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MIMC Founding Member Lectures on Hungarian Holocaust

MIMC founding member and historian László Bernát Veszprémy lectured at the Holocaust Documentation Center.

Veszprémy explained that the Hungarian bureaucracy operated within rigid frameworks of hierarchy, but personal relationships regularly allowed bureaucrats to incorporate their personal views and wishes into their actions.

A number of bureaucrats have, in fact, opposed orders coming mostly from the collaborationist Hungarian Ministry of the Interior – and very rarely from the German occupiers –, yet refusal of these measures did not result in a significant penalty.

In addition, public officials could choose to resign or remain in place to alleviate the conditions of ghettoization and deportation – true, the latter could only make the first steps of the genocide a little less horrible. Hungarian railwaymen invented particularly creative methods of sabotage, but overall, they were perhaps the least likely to deter deportations.

Regarding those serving in the Hungarian law enforcement agencies, Veszprémy said that some police officers and gendarmes have tried to take action against anti-Semitic atrocities, but in most cases have not been successful. However, examples of individual resistance were rare, and in general there were few obstacles to the Holocaust in Hungary.

“Yet shedding light on these tiny rooms for maneuver allows us to see these bureaucrats not as mere clogs in the machine of genocide – as some bureaucrats have later argued in their own defense – but as individuals who could decide whether to partake in the deportations or not” – he explained.

Their motivation behind collaboration seems to have differed: some were clearly motivated by antisemitism; others could have been acting out of fear or merely followed orders. The overall picture, however, does not change: it was Hungarian bureaucracy which ghettoized and deported 400,000 Hungarian Jews into Auschwitz, where the Nazis murdered most of them.

The entire presentation in Hungarian can be watched here.

Widespread Praise for Historian László Bernát Veszprémy’s Holocaust Book Gyilkos Irodák