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Catholics and Jews in buda (Old Buda) in 1938 1944

By Attila Jakab

buda
In va Gls fitting description, buda is the part of Budapest looking back to a history of almost two
thousand years, albeit with interruptions, which has achieved its present day image after a turbulent
history.1
The beginnings of the citys history go back to Roman times. The military camp at Aquincum and the
neighbouring flourishing city, which had also been the seat of the Roman procurator, was reduced to
rubble in the period of migrations. Centuries later, under the kings of the House of rpd (11th to 13th
centuries) it was the seat of a chaplaincy; then under the name -Buda [old buda] the city of Hungarian
queens from the mid-14th century. Later, in the period of Turkish occupation (16th and 17th centuries),
it was demesne lands populated by Hungarian followers of the Reformed church. It became the family
property of the Zichy counts from 1659 as a country town (oppidum) controlled by its feudal landlord.2
buda took a long time to become populated after the Turkish occupation. In 1698 count Istvn Zichy
Jr settled 50 German families in the town. Depriving the Protestants of their church, the Saint Peter and
Paul Parish Church still standing today was built on the same place between 1744 and 1749. The parish
was granted the right to keep the parish register already in 1698.
The plague in 1738-1739 had a major impact on the population. According to contemporary sources,
about half of the residents of buda (888 people) perished then. The number of population, however,
had grown swiftly by 1756. According to the minutes taken of the visit of count Lajos Batthny the
canon of Bratislava, over 2/3 of the 3677 residents of buda were Catholics. Of that, tax-payer family
heads numbered 409. The number of Jews was 660.
In 1766 buda was returned to the Treasury. In the 18th century it was mainly populated by serves and
cotters that lived in one or two-room cottages mainly built from sun-dried bricks. The Catholic parish
was really active at the time: it organised social life and charity services (Institutum Pauperum),
employed midwives and maintained a school. Catholics mostly spoke German in 1798; preaching in
Hungarian happened only once a month.
Feudal economy (tilling the land and livestock) had been, in fact, predominant up to 1880, but
viticulture had also an important part to play in the life of residents. The poor forms of housing explain
why about 88% of the houses got damaged in the 1838 flood (52% fell down, 19% were heavily and
17% slightly damaged). At the time, buda had about 8,000 residents.3 The growth of the number of
population was partly the result of count Istvn Szchenyi establishing a ship building and repair plant
on the budai sziget [buda isle] in 1835.

va Gl: buda helyrajza, [geography of buda] in Horvth Mikls (ed.) Kaba Melinda (ed.): Tanulmnyok
Budapest mltjbl [studies from the past of budapest] XXI, Budapest, 1979, p. 105.
2
Cf also va Gl, Az budai uradalom a Zichyek fldesurasga alatt 16591766, [the buda demesne under the landlords
zichy] Akadmiai Kiad, Budapest, 1988.
3
Cf Mikls Ltay, rvz budn, [flood in buda] in Rdi Kroly (ed), Tanulmnyok buda trtnetbl [studies from
the history of buda], III, Budapest Fvros III. kerletnek nkormnyzata, Budapest, 1990, pp. 95-102.
1

After the defeat of the Hungarian War of Independence, buda was attached to Buda (from 1849 to
1861). It became an independent country town in 1861, then District 3 of the united Budapest in 1873.
Its parts include buda, jlak4 and Csszrfrd.5
The destruction of vineyards due to phylloxera (1886-1890) was a major turning point in the economy
and social life of buda since it forced a significant part of the population to change its trade and
lifestyle. Not to mention the poverty it had resulted in.
buda had a population of 72,145 in 1896. Ordered by the Prince Primate, the language of the Sunday
High Mass was changed to Hungarian. That, of course, only meant the sermon, the prayers and songs.
You can say that District 3 was one of the poorest districts of the capital between the two World Wars.
rpd Bridge only started in 1939 and was completed on 7 November, 1950. Agriculture, which had
been flourishing earlier, only provided a hand-to-mouth existence at the time. Unemployment was high
(the brick factories of the district only offered seasonal jobs from March to October 6) and the majority
of the population lived in unhealthy barrack flats and suffered from alcoholism. Ship building, the
textile industry and the building materials industry were the most important employers. It is no
coincidence that the Salesians settled there in 1920 in the Saint Alajos House (79, Kiscelli Rd)
established for abandoned children by the Esztergom parish priest goston Fischer (1918).7 The
population of buda was 46,865 at the time.8 Most of the former Germans and Slovaks had become
Magyars.
A member of the German national minority in present day Hungary characterised the period as follows:
After the tragedy of Trianon multi-culturalism started to decline, i.e. a more or less forced
Magyarization was started: speak Hungarian if you eat Hungarian bread etc. You could only get a
government job or position if you Magyarized your German name. Grape harvest festivals were
arranged under Hungarian symbols and red-white-green flags abounded in restaurants, too. The
different national minorities had become Magyars step by step; German speech had disappeared from
the streets. As the Volksbund (der Deutschen in Ungarn) was established, the local German culture
flourished for a short time in 19431944 (there was a Volksbund organisation in buda), but it
disappeared for ever after World War II.9

