The Ákos Kertész affair

I guess we have to talk about it, although I really think that it is a trumped up scandal. The Hungarian right can point to Ákos Kertész’s bitter words as proof that “Jews” look down on poor downtrodden Hungarians. You see, they think that they are better. This case is somewhat similar to the “Landeszmann case” of 1993 that kept the Hungarian nationalistic right excited for a very long time.

György Landeszmann was a rabbi who, after hearing István Csurka’s seemingly endless antisemitic rantings, got tired of the tirades and said something not too flattering about Hungarian culture without the participation of Hungarians of Jewish origin. The reaction was incredible. Heti Magyarország, the right-wing paper of the day, published a whole book in which Károly Alexa, the editor, collected all the articles dealing with the subject. Believe it or not, there are 266 pages filled with the stuff that followed a couple of ill-chosen sentences. Let me add that Landeszmann was right about the enormous contributions that Hungarians of Jewish origin have made to modern Hungarian culture in general, at least in the last one hundred years. By the way, in the end Landeszmann emigrated to Canada.

And now about Ákos Kertész. He was born in 1932 and finished high school in 1950 but because of his “bourgeois” origin couldn’t enter university. So, he worked on the bodies of Ikarus buses for twelve solid years. On the side he managed to finish university at night. Between 1966 and 1992 he worked at Mafilm where he was a screenplay writer. On the side he wrote several novels which were translated into multiple languages. Between 1994 and 1997 he was editor-in-chief of Élet és Irodalom. He received several prestigious prizes, including the much coveted Kossuth Prize. He was also given the freedom of Budapest. Today, after his bitter words about Hungarians who don’t seem to be yearning for freedom and dignity but who let themselves be enslaved by a party and a government Kertész finds abhorrent, Jobbik wants to strip him of his Kossuth Prize and István Tarlós, who in my opinion talks too much and about things he shouldn’t, wants to get back the key of Budapest.


When his article that caused so much trouble appeared in Amerikai-Magyar Népszava (August 29) I happened to be battling with “Irene” and therefore the news got to me a few days late. My own memories of Ákos Kertész were somewhat spotty. I remembered an interview with him on Zsófia Mihancsik’s Hétzáró, a two-hour political program on KlubRádió, a program that unfortunately no longer exists. I loved that program and wouldn’t have missed it for anything. After a while I began to correspond with Zsófia Mihancsik. Every time there was a memorable or intriguing interview I jotted down a few words recording my impressions. All that happened quite a few years ago. After all, Hétzáró went off the air in 2007. However, I recall that I wrote to Mihancsik after she had an interview with Kertész. I complained that I found him too much to the left for my taste. Mihancsik wrote back something to the effect that yes, but he is such a decent, nice man.

Then this morning I vaguely remembered something about Kertész’s Catholicism and, indeed, with the help of Google I found what I was looking for: an article that appeared in Népszava on June 17, 2010. The title of the article was “God cannot allow such an abomination.” Kertész was devastated by the two-thirds majority and the role the Hungarian Catholic Church played, which for the most part Kertész found far too reactionary. He mentioned as a possible exception Asztrik Várszegi, arch-abbot of Pannonhalma, a liberal churchman.

From the article we find out that indeed Kertész has a Jewish background but with an interesting twist. His father, because of the numerus clausus that restricted the number of Jews allowed to enroll in Hungarian universities, couldn’t continue his studies. Thus he attended “free university” courses where he met Vilmos Juhász, a historian and journalist and a Catholic convert from Judaism. Under his influence Kertész’s father converted and the two of them started an organization called Hungarian Holy Cross Assocation that represented Jewish converts from the early 1930s until 1945. The leader of the organization was Dr. József Ijjas, who later became bishop of Kalocsa (1969-1987). Among his father’s friends was Sándor Sík, the Catholic poet and provost of the Order of the Piarists.

Whether a believing Catholic or not, the elder Kertész was considered to be a Jew and taken to a series of labor camps. He even saw the camp in Bor in which Miklós Radnóti, the poet Zsolt Bayer likes to point to as a perfect Hungarian patriot, was shot to death. Radnóti was also a convert and a student of Sándor Sík.

