The story of the Resistance Movement in Hungary – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on September 29, 2020

My Hungarian parents were both survivors of Auschwitz. I heard their stories often while growing up. I never asked, but always wondered why there was no resistance. Why did 600,000 Hungarian Jews go like sheep to their slaughter?As we reflect 75 years after the end of World War II, we have much documentation about great resistance to the Nazis in many countries: Poland, France, Belgium, Greece, Albania and more. From Britannica to Wikipedia, there are long lists. But Hungary is missing.In fact, there was resistance in Hungary, as I discovered in my research for Recipes from Auschwitz, a book I wrote. I came across Brothers for Resistance and Rescue, by David Gur, a Hungarian Jew who was part of the Resistance. Rafi Benshalom, another leader, also described the resistance movement in We Struggled for Life.I met with Gur in Israel and was inspired to learn more.The Resistance movement was obstructed by the relative complacency of Hungarys largely assimilated Jewish population who believed the Hungarian government would always have their backs. After all, theyd been loyal citizens for decades. Jewish leaders fed that complacency, urging their constituents to obey the laws, including strict edicts that robbed them of their property as well as their political, civil and economic rights. Resistance was not in the DNA of Hungarian Jews.But this attitude of unquestioning obedience didnt carry over to young, idealistic Zionists, who realized that Hungary offered them no future. These pioneers formed the Halutz movement and became the backbone of the Young Zionist Resistance Movement.Although their activities were forbidden, by 1941, they started helping their young Zionist compatriots fleeing Poland and Slovakia. Together, in 1944, the Young Zionists launched the Tiyul, an operation that smuggled more than 15,000 Halutzim to safety in Palestine. cnxps.cmd.push(function () { cnxps({ playerId: '36af7c51-0caf-4741-9824-2c941fc6c17b' }).render('4c4d856e0e6f4e3d808bbc1715e132f6'); });That was a pivotal year: The Nazis began losing ground in the war, and on March 19 Germany invaded Hungary, before its ally could switch sides. Fearing the worst, the Resistance went underground, providing members with Christian identities printed by their own forging experts. Gur, a 17-year-old aspiring draftsman, established several underground printing operations in various apartments in Budapest. He was joined by others, including Zvi Seidenfeld, and they played pivotal roles in rescuing Jews.In the meantime, Jews throughout the provinces were rounded up, collected in ghettos, and readied for deportation. The Resistance sent members to warn the villagers. They also brought Christian IDs to enable many to go underground and avoid detection. Their efforts, however, were largely unsuccessful, because few believed the young Zionists. Within several weeks, nearly half a million were shipped to Auschwitz.BY JULY 1944, the only Jews left alive in Hungary were the less than 200,000 in Budapest. More forging centers were established, but it was a dangerous business. Many were betrayed and raided. In his book, Gur tells of one incident in which he and two of his accomplices were caught and imprisoned. One was beaten to death while questioned by members of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, a fiercely Fascist group. In a daring rescue, complete with Zionists dressed in Nazi uniforms, Gur and his partner were freed.Toward the middle of that summer, both the Swedish and Swiss governments decided to intervene and attempt to save the remaining Jews.Carl Lutz, the Swiss vice-consul, was in charge of British interests. Lutz procured 7,800 protective passes called Schutz-Passen each earmarked to protect an entire family for safe passage to Palestine. Surprisingly, the Hungarian authorities honored the legality of these documents. Zionist forgers worked non-stop in the Glass House, previously a window and commercial glass manufacturing factory in Budapest. Located only a block from the Swiss consulate, it was designated as an annex and furnished with a Swiss flag and plaque identifying it as a diplomatic building.Jews by the thousands lined up, clamoring for these life-saving documents. And when they were gone, thousands more were forged.But October 15, 1944, saw a dramatic turn for the worse for the Jews of Budapest.The Arrow Cross Party seized control of the government. Deportations that had been suspended in July resumed. Zvi Seidenfeld was caught with an attach case of forged documents and brutally tortured before being saved in another daring rescue mission.In the meantime, undisciplined, drunken Arrow Cross thugs roamed the streets looking for Jews, randomly murdering thousands in cold blood. Many others were dragged to the bank of the Danube, forced to remove their shoes, and with ankles tied, shot dead to fall into the freezing river water. Schutz-Passes no longer helped.But again, the Resistance prevailed, meeting the needs of a huge number of new orphans created by the senseless murders. The Halutzim quickly organized more than 50 shelters, providing daily food, clothing and adult supervision, rescuing more than 5,000 defenseless children.The entire rescue effort in Hungary is shrouded in controversy. In his essay, Rescue Operations in Hungary: Myths and Realities, Hungarian history expert Randolph Braham bemoans the lack of any organized effort by the Jewish leadership. But he nevertheless credits the Halutzim for their role in the rescue effort that helped save the lives of nearly 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the waning months of World War II.After the end of the war, several Young Zionist Resistance fighters chronicled their activities, including Benshalom and Gur, providing names and details of the entire resistance movement. To their everlasting credit, the Youth Zionist Resistance movements provided a shining example of the teachings of Hillel: At a time when there are no men, you be a manDr. Alex Sternberg is the author of Recipes from Auschwitz: The Survival Stories of Two Hungarian Jews with Historical Insight. http://www.alexsternberg.com. Cammy Bourcier is a journalist, teacher, and daughter of Zvi Seidenfeld.

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The story of the Resistance Movement in Hungary - The Jerusalem Post

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