The Jewish community of buda


4

It was a separate parish as well: the Sarls Boldogasszony [Blessed Lady with Scythe] parish (with registration rights since
1711). Its parish priest was Dr Lajos Plfi in 1943 and its curate was Gyula Gyimesi. A magyarorszgi latin s grg
szertarts vilgi s szerzetes rmai katolikus papsg nvtra s az orszgos hivatalok tmutatja. [register of the Roman
Catholic lay and monastic priests of the Latin and Greek services and their national offices in Hungary] [ed by] Hivatalos
adatok alapjn sszelltotta Pilinyi Gyula primsi tisztvisel 1943. vre, Budapest, 1943.
5
Bksmegyer only became part of District 3 in 1949 when Greater Budapest was established.
6
Cf Jzsef Kdr, budai tglagyrak, [buda brick factories] j Mandtum Kiad, Budapest, 2010. The book fails to
mention that the brick factories were collection camps for Jews in 1944.
7
http://obudaiszaleziak.hu/lelkeszseg/bemutatkozas.
8
Mikls Ltay, A szabadsgharc bukstl 1950-ig, [from the defeat of the war of independce till 1950], in Csongor Kiss
(ed.), buda vszzadai, [the centuries of buda], Better Kiad, Budapest, 2000, p. 281.
9
Jzsef Fehrvri (Fritz), buda nmet kzssgei a 1920. szzadban, [the German communities of buda in the 19th20th centuries], in Vendel Hambuch (ed.), Nmetek Budapesten, [Germans in Budapest], Fvrosi Nmet Kisebbsgi
nkormnyzat, Budapest, 1998, p. 330. On Volksbund, cf Lornt Tilkovszky, Ez volt a Volksbund: a nmet

npcsoportpolitika s Magyarorszg 1938-1945, [that was volksbund: the german minority policy and hungary],
Budapest, 1978; Spannenberger (Norbert), A magyarorszgi Volksbund Berlin s Budapest kztt, 1938-1944,
[Hungarian volksbund between berlin and Budapest], Budapest, 2005

In accordance with a summary by va Gl, Jews had been around at buda since the early 1710s but
their settling started in larger numbers in around 1725: censuses registered 10 Jewish families in 1725
and 24 in 1727 but most of them had only been living there for only 1-3 years. In 1727 there already
was a Jewish temple at buda, in the same place at 163, Lajos Street where a synagogue built in
Classicist style at the beginning of the 19th century is still standing. The first buda Jewish temple was
in fact a prayer house not a synagogue; we know about its existence from a complaint lodged by the
widow of Pter Zichy against her stepson Ferenc Zichy because of his domineering at buda. Ferenc
Zichy attacked buda in 1727 with his armed men and had the school of the Jews (Judenschull as
prayer houses were called at the time) destroyed. After the incident, the Jewish prayer house was soon
rebuilt on permission by the landlady and it was already mentioned as a synagogue in 1732. The second
buda synagogue was built on its place in 1767 and the third standing today in 1821.10 It was one
of the most important buildings of its age.
The Chevra Kadisha (sacred society) was founded in 1770; it mostly supported the elderly, arranged for
the ritual burials of the deceased and cared for the cemetery.
Building the Classicist style buda synagogue in 1789 is linked to the name of rabbi R.Mose ben
Jichak Mncz of Podolia (1750 k.1831), who opposed modernising efforts because they meant for
him an implicit centralisation of Jewish communities after a Catholic pattern without giving up
anything from the traditions of the religion.11 Due to his stance, the buda community followed the
conservative Polish line.
The Jewish community also built other buildings on the plot of the synagogue in the course of the 18th
century: the so termed community house was mentioned in 1772; in 1789 the Jewish hospital was
described as a building that had been in use for some time. When in accordance with a decree by Jzsef
II the Jewish community was ordered to establish a school, it should have been constructed on the same
plot, between the synagogue and the bank of the river Duna. The community, however, opposed the
idea (they considered the place unhealthy due to the proximity of the hospital and the port), and
achieved in the end to get permission to purchase a Treasury building from the Chamber and expand it
for the purpose at 11, Zichy Street in which a Jewish school had been operating.12
Most buda Jews originated from Czechia or Moravia. The part played by the Jewish community and
their social importance is illustrated by the fact that the marketplace (158, Lajos Street) called Juden
Platz was, in fact, at the back of the synagogue, close to the port. It was, in effect, the centre of the
settlement. Tax-paying Jews had their public buildings there (Fleischbank and Gemein-Haus) as well
as their shops and houses. At the same time, it was closer for the residents of jlak than Main Place in
front of the castle. Kiscelli street led to the Kiscelli Hill from there.

