed that the death penalty was the only way to restrain anti-democratic behaviours.55 Attacks against other writers came along with ‘evidence’, interviews akin to interrogations, and a strong judicial eloquence. When she heard that Géza Féja was considering heading a peasant college in Békéscsaba, writer Ágnes Fedor (1909–1990), whose publicist career had been broken by the anti-Jewish laws and who survived the war with forged documents (as narrated in her 1947 novel, A Peculiar Carnival), paid a visit to the népi writer. In the article, she wrote about their encounter and she recreated their dialogue; that is, her accusations and his poor defence: ‘did he really believe he was in the best position to teach the new peasant generations in a democratic Hungary?’ And further: was he aware that military inspectors toured the cafés on the Danube strand to find new Jewish recruits for the musz [labour service] in the summer of 1942 after he asked for Jews to be banished from the Danube corsos in an article titled, ‘Negresco’, ‘because he, Géza Féja, had not found a free table there’?56 and by the ‘part’ the condemned kept on playing for the public until the end. See also the disappointed ‘Szálasiék az akasztófán’ [Szálasi and his people on the scaffold], Haladás, no. 9 (14 March 1946): 1. 52 Béla Zsolt, ‘Bárdossy halálára’ [To Bárdossy’s death], Haladás, no. 2 (12 January 1946): 1–2. 53 The French model was very present in Haladás. On this, see my ‘Justice et vengeance? Un appel à la responsabilité intellectuelle des écrivains survivants du Progrès (1945–1947)’, Revue d’Histoire de la Shoah 1, no. 204 (2016): 359 –81. 54 See Béla Zsolt, ‘Levél Macartney professzorhoz, aki Hóman szabadonbocsátását kérte’ [Letter to Professor Macartney, who asked for the release of Hóman], Haladás (21 February 1946): 1, in which Zsolt uses the execution of Brasillach as a case in point; Sándor Szombati, ‘Nyugaton legnagyobb bűn az intellektuális árulás’ [In the West, the greatest sin is the treason of the intellectuals], no. 19 (8 May 1947): 1; Marianne Gách, ‘Hölgyfutár’ [Female courier], Haladás, no. 33 (14 August 1947): 11 (on Céline). Compare with ‘Halállal vagy börtönnel lakolnak a hazaáruló francia írók, akik barátkoztak a hitlerizmussal’ [Deaths or imprisonment of the treacherous French writers who have been friending Hitlerism], Szabad Nép, no. 209 (06 December 1945): 3. 55 Zsolt, ‘Bárdossy halálára’, 2. 56 Ágnes Fedor, ‘A bosszúalló Haladás: Újabb népi írót ítél két hasáb betűre’ [The Vengeful Progress sentences another népi writer to two columns], Haladás, no. 12 (3 April 1946): 3.

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Fedor’s article was published in a new column titled, ‘The Vengeful Progress’ [A bosszúálló ‘Haladás’] that disappeared after the first occurrence. Such a withdrawal is meaningful: Hungarian survivors were fully aware that ‘Jewish revenge’ [zsidó bosszú] had a certain tradition in pre-war anti-Semitic discourse. László Németh, who in 1934 had broached the so-called ‘Jewish sensitivity’ of some writers who he believed ‘gritted their teeth’ as they thought about the times when they ruled Hungarian literature (one wonders when that time might have been), had made a speech in 1943 in Szárszó at a népi gathering (prior to the deportations) to express his fear that the anti-Jewish laws would be used by Jews ‘hungry for revenge’ and devoid of any self-criticism, all at the expense of ‘men of modest manners’.57 It is nevertheless obvious that personal enmity between the writers of The Progress and the népi writers was an incentive in their post-war conflict. ‘A brilliant polemicist’, Ferenc Fejtő would say of his late friend Zsolt in 2004, ‘but he knew no limits, and saw racists everywhere … He even attacked Illyés!’58 This mutual dislike was quite well known in the post-war literary milieu. Even before the polemic started, Márton Horváth (1906–1987), who was to become the intellectual figurehead of the MKP, brought up the topic in the communist daily. He mentioned how a year and a half before, he had witnessed Zsolt’s personal hatred for some népi writers (whose names Márton did not reveal) when they were both held in the prison of Margit Boulevard.59 But such hostility cannot be understood without the feeling of betrayal that inhabited most of these surviving writers, or without the trauma that haunted them.60 Focussing on Zsolt’s case (his editorials and his testimony in Nine Suitcases with its throbbing flashbacks) gives us a hint at the depths of the writer’s wreckage after the deportation of his 72-year-old mother – his experiences in the Oradea [Nagyvárad] ghetto, his ambivalent feelings toward his wife as her health may have threatened 57 Németh’s Szarszó speech has lately been on its way to rehabilitation. See: Imre Monostori, ‘Szárszóról – hatvan év után. Egy fejezet a Németh László “problémák” történetéből: a szárszói beszéd’ [About the Szárszó meeting—sixty years later. A chapter on the history of László Németh’s ‘problems’: the Szárszó speech], Kortárs, no. 12 (2002): 1–17, in which the author finds only ‘natural’ that Németh should state such a ‘hunger for revenge’. See also how Németh can even be turned into a persecuted martyr: Péter László, ‘Hajsza Németh László ellen’ [The manhunt against László Németh], Kortárs, no. 2 (2003): 102–3. 58 Clara Royer, ‘Beszélgetések Fejtő Ferenccel’ [Conversations with Ferenc Fejtő], Múlt és Jövő, no. 2/3 (2008): 162. 59 Horváth Márton, ‘Irodalmi vita’ [Literary debate], Szabad Nép, no. 217 (16 December 1945): 2. 60 See for instance, in Hungarian, Márton Liska, ‘A holokauszt mint társadalmi traumatizácio, Túlélők, elkövetők és leszármazottaik’ [The Holocaust as a social trauma: survivors, perpetrators and descendants], Múltunk 51, no. 3 (2006): 163–82.

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their chance at survival – his recollection is constantly interrupted by hallucinated visions of the forced labour in the Ukraine. Nine Suitcases is the confession of an exhausted intellectual who has been forced to realize that his survival instinct is more powerful than the moral values he spent a lifetime defending.61 After the war, his health was very poor62 and so was his literary inspiration: his last, unfinished novel, Death in Budapest, published in instalments in 1948, which dwells on the writer’s pre-war obsessions and family-related psychological drama, is quite appalling from a literary standpoint.63 This is no place to recount the traumas that burdened the writers who published in Haladás, but they should nevertheless be taken into account if one is to understand the world view of these writers after the Holocaust. Still, the actual trigger of these new polemics was these writers’ concern for the future of Hungary. If they did mention the past actions of the népi writers, it was out of fear that Hungarian society would not redeem itself; a society that had been plagued with an undemocratic culture for about 30 years. It is not by chance that the polemic was launched right after the decision to expell the Schwabs from Hungary by the decree of 22 December 1945. If the Social Democratic Party had expressed some doubts regarding the justice of such a measure, the National Peasant Party asked for radical measures through the voice of two népi writers: Imre Kovács, and the sociologist Ferenc Erdei (1910–1971) who was then the Minister of Domestic Affairs until the November elections.64 The application of this decision taken at the Potsdam conference in Hungary was also linked to Moscow’s demands, as passed on by the Allied Control Commission headed by the Soviet military under Marshal Vorochilov.65 As the voice of the radicals, Zsolt expressed his worry in several articles: he disapproved of the scapegoating of a whole population, which he feared with reason, would allow 61 See: Nine Suitcases, English trans. Ladislas Löb (London: Jonathan Cape, 2004). On his mother, see: ‘Az anyám keze’ [My mother’s hand], Képes Figyelő, no. 5 (29 September 1945). 62 Zsolt, weakened by the typhus fever he contracted in Ukraine, spent most of 1947 in a sanatorium in Budapest before going to one in Davos, Switzerland in 1948. See the letter he received from Mihály Károlyi on 21 January 1948, who kindly advised him to smoke less (Zsolt was a chain-smoker): Károlyi Mihály levelezése, 1945–1949 [The correspondence of Mihály Károlyi, 1945–1949], ed. Tibor Hajdu, vol. 5 (Budapest: Napvilág, 2003), 457. 63 Béla Zsolt, Halál Budapesten [Death in Budapest], Haladás, nos. 16–34 (from 15 April to 19 August 1948). 64 On Kovács’s involvement, see: Julianna Horváth, Éva Szabó, László Szűcs and Katalin Zalai, Pártközi értekezletek: Politikai érdekegyeztetés, politikai konfrontáció 1944–1948 [Inter-party conferences: political interest conciliation, political confrontation 1944–1948] (Budapest: Napvilág Kiadó, 2003), 56. 65 See: Jean-Léon Muller, L’Expulsion des Allemands de Hongrie 1944–1948: Politique internationale et destin méconnu d’une minorité (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001), 137–40.

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Hungarian society to be at peace with its own responsibilities.66 Zsolt’s comment was actually astute, for, as Krisztián Ungváry shows, the ‘Jewish question’ and the ‘German problem’ are closely associated.67 Zsolt attacked Péter Veres for the first time in his editorial titled ‘The Schwabs’.68 Veres had been entrusted with the National Council for the Redistribution of Ownership Titles [Országos Földbirtokrendező Tanács], which obviously benefited from the expulsion of the Hungarian Germans, since most of them were small and medium landowners. But Veres, Zsolt reminded his readers, had given conferences to the far-right youth association Turul before the war, and had written for the Arrow Cross paper Egyedül Vagyunk [We Are Alone]. His anti-Semitism, Zsolt contented, still showed in his management of the land reform that kept Jewish small-landowners from getting back the land that had been taken away from them when the anti-Jewish laws and decrees were first enacted. The Progress actually addressed (in vain) the question of collective responsibility to which very few Hungarian intellectuals dared confronting themselves – that is, with the notable exception of István Bibó in 1948 (see below).

The blind left eye Before the 1947 elections, The Progress felt free enough to both support and criticize communist politics, as can be seen in their stance on people’s justice. But regarding anti-Semitism, the journal interpreted it as the sheer consequence of fascism – which is surprising since Zsolt, in his 1926 novel It All Ends In A Wedding, delivers a strikingly insightful analysis on far-left anti-Semitism.69 Yet after 1944, Zsolt’s world view became divided between two poles: fascism and anti-fascism; or more precisely, ‘social behaviour’ and ‘anti-democratic behaviour’.70 He failed to grasp the the ambiguous view that the communist leaders held towards Hungarian Jews, including that of Mátyás Rákosi who feared the 66 Béla Zsolt, ‘Boldogtalan új esztendő’ [Unhappy New Year], Haladás, (29 December 1945): 1– 2. 67 In ‘Antiszemitizmus és németellenesség – A kétfrontos harc’ [Anti-Semitism and anti-German sentiment: a two-front battle], in Küzdelem az igazságért. Tanulmányok Randolph L. Braham 80. születésnapjára [The struggle for justice: studies for the 80th birthday of Randolph L. Braham], eds, László Karsai and Judit Molnár (Budapest: Mazsihisz, 2002), 747–8. 68 Béla Zsolt, ‘A svabok?’ [The Schwabs?], Haladás, no. 1 (5 January 1946): 1–2. 69 Házassággal végződik [It all ends in a wedding], (Budapest: Genius kiadás, no date), 311–2: ‘You see, we from the left-wing we should spread anti-Semitism. The wealthy Jews got immediately in bed with the counter-revolution.’ 70 Béla Zsolt, ‘Rejtély nélkül’ [Without mystery], Haladás, (17 November 1945): 1.

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bad press of ‘judeo-communism’ and whose anti-bourgeois stance, as shown by Éva Standeisky, was actually mingled with anti-Jewish feelings.71 And it may have been just unbearable to act upon the fact that the communist leaders actually promoted the népi writers whose anti-Semitism they were themselves fully aware of; this is made very clear in an article by communist historian József Szigeti which criticizes Veres for giving free rein to his anti-Semitism in the midst of a cultural conference in August 1946.72 But when Zsolt attacked Veres, the Marxist parties came to the latter’s rescue.73 The communist party’s support of the népi writers was in part a question of bettering the party’s popularity. The indignation and claims for justice expressed by the radical writers both embarrassed and benefited the communists who, in 1946, were busy discrediting the Independent Small-Holders and needed the Peasant Party’s alliance. But if the communists defended Veres and the like, they were also keen on showing these writers their mistakes. At the head of this seduction attempt was philosopher György Lukács, who in several conferences in 1946 kept on stressing the need for cultural unity and democratization, and both praised and criticised the népi writers with whom he debated (such as Illyés, Veres or Ferenc Erdei) for their peasant exclusiveness, their lack of literary sensitivity toward the working class, and their dangerous idea of a ‘third way’.74 The aim was clear: convincing the népi writers to give up their ideology by proving them the superiority of Marxism. Such a strategy may have caused some bitterness among survivor writers, who in these post-war years, strove to rehabilitate the urbánus literary figures who had been banished from the literary scene during the war. This was actually the second topic that showed the MRP’s independence: the review kept on defending the cultural legacy of the Jewish-Hungarian Budapest literary tradition while MKP intellectuals dismissed the so-called bourgeois values. In 1947, it was clear that the urbánus cult of a modernist Budapest was not shared by Marxist thinkers—György Lukács’s attack on writer and playwright Ferenc 71 (Last accessed 12 June 2013). 72 See Haladás’s comment (29 August 1946): 6. 73 ‘L.’, Szabad Nép, (23 March 1946): 29; József Révai, ‘Ködösítés’ [Smokescreen], Szabad Nép, (21 March 1946); Gyula Antalffy, ‘Zsidótörvény a demokráciában?’ [Anti-Jewish law in democracy?], Szabadság, (24 March 1946): 1. Also see György Lukács, ‘Régi új legendák ellen’ [Against the old new legends], Fórum (1947): 203–10. 74 See, for instance: ‘Meg kell teremteni a magyar irodalom igazi egységét – mondta Lukács György elvtárs az MKP politikai akadémiáján’ [‘The true unity of Hungarian literature has to be created’ – said Comrade György Lukács at the Political Academy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences], Szabad Nép, no. 54 (6 March 1946): 2; ‘Irók vitája a debreceni kulturhéten’ [Writers’ debate at the Debrecen cultural week], Szabad Nép, (3 July 1946): 4.

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Molnár (1878–1952) was emblematic, and Zsolt saw in it (quite accurately) a ‘moral pogrom’.75 At the time of the polemics against the népi writers, Zsolt and most of his socialist friends teamed up; but this affinity, which was also the consequence of years of friendship, would stumble during the 1947 elections. For, if Zsolt was ‘hypervigilant’ where the right and the népi were concerned, he tended to lose his clear-sightedness in front of the communist agenda. When in March 1946 the three other parties in the government formed the Left Bloc, The Progress supported their fight against the Small-Holders Party which ultimately led to the exclusion of twenty-two Small-Holders’ MPs.76 Then, despite their initial claim of keeping an independent mind, the radicals were fully aware of the potential threat they posed to the Social Democratic Party; and so were the communists. Indeed, in 1945 when Csécsy was still trying to convince Rákosi to legalize the Radical Party, he himself mentioned this potential threat.77 On 5 August 1947, Zsolt and Kende accepted the name of socialist Károly Peyer (1881–1956, who had not been chosen as a candidate by his own party) on the electoral lists of the MRP. As shown in a compelling article by János F. Varga, such a choice helped the Radical Party gain six mandates, but the alliance shattered a few weeks later: Peyer, accusing his former allies of stealing his seats, announced he would seat as an Independent Socialist before leaving the country in November.78 On this matter, one question remains: was Zsolt working according to a communist agenda in order to weaken the Social Democratic Party? Csécsy implied such a claim in his diary; he even believed it possible that the communists imagined such a combination for the radical campaign of which he himself had been excluded.79 For, it is obvious that Zsolt’s decision did not please the Social Democratic Party.80

75 See Lukács’s attack against Molnár: ‘Egy rossz regény margójára’ [A margin note to a bad novel], Fórum (1947): 461–5. See Zsolt’s answer: ‘Molnár Ferenc és akiknek nem kell’ [Ferenc Molnár and those who aren’t needed], Haladás, (26 June 1947): 1–2. 76 See, for instance: Béla Zsolt, ‘Levél dr. Sulyok Dezsőhöz’ [Letter to Dezső Sulyok], Haladás (25 July 1946): 1–2. 77 Varga, ‘A Radikális Párt’. 78 Cf. János F. Varga, ‘A Magyar Radikális Párt és az 1947-es választások’ [The Hungarian Radical Party and the 1947 elections], Történelmi szemle, no. 2 (1981): 227–44. 79 Széchenyi Hungarian national library archives, fonds 163, Csécsy’s diary, cit. in ibid., 233. 80 See, for example, the minister of Justice, István Ries’s vibrant disavowal of Peyer: Magyar Országos Tudósító [Hungarian National Correspondant], (5 August 1947, 9:45 pm, Ries István beszéde egy szocialdemokráta pártnapon [István Ries’s speech on a Social Democratic Party Day]).

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In his memoirs, József Litván would hold Béla Zsolt responsible for gleichschatol-ing their party: according to him, Zsolt was not the same man after the war, and there was only one way he could sustain his way of life and his prolonged stays in the sanatorium—that is, with the help of communist money.81 True, Litván, a close friend of Csécsy, blamed Zsolt and Kende for estranging Csécsy from The Progress. The question of Zsolt’s personal connections with the communist party is left unclear since no hint can be found in the Hungarian National Archives. The communist press certainly did not refrain from deriding Zsolt during the campaign.82 But what may be more relevant is the fact that the MKP didn’t seem to mind the contradictory picture given of its relationship with Zsolt and the MRP. the MKP didn’t seem to mind painting a contradictory picture of their relationship with Zsolt and the MRP? At the time, another interpretation was given by Zsolt’s very own friends – the collaborators of The Progress, most of whom were socialists. Mihály András Rónay, Ferenc Fejtő, László Faragó, György Faludy and Lajos Hatvany broke off with him after his political alliance with Peyer.83 Peyer was isolated in his party – his detention in Mauthausen did not clear his name from the stain of his 1921 ‘pact’ with Prime Minister István Bethlen that had forced the Social Democratic Party to partly support the Horthy regime in exchange for the party’s legalization. Zsolt’s alliance with such an infamous ‘betrayer’, with whom he had barely worked in the past, was a shock to his old friends. According to Rónai, for a few months Zsolt had shown a tendency toward making concessions and also many editorial mistakes. These men judged The Progress to be the best weekly in Hungary – they had been able to write in it without the pressure of censorship; they had been happy to join the fight against ‘clerical reaction’ and ‘post-fascism’, and they respected its appeal to democratic re-education. The year 1948 was the end of the utopia: the Radical Party fell more and more in line with the soon-to-be unique Marxist Party. Indeed, according to The Progress, England was certainly a neo-fascist country and Yougoslavia was the new enemy.84 The only noticeable difference was the interest kept by The Prog81 József Litván, Itélétidő [The Time of judgement] (Budapest: Tekintek könyvek, 1991), 106–7. 82 Béla Zsolt, ‘Tömegeim’ [My crowds], Haladás (31 July 1947), and ‘A Radikális Párt – a demokrácia ellensége?’ [The Radical Party – the enemy of democracy?] (23 August 1947): 1 (an answer to József Révai). 83 See Bucsú a Haladástól [Farewell to The Progress], (26 August 1947). Nevertheless, most of these friends will come back in the course of 1948. See for instance Lajos Hatvany, ‘A magyar Börne (Perem a ‘Haladás’-sal)’ [The Hungarian Börne: my trial with The Progress], Haladás, (28 October 1948): 2. 84 See also Magyar Távirati Iroda – Belpolitikai szolgálat [Hungarian Telegraphic Office – Service of Internal Policies], 5 July 1948, 8 pm.

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ress on what was going on in Palestine. The year 1948 also meant the end of the literary and intellectual quality of the weekly, but it further saw the beginnings of two unfinished reconciliations: with some old friends such as Hatvany and Fejtő; and with the népi group, in the aftermath of István Bibó’s remarkable essay on the ‘Jewish question after 1944 in Hungary’ to which the contributors of The Progress paid tribute – but such reconciliation was quite untimely.85 At the core of these survivors’ liberal utopia were three main hopes: the hope for assimilation after the war and the extermination; the hope for a catharsis by way of getting rid of the népiek; and finally, the hope for a social democracy. The cognitive dissonance showed here pinpoints the dead end of such a stance – and, for a few decades at least, the death of liberal thought among Jews in Hungary. Under the pressure of the communist society and their own self-censorship, Hungarian Jews came to deny their own Jewishness and liberal thought that had been the historical incentive for their assimilation.

85 István Bibó, ‘Zsidókérdés Magyarországon 1944 után’ [The Jewish question in Hungary after 1944], Valász, no. 10/11 (October-November 1948): 778–877; Dezső Kiss, ‘Antiszemitizmus 1948ban’ [Anti-Semitism in 1948], Haladás (9 December 1948): 3.

Ferenc Laczó

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews Early Hungarian Jewish Monographs on the Holocaust The Holocaust in Hungary was the final major chapter of the continent-wide Nazi genocide and arguably also amounted to ‘the peak of its evolution’.1 Between mid-May and early July 1944, its main phase – the deportation of over 437,000 persons, nearly all to Auschwitz-Birkenau where their large majority, approximately 300,000 persons, were immediately murdered – was implemented with the utmost brutality and efficiency. One of the results of this massive campaign was that Jews from Hungary ended up constituting the single largest victim group of this most infamous Nazi camp complex.2 At the same time, Hungary had a substantial number of Holocaust survivors – altogether over two hundred thousand – who, in the early post-war years, were at the forefront of documenting the unparalleled human destruction that had just befallen European Jewry with a clear focus on the ‘fate’ of their own community.3 The major wave of documentation in Hungary right after the war was partly due to the fact that the most intense period of Hungarian Jewish persecution practically coincided with the last year of the Second World War in Europe, thus resulting in a shorter period of persecution for the large majority Hungarian Jewish survivors than for surviving Jews from other countries. On average, Jewish survivors of Nazi camps from Hungary – their extremely poor physical condition and profound traumatization notwithstanding – may thus have been physically and psychologically somewhat better equipped to articulate and record their camp experiences upon their liberation, which they did in

1 Zoltán Vági, László Csősz and Gábor Kádár, The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2013), xxx. 2 It was arguably this campaign that turned this camp complex into the symbol of the extermination of European Jewry. On the reorganization of the Nazi camp system in the very same phase, see: Stefan Hördler, Ordnung und Inferno: Das KZ-System im letzten Kriegsjahr (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2015); on the last year of Nazi Germany, see Ian Kershaw, The End: Hitler’s Germany, 1944–1945 (New York: Penguin, 2012). 3 Hungary thus offers a key example of a much wider trend recently analyzed by Laura Jockusch; however, without reference to the case of Hungary. See: Laura Jockusch, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012).

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impressive numbers. Next to those who were liberated from one of the Nazi camps and those who had survived the death marches, there was also another large group of survivors from Hungary, most of whom were liberated by the advancing Red Army in one of the two Budapest ghettos.4 Members of Budapest Jewry, who prior to the Holocaust constituted the second largest Jewish community on the European continent right after Warsaw, may have suffered terrible losses under the rule of the Arrow Cross, but were often spared the experience of the Nazi camps. Thus, upon the end of the war, Jews from Budapest would still constitute a significant urban community, now the third largest on the continent behind Paris and Bucharest. In the early months of the post-war period, members of the Hungarian Jewish community were not only receiving camp survivors upon their return and providing them with badly needed aid,5 but partly in direct response to encountering such survivors and hearing their exceptional stories, they also started to engage in various projects of Holocaust documentation (avant la lettre). In the years that immediately followed the end of the Second World War, Holocaust documentation in Hungary produced a huge quantity and an impressively broad range of sources, including thousands of interview protocols recording witness accounts of the Nazi camps, dozens of personal recollections, several edited volumes, and the first contemporary historical monographs. The documentation project of the National Committee of Hungarian Jews for Attending Deportees alone recorded interview protocols with over 5,000 camp survivors in Hungary in the years 1945–46, amounting to the largest early collection on survivor experiences worldwide.6 The years immediately after the end of the war saw the publication of numerous volumes of personal recollection by – to employ a key distinction of the period – both the politically and the racially perse4 On the death marches, see: Daniel Blatman, The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010). On the battle for Budapest, see: Krisztián Ungváry, Battle for Budapest: Hundred Days in WWII (London: I.B. Tauris, 2011). 5 On the liberation of the camps, now see: Dan Stone, The Liberation of the Camps: The End of the Holocaust and Its Aftermath (New Haven: Yale UP, 2015). 6 See On the history of DEGOB, see: Rita Horváth, ‘“A Jewish Historical Commission in Budapest”: The Place of the National Relief Committee for Deportees in Hungary [DEGOB] Among the Other Large-Scale Historical-Memorial Projects of She’erit Hapletah After the Holocaust (1945–1948)’ in Holocaust Historiography in Context: Emergence, Challenges, Polemics and Achievements, eds, David Bankier and Dan Michman (London: Berghahn, 2009). On the articulation of the unprecedented features of the Holocaust in this collection, see: Ferenc Laczó, ‘Tanúságtételek a példátlanról. Magyar zsidó szemtanúk beszámolói a holokauszt alapvető jellemzőiről 1945–46-ból’ [Witnessing the unprecedented: Hungarian Jewish eyewitness accounts on the elementary characteristics of the Holocaust from 1945–46] in Századvég, no. 74, (2014): 57–82.

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


cuted.7 These recollections covered a broad range of experiences: from performing so-called labour service in occupied Soviet territory, to being involved in the resistance and living underground in Hungary; from suffering terrible torments in various Nazi camps, to surviving horrendous death marches in the last stages of the war.8 What is more, next to the widely pursued agenda of recording personal accounts, the second half of the 1940s already saw attempts to document the recent catastrophe in a more objective and analytical mode. Some volumes included conversations with key Hungarian perpetrators,9 whereas others informed their readers about central methods of the Nazi genocide.10 Not only had several edited volumes been published on the very recent experiences of 7 Some of the most important volumes – not necessarily written by Jewish survivors – are: Manó Buchinger, Gestapo banditák bűnhalmaza. Tizennégy hónap a hitleri koncentrációs táborban [The Concursus Delictorum of the Gestapo bandits: fourteen months in Hitler’s concentration camp] (Budapest: Szerzői kiadás, 1945); János Fóthy, Horthyliget, a magyar Ördögsziget [Horthyliget, the Hungarian Devil’s Island] (Budapest: Müller Károly, 1945); Teri Gács, A mélységből kiáltunk Hozzád! [From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord] (Budapest: Tábor, 1946); Béla Katona, Várad a viharban [Várad in the storm] (Nagyvárad: Tealah Kórháztámogató Egyesület, 1946); Sándor Millok, A kínok útja. Budapesttől Mauthausenig [The tortured road: from Budapest to Mauthausen] (Budapest: Müller Károly, 1945); László Palásti, A bori halálút regénye [Novel of the death road of Bor] (Budapest: Gábor Áron, 1945); György Parragi, Mauthausen (Budapest: Keresztes, 1945); Károly Rátkai, A két torony. Magyar politikusok Mauthausenben [The two towers: Hungarian politicians in Mauthausen] (Budapest: Génius, 1945); Teréz Rudnóy, Szabaduló asszonyok [Women in the course of liberation] (Budapest: Dante, 1947); József Spronz, Fogoly voltam Auschwitzban. [I have been a captive of Auschwitz] (Budapest: Gergely, 1946). Note that the majority of these works were released as early as 1945 (I am not referring here to any of the volumes on the experiences of labour servicemen, which constitute another vast and largely separate corpus). On Hungarian-language recollections of the experience of persecution from 1945–46, see my: Ferenc Laczó, ‘Alvilági társasutazások keresztúti állomásai. A háborús évekbeli üldöztetettség korai elbeszéléseiről’ [The crossroad stations of all-inclusive travels in the underworld: on the early narratives of wartime persecution] in Betekintő 8, no. 3 (2014): 1–26. 8 On the Hungarian institution of labour service, now see: Robert Rozett, Conscripted Slaves: Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front during World War II (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem Publications, 2014). See also: Randolph L. Braham, The Hungarian Labor Service System, 1939–1945 (Boulder, Col.: East European Monographs, 1977). 9 István Szirmai, Fasiszta lelkek. Pszichoanalitikus beszélgetések a háborús főbűnösökkel a börtönben [Fascist souls: psychoanalytical conversations with major war criminals in prison] (Budapest: Fauszt, 1946); István Kelemen, Interjú a rács mögött. Beszélgetés a háborús főbűnösökkel [Interview behind the prison bar: conversations with major war criminals] (Budapest: Müller Károly, 1946). 10 Vilma Sz. Palkó, A német halálgyárak [The German death factories] (Budapest: Gábor Áron, 1945); Miklós Nyiszli, Dr. Mengele boncolóorvosa voltam az auschwitzi krematóriumban [I was doctor Mengele’s assistant: the memoirs of an Auschwitz physician] (Nagyvárad: Szerzői kia-

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persecution during 1945–48,11 but the earliest Hungarian Jewish monographs on the history of the Holocaust were also already being released during that period. The years 1947–48 may have brought the evermore brutal imposition of Stalinist rule in Hungary, and thereby the large-scale tabooization of the Jewish catastrophe (until after the Revolution of 1956),12 but these years also saw the publication of several seminal – though, since then, largely forgotten – works, namely, Ernő Munkácsi’s, Hogyan történt? Adatok és okmányok a magyar zsidóság tragédiájához [How did it Happen? Data and Documents on the Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry], Jenő Lévai’s Zsidósors Magyarországon [Jewish Fate in Hungary] and Endre Sós’, Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus [European Fascism and Anti-Semitism].13 The aim of this paper is to analyze and compare these three Hungarian Jewish monographs on the origins and implementation of the Holocaust. Beyond providing brief overviews of their main contents, the paper will focus on which stances Ernő Munkácsi, Jenő Lévai and Endre Sós took on key questions such as the origins and character of genocidal anti-Semitism, the responsibility of Hungarian authorities, and the Jewish responses to persecution. A comparison of these three equally significant (though rather diverse) early monographs enadás, 1946); István Somos, Auschwitz! Hazatért deportáltak megrázó elbeszélései [Auschwitz! Shattering stories of the homecoming deported] (Kolozsvár: Szerzői kiadás, 1945). 11 See the following important collections: Sándor Mester, ed., A toll mártírjai [The martyrs of the pen] (Budapest: A Magyar Újságírók emigrált, deportált, internált csoportja kiadó, 1947); Dezső Pór and Oszkár Zsadányi, eds, Te vagy a tanú! Ukrajnától Auschwitzig [You are the witness! From Ukraine to Auschwitz] (Budapest: Kossuth, 1947); Imre Benoschofsky, Maradék zsidóság. A budai aggok és árvák menházegyesületének évkönyve [The surviving remnant: the yearbook of the Association for the Asylum House of the Elderly and Orphans of Buda] (Budapest: Officina, 1946). 12 On the Sovietization of Hungary, see: Peter Kenez, Hungary from the Nazis to the Soviets: The Establishment of the Communist Regime in Hungary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Mária Palasik, Chess Game for Democracy: Hungary Between East and West, 1944–1947 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011); On foreign policy, see: László Borhi, Hungary in the Cold War, 1945–1956: Between the United States and the Soviet Union (Budapest: CEU Press, 2004). For Hungary in a comparative context, now see: Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956 (London: Allen Lane, 2012). 13 Relevant works were released in earlier years as well, such as Lévai’s various publications I shall discuss below. See, above all: Jenő Lévai, Fekete könyv a magyar zsidóság szenvedéseiről [Black book on the suffering of Hungarian Jewry] (Budapest: Officina, 1946). See also the even earlier work of Béla Vihar, Sárga könyv. Adalékok a magyar zsidóság háborús szenvedéseiből [Yellow book: data on the wartime suffering of Hungarian Jewry] (Budapest: Hechaluc, 1945), which is essentially a collection of documents. On the intellectual origins of Nazism by a leading scholar of Judaism from the same years, see: Sámuel Lőwinger, Germánia ‘prófétája.’ A nácizmus száz esztendeje [The ‘prophet’ of Germania: the hundred years of Nazism] (Budapest: Neuwald, 1947).

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bles us to highlight both their individual features and their common elements, and thereby, map the spectrum of early Hungarian Jewish intellectual responses to the unprecedented catastrophe.

The profound ambivalences of a key witness Because the Holocaust in Hungary was implemented at a time when Hitler’s Germany was on the verge of total defeat, the questions of prior awareness and the decisions made in the spring of 1944 by those in power were not only controversial, but also crucial in terms of just how much responsibility they could be assigned. Albeit in markedly different shapes, both the Hungarian political establishment and the Jewish community elites of the war years were extensively scrutinized practically as soon as the war was over. The fatal ‘choiceless choices’ of the Central Jewish Council during the Holocaust particularly fuelled profound bitterness and led to accusations of the failure of leadership.14 Members of the Council were accused of betraying the persecuted masses and, in some cases, of having collaborated with the Nazis. Ernő Munkácsi (1896–1950) was a leading member of the Hungarian Jewish elite during the Horthy era, including the time of the Holocaust and the early post-war community of survivors.15 Along with other leaders of the Jewish community, as chief secretary of the Neolog Congregation of Pest, Munkácsi was forced to join the Central Jewish Council as its secretary: a post he would keep 14 A single day after the German occupation of Hungary on 19 March 1944, Eichmann’s Sondereinsatzkommando ordered the Jews of Hungary to establish a Central Jewish Council. They aimed to create a body to which they could convey their orders and that would be of help to them in their implementation. See Gábor Kádár and Zoltán Vági, ‘Compulsion of Bad Choices – Questions, Dilemmas, Decisions: The Activity of the Hungarian Central Jewish Council in 1944’ in Jewish Studies at the Central European University. Vol. 5, eds, András Kovács and Michael Miller (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2009). 15 Son of the famed linguist and ethnographer Bernát Munkácsi and a lawyer by profession, Ernő Munkácsi served as chief secretary of the Jewish Community of Pest as well as director of the newly established Jewish Museum between 1934 and 1942. In 1943, when the Holocaust was already being implemented just outside the borders of Hungary but the Hungarian Jewish community could still hope for the survival of its large majority, Munkácsi released a collection of his studies and articles, which offers key insights into his stance during the years of persecution. See: Ernő Munkácsi, Küzdelmes évek… Cikkek és tanulmányok a magyar zsidóság elmúlt évtizedéből [The years of struggle… articles and studies from the past decade of Hungarian Jewry] (Budapest: Libanon, 1943). Having survived the last stages of the war just outside Budapest, Munkácsi was subsequently appointed executive director of the National Office of Hungarian Israelites.

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until the Arrow Cross takeover in mid-October 1944. Although Munkácsi was arguably not among the Council’s most important members – the strategy of the Council being shaped, above all, by Chairman Samu Stern and his two deputies, Ernő Pető and Károly Wilhelm – he also had to face the aforementioned heavy charges. In early 1946, Munkácsi decided to publish his own detailed version of the main events of 1944 in the Jewish weekly Új Élet, which he released in book format the following year.16 Hogyan történt? Adatok és okmányok a magyar zsidóság tragédiájához was a seminal, though profoundly ambivalent, contribution to the raging debate by a key witness. Hogyan történt? did not ambition to offer a final assessment, not even a full and systematic history, but was rather intended as an original documentary account of the Holocaust in Hungary (avant la lettre) from the perspective of the persecuted.17 Accordingly, the book was based on documents of Jewish provenance, mostly from the archives of the National Office of Hungarian Israelites, including the Council’s reports.18 Besides drawing on these sources, Munkácsi added insights from his personal experience, though without addressing his own role in an elaborate manner.19 Even so, the book was clearly meant as a rather apologetic depiction of the Hungarian Jewish leadership and as a definite vindication of the author’s stance and behaviour during the war years.20

16 Ernő Munkácsi, Hogyan történt? Adatok és okmányok a magyar zsidóság tragédiájához (Budapest: Renaissance, 1947). As Munkácsi was writing so shortly after the war, the expressions Holocaust or Shoah were not yet available to him. Hogyan történt? used a host of concepts practically interchangeably, such as extermination, destruction, catastrophe, tragedy, but also martyr’s death. 17 The book focuses solely on the events between 19 March and 16 October 1944. Somewhat curiously, Munkácsi thus closes his narrative with the beginning of Arrow Cross rule when ‘the streets of the capital city opened to the pogrom groups’ and ‘the Jewish people of Budapest have never been closer to their death.’ Ibid., 244. 18 Munkácsi clarifies that he could draw neither on the already lost minutes of the Jewish Council meetings, nor on the documents related to their interactions with Hungarian and German authorities. Ibid., 8. 19 It is telling that Munkácsi preferred to write of himself in the third person and only very occasionally switched to the first. The point where he clearly emphasizes his own role was related to the preparation of a pamphlet, which – in his interpretation – if released, would have meant the beginning of the resistance. Ibid., 120. Even though the head of the Jewish Council decided against issuing it and submitted a polite request to Prime Minister Döme Sztójay instead, the call to Hungarian Christian society was nevertheless circulated, with Munkácsi explaining that he was among those who were investigated for this after the fact. Ibid., 124. 20 In fact, Munkácsi explicitly maintains that he foresaw and foretold the events and that they ‘justified’ him.

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


The explicit aim of Hogyan történt? was to document ‘key scenes of the darkest crimes in human history’ ever committed during what Munkácsi labels as the time of ‘the German occupation’ of Hungary.21 The author chooses to begin his narrative by pointing to the internal causes of Hungarian Jewry’s destruction: its nineteenth-century religious schism, the naïve optimism of its elite (preserved even in the early 1940s), its detachment from the masses, and the resulting severe impotence in the face of the genocidal onslaught.22 Besides the cunning methods employed by the Germans in Hungary, Munkácsi thus ascribes the Jewish Council’s fateful choices in 1944 to their ignorance, naivety, and lack of foresight. A key point in the book’s narrative is the reception of the Auschwitz Protocols, which Munkácsi not only extensively quotes, but regarding which, he explicitly asserts that it had brought about decisive change: supposedly, the Protocols belatedly dissolved the ‘sinful optimism’ of ‘the great majority’ of Hungarian Jews.23 Munkácsi thereby suggests to his readers that until its reception – and the deportations from Hungary were already being implemented at the time – even members of the Central Council had been largely unaware of the ongoing genocide.24 In this manner, Hogyan történt? paints a 21 Ibid., 7. In accordance with the focus of the book, Munkácsi states that ‘the true protagonist of the tragedy of 1944’ was the Jewish people. Ibid., 145. Munkácsi makes a number of explicitly Jewish references in his text,, including several historical analogies. Whereas Hungarian perpetrator László Ferenczy is presented as the successor of Khmelnytsky, the story of Kasztner reminds Munkácsi of a Haggadah illustration and his character of David Reubeni, Sabbatai Zevi, and Jacob Frank. Ibid., 56. What is more, to his mind, the Holocaust in Hungary echoed ‘the destruction of Jerusalem’, whereas in Budapest ‘the wonder of Jericho was repeated the other way round’ when ‘all bastions have fallen, but Jews survived behind the walls of the capital city.’ Ibid., 20, 179. 22 Munkácsi depicts Jewish society as unorganized and lacking solidarity, and as a society that includes some notable spoilsmen. In the same self-critical vein, he complains that too few committed themselves to ‘positive Judaism’ in Hungary and that many Jews even converted. Ibid.,136. He also uses the comparison with Polish Jewry or, more precisely, with the Warsaw ghetto uprising, to argue that the Hungarian Jewish people possess ‘less natural life instinct’. Ibid., 119. At the very same time, Munkácsi praises the Zionists for their Realpolitik, emphasizing that they alone made ‘illegal’ rescue attempts. 23 Munkácsi maintains that this document caused deep horror among the Jews and meant a deep shock for Christians too, but claims that the power to act did not materialize on any of the two sides. He nevertheless interprets the Protocol’s reception in Hungary as a decisive change, curiously arguing that ‘it became clear all at once that the fate of Hungarian Jewry, its extermination, is also the tragedy of Hungariandom – since defeat in the war appeared certain to all sober minds.’ Ibid., 111. 24 Munkácsi explicitly claims – ‘no matter how incredible this may sound’ – that the horror of extermination camps and the details of deportations were not known until the second half of May. Ibid., 76. He reminds his readers that not even the name of Auschwitz was known and even states that ‘nobody suspected’ that the ongoing ‘reorganization’ of the countryside would

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highly critical portrait of Hungarian Jewry while aiming to exonerate its 1944 leadership from the heaviest accusations.25 On the pages of his book, Ernő Munkácsi depicts how the Jewish Council aimed to rescue the Jewish people through a defensive strategy mixing compliance and petitioning.26 He interprets the former as a choice in favour of lesser evil and the latter as revealing the fully agreeable attitudes and intentions of the Council.27 More specifically, Munkácsi’s overview from 1947 explains that the Jews of Hungary developed altogether seven policy directions in the face of the Nazi genocidal onslaught. Their mainstream choice may have been to stay in contact with the Germans and aim to decrease ‘friction’ that way,28 but there was also the path of the Zionists who ‘had the most realistic assessment of the situation as well as the best contacts abroad while they also dared to do the most.’29 Further Jewish choices consisted of investing hope in the Christian

lead to ‘the ghettoization, deportation and extermination of Jews.’ Ibid., 62. All of this is strangely akin to a recurrent mode of argumentation pursued by Miklós Horthy’s defenders concerning the Regent’s role in 1944. However, inconsistently and revealingly, Munkácsi adds that in early 1944 Hungarian Jews still believed that ‘all of European Jewry may perish but we shall not be harmed.’ Ibid., 78. 25 Munkácsi is eager to explain that even if the Council had acted differently, the results would not have been better, thereby essentially asserting that the role of the Council was irrelevant and merely illusory. Ibid., 52. On the other hand, Munkácsi maintains that the scarcity of resistance revealed how sick the Hungarian Jewish community had been. The book even closes with the words that a community that does not redistribute wealth and get organized ‘has to fall’. Ibid., 245. 26 In Munkácsi’s own words, they were ‘groping in every direction to save what could be saved.’ Ibid., 53. Interestingly, he also tries to explain that the submissive tone of petitions constituted a conscious – strategic, even if self-denying – attempt to appeal to the taste and sentiments of Christian intellectuals. Ibid, 119. 27 Munkácsi explicitly suggests that the activities of the Council needed to be documented since the masses could not gain proper information about them. Ibid., 117. 28 He asserts that this was the mainstream line. According to his strangely balanced assessment, this choice had both its advantages and disadvantages: it worked against the spread of knowledge and the development of resistance, but it supposedly proved effective in gaining time and thereby rescuing Budapest Jewry. 29 Ibid., 134. In his interpretation, the Holocaust provided justification for Zionism and also made Hungarian Jews receptive to it: ‘The torture of the Gestapo and the gendarmerie, ghettoization, the bitter experiences of deportation made Hungarian Jewry aware of the historical aim of uniting Jews in one country and into one people, where it will neither be humiliated, nor tortured in ghetto prisons. The dialectics of Zionists reached the Marxian turning point of the “Zusammenbruch”.’ Ibid., 182.

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


Churches,30 in the Hungarian Ministry of Defence, and in neutral foreign powers; whereas some controversial Jewish individuals, notably rabbi Béla Berend, lent their support to the policy of ‘Jewish emigration’. However, in Munkácsi’s assessment, the sole means to save Hungarian Jewry would have been to rely on ‘the Hungarians’ and mobilize the leftist forces as well as those he labels ‘the independently thinking members’ of the Christian middle classes.31 Hogyan történt? interprets the development of the Jewish Council’s behaviour in 1944 to have consisted of four main stages. Munkácsi maintains that the first six weeks of the German occupation were characterized by Jewish inactivity, but that the official relationship with Hungarian authorities had already been re-established during the months of May and June.32 This period ended in early July and was followed by a phase which lasted until the Arrow Cross takeover of mid-October 1944. This phase was shaped, above all, by the halting of the deportations before the Jews of Budapest would have fallen victim. It was further shaped by the increased activities of the Christian Churches and some parts of the Christian middle classes.33 In Munkácsi’s interpretation, this third phase brought about the gradual loss of the Jewish Council’s authority, as the Germans no longer ‘trusted’ it.34 He recalls that during these months, a widespread Jewish movement developed, away from the Council’s centre in Síp utca and toward the Embassies of neutral countries and the International Red Cross.35 Ernő Munkácsi’s assessment of the causes and evolution of the Holocaust in Hungary is rather nuanced but also profoundly ambivalent. On the one hand, he states that it had been ‘the last, the fastest, the most general as well as the

30 Christian Churches (keresztény egyházak) refers to the state-supported religious organizations, above all, to the Hungarian Catholic Church, the Reformed Church in Hungary and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary. 31 Ibid., 14, 52. However, at one point in the book, Munkácsi clarifies that the two forces of resistance in Hungary were the Churches and the neutral foreign powers, admitting that ‘unfortunately the results of the deepening relationship with the organizations of resistance, the Hungarian leftist strata, lagged behind.’ Ibid., 59. 32 Tellingly, Munkácsi does not specify that this phase of re-established relations ‘coincided’ with the period of mass deportations. At another point, however, he explicitly states that ‘All the horror of the deportation was connected to the puppet government of Sztójay’ (note the use of the expression puppet government though). Ibid., 224. 33 As mentioned above, Munkácsi refrains from addressing the fourth stage, the months of Arrow Cross rule. 34 Ibid., 189. 35 Ibid., 235. Munkácsi calls the process, the transfer of the Hungarian Jewish ‘centre of government’.

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most brutal’ part of the Europe-wide campaign.36 As its central causes, Munkácsi names the plans of ‘Germanic cultural superiority’, ‘the Hungarian counterrevolution’ and the ambitions of ‘the right-wing Arrow Cross middle class.’37 In fact, Hogyan történt? explicitly argues that ‘the liquidation of Hungarian Jewry’ was the result of an agreement between Eichmann’s Kommando and László Endre,38 and that ‘four key persons’ were chiefly responsible for its implementation: ‘Eichmann, Endre, Baky and Ferenczy, the immediate chief executioner.’39 What is more, Munkácsi directly raises the question whether the Germans could have carried out the deportations without Hungarian help, in response to which he unequivocally states, ‘incontestable facts prove that the deportation of Hungarian Jewry – the way it happened – could only have happened with the fullest cooperation of the Hungarian gendarmerie.’40 However, Hogyan történt? offers a rather different interpretation as well. Munkácsi asserts that, unlike other countries occupied by Germany, the state administration may have theoretically remained an internal matter,41 but the Hungarian government had de facto ‘removed its protection’ of Hungarian Jews and ‘extradited’ them to the Germans.42 However, even in retrospect, Munkácsi looks certain that their notification, according to which the Jews of Hungary had to submit to the Germans, was ‘not the final one, it was not honest, and not the stance of all Hungarian authorities or public figures.’43 The author, thereby, underlines his position (already cited above): ‘those who fought for the rescue 36 Ibid., 162. 37 Ibid., 88. 38 ‘We now know that Eichmann and Endre decided about the deportation of Hungarian Jewry at a meeting of the Ministry of the Interior during the first week of April.’ Ibid., 79. 39 Ibid., 156. Munkácsi claims that Ferenczy provided Eichmann with the armed forces required ‘to round-up, to ghettoize and to deport.’ Ibid., 157. 40 Ibid., 215. Elsewhere, Munkácsi states that, ‘hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews, the very best of them were chased into death trains by Hungarian gendarme.’ Ibid., 236. Hogyan történt? poses the question of continuities in the following terms: ‘Is it imaginable at all that Horthy did not realize … where “the ideas of Szeged” had led after the drunken “Christian and national” slogans, that he did not realize that they had led to the world of the numerus clausus and the Jewish laws that denied divine and human rights?’ Ibid., 236. Munkácsi is also eager to explain that the decision to halt the deportations was taken ‘not in the interest of Jews but to save themselves, their own power positions, and in the interest of the country they led,’ specifying that the decision was triggered by the allied landing in Normandy, the approach of the Russians and the attempted ‘Baky putsch’. Ibid., 111, 175. 41 Ibid., 34. 42 Ibid., 15. 43 Ibid., 71. Tellingly, Munkácsi interprets Miklós Horthy’s decision of 6 July to finally halt the deportations as ‘the reawakening of Hungarian sovereignty’, of which, according to his interpretation, there have been ‘no previous instances’ since 19 March. Ibid., 177.

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of Hungarian Jews’ should have ‘relied on the moderate Hungarian strata whereby the German deportations could have been defied.’44 In other words, Munkácsi clarifies Hungarian responsibility in clear terms but combines such assertions with a strange idealization of the potentiality of Hungarian politics.45 Hogyan történt? may emphasize local responsibility for the Holocaust in Hungary, but its author, in fact, seems to believe in the ‘shared fate’ of Jews and Hungarians.46 What is more, his book depicts 1944 as the downfall and common tragedy of Hungarian Jewry and the country as a whole.47 Giving expression to the Hungarian part of his identity, Munkácsi thought of the events of 1944, among others, as a regrettable loss of reputation for Hungarians, arguing that, if there had been more courageous activity opposing the tragic developments, ‘we [i.e. Hungarians – FL] would not stand alone and without empathy at the court of judgment of peoples today.’48 On the concluding page of Hogyan történt?, however, the Holocaust in Hungary is again placed into a Jewish religious and national frame. Regarding the future of the Jewish remnant in Hungary, Ernő Munkácsi propagates a sincere return to religiosity and peoplehood and ultimately expresses his hope that the community of survivors will be ‘spiritually purer, morally more righteous, and stronger in its convictions and popular sentiments’ than the ‘fallen community’ of recent years.49 At the very same time, Munkácsi quotes Jeremiah’s admonishment of the sins of Jerusalem as well as Theodor Herzl’s prophecy about ‘the blindness’ of Hungarian Jewry and the grave consequences it would, in time, bring. Munkácsi thus not only propagates a religious and ethnic revival of Hungarian Jewry after its severe crisis and immense tragedy, but also interprets the then very recent genocide as proving the rightfulness of the Hungarian-born ‘founding father’ of Zionism.

44 Ibid., 72. Hogyan történt? repeatedly asserts that there was only one way for Hungarian Jews to escape; namely, to ‘awaken’ the Hungarian authorities and resist. Ibid., 215. 45 Munkácsi could assert within one and the same paragraph that the connection to the Hungarian resistance would have been decisive in saving Hungarian Jewry and that the Hungarian gendarme ought to be qualified as key perpetrators. See, especially, the full paragraph on page 112. 46 Ibid., 18. 47 As Munkácsi puts it, ‘The stone started rolling and it swept away Hungarian Jewry but also brought the entire country onto the brink of final destruction.’ Ibid., 53. 48 Ibid., 146. 49 Ibid., 245.

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An integrated history of the Holocaust in Hungary Jenő Lévai (1892–1983) was arguably the crucial pioneer of the field of Holocaust historiography in Hungary. A survivor of the Holocaust, Lévai proved prodigiously productive in the years 1945–48: he released four relatively brief Hungarian-language books before the end of 1945; he continued with the publication of three interlinked book-length studies in 1946 and added two more in 1947; then, he published another two books in 1948, and ultimately saw some of his work translated into both Swedish and English. In 1945, Lévai published a slim volume on László Endre whom he labelled the chief Hungarian war criminal,50 and also told the story of Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, the resistance fighter who quickly became enshrined in the anti-fascist pantheon.51 Right upon the end of the war, his three major themes thus appear to have been fascism, war crimes and resistance. Lévai may have put a strong emphasis on anti-Semitism already in his earliest post-war writings, and he may even have made recurrent remarks on the Jewish catastrophe, but neither had yet emerged as his central preoccupations. However, in 1946, Jenő Lévai continued with the publication of three volumes referred to as the black, the gray, and the white books, each of which were meant to complement one another.52 Whereas the black book provided Lévai’s first narrative overview of the Holocaust in Hungary, the white and gray books were devoted to rescue attempts by Jews and non-Jews, respectively, and intended to offer stories of exceptional humaneness and great heroism. In 1947, Lévai went on to release an overview of the larger, non-international ghetto in Pest, offering a complex treatment of the subject while framing his story as the unique miraculous survival of a Jewish ghetto during the Second World War.53 Moreover, on the request of the Raoul Wallenberg Committee, composed of former colleagues of the world-famous Swedish diplomat as well as individuals

50 Jenő Lévai, Endre László. A háborús bűnösök magyar listavezetője [László Endre: the top Hungarian war criminal] (Budapest: Müller, 1945). 51 Jenő Lévai, A hősök hőse…! Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Endre, a demokrácia vértanúja [The hero of heroes…! Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, the martyr of democracy] (Budapest: Müller, 1945). 52 Jenő Lévai, Fekete könyv a magyar zsidóság szenvedéseiről [Black book on the suffering of Hungarian Jewry] (Budapest: Officina, 1946); Jenő Lévai, Fehér könyv. Külföldi akciók magyar zsidók megmentésére [White book: foreign operations to rescue Hungarian Jews] (Budapest: Officina, 1946); Jenő Lévai, Szürke könyv magyar zsidók megmentéséről [Grey book on the rescue of Hungarian Jews] (Budapest: Officina, 1946). 53 Jenő Lévai, A pesti gettó csodálatos megmenekülésének hiteles története [The authentic story of the miraculous escape of the Pest Ghetto] (Budapest: Officina, 1946).