To make Kertész into an anti-Hungarian Jew who feels superior to the servile Hungarians is quite a feat, but when the Hungarian right sets out to ruin someone they do it with a vengeance. The liberals also find Kertész’s few sentences faulty. First, they complain about his generalization, but I wonder whether he would have fared better if instead of speaking about Hungarians in general he had said “most Hungarians.” I doubt it. Others, like Ákos Mester of 168 Óra, find the text “ghastly.” Or they point out that his description of the role of Hungarians in the Holocaust is inaccurate. After all, Kertész finds “Hungarians alone responsible for the Holocaust.” But what they neglect to point out is the second half of the same sentence: “because the Hungarian people (as opposed to the Germans) didn’t confess their sins and never asked for forgiveness.”

Those who think that Kertész is speaking about Hungarians in the second-person plural and therefore doesn’t consider himself to be Hungarian are really stretching it. Consider this sentence, “I see it with desperation that I am closed into the jail of my mother tongue and nobody needs what I know and nothing happens if my works appear and also nothing happens if they don’t appear.” Kertész is a very bitter man, and I for one sympathize with him.


  1. Hungarian from Tokyo: for every person with a healthy soul, your indignation is perfectly understandable and just.
    But please keep in mind all the time that what you find here is only a very small extremist minority, doing their best to slander and damage Hungary as much as they can.
    The purpose of this blog is to constantly misinform English speaking people by providing them false and untrue information. Some of the readers are malicious enough to take part in these actions voluntarily (Mutt Damon, Hungarian Jew, etc.), some others are pliable enough to not recognize this hostile effort (Paul, Kristen, etc.).
    So, fortunately, you should never believe that you should hide your being Hungarian because of these vicious actors.
    What you can do in Japan or everywhere is that you yourself show that most Hungarians are people of character. You yourself be the positive example and don’t let yourself down.

  2. HungarianJew: “Here is our friend from Tokyo wants to deport us.”
    So you admit you are defaming Hungary. Nice.
    Because he was talking about those.
    So either you admit it or you can’t read.

  3. Paul: “And, if anyone doubts anti-Semitism is alive and kicking in 21st century Hungary, just read this thread.”
    With all due respect, this thread is clearly about anti-Hungarian behavior.
    I think you widely missed the text.

  4. ESBalogh: “They really believe in what they are saying. And this is really frightening because they are certainly not alone.”
    These words are probably the very first signs of a sane recognition in your entire life.
    Finally we arrived here!!!
    I understand you may find it frightening that you are nothing more than a very small minority.
    The reason behind this is that such misanthropic and hateful, sick souls are fortunately small in number, compared to the population.
    You are at the very start of a learning curve, during which, however hard it may be, you learn that there are different worlds outside of your extremely pinched little one.

  5. @Mutt Damon: “What’s your emotive import of Johnny Boy From Tokio’s posts?”
    Honestly what do you think is a rational response to them?
    In specifics, his arguments about homogeneity are repulsive. Some Japanese, as with some Hungarians, have a tendency to enbrace xenophobia and have excluded large parts of their population from citizenship rights on the basis of ethnic purity. The simple difference of having the wrong surname (suggesting mixed blood) is enough to condemn you. And their historic record with the indigenous Ainu is well recorded.
    That aside I have often looked at comparisons between Eastern cultures and Hungarian culture. I have bored too many people with some of my conjectures and musing, but in terms of social cohesion in Japan and other Asian countries I think there are interesting parallels and counter-examples.
    As it happens I did, a while back (and just for fun), start to outline some of my theories about Hungarians. It was, as you would expect, esoteric to the extreme, being based as it was on Japanese theories of their society. These are called Nihonjinron or 日本人論, literally ‘theories about Japanese’ and cover a number of distinct domains.
    I likewise called mine Hangariijinron ハンガリー人論 or ‘theories about Hungarians.
    My basic assertion was that Hungarian culture is basically Asian with fundamental aspects missing, leading to the distortions and lack of social cohesion that most people seem to complain about.
    For example, the strength of Orbán’s appeal to Hungarians is their longing for ‘amae’ (甘え) – “the behavior of a person attempting to induce an authority figure, such as a parent, spouse, teacher or boss, to take care of him.”
    The racist and xenophobic rantings of various people here (Budapest) is reflected in lots of similar uniqueness theories amongst some Japanese (language, culture, blood etc.).
    Does that answer your question? Can I get on with some work now?

  6. Mutt Damon: “He made JB to write things otherwise he wouldn’t write”
    Yes, the change was noticeable. JB got real encouragement from Tokyo. By, the way, he is in Tokyo. I checked that out.