va Gl: buda helyrajza, [geography of buda] in Mikl Horvth (ed.) Melinda Kaba (ed.): Tanulmnyok
Budapest mltjbl XXI, [studies from the past of budapest], Budapest, 1979, p. 123. The history of its successor, the
buda Jewish Primary School at 6 formerly Zichy, today buda Street from 1920 to 1944 has been researched
(http://www.2b-org.hu/iskola/). The head office of the buda Jewish Community was also in the same building.
11
Regarding the person of the rabbi, cf Gza Komorczy: A zsidk trtnete Magyarorszgon. I: A kzpkortl 1849-ig,
[the history of Jews in Hungary] Kalligram, Pozsony, 2012, 757-759; p. 758. The tomb of rabbi Mnz can be found near the
entrance to the new buda Jewish cemetery opened in 1922.
12
va Gl: buda helyrajza, [geography of buda] in Horvth Mikls (ed.) Kaba Melinda (ed.): Tanulmnyok
Budapest mltjbl XXI [studies from the past of budapest], Budapest, 1979, p. 123. Cf also Gza Komorczy, op. cit., 635p. 639.
10

According to Gza Komorczy, the majority of the buda Jews were peddlers; they traded in hare,
goat and cattle hides, shells for buttons, second hand clothes, or scrap iron. Some of them carried corn
or wine to large distances. Artisans included tailors, cobblers, furriers, distillers of palinka, gold- and
silversmiths and bookbinders.13 The Jewish court (Judenhof), the Jewish shops, most of them taverns
selling beer and wine, defined the atmosphere of the area; most small pubs at buda were owned by
Jews.14
55 Jewish traders operated in buda in around 1775 (including doctors, pharmacists and musicians).
The Goldberger plant (a manufacture of blue-dyeing) was founded in 1784, which already employed
135-150 workers in the middle of the 19th century (1851-1853). It was transformed into a factory in
1856.
In 1787, 600 Jewish families lived in buda spread around, not in a closed quarter.
The Jewish cemetery was located a bit further, beyond the Main Place. It had been in (todays)
Laktanya Street until the end of the 19th century, which had been outside the built-up zone of the town
until the mid-18th century.
buda is first of all important from the perspective of the history of Budapest Jewry, because
protected by the family of counts Zichy the Jewish community laying the foundations of the Pest
Jewish community later on could be established there. Before 1805, Jews could not settle within the
walls of the town of Pest. As a result, the Pest Jews in the 1790s were incorporated members of the
buda community, which led in the end to a conflict and the establishment of an independent Pest
community.15
You can say the immigrant Jewry and the imported German speaking Catholic community developed
side by side with the country town. It was all the more true as the synagogue and the Catholic church
were/have been practically next to each other.
According to the data of Hungarian Jewish Encyclopaedia, the number of the community was 5,500 in
the period we are interested in, i.e. between the two World Wars, or more exactly in 1929,16 and 1,402
of them were taxpayers. As for their occupation, the members of the community were mostly
merchants and artisans, but there were also a number of entrepreneurs, industrialists and
professionals.17 The population of the district was around 60,000 at the time.
In 1941, the population of buda was 66,529.18
According to the census carried out in April 1944 on German orders, the buda Jewish mothercommunity belonging to the Congress direction numbered appr. 3,600. Of that, appr 600 were
taxpayers. 78 children attended the primary school employing 3 teachers.19
13

Gza Komorczy, op. cit., p. 636.


Op.cit. p. 637. Judenhof was bordered by Lajos, Mkus and Kiskorona streets.
15
Cf Gza Komorczy, op. cit., pp. 831-834.
16
According to the buda Parish Bulletin (1925, issue 1, p.10), 5,621 Jews (11% of the population) lived there side by side
with 38,910 Catholics (75%), 4,371 Protestants and 1,880 Lutherans.
17
http://mek.oszk.hu/04000/04093/html/ szocikk/13661.htm.
18
buda 25 ve, [25 years of buda], Budapest, 1970, p. 25
19
Gza Komorczy (ed), Magyarorszgi zsid hitkzsgek 1944. prilis, [Jewish communities in Hungary, April 1944],
Budapest, 1994, Volume 2, pp. 505-507.
14