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


who owed their lives to his rescue mission, Lévai published a book on Wallenberg that shortly thereafter also appeared in Swedish translation.54 If this was not plentiful enough, in 1948, the year when the communist dictatorship was more brutally established in his country, Lévai completed a substantially more elaborate monograph on the Holocaust in Hungary, speaking of Jewish fate (zsidósors) in its title.55 In the same year, Lévai also released a volume under the title Zsidósors Európában [Jewish Fate in Europe] in which he nominally broadened his horizon to the whole continent, though admitted to offering no more than a ‘representative mosaic’ of documents which, in fact, mostly related to the international rescue of Hungarian Jews.56 Last but not least, and aside from the eleven Hungarian-language books he authored between 1945 and 1948, the year 1948 also saw Lévai emerge as an international author with the publication of his English-language Black Book on the Martyrdom of Hungarian Jewry in Zürich, Switzerland.57 54 Jenő Lévai, Raoul Wallenberg regényes élete, hősi kűzdelmei, rejtélyes eltűnésének titka [The secret of the eventful life, heroic struggle and mysterious disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg] (Budapest: Magyar Téka, 1948). In Swedish: Jenő Lévai, Raoul Wallenberg, hjälten i Budapest (Stockholm: Saxon-Lindström, 1948). 55 Jenő Lévai, Zsidósors Magyarországon [Jewish fate in Hungary] (Budapest: Magyar Téka, 1948). 56 Jenő Lévai, Zsidósors Európában [Jewish fate in Europe] (Budapest: Magyar Téka, 1948), Ibid., 5. The explicit focus of this work was Central Europe and, more particularly, the Mantello Rescue Mission El Salvador conducted in Switzerland which was led by a Hungarian Jewish émigré named George Mandel-Mantello. 57 Eugene Lévai, Black Book on the Martyrdom of Hungarian Jewry (Zürich: Central European Times Publishing, 1948). While his most productive years were indubitably those between 1945 and 1948, Lévai made several other important contributions during his lifetime. A student at the Budapest University of Technology and a journalist, Lévai was captured during the First World War and was forced to spend years in Russian captivity. During the 1930s, he published several popular volumes on these experiences. See: Jenő Lévai, Éhség, árulás, Przemyśl [Hunger, treason, Przemyśl] (Budapest: Magyar Hétfő, 1933); Jenő Lévai, Éhség, forradalom, Szibéria [Hunger, revolution, Siberia] (Budapest: Magyar Hétfő, 1934); Jenő Lévai, Éhség, panama, Hinterland [Hunger, Panama, hinterland] (Budapest: Magyar Hétfő, 1935). He managed to establish himself as a leading journalist of his country, working first for Az Újság and later for the Est papers, the most popular dailies of the Horthy era, which stood in opposition to the governments. During the 1930s, Lévai became the owner and chief editor of several papers such as Magyar Hétfő and Kis Újság and also devoted himself to exploring the history of Hungarian journalism. See: Jenő Lévai, Kossuth Lajos néplapjai. A magyar újságírás hőskora 1877–1937 [The popular papers of Lajos Kossuth: the beginnings of Hungarian journalism, 1877–1937] (Budapest: Kis Újság, 1938). As part of his attempt to expose the dealings of the increasingly powerful radical right-wing forces in Hungary, Lévai released a book shortly before the outbreak of the war that aimed to show how intimate their connections to the German Nazis were. See: Jenő Lévai, Gömbös Gyula és a magyar fajvédők a hitlerizmus bölcsőjénél [Gyula Gömbös

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Its broad scope, thematic diversity and rich source base all make Zsidósors Magyarországon into the single most impressive result of Lévai’s three exceptionally prolific years. Ambitioning no less than to ‘contain a summary of the whole question while being objective in tone,’58 Lévai indeed manages to touch on a whole row of themes on the pages of this work that have preoccupied historians since,59 while combining a narrative account with the reproduction of relevant primary sources – without, however, specifying where their originals and Hungarian race protectors at the cradle of Hitlerism] (Budapest: Szerzői Kiadás, 1938). During the early years of the Second World War, Lévai served as editor of the Hungarian Jewish Képes Családi Lap where he devoted significant attention to the mistreatment of labour servicemen. He also edited several volumes in defence of the legally discriminated and socioeconomically excluded Hungarian Jewish community. See: Jenő Lévai, …Védelmünkben! Vezércikkek, tanulmányok, vitacikkek […In our defence! Lead articles, studies, polemics] (Budapest: Képes Családi Lapok, 1942); Jenő Lévai, Írók, írások …: vígasztalás van az irodalomban [Writers, writings…: there is solace in literature] (Budapest: Faragó, 1943); Jenő Lévai, Írók, színészek, énekesek és zenészek regényes életútja a Goldmark-teremig: Az OMIKE színháza és művészei [The life paths of writers, actors, singers and musicians to the Goldmark Hall: the theatre of OMIKE and its artists] (Budapest: Szerzői kiadás, 1943). His impressive early post-war works were then followed by abrupt silence before he would return with several more volumes in the 1960s. These volumes included the documentation released on the occasion of the Eichmann trial: Jenő Lévai, Eichmann in Hungary: Documents (Budapest: Pannonia Press, 1961); a volume on Kurt Becher, Chief of the Economic Department of the SS Command in Hungary, Jenő Lévai, A fekete SS ‘fehér báránya’ [The ‘white sheep’ of the black SS] (Budapest: Kossuth, 1966); and another on the interventions of Pius XII and the Catholic Church during the Holocaust, Jenő Lévai, Hungarian Jewry and the Papacy: Pope Pius XII did not remain silent (London: Sands, 1968). 58 Lévai, Zsidósors Magyarországon, 5. 59 For instance, Lévai devotes some of his attention to the impact that foreign policy considerations had on internal policy, as well as to the connection between Hungarian revisionist successes and anti-Semitic legislation. Ibid., 22, 29. He briefly describes the fraught relations between international Jewish organizations and Hungarian Jewry, the socioeconomic consequences of anti-Jewish laws, the military labour service system, and Jewish cultural life during the war years. Ibid., 51–3, 60. Zsidósors Magyarországon also refers to the infamous Nazi-inspired Hungarian Institute for Research on the Jewish Question, the destruction of Jewish books orchestrated in 1944, and the massive looting of art works. Ibid., 135, 173, 251. Moreover, Lévai mentions several specifics of the Holocaust in Hungary such as the humiliating searches Jews were forced to undergo before being deported, or the creation of the so-called yellow-star houses of Budapest. Ibid., 139, 166. Furthermore, his book recalls famed individual stories, such as the resistance martyr Hannah Szenes, László Ocskay and his thousands of protected workers, and also the German major general Gerhard Schmidthuber who provided assistance to Hungarian Jews struggling to survive in the Budapest ghetto. Ibid., 379, 376, 396. Anticipating further thematic priorities of later decades, Lévai refers to the international press campaign to save the lives of the threatened Jews of Hungary when the war had practically been decided, and poses the question (repeatedly raised since): why have the train tracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau not been bombed, even though this could have been done. Ibid., 357.

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could be located.60 Being a nearly 500-page long synthesis composed of four chronologically arranged parts, the first part of Zsidósors Magyarországon discusses the impact of Nazism on Hungarian Jews in the years 1933 to 1943 when – in the words of Lévai – the German Nazis acted as threatening neighbours. The second part covers the deportation months between 19 March and 10 July 1944 when the German Nazis – according to the author’s seemingly unequivocal title – ‘directly ruled’ over them.61 Lévai devotes a separate part to the months prior to the Szálasi putsch of mid-October 1944 which focuses – potentially with national-apologetic implications – on the Hungarian attempts to liberate the country and its Jewish community from the Nazi German yoke. His last part, in 60 The sources quoted or reproduced also include sources from perpetrators such as a letter Hungarian Ambassador Döme Sztójay sent in 1943 from Berlin recommending the implementation of the Holocaust in Hungary (Ibid., 48–51); the detailed reports of László Ferenczy, ‘the leading expert of the deportations’ (Ibid., 144) from 1944 that evidently belong among the key sources (Ibid., 151–4); the presentation of László Endre on the ‘Jewish Question’ at the governmental meeting of 20 June 1944 (Ibid., 214–8); Endre’s contemporaneous interview in the Berliner Lokalanzeiger (Ibid., 163); and, parts of the post-war account of Edmund Veesenmayer, Reich plenipotentiary in Hungary during the Holocaust (Ibid., 101). Lévai also uses various sources of Jewish provenance such as the diary of Central Jewish Council leader Samu Stern (Ibid., 168); letters sent by the Council to the Minister of the Interior, Andor Jaross (Ibid., 112– 6); telegraph messages of Zionist activists Miklós Krausz and Ottó Komoly that were meant to further their cause of rescue (Ibid., 157–8); and, Jewish leaflets addressing Hungarian Christian society that were distributed without legal permission in 1944 (Ibid., 164–6). In the course of his attempt to reconstruct the ways Jews were being physically attacked, Lévai even employs less conventional historical sources such as ambulance diaries (Ibid., 380). Last but not least, Lévai makes use of the account of the single witness who survived the horrendous Buda hospital massacres committed under Arrow Cross rule (Ibid., 398). Lévai’s work also features some social historical data. See his data on Jewish demography, conversion rates and migration: Ibid., 26–7. The appendixes feature documents from the Jewish Council on the ghettos and concentration camps in the countryside; calculations on the cost of the Nazi occupation; protocols (including Hungarian-related information in Russian protocols) and witness accounts (including DEGOB ones) concerning Auschwitz-Birkenau and various other Nazi camps; documentation of Arrow Cross crimes based on Court proceedings, including female perpetrators, and of the punishments meted out; documents of rescue attempts both by the neutral states with representation in Budapest, the Red Cross and international Jewish organizations; humanitarian help of the latter after the end of the war; statistics on the losses of Hungarian Jewry as well as the legal documents condemning the persecution of Jews from 1946. Lévai names many of his sources in the text and also includes 179 footnotes. However, this proves far from sufficient to identify – let alone to be able to locate – the sources he used. 61 In the course of this, Lévai – somewhat curiously – declares, ‘Unfortunately, due to the limited space available, the authentic story of the concentration and deportation of Hungarian Jewry from the countryside has to be presented relatively briefly.’ Lévai, Zsidósors, 97. At the same time, he assigns genocidal intentions to Hungarian ghettoization, claiming that it already ‘aimed at killing as many people as possible.’ Ibid., 96.

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turn, presents the developments that took place during the last months of the war and the Holocaust, reporting on the life and death of Budapest Jews under Arrow Cross rule, in particular. On its pages, Lévai articulates his stance on a host of contested questions related to the Holocaust in Hungary that as such, enables us to study how he revised some of his previous assessments by 1948.62 A major organizational novelty of Zsidósors Magyarországon is that, whereas in his first overview, Fekete könyv from 1946, Lévai divides the story of the Holocaust into three separate volumes (the black, gray and white books), by 1948, he attempts to integrate all major aspects into one single book. There were also four significant interpretative changes compared to Fekete könyv: in Zsidósors Magyarországon, Lévai takes a much more critical stance toward the Jewish Council; he devotes added attention to the Zionist role in self-rescue operations, including a discussion of Rezső Kasztner’s acts; he covers the rescue missions by the neutral states who still operated their embassies in Budapest in 1944–45; and, last but not least, he offers detailed documentation of, and repeated praise for, the efforts of the Christian Churches. Concerning the Jewish Council and potentially drawing directly on Ernő Munkácsi, Lévai first remarks on the unfathomable ignorance they displayed in 1944 and their apparent inability to interpret even some of the clearest signs. However, Lévai’s assessment is rather different from that of Munkácsi: he argues that the shocking naïveté of the Jewish leadership had resulted in ‘servile behaviour’, ‘exaggerated benevolence aimed at fulfilling all demands and wishes’, even ‘enthusiastic expert cooperation’.63 Zsidósors Magyarországon goes beyond repeating Lévai’s previous conclusion to the extent that it has proven fatal that the Council had not even aimed at organizing Jewish self-defence and resistance,64 and would assign partial responsibility to its members.65 Thus, even 62 Lévai, Zsidósors, 6. Zsidósors Magyarországon substantially draws on Lévai’s previous works, especially his Fekete könyv from 1946, his first attempt at an overview of the Holocaust in Hungary. As Lévai explains in his introduction: ‘My materials continuously grew and they were selected and improved further. It is only natural that my later works are both more accurate and correct than my previous ones.’ Ibid., 6. 63 Ibid., 76. 64 Ibid., 81–2. He writes: ‘Serving the Germans did not bring any advantages for the Jews of the countryside. Having missed out on enlightening them and advising them against self-defence was a terrible mistake.’ Ibid., 87. 65 ‘A part of Hungarian Jewry from outside Budapest would have certainly survived, if it had been warned on time and called on to resist,’ Lévai concludes his discussion of the Hungarian Judenrat here. Ibid., 83. He elaborates that the undemocratic nature of Jewish community organizations had grave consequences when its leaders were suddenly forced to take on the role of political representatives. Ibid., 31–2. Lévai also remarks on the deep divides within Hungar-

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as Lévai still praises the activities of Lajos Stöckler and Miksa Domonkos – both members of the Jewish Council during the rule of the Arrow Cross whom he depicted as heroic leaders in his book on the Pest ghetto released the previous year – he now declares that ‘our fathers’ have proven ‘too weak in the storm’.66 Zsidósors Magyarországon declares the failure of the Jewish endeavour to assimilate in more general terms as well, and further propagates a new form of Jewish unity that would have included close cooperation with the Zionists.67 In accordance with this stance, Lévai intends to help improve the reputation of the Zionists and would now assess their wartime role in markedly positive terms.68 For instance, while briefly noting that ‘no ultimate judgment’ could be passed over Rezső Kasztner yet,69 Lévai argues that his efforts ‘at least’ resulted in the rescue of 1,700 people from the clutches of the Nazis,70 and he therefore deserves recognition for his ‘self-rescue attempts’.71 Zsidósors Magyarországon documents the activities of the Christian Churches on more than 30 pages, which amounts to the longest section of documents in the entire book.72 Lévai concludes these pages with the generous assessment that ‘the vast movement of the Christian Churches doubtlessly impacted members of the government as well as Regent Horthy and made them revise their helpless and indifferent ways.’73 At the same time, Lévai credits the efforts of the embassies of neutral countries in a novel way as well. As opposed ian Jewry and the poverty of the large majority, complaining about the lack of solidarity and contributions from great capitalists. Ibid., 57–8. He does note, however, that there was a new – though still rather modest – level of democratization after 1938 as well as increased cooperation between different Jewish fractions. 66 Ibid., 403. 67 Ibid., 403. Such a statement at the end of the book is all the more intriguing since Lévai opens his narrative with several Hungarian national topoi, see: Ibid., 7. 68 Zsidósors Magyarországon concludes its discussion of Zionist wartime activities with the statement: ‘the work of the Zionists under the label of the Swiss Embassy was the only truly democratic mass movement of self-defence. It merits fair treatment, which it has not yet received.’ Ibid., 337. 69 Ibid., 357. 70 Ibid., 357. 71 Ibid., 160. However, Lévai does critique Kasztner because of his ‘severe and fatal waste of time’ and extensively quotes Miklós Krausz, secretary of the Palestine Office, who accused him of having committed several mistakes and having made many empty promises. Ibid., 163, 275. For his part, Lévai merely explains that Krausz and Kasztner followed different strategies – whereas the former sought ways to strike deals with the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, the latter ‘negotiated with the SS’ – without taking a stance on their relative merits. Ibid., 241. 72 See: Ibid., 145–9, 179–206. 73 Ibid., 206. Earlier, Lévai remarks on how the Christian Church contributed to anti-Semitism and how their leaders supported the anti-Semitic laws of the late 1930s.

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to the almost exclusive praise reserved for the Red Army in Fekete könyv, Lévai now argues that the survival of the remaining Budapest Jews was due to ‘the victory of the Red Army and the persistent efforts of the neutral embassies.’74 Lévai’s discussion of Arrow Cross rule does not significantly change in comparison with his previous works, it is merely that some of his statements were formulated in a more nuanced manner. Zsidósors Magyarországon still depicts Ferenc Szálasi’s reign as a period characterized by brutality, atrocities, theft, and corruption, but also as a time when there was no supreme authority to control violent local struggles.75 Furthermore, Lévai argues that the system of labour service was transformed under Arrow Cross rule when around 60,000 Jews from Budapest were forced on ‘death roads’, and whoever survived until the Western border of the country was handed over to the Nazis to be exterminated.76 In accordance with his ideological preferences, Lévai thus asserts that, along with the more than 6,200 Arrow Cross murders in Budapest that the People’s Tribunals had investigated,77 the deportation of Jews to their certain death was also reinstated after mid-October 1944. In an exaggerated manner, he even claims that Szálasi had re-launched the war against the Jews ‘in a more drastic manner than ever.’78 On the pages of his post-war synthesis, Lévai continues to be preoccupied with the complex and no less controversial question of German-Hungarian relations. He argues that the meeting where the agenda of ‘cleansing’ the whole country of Jews was agreed upon took place at the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior on 4 April 1944 and that it was a joint Hungarian-German agreement.79 He explains that the Gestapo and the Nazi Sonderkommando had arrived in Hungary with the intention of implementing the deportations, but that subsequently, Adolf Eichmann and László Endre decided together ‘how to apply their ideas to the Hungarian circumstances and how to develop a detailed plan of de-

74 Ibid., 400. 75 Ibid., 334. 76 Ibid., 350. The number 60,000 appears on p. 358; 59,000 is found on p. 467. 77 Ibid., 386. 78 Ibid., 319. This is one of the points where more recent scholarship, especially publications by László Karsai, has clearly contradicted Lévai: Szálasi’s rule was characterized by widespread mass murder against Hungarian Jews but – unlike during the premiership of Döme Sztójay – no systematic program of annihilation was being implemented during its months. See László Karsai, ‘The “Jewish Policy” of the Szálasi Regime’ in Yad Vashem Studies 40, no. 1 (2010). 79 Ibid., 97.

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


portations.’80 Lévai also informs his readers of the revealing detail that Endre in fact pleaded for a speedier policy of genocide than the German Nazis: Endre recommended operating six trains per day between Hungary and Auschwitz-Birkenau containing as many Hungarian Jews as possible, whereas the Germans were ‘only’ ready to agree to four.81 In Zsidósors Magyarországon, Lévai thus assigns heavy responsibility to the Hungarian side, arguing that ‘Eichmann and Endre, the German and the Hungarian “dejudaizer”, having the approval of Baky, started to implement their common program. Sztójay and Jaross are chiefly responsible that they could do so: without their approval this could not have happened … it is certain that Regent Horthy was not against the expulsion [kitelepítés in the original – FL] of the Jews either.’82 Such an emphasis on Hungarian responsibility in Zsidósors Magyarországon appears all the more striking since, similar to Lévai’s earlier works, his major synthesis also pursues starkly anti-German discourses and clearly blames the rise of Hungarian anti-Semitism during the 1930s on the influence of Nazi Germany.83 As part of his discussion of shared responsibility, Lévai relates again to the struggle that emerged between Germans and Hungarians concerning who would eventually acquire the wealth of Hungarian Jews.84 Lévai sketches several alternative ways that the pursuit of genocide and the programme of robbery could be connected. Calling the Holocaust ‘the greatest and dirtiest campaign of robbery in history’,85 he argues that Adolf Eichmann prioritized ‘the physical 80 Ibid., 107. At the same time, Lévai repeatedly asserts that the deportations and their consequences could not have remained unknown to the Hungarian government, claiming that they both knew about them and fully approved them. See: Ibid., 140, 161, 172. 81 Ibid., 143. 82 Ibid., 99. At one point, Jenő Lévai’s major synthesis even maintains that documents from the People’s Tribunals have conclusively proven that the deportations had been the exclusive responsibility of Horthy and the Sztójay government. Lévai also explicitly states that the Hungarian gendarmerie and its leaders were responsible for the terribly brutal implementation of the deportation decrees. Ibid., 97. 83 He not only – exaggeratedly – claims that Hungarian anti-Semitism was essentially due to German influence, but also – falsely – maintains that the Nazi leaders heavily pressured Hungarian leaders to adopt anti-Semitic measures from the late 1930s onwards, and viewed their willingness to do so as a decisive criterion of their reliability. He also writes of a ‘German invasion’ of the 1930s through which Hungary became part of the German sphere of influence. Ibid., 22–3. By asserting that the ‘real interests of the masses’ were anti-German, Lévai could maintain that Hungarian anti-Semites essentially constituted a fifth column of Nazi Germany. Ibid., 44, 33. At one point, he even contrasts the betrayal of the Germans of Hungary and the loyalty Jews displayed towards the country. Ibid., 61. 84 Ibid., 169. 85 Ibid., 249.

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annihilation of Jewry even over the military interests’ and also wanted to acquire ‘Jewish wealth’ for himself and his organization.86 He maintains that László Endre and László Baky were fully committed to the programme of genocide too, but that other members of the Döme Sztójay government seemed ‘barely interested in the fate of the Jews but all the more so in their wealth.’87 This distinction is coupled with the assertion that regarding ‘the Jewish question’, all ministers of the Sztójay government, with the sole exception of Defence Minister Lajos Csatay, stood closer to the Germans than to the stance of Regent Horthy.88 It is apparent that in Zsidósors Magyarországon, Jenő Lévai could already draw on years of intense research, enabling him to complete a multifaceted overview of the Holocaust in Hungary as early as 1948. This impressive early synthesis of a major chapter of the Europe-wide genocide not only covers a wider scope of themes and employs a greater number and variety of sources than Lévai’s previous works, but it also reveals how Lévai grew less interested in putting exclusive blame on the Germans. As I aimed to show above, by 1948, his interpretation of Hungarian, and also of Hungarian Jewish, behaviour during the Holocaust in Hungary turned highly critical: the major early historian of the Holocaust in Hungary not only articulated a more accusatory assessment of the activities of the Jewish Council but, much more importantly, assigned a crucial part of the responsibility for the deportations from Hungary to the local authorities.

A communist panorama of the European Jewish catastrophe Endre Sós (1905–1969) is currently remembered, above all, as a politician of the early, most brutal years of the Kádár era who played a highly controversial role as president of Magyar Izraeliták Országos Képviselete [the National Representation of Hungarian Israelites].89 It may be much less known that Sós was also a 86 Ibid., 240. 87 Ibid., 240. 88 Ibid., 266. Horthy may have been presented as some kind of counterpole here, but throughout the book he is depicted rather as a weak and helpless leader who was ultimately responsible for the deportations. 89 On Endre Sós’ assimilationist stance and collaborationist practices as leader of Hungarian Jewry between 1957 and 1965, see: Róbert Győri Szabó, A kommunizmus és a zsidóság az 1945 utáni Magyarországon [Communism and Jewry in post-war Hungary] (Budapest: Gondolat,

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


prolific Hungarian Jewish intellectual who published dozens of books on literary and contemporary historical topics. The release of Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus [European Fascism and Anti-Semitism] in 1948 made him the earliest Hungarian Jewish author, and in fact one of the earliest worldwide, to have drawn a transnational panorama of the Holocaust.90 The author of this ambitious work had not only been a regular contributor to various Hungarian newspapers and journals prior to 1938 but had also published several short books on key developments in international politics.91 During the age of persecution in Hungary, before the mass deportations of 1944, Sós was repeatedly forced to enrol as a so-called labour serviceman; nonetheless, he was still able to participate in Jewish intellectual discussions, making several notable contributions to them.92 Upon his liberation in 1945, he started to work again as a journalist, serving as chief editor of the Jewish periodical Új Élet while also being employed at the mainstream daily Magyar Nemzet until his untimely death in 1969.93 2009); Kata Bohus, Jews, Israelites, Zionists: the Hungarian State’s policies on Jewish Issues in a Comparative Perspective (1956–1968) (Budapest: Central European University, 2014, unpublished dissertation). 90 Endre Sós, Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus [European fascism and anti-Semitism] (Budapest: Magyar Téka, 1948). Accordingly, Sós highlights that there were not only German, Japanese and Spanish but also Italian, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian and Croatian perpetrators (his mention of Spain underlines that his subject was indeed fascism rather than the Second World War). Sós, Európai, 204. However, in line with his ideological agenda, Sós asserts that the people of the Soviet Union did not participate in anti-Jewish actions and that the Yugoslav partisans helped all the Jews they could. Ibid., 204, 207. In other words, here we see the beginnings of an ideologically motivated version of history that has become deeply influential and that Timothy Synder, among others, has done so much to debunk in recent years. See: Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010). 91 Endre Sós wrote for Esti Kurír, Az Újság, Magyar Hírlap, Reggeli Újság and A Toll, among others. His major books on political issues from the 1930s are Endre Sós, Mi lesz Európával? [What will become of Europe?] (Budapest: Magyar Cobden-Szövetség, 1931); Endre Sós, Diktátorok és diktatúrák [Dictators and dictatorships] (Budapest: Magyar Cobden-Szövetség, 1933); Endre Sós, Európa drámája [The drama of Europe] (Budapest: Viktória, 1936). 92 Endre Sós, Becsapott ajtók előtt: a magyar zsidóság sorskérdései [In front of doors slammed shut: the existential questions of Hungarian Jewry] (Budapest: Periszkóp, 1938); Endre Sós, Emberdömping: az eviani konferencia és a zsidó kivándorlók világproblémája [Human dumping: the Evian conference and the world problem of Jewish emigration] (Budapest: Periszkóp, 1939); Endre Sós, Fejek és elvek [Heads and principles] (Budapest: Viktória, 1940); Endre Sós, Zsidók a magyar városokban [Jews in Hungarian cities] (Budapest: Libanon, 1941); Endre Sós, A nagyváradi zsidók útja [The path of Nagyvárad Jews] (Budapest: Libanon, 1943); Endre Sós, A zsidók útja a kálvinista Rómában (Debrecenben) [The path of Jews in Calvinist Rome (Debrecen)] (Budapest: 1943). 93 Endre Sós was killed in a car accident.

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Similar to Lévai, the early post-war years were among Sós’ most prolific and saw him complete a host of further political and contemporary historical works. In 1945, he published works on anti-fascist heroes and human rights.94 In 1947, one year before the release of his major work (to be analyzed below) that inevitably focused much attention on Nazi Germany, he covered the ‘fateful path’ taken by Weimar Germany under the title The Suicide of Democracy.95 In the later years of his life, which partly coincided with his top-level collaboration with the repressive Kádár regime,96 Sós authored several popular biographies and also published autobiographical reflections.97 After 1956, he would occasionally work as a translator too, being responsible for, among other things, the Hungarian edition of Polish diaries related to the Warsaw ghetto and its uprising.98 His Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus from 1948 nonetheless remained his major statement on the Jewish catastrophe in its European dimension – and the major Hungarian-language statement of its kind until the end of the communist regime. Drawing on publications in a great number of languages (German, French, English, Hungarian and Yiddish, above all) and addressing a host of key themes, Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus was, similar to the works discussed above, a remarkable accomplishment a mere three years after liberation. However, contrary to Jenő Lévai or Ernő Munkácsi, Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus offers a broad international coverage, not only of Holocaust-related topics, but also of secondary sources and it does so without a marked emphasis on Hungary. The events in the Soviet Union are covered primarily through German and Yiddish sources. Sources in Slavic languages – and thus 94 Endre Sós, Három mártír [Three martyrs] (Budapest: Officina, 1945); Endre Sós, Az emberi jogok [Human rights] (Budapest: Dante, 1945). 95 Endre Sós, A demokrácia öngyilkossága. A weimari Németország végzetes útja [The suicide of democracy: the fateful path of Weimar Germany] (Budapest: Téka, 1947). 96 Sós also regularly reported to the Hungarian State Security, often denouncing other members of the Jewish community. 97 For the former, see: Endre Sós, Zola (Budapest: Művelt Nép, 1952); Endre Sós, Cervantes (Budapest: Művelt Nép, 1955); Endre Sós and Magda Vámos, Thomas and Heinrich Mann: a két írótestvér szenvedése, küzdelme és nagysága [Thomas and Heinrich Mann: the suffering, struggle and magnitude of the two brothers] (Budapest: Gondolat, 1960); Endre Sós and Magda Vámos, Lincoln (Budapest: Magvető, 1964); Endre Sós and Magda Vámos, Franklin vagyok Philadelphiából: Benjamin Franklin élete [I am Franklin from Philadelphia: the life of Benjamin Franklin] (Budapest: Móra, 1970). For the latter, see: Endre Sós, Tanúvallomás. Cikkek, emlékezések [Witness testimony: articles, reminiscences] (Budapest: Magyar Izraeliták Országos Képviselete, 1962); Endre Sós, Felvillanó arcok. Arcképek, emlékezések [Flashing faces: profiles, reminiscences] (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1965). 98 Dorka Goldkorn, Leon Weiczker and Noemi Szac-Wajnkranc, Fellázad a gettó [The ghetto revolts] (Budapest: Kossuth, 1959). However, Sós translated the work not from the Polish original, but from its German version titled Im Feuer vergangen: Tagebücher aus dem Ghetto.

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also much of Central and Eastern Europe – may be recurrently evoked on the pages of the book, but still remain somewhat underrepresented. Sós’ chapter on anti-Semitism constitutes a partial exemption as it presents strong links between the story of Nazi Germany and Hungary, particularly in relation to antiSemitism, and also devotes significantly more attention to Slovakia, Romania, Croatia and Serbia than many of the other chapters. The chapter begins with a section titled ‘From Szeged to Auschwitz’ which claims that Hungary was the pioneer in developing fascism, even if its variant of fascism did not possess international appeal.99 At the same time, Sós describes the platform of Szeged as ‘the unity of conservative and fascist nationalists’ and asserts that ‘a straight line connected the White Terror to the mass murder on the banks of the Danube under Arrow Cross rule and even to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.’100 What is more, in some respects, Sós may be the most professional of early Hungarian Jewish survivor historians dealing with the origins and implementation of the Holocaust,101 even if he may also be faulted for his occasional, rather uncritical use of sources.102 99 Ibid., 51. (The claim is repeated on page 227.) 100 Ibid., 51. 101 Sós does not use footnotes in Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus but he adds several other scholarly devices such as a bibliography and statistical tables. The statistical tables included in the book run to some 15 pages. A notable feature of them is that they offer three calculations of the number of Jewish victims by country – those prepared by the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, the 1947 Zionist Congress, and The Jewish Chronicle – without ever combining them. (Based on my own calculations, they add up to 5,747,700, 6,065,000 and 5,978,006 Jewish victims, respectively.) The closest example of providing such a number can be found on page 254 where the European Jewish population figures of 1939 and 1947 are both given: they are 9,855,500 and 3,833,000, respectively. The section finishes with detailed statistics on Hungary that put Jewish losses – according to the racial definition of the Nazis – at 496,507 in the wartime territory of Hungary and at 262,771 within the post-war borders. Sós’ bibliography includes a broad variety of crucial authors, from Simon Wiesenthal to Léon Poliakov, from Raphael Lemkin to Vasily Grossman, from Itzhak Katzenelson to Ilya Ehrenburg, or from Emanuel Ringelblum to Karl Jaspers, most of whom are also cited in the main body of the text. Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus is clearly much less engaged with Hungarian discussions: among Hungarian publications other than official statistical releases, Sós seems to have drawn more heavily only on Béla Székely’s history of anti-Semitism from 1936. See: Béla Székely, Az antiszemitizmus és története [Anti-Semitism and its history] (Budapest: Tabor, 1936). Whereas Sós does refer to the other two authors analyzed above, he only cites Munkácsi. See: Sós, Európai, 109, 199. However, Sós provides an assessment of the Central Jewish Council of Hungary that is diametrically opposed to Munkácsi’s: he labels them ‘the enforcement agencies of the Germans’ who ‘undertook the task of filling the collection camps of the German and Hungarian Gestapos.’ Ibid., 200. 102 For instance, Sós could be blamed for his uncritical use of sources related to the Katyn massacre – even though the false interpretation he provided was also in line with his ideolog-

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Released shortly before the establishment of the Stalinist dictatorship in Hungary, the foundation of the state of Israel, and the fallout between communist regimes and the Jewish state, Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus practically used the last available moment to focus on the Jewish catastrophe while – more than a little ironically – articulating a communist interpretation of the recent past.103 In fact, the book provides an intriguing combination of pro-communist and pro-Zionist statements,104 with Sós explicitly arguing that the agenda of socialism and the Jewish ambitions in Palestine are in perfect harmony.105 At the same time, Sós’ conceptual choices in Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus unequivocally oppose the Jewish heroism and martyrdom narrative of the Holocaust. This is clearly indicated, for instance, in his rather elaborate reflections on the most appropriate term to denote what had been done to European Jews, which essentially argue that the term catastrophe is much more appropriical commitments. He even argues that the operation of the crematorium of Majdanek ‘was to some extent necessitated by the Katyn case. The German feared that their crimes would be discovered one day.’ Sós, Európai, 125. A perhaps more obvious case of the uncritical use of sources, which actually consciously aimed to falsify history, is when Sós presents ‘proofs’ of Jewish based on SS reports that were meant to justify the massacres. See Ibid., 179. 103 For instance, Sós maintains that the Communist Party in Hungary pursued a ‘continuous struggle despite being outlawed.’ Ibid., 78. 104 On the one hand, Sós repeatedly links the very recent catastrophe to what he calls ‘the necessity of socialism’. He makes statements such as ‘What happened to the Jews in Europe could happen because the historical destiny of the capitalist social order is finished: it is economically and morally bankrupt! Practical Christianity that aims to legitimate capitalism is bankrupt too!’ Ibid., 29. Referring to ‘the solution of the Jewish question', in the vein of Karl Marx, as inseparable from ‘humanity becoming freed from the shackles of capitalism’, he even asserts, ‘The memory of six million murdered Jews obliges all Jews to become pioneers of the socialist world. There is no other salvation for the Jews of the world than Socialism!’ Ibid., 229, 235. On the other hand, certain parts of his book reveal the marked impact of the emerging Zionist interpretation. For instance, the photos included at the end of the book begin with a portrait of Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (whom Sós denounces as somebody who played ‘a serious role in the establishment of death camps’ and was ‘one of the chief war criminals,’ see Ibid., 44, 47), then include images of Majdanek, Treblinka, Buchenwald and Nordhausen, followed by pictures of resistance – the Warsaw ghetto uprising, above all – with depictions of the Zionist struggle. The visuals of the book thus clearly cohere into a Jewish national narrative. 105 Sós asserts that in ‘the century of the realization of socialism’, Palestine will have to become socialist too. Ibid., 176. He argues that ‘the Jewish spirit’ has ‘profound social content’ and Jews are in fact highly similar to proletarians. Ibid., 231. More generally, he maintains that, ‘as the example of the Soviet Union showed’, socialism ‘does not demand denying one’s religion, nationality or ethnicity from anybody’ and does not raise the question of assimilation. Ibid., 233–4. He presents Ilya Ehrenburg as a role model since he was at once a Soviet citizen, a communist, and a Jew. Ibid., 230.

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


ate than tragedy since Jews were generally ‘misfortunate victims’ who could neither ethically, nor aesthetically be qualified as heroes.106 Such a clear conceptual preference notwithstanding, Sós’ overall evaluation of Jewish behaviour during the Second World War proves rather ambivalent. On the one hand, he claims, ‘From the very beginning of the Second World War, Jews were allies of the nations who fought against fascism and its alliance.’107 In this interpretation, Jews not only made significant military contributions, but were also highly active as leaders and members of resistance groups. Accordingly, the book repeatedly cites examples of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, highlighting the cases of Białystok, Vilna, Lemberg, and at the same time, cites acts of resistance in Nazi annihilation camps such as Sobibór, Treblinka and Auschwitz. Based on David Knout’s La Bataille du ghetto de Varsovie that includes the report of Jürgen Stroop, Sós highlights the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, above all, but also draws attention to Anna Szenes as a ‘shared martyr’ of ‘the Palestinian Jewish antifascist struggle and the Hungarian resistance movement.’108 In spite of offering such an elaborate presentation of praiseworthy acts during the Second World War, Sós ultimately asserts that ‘in their overwhelming majority’, Jewish behaviour was just like the European average.109 As this rather ambivalent assessment of Jewish behaviour indicates, Sós’ monograph offers a rich mosaic of relevant information and several intriguing interpretations rather than a fully coherent conceptualization of the Jewish catastrophe.110 106 Ibid., 219, 223. Sós’ arguments in favour of the term catastrophe contest the use of the label tragedy in particular. He argues that the behaviour of the large majority of Jewish victims was ‘not worthy of tragic heroes’ but was rather conformist, even servile, asserting that their murder was nevertheless shocking; but this was the case, above all, because of the immensely large number of victims. Ibid., 223. Moreover, Sós proposes that the victims ought to be called Jews and not Jewry since ‘economically, socially and politically’ Jews in modern Europe have not formed a unit – in fact, he explicitly maintains that Jews ‘only became’ Jewry at the time of their brutal persecution. Ibid., 219. 107 Ibid., 171. 108 Ibid., 174. See David Knout, La Bataille du ghetto de Varsovie (Paris: Editions du Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine, 1946). 109 Ibid., 223. 110 Sós’ chapter titled ‘From the Timetable of Anti-Semitism’ may illustrate how rich and internationally diverse the coverage of the book was. This chapter discusses the Nazi book burnings of 1933, the Nuremberg laws of 1935, the Novemberpogrome of 1938, the race to acquire Jewish property in the Czech lands in 1938–39, the swiftness of Slovak anti-Semitic action upon the foundation of the Slovak state in 1939, the mass murders in Jassy, Cernauti and Odessa in 1941, the deportations from Hungary orchestrated by the Central Authority to Control Foreigners and the mass murders in the reacquired Southern parts of the country in 1941–42, the German use of gas vans (fojtókamra-gépkocsi) in the early stages of the Holocaust, the participa-

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The book certainly covers a whole palette of themes, beginning with the profiles of chief Nazi perpetrators, their major crimes,111 and the sentences they received at Nuremberg,112 while finishing with a related chapter of reflections on the German situation in the early post-war years titled ‘Crime and Punishment.’113 In between these two closely connected chapters, Európai fasizmus és tion of Ukrainian and French militias, the establishment of Jewish Councils in Poland, Nazi mass murders in Soviet territories, the setting up of Dutch deportation camps as well as the destruction of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Croatia. Moreover, Sós refers to the hunger plan, the public declarations concerning genocide made by Goebbels, the Posen speech of Himmler, he addresses the Polish underground’s reports on the murder of the Jews and remarks on how Hungarians wanted to speed up the deportations in 1944 (it goes without saying that all these developments are mentioned rather than analyzed on the pages of this chapter). 111 It ought to be added that, like numerous contemporaries, Sós believed that propaganda was the ultimate means to influence people and that Goebbels was in complete control of the radio, the press, the film industry, the theatres, literature and the fine arts in Nazi Germany. Ibid., 36–9. However, he also discusses how Himmler ‘acquired greater power during WW2 than any chief of the Nazi party or minister.’ Ibid., 40. Sós also repeatedly addresses the role of Adolf Eichmann (whom he mistakenly calls Karl Eichmann), arguing that he was an ideological fanatic who, once he was appointed the dictator in Jewish matters, proved ‘obsessed with a single idea: the extermination of all European Jews.’ Ibid., 43. On two occasions, the book even labels Eichmann ‘the main manager of the Europe-wide German dejudaizing actions.’ Ibid., 77, 89. 112 The book begins with the words of Robert H. Jackson, the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials on the unprecedented number of victims of the Nazis and how Nazism was an international conspiracy held together by the plan to destroy Jews. Ibid., 9. In other words, Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus, like a very large segment of early post-war works, offers an intentionalist interpretation of the Holocaust (avant la lettre) and propagates the notion of collectively responsible organizations. The chapter also discusses a long list of antiJewish crimes that were categorized as crimes against humanity in Nuremberg and ends with introducing the new concept of genocide to its Hungarian readers. Genocide appears as genocid bűncselekmény in Sós’ translation, though he suggests that it could be translated as népgyilkosság (or peoplemurder, Völkermord) and also uses various other expressions, such as népek tömegirtása and tömeges emberirtás (népirtás was to become the accepted Hungarian translation of the term). Sós describes this new crime as ‘the methodical destruction of groups of people due to racial, national, linguistic, religious or political reasons.’ Ibid., 26. His mention of ‘political reasons’ may be considered somewhat surprising since the Soviet Union – successfully – opposed its inclusion in the official definition. 113 In the course of his assessment of early post-war Germany, Sós argues that Germans have shown no repentance and drawn no lessons. He even poses the question whether such brutalized people might be ‘saved’ at all, but eventually maintains that if they were willing to repent, they would have to be allowed to become part of ‘the cultured peoples of the world’ again. Ibid., 240. He thus agrees with what he calls the Potsdam platform: Nazism and German militarism need to be destroyed, Germans need to be ‘re-educated’, but also given the occasion to rebuild their country and reintegrate into the international system. At the same time, he explains that he is in complete agreement with Josef Gottfarstein that ‘if the Third Reich used

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


antiszemitizmus manages to discuss the following themes (albeit in an admittedly somewhat unusual order): the persecutors; the history of anti-Semitism; the death camps; the education of murderers;114 the chief intellectual source of radical anti-Semitism;115 the military struggle of the democratic countries as well as attempts at resistance and revolt against the Nazis; ‘the helpers’ of the persecuted;116 and – last but not least – the sociological aspects of anti-Semitism which, in fact, purported to offer no less than an explanation of the Nazi genocide. Sós’ explanation touches on some mythical components and the psychological roots of anti-Semitism as well,117 but essentially presents the phenomenon as an expression of economic interests in political garb.118 For instance, he views Hungarian anti-Semitism as carried by a coalition of ‘feudal lords’ and anti-Semitic examples in school textbooks, democratizing Germany would have to use examples from Majdanek, Treblinka, Auschwitz and Birkenau.’ Ibid., 152. See: Josef Gottfarstein, L’école du meurtre (Paris: La Presse française et étrangère, 1946). Sós thus expresses his belief in the power of culture to tame ‘wild’ and ‘blind’ human instincts – but only once ‘monopoly capitalism’ has been abolished. Regarding Hungary, he calls for the repentance of those who were ‘terrified and misled’ but also argues that with those who actively contributed to the deportation of the Jews of Hungary no reconciliation is possible at all – as he put it, ‘we cannot shake hands with the torturers and murderers of our relatives.’ Ibid., 233. 114 This chapter has important lessons concerning the image of the Nazi perpetrator. Sós – largely in accordance with recent research by the likes of Ulrich Herbert or Michael Wildt – argues that the chief executioners were ‘mostly people with university degrees.’ Ibid., 143. See: Ulrich Herbert, Best: Biographische Studien über Radikalismus, Weltanschauung und Vernunft, 1903–1989 (Bonn: Dietz, 1996); Michael Wildt, An Uncompromising Generation: The Nazi Leadership of the Reich Security Main Office (Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010). Moreover, Sós claims that the ‘school of fascism’ may have been focused on racial theory and may have thereby encouraged people to suppress all their human sentiments and become murderers, but that the Nazis also led campaigns against the Bible. In this respect, his argumentation resembles that of Alon Confino in: Alon Confino, A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014). 115 The chapter focuses on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. On its pages, Sós again employs the rhetorical strategy of reversing arguments, stating that ‘the true global conspiracy was that of the elders of Erfurt’ led by Ulrich Fielschhauer. In other words, the global threat was actually the one posed by anti-Semites. Ibid., 164. 116 Concerning helpers (segítők), Sós argues that Jews had been primarily saved ‘due to the selfless actions of nameless proletarians and the incredibly fast advance of the Red Army.’ Ibid., 203. He polemicizes with what he calls the Christian ‘legends’ of rescue in particular, assessing the role of the Church and their faithful in a highly negative way. Sós even maintains that Nazi crimes were not only tolerated but implicitly even appreciated by the Church and many perpetrators were in fact religious. Ibid., 204. 117 Ibid., 224. 118 Ibid., 225. Sós maintains that anti-Semitism may have had primarily economic causes but that it was not ‘an exclusively economic’ phenomenon. Ibid., 229. Whereas Sós speaks of anti-

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‘great capitalists’ who managed to convince ‘the impoverished petty nobility’ and ‘state bureaucrats’ of their cause. At the same time, he admits that these groups of profiteers would have been satisfied with the solution proposed by Prime Minister Béla Imrédy in the late 1930s, and that far from all of them desired the policies of Döme Sztójay or Ferenc Szálasi in 1944–45. In other words, Sós thereby maintains that the legal discrimination, even the persecution of Jews, was widely supported by crucial Hungarian strata; however, this could not be stated regarding the politics of extermination. Yet, he also conceives of the extermination of European Jewry as the ultimate realization of the plan ‘to get rid of Jewish competition and acquire Jewish wealth.’119 Accordingly, in the author’s nuanced interpretation, one may have contributed to the ultimate realization of genocide without directly supporting its implementation. Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus has an extended chapter on violence and the camps that discusses several major Nazi camps such as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Neuengamme at some length and already reflects on the beginnings of their memorialization.120 Endre Sós devotes particular attention to Auschwitz, the name of which, as he claims, is now ‘familiar across the world and will remind people until the end of time of the most terrible mass murder of human history’ and where, among many others, ‘hundreds of thousands’ of Hungarian Jews, ‘the large majority of those deported from Hungary’ were murdered.121 At the same time, the book lists a staggering 388 camps to which at least some Hungarian Jews were deported in 1944–45.122 However, the perspective of Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus is not restricted to the Holocaust in Hungary in this respect either. Sós’ account discusses Majdanek on the basis of Konstantin Simonov’s,123 and Treblinka on the basis of Vasily Grossman’s early work,124 he mentions both Chełmno and Sobibór,125 and at one point, he even refers to ‘Globotschnik’ (Globocnik) as one of the key perpetrators who had ruled over the Lublin district.126 Semitic mobilization and policies as a ‘diversion of attention’ from ‘the real issues’, he also relates how they had temporarily proven rather popular. Ibid., 227. 119 Ibid., 226. 120 The chapter draws on a variety of sources, including trials of key perpetrators, diaries of German soldiers, books by survivors as well as interview-based witness accounts. 121 Ibid., 101. 122 Ibid., 98–100. 123 Ibid., 123. Constantin Simonov, Maïdanek, un camp d’extermination (Paris: Éditions sociales, 1945). 124 Ibid., 138–42. The latter appeared in Hungarian translation as early as 1945, see: Vaszilij Grossman, A treblinkai pokol [The hell of Treblinka] (Budapest: Cserépfalvi, 1945). 125 Ibid., 186, 182. 126 Ibid., 131.

From European Fascism to the Fate of the Jews


Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus clearly distinguishes between different kinds of camps, though Sós uses a host of expressions to refer to the new type of camp the Nazis developed during the war years: death camps, death plants, death factories, death chambers, execution camps, and occasionally he also employs the German term Vernichtungslager. Moreover, the book also introduces the Einsatzgruppen [task forces] to its readers, calling them special execution units [különleges kivégző osztagok in the original] ‘who murdered around one million people’ and whose unit of operation, as the author expresses it, ‘may be viewed as one gigantic death camp.’127 Providing an essentially economic explanation of anti-Semitism in other chapters of his book, in the chapter focused on Nazi violence, Endre Sós highlights its self-reinforcing nature, claiming that ‘in the end, the soldiers and policemen got so used to the massacres that they continuously committed murders.’128 Beyond its pan-European coverage, Sós’ depiction of violence as a kind of epidemic can thus be considered another respect in which his early post-war panorama of the extermination of European Jews resembles some much more recent trends in historiography.

Conclusions Having analyzed the three most significant early Hungarian Jewish monographs on the origins and implementation of the Holocaust (avant la lettre) all of which were published between 1947–48, I wish to conclude by briefly summarizing and comparing the types of intellectual responses they articulated. Ernő Munkácsi’s Hogyan történt? was based, above all, on documents of Jewish provenance and assessed the pre–1945 Hungarian Jewish community to have failed. As a member of the Hungarian Jewish establishment and former secretary of the Central Jewish Council during the mass deportations from Hungary in 1944, Munkácsi appears to have critiqued the community in order to be able to exonerate its leadership and vindicate his own revivalist wartime stance in particular. At the same time, even as Munkácsi clearly expressed just how responsible Hungarians were for the implementation of the Holocaust, he continued to cherish notions of the shared fate of the Jews of Hungary and their country. Hogyan történt? in fact interpreted the events of 1944 as interlinked tragedies of the two, at one point revealingly naming the halting of the deportations as the moment of reasserting Hungarian sovereignty.

127 Ibid., 143. 128 Ibid., 75.

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Jenő Lévai’s Zsidósors Magyarországon from 1948 was the major early overview of the Holocaust in Hungary that, in spite of giving expression to its author’s anti-German sentiments, arrived at a detailed and thorough articulation of Hungarian responsibility. However, Lévai also focused disproportionate attention, potentially with apologetic intentions, on the months following the mass deportations between mid-May and early July 1944. Thus, Ernő Munkácsi, a member of the Jewish community elite who released his version of the events with apologetic intentions, and Jenő Lévai, who argued from a decidedly leftist but rather nuanced position, both articulated the significant share of Hungarian responsibility for the Holocaust in 1944, but combined it with certain Hungarian national arguments: they explicitly discussed and condemned Hungarian deeds while painting a somewhat idealized picture of Hungarian intentions. Last but not least, in Európai fasizmus és antiszemitizmus from 1948, Endre Sós provided an impressive early European panorama of the Holocaust that depicted anti-Semitism as primarily an economically motivated phenomenon which, partly through the self-reinforcing nature of violence, resulted in policies of extermination. Of the three key authors analyzed in this chapter, Sós drew the most directly political conclusions from the Holocaust. According to his interpretation, the unprecedented anti-Semitic crimes necessitated socialist revolution. As a committed communist, Sós articulated a wholesale condemnation of fascism and unconditionally qualified wartime Hungary as a case in point. At the same time, in 1948, Sós could still combine his support for the communist project with an explicit endorsement of a starkly leftist variant of Jewish nationalism. The above analysis of three key Hungarian-language monographs on the origins and implementation of the Holocaust from the early post-war period has revealed just how intricate and diverse early Hungarian Jewish intellectual responses were. By 1947–48, the Holocaust was narrated from the point of view of a key representative of the Hungarian Jewish wartime establishment, and further from of a prolific, critical yet balanced researcher, both of whom were primarily interested in key events in wartime Hungary, while the Judeocide was also already explored from the perspective of an ideologically committed communist who had a broad European horizon. Ultimately, an appropriate – though rather melancholy – way to affirm the intellectual achievements of Hungarian Jewish survivors in the early post-war years would be to remind ourselves that since 1947–48, Hungary has not seen such a plurality of prominent and sophisticated interpretations on the origins and implementation of the Holocaust.

Ilse Josepha Lazaroms

Across the Rupture Jewish Survivor-Writers and the Landscapes of War in Post-war East-Central Europe ‘A man’s biography consists of his thoughts … Thoughts sink into forgetfulness as quickly as rain into the earth.’ Ernő Szép (1945)

Introduction In February 1946, the literary historian Aladár Komlós published an ‘In Memoriam’ for all the Hungarian Jewish writers who had perished in the Holocaust. For Komlós, who had dedicated his life to writing the intellectual history of Hungarian Jewish literature, this was to be his last text on so-called Jewish themes for a long time to come.1 Most of his friends and fellow writers had vanished in the furnaces of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, or in the icy waters of the Danube. While, in terms of lives lost, the heart of Hungarian literature had been torn out, some of the writers of the pre-war generation survived. Béla Zsolt was among them; so was Ernő Szép. Together with other survivor writers and memoirists scattered across the Central European landscape, they rescued their voices from amidst the rubble and sat down to write about what had happened to them. In this essay, I concentrate on a small body of early literary texts about the Holocaust experience. Emphasizing the comparative perspective, it offers insights into the question of what sustained and gave content to the Jewish literary imagination in the wake of destruction by looking closely at two semi-autobiographical texts: one written by a Czech Jew, the other by a Hungarian Jew. It probes the notion as to what extent the past could be salvaged; what frag-

1 I thank Joachim von Puttkamer, Ferenc Laczó and Clara Royer for their insightful comments on this essay. Aladár Komlós, In Memoriam (1947), Múlt és Jövő 5, no. 4 (1994): 18–22. Komlós fled to Switzerland aboard the Kasztner train in 1944. For many decades, he did not return to Hungary or touch the subject of Hungarian Jewish literature. He returned to it in the years prior to his death in Budapest in 1980.

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ments of the pre-war Jewish world still carried meaning when perused from inside a fresh, horrendous landscape of war. Some of these early texts, especially those written in minority languages, have been critically omitted from the international scholarly debate about early Holocaust literature. In a recent anthology of Holocaust literature by David Roskies and Naomi Diamant, for instance, both Ernő Szép and Béla Zsolt are missing. We read that ‘until [Elie] Wiesel, Hungarian Jewry had not yet been heard from,’ referring to the 1956 publication of … And the world was silent, better known as Night.2 Perhaps the eyes of the world were not yet tuned in with the realities of Hungarian survivor writers – due to imaginary, linguistic, or actual borders – yet this does not deny the existence, nor the importance, of a vast body of work on the Hungarian Jewish Holocaust experience. This essay addresses this lacuna.3 The omission of Hungarian authors from the larger study of Holocaust literature, in many ways, mirrors the limited role given to literature as such in the scholarly exploration of Jewish documentation efforts both during and after the catastrophe.4 It is simply not the case that during the first 17 years of the postwar era (that is, until the Eichmann trial in 1962), Jewish writers kept silent about the atrocities that were committed against them; indeed, many literary texts speak otherwise. In this sense, early Holocaust literature as a historical source seems to be lingering on a border that some historians might consider 2 David G. Roskies, ‘Dividing the ruins: Communal memory in Yiddish and Hebrew’, in After the Holocaust: Challenging the Myth of Silence, ed. David Cesarani and Eric J. Sundquist (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), 82–101, 93. This misconception is repeated in Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide, ed. Roskies and Naomi Diamant (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 2013), 107. 3 Other examples of early literary texts chronicling the Holocaust experience in Hungary are Béla Zsolt, Nine Suitcases (1947); Olga Lengyel, Five Chimneys (originally written in Hungarian in 1945, published in French as Souvenirs de l’au-dela (1946–1947); Eugene Weinstock, Beyond the Last Path (1947); Miklós Nyiszli, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account (1946) (Nyiszli also gave a DEGOB testimony, No. 3632); Arthur Koestler, ‘On Disbelieving Atrocities (1944)’, in The Yogi and the Commissar and Other Essays (New York: Macmillan, 1945), 88–92; and Rózsi Stern, From Budapest to Bergen-Belsen: A Notebook from 1944. For the wealth of other early sources documenting the Holocaust experience in Hungary, in particular historical works on the origins and implementation of the Holocaust, see Ferenc Laczó’s contribution to this volume. 4 See, in order of appearance, Hasia Diner, We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945–1962 (New York: New York University Press, 2009); David Cesarani and Eric J. Sundquist, eds, After the Holocaust: Challenging the Myth of Silence (London and New York: Routledge, 2012); and Laura Jockusch, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

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too close to the catastrophe itself to warrant serious discussion – a fate, I would say, that resembles that of survivor testimonies, whose ‘trustworthiness’ as a historical source is still being debated. Yet writing during or in close proximity to catastrophe has a long tradition in Jewish history. Whether in the form of the Jewish calendar (which memorializes catastrophes and persecutions from ancient times until the present), or the countless Yizkor books remembering vanished peoples and communities, or in the form of more scientific reflections about the meaning of the Jewish past, throughout the ages, Jews have turned to question (as well as remember) the hard times they encountered as a means of giving meaning to what had passed. Furthermore, as modern European history has shown, moments of decline and fall – in other words, catastrophe – are often closely tied up with notions of regeneration and rejuvenation. One example which greatly impacted the Jewish historical course is the political upheaval that came in the wake of the fall of the great empires after the First World War, when formerly silent minorities gained a voice, and new claims were made in regards to the legitimacy of the now predominantly national histories. While for some minorities this meant the return to a much desired ethnic national existence, for others – especially the Jews – the newly nationalized map of Europe meant the loss of the relative security they enjoyed during the reign of Austria-Hungary. One of the main sources that allows for an understanding of the ‘world of yesterday’, which was so abruptly destroyed, is literature. Jewish novelists such as Joseph Roth, Franz Werfel, Stefan Zweig and Franz Kafka all documented the catastrophe very soon after it happened; some, like Roth and Zweig, remained preoccupied with the subject of the pre-war world for the rest of their lives.5 Here, I would like to make two observations in regards to the use of early Holocaust literature as a historical source. Even if, due to physical confinement, internment or other limitations to personal freedom, individual narratives often zoom in on the national experience, the very idea of a literary imagination as something that surpasses, and at times transforms historical reality, is inherently transnational. It begs comparisons across languages and borders so as to illuminate the still relatively unexplored territory of early Jewish literary responses to the Holocaust. The second observation, or quandary, one that also occupied survivor-writers and their theoreticians at the time, is the question of how to convey the ‘truth’ about what happened to those (audiences, readers) 5 Ilse Josepha Lazaroms, The Grace of Misery: Joseph Roth and the Politics of Exile, 1919–1939 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013), 45–8. See also Adam Kożuchowski, The Afterlife of AustroHungary: The Image of the Habsburg Monarchy in Interwar Europe (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013).

