December 1998 Issue
“Jewish fate in Hungarian films” is the title of the three day film festival and conference organised by our magazine in December. The essays in the supplement are connected to the festival, and review the sometimes open, sometimes indirect, hidden or coded presence of this theme in Hungarian films between 1910 and 1990. Jews mostly appear as helpless petty bourgeois in the pre-war (usually) comic films, whereas after the war they are presented as the victims of the Shoah – point out Vera Surányi, Tibor Sándor and Balázs Varga.
The Federation to Maintain Jewish Culture in Hungary is ten years old. The Federation, the first independent democratic Jewish organisation was founded in Budapest in 1988. For a short time (less than a year) it was the centre of all independent Jewish initiative. But since it was based on a secular and pluralistic ideology which allowed non-Jewish participation as well, neither the Hungarian state, nor the foreign Jewish organisations regarded it as their partner. Based on the secular, non-zionist, non religious principles of the postwar generation, the Federation didn’t fit into the framework of the great intemational Jewish bodies. The Federation was the great experiment of the generation of Jews born in the 1950’s and raised in assimilated families – writes János Gadó. Its cultural heritage proved to be lasting, but the organisation itself lost its political weight.
Hatred and prejudice vanish slowly – says Giorgio Pressburger, who was born in Hungary. He is optimistic even though he survived the Shoah in Budapest. The writer fled to Italy in 1956, and writes in Italian today. Since he is at home in both cultures, he was appointed the director of the Italian Institute in Budapest in 1998.
A Budapest Jew in New London: Emil Várai while visiting his relatives looks with surprise at the Jewish community of the small town close to New York: there are no armed policemen in front of the synagogues, the elderly can all live on their income, nobody has to rely on the welfare assistance of the community.