It should be noted that the Goldberger Textile Works employing about a thousand buda residents was
located in the district. It was headed by Dr Leo Buday-Goldberger (18781945, Mauthausen), who was
a real gentleman and a Hungarian patriot. He opposed Zionism and Jewish immigration. As a true
Israelite, he supported both poor Jews who observed the rules of the religion and the buda
community. Mikls Horthy jr was also a member of the Board of Directors of the factory. Leo
Goldberger became a member of the Upper House in 1932. He acted as a kind of aristocratic patron of
buda.20
It is interesting that the available literature mostly neglects the history of the buda Jewry after World
War I, and focuses on earlier periods.21 Therefore, the buda implications of the anti-Jewish laws and
the period of the Holocaust are more or less unrevealed.22 For instance, a comprehensive study of the
history of Budapest Jewry emphasises the history of the 19th century, and then discusses the Holocaust
focusing on Budapest.23 On the other hand, a short paragraph in a collection of studies on local history
describing the state of the synagogue after the war is telling: The temple had become ruined and
deserted by the end of World War II. Only a minority of the buda Jews had survived Hitlerist
genocide and those who remained were unable to restore the building to its original function.24 That
paragraph includes a complete transfer of responsibility (Hitlerists with no Hungarians involved), as
well as glossing over and distortion. The buda community, in fact, had existed independently until
1958 since rabbi Dr Jzsef Neumann (1880-1956) survived the Holocaust. By now, however, the
buda Jewish community, which used to be flourishing and significant, has disappeared almost without
a trace.
The relationship of the buda Catholic parish St Peter and Paul to the Jewish community (as
reflected by the press and ecclesiastical decrees25)

20

Cf, Mikls Ltay, op. cit., pp. 282-284. On the history of the factory, cf Lszl Kllai, A 150 ves Goldberger-gyr, [150
years of the goldberger factory], Textil-Ipar jsg kiadsa, Budapest, 1935; Dr. Geszler dn, A 200 ves Budapest PNYV
Goldberger Textilmvek trtnete 17841984, [history of 200-year old PNYV Goldberger Textiles], Budapest, 1984.
21
Cf, e.g. Smuel Kohn: Az budai zsid hitkzsg a mlt szzad kzepe fel, [the buda Jewish community in the
middle of the last century], Magyar-Zsid Szemle 8, 1891, pp. 254259; Jzsef Parczel: Az budai izraelita templom
restaurlsnak trtnete, [history of the restoration of the buda Israelite temple], Bichler I. knyvnyomdja, Budapest,
1901; va Gl: Adalkok az budai zsidk XVIII. szzadi trtnethez, [data to the 18th century history of buda Jews],
vknyv 1975/76, Magyar Izraelitk Orszgos Kpviselete, Budapest, 1976, pp. 101121; Idem., Az budai uradalom
zsidsga a 18. szzadban, [the Jewry of the buda demesne lands in the 18th century], Szzadok 126, 1992, pp. 334. It is
not unique that the history of the buda Jewry in the early 20th century has not been studied. The same is true for the
history of the buda Christian (Catholic, Protestant and Lutheran) churches in the period between the two World Wars.
22
The best examples are Pter Horvth, Az budai kzssg a II. vilghbor idejn, [the buda community at the time
of World War II], in Balzs Sndor (ed.), buda ostroma 19441945, [the siege of buda], Budapest, 2005, pp. 77-80 (V.
A magyarorszgi s az budai zsidsg [Jewry in Hungary and buda]).
23
Cf Kinga Frojimovics Gza Komorczy Viktria Pusztai Andrea Strbik, A zsid Budapest. Emlkek, szertartsok,
trtnelem, [the Jewish Budapest. Memories, ceremonies, history], Budapest, 1995, Vol I, pp. 6296 (buda); Vol II, pp.
494581 (Pest, 1944, ghetto). Similarly, Randolph L. Braham (ed) Zoltn Tibori Szab (contribution), A magyarorszgi
Holokauszt fldrajzi enciklopdija. [the geographical encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary], Vol II: Maros-Torda
vrmegye Zempln vrmegye, Park Knyvkiad, Budapest, 2007, pp. 818-837 (Budapest).
24
va Gl: Az budai zsinagga [the buda synagogue], in Csongor Kiss (ed.): buda vszzadai, [the centuries of
buda], Better Kiad, Budapest, 2000, p. 444.
25
It is an interesting phenomenon of the age that the ecclesiastical / Catholic press suffered from permanent financial
shortages. Cf, e.g. Dr Baron Istvn Kray, Katolikus sajt-apostolkods, [Catholic press apostles], Budapesti R. K.
Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1935, Issue 4, pp.9-10.