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who were not there. ‘They will never really know’, says one of Jorge Semprun’s fellow survivors a few days after the liberation of Buchenwald. ‘That leaves books. Novels, preferably. Literary narratives, at least, that will go beyond simple eyewitness accounts, that will let you imagine, even if they can’t let you see…’. The answer for Semprun lies in the art and craft of the imagined realm: ‘How do you tell such an unlikely truth, how do you foster the imagination of the unimaginable, if not by elaborating, by reworking reality, by putting it in perspective? With a bit of artifice, then!’6 For a mind engraved with the Holocaust – that is, a mind committed to remembering at all times, throughout all time, what happened to the Jews of Europe – these early texts are invaluable.7 Since they were written before the ‘Holocaust’ came into being as a theoretical concept, or as a discipline, they allow for the imagination to run across time and breach spatial as well as theoretical boundaries. They offer a combined narrative that concerns itself both with the ‘surviving remnant’ (‫הפליטה שארית‬, or she’erit hapleitah in Hebrew) and with cultural approaches to Jewish history.8

A barred future and a broken past Starting from inside this longer duration perspective on Jewish history, I would like to present a close reading of two early examples of documentary fiction written about the Holocaust experience, namely, Ernő Szép’s The Smell of Humans (Emberszag, 1945) and Jiří Weil’s Life With A Star (Život s hvězdou, 1949).9 These relatively short texts (173 and 208 pages, respectively) were written during the brief window of convoluted freedom between the end of the war in 1945 and the consolidation of communist rule in 1949. In order to place these texts inside the biographical and literary itineraries of their writers, as well as in the larger project of the intellectual restoration of post-war Europe, a short para6 Jorge Semprun, Literature or Life, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), 127, 124. The book was originally published in France under the title L’ecriture ou la vie by Editions Gallimard, 1994. 7 The idea of ‘a mind engraved with the Holocaust’ is from Norma Rosen, as quoted by Cynthia Ozick, in Writing and the Holocaust, ed. Berel Lang (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1988), 281. 8 Guy Miron, ‘Bridging the Divide: Holocaust versus Jewish History Research – Problems and Challenges,’ in Yad Vashem Studies 38, no. 2 (2010): 191. 9 The Smell of Humans: A Memoir of the Holocaust in Hungary, trans., John Bátki, with an introductory essay by Dezső Tandori (Budapest and New York: CEU Press, 1994). For the Hungarian, see Emberszag (Budapest: Osiris Kiadó, 2011). Life With a Star, trans. from the Czech by Rita Klímová with Roslyn Schloss (London: Daunt Books, 2012).

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graph on this historical period is warranted. While some historians consider the period 1945–1949 as the prolonged aftermath of fascism, others regard it as the beginnings of the Cold War. Fascism had been defeated, but it showed some ugly aftershocks in the perpetuation of wartime violence, crime and pogroms. In the eyes of many, the Red Army had liberated the region, but it also brought with it the first stirrings of the terrible bearings of the future regime.10 Yet exactly where in time one dictatorial regime ends and the other begins is difficult to say. Perhaps, instead of trying to locate the passing point between fascism and communism, it is more convincing to argue that this short period in postwar European history had a distinct character of its own.11 There was something inherently unique about these years of transition besides the reality of transition itself. The historian Peter Kenez, for instance, who spent his childhood years in Hungary, emphasized the strange optimism of the post-war years and the prevalent sense that ‘some degree of democracy’ could be saved from the devastation.12 Indeed, in Hungary as elsewhere, survivor intellectuals were concerned with post-war reconstruction, justice, the struggle for democracy, and the future of their countries in Soviet-occupied East-Central Europe. In this context, Béla Zsolt’s notion of a radical liberal utopia, expressed in his journal The Progress (Haladás), may in retrospect have been doomed, but it was not as out of place at the time as it may seem to us now.13 The Jewish experience during these years was fraught with ambiguity in regards to the events they had just lived through. Jews were caught between a highly particular fate, singled out as they had been for destruction, and the vast ruinations of a world war that had affected millions of others, non-Jews, across

10 This is not to say that the presence of the Red Army led in one straight line to the communist dictatorships of 1948. For the influence of other factors, especially the experiences of war, occupation, and liberation, see Bradley F. Abrams, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004), 9– 38. 11 For a brief but excellent overview of the debate on Hungary, see Holly Case, ‘Kenez, Peter: Hungary from the Nazis to the Soviets: The Establishment of the Communist Regime in Hungary, 1944–1948’, in H-Net HABSBURG Discussion Network, 24 October 2007, http://www2.h-net.msu. edu/reviews/showrev.php?id=13689. For Czechoslovakia, see Abrams, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation, 1–8. 12 Peter Kenez, Hungary from the Nazis to the Soviets: The Establishment of the Communist Regime in Hungary, 1944–1948 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 1–2. See also his memoir Varieties of Fear: Growing up Jewish Under Nazism and Communism (Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press, 1995). 13 See Clara Royer’s contribution to this volume.

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Europe and beyond.14 As a people having been thrown into a collective fate by a murderous enemy, European Jews were both at the centre of these great historical currents, and disentangled from them. They were caught, too, between their pre-war loyalties and friendships and the newly emerging communist regimes. Here, it must be remembered that for many Jews, particularly the assimilated intelligentsia, their Jewishness had never been a clear-cut or unproblematic identity. It was from amid these new realities of their survival that the Jewish survivor-writers Ernő Szép and Jiří Weil sat down to write. The Smell of Humans was published in 1945, Life With a Star in 1949. Both men could look back upon a lifetime of writing. They had survived the war in their capital cities—Szép in the international ghetto in the XIIIth district in Budapest with a protective pass issued by the Swedish consulate, Weil in hiding in Prague after faking his own suicide. Soon to be the last of their generation, they quickly fell into disfavour with the communists, and their works were pushed into forgetfulness. After its initial publication in 1945, The Smell of Humans was not reissued in Hungary until 1984; the first English translation appeared in 1994, published by Central European University Press. Szép was looked upon unfavourably by the communists and spent his remaining years in poverty and without an audience; contemporaries considered him a ‘remnant from a bygone world.’15 Life With a Star suffered a similar fate. The book did not meet the approval of the Communist Party, and Weil himself was labelled ‘cowardly,’ ‘defeatist,’ ‘existentialist,’ and not without anti-Semitic undertones, ‘cosmopolitan.’ He was expelled from the Czechoslovak Writers’ Union from 1951 to 1956, and spent the rest of his life as a literary outsider.16 As survivors, they suffered; yet, as writers, poets and critics from the end of the First World War onward, these men had been part of a generation of Jewish intellectuals that sculpted modernity and were involved in the shaping of its upheavals. In this sense, their biographies, as well as the literature in which they gave voice to the Holocaust experience, go ‘across the rup-

14 For the debate between Jewish-centred versus regional approaches to the Holocaust, see the contributions by Dan Michman and Timothy Snyder in Jewish Histories of the Holocaust: New Transnational Approaches, ed. Norman J.W. Goda (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014), 17–51. 15 For a short biographical account, see the entry ‘Szép, Ernő’ by Ivan Sanders in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, online: Szep_Erno. 16 For a short biographical account, see the entry ‘Weil, Jiří’ by Jonathan Bolton in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, online: Weil_Jiri.

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ture’ of war, adding to our understanding of how the Holocaust marked these intellectuals over time. What Szép and Weil have in common, not only with each other, but also with many assimilated Central European Jewish intellectuals who survived the war, is that their post-war fiction is characterized by a decidedly more vocal turn to Jewish themes. During their interwar careers, Jewish themes did not feature prominently in Szép’s poems and plays, nor in Weil’s novels and short stories.17 They had both made deep plunges away from their humble Jewish origins in the provinces into the urban and cosmopolitan milieus of Budapest and Prague. Szép was born in 1884 in Huszt, a small multi-ethnic town in AustriaHungary (now in Ukraine), the son of a schoolteacher and one of nine children. At the time, Huszt was home to a sizeable Orthodox Jewish community. In his plays, which he began staging in the years following the First World War, we mostly meet figures from the lower-middle class with aspirations for social climbing. If Jews appear at all, they come in the guise of folkloric, and thus slightly ‘unrealistic’ representations. As Ivan Sanders observed, the main trace of Jewishness in Szép’s writings and his otherwise deeply Hungarianized language, lies in the added inflections, inversions and accents that betray a Jewish past.18 Weil was born in 1900 in the village of Praskolesy, near Prague, the son of a frame maker of middle-to-upper class Orthodox Jewish heritage. After the war, the family moved to Prague where Weil became interested in Russian literature and the avant-garde, and completed a PhD in Slavic philology. He moved to Moscow in 1933 and worked as a translator of Marxist literature; but two years later, he was expelled from the Communist Party under unclear conditions and sent to Kazakhstan for six months of re-education. Upon his return to Prague, Weil published his first novel, From Moscow to the Border, chronicling his experiences and addressing the Stalinist purges. During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, Weil worked at the Jewish Museum in Prague until he went into hiding in November 1942. It wasn’t until 1949 that he turned his full literary attention to the fate of the Jews. Despite this common turn to Jewish themes, both writers responded to the rupture in very different ways. Szép, who wrote his memoirs 10 months after the events, fell silent when faced with the near impossibility of sustaining his dual Hungarian Jewish identity in the post-war world.19 ‘It was the ninth of No17 An exception is Szép’s autobiography, Lila ákác (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1919, c1976). 18 Sanders, ‘Szép, Ernő’, in The YIVO Encyclopedia. 19 An exception is Szép’s final novel, Natália, which was found in his archives and published only in 2008 (Budapest: Noran, 2008). It tells the story of Szép’s encounter with a Jewish prostitute in Pest. This choice of subject matter was, perhaps, one way to deflect difficult questions

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vember [1944] when we got home,’ he wrote. ‘I will not go on to narrate what happened starting on the tenth. That, I feel, is not to be described, not to be believed.’ So ends Szép’s account of the weeks of forced labour he endured in October and November 1944. He could not narrate further.20 Weil, on the other hand, before writing his fictional memoir of survival in Prague, turned with a deepening interest to the Jewish past, especially to the lifeworlds of Jewish children. He resumed his work at the Jewish Museum where he helped organize an exhibition of drawings made by Jewish children in the Theresienstadt camp. He wrote about the victims of the Holocaust in an effort to remember them; and in 1958, one year before his death, Weil wrote the novel The Harpist, dealing with the lives of Prague Jews in the nineteenth century. The intellectual horizons that these writers explored in The Smell of Humans and Life With A Star are uneven and upset. On the one hand, they documented the atrocities, while on the other, they reflected on the meaning of the destruction. Indeed, this is not much different from the work of wartime diarists whose writings revealed contemporaneous expectations as the events unfolded in real time while they struggled with the fact that their experiences were always already ‘narrated,’ and thus partly fictional. However, as writers of fiction, or documentary fiction, Szép and Weil probably did not feel as conflicted as wartime diarists or historians about the inherently narrativized aspects of their works.21 As such, these texts confess to a literary universe constructed from ruins entirely their own. What, then, did it mean to write from amidst the ruins – the ruins of private biographies, cities and the Jewish lifeworlds of East-Central Europe? What are the horizons against which these writers placed themselves, alive by accident in a time outside of time, yet very much part of this world? Szép chose to speak in his own voice about the experience of forced labour on the outskirts of Budapest – he was 60 years old at the time. Weil created the former bank clerk and anti-hero Josef Roubicek who, for months, was confined to a broken house at the edge of the city, shovelling leaves in the Jewish cemetery. Both accounts unfold in real time; while we, as readers (at least most of us), frame these tales in the absolute horror of what we now know about the Holocaust, the narrators are stuck in the present. Their fate is unspoken and unsure. Their only means of escape lies in the mind, into flights of the imagination. On the imaginative of marginality and exclusion, by projecting them onto a female body. I thank Clara Royer for our discussion about this. 20 The Smell of Humans, 173. 21 For an analysis of wartime diaries as a Jewish-centred source about the Holocaust, see Alexandra Barbarini, ‘Diaries, Testimony, and Jewish Histories of the Holocaust’, in Goda (ed.), Jewish Histories of the Holocaust, 91–104.

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plane, too, both Szép the protagonist and Josef R linger between a barred future and a broken past.22 They struggle with a sense of drastic discontinuity between what was and what is; yet throughout their ordeals, they maintain a fragile hope that some remnants of the past can be saved. In this mental confinement lies the strength of these early works: we are forced to share the ever-narrowing mental and emotional landscapes of these two narrators as they move further and further towards the destruction – and survive.

Confinement as a narrative space Szép’s narrative unfolds in chronological time, starting at the moment when the Arrow Cross knock on his door at the apartment building on Pozsonyi út, a ‘yellow star house’ in the international ghetto along the banks of the Danube in Budapest. At half past five in the morning, Szép is brusquely awoken by Mr. T, the house elder, who tells him that all Jewish men in the building have to report downstairs in the courtyard in 30 minutes, and to pack food for two days. Most of the men are 50 years of age or older. It is 20 October 1944, the sixth day of the Szálasi regime, and the Jews of Budapest have been living in fear since the German invasion of the country on 19 March 1944.23 Szép packs his bags and joins the men in the courtyard. Interspersed with flashbacks about the events leading up to this day, the remainder of the book chronicles Szép’s experiences during forced labour at the brick factory in Csomád, a trial that lasted 19 days. The language is sparse and full of regret, the tone one of melancholy. The narrative is divided into brief fragments each describing a step of the way, leaving Szép, as well as his readers, back on the doorstep of the house on Pozsonyi út on the day of his return. He survived, but barely. In Life With a Star, what jumps from the page is not what is meticulously detailed, but that which is left unnamed. Not once do we encounter words indicating historical reality such as, for instance, German, Nazi, Jew, Prague, Auschwitz or Terezín (Theresienstadt). Instead, Josef R speaks of ‘they,’ ‘the 22 For Peter Kenez, for instance, it was clear that after 17 January 1945 [the liberation of Budapest by the Red Army], there could be no return to life as it had been before the war. It was impossible to continue to believe that what had happened had been an aberration, a momentary extraordinariness. Instead, ‘there could only be a groping through the rubble toward a new and unimagined life.’ Kenez, Varieties of Fear, 38. 23 Ferenc Szálasi was the leader of the Arrow Cross, the fascist party that ruled Hungary during the last months of the war, from 15 October 1944 onward. During Szálasi’s reign of terror, thousands of Jews were murdered, their bodies thrown in the Danube. After the war, Szálasi was tried by the People’s Tribunal in Budapest and executed on 12 March 1946.

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city,’ ‘the East’ and ‘the fortress town.’ At the centre of this unnamed reality sits the uneasy metaphor of the circus: a place where men with shaved heads are forced to perform circus acts under the threat of violence and for the amusement of their superiors.24 The camp vocabulary is entirely absent; all we see is the collapse of the human into the animal, the subjugation of one man to another. This conflation of the camp experience with the grotesque, however, is not that outrageous when we consider that Terezín was created as a ‘model ghetto’ – a ‘Jewish resettlement district’ – with the aim of keeping Allied concerns about the destruction of the Jews at bay. It was in Terezín that people were forced, not unlike the sad and wretched circus props of Weil’s fiction, to partake in the staging of theatrical performances, subsequently caught on propaganda film.25 With all these particulars left unnamed, the novel could easily be read as a universal dystopia, outside of time, even if this is unlikely, and perhaps, justly so. In both texts, history is the catalyst behind the story. In Life With a Star, however, the agency of the past – i.e. as an invisible narrator pushing the plot forward – is imploded so as to emphasize the process of dehumanization on the most abstract level. The role of the author as witness is confined to the thoughts and observations of Josef R, who sees the world through an ever-narrowing prism until he, and it, comes to a standstill. This claustrophobic and increasingly anxious reality makes the decision that comes at the end – whether to report to his call for interment at Theresienstadt, or to go into hiding – all the more charged and, in some sense, cathartic. But it is a decision that, for novelistic purposes, is uncoupled from the explicitly named realities of life under Nazi occupation, thus exploding onto the existential rather than the historical plane. In The Smell of Humans, on the other hand, the author concerns himself with his position vis-à-vis the reality he is describing. But the act of transforming that which he has witnessed into language is fraught with complexities. ‘I can’t recall so well all the things that happened that summer,’ Szép cautions. ‘My mind is still exhausted, and besides, I seem to have a considerable talent for rapidly forgetting historical events.’26 Szép frames his recollections inside the double warning of an exhausted mind and a bad memory.27 Here, we hear the voice of an older man writing self-consciously from amid the devastation. From his private horizon of loss, in which there appears to be little comfort, 24 For images of the circus, see pages 129, 131–3 (‘the devil’s lair’), 137, 144, 146. 25 For an account of Terezín and Weil’s role in collecting the drawings of children imprisoned there, see Derek Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 227–31. 26 The Smell of Humans, 32. 27 Ibid., 130.

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Szép consoles himself with the thought that his book, as a testimony of atrocities, might be of retrospective interest for future readers. He stresses the importance of the double act of witnessing and recording, not only in times of crisis, but also during peacetime, and he pities those who cannot record: ‘… instead of writing poems and novels,’ he writes, ‘they turned to suicide.’28 Besides the potential posthumous value of his narrative, another reason why Szép clings to his craft despite the obvious difficulties is the fact that to him, stories, or invented narratives, are more believable than everything else that surrounds him. ‘The future,’ he writes, ‘speaks through the mouth of the imagination.’29 After the Holocaust, this future was contained in the act of writing – a writing that by its very nature was suffused with images that belied, transformed and mourned reality. As these examples of early Holocaust fiction demonstrate, the figure of the writer/narrator and the witness collide. The problem of their position, vis-à-vis the events described, is not one of authenticity but of proximity.30 Contrary to what one might expect from a direct first-person narrator who shares a name with the author, Szép’s testimonial voice does not underline so much the authenticity of the events, but the fragility of a voice destined for destruction; a Jewish voice, barely able to return to his craft and pick up his pen with the same strength as before the war. Here, the intrinsic connection between history and memory is mediated not through time, but through the difficulty of ‘telling.’31 Thus, because the horizon is one of immediate destruction, it is important to ask which pieces of the vanished Jewish lifeworlds these authors chose to recall in writing. In Life With a Star, discussions of the Jewish past per se are rare, but the story is interspersed with references to the Hebrew Bible. When at one point Josef R compares himself to Samson, ‘bound to a column’ in Gaza, it is not his strength but his weakness that is underlined. The comparison emphasizes his perceived inability to rise up against his confinement and fight. There is the ironic observation that miracles are happening in the present, ‘when biblical

28 Ibid., 168–9. 29 Ibid., 42. 30 For the idea of the writer as eyewitness and the problem of authenticity, see James E. Young, ‘Holocaust Documentary Fiction: The Novelist as Eyewitness,’ in Writing and the Holocaust, 200–15. 31 For a reflection on the difficulty of ‘telling’ the Holocaust and the narrative form this telling should take, see Semprun, Literature or Life, 122–7.

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predators [come] out of hiding and millstones sweat blood.’32 These references add depth and drama to his predicament, taking him out of the present time and into a deeply divided past in which a person’s struggle for life had religious and existential dimensions. Whereas these biblical references carry spiritual meaning for the narrator, his peregrinations into fantasy are of a different kind. Initially Josef R surrounds himself with imaginary conversation partners, such as his former lover, Ruzena, and a stray cat, Tomas. He takes flight into fantasies. In these fantasies, ships feature prominently as a means of escape, taking him to tropical islands together with Ruzena. But as time wears on, these imaginary vehicles of flight betray him; there are holes in the bottom, the ships begin to sink, and corpses float in the dark waters beneath. His fanciful escapes turn into dystopian images of destruction and death. Gradually, Josef R’s immersion into the phantasmagorical world of dreams and ancient religion comes undone. Towards the end of the story, the fantasias have disappeared entirely. This forces Josef R to return to the present and into the reality of his persecuted self. Up until that moment, his life had been a chance survival.33 But deportation awaits, and his name, listed under ‘R’ in the alphabet, will soon be called. He is now faced with two options: he could heed to this call, or hide. In the book’s last pages, Josef R stands, as so many Jews before him, at the crossroads.34 We do not know whether he survives, but we do know that he chooses life. With the last sheets of his writings burning in the stove, he annuls the name ‘Josef Roubicek’ and disappears from our view – not unlike the author, whose fake suicide annulled the name ‘Jiří Weil’ from the lists of the living and signalled the beginnings of his survival.

32 Life With a Star, 112, 95. Other references to the Hebrew Bible include the ancient travelling salesmen (80); the Ten Commandments printed on money issued at Terezín (95); and the burying of old Torah scrolls in the cemetery (96–7). 33 For the concept of ‘chance survival’ in the Hungarian context, see the memoir by Andrew Karpari Kennedy, Chance Survival (London: Old Guard Press, 2012). 34 The idea of Jews standing ‘at the crossroads’ recurs often in modern Jewish history. It indicates, apart from a real and endangered physical reality, a position of deep reflection in times of crisis. In 1921, for instance, in the midst of post-war revolutionary upheaval, Aladár Komlós, writing under the pseudonym Koral Álmos, published his essay Zsidók a válaszúton [Jews at the Crossroads] at the ‘Minerva’ Printing House. The notion also conveys theoretical reflections on the meaning of and approaches to Jewish historical studies. In April 1939, prior to the Second World War but during the rise of Nazism, the periodical Oyfn Shaydveg [At the Crossroads] was published in Paris, calling for a renewed contemplation of the past during the dissolution of the emancipation period. For a discussion of this periodical and its editors, plus a general discussion on the contentious relationship between the Holocaust and its place in Jewish historical studies, see Miron, ‘Bridging the Divide,’ 155–93, 172–6.

Across the Rupture


Contrary to Josef R, who emerges from the depths of biblical history into a state of acute decision-making about his immediate fate, as the weeks go by, Szép, in a desire to understand what happened to him, delves deeper and deeper into reflections about the recent past. His sober thoughts about the meaning of destruction, so soon after the events, focus on the question of his ties to the Hungarian homeland. Memories of the First World War, when he fought in the Serbian campaign, pervade the narrative and serve to anchor him more tightly to the national past. What Szép, in light of his present, nostalgically refers to as the ‘Peacetime War’ almost becomes a source of comfort. On the forced march to the brick factory in Csomád, for instance, he recalls how in 1914 he acquired the ‘art of walking while asleep,’ a skill he now needs again, a man of 60. In these recollections of his call to arms in name of the Hungarian homeland, his military glory is contained to rolling perfectly shaped cigarettes on horseback in the rain. This memory of camaraderie is a fond one.35 These recollections of the Great War, however, do not just function as a retroactive claim to national belonging – they had real echoes in the Jewish world of wartime Hungary of the 1940s. In the international ghetto in Budapest, Szép encountered the writer Ákos Molnár, who was exempt from wearing the yellow star on account of being classified 75 per cent disabled – he lost his right arm from flying shrapnel three decades prior.36 This upsetting historical continuity meant that those who were over 60 per cent crippled as a result of their efforts during the First World War, or those singled out for their ‘counterrevolutionary merit’ afterwards, were exempted, at least initially, from the anti-Jewish laws of 1938–1941.37 In trying to understand the exclusion of Jews from the Hungarian national landscape, Szép begins to question his own role as an urban intellectual in the fate that has befallen him. A doubt falls on his patriotism, which counts as the marker of his assimilation, and he regrets the cosmopolitan mindset that blinded him to the treasures of Hungarian soil and tradition. Had he been a better patriot, would his lot have been different? At times overcome by quiet melancholia, Szép feels he is incapable of staying alive. ‘It would be fit-

35 The Smell of Humans, 33, 85, 14. 36 This exemption did not spare his life, however: 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, an indication of his ‘exhausted mind’ and the horror of these months. 37 These laws, passed under Miklós Horthy between 1938 and 1941, first restricted the participation of Jews in the commercial fields and liberal professions to 20 per cent (May 1938), then defined Jews racially (May 1939), and finally prohibited marriage and sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews (August 1941), rapidly robbing Jews of their income, their dignity and their freedom.

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ting,’ he thinks to himself while bombs fall into the night, ‘to die now and not survive the devastation of my country.’38 Szép survives. So does Weil. In the immediate aftermath of the war, Szép laments the fate of his country: ‘When would we even recover from the damage done to the mind and soul of this nation?’ He is horrified by the fact that a country ‘blessed with such human resources and talent’ could fall prey to anti-Semitism.39 Yet in these ruminations he does not manage to expand any further on this question, and his hopes do not rise up very far above the rubble. In this sense, both writers, as well as their narrators, do not survive in the classical sense – as a heroic tale of survival against all odds – but instead, they live through death and re-emerge from the experience, tattered and broken, into the world of the living.40 In their survival too, these authors shared similar experiences. Both men remained in their home countries, which in Szép’s case was consistent with the trend in Hungary, where about half of the two hundred thousand Jewish survivors chose to remain in Hungary, composing the largest surviving community in the region. This was not so for Weil, where after the war many of his Jewish compatriots left Czechoslovakia for Israel and elsewhere. Due to the decision to remain in their places of survival, however, they both experienced the early years of communism; Szép died in 1953, Weil in 1959. Their early books about the Holocaust experience bracket the short window of time between two dictatorial eras, and as such, they were simultaneously shaped by, and gave shape to, these years of transition and how we think about them in hindsight. While some kind of communal memory is contained in these books – whether through Weil’s ‘un-naming’ of historical particulars, or Szép’s absence of judgment in favour of a deep and general sadness – they each speak of the ‘unique and unrepeatable lives’ that were lost in the catastrophe.41 As such, they are a reminder that the only way we can begin to understand Jewish responses to the Holocaust is by trying to reconstruct, and give meaning to, one life at the time, and one death at the time, as they are the irreplaceable fragments of the worlds that were destroyed. Because ultimately we are dealing with texts about the Holocaust experience, written by people for whom Jewishness was never a given.

38 The Smell of Humans, 142. 39 Ibid., 158. 40 This is a common theme among survivor writers. For instance, Jorge Semprun’s works on the camp experience, including The Long Voyage (1963), are born from this notion of living through death. 41 Life With a Star, 213.

Across the Rupture


Conclusions In their literary responses to the Holocaust, Ernő Szép and Jiří Weil both voiced an intellectual confrontation with the landscapes of war, at the same time as their books formulated and gave shape to these ruined landscapes. In both cases, their understanding of events crossed the rupture of war and even time itself, incorporating past realities in ruminations about an as yet unformulated, and difficult to imagine, future. As such, the catastrophe is expressed inside a longer duration perspective of Jewish life in Europe, whether in reflections about previous attachments to the national homeland (Szép), or the meaning of more distant biblical notions for the endangered present (Weil). Utopia, in these cases if at all, belongs to the past, catastrophe to the present. The future seems to lie beyond what is accessible in writing. In their fragility and courage, these texts belong to the project of post-war reconstruction, and remain linked to the Jewish identities of their authors in tangible, albeit porous ways. It is thus in further comparisons of these early literary texts on the Holocaust experience across the devastated borders of post-war Europe that we can rescue slices of the intellectual lifeworlds that had been destroyed. At the same time, they can tell us something about the traumas, mind-sets and hopes for the future of the surviving remnant of the Central European Jewish intelligentsia.

 Part IV: From Utopias to Post-war Trajectories

Tamás Scheibner

From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism Imre Keszi in the Thrall of Utopias Few figures in the history of Hungarian literature and intellectual life have enjoyed as notorious a reputation as Imre Keszi (1910–1974). Posterity has passed judgement on his post-1945 activities as a literary critic by labelling him ‘Keszi the Terrible’. Keszi did indeed play a significant role in the marginalization of such outstanding writers and thinkers as Béla Hamvas, Károly (Karl) Kerényi, Sándor Márai, László Németh and Sándor Weöres. He also dealt harshly with the legacy of his former mentors, all of whom were distinguished literati, including Mihály Babits, Gábor Halász and Antal Szerb. The latter two had just perished in the Holocaust when Keszi chose to attack them. For two years in his career, he became the leading literary critic of the Communist Party in Hungary during a very sensitive period. Between 1947 and 1949 he was literary editor of the party’s daily publication, Szabad Nép [Free People]. During this time, the communist leadership carried out the transfer of political power and created the preconditions for the large-scale transformation of cultural life. Although later memoirs are prone to exaggerate the fierceness of his criticism, in that they tend to treat his most virulent outbursts as typical of his entire work, it can hardly be doubted that Keszi genuinely identified with the role that he was expected to play in the aforementioned position on the communists’ daily organ. After the war, Keszi was one of the first to strive to popularize socialist realism,

Translation: From the Hungarian by Peter Sherwood Author's note: An earlier version of this paper was published in Hungarian in the journal Irodalomtörténet [Literary history] under the title ‘Utópiák igézetében: Keszi Imre és a zsidómagyar együttélés’. This was translated into English by Peter Sherwood, but his version was subsequently extensively rewritten, restructured, cut down and extended by the author (for which changes the translator is in no way responsible). Apart from the editors of this volume, especially Ferenc Laczó, I wish to thank Clara Royer, Gábor Schein, Teri Szücs and Dániel Virágh, who commented on earlier versions of this paper. I am grateful to my late friend, John Neubauer, who encouraged me from the beginning to write this essay. I dedicate this modest piece to his memory.

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and it was he who brought the views of Zhdanov to the attention of the wider literary public in considerable detail.1 In the light of the foregoing outline, it is surprising how little attention has been devoted to this very substantial figure in twentieth-century Hungarian cultural history. References to his activities in the 1930s and 1940s are especially rare, even though he was deeply involved in several of the most important public debates of the time. What most strikes the contemporary reader of his works is how different his intellectual character was in that period. In stark contrast to his Stalinist years, he was particularly open to the consideration of diverse positions and perspectives. Such intellectual empathy was accompanied by a débatteur temperament and an ironic, sometimes even sarcastic, style, which created a remarkable contrast. Through a series of provocations and accommodations to different views, Keszi ultimately aimed to integrate a wide variety of cultural theories, historical accounts and political agendas into one vision. This vision intended to serve as an answer to the question of what role Jewry should play in modern Hungary and Europe. Keszi confronted two basic questions: how should the negative consequences of modernity and the crisis of Western societies be dealt with and, second, what role could Jewry specifically play in overcoming this Europe-wide crisis? Moreover, he sought meaning in what it was to be a Jew. By tracking the multidirectional intellectual alignments of Keszi’s work, my intention is to reveal the building blocks of his utopian project to reconcile conflicting ideologies. Furthermore, by tracing his life story, I intend to show the ways in which Keszi’s views changed, sometimes radically, in response to historical events and circumstances, while he generally remained faithful to a certain form of utopianism, even in the face of the multiple catastrophes of the twentieth century.

Acculturation in doubt Keszi was born Imre Kramer into an observant Neolog Jewish family in Budapest in 1910.2 The Kramers, as well as the Taubers (his mother’s family), who 1 See, for example, Imre Keszi, ‘Zsdánov és az irodalom’ [Zhdanov and literature], Csillag 3, no. 18 (1949): 58–61. 2 On the ways in which to define Jewish identity in the context of Hungarian Neolog Judaism, see: János Gyurgyák, A zsidókérdés Magyarországon. Politikai eszmetörténet [The Jewish question in Hungary: the history of a political ideology] (Budapest: Osiris, 2001), 229–43; Guy Miron, The Waning of Emancipation: Jewish History, Memory, and the Rise of Fascism in Germany, France, and Hungary (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 2011), 155–218; Ferenc Laczó,

From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism 


had originally lived in Prešov (Eperjes) in what is today’s Slovakia, just south of what is now western Ukraine (Galicia), benefited from the liberal legal system that emancipated Jewry after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The unified economic sphere of the dual monarchy brought prosperity and growth to both states.3 When Imre was born, his father, Marcell Kramer had by then been secretary to the Israelite Community of Pest for 15 years in an exciting period marked by economic prosperity and the rapid transformation of the city of Budapest. It comes as no surprise that the family was loyal to the crown,4 and maintained their faith in the pursuit of both assimilation and the preservation of their religion, despite the unmistakable presence of anti-Semitism in society. It was the solid economic and social status of the Kramer family, secured under Habsburg rule, that allowed a young Imre to pursue his interests in studying whatever he wished. He was not only an avid consumer of culture, but from an early age he also wrote poetry and practised music.5 The belle époque, however, was in the distant past for Keszi. He belonged to a generation that was raised during the First World War, when anti-Semitism was significantly on the rise.6 As a child, he witnessed the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with all its legal consequences as far as the status of Jews was concerned. In the 1920s, the extremism of the 1919 Soviet Republic was often linked with a supposed inner character of the Jewry, and anti-Semitism became mainstream in politics and public discourse. Although the majority of Hungarian Jews did not challenge practices of assimilation,7 there were many who were doubtful about Hungarian Jews in the Age of Genocide: An Intellectual History, 1929–1948 (Leiden: Brill, 2016). For the significance of the 1867 emancipation of Jewry and on the nature of dual identity, see, for example, Ritchie Robertson, The ‘Jewish Question’ in German Literature, 1749–1939: Emancipation and Its Discontents, (Oxford: Oxford Univ Press), 233 and passim. 3 One of Keszi’s grandfathers was a paper trader based in Vienna, and the other was a wine merchant operating widely across the country. See the Archives of Petőfi Museum of Literature (abbreviated hereafter to PIM Archive), V.5243/88. 4 Marcell Kramer had good reason to feel that he had a clear and respected status in society; during the First World War, he supported a Red Cross convalescent and, for this, apart from receiving countless letters of thanks, he was awarded a memorial cross by the Royal Court in January 1916. PIM Archive, V.5243/85. 5 PIM Media Collection CD-1272, 458/2. 6 See Péter Bihari, Lövészárkok a hátországban: középosztály, zsidókérdés, antiszemitizmus az első világháború Magyarországán [Trenches in the hinterland: the middle class, the Jewish question, and anti-Semitism in Hungary during the First World War] (Budapest: Napvilág, 2008). 7 See e.g. Viktor Karády, Önazonosítás, sorsválasztás: A zsidó csoportazonosság történelmi alakváltozásai Magyarországon [Self-identification and choice of fate: historical changes in Jewish group identity in Hungary] (Budapest: Új Mandátum, 2001). For a thoughtful critique of Karády’s approach in the context of Hungarian historiography see Gábor Gyáni, Történész-

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the prospects of its realization in the light of recent history and contemporary experiences. Keszi belonged to a significant minority of Central and Eastern European Jewish intellectuals in the interwar period who were sceptical about liberal principles and sought out new ideas to reconnect with Judaism. Keszi was a prolific reader. The vast multilingual library that had been carefully built up by his father bolstered his wide-ranging interests. Not surprisingly, books held a high status in his eyes. He also served as a domestic tutor for the children of a famous publisher, which allowed him access to the latest trends in the foreign literature of the time.8 As I shall argue below, Keszi’s interests were indeed exceptionally expansive. It is precisely the amalgamation of many intellectual stimuli that is at the core of Keszi’s intellectual enterprise, at least in the initial, most impressive phase of his career. While self-cultivation was an important aspiration for Keszi, he was, at the same time, one of the most provocative challengers of the liberal-humanist tradition among Jewish people in interwar Hungary. As I aim to demonstrate, his thinking could also be placed in the wider context of a multifaceted ‘Jewish Renaissance’, which evolved in Germany and the Habsburg lands.9 The Bildungsideal, as well as a radical criticism of it, were both implicitly present in Keszi’s writings concurrently, creating a peculiar tension within his works of the 1930s and 1940s. Self-enrichment for him was, if anything, both intellectual and sensual. This was, of course, not entirely new, not even at the turn of the century. Recent scholarship has highlighted the complex ways in which even emblematic figures of Jewish liberalism related to the Bildungsideal. According to Jeffrey Grossman, fin-de-siècle and post-war disenchantment with humanism dated back to the nineteenth century in Jewish literature and thought; both Berthold Auerbach and Heinrich Heine displayed a certain ambiguity in their works towards the possibility of assimilation and the efficacy of Bildung in that process.10 Such tensions had deeper historical roots, but they radically intensified in

diskurzusok [Discourses of historians] (Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2002): 134–48; Idem, Nép, nemzet, zsidó [People, nation, Jew] (Bratislava: Kalligram, 2013): 213–32. The appropriate critique of assimilationist discourse in historiography, however, has its limits too: it can hardly be neglected that the political language of liberal assimilationism, including the terms assimilation and emancipation, came to dominate several fora that defined themselves as Jewish. 8 PIM Media Collection CD-1272, 458/2. 9 For a discussion of the semantics of renaissance, see Asher D. Biemann’s inspiring book, Inventing New Beginnings: On the Idea of Renaissance in Modern Judaism (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2009). 10 Jeffrey A. Grossman, ‘Auerbach, Heine and the Question of Bildung in German and German Jewish Culture’, Nexus: Essays in German Jewish Studies 1 (2011): 85–107. See also idem, ‘Heine

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Weimar Germany, and provided the central existential dilemma for many Jewish intellectuals. Indeed, as David Wertheim has argued, it was more than anything ‘the Spinozist alternative’ applied to the needs of the 1920s that was a central concern for Jewish intellectuals in the Weimar era, namely the hope that universalism and authenticity, rationalism and spiritualism, historicism and messianism and, ultimately, liberalism and anti-liberalism could somehow be reconciled.11 Keszi’s early systems of thought, embedded in the specific Hungarian context, offer an original and intriguing example of how such a reconciliation could be imagined.

Setting the Matrix: Village, Peasantry, Volk The fin-de-siècle post-romantic obsession with nature, peasantry and folklore stimulated a remarkably rich discourse in the Weimar Republic and transgressed the relatively elusive boundaries of the political left and right. Hungarian intellectuals who were proficient in German (many of whom had Jewish ancestors) had followed discussions in this area. Völkisch ideas exerted a lasting impact on a large section of the intelligentsia in Hungary, and Imre Keszi was among them. The notion of Volk had indeed been at the very centre of Keszi’s thinking until the final phase of the Second World War. He shared the view, widely held at the time, that it was necessary to confront the Europe-wide crisis, out of which a cultural renewal would be ushered in, and the primary source of this renewal would be, first and foremost, the peasantry. A deep interest in peasant culture from a young Jewish intellectual was not very common, but it was by no means exceptional either. However, few attempted to develop such an integrative worldview, both in political and theoretical terms, as Keszi had. Our consideration of the most significant stimuli he encountered will serve two goals here. On the one hand, it will provide insight into his extraordinarily multidirectional intellectual development, which is crucial for understanding his lifelong project of finding a place for Jewry in Hungarian society and history. On the other hand, it will demonstrate by example how fluid and permeable boundaries between political camps were around the and Jewish Culture: The Poetics of Appropriation’, in A Companion to Heinrich Heine, ed. Roger Cook (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2002), 251–82. 11 David J. Wertheim, Salvation through Spinoza: A Study of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 27, 219, passim. On the revival of Spinoza see also Benjamin Lazier, God Interrupted: Heresy and the European Imagination between the World Wars (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2008).

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transition between the 1920s and 1930s. Therefore, in mapping the influences Keszi absorbed, I will not only discuss his historically informed theories, but also point out the political significance of his and his intellectual partners’ ideas. After graduating from the secondary school of the Israelite Community in 1928, Keszi won a place at the College of Music. Studying with Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967) and Béla Bartók (1881–1945) proved to be a formative experience for him. He took a lively interest not only in music theory and history but also in folklore and ethnography. While both composers’ views had changed over time, they were consistent in attributing the ‘highest moral values to peasant culture and remained suspicious of cities’ throughout their lives.12 Keszi was of a similar opinion. Folksongs, as he explained in the mid-1930s, ‘are manifestations of the spiritual village’ that bourgeois ‘city culture can only pervert and distract from its own essence, but not cultivate as it is.’13 As the reference to the ‘spiritual village’ in itself suggests, the view that folklore creates a link to ancient Hungarian culture was also adopted by Keszi. The folklore of the village was, for Keszi, the kind of utopian space that antiquity represented for the classicist Karl Kerényi (1897–1973). In the early 1930s, Kerényi’s lectures at the University of Budapest were social events that attracted not only students but a wider audience. Keszi, who enrolled there parallel to his studies at the College of Music, was among the many admirers of the charismatic professor lecturing on ancient mythology. Moreover, he was closely tied to a group of young intellectuals centred around Kerényi,14 who maintained that ancient Greece was a time and a space where life and spirit were preserved in perfect unity, where religion and culture had not become objectified but existed with(in) the people as – in Kerényi’s words – a profoundly lived ‘spiritual

12 Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer, introduction to History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and Disjunctures in the 19th and 20th Centuries, eds, Cornis-Pope and Neubauer (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007), 3, 54. 13 Imre Keszi, ‘Népzenénk és a szomszéd népek népzenéje: Bartók Béla könyve’ [Our folksongs and those of the neighbouring people: a book by Béla Bartók], Válasz 2, no.1 (1935): 79. 14 Kerényi’s disciples called themselves the Stemma, and young poets and essayists inspired by his thoughts established the Árpád Tóth Circle. The latter published a journal with the telling name Argonuaták [Argonauts]. The editors of the periodical were Imre Trencsényi-Waldapfel, the principal link between the two groups, and Anna Hajnal, Keszi’s future wife whom he met at the Circle. See: Katalin Trencsényi, ‘Az Argohajósok (és más “görögök”) viszontagságos kalandjai századunk harmincas éveiben’ [The adventures of the Argonauts (and other ‘Greeks’) in the 1930s], Irodalomtörténet 27 (1996): 392–401; and Zsuzsa Vincze, ‘Palackposta a szellem szigetéről: A Sziget-kör és a sziget-gondolat’ [Message in a bottle from the island of the Geist: The Sziget-circle and the idea of the island], Jelenkor 40 (1997): 875–86.

From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism 


reality’.15 This was precisely what Keszi believed could be discovered in village folklore. As Keszi’s early publications, and especially his dissertation from 1933, A magyarországi német népdal [The German Folksong in Hungary] suggest, the dominant conditions for human existence were, for him, spiritual and psychological in nature.16 He extensively relied on Völkerpsychologie, one of the most influential trends in interwar Hungary. His supervisor at the Department of German Studies, Jakob Bleyer (1874–1933), was a significant representative of this emerging discipline.17 But Keszi’s interest in folk psychology was also encouraged by one of his favourite professors at the university, the linguist Zoltán Gombocz (1877–1935).18 Gombocz had studied in Leipzig and played a key role in the transmission of Hermann Paul’s and Wilhelm Wundt’s ideas to Hungary. Keszi also peregrinated to Leipzig in 1929, his choice no doubt influenced by his studies in linguistics. Following Wundt, Gombocz assumed that ‘in our everyday vocabulary and turns of phrase we unconsciously preserve ancient customs, laws, superstitions, social structures, the history of objects – that is, the memory of our entire past.’19 Keszi added the folksong to language that might also enable access to the archaic layers of the past. Folksongs, in his view,

15 For example, Károly Kerényi, ‘Az antik költő’ [The Poet of Classical Antiquity] Válasz 2 (1935): 186–92; Idem, ‘Vom Wesen des Festes’, Paideuma 1, no. 2 (1938): 59–74; Idem, ‘A valláslélektan általános emberi alapjairól’ [On the universal roots of the psychology of religion], in A lelki élet vizsgálatának eredményei, ed. Pál Harkai Schiller (Budapest: KMPPTE Lélektani Intézet, 1942), 320–48. See also Miklós Lackó, ‘Sziget és külvilág: Kerényi Károly és a magyar szellemi élet’ [The island and the outside world: Károly Kerényi and Hungarian intellectual life], in idem Szerep és mű: Kultúrtörténeti tanulmányok (Budapest: Gondolat, 1981), 264. 16 Compare with Imre Kramer, A magyarországi német népdal [The German folksong in Hungary] (Budapest: Pfeifer Ferdinánd, 1933). This work was still published under his birth name. 17 For an introduction to Bleyer’s career, see Hedwig Schwind, Jakob Bleyer: Ein Vorkämpfer und Erwecker des ungarländischen Deutschtums (Munich: Südostdeutschen Kulturwerks, 1960). See also Hugo Moser, ‘Jakob Bleyer als Wissenschaftler’, Südostdeutsches Archiv 2 (1959): 171– 85. For Bleyer as a politician, see: Gerhard Seewann, ‘“Ungarndeutschtum” als Identitätskonzept und politische Ressource’, in Staat, Loyalität und Minderheiten in Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa 1918–1941, eds, Peter Haslinger and Joachim von Puttkamer (München: Oldenbourg, 2007), 127–42; and idem, Geschichte der Deutschen in Ungarn: 1860 bis 2006, vol. 2 (Marburg: HerderInstitut, 2014), 169–77, 181–8, 199–201, 232–60. There is no space here to give a detailed reflection on Bleyer’s minority politics, but it should be noted that, after the First World War, he saw Jewry as the main competitor to the German minority. 18 See his university records at PIM Archive, V.5246/87, his recollections on Gombocz at PIM Media Collection CD-1272, 458/2, as well as his obituary: Imre Keszi, ‘Gombocz Zoltán emlékének’ [In memoriam Zoltán Gombocz], Magyarságtudomány 1 (1935): 83–7. 19 Zoltán Gombocz, Jelentéstan [Semantics], in idem, Jelentéstan és nyelvtörténet: Válogatott tanulmányok, ed. with an afterword by Sándor András Kicsi (Budapest: Akadémiai, 1997), 175.

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could offer a glimpse in the subconscious of the circumstances and conditions in which primordial people lived,20 making accessible something of the age-old spirituality of the people, of the ancient Volksgeist.21 The spirit of the people was a central interest for cultural theorist and writer László Németh (1901–1975) with whom Keszi developed a close relationship from 1933.22 Németh was a towering figure in the predominantly anti-establishment populist writers’ movement (népi írói mozgalom). The movement was comprised of a heterogeneous group of intellectuals who had strong commitments to village culture and sought social renewal through the peasantry. The populist writers developed anti-capitalist and anti-urbanist social and cultural programmes that were not devoid of anti-Semitism in some cases, but their dominant drive was democratization with a leftist emancipatory bias.23 In Németh, who was 10 years Keszi’s senior, Keszi found a soulmate. Among other things, they shared an encyclopaedic interest in the most diverse cultural theories both at home and abroad, were both inspired by Bartók in their focus on folklore, nurtured a keen interest in Kerényi’s theories of mythology and both believed in the urgent need for social emancipation. Németh, a highly eclectic thinker at the time, was greatly inspired by Kerényi. German conservative revolutionaries made a deep impact on both of them, and Kerényi’s call to recreate a new harmonious order for modern times based on antique examples resonated deeply with Németh – it was an idea that had

20 It was probably under Kerényi’s influence that Keszi applied the terms of Jungian psychoanalysis to ethnography. Cf. Tibor Hanák, ‘Kerényi és a filozófia’ [Kerényi and philosophy], in Kerényi Károly és a humanizmus, eds, László Árkay et al. (Bern: Európai Protestáns Magyar Szabadegyetem, 1978), 89. Indeed, in a review he even labelled ethnographers ‘the Freudians of the spirit’. Imre Keszi, review of Nyíri és rétközi parasztmesék [Peasant tales from Nyír and Rétköz], by György Buday and Gyula Ortutay, Válasz 3, no. 2 (1936): 119. 21 Kramer, A magyarországi német népdal; Imre Keszi, review of Népvándorláskori elemek a magyar népzenében [Elements from the age of the Völkerwanderung in Hungarian folk music], by Bence Szabolcsi, Válasz 2, nos. 7–8 (1935): 485–7. 22 PIM Media Collection CD-1272, 458/2. 23 Balázs Trencsényi, The Politics of ‘National Character’: A Study of Interwar East European Thought (New York: Routledge, 2012), 93. See also: Mihály Szegedy-Maszák, ‘Conservativism, Modernity, and Populism in Hungarian Culture’, Hungarian Studies 9, nos. 1–2 (1994): 15–37; Richard S. Esbenshade,‘“Shylocks” and “Intellectual Storm Troopers”: Hungarian Intellectuals and Antisemitism in the 1930s’, in Varieties of Antisemitism: History, Ideology, Discourse, eds, Murray Baumgarten, Peter Kenez and Bruce Thompson (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2009), 201–22; Richard S. Esbenshade, ‘Symbolic Geographies and the Politics of Hungarian Identity in the “Populist-Urbanist Debate”, 1925–44’, Hungarian Cultural Studies: e-Journal of the American Hungarian Educators Association 7 (2014), DOI: ahea.2014.174

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captured Németh’s imagination even before he met Kerényi.24 It was particularly Németh, however, who drew a clear line between ancient Greek and modern Hungarian cultural forms (that is kultúrforma or, in German, Kulturgestalt). In the Greek case, as Németh argued, high and low culture were intimately connected, and Hungarian culture had the same potential. The term Kulturgestalt and its Hungarian variants were derived from Frobenius’s theory of cultural morphology that was enthusiastically embraced by Németh.25 Indeed, the latter believed that a new Hellenism would flourish once the strong ‘community of fate’ (sorsközösség or Schicksalsgemeinschaft) of the village found its own voice.26 Like Frobenius, he was concerned about the individual’s responsibility towards a national community that had lost its way. As Németh concluded in his comments on the German thinker, ‘One’s life efforts are not wasted if they move in the direction in which the culture grows. And exactly at that time, after the [First World] war, in the hours of introspection, German culture was in great need for forces to move in the direction of its development and growth. This was especially the case, since the German people did not recognize that direction.’27 According to Németh, to act in accordance with the character of a given culture requires a deep knowledge of what constitutes a Volk’s character, and this could be achieved through uncompromising introspection and socio-historical reflection, as the theory goes. Indeed, Németh’s objective was to acquire a profound knowledge of the Hungarian national character and to realize an authentic life that demonstrates these allegedly Hungar24 Lackó, ‘Sziget és külvilág’, 269. 25 Frobenius and his work Schicksalskunde im Sinne des Kulturwerdens (1932) was introduced to Németh by Kerényi. Cf. László Németh, ‘San Remó-i napló (1935. február 17—március 2.),' Tanú 2 (1935): 57–8. Németh and Kerényi were considering establishing an Institute of Cultural Morphology in Hungary. Ágnes Széchenyi, ‘Sznobok és parasztok’: Válasz, 1934–1938: Elvek, frontok, nemzedékek [Snobs and peasants: Válasz, 1934–1938: principles, fronts, generations] (Budapest: Argumentum, 1997), 61. It should be added that Kerényi later distanced himself from an increasingly radicalized Németh, while the latter maintained in 1942 that the break between them was caused by the fact that Kerényi was ‘not Hungarian’ since he had German ancestors. Lackó, ‘Sziget és külvilág’, 279. 26 Despite the fact that the term Schicksalsgemeinschaft, which has roots going back to German romanticism, was widely used in the interwar period, partly due to the enormous impact of Friedrich Meinecke, it is quite clear from Németh’s oeuvre that he specifically borrowed it from Frobenius and almost always used it in the context of Schicksalskunde (science of destiny), or its Hungarian equivalent sorstudomány. The importance of Frobenius’s conception of destiny/fate for Németh is also emphasized by Tamás Turán, ‘Two Peoples, Seventy Nations: Parallels of National Destiny in Hungarian Intellectual History and Ancient Jewish Thought’, in Between Minority and Majority: Hungarian and Jewish/Israeli Ethnical and Cultural Experiences in Recent Centuries, eds, Pál Hatos and Attila Novák (Budapest: Balassi Institute, 2013), 50–1. 27 László Németh, ‘San Remó-i napló’, op. cit.

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ian qualities. This project, inspired by Frobenius, was applied to Jewry by such significant young Jewish intellectuals as Károly Pap (1897–1945) and Keszi in the 1930s.28 The difficulty for the latter was in coping with a profound contradiction: how would they find a way ‘to participate in a variety of cultures without privileging any’ – a motive that Paul Mendes-Flohr considers to be the central feature of the Jewish Renaissance29 – and yet also remain authentic or regain Jewish authenticity. It is at this point important to emphasize that Keszi did, however, become increasingly aware of some of the potential dangers of völkisch ideas. In 1934, he contributed to a public debate provoked by Németh’s famous essay ‘Snobs and Peasants’,30 which warned against the pitfalls of, on the one hand, a farfetched idealization of Western culture at the expense of an interest in nationspecific local culture and, on the other hand, the ‘mythology of the peasant’ that extols its ‘primal force’ (őserő, the equivalent of the German word Urkraft). When Németh was attacked by a variety of representatives of Hungarian völkisch thought,31 Keszi came to his defence,32 and stressed that in a changing world the duty of a real patriot is not to keep peasant culture impervious from any influences, which would necessarily qualify as a doomed project, but to keep its inevitable transformation under control as much as possible. An urban middle class, which is deeply concerned with the status and living conditions of the peasantry, should mediate the best parts of modern European culture as they are transferred to the village and block the elements of urban popular culture that could be seen as harmful. This would ensure that the divided Hungarian nation unites and grows in accordance with her ‘intrinsic character’ to be a fully-fledged European nation. Keszi echoed a Frobenian-influenced Németh here, but while in Németh’s thinking, as we shall see, ethnic essentialism came to play a larger role by the end of the decade, Keszi took a different route.

28 Their status is well-represented by the anthology of Jewish writers edited by Endre Sós: Magyar Zsidó Írók Dekameronja (Budapest: Periszkóp, 1943). Keszi also regularly broadcast on Hungarian radio in the second half of the 1930s. 29 Paul Mendes-Flohr, German-Jews: A Dual Identity (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1999), 94. 30 László Németh, ‘Sznobok és parasztok: Két betegség a mai magyar irodalomban’ [Snobs and peasants: two diseases in contemporary Hungarian literature], Magyarország 29 (March 1934): 9. 31 Zsigmond Móricz, ‘Lehet-e a parasztból író?’ [Can a peasant turn into a writer?], Magyarország (30 March 1934); Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, ‘Honnan jöhet a feltámadás?’ [Where can the revival come from?], Magyarország (1 April 1934); Gyula Illyés, ‘Fiatalok és öregek’ [The young and the old], Magyarország (11 April 1934). 32 Open letters by Imre Keszi in Magyarország 11 April 1934; 14 April 1934.