  7. @Vandorlo Thank you for the reply. It was very interesting.
    @Eva “By, the way, he is in Tokyo. I checked that out.” It’s very easy to spoof your location. Frankly I don’t think our boy was even Hungarian. We’ll see when he comes back 🙂

  8. While I was reading the comments above I was reminded of the remark made by Harnack the renowned theologian to Houston Stewart Chamberlain:
    “You are really possessed by an anti-Jewish demon that clouds your vision”.
    It is sad to see what has become of Hungary, a wonderful country with great potential, yet which will never realise its potential if it follows its demons.

  9. Mutt: “We’ll see when he comes back :-)”
    Unless he changes his IP address he will not come back.

  10. Johnny Boy wrote:
    “But please keep in mind all the time that what you find here is only a very small extremist minority, doing their best to slander and damage Hungary as much as they can.”
    This is as far from the case as possible. Most of the commentors to this blog, as well as Dr Balogh, share a love for Hungary, its culture and the vast majority its people and wish nothing less than that it thrive as a modern, market-oriented democracy in the center of the European Union. If we did not love and wish the best for Hungary, why would we bother reading and writing about it?
    It is out of that love and concern that I, for one, am alarmed when I hear that the Government has used the people’s private retirement savings to buy shares of MOL above market price and in a non-transparent transaction, such that the possibility of major fraud is highly likely but impossible to investigate, or that is has detained legal ethnic Tibetan residents of the country to keep them from protesting the visit of the leader of the country now occupying their homeland*, or that the goverment has signed secret treaties with Communist China, or signed over an airport to a Chinese firm for 75 (yes, SEVENTY-FIVE!) years. And yes, I am alarmed that a huge number of political appointees have now been placed in offices with terms extending beyond two election cycles, effectively cutting these appointees off from popular oversight.
    (Johnny Boy, I might well ask why do you hate Hungary so much that you do not speak out against these actions of your government?)
    I love Hungary and the Hungarians, but I am deeply afraid that it and they are being sold down the river for personal gain hidden behind a surface of fake patriotism and that the majority of the people appears to have acquiesced as most or all of the instruments available to citizens to oversee the workings of their own state have been systematically destroyed.
    Unlike others in this thread, I do not see in Hungarians any sign of a herd mentality and the only generalizations about Hungarians I am willing to make are those that indicate their refusal to act like members of a herd. I see people of every religious and ethnic background who are proud of being Hungarians and proud precisely because being Hungarian often means having a stubbornly independent streak. Hungarians strike me as not much liking being told what to do and preferring to find their own, inventive ways of solving problems and enjoying the privacy of their own homes and families, thus I do not find them innately suited to authoritarianism at all, let alone yearning for a “strong leader”. Indeed, history has proven again and again that Hungarians do not practice authoritarianism well at all, having failed at it too often, having been led astray by too many “strong leaders” and that the true spark of the Hungarian people has always come in inventiveness in the face of authority and a de facto resistance to the frequent illogic of their state and circumstance. Yes, I am concerned for the Hungary state, but my faith in Hungarians — of all faiths, ethnicities, origins — remains strong.
    * Nothing is more disappointing about Victor Orban than the fact that someone who so strongly spoke out against the Soviet presence in Hungary does not speak a peep about the Chinese in Tibet!

  11. I think this thread is an eye opener, if anyone has the patience to read it. The inferiority felt by many Hungarians towards other Hungarians are striking. A sociologist can write a dissertation based on this single thread.
    I very much like Vandorlo’s short outline about the parallel between Japanese and Hungarian society. It would be very interesting to see a comparison between North American and Hungarian society, as in North America, especially in Canada multiculturalism works. In the wider Canadian society no-one (except some true extremist) would even think to pull the card of “heritage”. If you are a Canadian citizen, you are Canadian. As simple is that. THis is true for that States also. BOth countries did apologize for the “sins” committed to the natives, Japanese and Chinese trough the last centuries, and they really meant it. (Even the catholic church apologized.) THe biggest issue about “foreigners” in the States has nothing to do with religion or heritage, it is about the illegal immigration (Mexican). In Canada is the same issue but with immigrant boats.
    (Many) Hungarians are stuck in their own purgatory, where they feel that they are better, based on some imaginary, clean bloodline. THey feel that they are pure bred, and this gives them kind of satisfaction. That alone would not bring happiness although, as they think that the only stop for Hungary to reach heaven is to get rid of impurities from their petri dish, like Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists and so forth. THey fail to realize that in their cleansing they are the ones who became the contaminant of a “perfect society”.
    “I saw him now, weighed down by death,
    sink to the ground, although his eyes were bent
    always on Heaven: they were Heaven’s gates”