The buda parish St Peter and Paul was established in the course of a reorganisation of Catholic
institutions in 1918. It was founded on 22 June, 1919 with 3,100 members.26 It was headed by the
parish priest at any time (Jzsef Sagmller: 19031935; Mihly Leiner: 1935194727). Its work was
aided by a board of representatives (100 members and 32 substitute members) half of whom were
elected by the followers while the other half was appointed ex officio. The board of representatives
elected the Council28 that was responsible for the administrative duties of the parish. Council members
included the parish priest, the chaplains,29 not more than two teachers of religion, a Catholic
representative of the capital, the choirmaster and the heads of the parish institutes.30 The parish
organised hierarchically was actually controlled by the parish priest, while ecclesiastical and political
power was intertwined locally in the Council.31 It was obviously due to the fact that the patronage of
the capital covered the maintenance costs of churches and parsonages, their personnel expenses as well
as the costs of religious education.
The parish in the immediate vicinity of the buda synagogue and the Jewish community published an
independent bi-monthly Egyhzkzsgi Tudst [parish bulletin] from 1925 till 1935, which published
news and contemplations. In 1935, however, separate parish bulletins were centralised. So, Budapesti
R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Roman Catholic parishes in Budapest] was published
uniformly from 1935 till 1944. Its responsible editor was the Central Council of Budapest Roman
Catholic Parishes and its editor-in-chief the episcopal vicar at any time.32 Responsible editors also
changed in time.33 The publication was free for members of the parish. Beginning from 1940, however,
some parishes with buda included introduced an annual subscription fee. It again became free for
parish members from 1943 in return for the church tax they paid. The circulation of the bulletin was
80,000 to 90,000 in 1941 and around 93,000 from 1942. It usually published church and parish news,
obituaries, advices of behaviour (in church or at events), articles of spirituality, sermons and
information and reports about different events and programmes. Its authors were mostly clerics or
devout laymen (followers) holding major social positions.34 It mostly dealt with religious, moral and
spirituality issues. The family and the nation were strongly connected in its approach. In the period
studied, the poor quality of religious life and the increasing number of divorces and mixed marriages
represented significant problems. For instance, in 1935 Jnos Mszros episcopal vicar complained
26

It had 21,900 members in 1929. It also means that not all Catholics in buda were parish members, since buda had
about 60,000 residents, for instance, in 1930.
27
Mihly Leiner (Nezsider, 9 August, 1889) studied in Esztergom and was ordained in 1913. He had been a chaplain at
Budars, Udvard, then in buda (from 1920). He had been a teacher of religion in Budapest from 1915 to 1920. The buda
Credo Society founded by him had 950 members when he was appointed. He was also the local director of the Catholic
Association and the editor-in-chief of the Parish Bulletin in buda for 10 years. Cf, Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek
Tudstja 1935, [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], Vol 4, p. 9.
28
That meant 20 ordinary and 7 substitute members for buda.
29
In 1937/38, Bla Juhsz, Kroly Draskovits, Imre Lehmann. Cf, A magyarorszgi latin s grg szertarts vilgi s
szerzetes rmai katolikus papsg nvtra s az orszgos hivatalok tmutatja. [register of the Roman Catholic lay and
monastic priests of the Latin and Greek services and their national offices in Hungary] ed. by Gyula Pilinyi for 1937/38,
Budapest. According to the 1943 register: (op. cit.): Antal Bks, Lszl Selmeczi Kovcs.
30
Zsuzsa Lrincz, Adatok a katolikus egyhz trsadalomszervez tevkenysghez Budapesten (19191944), [data to the
social organising activity of the Catholic church] in Tanulmnyok Budapest mltjbl XIV. (Budapest vrostrtneti
monogrfii, 22), [Budapest city history monographs], Akadmiai Kiad, Budapest, 1961, p. 585.
31
Cf also, Gyula Petrovcz MP and vice president of the Herminamez parish at the same time.
32
Dr Jnos Mszros (19351940), Dr Endre Hamvas (19401944), Bla Witz (1944).
33
Dr Gyula Czapik (19351939), Frigyes Molnr papal chamberlain (19391943), Dr Istvn Kosztolnyi teacher of religion
and supervisor (1944).
34
E.g. Kroly Szendy, mayor of Budapest (1934-1944), Krisztus s a gyermek [Christ and the child], Budapesti R. K.
Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes] 1935, Vol. 3, pp. 1-2; Dr Pter Nmeth,
presiding judge of the Royal Court, A vallsos nevels fontossga a veszlyeztetett fiatalkoraknl [importance of
religious education of endangered juveniles], op.cit. pp. 5-6.