From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism 


Towards a Völkisch Judaism? When Keszi was trying to come to terms with his Jewish ancestry, he extensively profited from völkisch thought in his search for an epistemological base. This was not a unique phenomenon in the interwar period. As George Mosse demonstrated in the German context, young Jews, through such a process, aspired to deepen their dual identity33 – or, at least, complicate their Jewish subjectivity, one might add.34 In Mosse’s analysis, this trend reached its apotheosis around the time of Hitler’s political triumph, which was also the precise moment at which Keszi entered public discourse. Faced with rapidly rising anti-Semitism, young Jews such as Keszi tried to dissociate themselves from previous generations in an effort to break out of the cell of stereotypes. They were to become men of their times or ‘organic men’.35 But they were not going to give up their Jewishness, nor restrict it to the realm of religion. In contrast, as also happened in Keszi’s case, they reframed the meaning of Jewishness by dissociating it from capitalism, urbanism, materialism and the bourgeoisie. Keszi, however, did not publish on specifically Jewish-related issues until 1936. At that point, he became a regular contributor to Libanon, a new journal founded with the aim of providing a forum for the most diverse Jewish voices.36 The launch of the periodical and Keszi’s new engagement with the subject were both motivated by the Nuremberg Laws and growing domestic anti-Semitism at the political level. Furthermore, Keszi was particularly touched by writer Károly Pap’s book-length essay, Zsidó sebek és bűnök [Jewish Wounds and Sins] that was the subject of a significant public debate in 1935.37 It was a rather provocatively worded piece that rejected assimilation altogether, and called on Jewry to stop trying to hide within wider society and to express its völkisch essence and unity. Pap, whose oeuvre owes a lot to Martin Buber’s, interpreted the figure of 33 George L. Mosse, ‘The Influence of the Volkish Idea on German Jewry’, in idem, Germans and Jews: The Right, the Left, the Search for a ‘Third Force’ in Pre-Nazi Germany (New York: Howard Fertig, 1970), 103. It is worth recalling here that Völkerpsychologie, in its nineteenthcentury origins, itself emerged as part of a Jewish emancipatory effort. Cf. Egbert Klautke, The Mind of the Nation: Völkerpsychologie in Germany, 1851–1955 (Oxford: Berghahn, 2013), 11–57. 34 For a critique of the notion of identity in the German Jewish context, see Scott Spector, ‘Forget Assimilation: Introducing Subjectivity to German-Jewish History’, Jewish History 20 nos. 3–4 (2006): 349–61. 35 Mosse, ‘Influence of the Volkish Idea’, 80–1. 36 For more about Libanon, see Laczó, Hungarian Jews in the Age of Genocide, 62–97. 37 Károly Pap, Zsidó sebek és bűnök: Vitairat különös tekintettel Magyarországra [Jewish wounds and sins] (Budapest: Kosmos, 1935). For the debate, see the latest edition: Károly Pap, Zsidó sebek és bűnök és más publicisztikák, eds, Ilona Petrányi – János Kőbányai (Budapest: Múlt és Jövő, 2000).

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Jesus as a Jewish prophet who aimed at the reconstitution of the ‘peasant country’ of Moses. Uncorrupted Hasidic culture, devoid of the merchant spirit of ancient Jerusalem, was central to this imagined Jewish renewal. Pap’s ambition was to find a way to synthetize Judaism and Christianity, and in a simultaneous move to set the terms of a modus vivendi for Jews living in Hungary. Keszi admired the somewhat older and exceptionally talented Pap, and could be regarded as one of his closest intellectual allies. Károly Pap was enthusiastically praised by Németh as well. Németh, who had been busy outlining the historical ‘wounds’ and ‘sins’ of Hungarians, was convinced that such self-critical reflection was the precondition for any earnest attempt to settle Jewish-Hungarian relations. Németh’s treatment of the ‘Jewish question’ deserves attention because it was an important reference point for both Pap and Keszi. Up to the late 1930s, Németh had not blamed the Jews collectively, and some of his statements could be understood as pointing to the (rather limited) possibility of a dual cultural attachment for Jewish writers. He distinguished between different ‘types’ of Jewry based on their attitude towards ‘non-Jewish’ culture.38 He created a threefold categorization that recognized the great cultural achievements of those Jews, on the one hand, who had aspired to assimilation (such as the literary historian Antal Szerb), and, on the other, of those Jews who had rendered assimilation impossible and treated Hungary and the Hungarian language as a temporary home in the midst of their eternal wandering (Pap serves as an example here). These two favourable types are set against the figure of the humanist Jew, whose intention is to dominate the Hungarian cultural scene by distracting from the characteristics of a supposedly autochthonous Hungarian literature. This negative type is associated here with Shylock, thirsting for revenge after being deprived of his former dominant position, which Németh considered to be the type of Jewish identity manifested in the journal Nyugat [West]. Despite the fact that both Pap and Keszi started their careers as regular contributors to Nyugat, they largely subscribed to such views, adopted parts of Németh’s vocabulary and repeatedly defended Németh from allegations of antiSemitism.39 It was only at the end of the decade that Keszi grew critical of Németh but only because the latter’s attitude towards Hungarian Jews changed. In a novel, Németh represented the figure of ‘the Jew’ as a freethinker who is a de-

38 László Németh, ‘Egy különítményes vallomása’, Budapesti Hirlap (17 June 1934). 39 See, for example, Imre Keszi, ‘Németh László és a zsidóság’ [László Németh and the Jewry], Libanon 2, no. 2 (1937): 41–8.

From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism 


cidedly antipathetic heir to the Enlightenment.40 Indeed, there was no longer any ambiguity in Németh’s view. Finally, in his highly controversial book Kisebbségben [In the Minority], Németh described an alleged victory of Shylockian characters among Hungarian Jewry, and depicted Hungarian Jews as a monolithic and mostly harmful community.41 At that point, Keszi distanced himself from Németh, but remained loyal to Németh’s earlier standpoint from the mid1930s. Keszi’s A könyv népe [The People/Folk of the Book], the key source for understanding his view on Jewry in the late 1930s,42 was a similar undertaking to Pap’s Zsidó sebek és bűnök [Jewish Wounds and Sins] and a response to Németh’s call for Jewish ‘soul-searching’. It followed and further elaborated on Németh’s classification of Jewry. He criticized intellectual trends within Jewish culture that were interested, in his judgement, exclusively in universal humanism, urban civilization and internationalist revolutions at the expense of völkisch, national, racial and religious questions.43 The Second Jewish Law, passed in the spring of 1939, proved to be a turning point for Hungarian Jewry.44 The law used clearly racist terminology in defining ‘the Jew’ and, consequently, the voices calling for a re-examination of the specific processes of emancipation became louder. More and more critics called into question the need for, and possibility of, assimilation. Reactions, however, continued to demonstrate wide differences, even among the primary exponents of Jewish self-criticism. Keszi, for example, confronted literary historian and prominent Jewish intellectual Aladár Komlós, criticizing him for linking Jewry to rational thought and humanism, while downplaying other aspects of Jewry, ranging from the ‘heartless and deformed Shylock with his half-crazed adoration for his daughter to the emotional suffusion of the irrational, block-like, darkly glittering prophets.’45 Somewhat like the Karl Kraus of the 1890s, Keszi 40 Imre Keszi, review of Alsóvárosi búcsú [Saint’s day in the lower town], by László Németh, Libanon 4, nos. 2–3 (1939): 35–6. Cf. János Kőbányai, A magyar-zsidó irodalom története (Budapest: Múlt és Jövő, 2012), 168–9. 41 László Németh, Kisebbségben, vol. 1 (Budapest: Magyar Élet, 1939/1942), 76–8. 42 Imre Keszi, A könyv népe: A zsidó szellem és irodalom kérdéséhez [The people/folk of the book: contributions to the question of the Jewish spirit and Jewish literature] (Budapest: published by the author, 1940). Within this book, Keszi incorporated several of his shorter texts that had appeared in Libanon between 1936 and 1939. It is difficult to decide how to translate the title, since the Hungarian word nép could be both ‘people’ and ‘folk’, and Keszi, in my view, deliberately played with the word's polysemy here. 43 Keszi, Könyv népe, 83–4. 44 Miron, Waning of Emancipation, 176–82. 45 Imre Keszi, review of Írók és elvek [Writers and principles], by Aladár Komlós, Libanon 3, no. 1 (1938): 22. Keszi identifies Shylock with irrationalism here, while in A könyv népe, as I demonstrated earlier, he linked Shakespeare’s character with heightened rationalism. He prob-

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aimed to dissociate Jewry from corrupted modernity, and emphasized the significance of the Old Testament in defining the Jewish character.46 The issue also had a canonical aspect: Keszi objected to Komlós’ alleged overestimation of such ‘pseudo-Jewish workhorses of cheap rationalism’ as the influential radical bourgeois journalist Béla Zsolt, who employed a journalistic style in his popular novels and was ‘a very mediocre writer’ in Keszi’s estimation. If such ‘pseudo-Jewishness’ existed, one may question how one becomes an ‘authentic’ Jew? This is where völkisch Judaism plays a significant role. Reinventing the Jewish people was essential, in Keszi’s view, for the emancipation of Jewry within an imagined European community of deep-rooted, authentic peoples. This becomes obvious if we read only those papers of Keszi’s which address a specifically Jewish audience in the context of his reflections aimed at the wider public. In a radio debate that took place around 1938, Keszi viewed it as being of central importance that an unidentified ‘we’ join in the shaping of the ‘Hungarian face’ (the symbolic physiognomy of the nation). Such a joint effort at ‘bringing to life the Hungarian myth’ should start by becoming acquainted with shared folk art (that is to say, the ‘subconscious of the people’) and allowing it to freely inscribe itself, according to its own ‘natural’ laws, into high culture.47 No alternative was possible according to Keszi. He stressed that the only way the disrupted continuity of history can be restored, and an autochthonous Hungarian culture created, is by people listening to the sound of the ancient past as transmitted by the collective. This, however, by no means involves being cut off from the culture of other peoples, something that is in any case not possible due to the intertwined nature of folk cultures.48 Hungarian culture, in Keszi’s reading, has the chance to regain its true authenticity only by recognizing its shared (but sometimes hidden) heritage with other cultures of Central and Eastern Europe. And Keszi looked even beyond this geographical space in the cited radio presentation. While in 1935 and 1936 Keszi, in defence of Bartók, championed the distinctiveness of Hungarian folk ably saw Shylock as a contradictory figure who possessed both extremely rational and extremely irrational sides. 46 Cf. Robertson, 311. Kraus was a favourite author of Keszi’s. See, for example, his essayistic novel partly inspired by his own life: Imre Keszi, A halhatatlanság szamárfülei: Lassú Tamás zeneszerző emlékiratai [The dog ears of immortality: memoirs of the composer Tamás Lassú] (Budapest: Zeneműkiadó, 1971). 47 Cf. Keszi, review of Írók és elvek, 21–3; Imre Keszi and Imre Trencsényi-Waldapfel, Humanizmus és népi kultúra [Humanism and folk culture], Ms., PIM Archive, V.5246/83. It is worth noting here that Keszi was talking about himself as somebody who was capable of realizing authentic Hungarian qualities within himself. This supports his thought that the individual can deeply connect with two equally important peoples at the same time. 48 Cf. Keszi and Trencsényi-Waldapfel, Humanizmus és népi kultúra.

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music,49 on this occasion he placed an emphasis elsewhere, augmenting his previous ideas with the notion of a European community. ‘[M]y folk Hungarianness does not mean secession from Europe’, he declared,50 stressing that the nurturing of folk culture does not necessarily involve national isolation. At the same time, he emphasized the existence of European regions inspired, again, by Bartók. He stressed the formative power of the environment to counter ethno-nationalistic programmes, which were becoming ever more strident at this time: The folklore of Europe has its own unity. Go out amongst the people, listen to their tales, to what they sing, and you will hear the vision of the European landscape come to life. Are you aware of the world of the folksong? Look at the Western one, the German. It is the world of horn tunes in a major scale. The basis of the major scale is the major triad: the sequence of the simplest upper harmonies. The huntsman’s horn is able to sound only these. German music: it alludes to the forest. Look East: monotone, extended pentatonic melodies, the endless steppes of Asia. In the dance music of the Romanians, the Bulgarians and the Greeks, there lives on some memory of the Greeks from the mountains. The Celts bring the endless perspective of the sea into a Europe ossified into Latinate forms.51

Europe’s unity is in its diversity, Keszi suggested. Although, not surprisingly, there was no mention of Jewry in the radio debate, a 1938 essay in the Yearbook of the Israelite Hungarian Literary Society reveals the complete picture envisioned by Keszi.52 There ‘real Jewish’ music is presented less as a conglomerate of parts of the same musical traditions outlined above, but as a conglomerate in which Hasidic tunes also feature. For Keszi, urban Jewish couplets and secular Yiddish songs, in contrast, are counterfeiting true Jewish music and relate to authentic folk music in the same way that ‘Gypsy music’, in Bartók’s view, relates to real Hungarian folk music.53 Keszi implied that one should turn to Jewish folklore, among other cultural forms, to create authentic Jewish culture, and only by such a turn could the new emancipated Jewish culture reconnect to Hungarian, East European and, ultimately, European culture. 49 Imre Keszi, ‘Népzenénk és a szomszéd népek népzenéje: Bartók Béla könyve’ [Hungarian folk music and the folk music of the neighbouring peoples: Béla Bartók’s book], Válasz 2, no. 1 (1935): 77–80; Imre Keszi, ‘Bartók Béla vagy a középeurópai megértés útja’ [Béla Bartók, or the road to Central European understanding], Szép Szó 1, no. 6 (1936): 271–6. See also Imre Keszi, Babiloni vályog [Babylonian adobe] (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1968), 108–11. 50 Keszi and Trencsényi-Waldapfel, Humanizmus és népi kultúra. 51 Ibid. 52 Imre Keszi, ‘A zsidó zene vallási funkciója’ [The religious function of Jewish music], IMIT Évkönyv 60 (1938): 214–25. 53 Cf. Béla Bartók, ‘Gipsy Music or Hungarian Music?’, The Musical Quarterly 33 (1947): 240– 57.

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The influence of Buber is very palpable here. Even at the end of the 1930s, Keszi was determined to stick to the vocabulary of a metaphysically grounded völkisch ideology but, as we can see, he did not give up a humanist outlook either and, like Buber, he ‘looked upon the Volk as a stepping stone to a general European culture.’54 Also, when Keszi called for a self-reflective awakening of the Volksgeist, he may have been equally inspired by Buber’s words as he was by Frobenius’: ‘It is a self-reflection of the national soul. They wish to make conscious the unconscious development of the national soul; they wish to condense the specific qualities of an ethnic group and use them creatively; they wish to bring out the national intuitions and thereby lead them to greater productivity.’55 It is only then, continued Buber, that Goethe’s dream of world literature will be realized, when all people express their inner essence and thereby are emancipated. It is not clear when Keszi got to know Buber’s writings. During his stay in Leipzig in 1929 and his subsequent studies in Berlin in 1932, Keszi must have encountered large communities of ‘Ostjuden’, and might have attended Jewish society events – all factors that may have increased his interest in Hasidism. Kerényi may also have called his attention to Buber,56 whose Hasidic stories were already very popular among the German-speaking Jewish population in interwar Hungary.57 But it was only after the appearance of Pap’s essay in 1935, which was itself influenced by Buber, that Keszi decided to reflect on the historical and cultural position Jewry might occupy in Hungary and Europe. Nevertheless, his essays demonstrate significant differences from the views expressed in Buber’s essays. Just as Pap had done, Keszi also distanced himself from Zionism.58 As was the case for the majority of Hungarian Jews who had been influ-

54 Mosse, ‘Influence of the Volkish Idea’, 89. 55 Martin Buber, ‘Jüdische Renaissance’, Ost und West 1, no. 1 (1901): 7; Idem, The First Buber: Youthful Zionist Writings of Martin Buber, trans. Gilya G. Schmidt (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1999), 30. 56 Kerényi was well aware of Buber’s work in the 1930s through the Eranos circle. The EranosJahrbuch was available to the Stemma through Béla Hamvas. Cf. Hans Thomas Hakl, Eranos: An Alternative Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century, trans. Christopher McIntosh (London: Routledge, 2013). As a later essay testifies, Kerényi held Buber in the highest esteem. Cf. Karl Kerenyi, ‘Martin Buber als Klassiker’, Neue Schweitzer Rundschau 20, no. 2 (1952): 89–95. 57 Géza Komoróczy, ‘A szabadulás ünnepe, szorongattatásban: Utószó, fél évszázad múlva, a Kner Haggadához’ [The feast of liberation, in stranglehold: afterword to Kner’s Haggadah after half a century], in Haggáda Peszach estéjére (Budapest: Ézsajás Vallásos Társaság, 1936; facsimile edition, Gyomai Kner Nyomda, 1993), 22. 58 Keszi, Könyv népe, 20.

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enced by Buber,59 Keszi never considered the acquisition of a Jewish land essential to the reinvention of Jewish traditions. While Keszi’s primary target among Jews was the assimilationist camp, he, as many other Jewish intellectuals also did, criticized Zionism as a nationalistic project. But it is clear that from 1935 to 1944, Keszi demonstrated more and more interest in völkisch Judaism and Hasidic culture. In A könyv népe [The People of the Book] from 1940, Hasidism was described in a very favourable light. Keszi stated with some envy that Hasidic Jews were the ones who had come closest to a real völkisch existence.60 Nevertheless, Hasidism was represented here as a separate route for Eastern Jewry that had little relevance for other parts of the diaspora. In the early 1940s, however, the significance of Hasidism grew even greater in Keszi’s eyes. The revision of Hungary’s borders in 1938 and 1940 had the consequence that a large number of Orthodox and, partly, Hasidic Jews became Hungarian citizens. This, of course, did not go unnoticed among the Jewish community of Budapest. Furthermore, during the German and Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, large numbers of Polish Jewish refugees found temporary asylum in Hungary, and many of them were Hasidim. In the Hungarian Jewish intellectual scene, a growing interest in Hasidism resulted in the translation of the first longer work by Buber in 1940, titled A zsidóság megújhodása [The Renewal of the Jewry], which was followed by Száz chászid történet [One Hundred Hasidic Tales] in 1943.61 As I shall aim to demonstrate in a later section, Keszi’s engagement with völkisch Judaism culminated in his 1944 book of short prose, A várakozók lakomája [The Feast of Those in Waiting].62 In this, Keszi extensively relied on Hasidic folklore and turned it, quasi-programmatically, into a key source for artistic creativity. In light of what I have discussed above, I would not hesitate to represent Keszi as a Hungarian exponent of the Jewish Renaissance. I would, however, also like to avoid the impression that he was a dedicated follower of Buber. The reality is more complicated. Keszi absorbed a variety of other influences apart from his, and did not voice consistent views regarding the Jewish Volk – indeed, he occasionally questioned whether it existed at all. This ambiguity, in my read-

59 As Komoróczy observed, German-speaking Hungarian Jews tended to read Buber’s Hasidic stories as ‘the charter for staying’ in their homeland. Komoróczy, ‘Szabadulás ünnepe’, 22. 60 Keszi, Könyv népe, 15. 61 Martin Buber, A zsidóság megújhodása [The renewal of the Jewry], trans. Makkabea workshop of college students (Budapest: Hitachdut Hanoar Hacioni, 1940); Idem, Száz chászid történet [One Hundred Hasidic Tales], trans. Izsák Pfeiffer (Budapest: Magyar Zsidók Pro Palestina Szövetsége, 1943). 62 Imre Keszi, A várakozók lakomája [The feast of those in waiting] (Budapest: Libanon, 1944).

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ing, was part of a wider tendency in A könyv népe, the key text for understanding Keszi’s position as the 1930s came to a close.

Beyond Rationalism and Irrationalism Keszi did not hesitate to contrast claims in the very same text that logically exclude one other. Far from being disturbed by such contradictions, he developed an essayistic style that abounded in paradoxes. He did not aspire in the least to create a rationally fully accessible vision as he was deeply sceptical about rationalism per se – while, one should add, he was equally critical of unrestrained irrationalism. Even so, in A könyv népe, the number and character of contradictions are extreme. For example, at one point Keszi claims that Jews constituted a nation, while elsewhere he denies it. He presented anti-Semitism as a trial placed upon the Jewish people by God directly, but this was preceded by a detailed analysis of how anti-Semitism was the result of historical processes. Even though one can identify the main lines of his argument, it is often (and perhaps sometimes unintentionally) destabilized rhetorically from paragraph to paragraph. In general, the combination of religious and secular humanist phraseology often creates a particular tension in his text. One ambiguity central to our concerns lies in the way liberal humanist and religious revivalist notions coexist in Keszi’s text. The best-known Jewish radical revivalists in Weimar Germany, as Steven Aschheim has emphasized, rejected the Buberian ‘call for a return to personal Judaism of renewal’,63 but Keszi did not do so completely. In contrast to the likes of Walter Benjamin, Franz Rosenzweig or Gershom Scholem, Keszi’s Jewish revivalism kept its ‘typically Bildung basis – the radical self re-formation of the individual Jew and his inner world’.64 As the title of his text already suggests (i.e. The People of the Book), he considered the book and the written word to be central to Jewish existence, and expressed an optimistic belief in the power of intellect and self-refinement through education.65 For Keszi, coming to terms with one’s own heritage and acquiring a deep knowledge of oneself provides some kind of common base upon which mutual understanding can be reached and national conflicts ultimately resolved. 63 Steven E. Aschheim, ‘German Jews beyond Bildung and Liberalism: The Radical Jewish Revival in the Weimar Republic’, in idem, Culture and Catastrophe: German and Jewish Confrontations with National Socialism and Other Crises (London: Macmillan, 1996), 36. 64 Ibid. 65 See e.g. Keszi, Könyv népe, 5–16.

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At the same time, Keszi denied or radically restricted the possibility of free choice. For each individual, there is one single authentic choice determined by one’s background. In A könyv népe, belief in transcendental forces does not seem to be a precondition for such self-reflection; Keszi’s mode of self-reflection could be compatible with a secular worldview, but the idea itself is deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian religious thought. Everyone’s liberty and duty is to discover their own particular determinants to reach such a state and to come to terms with them. This is the only criterion on which ethical judgments could be based when it comes to individual responses to the complex problematics of Jewish (dis)integration. In A könyv népe, even complete assimilation when taken to its final point or, its opposite, complete rejection, resulting in emigration to Palestine, appeared to be morally acceptable to Keszi, provided that these choices were based on thorough existential self-reflection.66 Such ethical pluralism, however, is valid only at the level of the individual, Keszi claimed. Jewry as a community has a larger ‘spiritual task’,67 and from this alternative perspective judgement could be passed on different choices. According to Keszi, the history of a collective has nothing to do with causality, but it is rather defined by fate determined by inner causes.68 On this level, a similar logic operates to the one we observed at the level of individual self-reflection: the only ethical option is to realize and embrace the fate of Jewry, that is, Jewish life in the diaspora.69 Furthermore, such a fate is not necessarily concerned with the realization of one single people’s or folk’s character determinants, since one can belong to two communities as a result of one’s fate, that is one can be destined to be a Jew and a Hungarian at the same time. And in such a case one should progress in the direction of the character of both peoples. This is Schicksalskunde (or, ‘science of destiny’) applied in a decidedly non-nationalistic manner.70 But this proved to be the basis upon which Keszi evaluated the vari66 Ibid., 45–6, 16–7. 67 Ibid., 17. 68 Ibid., 18–9. 69 Ibid., 55. 70 In Keszi’s eyes, however, it does not mean that this possibility is open to any two members of these peoples. It is not the case that anyone can belong to the German and Hungarian people at the same time. It could be realized only in the case of Jews and Hungarians, because of the special affinity they have towards each other. Keszi dreamed about a ‘symbiosis’ of Jews and Hungarians. He proposed a ‘third route’ for Jewry between assimilation and Zionism (that, in his view, spelled complete dissimilation) (Ibid., 51). Peaceful coexistence would have been guaranteed through reference to a certain historical parallel between the fate of Jewry and the Hungarian people, an idea that dated back to the sixteenth century and was famously restated by the celebrated poet Endre Ady in a 1917 article published posthumously in 1924. Ady claimed that the condition of the survival of (true) Hungarians is to mix with Jewry, who

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ous ‘types’ of Jewish writers in Hungary in A könyv népe. In contrast to his earlier claims, he did not refrain from passing moral judgement on specific individuals as long as he believed them to be taking the wrong path.71 Certainly, it was up to Keszi to decide who qualified as a ‘type’. This characteristically illiberal approach is hardly reconcilable with the predominantly liberal humanist perspective his insistence on the Bildungsideal suggested. Keszi did attempt in his work to qualify contradictions such as these through his pluralist interpretation of the term ‘Jewry’. He concluded that ‘eternal Jewry,’ as the conscience of European nations, kept guard over the humanist spirit of liberty, while ‘historical Jewry’ represented the forces of transcendental excitement and messianism.72 With regard to the historical hic et nunc, Hungarian Jewry is both, on the one hand, the living agent of the times, the stimulus carnis (or, thorn in the flesh) that provides constant provocation and thus keeps everything in motion, and on the other hand, it is an integral part of the Hungarian people, one that cannot be torn out of it, much like a Hungarian ‘tribe’, in the same sense that Walter Rathenau considered the Jews to be one of the German Stämme (or, tribes).73 Even though Keszi did not use this exact term here, to me it does not seem entirely misplaced to evoke it, since a young Imre Kramer in the mid-1930s choose ‘Keszi’ as his writer’s name. The word refers to one of the ancient Hungarian tribes (the name is of Turkish origin, meaning ‘fragment’, and it is one that joined the Magyars at a relatively late stage).74 might well be inauthentic and superficial in cultural terms, but have an ‘itchy’ impulse that keeps the world in motion (Endre Ady, ‘Korrobori’ [1917], Nyugat 1 [1924]). Ady’s text was subject to several, often conflicting, interpretations throughout the interwar period, and its arguments proved to be crucial for Pap and Keszi’s thinking as well. They both believed that the Jewish spiritual character’s closest match in Europe was that of the Hungarians, not because of their inherent similarity but for structural reasons, namely, that they perfectly supplement each other; one is the other’s inverse – the agile but shallow Jew to the passive and sluggish but deep Hungarian (Keszi, Könyv népe, 92–3; Pap, Zsidó sebek és bűnök, 63). But the two are so intimately entwined that setting the two in opposition could not lead to the realization of their fate, which is shared. The idea that the Trianon peace treaty led to a large number of Hungarians existing in diaspora, as was the case for the Jews, was also popular in Keszi’s circles, and László Németh was a key figure in spreading such an idea. 71 Keszi, Könyv népe, 82–92. 72 Ibid., 92–3. 73 Michael Brenner, ‘Religion, Nation, oder Stamm: zum Wandel der Selbstdefinition unter deutschen Juden’, in Nation und Religion in der Deutschen Geschichte, eds, Heinz-Gerhard Haupt and Dieter Langewiesche (Frankfurt: Campus, 2001), 598. 74 Gyula Németh, A honfoglaló magyarság kialakulása [The formation of the Magyars who conquered the Carpathian Basin] (Budapest: MTA, 1930), 268–72. In Hungary, when Keszi was a university student, this book provoked great interest as the first systematic attempt to explain the origins of the names of Hungarian tribes. As a student considering choosing lin-

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Such a choice in the case of this author, who was particularly prone to giving telling names to his literary characters, might be interpreted as a demonstration of his indivisible double bond to both Jewry and Hungary. Such an explanation of the double meaning of the term Jewry, however, cannot explain all the contradictions that exist in the text and does not convert it into a coherent constellation of thoughts. In any case, this was not Keszi’s aim, for whom being self-contradictory was one way of dealing with the multiple needs of his time. He consciously aimed to provoke responses in the widest possible Jewish audience at almost any expense. His sarcastic style, which resembles that of Karl Kraus, surely added to the provocative power of his work. Keszi’s attacks on superficial Jewish cultural journalism and his frequent use of anti-Semitic stereotypes and vocabulary (like the term elzsidósodás, that is Verjudung in German or roughly ‘Jewification’ in English) seem to have furthered a similar ambition to that held by Kraus: to secure a position beyond easily recognizable roles and place oneself at the crossroads of established argumentative pathways,75 a position that is both inside the established discourse and, at the same time, outside of it, from which the entire discourse can be destabilized, restructured and renewed. A critical take on rationalism, as stated above, does not mean an endorsement of irrational thought. During the late 1930s, Keszi grew to doubt some of the elaborations of national character proffered by Németh and the populist writers, which he found rather far-fetched. As early as his work in A magyarországi német népdal [The German Folksong in Hungary] from 1933, he suggested that it was not some eternal, mystical spirit that had assigned a central role to the peasantry but its sociological makeup, which was the result of random evolution: ‘The social stratification of the Danubian peoples was not forged in the melting pot of recent history: the peasantry lived its life in this society according to its own ways as a separate and isolated class, virtually without contact with any other.’76 In line with this, Keszi believed that the folksong did not have a transcendental relationship with the peasant soul, and that its essence could be grasped by the scholarly apparatuses of modern psychology, sociology, ethnography, the study of myth and linguistics. Folksong cultures that can be assoguistics as a profession, there is no doubt Keszi knew this book, especially since the ancient history of the Magyars was one of the themes in which his professor Gombocz was deeply interested. 75 See Paul Reitter’s analysis of Kraus and his concept of authenticity: The Anti-Journalist: Karl Kraus and Jewish Self-Fashioning in Fin-De-Siècle Europe (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008), 26. 76 Kramer, Magyarországi német népdal, 3. Such thoughts were inspired by Béla Bartók, A magyar népdal (Budapest: Rózsavölgyi és Társa, 1924), vi, lxx.

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ciated with particular communities cohere, on the one hand, around stylistic conventions and, on the other, through conventional modes of expressing feelings, the latter ensuring an emotional spiritual community between individuals.77 Keszi regarded spiritual communities in the same way as language and folk art, as entities that have a high degree of longevity but are by no means unchanging; while not denying that the study of the mass psychology of a people, or rather a class, was of value, he doubted the demonstrability of some fixed and eternal essence. Keszi was just as disturbed by political irrationalism as Kraus had been 30 years before. But in contrast to the latter, Keszi maintained that rational control over the emotional and mental planes was fundamentally important. His reliance on psychoanalytic concepts, and his keen interest in structural linguistics and Völkerpsychologie are all clear indicators of his constant struggle to find a sound methodology that would be flexible enough to deal with the self and the collective at the same time. But Keszi aspired to even more than that. In accordance with his ambition to renew the entire discourse on the relation between self and community, Keszi invented what he hoped would emerge as a distinct field of study: conventiology.

Conventiology: a Utopian Philology In the mid-1930s, Keszi was convinced that the spiritual crisis would not last long, and was optimistic about Europe’s future. He seemed to believe that language and poetry, despite their temporary decay, would eventually be able to regain their former power and serve as an engine of renewal. This renewal was not meant to be purely spiritual but social as well. Indeed, in a significant theoretical article published in 1935, he envisioned the appearance of a synthetic ‘new philology’ and the emergence of a classless art.78 The new philology would not restrain itself to written materials but take a broader look at the entire spectrum of human communication, and would correct the shortcomings of narrow-minded analytical positivism by synthetizing knowledge. This new synthesis, however, would not aspire to objectivity; detached scientific style would be replaced by personal essayistic accounts, and ‘the elegance of thinking accrues just as much importance as the exactness of results’.79 The validity of a scientific claim would not be conditioned by objec77 Kramer, Magyarországi német népdal, 5–11. 78 Imre Keszi, ‘Konvenciológia’ [Conventionology], Magyarságtudomány 1 (1935): 50–1. 79 Ibid., 50.

From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism 


tive criteria but the thinker him/herself. The new type of scientists and philologists would develop multifaceted interests across disciplines, dare to rely on their imagination and realize that intellectual activities, by not necessarily directing themselves at any particular goal, could also take the form of a ‘training of the soul’, which find its objective in the development of the self.80 In other words, Keszi emphasized here again the importance of Bildung in reinventing the sciences, both human and natural. He dreamed of a ‘new humanism’ that would emerge out of the organic fusion of systems of thought, an organic renaissance that would transgress temporal limitations and provide simultaneous access to the otherwise separated planes of time.81 This new humanism should not be confused with traditional humanist thought, which he tended to oppose. He explicitly reflected on the utopian character of this vision, ascribing to it the term ‘utopia of philosophy’, but he insisted, in a messianistic spirit, that redemption was to come.82 But redemption could only be hoped for from the East. We have seen so far that Keszi developed a keen interest in peasant culture and regarded the people as the primary source of a cultural renaissance that might lead the way out of the contemporary pan-European crisis. But, in his account, not all types of folklore are fit to serve as the basis of such a rebirth, only Eastern European folk art. In this part of Europe, the peasantry had not been contaminated by other social classes and was better able to follow its own course of development. In line with Bartók and Kodály, Keszi maintained that ‘[t]he folksong [in Eastern Europe] was not incorporated into the cathedral of art poetry and art music, it abided without interaction and remained unique.’83 At the beginning of his career, in the course of studying the structure of Swabian folksongs, Keszi came to the conclusion that in spite of their liminal nature, the style of these folksongs remained dominantly Western, and were thus ‘less authentic’ than their Slavonic, Romanian or Hungarian counterparts.84 The term ‘authentic’ here represents a cultural value created by a large, homogeneous class. Keszi thus maintained that redemption could only come from Eastern Europe, where such a class, he believed, still existed. Indeed, the aforementioned reference to a future classless society, an ‘art above classes’85 was not an accident. Keszi had a particular interest in syncretizing otherwise mutually exclusive theoretical trends, and Marxism was one of 80 Ibid., 51. 81 Biemann, Inventing New Beginnings, 9. 82 Keszi, ‘Konvenciológia’, 59. 83 Kramer, Magyarországi német népdal, 3. 84 Ibid., 3, 8–10. By Swabians I refer to the ethnic German minority living in Hungary. 85 Keszi, ‘Konvenciológia’, 59.

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them. As early as 1930, he became a member of the leadership of the youth organization of the social democrats, as well as the Hungarian Workshop [Magyar Munkaközösség].86 The latter was an anti-capitalist movement originating in Czechoslovakia, and called for the consolidation of suppressed classes to form a more effective opposition. However, their emancipatory project had an additional ethnic dimension, as they sought to protect the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia from the ‘tyranny’ of Czech and German capitalism.87 Linking the interests of a Volk and a class was, after all, nothing unusual, especially since the word Volk, or its Hungarian equivalent nép, was a polysemic term. In fact, in the Hungary of the early 1930s, it was quite common to merge socialist ideas with German-inspired Volksgedanke, especially among the youth. This is a chapter of Hungarian intellectual history that still awaits systematic analysis. The economic crisis provoked an extremely rich variety of responses from members of youth organizations, and more often than not these responses were theoretically eclectic. The number of fractions, circles and societies rapidly grew, and political and theoretical twists and turns among the individuals active in this scene were frequent. Keszi’s path was not devoid of such turns either. After graduation from the university, he took a position in rural Hungary, and from 1933, encouraged by Németh, he gravitated towards the populist writers’ movement that had expressed very little interest in urban workers. Then he cut links with the working-class movement, a decision that may have been motivated in part by the arrest of the former comrades he worked with.88 His first publications appeared in a journal critical of the communists; he himself expressed doubts about socialist realism,89 and regarded the Soviet Union’s formation as a failed attempt at emancipation that in practice served the interests of a new elite.90 But he did not entirely leave Marxism behind. Just as Pap had done, Keszi linked the rebirth of Jewry to a wider social renewal that aimed to emancipate the poor through class struggle (though not through revolution, which they both categorically rejected). 86 PIM Archive, V.5243/85. 87 Norbert Duka Zólyomi, ‘A szlovenszkói magyar kisebbség problémái. I. A “Magyar Munkaközösség” szövetkezeti mozgalma’ [Problems of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. I. the movement of the ‘Hungarian cooperative’], Fiatal Magyarország 2, no. 2 (1932): 29–30. 88 According to his recollections, Keszi belonged to Jenő Széll’s communist illegal cell at that time. PIM Archive, V.5243/85. Széll and his group were put on trial, but Keszi was not. See the documents of the trial published online by the Budapest City Archives: http://bfl .archivportal. hu/virtualiskiallitasok/jozsefattila/negyedikper/4_4.html. 89 Imre Keszi, review of Ezra elindul [Ezra Departs], by Béla Szabó, Libanon 3, no. 3 (1936): 122. 90 Keszi, Könyv népe, 19.

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These historical roots left their mark on Keszi’s way of thinking and conceptual framework; he regarded the arrival of a classless society as a historical necessity. In the field of culture, this meant that folk art, as it is known, would disappear. Similarly to the non-Marxist László Németh,91 Keszi regarded this as a loss, but an inevitable rather than a fatal one. The social emancipation of the peasantry and their upward mobility to the middle class would unavoidably awaken a desire to reflect on their own traditions. This process of self-realization, however, is accompanied by ascetic, purgative tendencies, which break up the unreflective spiritual community, a state that is a precondition for the existence of folk art. For Keszi, this was a process beyond good or bad; he regarded it as a given that man could not influence its development. But what role can the individual play, then, in the intellectual/spiritual renewal? As I have suggested in a previous sub-chapter that discussed the possibility of free choice, Keszi continuously struggled with the question of determinism so fundamental to both teleological religious thought and Marxism. His answer seems to be that man could have an influence on how that renewal took place.92 Cultural renewal was not to be expected by imitating Eastern European folklore. Like Kerényi, Bartók and several other of his contemporaries, Keszi saw the idea of simply ‘preserving’ cultural values as counterproductive, even if it was at all possible. Keszi, however, reframed the issue by using the vocabulary of Saussurean structuralist linguistics that he acquired from the previously mentioned linguist Gombocz. He pointed out that it is not sufficient to be concerned with the material of the folksong (langue), but attention also had to be paid to its culture (parole), and it would be erroneous to imagine that folk art can be maintained immutably in a normative manner: ‘To speak of folk culture is tantamount to supporting an intellectual caste system. It is time not for culture to become folkloristic but for folk culture to become culture proper’, as he put it.93 Unlike Jakob Bleyer, who welcomed German folksong collections and encouraged their promotion, Keszi was critical of a practice built on recording and imitating folksongs. Revealingly, what Keszi valued in poets from the populist writers’ movement, such as Gyula Illyés and József Erdélyi, was that they distanced themselves from the narrow poetics of folk poetry and preserved it by building their work creatively upon it.94 The ambition to overcome the tension between determinism and individual action, between tradition and invention, between community and personality 91 92 93 94

László Németh, ‘Nép és író’ [Volk and writer], Napkelet 7, no.5 (1929): 357–9. Kramer, Magyarországi német népdal, 10. Ibid., 12. Keszi, ‘Konvenciológia’, 58.

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inspired a rather original programme for Keszi. He articulated a ‘communicative model’, whose outlines had already been formulated in his work on folksong and which would have provided the conditions for the transformation from a class-based to a class-free art. As we have seen, by calling folk art a language, he drew a comparison between it and words and phrases. It was this model that he developed in the mid-1930s, labelling it ‘conventionology’. Whereas collective folk music and folk poetry, which spreads through oral traditions, follow a strict set of conventions, the task of the artist is to modify these conventions by adding his own personality to them, but in such a way that he does not stray an unreasonably long way from a communicative system based on national and regional conventions. Combining ethnography with historical sociology and structural linguistics, Keszi strove to establish a discourse that would have guaranteed scholars the opportunity to discuss areal and national characteristics within the same conceptual framework or, rather, the ability to raise the issue of national character without falling into the trap of ethnic essentialism. It was precisely this project that would have ensured the social integration of Hungarian Jewry. A könyv népe elaborated on this conception. Keszi rejected, on the one hand, an assimilation that he considered to be an interiorized form of anti-Semitism and, on the other, Zionism, which he portrayed as a mockery of the mission of the Jews and the implementation of community organization based on an alien idea, namely that of nationalism.95 Instead he called Jewishness a mission, and that mission was nothing other than mediation. Keszi, who refused to think about national communities in exclusivist terms, felt that the role of mediation between the high culture of European humanism (which was linked to the tradition of rationalism) and Hungarian folk culture (which was a priori heterogeneous) was one that suited Jewry well. The translational process would be made possible by the communicative model outlined above, the significance of which would be that, through its help, the irrational could be kept under cognitive control and would not override the thinker.96

95 Keszi, A könyv népe, 16–31. 96 Here I must once again allude to László Németh, and also to the literary critic Gábor Halász, who profoundly influenced Németh and whose memorable, visionary lectures at the University of Budapest were greatly appreciated by Keszi (Cf. PIM Archives, V.5246/86/8). Both Halász and Németh regarded it as important in the 1930s that the spirituality of thought should be kept in check by the intellect and that the leash of tradition should help restrain the power of instincts, which had the potential to become destructive. Cf. Miklós Lackó, ‘Egy szerep története’ [The history of a role], in idem, Szerep és mű, 198.

From the Jewish Renaissance to Socialist Realism 


Mediating the Impossible: Judaism, Christianity and Folklore The views that Keszi espoused concerning the integration of the Jews were brutally refuted by events in Europe in the early 1940s. In 1942, Keszi was called up for labour service but in 1944 managed to escape deportation and spent the rest of the war in hiding. At the beginning of that year, a volume of his short prose writings appeared, which was, however, not distributed, as German troops invaded the country, and Miklós Horthy replaced the government with an uncompromisingly pro-Nazi one. Keszi’s A várakozók lakomája [The Feast of Those in Waiting] is an ensemble of texts connected by certain rites of the Passover Seder meal. The work comprises a variety of genres of writing, from the novella to an explanatory commentary on relevant points in the Torah, which are manifested in modes of expression that fuse short story and essay. The work could be seen as an artistic realization of Keszi’s communicative theory. Although the decisive catastrophe that befell the Jews of Hungary occurred only after the appearance of this volume, in light of the general political situation, it is still remarkable from today’s perspective that Keszi continued to view mediation as his task and the task of the Jews. This particular goal of the publication is expressed in several ways. One of the stories tells the tale of ‘the four boys’ from the Haggadah. In his paraphrased definition, Keszi establishes a fourfold typology of man. In the explanatory text accompanying the piece, he foregrounds a role model, whom he calls ‘wise’ and ‘humanist’, as represented by one of the boys, and whose decisive characteristic, according to Keszi’s text, is the way in which they highlight the command that one ‘should love thy neighbour as thyself’.97 With this, he alludes to an Old Testament passage that has received particular emphasis in Christian teaching; that is to say, he seeks common ground and the possibility of self-recognition in the Other. At the same time, it communicates what is his own particular tradition – commentaries and stories can serve not only to introduce children to the history of the Jewish people, which is one of the traditional goals of the Pesach rites, but also opens doors for the reader unfamiliar with Jewish tradition. The implied reader of the text is thus not only the Jewish child woven into the text but also the Christian or secular reader. In this respect, A várakozók lakomája could be compared to Heinrich Heine’s The Rabbi of Bacharach, where the author, as Jeffrey Grossman has observed, used a similar textual strategy. Heine depicted the Seder night in a way that both exoticized it 97 Keszi, Várakozók lakomája, 26, 25.

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and turned it into an intimately familiar event by evoking German and Christian expressions, among others.98 The crux of Keszi’s work is as follows: how is it possible to transmit a tradition that in written form records only the holy day’s rituals and leaves the storytelling largely to those present at the actual event? In the piece ‘Az elbeszélés magva’ [The Kernel of the Story], we read the following: what is most striking in all the Haggadah is, after all, that it is the story of the Exodus, therefore the actual Story, that is, the kernel of the celebration is absent from its text. Isolated pieces of the Story, obscure allusions, casual Midrashim: well, yes, these certainly can be found. But a narrative, a fine, systematic, voluble narrative, which would be suitable for answering the child’s question, the child who is in fact asking: Why is this night different from all other nights? – that is truly out of the question.99

The reason for this, the narrator explains, is that in this way it is possible to avoid the ossification of essence into ceremony: the rigid and decorative angles of the ceremonial part serve to give a kind of heightened and permanent significance to the story’s elegant and subjective flexibility; they are a kind of exhibition frame that validates the beauty of some timeless and eternal style, which every year the narrator’s individual piety fills with a new, glorious image. To narrate, amid ceremonies repeated every year, with different words every year, from a different angle, differently every time, the history of the Exodus!100

Keszi’s book, which is not lacking in parodic and self-ironizing elements, is quite clear about the contradictory nature of its undertaking: if the Haggadah deliberately avoids the recording of the story, and this is one of its central features, every attempt to record the story promotes not its understanding but necessarily prevents it from being understood. Ossification into dogma and overliberal explanation are aberrations that should equally be avoided. The tension between the two is not something the narrator tries to resolve: ‘on the one hand, we immediately declare that our narrative by no means aspires to be the final formulation of the Story. … On the other, we must insist on the epic authenticity of our story: we select just one episode from the entirety of things, but we do so on the basis of the strictest reality and with rigour, in the spirit of our unconditionally reliable sources.’101 While the text highlights the intention to offer assistance to the celebrants in finding a balance between dogma and totally un98 Grossmann, ‘Heine and Jewish Culture’, 267. Heine’s work was published in Hungary in 1925: A bacharachi rabbi, trans. Irén Sass (Budapest: Garai, 1925). 99 Keszi, Várakozók lakomája, 90. 100 Ibid., 91. 101 Ibid., 92.

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bounded interpretation, it discounts a priori the possibility of success. The sustained effort may reinforce the reader’s impression that the volume is also addressed to those for whom – since they are not Jews – no opportunity is offered to participate in the holy day itself and thus the actual, oral recounting of the story is inaccessible to them. That is to say, we can regard the intentionally fragmented story’s recording in written form as a (necessarily limited) intercultural translational event, where translation is further conditioned by switching between different forms of media. At the same time, the circumstances for the translation can be located not merely in the mediation between two cultural traditions but also in the mediation between the worlds of the past and the present. Once again we confront a question that had long preoccupied Keszi, namely: how does actuality radiating through myth in fact operate?102 In answering this question, Keszi relies again on Kerényi’s theory of myth, and he draws a parallel between the ancient Greeks and the Jewish heritage.103 Keszi strives to make the archaic layer of narration and tradition more accessible by deploying Talmudic tradition.104 As I suggested earlier, Hasidic culture increased greatly in Keszi’s estimation by 1943. In several of the stories, he tried, by employing the wily dialogues of the Hasidic stories and their typical participants, to bring new life to specific episodes from the Old Testament. A revivification of the folk tradition was not limited to the insertion of elements from Jewish folklore. While this is undoubtedly emphasized more extensively, it was precisely the story just mentioned, titled ‘Az elbeszélés magva’, which focuses on the crossing of the Red Sea by the Jews when pursued by the Egyptians, that has flashes of the images, vocabulary and storytelling turns of phrase of Hungarian peasant tales. Keszi thus created a style that brought together Jewish and Hungarian folklore in a narrative act with the purpose of revitalizing traditions for contemporary needs. For Keszi, the rediscovery of Eastern European Jewry was a chance to reinvigorate Hungarian-Jewish dual identity through a locally rooted rural communitarian culture distinct from modern urban Jewish culture and to thus find common ground with Hungarian village culture. Keszi’s choice of Egyptian captivity and the Exodus as the topic of his writings in 1943–4 had its reasons, but there was no implied advocacy for aliyah here; he was seeking a different kind of guidance in the Torah and the Hagga-

102 See Keszi’s own comments on this work: PIM Media Collection CD-1272, 458/2. 103 Cf. Keszi, Könyv népe, 9. 104 PIM Archive, V.5246/70/15.

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dah in the given historical situation.105 The closing lines of the story of Abraham and Sarah in ‘Az őrizet éjszakája’ [The Night of the Watch] clarify his position rather unambiguously: ‘So act against evil and battle it with truth, artifice, strength and meekness, as much as you can. Divine aid will battle alongside you, even if you are not counting on it. And keep this advice until next Pesach. And then read this story anew.’106 The story that follows, ‘A gödölye története’ [The Story of One Little Goat], however, warns the reader to exercise caution in identifying evil. The story of the little goat being eaten by the cat demonstrates how complex the relationship between the states of being ‘guilty’ and ‘innocent’ can be, even in a situation where our intuitions might suggest that these states are easy to assign and the relationship between them is rather straightforward. The text calls attention to the fact that passing judgement is beyond the capacity of humans, even when we confront a situation in life in which it seems unambiguous who the transgressor and who the victim are: ‘he who has seen the depravity of worldly power, and the layer upon layer of injustice that has accumulated, will know that above the vaults of the truths of worldly power, the final word is that of heavenly Truth.’107 The ‘Farewell’ that closes the volume, and simultaneously symbolizes the end of the order of service of Pesach (though it allows for several modes of behaviour to be followed), warns against overweening pride, the impossibility of knowing the truth and overestimation of rationality: ‘In a mechanistic world, where mechanical chaos and asinine causality reign, instead of the playful freedom and the discursive caprice of the immeasurable wisdom of God’s commands … struggling and waiting is possible only in God. And as far as taking decisions is concerned, at all events He is the one who does so.’108 The ability to pass judgement is reserved exclusively to God. A várakozók lakomája was published only a couple of weeks before the decisive date of 19 March 1944, when Adolf Hitler’s troops set foot on Hungarian soil while Miklós Horthy, Regent of Hungary, was visiting Germany. Reception of the book was restricted to two short reviews in the liberal newspaper Esti Kurír and the anti-Nazi conservative daily Magyar Nemzet in mid-March, just a few days before both dailies were closed down. In the latter periodical, László Bóka, who was considered to be a primary representative of the young humanist intelligentsia, praised Keszi’s ‘human decency’ in attempting to mix traditions, but 105 Notably, the first full translation of the Haggadah prepared by Károly Pap and published in 1936 left the phrase ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ out, while Jer. 29:7 was added to the end, a passage that instructs believers to stay in exile. Cf. Komoróczy, ‘Szabadulás ünnepe’, 2. 106 Keszi, Várakozók lakomája, 171. 107 Ibid., 186. 108 Ibid., 198.

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stated (in rather ambiguous terms) that Hungarian literature will ‘cast out from itself’ such a work. Keszi, who was doing labour service at the time, and would shortly face deportation, was forced by history to come to a similar conclusion. Even though he managed to save his life by going into hiding, he radically changed his attitude towards the ideas of epistemology, human agency and parallel tradition.

Utopia Changing Form It has become a commonplace since the work of Raymond Aron to say that Marxism-Leninism functioned as a kind of ‘secular religion’.109 It is, however, rare for this kind of change to present itself in the course of a single career as clearly as it does in Keszi’s case. The writer who in 1944 was capable of outlining such an extraordinarily sophisticated, empathetic and carefully considered position, demonstrated after the war very little of the abilities we had previously seen in him.110 He redirected the right to pass judgement to the human sphere of influence – partly into his own – and put all his trust in an ideology that transferred the promise of salvation from the next world to this one. All epistemological doubt about the capacity of humankind to judge others and become acquainted with the universal truth disappeared, and he proved ready to give unquestionable verdicts on works and individuals at a time when such acts could determine one’s entire future. While he was critical of the communist line within the earlier working-class movement, he joined the Communist Party of Hungary in May 1945, and carried out a variety of party tasks associated with teaching, intellectual positions and agitprop.111 From the summer of 1946, he worked as a critic for Szabad Nép, the party daily, and by February 1947 he was entrusted with a literary column for the publication. Alongside this work, he launched the short-lived journal Emberség [Humanism/Humanity], which began to propagate the supremacy of socialist realism, even before this was considered desirable by the majority of se-

109 See Emilio Gentile, Politics as Religion (Princeton Univ. Press, 2006), 1–16. Even if the term was not coined by Aron, he arguably boosted its career. 110 At the time that A várokozók lakomája appeared, the mass deportation and destruction of the Jews had not yet begun, which may have been a factor in Keszi’s about-turn. At the same time, no Jew who suffered more serious persecution accepted the kind of role he did in the formation of the communist dictatorship. 111 PIM Archive, V.5246/85.

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nior party functionaries.112 The writings collected in his volume A sziget ostroma [The Siege of the Island], published in 1948, mostly appeared in these two periodicals. Few of Keszi’s interwar allies were spared attack in its pages, but Kerényi’s circle was the particular focus. In criticizing authors branded as idealists, Keszi was among György Lukács’s most dedicated allies, and his ruthlessness may have been partly ascribable to the fact that he was himself affected: ‘When I oppose the idea of the island, the false aristocratism typified by the artist’s superiority, the mysticism, the mythologizing and other multifarious forms of romantic anti-capitalism that surface as a reaction to rancid imperialism, I find myself confronting a sphere of ideas in whose diffusion I myself played a part’, Keszi wrote in the preface.113 Indeed, his pre-1945 life was, from a post-war communist perspective, full of suspicious moments. He could be charged with having links to Jakob Bleyer, who was both part of an anti-Semitic segment of the Catholic establishment and politically (though not ideologically) flirted with the newly established Nazi Regime in the final months of his life.114 To be associated with Németh, who was silenced after the communist takeover, was also not a good personal connection. Another affiliation that was particularly troubling was Keszi’s admiration for József Erdélyi, who was not only anti-Semitic but, a few years after Keszi had sung his praises for being the most promising Hungarian poet, had published a poem endorsing the Jewish blood libel myth and joined the national socialist Arrow Cross Party. While Erdélyi was correctly associated with rightist extremism in the post-war press, linking Bleyer to the Nazis was largely due to false accusations, and the same was true of Kerényi. The latter’s theory of myth was fiercely criticized, most prominently by Lukács who challenged its ‘irrationalism’. Lukács, absurdly, blamed Kerényi for paving the way to Nazism.115 Fi112 For the introduction of socialist realism in Hungary, see Tamás Scheibner, ‘Introducing Socialist Realism in Hungary, 1945–1951: How Politics Made Aesthetics’, in Socialist Realism in Central and Eastern European Literatures under Stalin: Institutions, Dynamics, Discourses, eds, Evgeny Dobrenko and Natalia Jonsson-Skradol (London: Anthem, 2017). 113 Imre Keszi, Előszó: A sziget ostroma [Foreword: the siege of the island] (Budapest: Dante, n.d. [1948]), 4. 114 Cf. Seewann, Geschichte, 184; Norbert Spannenberger, Der Volksbund der Deutschen in Ungarn, 1938–1944, unter Horthy und Hitler (München: Oldenbourg, 2002), 18. It should be noted that Bleyer’s relationship with the Catholic clergy was rather troubled, as they increasingly favoured a homogenous Hungarian nation state. Cf. Norbert Spannenberger, Die katolische Kirche in Ungarn, 1918–1939: Positionierung im politischen System und “Katolische Renaissance” (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2006), 137–58. 115 György Lukács, ‘Kerényi Károly: Napleányok’, Társadalmi Szemle 6–7 (1948): 491–5. See also Géza Komoróczy, 'Út a mítoszhoz [The road to myth]' in Mitológia és humanitás: Tanulmá-

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nally, Keszi, à propos of A várakozók lakomája, could also be accused of Zionism,116 which the communists strongly disapproved of. Thus, Keszi’s about-turn may have been partly motivated by political needs and calculations. A number of further explanations for such a dramatic change in Keszi’s thinking may occur to the reader. One of these is psychological in nature as one could interpret his change of heart as the tragic result of a traumatized mind. However, the explanation I would like to briefly consider here takes more of an intellectual approach. When it comes to ideas, continuity may seem just as important as changing tack, even though these appear less striking at first glance. Despite drastic changes, one can still find remarkable continuities, as a few elements of Keszi’s thinking that he held before and during the war were transplanted into his new Marxist-Leninist worldview. In the programmatic article in Emberség, he writes that ‘We cannot abandon tradition and the soil of the past. Beyond the abyss of our age, we must find the links with those times during which the original relationship between the individual and the community had not yet been ravaged by the atomization that accompanies capitalist society.’117 The title of the journal is also revealing; it declares its goal to be the creation of a new collective where art ‘is no longer the property of a group of privileged individuals, of a privileged class, but of the community as a whole, whose humanity, human content will be not partial but whole, extending to everything, embracing all.’118 Thus, one utopia in Keszi’s mind was replaced by another. But in this case – and this truly is a drastic change – the way he thought he could advance his cause was not by reconciling various points of view but by consistently and uncompromisingly asserting the principles of Marxism-Leninism. This remained the major driving force behind his actions at least until he lost his privileged position by 1949. In his book on the idea of a Renaissance in modern Judaism, Asher Biemann has depicted Martin Buber’s Jewish Renaissance as a phase in the long history of intellectual, spiritual and artistic resurrections, and redirected atten-

nyok Kerényi Károly 100. születésnapjára [Mythology and humanity: studies in honour of Károly Kerényi's 100th birthday], (Budapest: Osiris, 1999), 254–5. 116 Keszi himself alludes to this indirectly: PIM Archive, V.5246/70/15. Andor Németh, author of the book Kafka ou le mystère juif (Paris: Vigneau, 1947), who was originally a social democrat but compromised with the communists and became an editor of their literary journal Csillag [Star], called Keszi a former ‘orthodox Jewish racist’ (orthodox zsidó fajvédő) in his memoirs written in the early 1950s. Andor Németh, ‘A Csillag története’ [The history of the journal Csillag], Literatura 35 (2009): 341. 117 Imre Keszi, Emberség és irodalom: A sziget ostroma [Humanity and literature: the siege of the island] (Budapest: Dante, n.d. [1948]), 112. 118 Ibid.