  12. GW: “Most of the commentors to this blog, as well as Dr Balogh, share a love for Hungary”
    Your argument sound like the child molester who really shares a love for children.
    Doesn’t matter what you say or she or anyone else says about how they love Hungary when all they do is the exact opposite and it is so obvious that it is right in the eye of the observer.
    “If we did not love and wish the best for Hungary, why would we bother reading and writing about it?”
    Sustained malignancy and will for doing damage results in just as much effort.
    “Johnny Boy, I might well ask why do you hate Hungary so much that you do not speak out against these actions of your government?”
    You still don’t understand.
    You want to “save” Hungary from its own government which the voters elected with a huge majority.
    And the government still has higher support than all other parties combined.
    Yet you don’t care and you libel the Hungarians for electing and keeping in power this government. And you are extremely frustrated because there are no violent riots against them.
    What you fail to realize is that YOU ARE WRONG. Hungarians wanted and still want this government and you are NOT IN THE POSITION to ‘save’ the people against their own will.
    If they want to go this way, let them and quit trying to reign over them!

  13. “Unlike others in this thread, I do not see in Hungarians any sign of a herd mentality and the only generalizations about Hungarians I am willing to make are those that indicate their refusal to act like members of a herd.”
    So what you are saying is 100% the opposite of what Kertész belched up.
    Can you imagine and understand how a Hungarian is offended by such abominable text?

  14. @JB “like the child molester who really shares a love for children.”
    Well, following this analogy, you are like a serial rapist, who only rapes women he is in love with. How romantic …

  15. Johnny Boy,
    Do you support, and did you vote for the Hungarian government’s non-transparent purchase of MOL shares above market price with money appropriated from private pension accounts?
    Do you support, and did you vote for the Hungarian government entering into at least six secret treaties with Communist China?
    Do you support, and did you vote for the government renting an airport to a Chinese firm for 75 years?
    Do you accept the creation of a second parliamentary caucus — with all the monetary benefits of an independent caucus — from the parliamentarians elected on a single Fidesz-organized list, although the voters had no opportunity to distinguish between Fidesz and later-KDNP candidates?
    What do you think of Victor Orban telling the Americans to “ignore what he says in the campain”, as shown in the Wikileaks cable? How is this any different from Gy.F.’s “lies”?
    I have committed no libel against the Hungarians and I insist you retract that statement. I have always insisted that the election of the current government was the will of the voters and they have been duly elected for four years. Basta. But I also insist that the government does not have a clear policy mandate because they did not present any clear policies to the voters (the economic plans appear to have been very much like Richard Nixon’s “secret plan” for ending the Vietnam War: improvised or non-existent) and it has been abundantly clear that they are very loose with the truth. They owe the voters concrete explanations for their policy decisions and total transparency in their financial transactions. For example, did anyone take major derivative positions in MOL shares in advance of the government’s share purchase? To what accounts were the purchasing funds paid and in what currency? A transparent system would remove any suspicions of wrong doing.
    Look Johnny, this government, like any government, is made up of people, fallable imperfect people. If you disagree with that, then there’s no poin in having a discussion. Some of these people will do well and others will make mistakes. If you disagree with that, then there’s no point in having a discussion. The difference between a dictatorship and a democracy is that the faults and imperfections are kept in the public eye so that the voting citizenry can be as well-informed as possible when they go next to the polls. If you disagree with that, then there’s no point in having a discussion.
    I am personally concerned that this will not be the case, however, in Hungary. I would very much like to learn that my concern is unfounded, but not one of your posts has brought me any closer to that.