that, there has been a so termed Christian course in Hungary for 15 years and the ills have not
diminished. () Because the root cause of all ills is that Christianity has become but a slogan in the
souls of many who were the loudest to shout Christian slogans at the Forum instead of trying to
implement the Christian programme with the means available.35
Different parishes could publish local messages or information (for instance, message by the parish
priest, order of church services) on their outside and inside covers. Those local items of information are
quite telling because they make it obvious that parish priests identified the mentality and image of their
parishes. The relationship of the Catholic community of buda to the Jewish community obviously
appears on that media platform. It is supplemented by what was written in the parish circulars
(Circulares litterae36). In both cases, it is not only important what was published but also what given
our current historical knowledge was missing and can be regarded as reticence. A third source
would/could be the Historia Domus of the buda parish if the present parish priest allowed its study.
That is, however, not possible at present because according to the official stance it has no historical
value. The contemporary ecclesiastical registers (of baptisms and marriages) are unavailable at the
moment due to considerations of personality rights.37
The printed sources allow revealing the approach to the Jewry and behaviour towards Jews, most of all,
by the Budapest ecclesiastical and different parish lite and leadership rather than that of the simple
followers.38 It is better understood if you study the image of Jews drawn in the documents of the
Esztergom parish; the style used by top ecclesiastical leaders when writing about the Jewry. With
respect to buda, it can be considered because circulars and reports shaped and decided local attitudes,
too.
In that regard and for the period 19381944 studied the Lent appeal by cardinal Jusztinin Serdi in
1938 (no 77; dated 15 February, 1938) on the divinity of Jesus Christ that had to be read out on the first
Sunday of Lent instead of the usual sermon is quite interesting. He used fairly peculiar arguments
against racism: My dear followers! Caiaphas sentenced Jesus to death,39 because he said he was
Gods son. And today many want to expulse Him because he was a man and as such the member of a
people. They take offence at Him being a Jew and transfer their antipathy and hate against the Jewish
people to His person. They forget that the Jewish people did not only have sins but also great saints: the
holiest woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist, the true harbinger of the Saviour and
those simple and honest fishermen who as Apostles had left their fathers and mothers, their houses and
countries, and what is more sacrificed their lives in the service of Truth.40 They forget that although
Christ descended from the house of King David by his body, he spoke the language of the Jewish
people and followed its rituals, he was made to shine transfigured in the light of his divinity free of
Dr Jnos Mszros Budapest episcopal vicar, Reform!... Reform!..., Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja
[bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes] 1935, Vol. 2, my italics.
36
Circulares litterae dioecesanae Anno ad clerum archidioecesis strigoniensis dimissae, Typis Gustavi Buzrovits,
Strigonii.
37
The standpoint of the parish is it has no local archives. That is, however, contradicted by the fact that the publication 250
ves az budai Szent Pter s Pl Fplbniatemplom [250 years of the buda Parish Church St Peter and Paul] (Budapest,
1999) mentions documents from the 18th century (pp. 89-97) and a Parish Library (p. 107), where, for instance, registers
from the 19th century are kept.
38
The following parish societies operated in buda in 1938: Credo (with almost 1,000 members in 1939), the Altar Society,
Working Girls, Society of Girls with High School Education (KLOSZ), buda group of the National Society of Christian
Youth (KIOE), Church choir, Scouts, Workers Unit of the Parish (EMSZO), Zita team. At the moment, it is difficult to find
any documents that may have been preserved, which indicates the topic has not been researched.
39
That, of course, is not true.
40
No Jews may be saints unless they are directly connected to Jesus.
35

all human characteristics, sins or racial frailty,41 so that every people whether Semitic or Aryan,
whether black or yellow, whether Hungarian or French can and will feel Him to be theirs! His faultless
character is an ideal for all; his teaching is clear for all, his goodness speaks to the heart of all.42 A
simple follower could draw three very simple lessons from the above in accordance with and
reiterating the spirit of the times:
1) the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus (cf, Caiaphas);
2) the so termed Jewish racial frailty has been practically around since the age of Jesus;
3) because Jesus was free of that, Christians are clearly also free of it.
Taking into account that the Appeal did not specify what the Cardinal meant by frailty, every follower
could interpret it according to his wish.
A memorandum in Latin No 5357 on the baptism of Jews (De baptismo Judaeorum) dated 12
December, 1938 by Prince Primate Serdi, which can clearly be regarded as an internal ecclesiastical
guidance, can be related to the above Lent Appeal by the Catholic chief pastor and it illustrates his
stance on Jews.43 The document provides guidance in the circumstances, since the number of Jews
wishing to be baptised increased as a result of the first anti-Jewish law (Act No XV on the more
effective provision of the balance of social and economic life) that took effect on 29 May, 1938. It is
clear from the document that the Prince Primate is well aware that the interest in/desire for Christianity
in these inimical times does not only originate from the desire to attain eternal bliss but also from the
hope of escape on Earth. In his opinion, however, it cannot be sufficient reason or indeed it is
sacrilegious and unjust if the proper investigation of the will and careful preparation are neglected
before the sacraments are administered. For adults, it must mean an hour of religious education twice
weekly for three months held by the parish priest or a person appointed by him. Its purpose is to teach
the truths of the faith. On the other hand, the Prince Primate emphasises the sacraments of Christianity
must not be administered without the permission of the Ordinary and complying with the statutory
provisions. The marital status of candidates for baptism must also be investigated. The sacraments may
not be administered if a marital obstacle exists. Not to mention that those newly baptised must be
carefully monitored.44
The 1939 Lent circular of the chief pastor also reflects the stance of Prince Primate Serdi on Jews
(dated 12 February, 1939). In it the Cardinal did not ascribe sentencing Jesus to death to Caiaphas as
a year earlier but to Pilate, surprisingly. He, however, could not refrain from emphasising the
responsibility of the Jews. When during Lent we perform the rite of the Stations of the Cross, we are
made to think and moved by the first Station, where Pilate sentences Jesus to death but he also washes
his hands saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person. (Mt 27,24) And the Jews answered:
41