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tion to the numerous links through which the Jewish Renaissance can be connected to nineteenth-century interest in revivalist thought (specifically to Jacob Burckhardt’s and Friedrich Nietzsche’s work). In this respect, the Jewish Renaissance was just one among many attempts to overcome the crisis of modernity by relying on revivalist modes of thought. Identifying a renaissance as a ‘mode of thought’ or a ‘figura of imagination’ with characteristic vocabulary,119 typified by its ‘purifying redoing of past’, its sense of its own singularity120 and its aspiration to create a ‘complete human being’,121 might make us realize that the gap between the Jewish Renaissance and other revivalist modes of thought was not unbridgeable. This was especially the case for someone like Keszi, who was open to leftist messianism. As exemplified by the manner in which Lukács promoted it in post-war Hungary, Stalinism aimed, in its own particular way, to revitalize ancient and early modern (in the form of the Italian Renaissance) culture. This was to be achieved, significantly, at a higher level by creating socialist realist artworks understood to be an elevated synthesis of European cultures,122 the primary feature of which was that it transcended temporal limitations by making past and future simultaneous. This could ultimately be reconciled with renaissance thinking, especially by someone who had long been struggling to bring distant types of thought together in an idiosyncratic way.

Back to the Origins: Connecting Judaism, Socialism and Christianity In this period of Keszi’s career, the question of Jewish-Hungarian coexistence was temporarily neglected. Even in his preface written to a post-war (1949) edition of Azarel (1937), Pap’s major novel portraying a Jewish boy’s revolt against his milieu, Keszi entirely neglected Judaic elements, representing the work as a

119 Biemann, Inventing New Beginnings, 147. 120 Ibid. 148. 121 Ibid., 253, 280. 122 See Katherina Clark, Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931–1941 (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2011). For more about the Hungarian context, see Tamás Scheibner, A magyar irodalomtudomány szovjetizálása: A szocialista realista kritika és intézményei, 1945–1953 [The Sovietization of Hungarian literary studies: socialist realist criticism and its institutions] (Budapest: Ráció, 2014), 113, 146.

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romantic anti-capitalist novel that criticized religion and hypocrisy in general.123 This should not come as a surprise, since both the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and the politics of the Communist Party – discounting a few short months that followed the end of the war – promoted the downplaying of any expression of Jewish identity and Jewish communal experience, and indeed, if possible, its complete abandonment.124 However, in Keszi’s case, the denial of the self in the name of creating the ‘new man’ seems not to have been thoroughgoing or profound, for soon the problems of Jewish existence were once again at the heart of his thinking. He was one of the first to react to those manifestations of the Mátyás Rákosi’s regime that could be considered anti-Semitic.125 This did not, naturally, take the form of journalism; after Keszi lost his position as a leading critic, he embarked on writing a socialist realist novel. In 1952, Alapkő [Founding Stone] duly appeared, which in terms of its length certainly lived up to its title.126 The novel – which was intended to be the first part of a roman-fleuve depicting the history of an imaginary factory in Borsod County (an industrial region in north-eastern Hungary) from the nineteenth-century Age of Reform until the coming of socialism – shows the kind of tensions that permeated Hungarian and European society before and after the 1848 Revolution. The work strives to satisfy the demands of the socialist realist genre in terms of its structure and content,127 and the narrative of class struggle and Russophilia unfolds in an almost comical manner. For example, it emerges that in the course of the 1848 struggle for independence, the Hungarian peasants fought side by side with Slovak peasants and Jews against the Austrians, and when the Russian forces occupied the territory willy-nilly, the Russian commander declares that he was in fact rooting for the freedom fighters deep in his heart.128 123 Imre Keszi, ‘Pap Károlyról’ [On Károly Pap], in Károly Pap, Azarel (Budapest: Franklin, 1949), v–xiv. 124 Cf. Róbert Győri Szabó, A kommunizmus és a zsidóság Magyarországon 1945 után [Communism and the Jews in Hungary after 1945] (Budapest: Gondolat, 2009), 75–88, 89–101. 125 For measures that were partly anti-Jewish, or could have been seen as such, see ibid., 167– 204. 126 Imre Keszi, Alapkő (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1952). 127 The standard analysis of the genre remains that by Katherina Clark, The Soviet Novel: History of Ritual, 3rd ext. ed. (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2000). 128 Soviet-friendliness under socialism was retrospectively extended to the imperial period. The writer and culture politician Béla Illés invented a Russian imperial officer ‘Captain Gusev’ who allegedly rebelled against the Tsar and sided with the Hungarians in the 1848/49 revolution and freedom fight. This fictional figure was treated as a factually existed one, made its way into historiography schoolbooks, and even a street was named after him. For a detailed story and context see See Boldizsár Vörös, Történelemhamisítás és politikai propaganda. Illés Béla

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However, Keszi offers a novelty even for those familiar with socialist realist novels, one that is relevant to questions of Jewish-Hungarian coexistence. The events are presented from a perspective that is unusually broad in comparison with similar novels; the action, which from the outset has two strands (set in Hamburg and Borsod), is supplemented by scenes from London and Paris, but with detours to Sweden and Riga as well. From the synopsis of the novels, it emerges that in the second volume Keszi would have plunged one of his heroes into the Paris Commune, and in the sequel he would have set some of the action in the United States.129 Such a broadening of scope also offered Alapkő’s author an opportunity to expatiate on the role of Hungarian Jewry in the country’s industrialization; one of the ingredients of this was the mediating role taken on by the Jews. The three key figures in the founding of a steel mill are a relatively progressive Hungarian noble, who is nevertheless unable to step beyond the ‘boundaries of his class’, a French engineer, who comes forward as an investor, and the noble’s advisor, the Jewish Józsua Fern, who is able to offer perspective on socio-economic processes equally from the Hungarian, Habsburg-imperial and European angles, and whose relatives in Riga provide the capital necessary for the undertaking. Fern’s role here is not only to mediate between the peasantry and the nobility, between workers and capitalists but also between East and West, while his commitment to the Hungarian nation remains unimpeachable, as indicated by both the martyrdom of the youngest of Fern’s sons in the War of Independence and the several years of imprisonment in Austria Fern himself suffers. Keszi thus strives to show that the Jews were in fact the leaven of the socialist society being created. The novel received a lukewarm and uneven reception. While it gained some praise,130 a devastating review in early 1953 accused Keszi, among other things, of lack of patriotism, an apathetic approach to the topic and cosmopolitanism, in fact criticizing it for allowing its plebeian class-struggle approach to override the grand narrative of national reconciliation.131 The tone of the piece demonstrates clearly the antipathy a significant section of the Hungarian intelligentsia held towards Keszi. In the mid-1950s, Keszi tried to draw close to the circle

elmeszüleményei a magyar szabadságküzdelmek orosz támogatásáról [Falsification of history and political propaganda: the brainchildren of Béla Illés about the Russian support of Hungarian struggles for freedom] (Budapest: MTA BTK TTI, 2014). 129 PIM Archive, V.5246/70/1. 130 Pál Pándi, ‘Keszi Imre: Alapkő’ [Imre Keszi: foundation stone], Csillag 12 (1952): 1522–30. 131 Miklós Hubay, ‘Alapkő. Keszi Imre regénye’ [Foundation stone: Imre Keszi’s novel], Irodalmi Újság (15 January 1953): 6.

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around the reform communist Imre Nagy,132 and was the first to openly raise the need to abandon the term socialist realism.133 This, however, did not make Keszi popular, as many regarded him as an unprincipled opportunist. Tibor Déry, a writer of great authority and a figure central to the 1956 Revolution, for instance, particularly disliked Keszi, and Déry was not alone in his opinion. Unlike several former Stalinists, Keszi remained in a marginalized position within the communist opposition that started the Revolution, had no direct access to Imre Nagy’s circle and played no significant role in de-Stalinization.134 Keszi remained, in many respects, intellectually isolated to the very end. Ironically, the newly established regime of János Kádár accused him of playing a role in the planning of the Revolution; as a result, in 1957 he lost not only his job but a selection of his works could not be published either.135 When, in 1958, Keszi’s Elysium, one of the first Hungarian novels to report on the experience of Nazi camps appeared, it received little attention.136 The novelist and Nobel laureate Imre Kertész claimed that the only authentic work of art about the Holocaust is that which does not put the world order to rights, does not close off the period of persecution by appealing to ‘liberation’ and does not reduce the experience of totalitarianism into a historical period that is circumscribable and comprehensible as a temporary anomaly in European history. He advocates instead that it should be presented as a living problem demanding constant care and attention.137 Elysium is diametrically opposed to such an approach. In Keszi’s novel, the teenager Gyurka is taken to a relocation camp near the Waldsee where the children are relatively well cared for, but are subjected to medical experiments. A section of the camp is outfitted with children’s playgrounds and offers certain privileges; in the novel, this area is ironically called Elysium (those who survive their treatment can end up here for a time as a ‘re132 See Éva Standeisky, Az írók és a hatalom 1953–1963 [Writers and power 1953–1963] (Budapest: 1956-os Intézet, 1996), 55. 133 Cf. ‘Gyorsírói jegyzőkönyv az 1956. szeptember 17-én tartott közgyűlésről’, in Írók lázadása: 1956-os írószövetségi jegyzőkönyvek [Revolt of the writers: meeting minutes of the writer’s union in 1956], ed. Éva Standeisky (Budapest: MTA ITI, 1990), 291. 134 In 1948, Déry, with the support of Aladár Komlós, the writer Milán Füst and others, composed a letter denouncing Keszi to Márton Horváth, a member of the Party’s Central Committee. They accused Keszi, among other things, of being a ‘Zionist’. Tibor Déry, Levél: A műítész karácsonya hátteréről és Keszi Imre [Letter: on the background to The Critic’s Christmas and the assessment of Imre Keszi], in Szép elmélet fonákja. Cikkek, művek, beszédek, interjúk (1945– 1957), ed. Ferenc Botka (Budapest: PIM, 2002), 131–44. 135 Endre Illés (Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó) to Imre Keszi, Budapest, 12 February 1957, PIM Archive, V.5246/90/482. 136 Imre Keszi, Elysium (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1958). 137 See e.g. Imre Kertész, The Holocaust as Culture (London: Seagull Books, 2011).

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ward’). From the perspective of the protagonist, this appears to be a desirable, utopian space, where children live a free life. However, the reader is aware from the beginning that it is a false utopia and is in reality a dystopia. Still, the novel continually plays with the notion that despite all that they know to the contrary, the reader can hope that Gyurka, with the help of his family, who have remained in Budapest, and his non-Jewish friends, can perhaps be saved after all. This would also signal the symbolic reinforcement of the possibility of Hungarian-Jewish coexistence, for the saving of the child would be a joint comradely effort of a good number of Hungarians and Jews. With the death of Gyurka, this hope dissipates. However, in the surreal epilogue, a Soviet soldier takes Gyurka’s body home in the form of a piece of bread, also suggesting the possibility of reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity, which is another key theme of the novel. Elysium, thereby, refers back to the philosophy of Buber and links the novel to the beginnings of Keszi’s intellectual career. While, in the wake of the ironic play that ensues with the book’s title Elysium, it appears that the narrator dispenses with the illusion of utopias, the end of the novel reinforces the necessity of faith, not so much in the sense of Jewish or Christian transcendence but in the capacity of the Soviet Union and the socialist system that could bring redemption to the people on earth.

Conclusions Imre Keszi’s oeuvre has been overshadowed by his activities following the Second World War to such an extent that his previous works have largely been ignored. These, however, reveal a different thinker – one whose ambition was to overcome the crisis of modernity by reconciling apparently contradictory or distant traditions in an eclectic manner. In the interwar period, Keszi thereby aimed to find a balance between genuine internationalism and patriotism, while rejecting both cosmopolitanism and nationalism, which he identified as the primary causes of Europe’s decline. Ultimately, such thoughts compare to those promoted by Marxism-Leninism. Unlike Marxism, however, he took a critical stance towards rationalism as identified with the Enlightenment, and sought renewal in both religion and myth mediated by the traditional communities allegedly uncorrupted by urban modernity. He shared an obsession with many of his contemporaries for the distinct spirit of one’s people, and regarded language as crucial in not only self-understanding, but also as a means of overcoming crisis. He trusted in the capacity of language (broadly conceived) to af-

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fect reality once it was revitalized by deep-rooted but partly forgotten traditions, and firmly believed that the contemporary crisis could be overcome by reinstating effective communication in this renewed language. In all these respects, Keszi was a man of his times. His exceptional eclecticism made Keszi a remarkable figure in interwar intellectual history; he stood out through his sheer effort to reconcile all these common ideas of the time into one single, if not entirely logical, system. Such a synthetic attempt urges us to explore the many variants of post-romantic cultural criticism from Marxism (and Leninism) to Völkerpsychologie, from Schicksalskunde to Jewish Renaissance, from structuralist linguistics to interwar political populism as entangled modes of thought. If Keszi is, in a sense, the quintessential thinker of interwar Central and Eastern Europe, he is also clearly an extreme figure in another sense. This extremeness relates to his quest to find a role for Jewry in Hungarian society and, ultimately, in Europe, a preoccupation that may not have been highlighted in every one of his works, but constituted a profound existential issue for him virtually throughout his life. It may be difficult to understand a posteriori that Keszi continued to believe in the mediatory role of the Jews, even when he was called for labour service and his community was outlawed and faced collective annihilation. His insistence on his theories of Jewry up until the point of the deportations, which ruthlessly revealed the illusionary nature of the ideas he had nurtured for some 15 years, might partially explain the unusually radical shift his thinking took when he turned himself into a devoted Stalinist in just a couple of months. At the same time, Stalinism should be viewed in the context of early twentieth-century revivalist thought, and from this perspective his seemingly abrupt about-turn appears a little more plausible. Keszi’s career was spent in the thrall of utopian creeds that ultimately proved self-destructive. His trajectory also shows that utopianism and eschatological thinking might be interpreted as preconditions that made a good number of Central and Eastern European intellectuals receptive not only to Leninism, but even to a Stalinism of which most had little accurate knowledge. Finally, let me comment on a theme which was only indirectly addressed by this paper. Using Keszi as an example also shows that criticism pertaining to the notion of identity need not result in its complete abandonment, and in the boycott of the terms associated with it (like assimilation and emancipation). For Keszi, Jewishness was both a subjective and a collective matter; he may have rejected normativity on one level, but he practiced normative criticism on another. This ambiguity might be viewed as a criticism of the notion of identity in itself, for identity has proven, and continues to prove, to be inadequate in describing one’s Jewishness. At the same time, Keszi’s usage of the available political vocabularies of the time, dominated as they were by notions such as assim-

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ilation and emancipation, leads us to conclude that a multidirectional approach is needed to map the complexity of Jewish subjectivities.

Felicia Waldman

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest in the First Half of the Twentieth Century Jews are still nomads, not with their feet but with their minds. They run to the future, run to utopias; dissatisfied with the present, they are ever drawn to the most advanced ideas. Henri Wald

Introduction Professors represent a special type of intellectual, for their importance is twofold: in addition to possessing personal relevance within a certain profession (as many are also writers, singers, doctors, engineers, architects, etc.) or field of expertise (literature, history, sociology, medicine, engineering, etc.), they also wield long-term influence on successive generations. Beyond being objects of love, envy or even hate for their position in society, they function as role models for young men and women, so their evolution has perhaps even more bearing on a nation – or on any given group, for that matter – than that of other intellectuals. This dynamic is even more cogent when it comes to the relationship between a society’s majority and its various minorities. Just as the attitudes of professors who belong to the majority – especially in relation to minorities – can be, and have so often been, mimicked by their students, so can the attitudes of professors who belong to the minority serve as examples for their own adherents, especially in response to adversity. Examples include Romanian intellectuals like Nae Ionescu (1890–1940), whose nationalistic ideas have influenced many generations of students and non-students alike, and pseudo-intellectuals like Alexandru C. Cuza (1857– 1947), who built a university career based on politics rather than academic credentials and unfortunately left his mark on a number of impressionable young men and women. And then there are the Jewish intellectuals like Martin Bercovici (1902–1971) and Ernest Abason (1897–1942), whose reaction to the Second World War’s anti-Semitic legislation forbidding Jewish access to higher educa-

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tion involved the establishment of Jewish universities to allow students to continue their studies. This article intends to shed light on the several possible fates a Jewish professor of humanities or sciences might have had at the University of Bucharest in the historical and political context of the first half of the twentieth century, and to what extent these fates depended on his or her choices. Individuals usually had options, but personal ambition often dictated how they were chosen and whether morality would play a role in the process.1

Historical context Understanding the ramifications of the problem requires a brief note on the shifts in Romanian political discourse and the public policy they produced during the second half of the nineteenth century. Over time, under the various rulers of the Danubian Principalities (including the infamous Phanariotes), Jews were alternatively invited and repressed, depending on the economic needs of the moment. They were welcomed whenever local trade needed a boost and persecuted once it gathered momentum. Yet, it was not until the Organic Regulation for Moldova of 1831 that a clear anti-Jewish legal stipulation was first formalized.2 Thus, at the end of the Phanariote period there were native Jews [pământeni], Jews recently settled by princely decree [hrisoveliți] and foreign Jews [sudiți], many of whom were in fact native or recently settled Jews who had registered for protection with the consulates of Russia (1782), Austria (1783), France (1796) or the UK (1803), which had been newly opened by a stipulation of the capitulation rights granted to the Christian powers by the Ottoman Sublime Porte following the Treaty of Kuciuk Kainardji. However, under the Organic Regulations of both Moldova (1831) and 1 This study does not take into account the medical school, which was part of the University of Bucharest before the Second World War but subsequently became a separate university, where a number of Jewish doctors taught in the 1930s, including Oscar Sager, Arthur Kreindler, M. Goldstein, E. Façon, Rudolf Brauner, B. Menkes and M. Blumenthal. 2 ‘…It is incontestable that the Jews, who have spread throughout Moldova and whose number is growing every day, live in their vast majority on the account of the locals and exploit almost all resources to the detriment of industrial progress and public welfare. In order to prevent this shortcoming to the greatest possible extent, the same commission will mark in the census table the status of each Jew, so that those who do not have a clear status, do not practice any profession and live in this country without any official approval could be eliminated, and that any such individual trying to enter Moldova in the future could be stopped.’ (Chapter III, Article 94).

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Wallachia (1832), which required that recipients of any civil and political rights be Christians, all Jews were now categorized as ‘foreigners’, meaning that those who did not happen to be foreign subjects were simply outlawed. Still, the Revolution of 1848 brought with it a breath of fresh air, as the list of the revolutionaries’ demands included the emancipation of the Jews; many Jews took part in or even sponsored the movement, including Hillel Manoach, Solomon Halfon and Davicion Bally. Although the revolution failed and the Jews were not emancipated, they did temporarily receive better treatment, especially under Alexandru Ioan Cuza following the unification of the two principalities in 1859. But this improvement, which included the possibility to obtain naturalization under the Civil Code of 1864, was to be short-lived, as Cuza was soon ousted from power and his reforms abandoned. Moreover, for various reasons outside the scope of this study, many revolution participants who had supported the emancipation of native Jews later became its most fierce opponents. This was true of important political and cultural figures like Mihail Kogălniceanu (1817–1891) and Ion Brătianu (1821–1891), whose ascension to power paved the way for anti-Semitic acts such as the brutal and arbitrary deportations of 1867, a scandal that resonated across the globe. Contrary to Jewish hopes, the Berlin Congress of 1878 did not bring about much change as it failed to make the international recognition of Romania’s independence contingent upon the emancipation of the country’s Jews. With the exception of the roughly 880 Jews who were individually naturalized for having fought in the Romanian War of Independence in 1877 – for a country that refused to give them rights and persecuted and deported so many of their co-religionists – and the additional notable exception of less than 200 other Jews (bankers, businessmen, scholars) also naturalized for their value to the state, the vast majority of Romanian Jews were the last minority to obtain citizenship in modern Europe. This occurred with the 1923 ratification of the Romanian Constitution, and only then as a result of international pressure to make the recognition of Greater Romania’s new borders – established in the aftermath of the First World War, which Romanians term the ‘War of Unification’, as it led to the recovery of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina – contingent upon the true emancipation of Romania’s Jews. The subsequent interwar period was characterized by more-or-less open anti-Semitism, depending on the political strategies of the moment. Most of the parties in office between 1918 and 1937, such as Alexandru Averescu’s People’s Party (1920–1, 1926–7), Ion Brătianu’s Liberal Party (1922–5), Nicolae Iorga’s National Democratic Party (1931–2) and Alexandru Vaida-Voevod’s National Peasant Party (1932–3), were overtly anti-Semitic in their positions, stimulating public and governmental discussion of the possible introduction of a numerus clau-

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sus (sometimes a numerus valahicus) for Jews in higher education, economy and state administration. Although none of these interwar governments enacted or implemented anti-Semitic legislation per se, they all condoned non-governmental acts of anti-Semitism.3 Anti-Semitism became official state policy under the Goga-Cuza government, which was in power from December 1937 to February 1938. With the slogan ‘Romania for the Romanians’, this government made anti-Semitism the centrepiece of its platform and legislated a numerus nullus in a long list of professions, which excluded Jews from various fields of public life, including education. Despite the government’s mere three months in power, the anti-Semitic policies promoted by Octavian Goga (1881–1938) and Alexandru C. Cuza survived their abrupt fall from power and exerted a great deal of influence on the policies of all successive governments preceding the end of the Second World War.4 In this context, it is no surprise that, as historian Lucian Nastasă concludes in his work The ‘Sovereigns’ of Romanian Universities: Mechanisms of Selection and the Promotion of the Intellectual Elite: A significant factor in allowing for, or preventing, access to an academic position at a Romanian university was undoubtedly the candidate’s ethnicity. Romania was one of those states exclusively governed by national elites, where public positions – especially elevated ones – remained almost devoid of allogenes, in particular Jews, through an obscure form of blockage. It was imperceptible in legislation up until 1938 despite the fact that the amount of collective achievements of a spiritual nature as well as modern intellectual practices in the fields of politics, culture, aesthetics, literature, philosophy and science clearly indicate their overrepresentation and over qualification.5

Thus: There were evident cases of ethnicity-based discrimination in university recruitment … Erudite Jewish scholars – of which there were many in Romania – were discouraged ab initio through an atmosphere of anti-Semitism that pervaded the universities, among not only students, but certain parts of the academic staff as well. In January 1930 when the chair of Indo-European studies in Czernowitz became vacant, Gr. Nadriş wrote to Al. Ro-

3 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid and Mihail E. Ionescu, eds, Final Report of the International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania (Bucharest: Polirom, 2005), 30. 4 Ibid., 31. 5 Lucian Nastasă, ‘Suveranii’ universităților românești. Mecanisme de selecție și promovare a elitei intelectuale. I. Profesorii Facultăților de Filosofie și Litere (1864–1948) [The ‘sovereigns’ of Romanian universities: mechanisms of selection and the promotion of the intellectual elite] (Cluj-Napoca: Limes, 2007), 446.

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setti that one of the potential candidates, Al. Graur, ‘will meet with redoubtable resistance of a national nature’ because he was a Jew.6

After Romanian Jews were subjected to the anti-Semitic legislation of successive governments between 1937 and 1944, the situation only worsened after the Second World War. Having suffered a legacy of persecution and restrictions, it was understandable that a number of Jewish professionals were quick to believe the promises of a communist utopia with hope that their status in Romanian society would improve. Some saw communism as simply an opportunity for career advancement, while others saw clearly what was on the horizon and did their best to flee the country before it had the chance to take root. While those who joined the Communist Party – be it out of belief or opportunism – initially benefitted from some of the advantages of membership, none was spared the purging of the 1950s following Stalin’s death and the abandonment of some of his principles; with very few exceptions, the new form of communist rule – deeply antiSemitic, yet seldom overtly so – prevented Jewish access to higher positions in most professions (one partial yet notable exception was the world of theatre). While between 1948 and the early 1950s Jewish professors could obtain tenured academic positions at universities at a rapid pace, the situation would quickly change. Some who had already managed to join academia were marginalized or even removed, while those who contemplated joining found it increasingly difficult to gain a foothold. Although this study’s purview ends in 1948, reviewing the careers of those under scrutiny allow insight into the further avatars of being a Jewish professor at a Romanian university under the communist regime.

Life as a Jewish professor at the University of Bucharest before the Second World War Given the restrictions outlined above, few Jewish intellectuals managed to find employment as tenured academic staff at the University of Bucharest before the Second World War. Indeed, there were only four. The first was a mathematician named David Emmanuel (born 31 January 1854, Bucharest; died 4 February 1941, Bucharest). Still considered the founder of the modern school of mathematics in Romania, Emmanuel studied at Gheorghe Şincai High School in Bucharest (1869–73), which he was able to at6 Ibid., 449.

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tend by giving lessons to younger students. By means of a scholarship granted by the Jacob Loebel Foundation,7 he then studied mathematics in Paris, where he received his BA in mathematics in 1876 and in physics in 1877. After Spiru Haret, Emmanuel was the second student from Romania (as he did not have Romanian citizenship at the time) to earn a doctorate from the Sorbonne, in 1879. He defended his thesis, titled ‘Étude des intégrales abéliennes de troisième espace’, before a commission comprising Dr. Briot and Dr. Bouquet and chaired by Professor Puiseux. Upon his return from France, Emmanuel found employment as a mathematics teacher at St. George’s High School in Bucharest (1879), and then as a substitute assistant professor in the Department of Algebra and Analytical Geometry at the University of Bucharest (1880). He received tenure as a professor at the Special School of Artillery and Engineering where he taught algebra and infinitesimal calculus (1881–90). He also worked as a tenured professor at the School of Bridges and Roads (1881–1927) and in the Department of Algebra and Theory of Functions at the University of Bucharest (1882–1928). It was here in 1888 that he delivered the first courses in Galois Theory and group theory. His students included future renowned mathematicians Gheorghe Ţiţeica, Traian Lalescu, Simion Stoilow, Dan Barbilian and Grigore Moisil. Emmanuel’s fame far exceeded the borders of Romania. From the 15 July 1898 edition of The Jewish Chronicle: M. David Emmanuel, a Roumanian citizen, Professor of Superior Algebra at the University of Bucharest, a most capable teacher, who, during the discussion on the new law on superior education was cited in both Houses of Parliament as a model, has been appointed member of the Commission charged with elaborating the programmes for the Lyceums and Faculties. His name often figures in the lists of Examining Boards for the appointment of Professors.

David Emmanuel wrote no less than 14 books, some of which are still considered seminal works in their field. For his significant role in introducing the study of modern mathematics in Romania and for his rigorous approach to the discipline, Emmanuel was elected honorary chairman of the first congress of 7 Jacob Loebel was one of the most important Jewish figures of nineteenth-century Romania. After helping his brother-in-law Jacob Marmorosch establish the first Romanian bank in 1848, he contributed to the development of the insurance market in Romania by opening and heading a local branch of Azienda Assicuratrice di Trieste (1857–64). He was also instrumental in the founding of the Bank of Romania in 1866. His poor health and the drama of his wife’s death led to his early demise at the age of 39, but not before establishing the Jacob and Carolina Loebel Foundation, which offered scholarships to worthy students and sponsored one of the first Jewish boys’ schools in Bucharest.

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mathematics organized in Romania, which opened in the aula magna of the University of Cluj on 9 May 1929. Emmanuel’s case is interesting to this study for the surprisingly high degree of appreciation he received from the authorities. We can deduce that this appreciation was not only due to his professional achievements; for, as we shall see further on, there were other Jewish intellectuals with remarkable merits who failed to enjoy the same fate. Emmanuel was unhindered in his pursuit of an outstanding academic career, while his fellow co-religionists were subjected to restrictive anti-vagrancy laws forbidding them from settling in villages, leasing land or establishing industry in towns. These laws were issued and abrogated at a dizzying pace but seem only to have served as a means for extorting money through bribes, as we know of Jews who were allowed to do all three. Furthermore, he was able to actively participate in the Jewish community without suffering any professional setback as a result; it was common that Jews had to convert to Christianity to gain access to the job market. Thus, after working briefly at the age of 20 as a tutor at a private Jewish school in Bucharest, Emmanuel participated in the establishment of the renowned Jewish Theoretical High School in Bucharest, also known as Cultura. He was also an honorary member of the Friends of the Choral Temple Association [Asociația Prietenii Templului Coral] and on the governing committee of the Cahal Grande Sephardic Synagogue.8 And yet, despite his choice not to surrender his identity and his beliefs, but rather to proudly manifest his Jewishness, Emmanuel was awarded the Order of the Romanian Crown (Officer Class), the Bene Merenti Order (First Class) and the Labour Reward Order (First Class). He was among the first Romanian Jews to be granted citizenship in 1880, and was appointed an honorary member of the Romanian Academy on 25 May 1936. A street in Bucharest was named in his honour and has retained his name to this day. Emmanuel represents the sole case of zero concessions, 100 per cent professional merits and gains, and no suffering due to his ethnicity or personal choices, none of which were immoral. The second Jew to succeed as a tenured professor at the University of Bucharest before the Second World War was philologist, linguist and folklorist Ion-Aurel Candrea (born Iancu Hecht, 7 November 1872, Bucharest; died 15 September 1950, Paris). In 1892 Candrea graduated from Gheorghe Lazăr High School, one of Bucharest’s best secondary schools, and enrolled at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy at the University of Bucharest (1892–6) where he studied with Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu (1838–1907), a seminal writer and phi8 Cf. Harry Kuller (coord.), Evrei din România. Breviar bibliografic [The Jews of Romania: a bibliographic review] (Bucharest: Hasefer, 2008), 130–5.

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lologist. He started publishing in 1894 while still a student, using the name Hecht-Candrea to sign his articles. Toward the end of his studies he took a special interest in dialectology and, together with Mihai Canianu (born Moritz Cahana [1867–1933], a Jewish folklorist, translator and publicist who did not succeed in making it into academia) compiled two geographical dictionaries, one dedicated to Dolj County in 1896 and one to Putna County in 1897. Each was awarded the prize of the Romanian Geographical Society.9 Candrea specialized in Romance languages, lexicography and linguistic geography at the Sorbonne and the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris (1897–1902) where he studied with Gaston Paris, Jules Gilieron and Paul Meyer.10 While a student in the French capital, he worked as a substitute assistant professor at the Romanian language chair of the École Spéciale des Langues Orientales Vivantes, headed at the time by E. Picot. In 1902 he defended his doctoral thesis titled ‘Les éléments latins de la langue roumaine: Le consonantisme’, and in 1903 returned to Romania, where he taught high-school French in Craiova and Bucharest. In 1913 he became substitute associate professor in the Department of Romance Philology, then docent in 1916, tenured associate professor in 1922 and finally full professor in 1927 in the Department of Dialectology and Romanian Folklore at the University of Bucharest. Incidentally, one of his students was Horia Sima.11 Candrea was interested in various aspects of linguistics (lexicology, lexicography, dialectology, toponymy, anthroponomy), philology (textual criticism) and folklore, and made original contributions to each of these fields. He delivered courses in Romance languages, Balkan linguistics, onomastics, toponymy and folklore. He wrote textbooks for the teaching of French, Italian, German, English and Russian, and also spoke Albanian and Megleno-Romanian. In 1905, along with Ovid Densuşianu (1873– 1938), he participated in the founding of the Romanian Philological Society and the publication of its Bulletin; from 1923 to 1937 he contributed to the cultural journal Grai şi suflet [Language and Soul] which was also edited by Densuşianu. An enthusiast for the complex field of etymology – along with lexicography and dialectology, the precursor to comparative linguistics – as well as a lover of folklore and an avid fan of toponymy, Candrea authored (sometimes with Densuşianu and others) 15 books, including several specialized dictionaries, some 9 Lucia Wald, ed., Lingvişti şi filologi evrei din România [Romanian Jewish linguists and philologists] (Bucharest: Hasefer, 1996), 79–84. 10 Ecaterina Ţarălungă, Dicţionar de Literatură Română [Dictionary of Romanian literature] (Bucharest: 2007), 52. 11 Horia Sima (1907–93) was a fascist, Romanian nationalist politician. After 1938 he was the second and last leader of the fascist-nationalist and anti-Semitic paramilitary movement known as the Iron Guard.

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest 


of which are still in use today. He retired in 1936 at the age of 64, but continued to teach; in 1948 he immigrated to France, where he died two years later. Candrea represents a slightly different case than that of David Emmanuel. Although he did not convert to Christianity, he did change his name to improve his access to the cultural world of Romania, and unlike Emmanuel, he did not become manifestly involved in the Jewish community. However, just like Emmanuel – but perhaps for more evident reasons, given the above – he was highly appreciated by the authorities. The problem becomes even clearer upon comparing Candrea’s case with that of another Jewish philologist, linguist and folklorist of international repute, and former student of Bogdan Petriceicu Hașdeu at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest, Lazăr Șăineanu (born Eliezer Schein, 23 April 1859, Ploiești; died 11 May 1934, Paris). Like Candrea, Șăineanu was a remarkable scholar who made a decisive contribution to the development of Romanian philological studies, and just like Candrea he changed his name to gain easier access to Romania’s cultural milieu. However, unlike Candrea he immersed himself in the Jewish community, writing for its magazines and fighting for its naturalization, which put him in conflict with the authorities and resulted in his exile. Thus, Șăineanu’s decision to manifest his Jewishness puts him closer to David Emmanuel but with an opposite outcome: by all possible means he was prevented from attaining a tenured teaching position, even after ultimately converting to Christianity.12 We can see that it was not even a matter of the choices made by the Jews who wanted and deserved to become professors, for Șăineanu did almost everything conceivable to attain this goal; yet, even conversion was not enough. One explanation may lie in the fact that while Emmanuel worked with mathematics, Șăineanu focused on the culture and language of Romania. In the straightforward words of historian, writer and politician Vasile A. Urechia (1834–1901), a Jew ‘could never awaken in the minds and hearts of the young generation the image of our past laden with lessons for the future.’13 But this does not explain Candrea’s positive case. It merely proves how personal and visceral anti-Semitism was at the time; for, unlike Candrea, Șăi12 The highest position Șăineanu could attain was professor of German at the Higher Education School of the University of Bucharest, which was not strictly an academic institution (cf. the 1896–97 Annual Report of the University of Bucharest). 13 Laszlo Alexandru, ‘Un savant călcat în picioare (I)’ [A trampled upon scholar], Tribuna, no. 151 (2008). Lazăr Șăineanu’s case was so outrageous that it became the subject of several important works of scholarship, including George Voicu, ‘Radiografia unei expatrieri: cazul Lazăr Șăineanu’ [Radiography of an expatriation: the case of Lazăr Șăineanu], Caietele Institutului Național pentru Studierea Holocaustului din România “Elie Wiesel”, no. 1 (2008), and the above-mentioned Nastasă, “Suveranii” universităților românești. Similar fates were shared by

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neanu was perceived as a dangerous competitor by certain members of academia, such as V. A. Urechia as well as historian and folklorist Grigore Tocilescu (1850–1909). For his merits, yet seemingly for his good behaviour as well, Candrea was awarded the Order of the Romanian Star (Commander Class), the Valour and Loyalty Medal and the French Legion of Honour.14 Furthermore, during the Second World War he was one of the 79 Jews who were assimilated as Romanians under a special law promulgated in July 1943.15 This allowed him to continue his lifestyle and research activity until the end of the war while the vast majority of his co-religionists were denied most of their rights, thus preventing them from making a living for themselves and their families. Incidentally, the list also includes Henric Sanielevici (1875–1951), a journalist and literary critic also remembered for his work in anthropology, ethnography, sociology and zoology. While Sanielevici did not succeed in making it into academia, he came from a family that did have some success. His brother Simion was a professor of mathematics at the University of Iași and an honorary member of the Romanian Academy, and Simion’s son Alexandru was a professor of physics at the University of Bucharest and also a correspondent member of the Romanian Academy. Thus, Candrea provides a case characterized by small, yet by no means immoral, concessions to the interwar and wartime political establishments, relevant merits, no suffering due to his ethnicity or decisions, and many professional gains. The third professor of Jewish origin who obtained tenure at the University of Bucharest before the Second World War constitutes an entirely different case. Tudor Vianu (born 8 January 1898, Giurgiu; died 21 May 1964, Bucharest) was born into a Jewish family that had already converted to Christianity by the time of his birth, yet he was regarded – and treated – as a Jew throughout his lifetime. However, this is more understandable in light of the fact that his father’s conversion, which must have been determined by context rather than conviction, had not prevented the elder Vianu from being very active in the Jewish community. For instance, after having been naturalized following the War of Independence in 1877, in which he fought as a volunteer, in 1890 Alexandru Vianu (born Vainberg) was elected the first president of the newly founded General Moses Gaster (1856–1939) and Hariton Tiktin (1850–1936), to name just two other examples. All three obtained tenured academic positions abroad. 14 Wald, Lingvişti şi filologi, 82. 15 Lya Benjamin, ‘Starea juridică a evreilor şi implicaţiile cotidiene ale legislaţiei antievreieşti, 1940–1944’ [The legal status of the Jews and the daily implications of the anti-Jewish legislation, 1940–1944], in Reflecţii despre Holocaust: Articole, Studii, Mărturii, ed. Felicia Waldman (Bucharest: Editura Asociaţiei Evreilor din România Victime ale Holocaustului, 2006), 184.

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Association of Native Jews [Asociația Generală a Evreilor Pământeni] which comprised those who had been born in Romania and had completed military service. Tudor Vianu is included in this study despite the fact that he was officially a Christian, as his case provides an understanding of what it meant for a cultural personality to have the slightest trace of Jewish blood in interwar, wartime and post-war Romania. Often referred to as a great aesthetician, literary critic and historian, poet, essayist, philosopher and translator, Vianu attended courses of the Faculty of Philosophy and Law at the University of Bucharest (1915–20) and obtained his PhD from the University of Tübingen in November 1923 with a thesis titled ‘The Issue of Valorisation in Schiller’s Poetry’, which was highly praised by philosopher, poet, playwright and novelist Lucian Blaga (1895–1961). Upon his return to Romania in 1924, Vianu decided to pursue an academic career. He was hired as a substitute assistant professor, became a docent in 1927 and finally obtained tenure as an associate professor in the Department of Aesthetics at the University of Bucharest in 1930. The founder of the Romanian school of stylistics at the University of Bucharest, Vianu was appointed a correspondent member of the Romanian Academy in 1935. But it is from this point on that his story becomes particularly interesting. Despite his being born a Christian, under the Legionary State of 1940–1, he almost lost his academic position because of his Jewish origins when a special commission established that ‘a Jew could not educate the Romanian youth’.16 The explanation lies in the fact that the definition of Jewishness in the various anti-Semitic laws of the time differed according to the immediate interests of the authorities in the respective field (labour, education, military service, etc.). Thus, while the law regulating the rights of Jews in regard to education and the law for the Romanianization of business personnel defined Jews as ‘those born from two Jewish parents or at least from a Jewish father, as the father’s religion is the determinant one’, the 1940 decree based on the Jewish blood census defined Jews as ‘those who have both, or at least one parent, or even one grandparent, whether maternal or paternal, of Jewish blood’. Parents and grandparents were considered to have Jewish blood if they belonged at the time (or had ever belonged) to Judaism, or were (or had ever been) registered with a Jewish community.17 Soon thereafter, as the communist regime was settling in, Vianu once again came under threat, this time due to his convictions, which were considered too 16 Alex Ştefănescu, ‘La o nouă lectură: Tudor Vianu – perioada postbelică’ [A new reading of Tudor Vianu: the post-war years], România literară, no. 19 (2004). 17 Benjamin, ‘Starea juridică’, 184.

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‘idealistic’. In September 1944, in the very first issue of Scânteia [The Sparkle], the Romanian Communist Party organ, he was accused by communist philosopher Constantin Ionescu Gulian of ‘not having understood, or wished to understand, dialectic materialism’18 as it was explained by Gulian in his book Philosophy of Culture – an accusation that Vianu was not even allowed to address. Ironically, his appointment as a full professor shortly before that, in the summer of 1944 after almost 15 years of waiting, had been made possible by Ion Petrovici, a minister in the Antonescu government to whom Vianu remained grateful until the end of his life.19 Nevertheless, in 1945 Vianu was appointed director of the National Theatre for a term lasting roughly one year. He then served as Romanian ambassador in Belgrade between 1946 and 1947, a post that earned him severe criticism for making concessions to the new regime. Literary critics such as Gelu Ionescu are of the opinion that this appointment was merely part of a government trend, immediately after the armistice, to employ young people and independent personalities with a democratic reputation in an attempt to present a multi-coloured – not just red – front. In any case, once Ana Pauker (1893–1960) came to power she quickly dismissed them, just as she dismissed the old career diplomats. Vianu was no exception. Regardless of any personal motives or influences that pushed him into this game – Gelu Ionescu, for example, believes that sociologist, journalist and politician Mihai Ralea (1896–1964) may have been a factor – one can imagine what Vianu must have felt when, after experiencing his colleagues and students calling for his removal from the university, he was suddenly invited to become a diplomat.20 Soon, however, the good life would quickly come to an end. In 1948 Vianu was excluded from the Romanian Academy. The Department of Aesthetics at the University of Bucharest was closed and he was transferred to the Department of Foreign Literature. Between 1949 and 1954 he was constantly harassed with attempts to remove him from the system of higher education; a staff report from 1954 accused him of ‘cosmopolitism’ and proposed ‘his removal from the academic staff of the faculty’.21 It was again Mihai Ralea’s intervention that seems to have saved him.22 To the luck of his students, Vianu managed to remain at the university, and even to found the Department of World Literature

18 Ştefănescu, ‘La o nouă lectură’. 19 Gelu Ionescu, Copacul din câmpie, Scrieri memorialistice [The tree in the field: memoirs] (Iaşi: Polirom, 2003), 326. 20 Ibid. 21 Ştefănescu, ‘La o nouă lectură’. 22 Ionescu, Copacul din câmpie, 327.

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History in the Faculty of Letters, opening the path to the field of comparative literature. Starting in 1954, following Stalin’s death and a six-year quarantine (1948– 54) during which he was allowed to publish only seven articles on literary topics approved by official censors, Vianu once again began publishing highly erudite critical studies on the classics of Romanian and foreign literature, first in the cultural journal Gazeta literară [Literary Gazette], established in 1954, and later in Contemporanul [The Contemporary]. In 1955, again upon recommendation by Mihai Ralea, he was readmitted to the Romanian Academy, this time as a full member. The good life had returned. Vianu began delivering lectures and travelling abroad. He was appointed director of the Library of the Romanian Academy in 1958 and elected to the UNESCO National Commission, as well as to the UNESCO Executive Committee in 1962. He contributed to numerous Romanian and foreign publications, published many new books and re-edited some of his older ones, but he always remained loyal, first and foremost, to teaching. In 1962 he took the final step in what may be regarded as his concession to the communist regime and enrolled in the communist party,23 which allowed him to be decorated and to receive the State Award in 1963. He wrote over 30 books in his lifetime, many of which are still considered relevant today. Vianu presents a case of many concessions to the communist regime, many merits, a significant amount of suffering due to his Jewish origins, as well as to his personal choices, from both the wartime and communist political establishments, and many professional gains. It should be noted, however, that while his choices may at times have been questionable, they harmed no one, except perhaps himself. The last Jew to achieve tenure on the academic staff of the University of Bucharest before the Second World War was the physicist Radu Grigorovici (born 20 November 1911, Cernăuți; died 1 August 2008, Bucharest), still considered to be the founder of the Romanian research school for the physics of amorphous semiconductors. He was the son of Bukovinian politician Gheorghe Grigorovici (1871–1950) – first a deputy in the Austro-Hungarian Parliament in Vienna and then in the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest, as well as a founding member (1927) and president (1936–8) of the Romanian Social Democratic Party – and Tatiana (1877– 1952), born Pisterman, a convinced Marxist and holder of a PhD from the University of Bern, an unusual feat for a woman of that time. She descended from a Jewish family from Camenița (Kamianets-Podilskyi), which relegated her for her 23 Ştefănescu, ‘La o nouă lectură’.

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marriage to a Christian Orthodox man.24 Radu Grigorovici was raised, much like Tudor Vianu, in a Christian environment, and never thought of himself as Jewish. After graduating in 1928 from Aron Pumnul High School in Cernăuți, Grigorovici earned his BA in chemistry (1931) and physics (1934) from the local university. He then worked as a substitute tutor at the Experimental Physics Laboratory of Professor Eugen Bădărău (1887–1975). In 1936 he moved to the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Bucharest where Bădărău had been invited to lead the Molecular, Acoustic and Optical Physics Laboratory. It was here that Grigorovici earned his PhD in physics in 1939 with his thesis titled ‘The Disruptive Potential in Mercury Vapours’.25 Despite his Jewish roots, which were probably well hidden behind his parents’ political activism to the extent that almost no one knew of them, at the beginning of 1944 he was drafted by the Romanian Army and for five months took part in the Crimean campaign. Upon his return, he once again joined the academic staff of the University of Bucharest. In 1949 he obtained tenure as an associate professor of optics, teaching courses on basic, instrumental and applied optics, electronics of the solid, etc. Between 1947 and 1957, alongside his academic career, he worked as an engineering consultant at Lumen Factory and later at Electrofar. In 1958 he obtained the title of docent, but soon thereafter in 1960, he was forced for political reasons to give up his academic career. The main factor was most likely his family’s political history rather than his Jewish background. However, his life showcases, with historical and political context, yet another possible fate for a Jewish professor in Romania within the time frame of our study. He was fortunate to be able to continue his research in the field of elementary amorphous semiconductors and non-crystalline solids at the Physics Institute of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest, where he was appointed head of section in 1960 and deputy scientific director in 1963. In 1970, when the institute was subordinated to the State Committee for Nuclear Energy, Grigorovici’s directorial position was confirmed, but in 1973 at the age of 62, he chose to retire. Nevertheless, he continued his research in a part-time position at the same institute. In 1977 he moved to the Institute of Physics and Materials Technology in Măgurele, but his contract was cancelled just one year later. 24 Horst Klein, ‘Tatiana Grigorovici (1877–1952). Zum 60. Todestag der Austromarxistin’, Jahrbuch für Forschungen zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung, no. 3 (2012): 132–41. Cf. Ortfried Kotzian, ‘Radu Grigorovici: O viață pentru Bucovina’, Analele Bucovinei 19, no. 1 (2012): 38. 25 Dan H. Constantinescu, ‘Radu Grigorovici – sau intelectualul’ [Radu Grigorovici: the intellectual], (accessed 22 January 2015).

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest 


Radu Grigorovici’s accomplishments included significant contributions to the study of electric discharge in gases, the spectral analysis of flame patterns, sources of light as well as to physiological and instrumental optics, yet he obtained his most notable results in the study of amorphous semiconductors (1964–77). Together with his colleagues he studied the structure, electric transport, optical properties and photoconductivity in amorphous layers of germanium, silicon and carbon obtained by evaporation in vacuum. Based on this research, Grigorovici was the first to demonstrate the structural differences between microcrystalline and amorphous layers of germanium and silicon. He subsequently elaborated a structural model, replete with energetic considerations. This ‘amorphonic model’, later refined in various laboratories as a ‘random network model’, is still unanimously accepted today as the structural model of amorphous semiconductors and has paved the way for new discoveries in both research and applications. These works brought Grigorovici’s group international notoriety and himself recognition as the founding mentor of the Romanian research school in this field. The results of their research were promoted in international congresses, articles and monographs. They were extensively quoted and enjoyed the appreciation of physicists like Sir Neville Mott, winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in physics for his research on the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems, with an emphasis on amorphous semiconductors. Radu Grigorovici joined the steering committees of numerous international congresses, the editorial boards of scholarly journals (Journal of NonCrystalline Solids, Thin Solid Films, physica status solidi) and the Commission on Semiconductors of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (1969– 75). He was also a member of the physics societies of Romania, France and the United States as well as Doctor Honoris Causa at the University of Bucharest. He wrote many articles that were published in highly reputable English and German physics and chemistry reviews. After the fall of the communist regime he was awarded the Medal for the Promotion of Science by the Theoretical Physics Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and in 2000 was decorated with the Order of the Romanian Star (Grand Officer Class). Preoccupied with history, literature, arts and music, Grigorovici dedicated his time and efforts after 1992 to studying the history of Bukovina. He published a series of annotated translations, essays and demographic interpretations, particularly in Analele Bucovinei, the journal of the Bukovina Studies Centre of the Romanian Academy in Rădăuţi. He was elected an honorary member of the Society for Romanian Culture and Literature in Bukovina and an honorary citizen of Rădăuţi. Thus, with Grigorovici we have the case of someone who made no real concessions to any regime or political establishment; he was a person with signifi-

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cant merits but suffered due to political rather than ethnic reasons, yet, he was able to make many professional gains. He made no immoral choices, even to save his career. Furthermore, despite Grigorovici’s Jewish background, his case is even more interesting for his close friendship with physicist Gheorghe Manu (1903–61), a member of the far-right Legionary Movement – his mother may have been an atheist Marxist but she apparently did not convert to Christianity, technically making Grigorovici a halakhic Jew (although this detail seemed to have escaped the vigilance of the fascist authorities in wartime Romania). The speech he gave at Manu’s commemoration in 2001 reveals a surprising understanding for his friend’s participation in the fascist movement.26 In this regard, Grigorovici’s story can be compared to that of journalist, writer and playwright Mihail Sebastian (born Iosef Hechter, 1907–45), whose relationship with philosopher, logician, journalist and his former professor, Nae Ionescu (1890–1940) – a notorious anti-Semite – and friendship with Mircea Eliade (1907–85), the famous religious historian who joined and actively participated in the far-right Legionary Movement during the 1930s, have been the subject of several studies.27 Yet the similarities are limited, as Grigorovici’s friendship with Manu never faltered to the degree that Sebastian’s relationship did with either Ionescu or Eliade.

Jewish professors at the University of Bucharest between 1944 and 1948 Four more Jews were employed as tenured academic staff at the University of Bucharest between 1944 and 1948 before communist reform imposed new regulations upon the educational system. Their stories provide opportunity to analyze the extent to which the regime change allowed Jews to access deserved, yet previously inaccessible, academic positions, or simply be rewarded for communist propaganda services. The first Jew to obtain tenure as a professor at the University of Bucharest, in 1944, even before the war was officially over, was a woman. Nina (Nineta) Façon (born 5 August 1909, Ploiești; died 24 November 1974, Bucharest) en-

26 Published in the journal Aldine on 7 December 2002. 27 Cf. Marta Petreu, Diavolul și ucenicul său: Nae Ionescu – Mihail Sebastian [The devil and his disciple: Nae Ionescu – Mihail Sebastian] (Bucharest: Polirom, 2009); Mihai Iovănel, Evreul Improbabil. Mihail Sebastian: O monografie ideologică [The improbable Jew, Mihail Sebastian: an ideological monograph] (Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 2012).

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest


rolled at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest in 1928 and obtained no less than three BA titles in the following six years: in modern philology (1931), philosophy (1932) and the history of art (1934).28 She started publishing as early as 1932 in Roma, a literary journal edited by her professor Ramiro Ortiz (1879–1947), who founded the first seminar of Italian language and literature in Romania (1909) and the Italian Cultural Institute in Bucharest (1924). In 1936 and 1937 she worked as a teacher at a high school in the Romanian capital. In 1937, with the assistance of Ramiro Ortiz, Façon was hired as an assistant professor of Romanian language and literature at the University of Padova, where, under the supervision of Ortiz, she earned her PhD a year later with a thesis, published in 1939, on Michelangelo’s poetry analyzed from a philosophical perspective. Despite the appreciation she enjoyed in Italian academia, as Italy began enforcing racial legislation she was dismissed and was forced to return to Romania. Between 1940 and 1948 Nina Façon taught French at A. Kreindler Victoria High School, a Jewish secondary school in Bucharest. Due to the restrictions imposed by Romanian wartime anti-Jewish legislation, she used the pen name ‘Ioana Anin’ to publish a translation from Giordano Bruno in 1941, and the pen name ‘Sorin Ionescu’ to publish a translation from Marsilio Ficino in 1942.29 As one of her former students remarked: The traumatizing experience of those years, when in Romania, too, she was blamed by some journalists for her Sephardic origins, would mark her for the rest of her life. She always kept to herself, as if she were constantly afraid; this was visible even in the way she walked, with caution, brushing the walls with her shoulder pointed slightly forward.30

Although she did not have a communist past, Façon was hired in 1944 as a substitute assistant professor of Italian language and literature at the University of Bucharest. Four years and one book later (The Active Man’s Conception, 1946), she obtained tenure, and by 1951 she was already an associate professor. She became full professor in 1965. In 1966, she was appointed head of the department; two years later, she became a docent.31

28 Cf. Doina Condrea Derer, ‘Nina Façon, o viață dedicată studiului. Evocare de Doina Condrea Derer’ [Nina Facon, a life devoted to study: evocation by Doina Condrea Derer], Orizonturi Culturale Italo-Române 4, no. 10 (2014). 29 ‘Nina Facon biografia’ [The biography of Nina Façon], romana/Nina-Facon (accessed 22 January 2015). 30 ‘Nina Façon, o viață dedicată studiului. Evocare de Doina Condrea Derer’, see note 28 above. 31 Wald, Lingvişti şi filologi evrei din România, 176.

