In this article, we will be giving you a comprehensive rundown on the history of the Jews in Hungary. The Jewish experience in Hungary is a complex and long-standing one, spanning centuries of turbulent history. As one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe, Jews in Hungary have experienced a unique journey of persecution, accommodation and acceptance. There are a lot of Jewish families who originated in Hungary that have exhibited remarkable resilience as well as a strong connection to Jewish tradition, which has helped preserve their history today.
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The Migration of Jews to Hungary
The first known archaeological evidence of Hungarian Jews that exists today is rooted from the Roman-Jewish community. Years before the Common Era, a massive population of Jews migrated to Rome in the Italian Peninsula. By the time you get to the 1st century after the Roman-Jewish war, a massive flood of Jews settle and begin to positively integrate themselves into Roman society. The Jews finally made their way to Hungary as Roman soldiers during the 2nd century. This resulted in the establishment of a significant number of Jewish settlements by the time we get to the 11th century. During this time, the Jews gained economic success that enabled them to acquire protection from the king.
Unfortunately, the black death during the 14th century resulted in the decline of Jewish activity due to the accusations thrown onto the Jewish population. Anti-jewish persecutions emerged and the blood libels were gaining attention near Hungary. During the 16th century the Ottoman Turks took over Hungary. The Muslim forces took advantage of the Jewish population that were evicted and left adrift in the Mediterranean Sea.
The 19th century was an era of monumental change. The Jewish population in Hungary encountered a sudden increase due to reasons like natural growth, migration, and dissemination of the smallpox vaccine. Budapest would also possess an increase of Jews joining professions since this was a time when they were able to enjoy rights in education and politics. In the beginning of the 20th century, it was identified that about 60% of the Jewish population were merchants, 49% were doctors, 45% were lawyers, and 42% were journalists.
However, there is a heightening divide between the rural and urban Jewish cultures since the rural leaned more towards a traditional stance while the urban culture embraced modernity. The traditional side was headed by Rabbi Moses Schreiber, also known as the Chatam Sofer. He was known to be the most He lived just a little bit upriver and was associated with the city now known as the most distinguished defender of the traditionalist viewpoint. Although, the Chatam Sofer was actually pro-science. He was particularly only against modern innovations that were considered as threats to the traditional culture of Jewish society.
During this period, the Jewish community was on the verge of imminent ruin. Legislated antisemitism began, such as the first Jewish law of 1938. This established restrictions and boundaries when it comes to the participation of Hungarian Jews in society. On top of that, several unfortunate massacres came to light in 1941. In the beginning, the Hungarian government displayed a resistance to the deportation of Hungarian Jews as they still considered the Jewish community as citizens of Hungary. For some time, the Jews were fortunately protected from the cruel hands of the Nazis. However, though the Jewish citizens who resided in Hungary were protected, refugees and migrants who were originally from outside of Hungary weren’t treated the same way.
Sadly, the protection that the Hungarian Jews received from the government did not last. In 1944, the Nazis weren’t satisfied enough with the progress in Hungary and took over the country to do the job themselves. In this way, the Nazis were able to capture the Hungarian Jews and transfer them directly to Auschwitz. The Bloods for Goods plan by outside parties emerged in hopes of rescuing the Jews of Hungary from Auschwitz. The group successfully rescued about 3,500 Jews until they could no longer continue and scale up their operations. Overall, the Jews of Hungary portrayed an immense strength of character. The resilient Hungarian Jewish community continues to exist outside Budapest to continue anew and keep the Jewish culture and tradition alive.