My italics.
Litt. Circ. 1938, p. 9.
43
In circulars, mainly the appointments, placements, promotions and deceases are in Latin.
44
Judaei magno in numero his diebus baptismum appetunt. In quo desiderio suo certe adversis temporibus quoque
moventur, conantes non solum aeternam, sed potius temporalem salutem quoque suam et filiorum securam reddere. Tamen
impie et iniuste agunt, qui ex defectu fiduciae eos omnes sine exceptione repellunt aeque ac illi, qui praevio examine
intentionis et solida instructione praetermissis, eis bapismum conferre properant. Pro norma habeatur cum caritate omnes
qui converti cupiant esse excipiendos; dein probationi saltem trium mensium subiiciendi sunt adulti, quo tempore per
hebdomadam saltem bis per integram horam a parocho vel eius vicario in veritatibus ctechismi sunt instruendi. baptismus ne
administretur ante adeptam permissionem Ordinarii et impletas legis civilis conditiones. Invigilandum insuper est et in
recursu ad Ordinarium speciali mentione dignum, validum-ne vel saltem sanabile-ne sit matrimonium, in quo candidati ad
baptismum vivunt. In casu contrario enim, e. g. si impedimentum ligaminis inter consortes existit, baptismi sacramentum
conferri non potest. Eos autem, qui putant judaeorum matrimonium post baptismum coram Ecclesia denuo iniri et sic
convalidari debere, edocemus, hanc suam opinionem erroneam esse, cum tale matrimonium ex lege naturali validum sit et
ipso baptismo suscepto ad sacramenti dignitatem elevetur. Monemus tandem Ven. Clerum, ut curam specialem conversis
impendere post baptismum quoque continuet. Strigonii, die 12. Decemberis 1938. Litt. Circ. 1938, 59.
42

His blood be on us and on our children (Mt 27,25) Pilate, a hard Pagan, wanted to disclaim
responsibility for spilling innocent blood, but the Jews assumed it heedlessly!45
The Lent episcopal letter is fitted into and reflects the social environment and public atmosphere
identified by the second anti-Jewish law submitted to Parliament on 23 December, 1938 by the Imrdy
government. It is surprising as the Prince Primate uses the Jews collective responsibility in the death of
Jesus to explain the Jews thousand-year long tribulations and warns his Catholic followers of the
potentially unpredictable consequences as if possessing a prophets foreboding. It is sad that a few
months later at the moment of voting on the law in the Upper House (on 28 April, 1939) Prince Primate
Serdi did not remember his own warnings and voted for it!
When a bad law with fatal consequences is being voted on, the responsibility lies not only with the
authors of the law Serdi wrote in February 1939 but also with each legislator who votes for it and
even with all those who stay away from voting and, with their absence, promote the law taking effect;
Godless laws are not only the responsibility of legislators but also of individual electors who have
provided such legislators with mandates with their votes knowingly and willingly; citizens think little
of that.46
The case of the Jews who demanded the crucifixion of Christ is an eternal deterrent of the lack of
collective (social) sin! Because they were numerous, they believed the responsibility of killing God
will be divided among them and will be a nothing to be hardly felt, so they spoke up bravely, His
blood be on us and on our children! And a terrible punishment, i.e. the destruction of Jerusalem
followed and the dispersion of the Jewish people in the world and their much suffering proved that
collective responsibility is, in a sense, increased responsibility, because what is at stake is not only our
individual salvation and good but the salvation and good of many of our fellow-men, contemporaries
and descendants, but sometimes, of whole nations and countries.47 (pp. 12-13.)
On 11 May, 1939 Prince Primate Serdi issued a decree on the religious education of children baptised
together with their Jewish parents (No 3008). I have learnt, he wrote, there are students who have
been baptised together with their Jewish parents and although they could be educated in the Catholic
faith with the permission of the Court of Guardians, they continue to attend the Jewish religious
classes. I hereby order that in cases when children were also baptised together with their parents the
priest performing the baptism should send an official notice on the baptism to the relevant teacher of
religion as well. At the same time, the permission of the Court of Guardians for the conversion of the
children must be urged and it must be reported to the school authorities when it has taken place.48
Thus, the behaviour and attitude to Jews of the different Budapest parishes (43 in all) have to be
evaluated given the stance of ecclesiastical leadership, i.e. the archbishop of Esztergom. A
comprehensive and comparative analysis of the above could be the topic of later research, but it should
be noted that the part played by local priests cannot be doubted. In that regard, an opening
announcement by the newly appointed buda parish priest Mihly Leiner in 1936 is quite interesting,
Stick firmly and steadily, My Dear Ones, to your trust in your pastor, because he promises to you to be
your faithful, conscientious and good priest; leader and teacher of the small ones, support, helper and

