MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE

The Elimination of Jewish Attorneys in Hungary During the Holocaust

Jewish Advocates in Hungary

The lawyers listed in this book shared the fate of the Jews of Hungary. The various individual biographies in this book reflect the history of Hungarian Jewry before and during the war years.

The Hungarian Parliament enacted a law in 1874 on the “Requirements for Lawyers,” which made the Doctor’s diploma a prerequisite to practice law.

In 1880 there were 4,619 advocates working in the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary in the following lawyers’ associations:

Budapest, Arad, Balassagyarmat, Besztercebanya, Brasso,Debrecen, Eger, Eperjes, Fiume, Gyor, Kassa, Kecskemet, Kolozsvar, Maramarossziget, Marosvasarhely, Miskolc, Nagyszeben, Nagyvarad, Pecs, Pozsony, Sopron, Szabadka, Szatmarnemeti, Szombathely, Szeged, Szekesfehervar, Temesvar, Zalaegerszeg.

There were 4,806 advocates registered by the turn of the century. In 1910 their number was 6,743. After World War I the number fell to 4,994 (as result of the loss of territories), but 10 years later, in 1930, it increased again to 6,208.

During the period of 1874-1914 the percentage of Jewish students studying in law schools was between 25-30 percent of the entire student body. According to the 1910 census, of the total number of 6,743 advocates in the Hungarian Kingdom, 3,049 were Jewish. The 1910 census defined Jews on the basis of religion. Therefore, the large numbers of converts to Christianity were not considered Jews. The anti-Semitic Jewish Laws of the 1930s and 1940s would define Jews racially, thus converts would later be listed as Jews. By the later racial definition, the number of Jews in the legal profession was even higher than 3,049.

After 1918, public administration, judicial and prosecutorial positions were closed to Jewish advocates, who were now limited to the private practice of general law. As a result, the percentage of Jewish advocates in Hungary exceeded 50 percent, while in Budapest it was around 60 percent. From our work, it is clear that the Jews outnumbered the Christians, since at the time of expropriation in 1944 many Christians were assigned not one, but several, Jewish practices.

The “Numerus Clausus” Law of 1920 led to a drop in Jewish students at Hungarian law schools and consequently, the number of practicing lawyers decreased between 1920 and 1939 from 51 to 40 percent. Maria M. Kovacs, in her book Liberal Professions and Illiberal Politics, claims that contrary to the medical and engineering organizations, the field of law had a more liberal, and less anti-Semitic atmosphere, and that consequently, the effect of Numerus Clausus was relatively moderate in the field. Maria Kovacs also writes about the passive resistance of lawyers’ associations against the discriminatory Jewish laws. She mentions the establishment of the Christian Lawyers National Association in 1938, which with the leadership of Roman Komarniczki and Geza Vekerdy had the mission of keeping extremists from the legal profession. However, from our work it also becomes apparent that the same Geza Vekerdy was nominated guardian of the office of Erno Szekely in Budapest in May 1944 and Roman Komarniczki was nominated guardian of the office of Tibor Derzso.

In 1939, out of 6,738 advocates in Hungary, 3,523, or 52 percent, were considered Jewish. In Budapest, among 3,386 advocates, 2,040, or 60 percent were Jewish. The Second Jewish Law disbarred 1,488 advocates in Budapest, i.e., more than 70 percent, while in the other counties the percentage was even higher.


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