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Façon wrote nine books and published nine translations. She was editor-inchief of the academic journal Bulletin de la Societe Roumaine de Linguistique Romane; she contributed to Studii italiene. Analele Universității din București [Italian Studies: Annals of the University of Bucharest] (Romania), Forum italicum (USA), Beitrage zur romanischen Philologie (GDR), Cultura neolatina (Italy), and Studi e problem i di critica testuale (Italy); she produced Italian textbooks and dictionaries and was a founding member of the Romanian Society of Romance Linguistics. Her works, which most often combined literature with philosophy, were well-documented and unbiased by Marxist perspectives. We also know that, as dean of the Faculty, Façon defended her colleague Valentin Lipatti, an associate professor of French who was under threat of losing his job because of his ‘unhealthy origins’ – he was the son of an important interwar landowner and was suspected of having joined the communist party not out of conviction, but only to save himself. Incidentally, Tudor Vianu had a similarly courageous attitude in defence of Lipatti.32 Thus, the first Jewish intellectual to be hired at the University of Bucharest as soon as the anti-Jewish legislation had been abrogated, even before the end of the war, was able to enjoy a fairly complete and rewarding professional career without being or becoming a communist and without making compromises. Façon presents a case of no concessions, no immoral choices, ample merits, significant suffering from both wartime and communist authorities due to her ethnicity – and to a lesser extent, to her choices that defied the establishment – and much deserved professional gains. The second Jewish intellectual to obtain tenure at the University of Bucharest after the Second World War was linguist and philologist Jacques Byck (born 19 October 1897, Bucharest; died 10 October 1964, Bucharest). A graduate of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest (1918–22), where he studied with Candrea, among others, he was able to continue his education in Paris for a very short time. Upon his return to Romania, he was hired as a high school teacher in Bucharest and Câmpina (1922–40). During the 1930s he also worked as an editor for the cultural journals Viața românească [Romanian Life] and Adevărul literar [ The Literary Truth]. His lifelong passion for old manuscripts and the early Romanian language became clear from his very first book (Old Romanian Texts, 1930), which proposed a new and innovative scholarly transcription, an editing system as well as a comparative approach to related texts. His interest in grammar and stylistics resulted in several articles, six 32 ‘Facultatea de Filologie în anii 50’ [The faculty of philology in the 1950s], Romania liberă, [Free Romania] 20 May 2008, (accessed 22 January 2015).

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest 


of which were published in Bulletin linguistique, an academic journal that appeared between 1936 and 1948 and was initiated by philologist and linguist Alexandru Rosetti (1895–1990). Banished from the public education system during the war, between 1940 and 1944 Byck taught Romanian language and literature at the Jewish Theoretical High School of Bucharest. Two stories of solidarity with Byck survive from that period. First, it seems that during the Legionary Rebellion of January 1941, Jacques Byck was hidden and thus saved by his colleague Alexandru Rosetti.33 In turn, Byck helped Mihail Sebastian get by during the war by allowing him to teach some of his classes at the Jewish high school, and thus earn some money.34 In fact, Byck served as a model for Andronic, a character in Sebastian’s play Ultima oră [Breaking News], and Byck’s housekeeper Ana, served as the model for Andronic’s own housekeeper in the play.35 Furthermore, Byck and Sebastian were subjected to the same restriction in regard to their wartime publications: neither could sign his work with his own name. Sebastian’s play Steaua fără nume [The Star without a Name] appeared under the name of a friend, while Byck’s monumental volume on Metropolitan Varlaam’s Sermon Book (1643), the result of many years of effort, was published anonymously, as if such a book could ever remain anonymous. Byck’s volume triggered an enthusiastic letter from his former professor, Ion Aurel Candrea,36 who, as mentioned above, was one of the few Jews privileged to continue working during those years, as he had been assimilated as a Romanian. In September 1944, Byck was allowed to resume teaching high school, and in March 1945 he finally become a tenured member of the academic staff of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy at the University of Bucharest, again with Alexandru Rosetti’s help. His qualifications for the job were so manifest that just one year later he was awarded a PhD in philology for his work on Varlaam’s Sermon Book. As a member of the Romanian Language Department he taught courses on the descriptive and historical grammar of the Romanian language, the history of Romanian philology and the history of early Romanian literature. 33 Gheorghe Florescu, Confesiunile unui cafegiu [Confessions of a coffee maker] (Bucharest: Humanitas, 2008), 215–20. 34 Mihail Sebastian, Journal 1939–1944: The Fascist Years (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), 420. 35 Iulia Deleanu, ‘Jacques Byck omagiat la Academia Română; 110 ani de la naştere’ [Jacques Byck celebrated at the Romanian Academy: 110 years from his birth], in Realitatea evreiască, no. 286 (2007): 16. 36 Adrian Niculescu, ‘Profesorul Jacques Byck (1897–1964), un Socrate al filologiei românești’ [Professor Jacques Byck (1897–1946), a Socrates of Romanian philology], in Profesori și studenți evrei, eds, Carol Iancu and Alexandru Florin Platon (Iași: Editura Universității Al. I. Cuza, 2012), 389.

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In recognition of his merit as the peerless expert in old Romanian, he was also appointed director of editing old texts at the Linguistics Institute of the Romanian Academy, where he set forth the academic norms for the transliteration of Cyrillic letters into the Latin alphabet.37 Byck edited the works of some of the classics of Romanian literature, contributed to the Grammar of the Romanian Language, which was published by the Romanian Academy in 1954, wrote articles on lexicology, orthography, stylistics and other topics, and remained beloved by his students for his extraordinary pedagogical talents. Furthermore, having been employed at the beginning of 1945, he did not have much to do with communist propaganda. Indeed, that Byck was not a good communist is confirmed by a note written by the party’s propaganda department in February 1951. Byck had been invited to deliver lectures at the Mihai Eminescu School of Literature, an institution set up by the propaganda department to prepare ‘new novelists’, who were uninfluenced by the past and thus would better render the realities of building socialism. However, as was made abundantly clear in a meeting organized on 8 February 1951 to evaluate the school’s activities, Byck’s class on literary language and the sources of the writers’ language expounded ‘hostile ideas’, and the school was accused of not having vetted the lectures and of trusting the speaker just because he was a member of the academic staff of the University of Bucharest.38 Thus, Byck presents a case of many merits; he made no concessions or immoral choices, but suffered a significant amount at the hands of both wartime and communist authorities for his ethnic origins and for his non-alignment to a regime to which he did not show much sympathy; yet, he also made important professional gains. Alexandru Graur (born Alter Brauer, 9 July 1900, Botoșani; died 9 July 1988, Bucharest) was a remarkable personality in the field of classical philology and linguistics, and a descendant, on his mother’s side, of the above-mentioned Sanielevici family, which gave Romania many scholars of international repute. After graduating from the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest with a BA in classical philology and the Romanian language (1922), he worked for one year (1923–4) as a substitute history teacher at Spiru Haret High School in Bucharest. In 1924 he was hired as a full-time teacher at Unirea High School in Focșani. However, that same year he obtained a scholarship from the Ministry of Public Education, which allowed him to leave for Paris, where he continued his studies with Antoine Meillet and other major rep37 Wald, Lingviști și filologi evrei din România, 120. 38 Cristian Vasile, Literatura și artele în România comunistă, 1948–1953 [Literature and arts in communist Romania, 1948–1953] (Bucharest: Humanitas, 2013), e-book.

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 283

resentatives of the French school of linguistics. In 1929 he received his diploma from the École Pratique des Hautes Études and a PhD from the Sorbonne with a thesis on Indo-European linguistics. Back in Bucharest he worked for some time as a teacher of Latin, first at Gh. Șincai High School and then, as of 1932, at Gh. Lazăr High School. When trying to access a university position in the anti-Semitic academic milieu of interwar Romania, his well-founded aspirations to a university chair were continually thwarted due to his Jewish origins, although he did enjoy the sustained support of some of his colleagues. His only recourse was to continue his research and publish its results in various periodicals. In 1940, when racial laws removed him from the state education system, he joined some of his colleagues in establishing a private Jewish high school, which he headed between 1941 and 1944. Thus, although he had changed his name to facilitate access to the Romanian cultural milieu, Graur chose to manifest his Jewishness proudly during hard times. After the war, in September 1944, he was able to resume teaching at Gh. Lazăr High School. Furthermore, as one of the few intellectuals to have joined the Romanian Communist Party before 1944, he was entrusted with a series of important positions in the propaganda apparatus. He finally had the opportunity to obtain an academic position in 1946. His communist past allowed him to obtain tenure as a professor in the Department of Classical Philology of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy at the University of Bucharest, which he headed until 1964; when the new Department of General Linguistics was established, he immediately joined it. By 1947 he was installed on the Council of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy, along with Tudor Vianu and many others.39 He retired in 1970. In addition to his teaching activities, between 1954 and 1956 he was elected dean of the Faculty of Philology, and between 1955 and 1974, he was appointed director of the Publishing House of the Romanian Academy. Also of note are Graur’s radio activities: he began in 1945 with a cultural entry called ‘Chronicle of the Language’; from 1950 to 1968, he had a show called ‘Our Language’, which he later renamed ‘Ode to the Romanian Language’; and from 1980 onwards, he developed a new show titled ‘How we speak, how we write’. This brought him fame and popularity among all social strata. We know from anecdotes that people from all walks of life would stop all other activities to tune in to hear his linguistic advice. Graur published numerous valuable studies and articles in specialized academic journals, as well as seminal books that are still in use today. His works include volumes on classical philology, grammar, general linguistics, phonetics and phonology, the history of the Romanian language, its lexical fund, its ety39 ‘Facultatea de Filologie în anii 50’.

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mology, onomastics, toponymy, orthography, linguistic borrowings, etc. Together with Iorgu Iordan (1888–1986) and Ion Coteanu (1920–97) he coordinated the new series of the Romanian Language Dictionary and was on the editorial board of many Romanian academic journals (Studii clasice, Limbă și literatură, Limba română, etc.). Graur’s professional and political merits were amply rewarded. He was a member of the Linguistic Society of Paris as of 1921, correspondent member of the Romanian Academy as of 1948 and full member from 1955 onward, president of the Academy’s Section of Philological Sciences, Literature and Arts (1974–88), as well as founding member and president of the Society of Classical Studies (1958–88). He received the Bibesco Prize of the Linguistic Society of Paris (1932, 1936) and the Romanian State Prize (1954), and in 1964, he was awarded the title of Emeritus Scholar. Streets in several Romanian towns (Cluj, Botoșani) bear his name, as well as a communal library in the village of Reviga (Ialomița County). What makes Graur’s story particularly interesting is its complex mixture of merit and compromise. While it is clear that he profited from the ideological turn of the communist takeover and his scholarly importance evolved in close connection with his propagandistic services, his constant effort to adjust to the ever-changing requirements of the political commandments of the day was uneven. His actions were sometimes overzealous, while at other times he would prove not communist enough. And even if he did produce subservient, ideologically driven scholarship to support his career, and sometimes recanted his prewar opinions, even attacking some of his former professors and colleagues,40 his enormous contributions to the study of classical philology, linguistics and grammar are undeniable, while his original and creative interpretations, as well as his pedagogical talent, are beyond any doubt. His communist convictions should also be analyzed in context. For instance, we know from his son, Dumitru Graur, that Alexandru Graur, a socialist by education, both at home and from his Parisian experience, rushed to join the Romanian Communist Party – which was illegal at the time – only upon being beaten by the Legionnaires during the dramatic anti-Jewish outbursts of the 1930s. Like many others, he believed in the communist utopia until post-1948 40 As Cristian Gaspar strives to show in his paper ‘Just another Comes Itineris?: Alexandru Graur and Romanian Classical Philology between Two Worlds (1945–1955)’, an abstract of which is available at (accessed 22 January 2015). We know, for instance, that in 1951 Graur gave a reference for the above-mentioned Valentin Lipatti in which he expressed his doubts that, given his family ties, Lipatti could be a good communist (cf. ‘Facultatea de Filologie în anii 50’).

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reality proved him wrong. At many times in the late 1940s and early 1950s he was accused of being inadequately Stalinist, despite his eagerness to serve the regime, and he was eventually punished. His life may have been rich, but it ended in poverty and disappointment. After his retirement in 1974, the authorities forgot him, as they forgot many of their former friends. This was perhaps a blessing, as others would finish their lives in even more dire straits. The only place he was still welcome was the Jewish community, which he had helped during the war. He began going there frequently and launched a column on linguistics in the Jewish newspaper Revista Cultului Mozaic [Jewish Religious Review]. It was only the Jewish community that remembered and celebrated his eightieth birthday in 1980.41 Thus, Graur presents a case of ample merits, many concessions, but also immoral choices – no one forced him to attack his former colleagues and professors in his overzealousness to serve the regime. He suffered significantly from Romania’s interwar and wartime political establishment due to his ethnic origins and, to a lesser extent, from the communist regime due to his personal choices. He also enjoyed many professional gains. The last Jew to be hired at the University of Bucharest before the 1948 communist reform of the education system was Iancu Fischer (born 4 December 1923, Iași; died 18 October 2002, Bucharest), an expert in classical philology who obtained a tenured position in the summer of that year, just before the communist reform was enforced.42 Fischer’s father owned some 500 hectares of forest in Vaslui County, an unusual amount of wealth for a Romanian Jew of that time, yet was dispossessed of these assets in 1940 under the wartime anti-Semitic laws. Fischer started high school in his hometown but finished in Bucharest. During his last year in school he met Alexandru Graur, which would become a determining factor in his ultimate choice of career. He later became Graur’s student and disciple at the Private Jewish College (1942–4). After graduating from the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy, which he was able to attend from 1944 to 1946, he was hired at the University of Bucharest, and in 1948 became one of Graur’s teaching assistants. In 1949 he also began working at the Linguistics Institute of the Romanian Academy. But Fischer’s luck was short-lived. In 1952, when the issue of his ‘unhealthy origins’ was dug up, he was dismissed from his academic position. However, in 41 Cf. Dumitru Graur, ‘In Memoriam Alexandru Graur’, text posted 31 March 2014, http://www. (accessed 22 January 2015). 42 As he himself relates in an interview given to Raluca Alexandrescu, which was published in Observator cultural [Cultural Observer]: Raluca Alexandrescu, ‘Implicare în cetate și rezistență activă. Interviu cu Iancu Fischer’ [A life of direct involvement and active resistance: Interview with Iancu Fischer], Observator cultural, no. 37 (7 November 2000).

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1954 he managed to return as a lecturer, but this stint would end soon as well, as four years later he was fired again. Despite these and other adversities, including the dissolution of his personal file, as all members of his family had immigrated to Israel, he obtained his PhD in 1966 under Graur’s supervision and in 1968 was able to return to the university as an associate professor. And all the while, in lieu of maintaining a low profile, if not giving in to communist pressure altogether, Fischer chose to openly express his views. His field of interest and expertise was classical studies (Latin, Greek and their various dialects), as well as the history of the Romanian language and early Romanian literature (Anton Pann, Grigore Alexandrescu), which could have let him steer clear of the political upheavals of his time. Yet Fischer decided to fight the regime in his own way. He always used genuine scholarly principles and methodologies in his research and writing – while keeping abreast of the latest international academic developments – in lieu of promoting communist ideological dogma. He also exercised ‘linguistic resistance’ by refusing to use the wooden language of communist propaganda, and worked with lucidity during the ‘relaxation periods’, when many other intellectuals were so easily misled by the pseudo-reforms of the system.43 Moreover, he had the courage to criticize the regime’s educational policies in regard to the teaching of Latin in schools, suggesting that more, not less, should be done to preserve it. Fischer was a member of the editorial committees of Studii și cercetări lingvistice (as of 1956), Studii clasice (as of 1957), Revue Roumaine de Linguistique (as of 1965), Biblioteca classica orientalis (Berlin, 1962–5), Klio (Berlin, 1988), founding member (1958) and president (as of 1989) of the Romanian Society of Classical Studies, president of the Romanian Society of Linguistics (1973–8) and a member of several international academic associations. Iancu Fischer presents a case of genuine merits, no concessions, significant suffering at the hands of both the wartime and communist political establishments for his ethnic origins and his family’s financial status, as well as some much-deserved gains. His case is even more interesting for the fact that despite his ‘unhealthy origins’, and in the absence of any communist affiliation, he managed to obtain a tenured academic position at the University of Bucharest and keep it for 55 years – albeit with two interruptions – while continually refusing to give in to the regime.

43 Cf. (accessed 22 January 2015).

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest 


Jewish professors given tenure at the University of Bucharest in 1948 The following seven Jews who obtained tenure as professors at the University of Bucharest were all hired in 1948 after the communist regime had taken root and was finally able to begin imposing its regulations. By default, all of them were communists and contributed – unwillingly or willingly, and sometimes with zeal – to the removal of the former intellectual elite, but their merits, professional choices and subsequent fates vary, in some cases significantly. The first Jewish intellectual, in order of birth, to join the academic staff of the University of Bucharest in 1948 was Henric Sanielevici’s nephew Alexandru Sanielevici (born 25 May 1899, Bucharest; died 21 December 1969, Bucharest), an internationally renowned expert in nuclear physics. While his father, Simion Sanielevici, studied mathematics at the University of Bucharest, specialized at the Sorbonne and, upon his return to Romania, became a professor at the University of Iași, Alexandru did the opposite. After graduating from a pedagogical school (1911–8), he studied physics and chemistry at the University of Iași, earning his BA in both fields. He subsequently attended and graduated from Galileo Ferraris Polytechnic University of Turin. In 1931 he obtained a scholarship allowing him to continue his studies in Paris, where he was hired at the Radium Institute, headed at the time by Maria Skłodowska Curie. It was under her influence that he began working on radioactivity.44 He published articles in French academic journals on his breakthrough discoveries and in 1936 earned his PhD with a thesis titled ‘Contribution à l’étude de l’effet thermique du rayonnement des corps radioactifs’. Upon his return to Romania he was briefly employed as a teacher of physics and chemistry at Ion Neculce High School in Bucharest. He was then invited back to Paris by Frédéric Joliot-Curie, who appointed Sanielevici chargé de recherche of his team. In 1948 Sanielevici’s father, Simion, was appointed an honorary member of the Romanian Academy, and Alexandru obtained tenure as a professor at the Radioactivity Department of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of the University of Bucharest, where he was able to set up the first Romanian radioactivity lab. By 1955, he too was a correspondent member of the Romanian Academy. For each of them this was a reward for his past communist sympathies and current adhesion to the regime.45

44 Cf. (accessed 22 January 2015). 45 Adina Berciu Drăghicescu, Facultatea de Litere a Universității din București, 150 de ani de Învățământ Filologic Românesc, 1863–2013, Tradiție și Valoare, Part 1 [The faculty of letters of

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Alexandru Sanielevici headed the Radiations Department at the Physics Institute in Bucharest, where he undertook research in nuclear and radioactive spectroscopy. He also worked on atomic energy at the Atomic Physics Institute of Bucharest. Not only did he develop a new and improved microcalorimeter, but he also worked on the measurement of high energy dosages with betatrons, with applications in the treatment of malignant tumours. Alexandru Sanielevici was a member of the French Physics Society (1959), member and secretary of the Scientific Board of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, permanent representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna (1958), a member of the Consultative Committee for Ionizing Radiation of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sevres, a member of Technical Committee 45 of the International Electrotechnical Commission and a member of the UN Commission for the introduction of science and technology in developing countries. His contribution to the activity of the IAEA in the field of theoretical and lab research, as well as in those of health, security and waste elimination, was highly appreciated. Upon his retirement in 1967 he was appointed consultant of the Scientific Board of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. He wrote books on radioactivity, nuclear structures and the use of radioisotopes, as well as a series of articles in specialized academic journals.46 Sanielevici thus presents a case of genuine scholarly merits, some concessions – he is mentioned among those who supported the communist reforms of the education system, but this may be understandable considering that the communists were the first to offer him a tenured academic position – yet no suffering due to either his ethnicity or personal choices – except perhaps from Romania’s wartime anti-Semitic legislation – and many professional gains. Another Jewish intellectual who obtained tenure at the University of Bucharest in 1948 was Emil Boldan (born Bernstein, 15 January 1909, Focșani; died 1997). After graduating from Gh. Lazăr High School in Bucharest in 1928, Boldan attended the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy at the University of Bucharest and obtained a BA cum laude in 1932. He was then hired as a high school teacher and later appointed headmaster of the Jewish Theoretical Lyceum. In 1944 Boldan was nominated the representative of the Jewish Community of Bucharest, a position delegating him to work within the higher echelons of the Ministry of Education and Training on the drafting of the Royal Decrees

the University of Bucharest: 150 years of Romanian philological education, 1863–2013] (Bucharest: Editura Universității din București, 2013), 148. 46 Cf. (accessed 22 January 2015).

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signed by King Michael. From 1945 to 1948 he served as president of the Credit Bank of the Jewish Teachers, Writers and Artists of Romania [Casa de credit a profesorilor, scriitorilor și artiștilor evrei din România]. Based on his past adherence to the Communist Party, in 1948 Boldan obtained tenure as an associate professor at the Faculty of Philology at the University of Bucharest. His tenure was granted despite his lack of a PhD and no publications to his name – his first book, a monograph on the literary work of Alecu Russo (1819–59), written in the spirit of the epoch and from a sociologizing perspective, with no particular intellectual claim, was published that year. Unlike the tenured promotion of Alexandru Graur, who may have been repaid for his communist past but had obvious qualifications for the job, Boldan’s seems to have been a payment for his propagandistic activity and general closeness to the regime. This supposition is confirmed by Boldan’s further nomination, after a brief appointment as deputy editor-in-chief of the education journal Gazeta învățământului [Educational Gazette] (1951–3), as dean of the Faculty of Philology (1953–4), even earlier than Alexandru Graur (1954–6), although by that time he had authored only two monographs and was not particularly renowned for any literary achievement. He was later appointed rector of the Foreign Languages Institute from 1955–6 and rector of the University Pedagogical Institute of Bucharest for a four-year term between 1956 and 1960. From 1960 to 1971 he acted as deputy editor-in-chief of the journal Limbă şi literatură [Language and literature]. From 1968 to 1971 he was also secretary general of the Society of Historical and Philological Sciences. Loyal to the communist propaganda, Boldan promoted, throughout his entire lifetime, a sociologizing perspective on literature, which proposed a ‘reconsideration’ of the classics and a ‘scientific valorization of literary heritage’ by stressing the ‘progressivist side’ or ‘ideological errors’ of various writers. He was an adept of the proletcultist approach, which used literature as an instrument of communist ideology.47 However, it cannot be known whether this was his sincere conviction or simply a stand dictated by his will to maintain an academic career. In addition to the monograph on Alecu Russo and one on Costache Negri (1812–76), he produced about 15 didactic studies on various cultural personalities, which have been labelled ‘correct’ for lack of any other special merit, and several high-school textbooks. He is also the author of a Dictionary of [Romanian] Literary Terminology, the only one of its kind ever published. His son, Adrian Boldan, moved to Israel and became a Haredi Jew.

47 Cf. Ion Simuț, ‘Canonul literar proletcultist (III)’ [The Proletcultist literary canon], Romania litarară, no. 29 (2008).

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Boldan thus presents a case of few merits, many concessions to the communist regime, some suffering at the hands of the Romanian wartime political establishment due to his ethnic origins, and a significant amount of professional gains. Another Jewish professor given tenure in 1948 at the University of Bucharest is the above-mentioned historian of philosophy, philosopher of culture and axiologist Constantin (Henri) Ionescu Gulian (born 22 April 1914, Bucharest; died 21 August 2011, Bucharest), whose complex personality presents a very special case. While he remains in the annals of Romanian and international philosophy for some of his works on ethics, the theory of culture and the history of philosophy, he is nonetheless remembered as the ‘exterminator of Romanian philosophy’.48 Gulian was a promising young man. During secondary school he took courses in violin, music theory and orchestra at the Bucharest Conservatory. He later graduated from the Department of Romance Philology of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy at the University of Bucharest in 1938. In following years, he published several research articles that showed a clear Marxist orientation, but these did not bring him much notoriety. It was the arrival of the communist regime that opened the door to his visibility and subsequent academic career. As early as 1945, even before the communist era officially began in 1948, Gulian was appointed secretary of the newly established Romanian Communist Party’s Workers’ University, which aimed to spread the ‘philosophy of the working class’ and ‘dialectic materialism’ among the workers-turned-students. Gulian was still there one year later when the university was relaunched under a new name, Ștefan Gheorghiu University, after the turn-of-the-century trade unionist (1874–1914).49 In 1947 Gulian earned his PhD with a thesis titled ‘Introducere în noua etică’ [Introduction to the New Ethics], in which he examined the human norms of conduct in the new post-war society and investigated the dialectics of freedom and necessity, as well as the social and historical grounds of ethical values. In his thesis he quoted the unavoidable Marx, as well as other German philosophers such as Georg Simmel, Max Scheler, Alfred Weber and Max Weber, a significant achievement given the historical and political circumstances of the time. The thesis was published immediately and received praise from the estab-

48 Cf. Vladimir Tismăneanu, ‘C. I. Gulian, exterminatorul filosofiei românești’ [C. I. Gulian: the exterminator of Romanian philosophy], România literară, no. 2 (2012). 49 Cf. Paula Mihailov Chiciuc, ‘Universitatea PCR’ [The Romanian Communist Party’s university], Jurnalul național (2006), (accessed 22 January 2015).

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest


lishment, as did his second book, Introducere în sociologia culturii [Introduction to the Sociology of Culture], which was published soon afterwards and allowed him to be hired in 1948 by the Faculty of Philosophy and Law at the University of Bucharest, a big step up from the communist university. He began by teaching courses on the history of modern Romanian philosophy and ended by heading the Department of the History of Philosophy (1953–75). However, this came at an additional price. Despite his early interest in Marxism and his brief association with the Ștefan Gheorghiu Academy, it seems that Gulian did not play the typical, ardent communist ideologist early on. According to Vladimir Tismăneanu,50 it was a 1948 encounter with the communist party ideologue Leonte Răutu, who publicly attacked and humiliated him, that changed his course. For what may be interpreted as opportunist reasons, Gulian became one of the most ardent critics of interwar critical rationalism. In Tismăneanu’s words, ‘he came up with a primitive canon of the history of philosophy in which “idealism” appeared as a pathological manifestation of the spirit, with certain “reactionary” political implications.’51 This view is most visible in Gulian’s attack on the ‘philosophy of the decadent bourgeoisie’, launched in a 1957 article on fatalism: ‘To know that death is a normal phenomenon and accept it as a fact of life is totally different than to desire and glorify death, as the decaying bourgeois ideology preaches.’52 Philosophy professor Mircea Flonta provided an excellent description of Gulian’s transformation in an article published in 2003 in the newspaper Ziarul financiar [Financial Journal]: In this department [the History of Philosophy] there were people who could have taught things other than what they were required to teach. Among them was Constantin Ionescu Gulian, who is still alive today. He was young at the time, and already known for some articles published before 1948. I myself had one of his books, published, I think, in 1947, a work on ethics in which he discussed in an academic style – based first and foremost on German literature – various systems, trends and orientations in the field. As a specialist, you could appreciate the book, or fail to appreciate it, but you could not deny that the author had read a lot. By 1951, however, Gulian was unrecognizable. The identity emanating from that book had vanished and another had emerged in its place!53

50 Vladimir Tismăneanu, Lumea secretă a nomenclaturii; Amintiri, dezvăluiri, portrete [The secret world of the nomenclature: memoirs, disclosures, portraits] (Bucharest: Humanitasi, 2012), e-book. 51 Ibid. 52 Ibid. 53 Mircea Flonta, Decapitarea filosofiei românești [The decapitation of Romanian philosophy], Ziarul Financiar (13 May 2003).

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What makes the transformation hard to understand is the fact that Gulian was not one of the workers transported by communism to an academic position for which he had no qualifications. On the contrary, he had all the prerequisites to become a good philosopher. He had been a student of the philosopher Isaac Brucker, benefitted from exposure to an extensive philosophical culture and, apparently, owned an impressive book collection. However, as Flonta remarks, his conversion to Stalinism was complete, and turned him into what Tismăneanu would call a ‘gravedigger for Romanian philosophy’.54 Gulian was immediately rewarded for his quick transformation. After the 1948 dissolution of the Romanian Academy and establishment of the Academy of the People’s Republic of Romania, which allowed the authorities to remove the former academicians who did not enthusiastically join the ranks of the new regime, and to gain tighter control over the scientific and philosophical research undertaken in the country, Gulian was appointed to head the Department of Philosophy of the academy’s newly established Institute of History and Philosophy (1949–54). Once the institute was divided and an Institute of Philosophy was created in 1954, Gulian was appointed its director and remained so until 1971. In 1955 he was elected a member of the Romanian Academy, which gave him further control over the orientation of Romanian scientific research in philosophy, as well as other fields. In 1964, Gulian was awarded the Labor Order (First Class) for his services in promotion of Stalinist ideology. Furthermore, he survived the public policy changes incumbent with Ceaușescu’s 1965 accession to power, which included the new government’s different national-communist perspectives on almost everything; as Tismăneanu puts it, Gulian ‘reinvented himself as an expert in African folklore and structuralism, and remembered the great figures of Western philosophy, which he had mystified in his earlier writings.’55 Between 1966 and 1990 he was president of the Academy’s Department of Philosophical, Psychological and Juridical Sciences and then president of its Department of Philosophical, Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences from 1990 to 1992. Gulian was one of the first members of the Academy of Social and Political Sciences, set up by the communist regime in 1970 in order to double

54 Tismăneanu, Lumea secretă a nomenclaturii. 55 Ibid.

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest 


the already communized Romanian Academy.56 He was also director of the philosophy journal Cercetări filosofice [Philosophical Research] from its inception. Gulian presents a case of 100 per cent concessions and many immoral choices, no suffering – except perhaps from the anti-Jewish legislation of 1938– 44 – and 100 per cent professional gains. Although he had the opportunity to do so after 1990, he never expressed any regret for his past. His story is further complicated by the fact that he possessed certain merits. He published numerous articles in Romanian and international academic journals and over 30 books on ethics, the philosophy of crisis, the history of modern philosophy, history and the theory of culture, axiology, Marxism and structuralism, Hegel, Nietzsche, etc. About half of these were translated into foreign languages. He was also a member of the Hegel Society and the Association of French-speaking Sociologists, and was invited to teach as a visiting professor at universities in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Warsaw, as well as Paris, Brussels and Heidelberg. Due to his dogmatic Marxist views and methodologies, as well as his embrace of Stalinism, no one – including his former students, some of whom have become important philosophers in their own right – has undertaken to write a complete study of his career, with the exception of Tismăneanu’s short entry in his above-mentioned book on Romanian communist nomenclature. However, some scholars believe his research into German classical philosophy still deserves attention today.57 We can therefore conclude that his personal conduct, which was the subject of his first book, has prevented any genuine initiative to evaluate his merits. Perhaps this is Gulian’s greatest punishment: oblivion. Access to an academic position at the Faculty of Philosophy and Law of the University of Bucharest was not dependent on such overzealousness, as is proven by the case of Ion Banu (born 16 June 1913, Bucharest; died 12 May 1993, Bucharest). A graduate of the very same faculty of the University of Bucharest, Banu chose to escape the constraints of his time by taking refuge in ancient European and Eastern philosophy and the methodology of the history of philosophy, and earned his PhD with a thesis on Heraclitus. Banu obtained tenure at the University of Bucharest in 1948, first as an associate professor, then as a full professor in the Department of History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy. We know from Vladimir Tismăneanu that the former social-democratic lawyer was one of the few intellectuals who ‘tried to

56 Iordan Datcu, ‘Academia de Științe Sociale și Politice, Contribuții doocumentare’ [The Academy of Social and Political Sciences. Documentary Contributions], Cultura, no. 342 (2011). The Academy of Social and Political Sciences was dissolved in 1990. 57 Cf. (accessed 22 January 2015).

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maintain even a modicum of decency in the Stalinist ideological jungle.’58 He was not an ardent communist propagandist and did not rush to assist the regime in the servile manner of some of his colleagues, which seems to have made him a frequent target of political criticism in communist party meetings held at the Faculty. Among other slights, he was accused of being a mediocre philosopher;59 however, this claim is contradicted by testimonies from his former students, who insist he was an excellent educator and philosophy professor.60 According to Viorel Cernica,61 Ion Banu followed three distinct academic directions, which he pursued interdependently: 1) research on ancient cultures to uncover the cultural circumstances under which philosophy emerged; 2) the interpretation of certain ancient philosophical texts; and 3) the establishment of a new discipline focusing on the history of philosophy as a ‘real fact’ and on philosophical historiography. Banu’s recognition seems to have transcended Romanian borders; in 1970 he was invited to be a visiting professor at the University of Nanterre in Paris. He also became a member of the French Society of Egyptology and the International Association of Greek Philosophy. He retired in 1978, but this did not prevent him from becoming a founding member of the Romanian Association of Oriental Studies. In 1991, he was elected a correspondent member of the Romanian Academy. Banu wrote over 10 books on the history of philosophy, ancient Eastern philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, biblical prophecy, etc. He represents proof

58 Vladimir Tismăneanu, ‘Cine a fost Dumitru Popescu-Dumnezeu? Marele pontif al religiei politice ceaușiste’ [Who was Dumitru Popescu-God? The high pontif of Ceausescu’s political religion], (accessed 22 January 2015). 59 Vladimir Tismăneanu, ‘Senatul EVZ: Un puzzle cu Securitate, partid și UTC (ultimul episod)’ [The EVZ Senate: a puzzle with the political police, the Communist Party and the Communist Youth Union (the last episode)], Evenimentul zilei [The Daily Event] senatul-evz-un-puzzle-cu-securitate-partid-si-utc-ultimul-episod-424716.html (accessed 22 January 2015). 60 Cf. Ileana Hogea-Velișcu, ‘Simpla filosofie a profesorului în practica instruirii și educării elevului’ [The simple philosophy of the teacher when instructing and educating a child], Tribuna învățământului, (accessed 22 January 2015); and Șerban Cionoff, ‘Adevărata istorie a filosofului Monciu’ [The true story of philosopher Mon-ciu], Liber să spun [Free to Say] (accessed 22 January 2015). 61 Viorel Cernica, ‘Schița unei metodologii a istoriei filosofiei: Ion Banu’ [Methodological sketch for the study of the history of philosophy: Ion Banu], in Studii de istorie a filosofiei românești, vol. I, ed. Ion Pogorilovschi (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Române, 2006), 307–14.

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that it was possible to be a member of the tenured academic staff of the University of Bucharest in communist times without excessive compromise. His case presents certain merits, few concessions to the communist regime, some suffering at the hands of the communist authorities for his moral choices, and to a lesser extent for his ethnic origin, and many professional gains. Another Jewish intellectual to obtain tenure in 1948 as a member of the academic staff of the University of Bucharest was Ion Vitner (born Wittner, 19 August 1914, Bucharest; died 12 April 1991, Bucharest). After graduating from Titu Maiorescu High School in 1932 – an irony of fate considering the time and energy he would later spend fighting the memory and cultural legacy of Maiorescu – he published, in the avant-garde journal Unu [One], several poems and short stories using his birth name, I. Wittner. He would also exhibit a series of surrealist drawings in Bucharest bookstores, an indication of his affinity for literature and art. Around the same time, he joined the Marxist circles linked to the journal Cuvântul liber [Free Speech]. From 1933 to 1935, Vitner contributed to this journal under the pen name Ion Vântu, writing several articles that indicated his affinity for politics. Notwithstanding his obvious attraction to writing and drawing, he studied dentistry, graduating from the Faculty of Medicine in 1939 and earning his PhD in dentistry one year later. However, the anti-Semitic laws of wartime Romania, already in force in 1940, prevented him from practicing his profession. Furthermore, due to his communist connections he was detained in forced domicile until 1942, when he was deported to a camp in Transnistria. Back in Bucharest in the fall of 1944, he was hired as an editor for the communist press organ Scânteia (1944–6). He was also a member of the editorial committee of Orizont [Horizon] (1944–7), deputy editor-in-chief and then editor-in-chief of Contemporanul [The Contemporary] (1946–9) and editor-in-chief of Flacăra [The Flame] (1949– 50). He contributed to other communist papers as well, such as Tribuna nouă [The New Tribune], Veac nou [New Age], Studii [Studies], Scânteia ilustrată [The Illustrated Sparkle], Gazeta literară [The Literary Gazette], Tribuna [The Tribune], Viaţa românească [Romanian Life], Scânteia tineretului [The Youth’s Sparkle], Secolul 20 [20th Century], Revue roumaine [Romanian Review] and România liberă [Free Romania], signing his articles ‘Ion Vitner’. Vitner’s conversion from avant-gardism to socialist realism played a decisive role in his contribution to the birth and predominance of proletcultist pseudo culture and the promotion of the sociologizing perspective on literature. Despite his cultural background, he had no problem promoting ideological aberrations such as ‘Soviet and Stalinist humanism’, ‘Western literary decadence’ or

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‘the new man, the Stalinist revolutionary hero’.62 He also engaged in an overturning of the Romanian literary canon, calling revered authors of Romanian classics, like Mihai Eminescu or Tudor Arghezi, failures, while lauding insignificant writers like Dumitru Th. Neculuță as a genius. Vitner’s most famous achievement was the vicious press attack he launched in 1947 against literary critic George Călinescu, which, together with his services to the communist cause, earned him a tenured academic position at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Bucharest in 1948. By 1949 he was already a full professor and a member of the executive committee of the Writers’ Union, and had replaced Călinescu – who was ‘transferred’ to the Institute of Literary History and Folklore – as head of the Modern Romanian Literature Department. However, he would later be replaced and marginalized in 1956, when the Hungarian uprising triggered a reconsideration of communist dogmatism and Vitner paid the price for his overzealousness of previous years. Nonetheless, he was not fired and continued to function in the same department until his retirement in 1970. He was also allowed to continue being a member of the executive committee of the Writers’ Union until 1960. During the ideological relaxation of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Vitner somewhat abandoned his proletcultist vehemence. His critical language became more relaxed and his approach more formalist. He began using universal concepts and theories, and even began quoting from classic Romanian authors like Henric Sanielevici and Garabet Ibrăileanu, in addition to Marx. Yet, he never managed to escape the Marxist paradigm. It was only in the late 1970s, and in his travel memoirs, that he finally became more objective and less tributary to communist ideology, but he remained a Marxist until the end of his life. He wrote about 20 books, many of which have no literary value, yet they may be useful in the study of communist propaganda. Vitner presents a case of very few merits, many immoral choices and concessions to the communist regime, a significant amount of suffering due to his ethnic origins – but also due to his political choices during the Second World War and to a lesser extent during the communist regime – and many professional gains. Another interesting case is that of Silvian (Sylvain) Iosifescu (born 21 January 1917, Bucharest; died May 2006), the son of Pincu and Tonya Iosifescu, whose Romanian last name meant that their child was under no pressure to change his. A 1939 graduate of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest, Iosifescu started writing years earlier while attending Matei Basarab High School, where he published texts in the school’s journal. For a brief 62 Cf. (accessed 22 January 2015).

Avatars of being a Jewish Professor at the University of Bucharest


time he used pseudonyms such as Sorin Irimie, and even Monica Șerbănescu,63 but then began using his own name. As a member of the communist party, which was illegal at the time – he contributed to the communist paper Cuvântul liber, a service for which he was rewarded in 1945 with his appointment as editor at the party’s main press organ, Scânteia, and at the State Publishing House, where he worked until 1949. Following a series of articles on Aldous Huxley and psychoanalysis, his first volume, People and Books [Oameni și cărți], was published in 1946, which established him as a literary critic. Thus, he was not without qualifications when in 1948 he was hired by the Department of Literary Theory of the Faculty of Philology at the University of Bucharest as a reward for his communist past. He would later head the department for many years. To quote Mircea Martin, one of Iosifescu’s former students: Few people today know that one of the most convincing pleas in favour of psychoanalysis in our interwar press belonged to Silvian Iosifescu, age 19 in 1936. Between 1940 and 1946 the same author would write the most pertinent Romanian study devoted to Aldous Huxley. In fact, Huxley would be the most invoked and analyzed writer in the subsequent works by this literary theoretician.64

However, it is clear that his promotion was a reward for his active participation in communist propaganda, particularly from 1945 to 1947, when the new authorities attempted to ‘cleanse’ the universities of their former intellectual elite. Iosifescu rushed to accuse professors such as Nae Ionescu and Petre P. Panaitescu, who had been close to the far-right Legionary Movement. His accusations were not without merit, but were fraught with contradiction. Ionescu and Panaitescu were intellectual nonentities who had obtained their positions for political reasons rather than academic credentials, which was also true in his own case.65 Iosifescu was one of the main representatives of communist literary theory in the 1950s. While his literary criticism from this period shows his mastery of literary concepts and his prolific inspiration – he published five books in ten years – it also exposes his submission to the dogmatic theoretical and methodo63 Cf. (accessed 22 January 2015). 64 Mircea Martin, ‘Silvian Iosifescu sau despre “mobilitatea privirii”’ [Silvian Iosifescu: an essay on the ‘mobility of the glance’], Observator cultural, no. 536 (2010). 65 Adina Berciu-Drăghicescu, Facultatea de Litere a Universității din București, 150 de ani de Învățământ Filologic Românesc 1863–2013 [The Faculty of Letters of the University of Bucharest: 150 years of Romanian philological education, 1863–2013] (Bucharest: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2013), 127.

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logical canons of the time. This mixture of genuine talent with dogmatism in his attitude and approach often resulted in oversimplified analysis of both Romanian and foreign writers. For instance, in keeping with the communist vocabulary, he accused Tudor Arghezi (1880–1967) of literary decadence, Camil Petrescu (1894–1957) of intellectual isolation, Lucian Blaga of mystical preoccupations and Urmuz (1883–1923) – the founding father of absurdist literature – of cheap humour. Beyond the criticism it delivers, his work comprises an intention to set forth new literary norms to be followed by writers in keeping with the political imperatives of the time. However, it remains unclear why Iosifescu revised his approach to literary criticism over the following decade.66 Although he remained loyal to his leftist ideology and sociologizing perspective on literary phenomena, he based his subsequent articles and books on objectivity, lucidity and rigor, analyzing texts through a combination of scholarly methods less influenced by Marxist dogma. His new style, founded on the assumption that all works were live organisms, revealed to a much larger extent his genuine passion for reading, a formerly absent flexibility in interpretation and a willingness to view a text from several angles simultaneously. Moreover, Iosifescu began giving particular attention to literature connected to philosophy and psychology (aphorisms, moral stories, confessions), science (science fiction) and history (historical novels, memoirs, journals, travel logs, biographies, etc.), which he analyzed in Frontier Literature, a book he published in 1969. Whether focusing on one book or on a writer’s entire oeuvre, on some particular aspect of an author’s biography or on the characteristics of a generation, from the 1960s onward, in contrast to his earlier work, Silvian Iosifescu postulated that there were no absolute truths in criticism, only more or less justified points of view – a frame of mind favouring direct impressions over methodological dogmatism. As a result of this change in attitude and approach, many of Iosifescu’s later works are still appreciated today. A true intellectual and genuinely erudite scholar, he published a total of 29 books, 4 anthologies and 5 translations. Iosifescu presents a case that begins with significant concessions to the communist regime, but undergoes a diametric shift in the opposite direction to that of Constantin Ionescu Gulian. He is nonetheless rewarded with many professional gains while experiencing relatively minor suffering. Iosifescu provides 66 Perhaps he was taking advantage of what appeared at first to be a relaxation of the communist party’s tight control, but turned out to be just an exchange of one restrictive dogma for another; despite their obvious differences, Dejism and Ceausism were equally problematic.

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further proof that it was possible to be a convinced leftist, have a communist past, and yet transform to promote real, universal values, not just those in line with Marxism. Another positive example is provided by philosopher, logician and linguist Henri Wald (born 31 October 1920, Bucharest; died 14 July 2002, Bucharest). Because he repeated the first and the twelfth grades,67 Wald finished St. Andrew High School in 1940, at which point anti-Jewish legislation prevented him from earning his baccalaureate. Faced with few other options, he then attended Onescu College, a private Jewish college in Bucharest, where he studied with Mihai Sebastian and Isaac Brucker. He was also drafted into the forced-labour detachments, and had to work as a porter in the Obor train station where despite his frail nature, he was expected to carry very heavy packages. To his luck, he was protected by stronger fellow labourers who took on his workload in addition to their own. He was also fortunate during the Legionary Rebellion of January 1941 when one of his friends, who happened to be a gendarmerie captain, literally guarded the house in which he was being hidden by another friend. It was at some point in 1943, during the war and the anti-Jewish persecutions, that Wald became drawn to communism, but he did not actually join the Romanian Communist Party until 1946, when he graduated from the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest with a thesis titled ‘The Petty Bourgeois Mentality’. He had been admitted to the university in 1944, at around the same time he began publishing articles in the leftist press (e.g. Tribuna poporului, or The People’s Tribune) as well as in cultural publications (e.g. Revista fundațiilor regale, or The Royal Foundations’ Review). From 1947 onwards, Wald served the communist propaganda system, working first at the State Publishing House until 1948, then at the political journals Analele româno-sovietice [Romanian Soviet Annals], where he was editor-in-chief from 1948 to 1952, and Tânărul leninist [The Young Leninist], where he was head of the economics department from 1952 to 1954. By 1948, his extensive knowledge of Marxism had already earned him a tenured academic position as a lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy and Law, where he taught a course in logic until 1962 when he was fired due to his reluctance to continue promoting propaganda for the regime. Between 1954 and 1975 Wald also coordinated the Department of Logic and Gnoseology at the Institute of Philosophy of the Romanian Academy, although he was not and never would be a member of the academy himself. In 1967 he earned his PhD in philosophy 67 As he related in an interview. Cf. Mariana Conovici, ‘Henry Wald – 80’, Ramuri, no. 9 (September 2002), quoted from (accessed 22 January 2015).

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with his dissertation, ‘Elements of General Epistemology’. He was elected a member of the Academy of Social and Political Sciences in 1972. In 1975, he was dismissed from the Institute of Philosophy for what Vladimir Tismăneanu calls his ‘guilt of standing up to the institute’s dogmatic jackals’.68 He then joined the Institute for Ethnology and Dialectology, where he worked until his retirement in 1983.69 He was invited to deliver a series of lectures in 1972 at the University of Oslo, and during 1974–82, he also taught a course in language theory at the Faculty of Journalism.70 His disappointment with the communist regime – which had nothing to do with his dismissal, but rather with his awakening from the utopian views of his youth – led him to withdraw into theoretical research, and to dedicate himself to the study of epistemology and philosophical anthropology, as well as language and semiotics. Nonetheless, he remained a convinced (non-Leninist) Marxist dialectician, while strongly rejecting dogmatic rigidity. Wald’s Marxism was unconventional and creative, even personal. In fact, it was sometimes called ‘Waldism’, which was precisely what annoyed representatives of the regime. Furthermore, like Radu Grigorovici, Wald was on close terms with a rightwing thinker, Constantin Noica. As Wald himself confessed, he wanted to set an example that friendship between right-wing and left-wing philosophers was possible, that difference was not hierarchy, and divergence not enmity. Notwithstanding his professed atheism, towards the end of his life Wald drew significantly closer to Judaism, which he considered a matrix of humanist thinking. He delivered lectures, wrote articles in Revista Cultului Mozaic and promoted Jewish culture. As he himself confessed, because he had a family that he was afraid to hurt, he did not become a dissident, yet he resisted the communist system as much as he could. Wald presents a case of significant initial concessions to the communist regime, but no immoral choices, many merits, a significant amount of suffering at the hands of both the wartime and communist regimes for his political choices and ethnic origins, and some professional gains. His life serves as proof that it was possible to be, and remain, a Marxist – en vers et contre tout – and yet refuse to serve the communist regime, regardless of the price. 68 Vladimir Tismaneanu, ‘Recomandare de lectura: “Dragul meu turnator” si mlastina comunista’ [Recommended reading: ‘my beloved informer’ and the communist swamp], http://www. (accessed 22 January 2015). 69 Andrei Corbea-Hoisie, ‘Wald, Henri’, in the Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, (accessed 22 January 2015). 70 Wald, Lingviști și filologi evrei din România, 215.

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Conclusions This brief review of the Jewish professors who managed to obtain tenured academic positions at the University of Bucharest in the first half of the twentieth century reveals the choices they had and the subsequent fates they met. At the beginning of the twentieth century, when the vast majority of Jews did not even have Romanian citizenship, the very idea of a Jew becoming a university professor in Bucharest, or anywhere else in Romania, was utopian at best. Yet, this did not prevent several from trying (Hariton Tiktin), and some even obstinately (Lazăr Șăineanu). Only two – David Emmanuel and Ion Aurel Candrea – managed to become exceptions to the rule, and it is still unclear why. The former succeeded despite making no compromises, while the latter choose to make small concessions, like changing his name and staying clear of the Jewish community. Utopia became reality for each, and did not end in catastrophe; indeed, Emmanuel died just in time to avoid both twentieth-century Romanian catastrophes – wartime far-right extremism and post-war communism – and Candrea managed to survive the first and flee the country just before the second. The other two successful cases before the Second World War are even more bewildering: Tudor Vianu, a Christian regarded and treated as a Jew by all regimes, despite the fact that he was born from baptized parents, and Radu Grigorovici, a Jew regarded as a Christian despite the fact that his Jewish mother did not formally convert to Christianity. Each survived the regime change, managing to remain at the university despite the lack of a communist past, yet with many hurdles and at a price indeed. Neither had anything to do with the communist utopia, but each came close to catastrophe, albeit for different reasons – Vianu for his Jewish origins and Grigorovici for the political past of his parents. However, their reactions contrasted sharply. While Grigorovici chose not to make concessions, Vianu was ready to compromise, sometimes too ready, although not to the extent of hurting others, as we can see from his interventions in favour of his colleagues, despite the obvious risks this posed to his position. He thus acquiesced to the utopia – even if he did not believe in it – at the very moment it began to become clear that it was heading in the wrong direction. The choices and subsequent fates of the four Jewish intellectuals who managed to obtain tenured academic positions at the University of Bucharest between 1944, when Romania changed sides in the Second World War, and 1948, when the communists took root and began reforming the educational system, show that it was still possible to achieve tenure without compromise. Alexandru

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Graur indeed had a communist past, openly believed in the utopia – for understandable reasons, as evidenced by his interwar experiences – and was ready to make all necessary concessions, including attacks on his former professors and colleagues, for which he would later pay a price in the few painful years and many hurdles he faced towards the end of his life.71 However, Nina Façon, Jacques Byck and Iancu Fischer got by without believing in the utopia or acquiescing to it, and survived at the university until the ends of their careers without compromising, although they suffered and encountered significant risks, some of which brought them to the brink of personal catastrophe. Adepts of the utopia by default, the seven Jewish intellectuals brought to the University of Bucharest by the 1948 communist reform of the education system prove that choices were still available, even while catastrophe was unfolding under their very eyes. With the exception of physicist Alexandru Sanielevici, all actively contributed to the communist press attacks against the country’s former intellectual elites from 1944 to 1948, and in some cases for good reason, considering the elites’ more-or-less active political involvement with the farright movement. However, these attacks were carried out using the wrong arguments, as they focused on intellectual abilities, which for the most part did not merit doubt. All were also rewarded with academic positions for their propaganda services, yet their professional qualifications varied widely, as did their subsequent political stands and evolutions. Emil Boldan may not have earned his position of associate professor through adequate literary achievement, but he was most likely a good high school literature teacher; Ion Vitner was ultimately a dentist, despite his best literary attempts. However, whether out of true belief in the utopia or mere career ambition, each remained unflinchingly loyal to the Marxist paradigm while promoting the proletcultist approach to literary criticism to the bitter end, although Vitner had ample reason to reconsider once he was marginalized as a ‘reward’ for his overzealousness. On the other hand, Constantin Ionescu Gulian and Silvian Iosifescu were not without merits when they were rewarded with academic positions for their communist zeal, and both remained convinced Marxists to the end. However, while Gulian persisted in his communist dogmatism and never showed the faintest doubt about his choices, even when he seemed to be evolving and reinventing himself as an expert in a new field, Iosifescu was able to shake off this approach and eventually show his true colours, which justifies why Gulian is remembered today as the exterminator of Romanian philosophy and Iosifescu as a scholar of great merit. And last but not least, Ion Banu and Henri Wald proved that it was possible to con71 We can ultimately conclude that life was somewhat easier for those who chose not to compromise than for those who did.

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tinue believing in the utopia while living amid full catastrophe, yet not cede to the excesses of the communist regime, regardless of the price. In sum, the lives of these Jewish intellectuals show that, despite upheavals large or small, a rewarding career was possible in academia, or at least in research, regardless of choices made in serving the communist regime. The calculation was but a matter of the price to pay, and for what reward.

Karolina Szymaniak

On the Ice Floe: Rachel Auerbach – The Life of a Yiddishist Intellectual in Early Twentieth Century Poland Introduction ‘She was born with a talent to be a writer [shraybern] who – with the power of the word – creates a new world. What she became is a recorder [farshraybern] of the world that was destroyed before her very eyes’,1 wrote Yitskhok Yonasovitsh in his obituary of Rachel Auerbach (Rokhl Oyerbakh, 1899–1976), a modernist Yiddish-Polish writer and Yiddishist cultural activist who was to become a prominent figure in Khurbn2 [Destruction] research. Rachel Auerbach is remembered today mainly for her achievements during and after the Second World War. She is often called ‘one of the chief memoirists of the Warsaw ghet-

1 Yitskhok Yonasovitsh, ‘Rokhl Oyerbakh, o"h’, Folksblat 6 (1976): 16. 2 In the article, I use the Yiddish ‘khurbn’ or its English counterpart ‘Destruction’ – a term most widely used by the survivors in the immediate aftermath of the war – interchangeably with the English term Holocaust. For a discussion of the different terms used in survivor discourse and scholarly research and their connotations see Deborah E. Lipstadt, ‘Finding a Name to Define a Horror’, in Deborah E. Lipstadt, Holocaust: An American Understanding (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 6–13. See also Laura Jockush, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 18–45 and 223, which includes a list of alternative Yiddish terms and a discussion of the notion of khurbn-forshung [Destruction research] and its origins. Annotation: My research on Auerbach’s biography and work was made possible thanks to the support of the Jewish Historical Institute, a joint fellowship granted by the Beth Sholem-Aleichem, the Goldreich Family Institute for Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture and the Institute of the History of Polish Jews and Israel Poland Relations of Tel Aviv University, and the fellowship of the Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena. I would like to thank my colleagues from the Kolleg and the editors and fellow authors of this volume for their advice, comments and criticism. I extend special thanks to Adam Puchejda for his help in preparing the first version of this text, Natalia Aleksiun and Anna Szyba for their help with some archival materials, Lila Holtzman and Yossi Shoval for sharing their memories with me, and Kamil Kijek, Grzegorz Krzywiec, Maria Antosik Piela, Joseph Grim Feinberg for offering their advice in response to my questions. I would also like to thank the editors of this text, Jaime Elizabeth Hyatt and Adam Bresnahan, whose work helped me improve it. Needless to say, any mistakes in this article are mine and mine alone.