  16. JB: “Can you imagine and understand how a Hungarian is offended by such abominable text?”
    He still does not get it! Jews, gypsies, and the 1/3 (and growing) are ALL Hungarians. You are not a special uber race, you have no clean line. HUngarians = Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists, liberals, and those who are sympathize wit them for one reason or another. YOU are NOT HUNGARY. Hungary is a mixture of cultures, religion, heritage and history. Anyone who denies that is NOT HUNGARIAN, only by breed but not by heart. Shame on you and the likes of you who spread your hate and pretend to be Hungarians, and taking away the glory of the real Hungarians who are welcoming and understanding. You give a bad name for Hungarians!
    One of the greatest Hungarian poet of all the time without a doubt is Attila Jozsef. Here are some great quotes from this True Hungarian from his very famous poem that most Hungarian can recite, By the Danube (first in Hungarian then in English)
    Jozsef Attila: A Dunanal
    Anyám kún volt, az apám félig székely,
    félig román, vagy tán egészen az.
    Anyám szájából édes volt az étel,
    apám szájából szép volt az igaz.
    Mikor mozdulok, ők ölelik egymást.
    A világ vagyok – minden, ami volt, van:
    a sok nemzedék, mely egymásra tör.
    A honfoglalók győznek velem holtan
    s a meghódoltak kínja meggyötör.
    Árpád és Zalán, Werbőczi és Dózsa –
    török, tatár, tót, román kavarog
    e szívben, mely e multnak már adósa
    szelíd jövővel – mai magyarok!
    Attila Jozsef (John Szekely): By the Danube
    My mother was Cumanian, my father
    Half-Szekler, half-Rumanian or whole.
    From my mother’s lips sweet was every morsel,
    And from my father’s lips the truth was gold.
    When I stir, they are embracing each other;
    I am the world, all that is past exists:
    Men are fighting men with renewed anguish.
    Dead conquerors ride to victory with me
    And I feel the torment of the vanquished.
    Arpad and Zalan, Werboczy and Dozsa,
    Turks, and Tartars, Slovaks, Rumanians
    Fill my heart which owes this past a calm future
    As our great debt, today’s Hungarians.

  17. @Johnny Boy
    Let me introduce you to Eva.
    “Eva Balogh is a former Professor of History and Dean of Morse College at Yale University. At Yale, she taught East European history and published a number of studies on Hungarian foreign policy and party politics between the two world wars. Dr. Balogh left Hungary as a twenty-year-old university student in December 1956, after the failed Hungarian revolution.
    Many scholars, professionals, and media outlets follow the news and analysis of the Hungarian Spectrum. It has been cited by several leading academics, as well as The Economist, when reporting on political developments in Hungary.”
    Well, you know being a professor at Yale is a big deal. Actually US foreign policy is shaped by professors from Yale, Harvard, Princeton , SAIS and Georgetown.

  18. At the end of the day folks, remember that Johnny boy lives in Hungary and he will have to cope with the results / fallout of Orbans big adventure. But if it all goes belly up, then I hope you won’t be looking to those pesky foreigners to help you out.
    One point I do find amusing though JB is your labelling of us as a minority or communists. The techniques Fidesz use would certainly get the thumbs up from Rakosi and co – modern day salami tactics. And of course, Fidesz has number of ex-communists in its ranks. Interesting how JB is so forgiving of them.
    An while we might have opinions that are considered as a minority view in Hungary, they are pretty mainstream in most other societies.
    Anyway JB, do carry on. You are a fine ambassador for the people 🙂

  19. I’m not even Jewish myself, but feel just as bitter as Kertesz about the state not only of Hungary (as the very worst case) but indeed all of post-Communist central Europe as a whole. Yes, Hungary is not “backsliding” but seems to be once again the front-runner in the upcoming repudiation of the liberal open society that was championed (at least on the rhetorical surface) two decades ago. Well-educated twentysomethings who gleefully attack the “internationalist globalist hegemony” in the name of the socialism of fools – and who see the remnants of Hungary’s Jewish bourgeoisie (i.e. the only class in that unfortunate land that ever did anything worthwhile) as dusty, aged, unwelcome relics – all prefigure nothing good for the years to come. There is less rhetorical violence elsewhere, but only because Schickelgruber and Dzhugashvili were more successful in creating the bland hegemony they desired.
    I’m already resigning myself to the prospect of meeting with Hungarian friends in New York, Berlin, or elsewhere, and never needing to venture east of Schonefelde Airport into what seems likely to become Europe’s dark redneck underbelly.


  21. Paul: “And, if anyone doubts anti-Semitism is alive and kicking in 21st century Hungary, just read this thread.”
    With all due respect, this thread is clearly about anti-Hungarian behavior.
    I think you widely missed the text.
    Posted by: Johnny Boy | September 09, 2011 at 05:18 AM
    JB – it’s not what you (pl) write, or even what you meant (or think you meant) when you wrote it that matters, it’s what it reveals about how you think.
    The fact that you don’t understand this, or comprehend just how you come across to civilised readers is truly sad.
    It’s like a blind child shouting at sighted adults becaue we keep going on about things we can ‘see’.

  22. And I noticed that amongst your blitz of replies, there was no mention of my post pointing out that if we didn’t care about Hungary, we wouldn’t post on this blog.
    As always, you ignore the points you have no answer to.

