Hungary Escaped Bitter Strife by Virtue of Clever Government

The quietest, most peaceful year for Hungarian Jewry since the close of the World War. There is no set logic for polities, and it is Hungary which this year demonstrated that in political life the principle of cause and effect, which many philosophers consider a sort of iron-bound natural law, is of little significance.

A political storm is passing over most of Europe. On the German front this storm is accompanied by volcanic anti-Semitic outbursts. Politically Hungary is still very closely bound to the old German and Austrian war alliance. Near the borders of Hungary the anti-Semitic blaze of Germany and Austria keeps raging. In Hungary proper there is a German minority which tried very hard to find Magyar help for the spreading of Hitlerism throughout Hungary as well. But present-day Hungary has girded itself in steel against the Hitlerite epidemic. Today Hungary has a very clever and well-established government obliged to keep up a certain friendly relationship with Germany but determined not to import the anti-Semitic racial madness of Hitlerism. Hungary wants quiet and internal peace for its people.

YEAR OF REST AND PEACE

Hungarian Jewry, therefore, had a year of rest and peace. No special anti-Semitic fashionable disease broke out, although Hitlerism made several desperate attempts to break through from the inside. But the Hungarian government quietly and energetically defeated all such efforts. The tactics employed were particularly fortunate in that they prevented the growth of terrorism without employing measures so stringent as to create martyrs and give the Nazist elements an idealistic fight-motive.

The government went still further. Consciously and systematically it halted the regularly recurring periodic disease of the anti-Semitic student movement. Twice a year, at the beginning of each university semester, the world would read for weeks at a time and sometimes for even longer periods about the ugly and sometimes bloody anti-Semitic fights at the Hungarian secondary schools. In these days when the Nazis of Germany and Austria impatiently await student outbreaks against the Jews as the first step towards a general anti-Jewish folk movement, the traditional Hungarian student clashes could not have remained localized. The Hungarian government this year recognized the incipient danger here and took the steps necessary to prevent student demonstrations.

POLICY SUCCESSFUL

The government succeeded well in this purpose, thus preserving the internal peace of the land and indirectly providing a year of calm for Hungary’s Jewish community.

This was no small feat, especially in a year of great economic crisis within the country, when one lighted match would have sufficed to call forth a terrible anti-Semitic conflagration. But the government was well aware of political conditions in the neighboring countries and was prepared to use them to the economic advantage of Hungary.

This policy proved to be both clever and useful. The one calm country between the volcanic Germany and Austria, Hungary had the benefit of a great tourist trade this year. From all the corners of the earth people came to spend their vacations at the beautiful Hungarian health resorts. A great deal of foreign currency was brought into the country and many Hungarians profited. It was a clever move on the part of a government thinking constructively. The Hungarian Jewish population supported this policy with might and main, a fact which the government properly evaluated.

As a result of the internal peace of the country, the Jewish population was able to continue its usual occupations in a normal manner. Jewish political and cultural activities did not suffer from any hysterics, obstacles or specifically Jewish catastrophes. A certain number of refugees from Germany had to be helped in Hungary proper, and the international relief activities on behalf of German Jewish refugees in other countries were also aided by the Hungarian Jews.

ZIONIST CAUSE GAINS

The sentiment for Palestine gathered strength without any effort in that direction. This occurred not only as a result of the consciousness of the widespread anti-Semitism of other countries. Everywhere, and so in Hungary too, there are today direct reasons for Jewish orientation on Palestine. The economic status of the Jewish population grows worse every year. The free professions and the intellectual vocations are overcrowded. Much of the Jewish youth is excluded, ever since the war, from many schools. But even if all these restrictions should be lifted tomorrow, study holds no future.

For a great part of Hungarian Jewish youth Palestine has thus become the one hope. This group is no longer the old assimilated separationist type of Hungarian Jew. The ties binding them to the Jews of the world have become real, for better or worse. This has raised a new problem between the older and the younger generation of Hungarian Jew. Before the war consciously—Jewish parents looked on with pain as their children became too modern and severed all connections with Jewish life and the Jewish people. Today assimilated parents and entirely estranged relatives, many of them converted, see their children and grandchildren become nationally conscious Jews, Zionists, even Orthodox, and watch them prepare on chalutz farms in Hungary for life in Palestine.

True, there is still in Hungary today the sharp contrast of a considerable number of converts, for Christianity is still good stock in trade in Hungary, although the movement towards conversion is no longer fashionable and is not at all the sentiment of the younger generation of Jew. Even in the few yeshivas in eastern Hungary a new spirit is manifest. Young people are beginning to study the Torah once more. The return to Judaism proceeds on a wide front.

Hungarian Jewry has relatively little to complain of with regard to 5694, and hopes the new year will be no worse—there is no limit to how much better it could be. And their wish is not confined to themselves and the Jewish people, but also includes the Hungarian people and their government.

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