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to’,3 one of ‘the pioneers of Holocaust history’4 and an influential person in post-Holocaust Jewish intellectual life.5 Nevertheless, her life has not yet been studied in detail and even her post-war work has gone underappreciated. As Deborah E. Lipstadt remarked when writing about the Eichmann trial: ‘Auerbach was hardly from the periphery as much as she was pushed there by those with power.’6 Hence, there is only a small body of research on Auerbach’s writings, most of which give precedence to her writings penned during her time living in a ghetto and after the war, although there is now growing interest in her life and work. This article seeks to give an overview of the ‘Polish’ chapter of her intellectual biography, from her pre-war writings and activism, first in L’viv, and then in Warsaw during the war and the Holocaust, up through 1950, when she left Poland for Israel. It places particular focus on her Yiddishist project and her relationship to Poland and Polish society and culture in the interwar period. Studying Auerbach’s biography can help us formulate important questions about Yiddish-speaking multilingual intellectuals in Poland before and after the Second World War, their self-perceptions and the ideologies they subscribed to. Similarly, her biography offers an exemplary perspective on the Yiddishists’ position vis-à-vis other major national projects of Jewish modern identity and culture, as well as towards the Polish state, society and culture. It will also teach us about the prospects the Yiddishist national project had in Poland. Rachel Auerbach was a multilingual, socially engaged public intellectual whose ideas were shaped by her Polish education and Polish culture as well as by modern Jewish politics, Zionism and Yiddishism, a Jewish nationalist movement whose proponents believed that Yiddish language and culture should be at the heart of modern Jewish identity. While she rejected Hebrew and PolishJewish culture for ideological reasons and took a critical view of Polish culture in general, Auerbach was constantly mediating and negotiating between them. As Samuel Kassow observed, her ability to move between cultural boundaries derived from ‘a life that straddled different worlds: village, shtetl and city; Yiddish and Polish; Poles and Jews; Galicia and Warsaw; the milieu of the Jewish

3 Ruth R. Wisse, The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey Through Language and Culture (New York: The Free Press, 2000), 192. 4 David Engel, ‘The Holocaust: History and Metahistory in Three Recent Works’, Jewish Quarterly Review 95, no. 4 (2005): 685–93. 5 Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 171. 6 Deborah E. Lipstadt, ‘Assembling Eichmann’s Shackles’, in Gender and Jewish History, eds, Marion A. Kaplan and Deborah Dash Moore (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 305–19, here 307 (emphasis in the original).

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literary elite and the world of Jewish masses, religious and secular, Diaspora nationalists and Zionists.’7 The metaphor that I evoke in the title and analyze more specifically in the context of Auerbach’s relation to the Polish state provides a condensed image of what I perceive as both the utopian and catastrophic traits of her own cultural politics. In a broader sense, however, it can also narrativize the history of the Yiddishist project that she and many Jewish intellectuals adhered to and advanced. The peculiar position of Yiddish in modern multilingual Jewish culture discussed in this article as well as within the political and cultural orders of Central and Eastern Europe produced a specific sense of urgency among its exponents, a phenomenon that on another occasion I called ‘culture in the state of emergency’.8 This produced a set of discursive strategies and figures that reflected ‘the anxiety of a community whose language, and physical survival, were felt to be in a state of perennial danger.’9 As a public intellectual, Auerbach dedicated her life to Yiddish language and culture and the history of the Destruction. Thus, her work spans the two conceptual poles that organize the history of Jewish intellectuals in East Central Europe in this volume, marking utopia on the one hand, and catastrophe on the other. While the catastrophic dimension of Auerbach’s biography, writings and her role in research on the Destruction seems to be self-evident, the utopian dimension requires more explanation, which will in turn further complicate the notion of catastrophe.10 While underscoring its achievements and its significance for understanding Jewish history, recent scholarship on Yiddish culture and Yiddishist projects in the twentieth century has come to better understand not only its utopian traits, 7 Samuel Kassow, Who Will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto and the Oyneg Shabes Archive (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 200. 8 Karolina Szymaniak, ‘Krytyka literacka jako instytucja nowoczesnej kultury jidysz. Próba opisu dyskursu’, [Literary criticism as an institution of modern Yiddish culture: an attempt at discourse analysis] (PhD diss., University of Kraków, 2009), especially chapters 1.1 and 4.2. 9 Fishman, The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture, 97. 10 The connotation of catastrophe as a harbinger of new beginnings was also important for the radical politics of the period, Jewish and non-Jewish, albeit not so much in Auerbach’s intellectual biography. For a discussion of different representations and politics of apocalypse in Yiddish modernist literature see Avraham Novershtern, Kesem ha-dimdumim. Apokalipsah vemeshikhut be-sifrut yidish [The lure of twilight: apocalypse and Messianism in Yiddish literature] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2003). On modernist visions and political implications of the decay of traditional shtetl life among the last generation of Jewish youth in pre-war Poland see Kamil Kijek, ‘Radykalizm polityczny młodzieży sztetlowej okresu międzywojennego’ [Political radicalism of shtetl youth in the interwar period], in Zagłada Żydów na polskiej prowincji, eds, Adam Sitarek, Michał Trębacz and Ewa Wiatr (Łódź: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2012), 55–98.

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but also the growing catastrophism of Yiddishist discourse of the late 1920s and 1930s.11 Some Yiddishists called this catastrophism, in Yisroel Shtern’s words, a ‘Tishah Be’av, or a mourner ideology’12 and juxtaposed it a more optimistic visions, of which the vision of an international diasporic empire – the Yiddishland is but one telling example. These served as a powerful tool in Yiddish intellectuals’ constant fight for the proper recognition of their own culture in Poland, and gave them a medium that helped them reflect on the patterns of reception, inclusion and exclusion of minority cultures in Poland.13 However, it seems that Yiddishism was further removed from the realities of Jewish life in the interwar period. In the Second Polish Republic, as Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov has suggested, Yiddishism gradually became more about ‘exorcizing reality’ than about reality itself. Several factors worked against the success of the Yiddishist project: the Polonization policies of the state, which included the persecution of Yiddish educational institutions, the general sociolinguistic dynamic and move towards monoligualism in the second generation, and the diminishing power of Yiddish as a language of choice for Jewish intellectuals.14 On the other hand, intellectuals such as Auerbach believed that the dynamics of national movements in East Central Europe and the experience of discrimination and anti-Jewish violence worked in favour of projects like Yiddishism. But this belief usually remained at the level of discourse and was less often translated into everyday practices and patterns of cultural consumption.15 The experience of the Destruction of Jewish life in East Central Europe and the need to record it and find a proper means for its expression, as well as the

11 Nathan Cohen, ‘Reading Polish among Young Jewish People’, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 28 (2015): 172–86. 12 Ibid., 178. For discussions of catastrophist motifs in Yiddish and Polish-Jewish culture outside the context discussed here see, among others, Joanna Lisek, Jung Wilne – żydowska grupa artystyczna (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, 2005), 198–207, and Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, ‘Europa, Europa: Publicystyka u schyłku dwudziestolecia’, in Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, Pogranicze polsko-żydowskie. Topografie i teksty (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2013), 231–47. 13 See Karolina Szymaniak, ‘Speaking Back: On Some Aspects of the Reception of Polish Literature in Yiddish Literary Criticism’, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 28 (2015): 153–72. 14 Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, ‘Zaklinanie rzeczywistości, czyli jidysz w Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej’ [Exorcising the reality, or Yiddish in the Second Polish Republic], in Kultura i społeczeństwo II Rzeczpospolitej, ed. Włodzimierz Mędrzecki and Agata Zawiszewska (Warsaw: Instytut Historii PAN, 2012), 105–6. 15 Kamil Kijek, Dzieci modernizmu. Świadomość i socjalizacja polityczna młodzieży żydowskiej w Polsce międzywojennej [Children of modernism: political consciousness, culture and socialization of the Jewish Youth in interwar Poland] (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, 2017).

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severely weakened position of Yiddish, cast a shadow on this reality, and marked a slow transition from the politics of culture to a culture of mourning and memory.16 The communist regime in Poland and the new Israeli state after the war changed Yiddishist agendas and their stance towards Poland. Navigating between different discourses, personal documents, public records, and discussions, as well as different times and languages, I will try to place Auerbach on this complex and ever changing map of Polish Yiddishism during the first half of the twentieth century.

Writer, Activist and Historian of the Destruction Rachel Eiga Auerbach was born in the Podolian village of Lanivtsi (Yid. Lanovits, Pol. Łanowce) in the Tarnopol district on 8 December 1899.17 Her father, Chanina, was a merchant, and her mother Menia, neé Kimelman, was the daughter of a local peasant. From 1905 to 1911, she attended a primary school [szkoła powszechna] in her native village but did not immediately go on to study at the gymnasium and later received her secondary education privately.18 One of the teachers preparing Auerbach for the exams was Judyta [Jehudit] Blumental, sister of Nachman Blumental.19 In 1920, the family moved to L’viv, where Auerbach attended her final year of secondary education at the Adam Mickiewicz Gymnasium, from which she graduated in June 1921. She then started her studies at the Faculty of Philoso-

16 Anita Norich, Discovering Exile: Yiddish and Jewish American Culture during the Holocaust (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), 112. 17 Księga metrykalna urodzeń: powiat Borszczów [Register of births in the Borszczów District], AGAD, 300/2517, 95–96, line 162 (166). The date 8 December is on the birth certificate, but December 18 appears on some university documents and was used by Auerbach in the postwar period. 18 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Podanie o przyjęcie na studia’ [University application], AUW, Teczka studencka: Rachel Eiga Auerbach, 44.229. In a slightly less reliable (when it comes to dates) CV dated 18 September 1945, Auerbach states that she finished primary school in 1913. See Rachel Auerbach, Curriculum vitae, 14 September 1945 (London), YVA, P.16/1. 19 Rebeka Blumental, ‘Hatsharah’ [Affidavit], 14 November 1962, YVA P.16/1. Auerbach and the Blumentals were on friendly terms. While Nachman Blumental studied in Warsaw, his siblings Mendel, Rebeka and Sara pursued at least part of their studies in L’viv. For a time, Mendel and Rebeka Blumental and Rachel Auerbach were flatmates. See Mendel Blumental’s registration forms, Katalog studentov, DALO, fond 26, opys 15, sprava 663, 670, 677, as well as Rebeka Blumental, ‘Hatshara’. I would like to thank Anna Szyba for inspiring me to look at the Blumentals’ university records.

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phy20 of the Jan Kazimierz University in L’viv, specializing in philosophy, psychology and history (with a special interest in modern and economic history).21 As a student she was also close to the Zionist youth organizations, and participated in activities of the Jewish National Fund – Keren Kayemeth L’Israel (JNFKKL).22 For financial reasons, as she herself explained, she stopped studying in 1925 (not giving upon her diploma) and began working as a journalist.23 We can speculate that her situation might have worsened due to her father’s death in March 1924.24 She also became active in organizations like the Zionist Związek Kobiet Żydowskich [Association of Jewish Women]25 and Żydowskie Towarzystwo Artystyczno-Literackie [Jewish Artistic and Literary Association].26 In 1928, she claimed to have received a certificate of completion of studies27 while still working on her dissertation titled Zagadnienie “maski” w charakterologii współczesnej. Przyczynek do teorii psychognostyki [Questions of ‘Mask’ in Contemporary Characterology: A Contribution to the Theory of Psychognostics], which she submitted to Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz and Mieczysław Wartenberg in April 1930.28 Ajdukiewicz graded the dissertation as insufficient, pointing out 20 In 1924 the Faculty of Philosophy was divided into the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Mathematics and Science. 21 See Rachel Auerbach’s registration forms, Katalog studentov, DALO, fond 26, opys 15, sprava: 658, 660, 663, 665, 669, 670, 731, 732. 22 Rebeka Blumental, ‘Hatsharah’; ‘Z wydawnictw młodzieży przed “Dniem młodzieży syjonistycznej”’ [From the youth publications before the day of Zionist youth], Chwila (28 December 1926): 4. 23 See Curriculum vitae, 9 April 1930. In Auerbach, ‘Podanie o przyjęcie na studia’ the given date is 1926. 24 Rachel Auerbach’s registration forms, ‘Katalog studentov’, DALO, fond 26, opys 15, sprava 731, 30, 732, 36. 25 ‘Walne Zgromadzenie Związku Kobiet Żyd.’, [General meeting of the union of Jewish women], Chwila (21 July 1925): 3. 26 ‘Spis członków czynnych sekcji literackiej Ż.T. Art. Lit.’ [List of active members of the literary section of the Jewish Artistic and Literary Association], TSIDAL, fond 701, opys 3, sprava 1049a, 8. In this document only family name Auerbachówna is mentioned (without first name), as a representative of Jewish Polish literature, so the identification with Auerbach is not clear. On the association see Żydowskie Towarzystwo Artystyczno-Literackie we Lwowie. Sprawozdanie jubileuszowe 1926/27–1936/37 [Jewish Artistic and Literary Association in L’viv. A Jubilee Report, 1926/27–1936/37]. Lwów: ŻTAL, 1937). 27 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Hatsharah’, 14 November 1962, YVA P.16/1. 28 ‘Doktorskaja dyssertatsya’, 1, 4. The exact reasons for the late submission remain unclear. One of the drafts of the dissertation preserved in the Ringelblum Archive is dated as early as 1926. See Rachel Auerbach, ‘Indywiduum i indywidualność. Obiektywne warunki oryginalności indywidualnej’, [Individual and individuality: objective conditions of individual originality], in Katarzyna Person, ed., Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 7: Spuścizny (Warsaw: ŻIH), 2–100.

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the lack of clarity and precision and originality, as well as some mistakes in reasoning.29 Auerbach was informed about the rejection on 11 March 1931.30 In a letter to New York-based writer Moshe Shtarkman, she mentions that she had conflicts with her professor and tried to pass her final exams in Vilnius.31 In the same letter she also considers the possibility of pursuing her further education in psychotechnics in the United States in order to later return to Europe ‘as a wanted specialist’. It was not until she moved to Warsaw in 1933 that she began working to finish her studies at Warsaw University, where she took courses in psychology and history. She even obtained a scholarship from the Journalist’s Syndicate to finance her studies while working on a study with the intriguing title ‘The Psychology of Typos’. However, her university records show that she was having financial difficulties. First, she resigned from several courses she had signed up for, and after three semesters gave up on her studies entirely. Thus, it seems that she never obtained a degree, even though she completed her university education and prepared a dissertation in the field of psychology. In the end, however, her psychological training influenced all of her writings. Together with her modernist impetus, it is precisely this psychological insight that makes her Holocaust and post-Holocaust studies, essays and other writings unique and often revelatory. Her interest in bodily and physical reactions as well as in physiognomy and facial expressions influenced her understanding of the nature of the act of testifying and made her sensitive to physical aspects of witnesses’ accounts.32 In light of her future role in the Destruction research, her historical training is similarly interesting and important, although she did not consider herself a historian. She was especially interested in social and economic history, an interest characteristic for the field of Jewish history of the period. She also passed state exams authorizing her to teach history and introduction to philosophy at the secondary level.33

29 On Auerbach’s attempts to creatively adapt German philosophical and psychological discourse into Polish see Barbara Engelking-Boni, ‘Źródło wszystkich źródeł. O czterech warszawskich tomach Archiwum Ringelbluma’ [Source of all sources: about four volumes of the Ringelblum Archive], Zagłada Żydów. Studia i materiały, 10 (2014): 946–7. 30 Auerbach, Podanie do dziekanatu Wydziału Humanistycznego Uniwersytetu Jana Kazimierza we Lwowie [Application to the office of the Faculty of Humanities], DALO, fond 26, opys 4, spr. 78, 1, 2. 31 Rachel Auerbach to Moshe Shtarkman, undated [1931], AYIVO, Papers of Moshe Shtarkman, RG 279, box 1, folder 3. 32 See Rachel Auerbach, ‘Mekorot ve-drakhim chadashim li-gviyat eduyot’ [Sources and new methods in testimony collection], Yediyot Yad Va-shem 2 (1952): 8–9. 33 Even in the newest research in the field this fact is often still neglected. See Mark Lee Smith, ‘The Yiddish Historians and the Struggle for a Jewish History of the Holocaust’ (PhD diss.,

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Since the mid-1920s she published in both the Yiddish and Polish-Jewish press and worked for the L’viv Zionist Yiddish daily Der Morgen (later: Der Nayer Morgen) until 1930. In 1929, she co-founded one of the most ambitious Galician Yiddish intellectual journals – the Tsushtayer – and helped organize a cultural movement aimed at establishing Galicia as a centre of modern Yiddish culture. She also edited a literary supplement to Folk un Land, a weekly published by the Left Poalei-Zion, where she likewise worked as a secretary. It was then that she started to develop her vision of an engaged but non-partisan, cross-party Yiddish culture that would serve both as a unifying force to secure the future of the Jewish nation and as a platform where individuals of different denominations could come to work together. This new culture was, according to Auerbach, a sine qua non of any social and political reform. ‘Without culture, no organization of life upon new principles is possible.’ This view was yet another version of a modern Jewish culturalist programme that had begun to take shape in the first decades of the twentieth century.34 As Kenneth Moss remarked, in interwar Poland ‘the culturalists’ claims to autonomy were placed on the defensive and ‘cultural activity was conscripted by Zionist or Jewish socialist movements. Ultimately, national conflicts and anti-liberal agendas ended up pushing the culturalists into the background.’35 However, this does not mean that they didn’t make any mark on the interwar period. The early 1930s marked another period of disappointment for Auerbach: she became disillusioned with the apparent failure of her Yiddishist projects and with the politics of the Polish state and Polish society’s hostility towards Jews. It was probably at that time that she started thinking about the possibility of emigrating, even if she had not given up on advancing her Yiddishist ideas in Poland. While still editing the Tsushtayer, she helped establish the ‘Fraynd fun YIVO’ – Society of Friends of the YIVO in L’viv, serving as one of their secretaries until December 1931.36 Founded in 1925, the YIVO conducted research on various aspects of the culture and life of Central and Eastern European Jewry

University of California, 2016), 51: ‘The only woman regularly associated with the Yiddish historians was Rachel Auerbach, but she did not train or practice as a historian.’ 34 Kenneth B. Moss, Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). 35 Moss, Jewish Renaissance, 291. 36 On the establishment of the Association and elections of the board see ‘Akcja na rzecz Ż.I.N. we Lwowie’, Chwila (7 March 1931): 8. Documentation of Auerbach’s activities with regard to Shmuel Niger’s coming to L’viv: Rachel Auerbach to Shumel Niger, 1931, AYIVO, Shumel Niger Papers, folder 888. On Auerbach finishing her service, see Rachel Auerbach to the YIVO board, 25 December 1931, LCVA, fond 287, ap. 13, b. 3.

312  Karolina Szymaniak

with a special focus on Yiddish culture; it had a clear Yiddishist agenda.37 The Institute sought to train future intellectual elites, and one of its aims was ‘to bolster the morale and cultural vitality of a beleaguered people’ and encouraged their fight for the national rights.38 YIVO’s research sought to strengthen the project of national Yiddish culture and resolve the problems faced by many of its proponents.39 Auerbach remained close to the YIVO circles and their methodology, which later had an influence on her ghetto writings. After moving to Warsaw, she collaborated with the institute’s local branch and closely observed the role the Institute played in Jewish social life.40 The 1935 YIVO Congress gave Auerbach occasion to reflect on the purpose of the organization.41 In the wake of a major discussion about the Institute’s research agenda and political involvement,42 Auerbach observed that Jewish intellectuals, disappointed with party politics and disillusioned by their lack of political agency, pinned too many hopes on the Institute, hopes she thought it could not and should not fulfil if it wanted to remain capable of efficiently completing its most important work.43 She believed these expectations derived to a

37 For a comprehensive analysis of YIVO’s history and role see Cecile E. Kuznitz, YIVO and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture: Scholarship for the Yiddish Nation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014) 38 Samuel Kassow, ‘Travel and Local History as a National Mission Polish Jews and the Landkentenish Movement in the 1920s and 1930s’, in Jewish Topographies: Visions of Space, Traditions of Place, ed. Julia Brauch, Anna Lipphardt and Alexandra Nocke (Ashgate: Routledge, 2008), 241–64. 39 Kamil Kijek, ‘Inteligencja a naród w dobie kryzysu. “JIWO Bleter” jako przestrzeń komunikacji jidyszowych elit i mas żydowskich’ [Intelligentsia and nation in the days of crisis: YIVO Bleter as a platform of communication between the Yiddish elites and Jewish masses], in Z dziejów trójjęzycznej prasy żydowskiej na ziemiach polskich w XIX i XX wieku, ed. Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, (Warsaw: Neriton, 2012), 369–95; Kamil Kijek, ‘Max Weinreich, Assimilation, and the Social Politics of Jewish Nation-Building’, East European Jewish Affairs 1–2 (2011): 25–55. 40 Auerbach’s name is listed among the lecturers of the Warsaw branch of the institute. See ‘Tsu di kultur-institutsyes in Poyln’ [To the cultural institutions in Poland], Literarishe Bleter 48 (1935): 781. 41 as, ‘Wszechświatowy zjazd Żyd. Instytutu Naukowego w Wilnie. Uroczyste otwarcie’ [World congress of the Yiddish Scientific Institute], Nasz Przegląd (17 August 1935): 5. 42 See Kassow, Who Will Write Our History?, 40–2; Christopher Hutton, ‘What Was Going on at the 1935 YIVO Conference’, in Politics of Yiddish: Studies in Language, Literature, and Society, ed. Dov Ber Kerler (London: AltaMira Press, 1998), 29–39. 43 Rachel Auerbach, ‘A visnshafltekhe anshtalt tsi an universal-agentur far leyzn ale yidishe problemen’ [An academic institution or a universal agency for solving all Yiddish problems], Wilner tog (19 August 1935): 2.

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large extent from the underdeveloped institutional basis of modern Yiddish culture as a stateless culture. During this period, Auerbach was among the proponents of a rather exclusivist vision of Jewish national culture and the role of the Jewish intellectual. She thought that Jews not directly engaged with Yiddish culture were threatening the survival of the Jewish nation. Auerbach also demanded this kind of engagement from intellectuals who had no native knowledge of Yiddish. For the Jewish people to survive, she thought, it was necessary for Jewish intellectuals to actively adopt the language and culture of the majority of the nation. This was a view shared by many Yiddishists. In 1933 Auerbach, burning all the bridges behind her, as she put it, moved to Warsaw, home to the largest Jewish community in Poland and a major Yiddish cultural and publishing centre. Although harmed by the economic crisis, Warsaw provided the estranged Yiddish Galician writer with a much-desired Yiddish-speaking intellectual milieu. ‘The Warsaw metropolis attracted us and dazzled’, wrote Auerbach in a post-war memoir, but she was quick to add that the Warsaw of the 1930s was not the same city as it had been at the beginning of the 1920s,44 when, in Dovid Katz’s apt formulation, Berlin and Paris were satellites of this Yiddish metropolis.45 The Warsaw of the 1930s, however, was for many Jewish intellectuals not so much the final destination but rather a transit point on the inevitable path of emigration. Although it had already been a point of transit in the 1920s, the 1930s marked a period of major disappointment for the up-and-coming generation of Yiddishist intellectuals. For one, the prospects for stable employment were considerably more limited. And with acculturation progressing, more and more intellectuals voiced their scepticism and disappointment with the prospect of the further development of Yiddish culture. Yiddish writer Yisroel Shtern felt that ‘in order not to lose his native optimism, he felt that he had to walk quickly through the “Jewish” streets of Warsaw to avoid hearing the younger generation chatting in Polish.’46 Despite this situation Warsaw was still one of the capitals of the diasporic Yiddish culture. Auerbach soon became very active in the Yiddish literary milieu, but she never took a leading role in organizing Yiddish cultural life like she had in L’viv. She was constantly struggling with financial problems and was overwhelmed with worries about her life companion, Romanian-born poet Itsik 44 In the years of her most intensive activism in Galicia, her views of Warsaw were far from enthusiastic: ‘This city doesn’t attract me at all’ she wrote to Ravitch. See Rachel Auerbach to Melech Ravich [undated postcard], SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 35.1. 45 Dovid Katz, Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish (New York: Basic Books, 2004), 283. 46 Cohen, ‘Reading Polish’, 178.

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Manger, one of the leading poets of his generation. She met Manger in 1932 and had a very complicated and stormy relationship with him.47 Her poor economic situation was not unique for Yiddish intellectuals, who, as a result of the weak economic and institutional base of Yiddish culture in Poland, typically had to take up several jobs, including physical work. Auerbach also understood her position in terms of generational change, recognizing that her generation had fewer possibilities in comparison to those who came a decade earlier,48 and in terms of gender difference – as a woman in the male-dominated literary milieu. She supported herself by writing and translating for newspapers of diverse political leanings, such as the Zionist Haynt, the folkist Der Moment and the Bundist Naye Folkstsaytung49 and Foroys. She also published extensively in the Polish-Jewish press, including in the Nasz Przegląd [Our Overview], Nowy Dziennik [New Journal] and Opinia [Opinion]. However, she claimed that she only did it for money and was repulsed by the work, a stance that will be further discussed in the next chapter. This did not prevent Auerbach from accepting a post at Der Moment’s Polish-language publication Nowy Głos [New Voice]. Nonetheless, Auerbach’s willingness to compromise had its limits. When a new revisionist daily offered her a post, she was quick to refuse: ‘I didn’t want to be suddenly “blessed” by their money’ she explained in a letter to her friend and fellow-writer, Melekh Ravitch.50 She published extensively on topics ranging from psychoanalysis and pedagogy to the history of literature and culture, contemporary literary criticism, modern art, and cultural politics, both in Yiddish and Polish. She also published fragments of her fiction.51 However, two topics were most prominent in her work at the time. First and foremost was Yiddish culture, its past, present and future, and the role of the Jewish intellectual. Secondly, she was very interested in women’s history and literature as well as the contemporary situation of women and the ways in which to improve it. Her writings on the history of women might be understood as an attempt to provide female public intellec47 Efrat Gal-Ed, Niemandssprache – Itzik Manger – ein europäischer Dichter (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2016), 302–10. 48 Auerbach, Varshever tsavoes, 21. 49 For concise analyses of the three journals and the changes in their politics throughout the interwar period see Nalewajko-Kulikov, ed., Z dziejów trójjęzycznej prasy żydowskiej. 50 Rachel Auerbach to Melekh Ravitch, 21 April 1939, SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 35.4. 51 For an overview of Auerbach’s interwar writings see Khayele Bir, ‘A shtil ketsl mit sharfe negl. Vegn Rokhl Oyerbakhs zshurnalizm’ [A silent cat with sharp claws: on Rachel Auerbach’s journalism] in Khut-shel-khesed. Lekoved Khave Turniansky, eds, Israel Bartal, Galit Hasan-Rokem, Claudia Rosenzweig, Ada Rapoport-Albert, Erika Timm, Vicky Shifriss, vol. 2, ‫לה‬-‫כה‬, and Carrie Friedman-Cohen, ‘Rokhl Oyerbakh: roshe perakim le-cheker chayeyah ve-yetsiratah’ [Rachel Auerbach: her life and writings], Khulyot 9 (2005): 297–304.

In the Ice Floe: Rachel Auerbach - The life of a Jewish Intellectual


tuals with a usable past and to secure a position for women within the maledominated public sphere of the period.52 Whereas the former remained prominent throughout Auerbach’s whole career, the latter ultimately lost its significance for her, giving way to the task of ‘documenting and perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust’.53 When the war broke out she was ready to leave Poland together with a group of journalists being helped out of the country by the Polish government, but she ultimately decided against it because she was planning to join her family in L’viv.54 She ended up staying in Warsaw persuaded to remain for the long term by Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, a historian who she loosely knew from the YIVO circles and who worked for the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief organization. Convinced that Jewish intellectuals had certain responsibilities for their compatriots, Ringelblum told Auerbach that ‘not everybody could allow themselves to leave’.55 At the same time, Ringelblum was trying to secure the future of those intellectuals who stayed to ‘rescue the human resources’.56 Two years later, in 1941, Ringelblum invited Auerbach to work for the underground archive of the Warsaw Ghetto called Oyneg Shabes [The Joy of Shabbat], one of the most important documentation projects of the Holocaust era.57 Auerbach prepared ‘daily reports’ for the Archive that form what is known as her ghetto diary. Written with a sharp sense of observation and modernist sensibilities, the diary is one of the most powerful documents of the Holocaust. Surprisingly innovative and well ahead of their time, some of her wartime and immediate post-war writings have recently begun to catch the attention of scholars.58 While still in the ghetto, she prepared a monograph on the soup kitchen as part of the Oyneg Shabes research project ‘Two and Half Years of 52 Karolina Szymaniak, ‘Próba zdekonspirowania imienia własnego. Kilka uwag o Racheli Auerbach i obecności jidyszowych autorek w historii literatury polskiej’ [An attempt to disclose one’s own name: Rachel Auerbach and the presence of yiddish female authors in Polish literary history], in Sporne postaci polskiej krytyki feministycznej po 1989 roku, ed. Monika Świerkosz (Gdańsk: Katedra, 2016), 75–103. 53 Boaz Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach, Yad Vashem, and Israeli Holocaust Memory’, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 20 (2008): 197. 54 Auerbach, Varshever tsavoes, 30–1, 177. 55 Ibid., 63. 56 Ibid. 57 Kassow, Who Will Write Our History?. 58 See Jacek Leociak, Doświadczenia graniczne: studia o dwudziestowiecznych formach reprezentacji (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo IBL, 2009); Grzegorz Niziołek, Polski teatr Zagłady (Warsaw: Instytut Teatralny im. Zbigniewa Raszewskiego/Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej, 2009), 175– 178; Aleksandra Ubertowska, ‘Rachela Auerbach opłakuje ślady, resztki, widma, wyrwy z ziemi’, in Aleksandra Ubertowska, Holokaust Auto(tanato)grafie (Warsaw: IBL PAN, 2014).

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War’ – a unique project of the history and sociology of life in the ghetto.59 After the mass deportations of Gross-Aktion Warsaw in July 1942, she recorded an account of the escapee from the Treblinka death camp, Abram Krzepicki, which she prefaced with the unsettling essay ‘Phenomenology of the Death Camp’. Her work on Treblinka transformed into what Boaz Cohen describes as ‘the most extensive description of the death camp to date.’60 In early March 1943, Auerbach escaped to the German side of Warsaw where she became part of the Jewish underground, collaborating with the Jewish National Committee and continuing her documentation work in hiding. It was then that she started to envision the international tribunal for the German perpetrators and started deliberating on the questions of guilt, punishment and revenge. Decades later, she became instrumental in preparing documentation for the Eichmann trial.61 After the war, she was one of the three surviving members of the Oyneg Shabes group and she took it upon herself to preserve Ringelblum’s legacy. The meaning of this immense documentation project was not obvious to everybody right after the war, even within the Jewish community, and Auerbach had to pressure Jewish leaders to search for surviving documents and find what she perceived to be a national treasure.62 The first cache of the Archive hidden under the ghetto ruins was found in September 1946. The second was uncovered after Auerbach had already left Poland. In 1945, Auerbach settled in Łódź, the centre of post-war Jewish culture in Poland,63 and became a collaborating academic and member of the Advisory Board (Rada Naukowa)64 of the Central Jewish Historical Commission of the

59 See Kassow, Who Will Write Our History?, 226–30. 60 Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’, 197. 61 Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’, 213–18; Deborah E. Lipstadt, The Eichmann Trial (New York: Nextbook-Schocken, 2011), especially 51–4; Lipstadt, ‘Assembling Eichmann’s Shackles’. 62 Kassow, Who Will Write Our History?, 205–26; Karolina Szymaniak, ‘Wstęp’ [Introduction], in Rachela Auerbach, Pisma z getta warszawskiego, ed. Karolina Szymaniak (Warszawa: ŻIH), 52–3. 63 Shimon Redlich, Life in Transit: Jews in Postwar Lodz, 1945–1950 (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2010). 64 AŻIH, CŻKH 303/XX/26, Sprawozdanie z działalności CŻKH 15.12.1944–30.4.1945 [Activity report of the CŻKH 15 Dec. 1944– 30 April 1945], 3, Noe Grüss, Rok pracy Centralnej Żydowskiej Komisji Historycznej. [A year of work of the CŻKH] (Łódź: Centralna Żydowska Komisja Historyczna, 1946), 17, 54. For Auerbach’s recollection of the beginnings of her work for the Commission, see Rachel Auerbach, ‘Dr Filip Fridman z"l. Dermonung un gezegenung’ [Dr Philip Friedman: a tribute and a goodbye], Di Goldene Keyt 37 (1960): 178–81.

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Central Committee of Polish Jews (later the Jewish Historical Institute).65 She was an active member of the Association of Jewish Writers,66 edited the literary and historical sections67 of the Yiddish journal of the Central Committee of Polish Jews Dos Naye Lebn,68 worked for the Polish-Jewish journal Mosty, and, as before the war, published bilingually. She edited her wartime writings for publication, collected testimonies and wrote extensively on the topic of Holocaust research and commemoration; She participated in the preparation of methodological instructions for collecting historical materials,69 the type of work she was to continue in Israel. It was during this time that she came to know Philip Friedman, a renowned historian and the first chairman of the CŻKH. She became his close associate and remained a member of his ‘invisible web’70 after Friedman had left Poland.71 She was particularly concerned with the problem of the visibility of the Destruction. She saw film as a powerful educational, social, and artistic medium 65 Natalia Aleksiun, ‘The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, 1944–1947’, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 20 (2007): 74–97; Stephan Stach, ‘Geschichtsschreibung und politische Vereinnahmung. Das Jüdische Historische Institut in Warschau 1947–1968’, Simon Dubnow Institute Yearbook 7 (2008): 401–31, here 402–10; Feliks Tych, ‘The Emergence of Holocaust Research in Poland: The Jewish Historical Commission and the Jewish Historical Institute (ŻIH)’, in Holocaust Historiography in Context: Emergence, Challenges, Polemics and Achievements, eds, Daniel Bankier and Dan Michman (New York: Berghahn, 2008), 227–44; Jockush, Collect and Record!, 84–120. 66 Lists of members, AŻIH, Związek Literatów i Dziennikarzy Żydowskich w Polsce, 368/34, 1, 4–7, 13–18, 24, 35. See also different payrolls of the Association, Akta personalne. Sprawy finansowe, AŻIH, Związek Literatów i Dziennikarzy Żydowskich w Polsce, 368/40. 67 Employee registration forms for Rachel Auerbach, AŻIH 303/XIII/181; Lists of employees, AŻIH, 303/XIII/182; Rachel Auerbach, Curriculum vitae, 13 June 1945, YVA P.16/1. 68 Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, ‘Syjonistyczna z lekkim zabarwieniem PPR-owskim. Dos Naje Lebn (1945–1950) gazeta Centralnego Komitetu Żydów w Polsce’ [Zionist with a delicate Polish Worker’s Party-tone: Dos Naye Lebn, 1945–1950 – newspaper of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland] in Żydzi a lewica. Zbiór studiów historycznych, ed. August Grabski (Warsaw: Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, 2007), 257–78. 69 Rachel Auerbach, Curriculum vitae, YVA P.16/1. She most probably participated in preparing Yiddish instructions for the historical documentation: Metodologishe onvayzungen tsum oysforshn dem khurbm fun poylishn yidntum [Methodological instructions for research of the destruction of the Polish Jewry] (Łódź: Tsentrale Yidishe Historishe Komisye, 1945), though she mentions also helping with the Polish edition. 70 Natalia Aleksiun, ‘An Invisible Web: Philip Friedman and the Network of Holocaust Research’, in Before the Holocaust Had Its Name: Early Confrontations of the Nazi Mass Murder of the Jews, eds, Regina Fritz, Éva Kovács and Béla Rásky (Vienna: New Academic Press, 2016), 149–65. 71 For Auerbach’s posthumous tribute to Friedman see Auerbach, ‘Dr Filip Fridman z"l’, 178– 84.

318  Karolina Szymaniak

for representation the Jewish experience of the Holocaust. Hence, she penned a memorandum promoting the idea, collaborated on several film projects, with Aleksander Ford and Natan Gross, and prepared herself a few film scenarios. As the new regime settled down and the communists took control of the Commission, she came to understand that she would never be able to adequately pursue research on the Holocaust and or commemorate Polish-Jewish culture in Poland.72 She saw ‘the sole reason of [her] survival’ in documenting the Jewish Catastrophe and in ‘bearing witness to the crime, in the indictment of the murders’.73 Thus, the changes in policy on Jewish historical research that were becoming evident in 1948 strengthened her resolve to emigrate. Her first destination of choice, however, was not Israel. She preferred France or the United States, where her relatives lived. While still in Poland, she experienced a profound sense of loneliness, writing to Melech Ravitch: ‘I have no strength to live in absolute loneliness.’74 It was not until January 1950 that she left Poland to arrive in Israel the next month. The post-1950 chapter of Auerbach’s biography is the relatively best known and has received the most scholarly attention. Recent works have detailed Auerbach’s role in debates on German-Jewish relations, the nature of Holocaust research and the Eichmann trial, as well as her work on the theory and practice of oral history.75 However, we still know relatively little about her Yiddish, Polish and Hebrew journalism from the period, her literary output, her work in the 72 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Mivtsah judenrein (1). Ha-makhon ha-histori ha-yehudi be-varshah eyneno od’ [Judenrein action: The Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw is no more] Davar (11 October 1968): 4. The next instalments of this series were published 13, 25 and, 28 October 1968. The last, ‘Acherit ha-cheker ha-histori ha-yehudi be-Polin’ [The end of Jewish historical research in Poland] discusses in detail changes in the Commission and the Institute. On the Institute in the period of Stalinization and later see Stephan Stach, ‘Walka klas w getcie? Badania nad Zagładą prowadzone w ŻIH w Warszawie w okresie stalinowskim’, in Żydzi i judaizm we współczesnych badaniach polskich, vol. 5, ed. Krzysztof Pilarczyk (Kraków: Polska Akademia Umiejętności, 2010), 273–87 and Stach, ‘Geschichtsschreibung und politische Vereinnahmung’, 410–31. 73 Rachel Auerbach, Bechutshot Varsha 1939–1943 [On the Warsaw streets, 1939–1943], trans. Mordechai Halamish (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1954), 8. English translation quoted in Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’, 198. 74 Rachel Auerbach to Melech Ravitch, 23 June 1947, ARC 4* 1540: 12.36.7. 75 I am mentioning here only some important contributions that touch upon different aspects of Auerbach’s engagements: Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’; Orna Kenan, Between Memory and History: The Evolution of Israeli Historiography of the Holocaust (New York: Peter Lang, 2003); Dalia Ofer, ‘The Community and the Individual: The Different Narratives of Early and Late Testimonies and Their Significance for Historians’, in Bankier and Michman, Holocaust Historiography in Context, 529; Samuel Moyn, A Holocaust Controversy: The Treblinka Affair in Postwar France (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2005).

In the Ice Floe: Rachel Auerbach - The life of a Jewish Intellectual


world of cinema and her understanding of representations of the Holocaust, both in testimonies and in literary works. Thus, even for this relatively well-researched period much work remains to be done. Right after her arrival in Israel, Auerbach began supporting herself by working as a journalist, both for newspapers and the radio. However, she was also dependent on support from individuals and institutions. Despite the hardships, she was convinced that she had made the right decision. A year after her aliyah, she wrote to Friedman: I am experiencing many difficulties, but I have never regretted the decision to settle down here and not somewhere else. Just two weeks ago I received an offer to move to Canada. Although my closest friends are there, and in case of a war it is a calmer and safer place, it is absolutely out of the question. Never in my life have I experienced so strongly the feeling of being in the right place. And all this despite the fact that a Yiddish writer’s life is not all roses here.76

It was not only the life of a Yiddish writer in Israel that was not all roses; it was also her life as a survivor and survivor historian.77 In April 1954 she started her twenty-four-year tenure at Yad Vashem,78 a national remembrance institution founded in 1953,79 where she was appointed head of the department responsible for the collection of testimonies.80 Like other survivor historians, she saw her work there as a continuation of the documentation work that was started in the Warsaw Ghetto and had continued in Poland right after the war, and as a

76 Rachel Auerbach to Philip Friedman, 20 February 1951, Papers of Philip Friedman, AYIVO, RG 1258, folder 461. 77 Auerbach wrote on the profound loneliness of survivors on numerous occasions, not only in the Israeli context. In a collection of Israeli reports, she commented: ‘Our enemies call us not quite killed [nisht derkoylete] and they sharpen their axes to finish the job. Our fellow Jews call us surviving remnants [sheyres ha-pleyte] and are not overly happy with us.’ Auerbach, In land Yisroel. Reportazshn, eseyen, dertsylungen [In the land of Israel: reports, essays, stories] (Tel Aviv: Y.L. Perets Farlag, 1964), 341. 78 On Auerbach’s tenure at Yad Vashem, see Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’, and Joseph Kermish, ‘Rokhl Oyerbakh – di grindern funem eydes-verk fun Yad Vashem’ [Rachel Auerbach – the founder of testimony work for the Yad Vashem] in Rachel Auerbach, Baym letstn veg. In geto Varshe un af der arisher zayt [The final road: in the Warsaw Ghetto and on the aryan side] (Tel Aviv: Yisroel Bukh, 1977), especially 312–18. 79 On the founding of Yad Vashem see Boaz Cohen, Israeli Holocaust Research: Birth and Evolution, trans. Agnes Vazsonyi (London: Routledge, 2013), 3–9. 80 Rachel Auerbach, Curriculum vitae, 1955, YVA P.16/1. Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’, 199 mentions that the date of appointment was March 1954.

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chance to create a better version of the CŻKH.81 As Gabriel N. Finder remarked, her appointment ‘should have heralded a match made in heaven’. Instead, it was interrupted by various conflicts,82 the most important of which were the debates over the nature of the work and research conducted by the Yad Vashem, its mission and the role of survivor historians in the field of Holocaust research.83 As emphasized by Boaz Cohen, this battle had personal, generational, cultural, and political dimensions.84 Auerbach stood at the centre of this conflict. Not for the first time and not for the last, she took on the role of spokesperson for survivor historians and the survivor community more generally.85 She also animated debate in the press. Together with other survivor historians, she stood for turning Yad Vashem into an institution that would serve social and national goals and impart lessons about history.86 During the debate, she was removed from her position, but was later reinstated in her role as head of the department and emerged from the controversy emboldened in her convictions and strengthened in her position. Two years later, she became instrumental in determining that the Eichmann trial would be a testimony-based theatre of historical justice and a platform to grant survivors visibility in the public sphere. In David G. Roskies and Naomi Diamant’s words, the trial ‘gave the survivors a collective presence, being, and voice’.87 Paradoxically, her own voice and person remained almost unheard and invisible, as the state gave precedence to the ghetto fighters, Antek Zuckerman and Zivia Lubetkin and their stories. She was given much less time than

81 Rachel Auerbach to Stanisław Vincenz, 12 September 1958, ASV, 17610/II, 376; Rachel Auerbach to Philip Friedman, 14 May 1951, AYIVO, RG 1258, folder 17. See Aleksiun, ‘An Invisible Web’, 344. 82 Gabriel N. Finder, ‘Introduction’, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 20 (2008): 29. 83 Roni Stauber, ‘The Debate over the Mission of Yad Vashem as a Research Institute – The First Years’, Yearbook of the Simon Dubnow Institute 9 (2012): 347–66; Cohen, Israeli Holocaust Research, 134–49. 84 Cohen, Israeli Holocaust Research, 140–1; Boaz Cohen, ‘Setting the Agenda of Holocaust Research: Discord at Yad Vashem in the 1950s’, in Bankier and Michman, Holocaust Historiography in Context, 255–92. 85 Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’, 206–7. See also Moyn, A Holocaust Controversy, 126–37. I believe that she assumed this role much earlier, namely while writing her report from the visit to the site of the former Treblinka camp. 86 Cohen, Isreali Holocaust Research, 137–138. 87 David G. Roskies and Naomi Diamant, Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press), 129.

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she had expected. For Auerbach, this act of giving ‘a wretched testimony’ was deeply traumatic, and it took her a long time to recover from it.88 In the context of the trial she wrote to Stanisław Vincenz: As I have already explained to you, my work is not a gainful employment in the common sense of the word. It is a heavy vocation, to use a sublime expression. And since not all my collaborators treat it this way, I have to make up for that alone, shoulder the lion’s share of the effective work, which totally excludes any personal life.89

Seven years after the trial Auerbach was forced to retire from Yad Vashem: she had lost a confrontation with her home institution and was growing embittered and lonely.90 She was later allowed to return to her department as an advisor. In her last years, she devoted herself to completing her unfinished book projects. Dying of breast cancer, and struggling with her memory, she was still working on her last book, dictating it to her secretary.91 The book was published posthumously in 1977.92 Auerbach died on 31 May 1976, leaving a legacy that still awaits a proper assessment.

Jewish Multilingualism, Yiddishism and the Question of Modern National Identity Jews in the diaspora were a multilingual people.93 In Eastern Europe, traditional Jewish society was internally bilingual,94 using two different Jewish languages – loshn koydesh (the Holy Tongue, a term encompassing Hebrew and Aramaic, languages of the sacred scriptures) and Yiddish, with each serving different social purposes and needs. The loshn koydesh was used primarily by a small, educated and mostly male elite, whereas Yiddish was the vernacular spoken by society at large. In the symbolic system of Ashkenazic Jewry, however, Yiddish

88 Rachel Auerbach to Stanisław Vincenz, 10 September 1961, ASV, 17610/II, 389. See also the similar statement in a letter to Arieh Kubovi quoted in Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’, 218. 89 Rachel Auerbach to Stanisław Vincenz, 10 September 1961. 90 Cohen, ‘Rachel Auerbach’, 218–20. 91 Interview of the author with Lila Holtzman, 31 May 2015. 92 Rachel Auerbach, Baym letsn veg. 93 On Jewish multilingualism see Benjamin Harshav, ‘Multilingualism’, in Benjamin Harshav, The Polyphony of Jewish Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), 23–40. 94 Max Weinreich, ‘Internal Bilingualism in Ashkenaz’, trans. Lucy Dawidowicz, in Voices from the Yiddish, eds, Irving Howe and Eliezer Greenberg (New York: Schocken Books, 1975), 279–80.

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was associated with the low culture of women and the uneducated men.95 This later transformed into a stereotype of a ‘folk culture of the unlettered masses’ that loomed large over the development of modern Yiddish culture throughout its entire history, exploited both by its critics and proponents.96 Along with the two Jewish languages, co-territorial vernaculars were used for official and everyday contacts with respective authorities and non-Jewish populations. The period of modernization, or, as Benjamin Harshav calls it, the modern Jewish revolution,97 brought about a complete transformation of this sociolinguistic reality, where each language had a clear defined role and place. This gave rise to the modern Jewish polysystem,98 as some scholars call it, a dynamic and open network of Jewish and non-Jewish languages, ideologies, institutions and discourses in which every individual participates voluntarily. On the other hand, the rise of nationalisms in the region was fostering a view of modern national identity and culture based on one language only connected to a specific territory. Thus, multilingualism on one hand, and debates on the use of language and national identity, and the Jewish homeland on the other became serious issues of modern Jewish politics. However, as Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov has recently argued, such debates were not unique in East Central European politics.99 What distinguished the Jewish community was not only, as Nalewajko-Kulikov claims, multilingualism as ‘a state of mind’, but also, as I would add, the diasporic character of some of the projects of Jewish modernity and their peculiar relation to the territory and space of Eastern Europe.100 95 On the gendered politics of Yiddish and Hebrew in traditional and modern Ashkenazi society see Naomi Seidman, A Marriage Made in Heaven: Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997). 96 The alleged intrinsic folk nature of Yiddish culture also became a merit when Jewish intellectuals, similar to intellectuals of other nations, discovered folklore and the people as powerful concepts for defining their modern political and cultural agendas and forming imagined national communities. In leftist discourse, this stereotype found expression in the positive image of the working masses. 97 Benjamin Harshav, Language in Time of Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). See also Benjamin Harshav, ‘Theses of the Historical Context of the Modern Jewish Revolution’, in Harshav, The Polyphony of Jewish Culture, 3–22. 98 On polysystem theory see: Itamar Even-Zohar, Polysystem Studies, Poetics Today 11, no. 1 (1990). 99 Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, ‘Stan umysłu. Przypadek żydowskiej wielojęzyczności w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej’ [A state of mind: the case of Jewish multilinguism in East Central Europe], in Drogi odrębne, drogi wspólne. Problem specyfiki rozwoju historycznego Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej w XIX-XX w., ed. Maciej Janowski (Warsaw: PAN Instytut Historii, 2014), 221– 2. 100 Ezra Mendelsohn, The Jews of East Central Europe Between the Two World Wars (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1987), 47.

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Hence, when we speak about Jewish nationalisms of the period, we need to bear in mind that it produced a few rivalling visions of modern Jewish nation,101 each drawing on diverse politics of language and territory, and fostering different visions of national identity and culture. While Yiddish is crucial for understanding these different programs,102 it is not uncommon that the question of Jewish multilingualism is omitted in the discussions of the topic that tend to focus on Zionism and the Hebrew revival.103 Part of the reasons for this omission is the aforementioned peculiar status of Yiddish and the stereotypes that it engendered. However, Zionism, in itself a diverse movement104 that not always excluded Yiddish (and sometimes acknowledged its role for the modern national culture), was just one of a few Jewish national projects, that also included Yiddishism. In turn, Yiddishism was not always mutually exclusive with Zionism. As a political and cultural movement Yiddishism was born at the beginning of the twentieth century when some intellectuals began to view Yiddish not as a remnant of the past, a symbol of backwardness, or a medium for educating the masses, and raising their national self-awareness,105 but a powerful vehicle, capable of serving the needs of the emerging modern nation, and of providing the bedrock for the constitution of a national community in the Diaspora.106 Yiddishism, just like Zionism, was a multifaceted and ideologically diverse movement.107 Still, Yiddishists of various denominations shared the conviction that Yiddish, Yiddish-speaking masses and the Yiddish culture of Eastern Europe were at the heart of modern Jewish national identity.

101 Itzik N. Gottesman, Defining the Yiddish Nation: The Jewish Folklorists of Poland (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003), xi. 102 Joshua Shanes, ‘Yiddish and Jewish Diaspora Nationalism’, Monatshefte 2 (1998): 178. 103 Hence, in the most recent and compelling history of modern political thought in East Central Europe, the term Yiddishism does not appear at all, and the story of Jewish political thought is framed within the discourse on the so-called Jewish question and its possible solutions. The fierce language debates that defined much of the turn of the century Jewish politics are only mentioned in passing. See Balázs Trencsényi, Maciej Janowski, Monika Baar, Maria Falina and Michal Kopecek, ‘The “Jewish Question”: The Entanglement of Assimilation, AntiSemitism, and Zionism’, in A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe, vol. 1, Negotiating Modernity in the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’, eds, Balázs Trencsényi, Maciej Janowski, Monika Baar, Maria Falina and Michal Kopecek (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 544–63. 104 For Poland see Mendelsohn, The Jews of East Central Europe, 21, 49–61. 105 Which was characteristic both for the representatives of the Jewish enlightenment, and later Zionists and socialists until the early 20th century. 106 Fishman, The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture, 21. 107 On the reductive identification of Yiddishism with Bundism see Fishman, The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture, 48–55.

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Rivalries with Zionists, most of whom were also Hebraists, as well as with proponents of rooting national Jewish identity in the non-Jewish languages, such as Polish or Russian, were inevitable. Although in 1908, during the famous Czernowitz conference,108 Yiddish was recognized as a national Jewish language, next to Hebrew, Yiddishists and Hebraists exhibited a strong tendency towards national monoligualism. What divided them in case of Poland, among other things, was their attitude towards the so called Polish-Jewish culture, a formation that considered Polish as a vehicle for expressing Jewish cultural and national identity.109 Yiddishists, it seems, rejected it more vehemently. The drive to monolingualism was weaker among those who believed that non-Jewish languages could also serve the purposes of national expression. The story of Jewish nationalism(s), perhaps more than any other, further complicates views on this relation between language and national identity, which is characteristic of classic theories of nationalism.110 When describing the political and cultural reality of interwar Poland, it is important to bear in mind that despite these ideological rivalries, Jewish culture and politics developed within a complicated translingual and transcultural space in which different systems interacted: religious and secular, traditional, and modern, Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish-Jewish and Polish.111 Many Jewish intellectuals were at least bilingual, if not trilingual, and participated in one way or another in the three most important languages of this modern Jewish polysystem in the interwar Poland. Moreover, the dynamics of the language question changed over time and place and took on an entirely

108 Joshua A. Fishman, ‘Attracting a Following to High-Culture Functions for a Language of Everyday Life: The Role of the Tshernovits Language Conference in the Rise of Yiddish’, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 24 (1980): 43–73. 109 On the phenomenon of Polish-Jewish culture in the interwar period see Eugenia ProkopJaniec, Polish-Jewish Literature in the Interwar Years (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003). 110 See Zvi Gitelman, ‘A Century of Jewish Politics in Eastern Europe: The Legacy of the Bund and the Zionist Movement’, in The Emergence of Modern Jewish Politics: Bundism and Zionism in Eastern Europe, ed. Zvi Gitelman (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), 5–12. 111 See Chone Shmeruk, ‘Hebrew-Yiddish-Polish: A Trilingual Jewish Culture’, in The Jews of Poland between Two World Wars, eds, Yisrael Gutman, Ezra Mendelsohn, Jehuda Reinharz and Chone Shmeruk (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England/Brandeis University Press, 1989), 285–311. In recent scholarship, the term translinguism is also used to describe the complex linguistic and cultural reality of the interwar (and post-war) period. Although these new developments focus on the intricacies of modern Hebrew-Yiddish bilingualism, it might also be applied to the multilingual reality of East Central European Jewish cultures. See Naomi Brenner, Lingering Bilingualism: Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literatures in Contact (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2016).

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new shape after the Holocaust.112 Significant is the fact that boundaries between different languages and the cultures associated with them were often blurred not only in the lives of individuals, but also in the everyday practices of different institutions and political parties.

Advancing Yiddish Culture in the ‘Cursed Nest of Assimilation’ Rachel Auerbach’s biography and political convictions demonstrate well the ambivalences and anxieties experienced by multilingual Jewish intellectuals who chose Yiddish and Yiddish culture as a means to express their national identity and who sought to advance the cause of modern Yiddish culture while engaging also in Zionism and participating in Polish-Jewish and Polish cultural life.113 Auerbach grew up in a multilingual environment where Yiddish, Ukrainian and Polish were spoken. Polish was the language of her primary and high school education as well as the language of her student milieu. Growing up in the Galician cultural borderland, she also learned German and became familiar with German culture. In addition, her high school and university training provided her with some knowledge of other Western languages, such as English and French, as well as Ancient Greek. Although Auerbach is remembered as a fervent Yiddishist, she started her career as a public intellectual as a Zionist. She recalled not having any connection to the Yiddish press in the mid-1920s when her first articles started being published.114 One of Auerbach’s earliest articles (if not her debut) concerned the ideological foundations of the popularization of the Zionist Jewish National Fund, which supported Jewish settlement in Palestine.115 Throughout her life, Auerbach cooperated with different Zionist organizations and press outlets in Polish, Yiddish and later Hebrew. However, this did 112 On these changing dynamics see Karolina Szymaniak, ‘Język(i) historii, język(i) współczesności, czyli kłopot z polisystemem. Bialik w lekturze krytyków jidysz’ [Language(s) of the past, language(s) of the present, or a trouble with the polysystem: Bialik read by Yiddish critics], in Literackie spotkania w międzywojennej Polsce (tom studiów nad Chaimem Nachmanem Bialikiem i jego polskich tłumaczem Solomonem Dykmanem, eds, Marzena Zawanowska and Regina Gromacka (Kraków: Austeria, 2012), 215–61. 113 Before the war, she did not know any Hebrew, which she learned (but never mastered) only after immigrating to Israel. 114 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Once There Was a King’, trans. Anita Norich, in Norich, Discovering Exile, 135. 115 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Ideowe podstawy popularyzacji Funduszu Narod.[owego]’ [Ideological basis of the popularization of the National Fond], Chwila (15 March 1925).

