The Elimination of Jewish Attorneys in Hungary During the Holocaust

Historical Overview – From Prosperity to Elimination

To truly comprehend the tragedy of the Holocaust, it is necessary to understand that every victim has a unique story, that every victim saw his own world destroyed. This volume presents a list of lawyers whose offices and clients were confiscated and transferred to the possession of Magyar lawyers in accordance with Prime Ministerial Decree No. 1.210/1944. This decree stipulated the magyarization of Jewish law offices and the disbarment of Jewish lawyers. The decree was carried out by the local bar associations and upon the completion of magyarization the results were published in the official government gazette, Budapesti Kozlony. These announcements in the Budapesti Kozlony are the source of the list in this volume.

The Jewish practitioners of law were victims of a horrible miscarriage of justice initiated by the Magyar authotities, whose hate and avarice blinded their sense of justice.

This particular abuse heaped upon unfortunate victims was just one of a long series of abuses. Hungary had been a pioneer of anti-Semitic legislation in Europe after World War I and would be the scene of a horrific episode of genocide.

But there was a time when Hungary was a land of opportunity for Jews. After the re-conquest of Hungary from the Ottoman Turks at the end of seventeenth century, large parts of Hungary were de-populated. Various nationalities were invited to come settle in Hungary and even Jews were welcome. Although there were many restrictions on the Jews, the situation was favorable when compared to the surrounding countries. Jews started to stream into the country where they prospered. The Conscriptio Judeorum of 1735-1738 listed 11,621 Jews in Hungary. By the eve of World War I, the Jewish population had exploded to 911,000.

During the nineteenth century, the Kingdom of Hungary struggled for greater independence from the Austrian Empire. The failed uprising of 1848 eventually led to the Compromise of 1867 which granted Hungary a large degree of autonomy within the framework of the Austrian Empire.

The Jewish community completely identified with Hungarian nationalism and was actively involved in its struggle. In the years after the Compromise the Jewish community sought emancipation and equality and indeed, in the prevailing liberal atmosphere in Hungary, achieved most of its goals. This period saw the Jews achieving unparalleled success and prosperity, both as individuals and as a community.

The First World War was a great catastrophe for Hungary. The Treaty of Trianon of 1920, between Hungary and the Allies, assigned 2/3 of Hungarian territory to neighboring states. The loss of territory was accompanied by financial turmoil and political upheaval. The fortune of the Jewish Community quickly declined.

In 1919, a communist government, with many Jewish members, assumed control in Hungary. This government was quickly overthrown and replaced with the semi-autocratic rule of the Regent Miklos Horthy. This was the period of the White Terror when gangs of former military officers conducted pogroms against Jews throughout Hungary.

In September 22, 1920 the Hungarian Parliament enacted Law XXV, the “Numerus Clausus,” which limited the number of Jewish students in higher education to six percent. The numerus clausus presented a great obstacle in the way of young, middle-class Jews who aspired to a career in law. Many had to abandon their dreams or seek an education abroad at great expense. Many remained abroad after completing their studies. The Hungarian government very often refused to recognize the degrees earned in foreign lands. Between 1920 and 1930, the number of Jewish students decreased by 8-10 percent.

Between 1938 and 1944, a series of "Jewish Laws" and various governmental decrees progressively restricted the rights and freedoms of Jewish citizens of Hungary. Meanwhile, Hungary annexed portions of the dismembered Czechoslovak state and parts of Romania and Yugoslavia. The Jews of these newly acquired territories were treated even more harshly by the Hungarian authorities.

In 1939, service in Labor Battalions was made compulsory for Jewish males. A very high proportion of Jewish males served in these labor battalions where they faced the brutality of war and horrible treatment at the hands of the Hungarian officers and soldiers. Many officers did all they could to cause the death of the Jews in their battalions. Doctors, lawyers and professionals were often singled out for especially humiliating tasks.

Several atrocities were committed in this period, before any decision had been made to deport the Jews. Especially outrageous were the massacres of Kamenetz-Podolsk (1941) and Ujvidek (1942), where thousands of families were brutally murdered.

Strangely, for the Jews not in the Labor battalions, or the newly annexed areas, the war years were not physically dangerous prior to 1944. But in March 1944, the German Army took over Hungary. Adolf Eichmann and a team of about 100 Germans, with the near complete cooperation of the Hungarian authorities, set out to deport all the Jews to Auschwitz. Within weeks, the Jews were deprived of their wealth and concentrated in ghettos. The trains for Auschwitz started to roll at the end of April 1944 and within ten weeks over 400,000 Jews were deported from Hungary. In July, the deportations ceased.

But the troubles of Hungarian Jewry were not over. The collapse of organized government in the days before the Soviet conquest of Budapest was accompanied by the brigandage of the fascist Arrow Cross Party. The Arrow Cross took advantage of the chaotic situation to carry out barbaric massacres in the very heart of Budapest. It is impossible to determine the number of victims in Budapest from October 1944 to January 1945, but it was clearly many thousands.

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