Yellow Stars and Trouser Inspections : Jewish Testimonies from Hungary, 1920–1945
Abstract: This study analyzes narratives of individual Jewish experiences of discrimination and genocidal violence in Hungary during the period of 1920–1945. The aim is to increase our knowledge and understanding of the events through an investigation of survivor testimonies concerning anti-Jewish laws and the Holocaust. The main focus is on how survivors perceived the treatment to which they and their fellow Jews were exposed, and how they responded to the persecution they faced. Perceptions and responses are analyzed through multiple factors such as gender, age, social class, and geographical place.The period under investigation stretches from 1920, when the law of Numerus Clausus (a quota system influencing admission to universities) was introduced, until the end of the Second World War in early 1945. Focus is placed on the war years, especially on 1944, the year of German occupation and the fascist Arrow Cross rule. Experiences from the labour service system, the Jewish houses in Budapest, and the ghettos, as well as of hiding and resistance, are some of the recurring themes which are examined here. Extensive interviews, along with eyewitness reports and memoirs, form the empirical basis of the study.The results demonstrate the complexity of individual experiences during times of upheaval, and the importance of the above factors is evident within the testimonies. The survivors’ experiences greatly depended on gender, age, social class, geographical place, civil status, religious orientation, as well as “race”. However, the importance of the different factors changed over time. For instance, in the beginning of this period, discrimination had a direct impact on adult males, while children, women, and the elderly were indirectly affected. Furthermore, persons belonging to the upper classes could circumvent the anti-Jewish laws in various ways. Ultimately, differences in treatment decreased, according to the testimonies. Women, children, and the elderly also became victims, as did individuals from all social classes.
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