An Account of an Unsuccessful Conversion in the 18th Century
This study is the methodological analysis of a literary presentation and its historical sources of an account of an unsuccessful conversion in Hungary in the 18th century. During the second half of the 18th century, Hungarian Jews lodged several complaints to the monarch, providing accounts of their children’s christening in their infancy. An unknown author, presumably a contemporary, depicted the christening of a young Jewish girl in a literary work, and the struggle between the Jewish and the Christian communities over the girl’s education sometime later. The story reveals that the young girl persevered and was determined to keep her Jewish faith. Although the manuscript of the account came into the possession of Joseph (Juspa) Flesch, (1788–1854) rabbi of Veszprém, sometime during the first half of the 19th century, it was published only in 1925 by his great-grandson, and then only in an English translation. The authenticity of the literary piece of the unsuccessful conversion is verified by archival sources. Fictitious events enrich the work in several cases, presenting her exemplary deeds to the public by spiritualizing the girl’s attachment to her Jewish religion and to traditional values. The archival sources testifying to the events, reflect the voices of representatives of the church and secular society and illustrate the procedure of official bodies in certain christening ceremonies as well as the options of individuals in these processes. Nevertheless, the literary piece conceals some questions: did its author live when these events took place as the manuscript states, or as the linguistic evidence of the account seems to suggest, much later, at the beginning of the 19th century? Why was the manuscript not published at this time? The analysis is followed by a transcription of the manuscript from the original Jüdisch- Deutsch, that is Judeo-German in Hebrew characters.
The Half Century of Jewish Societies in Hungary (1868–1919)
The paper looks at what the organizations that were emerging and developing over a long period of time and disappeared at once in 1944 were like. It attempts to answer this question primarily using data on the Jewish societies established between 1868 and 1919. To do so, the author analyzed and organized into a database the information available on these societies, on the basis of the source collection Györgyi Barabás: Magyarországi zsidó hitközségek, egyletek, társulatok (MTA Judaisztikai Kutatóközpont, Bp. 2007). From the beginnings before the second half of the 19th-century, we have reports of the founding of Chevra Kadishas. The tide turned with the 1867 emancipation law. Of the one and a half thousand societies registered in the database we created on the basis of the source collection, 1,200 were founded in the period following this event. The paper discusses in turn the characteristics of the societies according to their activities (religious, charitable, women’s society, cultural etc.). It provides an analysis for each activity group of the percentage of “sub-denominations” (congressional, orthodox, satus quo ante) that came into being after the schism of the unified Jewish denomination. It quotes examples from documents or the Jewish press of the era to illustrate what life within these societies was like. Finally, it briefly touches on the main subject of the author’s research work, the OMIKE (National Hungarian Jewish Cultural Society).
“Monsieur John, what is it exactly that you want? Anyhow, I have left your Globe for you!” Territorial losses and expansion in the cartoons of satirical papers (1919–1921)
The paper discusses how the Paris peace conference and its consequences were seen in the cartoons published in Hungarian (Magyar Herkó Páter, Borsszem Jankó, Mátyás Diák, Dongó), Austrian (Figaro, Kikeriki, Die Bombe, Die Muskete, Wiener Caricaturen, Der Götz von Berlichingen) and Czechoslovakian (Humoristické listy) satirical papers. It analyzes how they portrayed the northern expedition during which the Hungarian Red Army tried to achieve the modification of the established borders of Hungary by military force, then the contemporary view of the peace conference, and finally the way the territorial losses and expansion following the treaty were depicted. Besides, it takes a close look at the opinions about the new neighboring countries, the new and old conflicts of the former ethnic groups of Austria-Hungary, which were by then evolving within a nation state framework. The visual elements of the cartoons are grouped and compared by motifs. The results show that several symbols are recurring elements in the cartoons (for example, map, eating, animals etc.), but this short period is characterized by the similarity of symbols, besides the unique ideas of the cartoonists. The peculiarity of the cartoons is that humor has disappeared to be replaced by a mutually hostile tone. Besides the territorial losses, the Austrian satirical papers often dealt with the block of Anschluss, while Hungarian papers tried to mirror the inexpressible grief felt over the new borders of Hungary.
The Discursive Lessons of the Tormay Affair
This article examines the scandal of Cécile Tormay, a writer of international repute and prominence in interwar Hungary. Her purported homosexuality, despite its high political stakes, juicy bedroom details, long line of distinguished witnesses, and extensive press coverage has been largely ignored by historians. Cécile Tormay’s relationship with Countess Zichy Rafael became the talk of Budapest during the Zichys’ divorce trial and the subsequent libel case that Tormay and Countess Zichy filed against the count and his servants. Rather than trying to decipher the truth about Tormay’s sexuality and her relationship to the Countess, this article aims to reconstruct ideas and understandings of sexuality and especially of female homosexuality during the 1920s. By contextualizing the scandal within the social and cultural history of interwar Hungary, contemporary newspaper coverage, and the court documents of divorce and libel cases, this article reveals a gendered and highly class based understanding of female sexuality.
Cremation in Hungary. A Short History of the Crematory in Debrecen
Advocated in Western Europe, the modern concept of cremating the deceased became known to Hungarian progressive thinkers at the end of the 19th century, although it was only between the two World Wars that the first crematory was opened in the city of Debrecen. The most pronounced objections against cremation were formulated primarily by the Catholic Church, but neither did the Protestant and Jewish churches support the first steps. In the meaningful debates historical, legal, esthetic, public health-related as well as economic factors were lined up, but throughout the controversy that lasted for seventy years the most important goal of the Catholic Church remained the same: to preserve its privileges; while the communist regime focused on wiping these out. It is important to note that during its short reign, the Revolutionary Governing Council ratified a cremation bill but it lacked the means and the infrastructure for its practical implementation. Another crucial thing to keep in mind is that although the city council of Budapest wanted the capital to be the first city in the country to have a crematory, they could not attain their goal due to the objections of the Catholic majority. For this reason, Budapest did not have the priority over Debrecen, a Protestant city enjoying the homogenous support of its leadership and inhabitants. By the beginning of the 1950s, the communist leadership finally managed to silence the objections of the church, but the construction of the crematory in Debrecen was already concluded in 1932 owing to the city’s previous leadership and the outstanding work of József Borsos. The Council of Ministers had nothing else left to do than rectify the cremation bill, which was done in 1951 by the interior ministry. At the beginning of the 1960s, a shift in the reviving Catholic Church’s viewpoint began to unfold as a result of which cremation was deemed acceptable. In the years following the millennium, altogether there were ten crematories nation-wide, providing the burial service preferred by approximately one third of the population.