Filippo Anfuso on antisemitism in Hungary in 1942
To His Excellency
Count Galeazzo Ciano di Cortellazzo
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rome
Budapest, 8th May 1942, XX
Re: Semitism and anti-Semitism in Hungary.
The program of anti-Jewish policy outlined by President Kállay in his speeches to the Lower Chamber and to the Party’s National Council (20th March and 20th April last) and the measures that followed represent the start of a new stage in Hungary’s official anti-Semitism. This R. Legation has repeatedly reported on the various developments and on individual aspects of the Jewish problem in this Country, highlighting along the way the various obstacles that have hindered the implementation of radical measures, the conflicting opinions within the Country, the Clergy and Parliament on the issue of anti-Jewish legislation, and on the frequent compromises ensuing from the doubts of a public opinion at times unconvinced that a drastic action is wise. However, the general situation in which the Jewish problem now again surfaces on the Hungarian political scene has changed deeply since the day when Hungary, linking its destiny to that of the Axis Powers, necessarily had to do away, even in its interior politics, with many hesitations and many formal shackles. Herein lies precisely the interest that the Jewish problem continues to attract after the
We will not desist from the struggle – said Kállay – until with a systematic and ever increasing pace we have taken away from the Jews every sector of national life and we have at last entirely removed them from our Country.In order to appreciate the significance of these words and to understand the complexity of the situation to which they refer it might be worthwhile to briefly reconsider the fundamental aspects of the Jewish problem in Hungary.
Among the other misfortunes which befell this Country at the time of the Turkish invasion there was also the influx of many Jews who found a favourable situation under the Crescent. The expulsion of the Turks caused most of them to leave. Later, the severe decrees of the Habsburgs, particularly Charles III and Maria Theresa, helped to keep the Jews away from Hungary. Between 1820 and 1830, however, there began that exodus of Jews from Galicia to the Hungarian territory which would continue uninterrupted into our own times, encouraged by the rise of capitalism and by the policies of the liberal governments that enabled the Jews to acquire predominance particularly in culture and in the economy. The census of 1930 registered 444,565 Jews then present in Hungary, to whom one must add 78,190 in Upper Hungary (First
Statistics show better than any discourse the extent of the Jewish invasion into Hungarian life. If we limit our analysis to Budapest, which sums up the general situation, we will find the following percentages in 1935: bankers 80%; transport 70%; stockbrokers 76%;
In the country, only 10% of the great landowners (over 100 Jugers) are Jews, but among the tenants of great properties the Jews number 42%. As for the manufacturing sector, the presence of Jews is shown by the following numbers: iron and steel 50%, machinery 43%, timber 53%, leather 68%, textiles 66%, clothing 73%, paper 58%, chemistry 54%, etc.
After the fall of the Bethlen Cabinet (1932), whose policy had greatly facilitated Jewish intrusiveness, the Gömbös Government marked the beginning of a resistance movement, solicited and demanded by the emergent far right organizations that were increasingly exerting their influence on the Daranyi, Imredi etc. governments that came later. The first anti-Jewish law dates from April 1938. The text avoided the word “Jews” and granted such ample discrimination as to leave almost unaltered the average presence of Jews in the different sectors of Hungarian life. The pressure exerted by the rightist parties and the repercussions from the international situation prompted the second Jewish law in December 1938, whose fundamental principles are derived from the Italian anti-Jewish law of 10th November 1939 [sic!, actually 1938] and which, in determining the definition of Jew according to fundamentally racial criteria, contains – numerous exceptions notwithstanding – severe measures. The law
Some facts emerge from what has been said here that place the Hungarian Jewish problem in its true perspective.
First of all, the main factor that encouraged the Jewish invasion in Hungary and is still far from having vanished needs to be pointed out. I mean the absence, in the social structure of this Country, of an urban middle class that might carry out the functions and the tasks that have been taken over by the
As I already said, the numerous mixed marriages entered into by the Jews served them well in strengthening their position in Hungary. Moreover,
The solution of the Jewish problem therefore poses for Hungary a distressful and difficult problem as it closely concerns its social structure and its economic organization, and this, moreover, at a time when the Country needs all its energies to face its new and important tasks. This explains the hesitancy apparent in the past in the Government’s anti-Jewish action and a certain scepticism displayed even today by many towards the effectiveness and even towards the sincerity of the Government’s anti-Jewish policies, But the Government’s will to advance on the road it has in part already covered does not appear in doubt and it may not be unnecessary to point out that considerations and influences of an international nature are not without bearing on this will.
Please accept, Sir, the expression of my profound respect.
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