Update for 5759 #hungary

Louis Schonfeld <lmagyar@...>

All h-sigers (and not h-shickers [for those Yiddish deprived, a shicker is
an inebriated person]):

It has been several months since I addressed the entire sig on the state of
Hungarian Jewish genealogy in the English speaking Diaspora. Interestingly,
even though one may find scattered Hungarian Jews in nearly all the
countries of the world, the preponderance of Hungarian Jews and their
descendants outside of Israel and Hungary reside almost exclusively in the
English speaking countries of North America, Australia, and Great Britain
with Sweden and Belgium showing significant representation as well.
Notwithstanding that broad based statement almost twenty countries are
represented among the subscribers to our sig. Our subscription list has
reached 250. In addition, there are at least 100 additional active
researchers engaged in Hungarian Jewish genealogy who don't have e-mail
and/or internet capabilities. During the past seven years in excess of 1,000
individuals have made inquiries to me asking about some aspect of their
Hungarian Jewish roots. For your information our sig's geographical
distribution breaks down as follows (approximate numbers given): United
States (170), Canada (20), Israel(20), Australia (6), Hungary (6) and Great
Britain (4). We also have one or two subscribers >from each of the following
countries: New Zealand, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Spain,
France, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. Was any one's country of
residence excluded >from this list?

Before segueing into more provocative issues allow me to express my
appreciation to Marc Polster, our webmaster. Marc has given the descendants
of Hungarian Jews who live outside of Israel and Hungary (where one can find viable Hungarian Jewish institutions)not only a home base, but also a
dynamic association that is more relevant than the sundry shell
organizations that currently masquerade as representative of American
Hungarian Jewry. Our website was originally intended to be the locus of
Hungarian Jewish genealogy, and it is; there was no thought given to the
possibility that our small group would become a central address for all
Hungarian Jewish concerns in this country. Surprisingly, the number of
"hits" that we have received on our website, nearly 2,500 in less than five
months, tells me that people are searching for a way to connect with their
Hungarian Jewish heritage. Another indicator of our growth has been the
increased interest in Hungarian Jewish genealogy demonstrated by attendance
at Hungarian Jewish programs offered at the recent AJGS (now IJGS) annual
conference. We have grown >from a handful of participants at the Toronto
convention which took place in the early 1990s to over 100 people who came
to hear my talk on Hungarian genealogy resources in Israel at the recent
conference held this past summer in Los Angeles

I am working with Marc to add a photo page to our website that will allow
one to display pre-war photographs of Hungarian Jews. Currently, I have
nearly 100 such photographs of Jews >from the town of Ujfeherto in Szabolcs
County that I have scanned into an Access 97 database. Some of these photos
have already been tentatively identified by survivors >from that town now
living in the U.S. and Israel. Hopefully, the remainder can be identified by others. Please visit our website periodically to discover new information that is regularly added there. The website and numerous links there have been updated in the past few days. We have doubled the number of linked sites on our member page >from six to twelve. This gives us a total of several thousand Hungarian Jewish names already charted in family
associations. Perhaps a branch of your family is on one of these charts
waiting to be discovered, and attached to your family tree as well.

A surprising and positive development has been the recent publication of
books recounting the history of Jewish life in the provincial towns. Books
on the history of the Jewish communities of Kisvarda and Ujfeherto have been published within the past twelve months. Both books were written by non Jewish Hungarian historians and published in a high quality format. They are profusely illustrated with photographs of individuals and scenes >from before and after the Holocaust. Of course, they are written in Hungarian, but at least the information has been brought to light, and perhaps someday one or more of these books will be translated into English. While the two books mentioned here do not qualify as Yizkor books, they appear to be sensitive to the trials and tribulations as well as the joys and beauty of Jewish community life that existed in those towns before the destruction. Another recent publishing phenomenon is the issuance of books by local archives that list the Jewish deportees >from the locations were they were ghettoized. One such book published in 1994 by the Vas County archives, lists over 3,000 Jews deported >from Szombathely. Not only are the names listed in alphabetical order but along with the name one finds the birthdate, address, occupation and mother's maiden name as well. Undoubtedly this information comes >from the same registration papers Jews were required to complete at their local police stations in the Spring of 1944 in preparation for the deportations planned by Eichmann and his henchmen. Similar source documents were used to compile the Hajdu Nevek Book published about 1991 by the Szol A
Kakas Mar Foundation and Yad Vashem.

Professor Randolph Braham and his Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies
based at the Graduate Center of CUNY appears to be taking a well deserved
hiatus, hopefully it is only temporary and they will be in full operational
mode soon. But this is more a wish than a prediction. Some of the Hungarian
Jewish scholarship being done today has been undertaken by a post Holocaust generation of Hungarian historians including Tamas Stark, who although he is not Jewish, has a sensitivity to Jewish concerns and thought. The future of Hungarian Jewish scholarship may well reside in Israel which is the home of Michael Silber an American Oleh and Suzanne Nagy a Hungarian Olah both doing work at the Hebrew University. Raphael Vago and Zvi Hartman are doing the similar work at Tel Aviv University. I am sure there are others. Nevertheless, it will be difficult, if not impossible to replicate the work of some of our greatest scholars who have passed away in the preceding fifteen months. People such as: Raphael Patai, Yosef Cohen, and Natan Katz.

Reviewing the organized Jewish Hungarian scene in America is also
disquieting. The World Federation of Hungarian Jews seems to be moribund and only periodically comes out with an issue of their Hungarian language
newspaper Figyelet. Perhaps the other Hungarian Jewish newspaper in North
America, Menorah, published in Toronto is doing better. I don't know. The
Emmanuel Foundation, named after the father of Tony Curtis is only a veiled
cover for raising funds to cover the cost of operating the Hitkozeg, the
self-serving bureaucratic arm of a fossilized Hungarian Jewish
organizational structure which can only watch in bewilderment as new modes
of Jewish renaissance emerge in that country. Among these dynamic new forms
and institutions are the Lauder Javne School, Budapest Chabad, American
Endowment School - a Reichmann/Moskovitz production aimed at strengthening
Orthodox Judaism in Hungary, Memoria-the Hungarian Jewish genealogy society
and also the various Hungarian-Zionist associations which have only been
allowed to operate publicly since the fall of Communism. If there are others
(and I have no doubt that there are others) please inform me so that we have
a complete picture of the current situation. The bureaucratic situation that
permeates the bodies of the Centralized Hungarian Jewish organization
(namely the Hitkoseg) has a direct bearing on us as genealogists. Not only
do they directly control the Jewish archives of Budapest and Ujpest, but
they also have placed all Jewish records in their possession >from areas
throughout Hungary into an unsafe and archivally deficient environment
located in musty catacombs of their central headquarters.

One of the most exciting events during the past fifteen months has been the
emergence of an indigenous Hungarian Jewish genealogy society which is
officially titled Memoria - the Hungarian Jewish Genealogical and Historical
Society of Budapest. Hopefully, we will be receiving additional reports
about their progress >from Gyorgy Ujlaki, their executive director.

Louis Schonfeld

P.S. Those of you who have ordered the book The Jews of Hungary- they
arrived last week, and will be mailed out shortly. Unfortunately,(for me)
there were people who ordered the book and who may not want it anymore (at
least I have not received payment >from them). Therefore, I have extra copies
for sale of both this book and Bridging Three Worlds by Robert Perlman.
Contact me privately for further information. Also, whoever is coordinating
the Australian shipment please contact me.

Please visit our website at:

Join main@groups.jewishgen.org to automatically receive all group messages.