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not hinder her developing Yiddishism, which later came to play a central role in her writings and activism. As indicated above, the relations between Yiddishism and Zionism are more complex than the usual contrasts between Yiddishism and Hebraism or Zionism and Bundism (Jewish socialism)116 allow. Indeed, some of the major figures in the history of the Yiddishist movement, including Ber Borokhov and Emanuel Ringelblum, were leftist Zionists,117 Also General Zionists did not exhibit classic Zionist anti-Yiddishism.118 In Auerbach’s early texts she articulates the position of an engaged Zionist who understood the meaning of diaspora culture for Jewish national identity.119 However, as Auerbach became more involved with Yiddishism, she grew disappointed with dominant Zionist views on culture and language in Poland and Palestine.120 Discussing the biography of Menachem Linder, an important collaborator in the Oyneg Shabbes group, she emphasized similarities in their lives: [T]here was a certain similarity of our ideological development and approach to the culture and language question in Jewish society in general and in the Zionist movement in particular. My first journalistic article … was titled ‘The Zionist-Yiddishist Misunderstanding’. He too … started to move away from the Zionist academic circles during his studies at L’viv University because of the slogan: ‘ivrit o polanit’ [modern Hebrew or Polish] that was a convenient legitimation of the current assimilation, and because of the denial of the function of Yiddish language in preserving Jewish national identity.121

116 Fishman, The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture, 48. On the Bund’s contribution see ibid., 48– 61. On the Bund in interwar Poland see Gertrud Pickhan, Gegen den Strom: Der Allgemeine Jüdische Arbeiterbund “Bund” in Polen, 1918–1939 (Stuttgart: Deustche Verlag-Anstalt, 2001), and Jack Jacobs, Bundist Counterculture in Interwar Poland (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009). 117 Samuel Kassow, ‘The Left Poalei Zion in Interwar Poland’; Gitelman, The Emergence of Modern Jewish Politics, 71–85. 118 Mendelsohn, The Jews of Eastern Europe, 57–8; Ezra Mendelsohn, Zionism in Poland: The Formative Years, 1915–1926 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 180–1. 119 Auerbach, ‘Ideowe podstawy’. 120 On Yiddish in pre-Israeli Palestine see Yael Chaver, What Must Be Forgotten: The Survival of Yiddish Writing in Zionist Palestine (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004). 121 Auerbach, Varshever tsavoes, 244–5. The article mentioned in the quotation was probably published later, and it is telling that Auerbach chose not to mention her earliest publications when writing after the war.

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Auerbach thus viewed anti-Yiddishism as a vehicle of assimilation122 which she considered a form of perversion and self-hatred.123 This promotion of Yiddishism became thus an important motif in her journalism and activism in the late 1920s and early 1930s when engaged in the project of (re)establishing Galicia as a centre of modern Yiddish culture.124 Galicia was not viewed as an important centre of Yiddish culture, and thus Auerbach’s engagement with it there was different than it might have been in other parts of eastern Poland.125 According to Zalmen Reyzn, Galicia was generally seen as ‘a goddamned nest of assimilation’ where artists and authors struck roots in German or Polish culture. ‘A Galician is an assimilator by nature’, wrote the critic Naftali Weinig (Naftole Vaynig), himself a Galitsyaner, a Yiddishist, 122 In the article, I use the term ‘assimilation’ as it was used in interwar discourse – it should be understood not as a descriptive, but as a highly loaded term. In contemporary research, it is more appropriately referred to as ‘acculturation’. On the problems in defining and using the term see Agnieszka Jagodzińska, ‘Asymilacja, czyli bezradność historyka: o krytyce terminu i pojęcia’ [Assimilation, or the historian’s helplessness: on the critique of the term and concept], in Wokół akulturacji i asymilacji Żydów na ziemiach polskich, ed. Kamil Zieliński (Lublin: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej, 2010), 15–31; Todd M. Endelman, ‘Assimilation’, in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, article.aspx/Assimilation (accessed 3 February 2017); Kateřina Čapková, ‘Beyond the Assimilationist Narrative: Historiography on the Jews of the Bohemian Lands and Poland after the Second World War’, Studia Judaica 1 (2016): 129–55. 123 Rachel Auerbach, ‘“Jehudas Selbstverachtung”: Dos kapitl ideen-perverzye’ [Jehudas selfloathing: a story of ideological perversion] Morgen (25 October 1930): 7. The title, as Auerbach explained, was an allusion to Franz Werfel’s notion of ‘Israel’s self-hatred’ from his drama Paulus unter den Juden. However, at the moment of writing, she could not remember the exact formulation of the author. It was hardly the first instance of such criticism, but the article is important in the context of the development of Auerbach’s cultural agenda. One of early twentieth century examples was Mates (Matisyohu, Mateusz) Mieses’ article ‘Bizkhut hasafah hayehudit’ [In defence of the Jewish language], Ha-olam (5 June 1907), quoted and discussed in: Katz, Words on Fire, 272–3. 124 The subsequent part of the text concerning the Tsushtayer project is partly based on my article ‘Split Tongue: Tsuhstayer and the Yiddish Artistic Milieu in Galicia’, trans. Joanna Gondowicz, Midrasz Special English Edition (2007): 16–20. On the same topic see Carrie FriedmanCohen, ‘Kvutsat Tsushtayer be-Galitsyah, 1929–1933’ [The Tsushtayer group in Galicia, 1929– 1932], Khulyot 10 (2007): 159–77. Friedman-Cohen uses some archival and press sources not quoted in my article. 125 On diaspora nationalism in Galicia prior to the First World War and the role of Yiddish see Joshua Shanes, Diaspora Nationalism and Jewish Identity in Habsburg Galicia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). On Yiddish in Galicia see Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz, ‘Yiddish as an Expression of Jewish Cultural Identity in Galicia and Vienna’, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 12 (1999): 164–76; Armin Eidherr, Sonnenuntergang auf eisig-blauen Wegen: Zur Thematisierung von Diaspora und Sprache in der jiddischen Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts (Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2012), 87–168.

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ethnographer, cultural sociologist, and a migrant to the Jerusalem of the diaspora – Vilnius.126 Like Weinig, some of the most prominent Yiddish intellectuals of the first half of the twentieth century had Galician roots, but most moved away from the region. Those who remained shared the feeling that Galicia was a cultural desert for Jews.127 In the late 1920s, a short-lived movement to oppose these tendencies and put L’viv and Galicia on the map of Yiddish culture started, and Rachel Auerbach was to play a central role in it, closely collaborating with Melech Ravitch, the Galician-born writer and secretary of the Association of Yiddish Writers and Journalists.128 Although it raised high hopes among (not only) Yiddishist intellectuals, it lost momentum very quickly and ultimately proved a failure. The goals of the group, animated by Auerach, were the promotion of modern Yiddish culture as a remedy to progressing assimilation. They sought to unite intellectuals living in Galicia or of Galician descent interested in Yiddish culture by giving them visibility in the public sphere through organizing events like literary evenings, public lectures and a writer’s convention, creating a high-brow journal, establishing a cultural institute and starting a writers’ union.129 The movement did not herald revolution, but rather renaissance, emphasizing continuity over break.130 It came to be known in the history of Yiddish culture as the Tsushtayer [Contribution] project and literary group, which was the title of the group’s journal, edited unofficially by Auerbach and her future husband Ber Schnaper131 until 1931. The name played on the role its creators envisioned for themselves – to serve the cause132 and empower and organize Yiddish-speaking masses and provincial intellectuals, who Ignacy (Yitshok) Schipper called the pure source of ‘the raw, seething Yiddskhayt’, free of the political conflicts and tensions of metropolitan centres, in a pamphlet co-edited by Auerbach.133 In the same pam126 Naftole Vaynig, ‘Galitsishe literatur mistseln’, Tsushtayer 2 (1930): 54. 127 Dov Sadan, ‘Rokhl Oyerbakh. Shtrikhn tsu ir geshtalt’ [Rachel Auerbach: an outline of her figure], in Rokhl Oyerbakh, Baym letstn veg, 14. 128 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Der briderishster fun undzere brider’ [The most brotherly of our brothers], Di Goldene Keyt 19 (1954): 105. 129 Rachel Auerbach to Melekh Ravitch, 28 November 1928, SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 35.2. ‘Zjazd literatów żydowskich we Lwowie’, Chwila (29 April 1929): 10; ‘Zjazd literatów żydowskich ze Wsch. Małopolski we Lwowie’, Chwila (2 May 1929): 11. 130 M. P-k, ‘O młodożydowskiej twórczości Małopolski. Z okazji trzeciego numeru czasopisma Cusztajer’, Chwila (7 June 1931): 11. 131 Rachel Auerbach to Moshe Shtarkaman, undated [1931?], AYIVO, Papers of Moshe Shtarkman, RG 279, box 1, folder 3. Rachel Auerbach to Melech Ravitch, 11 May 1932, SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 35.2. 132 ‘Fun undz’, Tsushtayer 1 (1929): 2.

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phlet, Auerbach framed this task in a slightly different way, recurring to organicist discourse. Admitting that assimilation, depicted as an illness of the national organism, impacted not only intellectuals, but also the masses, she nonetheless remained optimistic that assimilation was neither deeply-rooted nor irreversible. She claimed that the role of the intellectual was to strengthen the ‘natural’ resistance to these processes.134 Analyzing the Tsushtayer’s approach to language exclusivism and political engagement can help us better understand the development of Auerbach’s Yiddishism. Both topics caused controversy at the project’s inception, during the April 1929 Galician writers’ congress and later when the journal was being established. The first controversy concerned multilingual writers: some participants believed that only writers who wrote in Yiddish should be part of the movement, while those publishing simultaneously in Hebrew or Polish should be rejected.135 The demand that journal authors publish exclusively in Yiddish was upheld (at least in theory),136 a decision that was aimed both at Polish-Jewish writers and Hebraists. The anti-Hebraist stance, which Auerbach later tried to temper in her post-war writings, is present in her journalism from the period. Contrary to Yiddish, ‘the actual language of the Jewish people’, she claimed that Hebrew, a language not even spoken by Zionists themselves, could not provide the bedrock for a living Jewish culture.137 The rejection of Polish as a language of Jewish culture some authors justified by linking aesthetics and the politics of identity, claiming that Polish was incapable of giving full expression to the modern Jewish experience. Assessing the achievements and the failure of the project, A. Rubentsal argued that a Jewish artist writing in a non-Jewish language was limited to a certain set of topics and motifs easily recognizable as Jewish by the non-Jewish audience, and that only in a Jewish language could the artist be truly free.138 This did not mean that Auerbach and her fellow editors ceased to write in Polish. In a letter to Moshe Shtarkman in New York, Auerbach explained it in

133 Yitskhok Shiper, ‘Mitn ponem tsu der provints’, Yidish 1 (1930): 3–4. 134 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Galitsye…’, Yidish 1 (1930): 2. 135 Bentsye Ginsberg, ‘Literarishe shvalben oder kroen in Galitsye’, Literarishe Bleter 27 (1929): 530. 136 Yisroel Ashendorf and Rachel Auerbach to Melekh Ravitch, 19 May 1929, SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 204.1. This rule seems to have been applied only to creative writing. 137 Auerbach, ‘Jehudas Selbstverachtung’. 138 On this motif in Yiddish literary criticism see Szymaniak, ‘Krytyka literacka’. Aleksandra Geller describes the growing hostility to Polish-Jewish culture in the late 1930s in the context of Literarishe Bleter. See Aleksandra Geller, ‘“Literarisze Bleter” (1924–1939)’, in Nalewajko-Kulikov, Z dziejów trójjęzycznej prasy żydowskiej, 108.

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utilitarian terms, emphasizing that they publish in Polish-Jewish newspapers ‘for money and with disgust, obviously’.139 While this economic aspect certainly played a role in her work with multiple media outlets, as it did for many intellectuals, it is not the only reason Auerbach wrote in Polish. We know this because she also wrote in both Yiddish and Polish in her creative writing, personal documents, notes, correspondence and everyday interactions.140 The discourse of disgust could be explained by the fact that for Auerbach Polish was a language and culture that was threatening her identity project.141 The second controversy considered the question as to whether Galician writers should take a specific aesthetic or political stance in their writing. Some of the participants, including Auerbach, were in favour of the ‘freedom and absence of a party line’, whereas others demanded writers working with the project take a clear political position. The youngest writers made up the largest group and appealed for the unification of all literary efforts under the slogan of proletarian literature, arguing that works that did not demonstrate a proletarian sensibility should not be published, an approach that Auerbach rejected wholeheartedly.142 The non-partisan, cross-party agenda prevailed, and the journal editorial made no aesthetic or political declarations, instead making some general, rather lofty statements.143 It is not a matter of coincidence that Auerbach was engaged with the Tsushtayer project at the same time that she was doing work for the YIVO, which was entangled in similar tensions and tendencies. Other Yiddishist projects of the same period also embraced the idea of having an apolitical press organ and a central, cross-party institution to unify the efforts of Yiddishists of different persuasions to advance their ultimate goal – building the modern Yiddish nation in the diaspora.144 However, this does not mean that this agenda, with its anti-

139 Rachel Auerbach to Moshe Shtarkman, undated [1931], AYIVO, Papers of Moshe Shtarkman, RG 279, box 1, folder 3. 140 This statement is based on my work with archival documents, the above-mentioned interview with Auerbach’s secretary, as well as my correspondence with Yossi Shoval (letter to the author 28 August 2016). 141 This interpretation is inspired to a certain extent by Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection. Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982). 142 See Auerbach’s remarks about proletarian writers and the application of Marxism in the field of literary criticism in Rachel Auerbach to Melech Ravitch, 26 October 1931, SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 35.2. 143 ‘Fun undz’, [From Us], Tsushtayer 1 (1929): 2. 144 See Karolina Szymaniak, ‘Świat książek. Krytyka literacka na łamach wybranych periodyków jidysz w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej do 1939 roku’ [The world of books: literary

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Hebraism and hostile attitude towards Polish-Jewish culture, was non-confrontational. Despite Auerbach’s policy of avoiding all ideological divisions for the sake of the revival of Yiddish culture in Galicia, political rifts ultimately tore the Tsushtayer’s original staff apart.145 While some were at odds with the periodical’s neutral, politically uncommitted agenda, others complained of what they perceived as Auerbach’s and the other editors’ Zionism and conservatism, as the secretary of the journal, Yisroel Ashendorf, wrote in his letters to Ravitch.146 In the face of growing politization of Yiddish cultural life in the 1930s, the agenda proposed by Auerbach turned out not to be viable. In 1932, when Tsushtayer project was coming to an end, Auerbach and other members of the Friends of the YIVO L’viv branch took part in a fundraising campaign for YIVO organized in Eastern Galicia.147 Auerbach’s engagement with YIVO in Galicia and her desire to help the Institute, which was facing a major financial crisis, can be understood as further attempts to spark a Yiddish cultural revival in the region. Commenting on the relative success of the campaign in a region where there was little interest in Yiddish culture, Avrom Trembovelski remarked that the fact that many of the people who supported it were estranged from the Yiddish world and knew little to nothing about the work of YIVO and similar organizations had an ‘important moral meaning’, and was a step toward bringing the acculturated circles back to their native culture. This hope is an instance of the Yiddishist ‘exorcizing reality’ described above. In assessing the failure of the project, Auerbach again wrote about spiritual sluggishness and the lack of unified action by Jewish intellectuals. She argued that many Zionists were too willing to accept the ‘progress’ of assimilation. She also pointed to the superficial character of Galician Yiddish activists for whom the language was merely ‘festive decorations’, performed in the public sphere but not used in everyday life, a diagnosis that held true, not only for Galicia.148 On the other hand, those intellectuals who actually used Yiddish got entangled in short-sighted political disputes. In a letter to Moshe Shtarkman, she wrote: ‘It won’t succeed any more, my dear friend. That’s the end. That’s it. Besides politcriticism in selected East Central European Yiddish periodicals until 1939], in Nalewajko-Kulikov, Z dziejów trójjęzycznej prasy żydowskiej, 472–3. 145 Friedman-Cohen, ‘Kvutsat’, 172–4. 146 Yisroel Ashendorf to Melekh Ravitch, [June] 1930 and 11 November 1931, SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 204.2. 147 Avrom Trembovelski, ‘Di YIVO-aktsye in mizrekh-galitsye’ [The YIVO-Action in Eastern Galicia], Literarishe Bleter 35 (1932): 559. Kuznitz, YIVO and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture, 118–31 and 143–54. 148 Nalewajko-Kulikov, ‘Zaklinanie rzeczywistości’.

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ical parties, nobody will accomplish anything. Unless in a distant future, after 10, 20 years.’149 She believed that only a cultural shock, ‘a fierce blow from outside’150 could help reverse these tendencies and prove both her and her ideas right. Writing these words in 1932, she knew little of the kind of future she was going to have to face. Auerbach’s politics of language was to take a new shape during the war and Holocaust.

Writing the Destruction between Languages Scholars of Holocaust history and literature have often reflected upon the meaning of Jewish multi- or translingualism. As David G. Roskies remarked: ‘In Jewish eastern Europe, linguistic choices were never neutral.’151 And they became even more charged during this period. Good command of non-Jewish languages enhanced one’s chances of survival. On the other hand, some intellectuals felt compelled to return to Jewish languages, calling upon others to follow in their steps. In the face of death, some were eager to transmit their message to a broader public and chose a non-Jewish language. Jewish intellectuals kept moving between languages, which testifies not only to their multilingual skills and various political agendas, but also to ‘the changing need to [manoeuvre] in the tongue that mattered most’, to a search for the ‘new constellation of meaning’152 and new forms of expression. Roskies writes that in Poland, ‘one wrote either in Yiddish, Hebrew, or Polish’ ‘depending on the future envisaged’. He goes on to evoke the example of the Hebrew-Yiddish poet Yitskhok Katzenelson, who wrote in Yiddish in the ghetto, but decided to write ‘his last testament, the Vittel Diary, in the language of the last remnant, Hebrew’.153 He also mentions Auerbach, who wrote in Polish but composed her last will in the ghetto in Yiddish. Indeed, for various reasons, the most important documents Auerbach prepared during the war were written in Polish. This includes her masterpiece, her ghetto diary (1941–1942), as well as her writings from the so called ‘Aryan’ side: Oni nazwali to wysiedleniem [They Called it Deportation] and Z ludem pospołu 149 Rachel Auerbach to Moshe Shtarkman, undated [1931], AYIVO, Papers of Moshe Shtarkman, RG 279, box 1, folder 3. 150 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Dos yidishe Galitsye’, Literarishe Bleter 27 (1932): 422. 151 David G. Roskies, Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 201. 152 Alan Rosen, Introduction to Literature of the Holocaust, ed. Alan Rosen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 1–11, here 9–10. 153 Roskies, Against the Apocalypse, 200–1.

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[Together with the People], written at the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944.154 Among her Yiddish texts, we find: an unfinished monograph on the soup kitchen she ran in the ghetto, short notes on the Gross-Aktion Warsaw, accompanied by her last will; and her rendition of the account one of the first escapees from Treblinka, Abram Krzepicki, with a foreword written by her.155 These texts, both Polish and Yiddish, were commissioned by the clandestine ghetto archive run by Emanuel Ringelblum, himself a Yiddishist. The texts from the ‘Aryan’ side were commissioned by the Jewish underground and intended for a Polish public. Hence, the language choice here was obvious. The reasons for composing the ghetto diary in Polish, however, remain complex and unclear. Interesting are the ways in which Auerbach sought to justify her choice after the war, bringing it in line with her new views on cultural politics. This poses a complex problem of language and identity that Auerbach tried to resolve after the fact for the needs of her Yiddish-speaking public. It is significant how Auerbach explained her reasons for writing in Polish in a Yiddish book that was first published in 1974; the book also included translations from Polish of her texts from the ‘Aryan’ side. Celebrated in the Yiddish press, this book was to be Auerbach’s testament and monument to the life and destruction of Warsaw as a Jewish and Yiddish cultural centre, told through the individual fates of those who lived there. Auerbach touches briefly upon the issue of language choice, and seems to be puzzled herself by the fact that in the ghetto she wrote in Polish: which is as a sign of her uneasiness about the fact. She attributes it to purely technical reasons. She claimed that she started writing in a diary she had used before the war in which she wrote in Polish, and explained that when it came to writing her last will, she had already done it in Yiddish, the language that was dearest to her.156 This explanation seems only partially plausible. Although it should not be entirely dismissed, it contradicts some of her pre-war statements about writing in Polish. Similarly, the choice of Polish to describe the fate of a Jewish individual and the destruction of the Jewish nation went against her ideological convictions. Yet, the realities of life, as I already argued above, were often distant from cultural convictions and language politics. Why, one might ask, did Auerbach decide to describe the uncanny ghetto reality, as she herself understood it, in a language that was distant to her? Or 154 This work is discussed in Samuel Kassow, ‘The Warsaw Ghetto in the Writings of Rachel Auerbach’, in Warsaw: The Jewish Metropolis, 496–514. 155 The text was translated into English without the foreword. See Abraham Krzepicki, ‘Eighteen Days in Treblinka’, in Donat, The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary, ed. Alexander Donat (New York: Waldon Press, 1979), 77–145. 156 Auerbach, Varshever tsavoes, 192.

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maybe it was precisely because of this dialectics of proximity and distance that Polish seemed a better tool to grasp it? The language choice might have also been dictated by the willingness to leave a witness account for the non-Jewish world. But why then write the last will in Yiddish? If the role and fate of an intellectual was to be with the people, as the title of her wartime essay indicated, then her witness account should have been written in the language of her people. The choice of Yiddish as a language of her last will might be interpreted as an answer to this conflict – as a statement of an intellectual coming back to her native ground, speaking to her own people. Roskies’ interpretation leans in this direction: ‘Only when she abandoned all hope for personal survival, did she entrust her last Yiddish message to the ghetto archive, building on a different hope – that the Jews of post-war Poland would respond to the call of a native daughter.’157 But Auerbach was an engaged Yiddishist before the war, and her choice of Yiddish is less charged than that of other intellectuals in the ghetto. Thus, Roskies claims she wrote her texts for different audiences. But if this is true, then why didn’t she admit in the 1970s when her book was published? There is another possible explanation that relates to the character of the texts. Drawing upon her university education, which was in Polish, Auerbach brought insights from psychology and psychoanalysis into her text. As Krzepicki’s account attests, however, this does not mean that she was not able to produce an intellectual insight in Yiddish of similar complexity and weigh. It might have been, however, that some means of expression she was looking for were available to her in Polish, while others – in Yiddish. In the end, it is not uncommon for bilingual writers to find it easier to express some things in one language and some in another, which is confirmed by the author herself. In a letter to the Polish writer Stanisław Vincenz on her later wartime writings, which included Yizkor, her most widely acclaimed text today, she admitted that she was unable to render some of her Polish texts in Yiddish because she had learned certain Biblical genres and religious modes of expression (in this case, lamentations) through Polish language and literature and not through Yiddish.158 Translating these texts into Hebrew seemed easier for her because it brought them back to their original language. I believe that the language choices Auerbach made in the ghetto were determined by a complex of different reasons. In her Polish diary, she tried to capture the ‘sound film’ of the ghetto, thus weaving into her text words, phrases and whole fragments in Yiddish (both in Yiddish characters and in transcrip157 Roskies, Against the Apocalypse, 201. 158 Rachel Auerbach to Stanisław Vincenz, 17 November 1954, ASV, 17610/II, 364.

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tion) as well as words and phrases in German. But, as Emanuel Ringelblum observed, this reality was more and more Polish-speaking.159 As to her Yiddish texts, the choice of language was probably more made for ideological and technical reasons: the soup kitchen monograph was written for a contest, and Auerbach’s engagement with Yiddishism made the choice of language rather clear. The last will she wrote was appended to a Yiddish text of the monograph, and Krzepicki’s account of his escape from Treblinka was written in Yiddish because that was his language of choice. However, this should not be read as in any way undermining Auerbach’s continued devotion to Yiddish language and culture. By pointing out other plausible explanations, I simply want to emphasize the complexity of Auerbach’s language choices as juxtaposed with her language politics. Only years after the fact did she add the explanation that helped her resolve these contradictions and the uneasiness she must have felt towards her own text. After the war, she translated and edited her diary in both Polish and Yiddish.160 After her immigration to Israel, it was also published in Hebrew.161 The reception of her ghetto and wartime works after the war so influenced the perception of her as a Yiddishist that many readers were long convinced that her famous Yizkor 1943 was originally written in Yiddish, even though it was actually written in Polish. Paradoxically, the work was first widely received in Poland in a Polish translation of an English translation of the Yiddish version.162 In the 2010 Yael Hersonski film, A Film Unfinished, about a Nazi propaganda film shot in the Warsaw Ghetto, where documents used to expose the agenda behind the images are quoted in their original language, fragments of Auerbach’s diary are read in Yiddish translation.

Post-War Reconfigurations After the war and the Holocaust, Auerbach revised some of her earlier beliefs and softened the tone of her polemics. A response to the shattering war experiences and the new status of Yiddish language and culture, she tailored her views to her commitment to cross-party cultural politics. She claimed that the 159 Emanuel Ringelblum, Ksovim fun geto [Ghetto writings], v. 1 (Varshe: Yiddish Bukh), 371. 160 The Yiddish fragments of the diary were published in various newspapers. The early publications include the Łódź-based Dos Naye Lebn and the New York-based Tsukunft. 161 Rachel Auerbach, Be-khutsot Varshah, trans. by Mordechai Halamish Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1954, 15–74. 162 Jacek Leociak, Tekst wobec Zagłady. O relacjach z getta warszawskiego (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Leopoldinum, 1997).

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language war in the realm of culture was analogous to discussions on class, nationalism and territorialism in the realm of party politics. What the Jewish nation really needed after the war, however, was ‘internal peace’. The ideological differences could be overcome as they were during the Destruction, when unnecessary ideological fights between Yiddishists and Hebraists were brought to an end, or at least a truce – as if ‘two brothers made up during a fire or a serious illness in the family’.163 In the community of survivors, she seems to claim, there should be no place for such controversies, since ‘all of us were sentenced to death, all of us are mourners’.164 This stance might also partly explain her public support of state’s cultural policies in Poland in the immediate post-war years,165 which raised concerns among some of her friends. ‘I’m not a politico’, she wrote to Ravitch, responding to his criticism of one of her papers, while admitting with resignation that it was impossible to advance the cause of Yiddish culture effectively outside Jewish party politics, both in Poland and elsewhere.166 As before, she thought, politicization was only harmful to the Yiddishist cause. The change in Auerbach’s language politics is part of a broader phenomenon. While Yiddishists before the war sought to (symbolically) exclude modern Hebrew and Polish from modern national Jewish culture, this position was no longer tenable after the war. Thus Auerbach’s approach to both, as well as her politics of Diaspora culture, changed. Writing about Polish-Jewish authors such as Artur Sandauer or Adolf Rudnicki, Auerbach stated that ‘despite the barrier of language I consider them Jewish writers’167 whose works should not be unavailable to a Yiddish-speaking audience simply because they were written in Polish.168 She believed that, given the shortcomings of post-war Yiddish literary representations of the Destruction, Polish-Jewish literature could be treated as a sort of temporary supplement to Yiddish literature.169 As for Hebrew, its position in pre-state Palestine and later in Israel grew only stronger. Yiddish and Yiddish culture was rejected and actively discriminated 163 See Rachel Auerbach, ‘Vegn eynhayntlekhn velt-kongres far yidisher kultur’ [On the united congress of Yiddish culture], Yidishe Shriftn 10 (1947): 22. 164 See Auerbach, ‘Vegn eynhayntlekhn velt-kongres’, 22. 165 Ibid. See also Rachel Auerbach, ‘Dos yidishe folk darf zayn der avagard in kamf far sholem’ [The Jewish nation has to be the avant-garde of the peace struggle], Yidishe Shriftn 4 (1949): 2. 166 Rachel Auerbach to Melech Ravitch, 14 July 1948, ARC *4 1540 12 35.3. 167 Rachel Auerbach to Avrom Sutzkever, 28 April 1949, SLM, ARC *4 1565 1 36 (emphasis in the original). 168 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Poylishe shrayber vegn dem yidishn umkum’ [Polish writers on the extermination of the Jews], Yidishe Shriftn 1–2 (1948): 8. 169 Ibid., 566.

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there, treated as both a symbol of the diaspora past and as a serious threat to the Hebrew revival. Yiddishists responded to this changed situation by advancing the old idea of Hebrew-Yiddish bilingualism that was being revived by some already in the late 1930s and, as we have seen, during the war period. This can be interpreted as ‘a response to the situation that seemed to threaten Yiddish creativity and rob it of its future perspectives’.170 But for immigrant Yiddish writers in Israel, and Auerbach was soon to became one, it should also be seen as an attempt to negotiate the transition to a new geographical, political, cultural and linguistic reality. This new Yiddish-Hebrew cultural politics found its expression in the first issue of Di Goldene Keyt [The Golden Chain], the most important post-war Yiddish journal, edited by the poet Avrom Sutzkever and published in Israel by the Histadrut.171 Auerbach greeted the project enthusiastically. While still in Poland, Auerbach wrote a letter to the editor in which she revealed that her true feelings towards the question of Hebrew-Yiddish coexistence had been suppressed by ideological reservations, but that the situation in Israel had caused her to rethink them. She mentioned a pamphlet she prepared on the subject, but she feared it might be misunderstood as an attack on Israel rather than a positive programme for the future.172 In the manuscript of the pamphlet preserved in Auerbach’s archives, she returns to her pre-war argument that the Zionist movement’s rejection of Yiddish never served the Zionist cause, but only fostered accelerated assimilation. She admits that the question of Hebrew-Yiddish bilingualism was ‘always dear to her’, even though she ‘never came to terms with the harm [the Zionist position towards Yiddish] caused and is still causing’. Thus, while retaining her critical position, she tried to use the language of affection to take a new position on the Hebrew/Yiddish debate. Finally, she expressed her hope that in the new Jewish state there would be room for both languages. The ‘dream of us all’, she wrote in an article published in Di Goldene Keyt, ‘is to abolish the artificial and harmful wall separating the two children of the same parents: between our literature in Yiddish and our literature in modern Hebrew.’173 The use of such fami-

170 Dan Miron, From Continuity to Contiguity: Towards a New Jewish Literary Thinking (Stanford: Stanford University Press), 225. 171 General Organization of Worker’s in Israel, a trade union, one of the most influential and important organizations in Israeli politics and economics of the period and after. 172 Rachel Auerbach to Avrom Sutzkever, 4 November 1948, SLM, ARC *4 1565 1 36. 173 Auerbach, ‘Der briderishter,’ 110.

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lial tropes was very common in discussions of Hebrew-Yiddish bilingualism, and it gained more prominence in the 1940s and after the war.174 Auerbach, however critical of the anti-Yiddish policies of Israel, came to understand that it is only in the Jewish state that the Yiddishism can (re)gain importance. Even if it was only for practical reasons, as large groups of Yiddishspeaking migrants were coming to the country, she thought this could, as it once happened in the post-Enlightenment period, give rise to a broader cultural movement.175 Ultimately, this turned out to be yet another shared cultural project that proved a failure or a utopia. However, going into the history of Yiddish culture in Israel and Auerbach’s involvement with it is beyond the scope of this article.

To Stay or To Go? The Trouble with Poland As Ezra Mendelsohn remarked, ‘one should expect that the ideal environment for modern Jewish nationalism would be a region in which nationalism in general was the dominant force … I have in mind, for example, Poland of the interwar period, a country whose politics was dominated by the kind of nationalism that excluded Jews from Polishdom’.176 Indeed, Jewish nationalism in its various forms, territorial and diasporic, thrived in Poland, all the while adapting patterns and practices of Polish nationalism. Diaspora nationalists or autonomists – many of whom were invested in Yiddishism – believed that Central and Eastern Europe with its centre in Poland was the place where the Jewish nation could and should develop. The most prominent example of such an approach was the ideology of doikayt, or hereness, advocated most prominently, though not exclusively, by the Bund. The new independent Polish Republic raised high hopes among the diaspora nationalists, but they were soon disillusioned by its minority policies and the rising anti-Semitism in Poland. However, among Yiddishists and other Jewish nationalists, the attitude towards Poland and Polish culture remained complex and ambivalent. Poland was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, and it had a 174 See Shmuel Niger, Di tsveyshprakhikayt fun undzer literatur (Detroit: Louis Lamed Foundation for the Advancement of Hebrew and Yiddish Literature, 1941). English translation: Shmuel Niger, Bilingualism in the History of Jewish Literature (New York: University Press of America, 1990). See my close reading of the text, Szymaniak, ‘Krytyka literacka’. 175 Rachel Auerbach, ‘A naye batsiung tsu yidish in Yisroel?’ [A new attitude towards the Yiddish in Israel?], Yidishe Shriftn 7–8 (1948): 10, 12. 176 Mendelsohn, On Modern Jewish Politics, 37.

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Yiddish-speaking majority: according to the 1931 census, nearly 80 per cent of those who identified themselves as Jewish declared Yiddish as their mother tongue.177 For Yiddishist intellectuals, the Yiddish-speaking masses seemed to be their natural ally in their project of building a modern, secular Yiddish nation. However, the Polonization policies pursued by the Polish authorities affected all parts of Jewish society, even the religious youth.178 Aimed at marginalizing minority cultures, Polonization hindered the Yiddishist agenda and was the subject of fervent criticism. Interwar Yiddishists sought to fight back against the marginalization practices and (symbolic) violence prevalent in Polish culture.179 But to preserve the coherence of diaspora nationalism in the face of rising anti-Semitism, some Yiddishists chose to promote ‘the best humanist/progressive traditions’ of Polish culture, as if they were to be a remedy to the contemporary tensions. Writing in a Bundist journal on the planned exhibition Jews in Poland, Shimshen Brotmakher stated firmly: No [anti-Semitic] uproar [hetse] is capable of depriving us of our natural human and civil affection for the land where we live and create, fight and dream about a happy future for all the peoples who live here … May our exhibition turn into a grand and splendid manifestation of humanitarian ideas in Polish literature; may it demonstrate the deep internal ideological proximity between Yiddish and Polish literatures.180

As one scholar of Polish-Jewish culture recently observed, some Polish Jews tended to be more invested in the abstract notion of Polish culture than with its actual proponents and products.181 Auerbach’s views on Polish culture changed with her views on culture in general. On the one hand, she was steeped in Polish culture (so much so that to make her point she would sometimes use quotations from Catholic prayers). On the other hand, as already discussed, she thought that Polish language and Polish-Jewish culture posed a serious threat to Yiddish culture, depriving it of 177 These data should be interpreted more as an accurate representation of the language and identity politics of the period than as a representation of social reality. See Shmeruk, ‘HebrewYiddish-Polish’, 288–91. 178 Jeffrey Shandler, ed., Awakening Lives: Autobiographies of Jewish Youth in Poland before the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); Alina Cała, ed., Ostatnie pokolenie: autobiografie polskiej młodzieży żydowskiej okresu międzywojenneg ze zbiorów YIVO Institute for Jewish Research w Nowym Jorku (Warsaw: Sic!, 2003); Kijek, Dzieci modernizmu. 179 Karolina Szymaniak, ‘Krytyka literacka’, 124–32, and Szymaniak, ‘Speaking Back’. 180 Shimshen Brotmakher, ‘Vegn der geplanter oysshtelung’ [On the planned exhibition], Shul-vegn 1 (1938): 8–9. 181 Anna Landau-Czajka, Polska to nie oni. Polska i Polacy w polskojęzycznej prasie żydowskiej II Rzeczpospolitej [Poland it’s not them: Poland and Poles in the Polish-language Jewish press in the Second Polish Republic] (Warsaw: ŻIH, 2015).

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present and future intellectual elites. That threat was nowhere as apparent as in the realm of education. Auerbach acknowledged that Polish literature and culture had become a shared tradition for Jewish intellectuals in Poland, but she criticized the fixation on Polish themes and diagnosed a certain provincialism in the Polish curricula and literary scholarship at both secondary and tertiary levels (she gave an example of a Jewish student who wrote a dissertation on hens in Polish literature). Still, she asserted that her critique was not aimed at ridiculing Polish culture, since ‘it was a source from which we drew, learned to analyze and understand literary works and processes of creation, and you don’t spit in the well from which you drink.’182 The problem was that Yiddish literature garnered little interest among the Jewish public in general and critics and scholars in particular. Gifted individuals who wanted to pursue their education at universities had to do so in Polish or other languages, and later promoted the cultures associated with them. Hence, the intellectuals became all the more estranged from their original culture, which suffered because of this. In the absence of Yiddish universities and having only a small number of Yiddish high schools, Auerbach saw the only hope in autodidacts and those ‘who come back from the other side/far away (di aribergekumene)’.183 For Auerbach, these intellectuals might benefit Yiddish culture, and in turn, might find a feeling of belonging within it. Yiddish culture not only offered the promise of a safe home where one could express oneself freely as a Jew, but was a project in the making where an estranged intellectual could still feel he/she was needed. Thus, intellectuals could ‘free themselves from the curse of weakening or wasting forces and energy where nobody needs or wants them by applying them at the same time in the territory where they are much needed and where every tiny contribution is truly an urgent vital necessity.’184 Auerbach wrote this article in the late 1930s, but her conviction and advocacy of Yiddish culture in Poland was accompanied by her own struggle with the question of whether to stay or leave the country. This was not a topic, she claimed, that could be freely discussed in her own milieu,185 but it recurred in her private correspondence. In a letter to Moshe Shtarkman, she describes the tense situation in Poland: ‘The prevailing atmosphere is such that we would rather pack our belongings and leave. We have had enough of the life here and if we don’t get down to doing something that could bring about a change, we

182 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Bleterndik di shriftlekhe arbetn fun der sholem-aleykhem oysshtelung’ [Reading the essays from the Sholem-Aleichem exhibition], Shul-vegn 7–8 (1937): 291. 183 The verb ariberkumen means to arrive despite obstacles or distance. 184 Auerbach, ‘Bleterndik’, 295. 185 See Auerbach, ‘Der briderishster’, 106.

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have nothing to do here. We’re sick of everything and everybody.’186 Here, Auerbach still seems to believe that Jewish intellectuals could at least attempt to change or influence the social and political situation in Poland. Rising anti-Semitism in Poland worsened the prospects of Yiddish culture. In the 1930s, many leading Yiddishist intellectuals left Poland, including Nakhmen Mayzil, the editor of the most important literary and sociocultural Yiddish weekly of the time, Literarishe Bleter, Kadya Molodowski, one of the most prominent poets of Auerbach’s generation and her colleague, and Melekh Ravitch, Auerbach’s mentor and close friend, and a major figure on the Yiddishist intellectual scene. In mid-March 1936, after the Przytyk pogrom (9 March 1936), when a wave of anti-Jewish violence was sweeping across Poland,187 Auerbach wrote to Ravitch: You once did a wise thing to … leave Poland. The situation is getting more suffocating and difficult to live by the day … You can build concrete shelters to protect against gases but there is no shelter to protect you against the depression that comes from all things going on here. And after all, that’s only a prelude. I’m having nightmares, long-forgotten nightmares from the war time; we are all falling into a political psychosis. Personally, I’d be ready (?)188 to get out of here and go anywhere at all but [Itzik] Manger doesn’t think about the future, thus we’re missing an opportunity for which it might be too late when the moment comes. And – in the face of all of this – we publish books.189

In a 1937 article that alludes to the anti-Semitic riots at Polish universities, she bitterly remarked: ‘I have a hard time understanding how Jewish students are able to hold on at the Polish universities today and what they are still doing there.’190 In 1937, the so-called bench ghetto and numerus clausus (Jewish admission quota) was passed by the Ministry of Religion and Public Enlightenment [Ministerstwo Wyznań Religijnych i Oświecenia Publicznego]. A year later, reflecting on how these regulations affected the situation of Jewish youth in Poland in general, and young female high school graduates in particular, Auerbach wrote about their limited perspectives for education and employment: ‘Let us not fool ourselves. Let us face the ugly truth. The extermination of the Jewish youth and the distortion of their normal path of educational and professional 186 Auerbach to Shtarkaman, undated letter [1931]. 187 Jolanta Żyndul, Zajścia antyżydowskie w Polsce w latach 1935–1937 [Anti-Jewish riots in Poland, 1935–1937] (Warsaw: Fundusz im. Kelles-Krauza, 1994); Emanuel Melzer, ‘Anti-Jewish Violence: Riots, Pogroms, Recriminations and Responses’, in Emanuel Melzer, No Way Out: The Politics of Polish Jewry 1935–1939 (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1997), 53–70. 188 Question mark in the original. 189 Rachel Auerbach to Melekh Ravitch, March 1936, SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 35.2. 190 Auerbach, ‘Bleterndik’, 291.

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development in the realm of higher education is almost a fait accompli.’191 The situation at the universities resulted in more and more students giving up on higher education and descending into spiritual apathy, despair and defeatism.192 Auerbach believed that it was the duty of older Jewish intellectuals to prevent this immense waste ‘of social capital of knowledge and skills’ and create an environment outside the university that would support young people and encourage their development. Equally important for her was to view the situation as a temporary divergence from normality. Jewish society must maintain ‘its faith that the current state is temporary, a cultural and political decline, an illness, and when it is overcome … our epoch will resume its right course’.193 This conviction was shared by those who supported diaspora nationalism and diasporic culture.194 On the other hand, Auerbach, as others, also believed that the rise of national chauvinism and fascism both in Poland and Europe would spark new interest in Yiddish culture, and possibly trigger a series of language and national conversions. Late 1930s, she believed, marked the crisis of assimilation, and Yiddishists should make the most of this opportunity.195 During ‘the time of Przytyk and the bench ghetto’ she met the Polish intellectual Stanisław Vincenz, a proponent of various minority cultures interested in Jewish culture and Yiddish.196 For Auerbach, he was equally far from philo191 Rachela Auerbach, ‘Panna po maturze’ [A girl graduating high school], Nowy Głos 169 (19 June 1938): 9. On Jewish students’ experience at Polish universities see Natalia Aleksiun, ‘Together but Apart: University Experience of Jewish Students in the Second Polish Republic’, Acta Poloniae Historica 109 (2014): 109–37; Szymon Rudnicki, ‘From Numerus Clausus to Numerus Nullus’, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 2 (1987): 246–68; Emanuel Melzer, ‘Ghetto Benches, Agitation, and Violence in the Universities’, in Melzer, No Way Out, 71–80. 192 Aleksiun, ‘Together’, 116n, 118. Gershon Bacon, ‘The Missing 52 Percent: Research on Jewish Women in Interwar Poland and Its Implications for Holocaust Studies’, in Women in the Holocaust, eds, Dalia Ofer and Lenore J. Weitzman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 55–67, here 60–1. 193 Auerbach, ‘Panna po maturze’ (emphasis in the original). 194 See the opinion of Yehoshua Perle, a writer whom Auerbach admired: Stefan Pomer, ‘Obiektywna ocena sytuacji. Ankieta 5-tej Rano wśród najwybitniejszych pisarzy żydowskich. Wywiad z Jehoszuą Perlem’ [An objective assessment of the situation: the 5-ta Rano survey among the eminent Jewish writers: an interview with Yehoshua Perle], 5-ta Rano (14 May 1937): 6. 195 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Calea Vacaresti i Dudesti – bukaresztańskie Nalewki’ [Calea Vacaresti and Dudesti – the Bucharest Nalewkes], Nowy Dziennik (8 January 1938): 6–7. 196 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Żydowskie koneksje Stanisława Vincenza’ [Stanisław Vincenz’s Jewish connections], Nowiny Kurier (26 March 1971): 8; Dorota Burda-Fischer, Stanisława Vincenza tematy żydowskie. [Stanisław Vincenz’s Jewish themes] (Wrocław: a lineam, 2015), especially chap. 1; Dorota Burda-Fischer, ‘A Hasid among the Goyim: Jewish Themes in Stanisław Vincenz’s Na wysokiej połoninie’, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 28 (2015): 261–80.

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Semitism as he was from anti-Semitism. Living in a village in the mountains far away from the centres of political and intellectual life, he could allow himself the luxury of a non-partisan, genuine interest in Jewish culture, which was uncommon in Polish society. When writing about Vincenz, Auerbach tried to put aside the politics of Polish-Jewish relations: ‘He’s too interesting a person to sour our contact with him by the ills of Polish-Jewish relations that trouble us, for the time being, hopelessly.’197 She employed this strategy later on and for different reasons in post-war Poland and in Israel. Despite this, the whole article about Vincenz was also a political statement about the dynamics of PolishJewish cultural relations and the meaning of being a Polish intellectual interested in Jewish issues in the late 1930s. Years later, she wrote in a moving obituary for Vincenz: ‘In the days of rising hatred – in the face of approaching bestiality – it was extremely important for us to meet a luminous figure symbolizing in our eyes the other Poland, the Poland of shared culture and spiritual brotherhood.’198 Many Jewish intellectuals experienced a similar ambivalence: on the one hand, they were critical of the country’s politics and descent into anti-Semitism, and on the other, they felt the need to find something or somebody on the Polish side, in Polish culture, or in the Polish-Jewish history that might help them reconcile their complex relationship to Polish culture, and provide a sort of intellectual refuge.199 But Vincenz alone could not have been a sufficient reason for Auerbach to stay in Poland, and there were not many like him. Yet, for various personal and economic reasons she never left. Considering the state of Yiddish culture, she must have reluctantly come to a conclusion that Poland, with all its flaws, might still be the best and only place that could give it a home. In July of 1939, she wrote to Ravitch: ‘In general, I think that Poland is the last substantial, not yet melted [tseshmoltsene] ice floe of Jewish mass and cultural life, and thus the last natural piece of ground [bodn] for the Jewish writer’.200

197 Rachela Auerbach, ‘Duchowe przygody’, Nasz Przegląd 117 (1936): 8. A Yiddish version of this article appeared in Haynt: Rachel Auerbach, ‘Dr. Stanislav Vintsents – der poylisher forsher fun yidishe folks-mayses’ [Dr. Stanisław Vincenz – Polish researcher of Jewish folk tales], Haynt (6 April 1936): 7, 10. It was followed by a translation of Vincenz’s text into Yiddish in Haynt (12 April 1936): 5. 198 Rachel Auerbach, ‘Na zgon przyjaciela Polaka’, YVA, *16/54, 6. 199 In the Polish-Jewish context see Anna Landau-Czajka, Polska to nie oni. Polska i Polacy w polskojęzycznej prasie żydowskiej II Rzeczpospolitej (Warsaw: ŻIH, 2015). Natalia Aleksiun, ‘Stosunki polsko-żydowskie w piśmiennictwie historyków żydowskich w latach trzydziestych XX wieku’, Studia Judaica 1 (2006): 49. 200 Rachel Auerbach to Melekh Ravitch, 19 July 1939, SLM, ARC *4 1540 12 35.4, 6.

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Although this statement has been cited as a proof of Auerbach’s conviction that the ‘only haven for Yiddish culture was Poland and Poland only’,201 things are not so simple. A closer look reveals similarities with the anxieties felt by many Yiddishist intellectuals on the eve of the Second World War. First, the territory of Poland is represented as an ice floe, which could hardly serve as an image of a secure place where a national culture might thrive. By using the ice floe metaphor, Auerbach also expresses her concerns about creeping assimilation. The verb ‘tseshmeltsn [zikh]’, meaning to melt, to dissolve or disappear by dissolving, could be a synonym for the verb ‘asimilirn’, to assimilate. This makes the next statement affirming the place of Poland in the Yiddishist project even more problematic. The Jewish Poland opposed to assimilation, suggests Auerbach, should be a natural choice for an engaged Yiddish writer. It is here that Yiddish culture is deeply rooted, and here that it could flourish among the many Yiddish speakers. Still, the powerful and very eloquent metaphor of the ice floe makes ambivalent its opposite, the natural soil/ground metaphor. The discourse of rootedness, embodied most prominently in the activities and publications of the Landkentenish movement (the Society for Local History and Geography),202 was one of the most important Jewish responses to rising anti-Semitism in Poland. ‘In a time of rising discrimination and in difficult economic circumstances, the Żydowskie Towarzystwo Krajoznawcze [Landkentenish Society, ZTK], which constantly stressed that the Polish landscape was not foreign territory but “home” worked against tough odds’.203 Auerbach, who was close to many activists of the ZTK and published in their journal, seems to have shared some of their basic convictions. By employing the ice floe metaphor, however, she demonstrates her scepticism about the future prospects for Yiddish culture on Polish soil. Thus, rather than speaking about being on firm ground (Yid. hobn a festn bodn unter di fis), her metaphor points out to the Yiddish idiom farlirn dem bodn fun unter (hinter) di fis (to feel all at sea, feel one’s world is collapsing around them, Pol. tracić grunt pod nogami), and the Polish budować zamki na lodzie (build castles in air, literally: build castles on ice).

201 Nathan Cohen, ‘Motives for the Emigration of Yiddish Writers from Poland (1945–1948)’, in Under the Red Banner: Yiddish Culture in the Communist Countries in the Postwar Era, eds, Magdalena Ruta and Elvira Groezinger (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2008), 159. 202 The name landkentenish is a direct equivalent of Polish krajoznawstwo, which in turn refers to the German Landeskunde, roughly ‘national/regional studies’. 203 Kassow, ‘Travel and Local History’, 172.

In the Ice Floe: Rachel Auerbach - The life of a Jewish Intellectual 


Hence, the powerful paradoxical empire of Yiddishland where ‘the sun never sets’,204 an empire whose moral superiority over nation states was heralded only two years earlier during the Congress of Yiddish Culture in Paris,205 is reduced in Auerbach’s image to nothing more than a small insecure island of ice surrounded by rough seas of assimilation and anti-Semitism. An example of East Central European ‘potentially imperial’ discourse,206 the very concept of Yiddishland that gained prominence in the late 1920s and 1930s had a defensive nature. As I have explained in another work, it served to help Yiddishist intellectuals deal with the anxiety about their own culture and the hardships they experienced, and was a response to other territorial nationalisms, including Zionism.207 Auerbach seems to have rejected this ‘imperialistic’ discourse, and in search of a remedy, like many Jewish intellectuals, turned to traditional Central and Eastern European Jewish culture, to ‘this small world that becomes more and more the only possession [nakhle] for a Jew; the hope for a new Jewish revival against the processes of estrangement and disintegration occurring in other Jewish communities’.208 When war broke out, Auerbach thought about leaving Poland or joining her family in Soviet occupied L’viv. As we know, she was convinced to stay in Warsaw by Emanuel Ringelblum, who asked her to engage in social work, and two years later, to help document the destruction of Polish Jewry. As Samuel Kassow observes, by suffering ‘together with the folk’, Auerbach revised her sceptical assessment of the future prospects of Polish Jewry: ‘It is then [in the ghetto, where she had contact with the Jewish masses in the soup kitchen] when she understood that Jewish life was so deeply rooted, and Jews were so numerous, that the Jewish people could have counted on the cultural-capital of Polish

204 Speech of Yosef Opatoshu at the World Congress of Yiddish Culture in Paris: Yosef Opatoshu, Ershter altveltlekher yiddisher kultur-kongres, Paris 17–21 september 1937. Stenografisher barikht (Paris, New York, Warsaw: IKUF, 1937), 30. 205 On the use of the term ‘Yiddishland’ during the congress see Gennady Estraikh, ‘The Kultur-Lige in Warsaw: A Stopover in the Yiddishists’ Journey between Kiev and Paris’, in Warsaw: The Jewish Metropolis: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Professor Antony Polonsky, eds, Glenn Dynner and François Guesnet (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015), 323–46, here 344. See also Kalman Weiser, ‘The Capital of “Yiddishland”?’ in Dynner and Guesnet, Warsaw: The Jewish Metropolis, 298–322. 206 Balazs Trencsényi, ‘Conceptual History and Political Languages: On Central-European Adaptation of the Contextualist-Conceptualist Methodologies of Intellectual History’, in Prague Perspectives: Studies in Central and Eastern Europe, eds, Petr Roubal and Václav Veber (Prague: Klementinum, 2004), 162. 207 Szymaniak, ‘Krytyka literacka’, 90–100. 208 Auerbach, ‘Der briderishster’, 110.

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Jewry for generations to come.’209 One might argue that this experience also influenced her decision to stay in Poland and become involved in rebuilding Jewish life after the Holocaust. The post-war communist Poland seemed to offer favourable conditions for Jewish life and culture. Jews were the only minority group officially recognized by the authorities, and enjoyed a relative political and cultural autonomy. At the same time, Jews were experiencing open and hidden hostility, and anti-Semitic violence both from the society and the state.210 Like many in the immediate post-war period, Auerbach’s personal documents, activism and writings are characterized by a desire to commemorate and rebuild and by her growing disillusionment with communist Poland and PolishJewish life. Her perception of her task as an intellectual was aptly summed up by Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov: ‘In the years immediately following the war, the survivor writers considered themselves … above all socio-cultural activists who were responsible for the revival of the Jewish world in Poland and for rescuing or finding what was left of the cultural heritage of Polish Jews.’211 Auerbach played an important role in the revival of Yiddish culture in the immediate postwar years.212 She understood this involvement as an answer to the crisis of Jewish national identity after the Holocaust, threatened existence of Jews as a collective.213 Hence, it was not important to her whether a Yiddish newspaper in Poland would have a broad or limited public: Indeed, what is at stake here is the question whether we are a random gathering of survivors [farblibene] who are not united by any common social idea, or a social organism, an ethnic group [eyde]. A community [kibets] that remembers, that has tradition with its own meaning. By coming back to its own language, its own national expression, this commun-

209 Kassow, ‘The Warsaw Ghetto in the Writings of Rachel Auerbach’, 505. 210 Audrey Kichelewski, ‘To Stay or to Go? Rebuilding a New Jewish Life in Postwar Poland, 1944–1947’, in Seeking Peace in the Wake of War: The Reconfiguration of Europe, 1943–1947, eds, Stefan-Ludwig Hoffman, Sandrine Kott, Peter Romjin and Olivier Wieviorka (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2014), 184–201; Cohen, ‘Motives for Emigration’; On different aspects of post-war Jewish life in Poland see selected articles Feliks Tych and Monika AdamczykGarbowska, eds, Jewish Presence in Absence: The Aftermath of the Holocaust: Poland 1944–2010 (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2014). 211 Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, Obywatel Jidyszlandu: Rzecz o żydowskich komunistach w Polsce (Warsaw: Neriton, Instytut Historii PAN, 2009), 179. 212 On Yiddish culture in the post-war period see Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov and Magdalena Ruta, ‘Yiddish Culture in Poland after the Holocaust’, in Tych and Adamczyk-Garbowska, Jewish Presence in Absence, 353. 213 On these feelings among survivor-historians and their understanding of the mission of Holocaust research in this context see Cohen, ‘Holocaust Research’, 260–1.

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ity shows that from the Destruction it rescued [aroysgetrogn] not only naked life, but also its humanity, strivings, longings.214

Auerbach saw a clear link between the task of creating a Yiddish press and more generally, culture in post-war Poland, the national cause, the goals of Destruction research, and the politics of memory. Setting up a Yiddish newspaper in Poland was a means of re-establishing the eroded national cohesion and the role of Poland as a spiritual center for the Jews around the world, and would give a platform for informing the Jewish and non-Jewish world about the Destruction.215 ‘We are heirs to a great tradition, and we intend to create a new tradition’, she wrote. She believed that cultivating memory was a necessary condition for creating new cultural values and that these new cultur