  23. Jobbik sued Kertész under the minority/hate-speech paragraph – “for inciting hatred against a community.”
    This paragraph is supposed to protect minorities, but doesn’t name them, and Jobbik has been constantly trying to use it “to protect” the “community of ethnic Hungarians” against perceived threats of otherness, for example Budapest Pride. So far, mostly Roma have been tried for “violence against a community”, who defended themselves against extremist attacks. Knowing the Hungarian courts, this might become interesting.

  24. To Magyar: I suggest that in your spare time learn something about the history of the social democratic movement in Western Europe versus the Russian development of communism. In the last category I especially suggest to read something about the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. Christian versus Jewish in this context is utter nonsense.

  25. @ Magyar: If your assumption is right that only jews were responsible for communism in “Europe that killed tens of millions”, I am not really sure why would they only have to apologize for Christians. Not only Christians suffered. Or you saying that there were no Christian or Cataholic communists? You saying that only Jews were/are communists? Wasn’t Orban and his father a communist? How about Csurka wasn’t he a communist and an informer of the communist regime? Communist (as you meant it) were cannibalizing their own race and ethnicity regardless of religion. You are not Magyar, as you call yourself. You are one of those close minded Christian nationalists from the extreme right that needs some education. You use your religion as a cover-up for your hate.
    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
    Steven Weinberg

  26. Ákos Kertész has now fled to Canada and applied for refugee status owing to the harassment and threats incited by the Hungarian Government press campaign.
    Hungary keeps giving a good account of itself for history: Expect more signs of Hungarian enlightenment and benignity…
    Stevan Harnad (Hernád István)
    Canadian-Hungarian Democratic Charter
    Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Sciences
    Université du Québec à Montréal

  27. Hahahahahaaaa.
    Akos Kertesz is a NAZI (he said Hungarians are genetically inferior). And emigrates because Hungarian criticized his nazism. A nazi complain of being critized by atrocious Hungarians.:))) I have to laugh!

  28. @Moschovitsh: “he said Hungarians are genetically inferior”
    He used the word “alattvalo” which doesn’t translate to “inferior”.It is a mistranslation or a conscious distortion of what he meant.

  29. Moshcovitsh: Hahahahahaaaa. Akos Kertesz is a NAZI (he said Hungarians are genetically inferior).”
    Wrong he said that Hungarians were subservient.

  30. Moshcovitsh: “. And emigrates because Hungarian criticized his nazism.”
    Well, it was a bit more than criticism. He was physically attacked on the street and received death threats.

  31. A nazi saying about a Jew that his nazi because …. we have successfully landed on Planet Hungary. Unbuckle you seat belts.
    It’s such an utter shame the way country handled this one single letter to the editor. It flushed out so many closet anti-semite and held a mirror in front of the Hungarian society’s ugly face These people are like leukocytes of the nation – defending us from infectious diseases, like intelligence.

  32. There is a certain kind of thinking among some Hungarians that is very difficult for Americans getting used to. While the nationalists are the most guilty of it, I think that Kertész exhibits some of it as well.
    I remember being told by some old man at a metro station around 1988 or 1989 that, “the Jews brought in the Communists to punish the Hungarians for supporting the Nazis.” (Let me leave aside that this pins the actions on the Nazis and ignores the direct involvement, not just support, of some Hungarians.)
    I was struck that people could think in these terms. Treating an ethnicity or a group as if it has motives like a person just baffled me. It didn’t take long for me to learn that a lot of people thought in these terms. Some Jews who survived the war seemed also to have come to think in these terms. A frield of mine spoke with a well respected academic who had been a big supporter of the Rákosi, and asked him how he could do that. The answer began with “You have to understand, once I was Jewish …”
    If Kertész has, indeed, fallen into the trap of treating ethnicities as people who can be “guilty”, “worthy”, or “in need of forgiveness”, it really is no surprise. After all, he grew up being told this about the Jews.

  33. @Jeff I think you are wrong. Kertesz is talking about the “the nation” as in the people living in the country, not the Hungarians as an ethnic group. The context of the letter is the frustration about the recent political changes in Hungary. He was having a hard time to understand why Hungarians don’t see where they are going. One example is the new constitution that declared the loss of independence intentionally before the deportations – a slap on the face of the Jewish community. This is a tendency that is far away from the way for instance the Germans (Germany – not the lederhosen ethnicity) came to terms with the past. Kertesz’ rumblings are not the opposite of the full scale racist attacks against him.
    We can look at this as a test. The Hungarian society failed it miserably.

  34. I just sent this post to a bunch of my friends as I agree with most of what you’re saying here and the way you’ve presented it is awesome.

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