45

Litt. Circ. 1939, p. 9.


Litt. Circ. 1939, p. 12.
47
Litt. Circ. 1939, pp. 12-13.
48
Litt. Circ. 1939, p. 34.
46

the good Samaritan of the adults facing the errant and the misled.49 The style and content combined
show clearly that the parish priest was the dominant person in the buda community. It also turns out
from the report on the 25th anniversary of the ordainment of Ft Mihly Leiner. Accordingly, the priest
invited with love 300 poor people for lunch. And he disbursed money to altruistic associations.50
At the same time as the opening announcement of priest Leiner was published, a call appeared on the
outside back cover of the buda Parish Bulletin, Purchase from Christian merchants, placed as the
heading of a list of enterprises and their advertisements. Later on (in the course of several years) it
always appeared on the back cover (either inside or outside). In 1941 it was supplemented with another
call in the heading of advertisements placed on the outside back cover of the Bulletin, Buy at Catholic
shops. All that cannot be treated as independent from the fact that at the time of the anti-Jewish laws
some buda merchants (e.g. Phm confectioners, Menzer groceries) displayed notices Jews and dogs
will not be served.51
Given the other parish bulletins reflecting varied local features, it can be stated with certainty that the
term Christian in the buda Bulletin was a racial category, the opposite of Jewish in accordance
with the mentality of the age.52 It, however, was not typical of most parish bulletins. Not all of them
published advertisements and those that did either did it without any appeals (of a Christian
implication) or simply urged to support the parish or Catholic traders and merchants.53 For instance,
the outside back cover of the Krisztinavros or Vrosmajor Parish carried the following call, Support
the Catholic merchants and traders of our parish! (in 1936 and 1937). It is interesting that the outside
back cover of the bulletin of Sarls Boldogasszony parish also in District 3 also carries a racist call,
Support Christian merchants and traders! (the term support was replaced by buy from in 1940).
All that is obviously related to the quite significant Jewish community of buda. But it cannot be said
to have been the rule, since a similar attitude should have been dominant in the Terzvros parish as
well. The Terzvros or Erzsbetvros parish bulletins, however, do not reflect that.54 Not to mention
that the racial category Christian is missing from the call made by the other parish bulletin in District
3, that of Kvi-Saint Mary (111, Szentendre Rd) (1936, Vol 1, outside back cover), which was mainly
responsible for the pastorisation of the Filatori fields populated by workers, and was more distant from
the buda Jewish community, We request the artisans and small traders of the parish to advertise in
the Parish Bulletin as much as they can. In that way, they will support the Parish Bulletin, strengthen

49

Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1936, Vol. 1, inside front
cover of the buda bulletin.
50
Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1938, Vol 2, inside front
cover of the buda bulletin. Article entitledJubilee.
51
Mikls Gulys, budai utck, [streets of buda], Noran, Budapest, 2007, p. 65. Cf also
ww.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=563270 (25 June, 2012).
52
The interpretation is supported by a paper by Mszros episcopal vicar, who used the categories Christian and non
Christian (i.e. Jewish) in relation to his criticism of Liberalism. Dr Jnos Mszros, Wolff Kroly kldetse s
hagyatka, [the mission and heritage of Kroly Wolff], Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest
Roman Catholic parishes], 1936, Vol. 3, pp. 5-7. Cf on the topic Jen Gergely, A Keresztny Kzsgi (Wolff-) Prt, [the
Christian community (Wolff) party], Gondolat Kiad MTAELTE Prtok, prtrendszerek, parlamentarizmus
kutatcsoport, Budapest, 2010.
53
E.g. the bulletins of the Soroksri Rd or the Belvros parishes in 1937.
54
The Erzsbetvros and the Terzvros parishes, which operated in the vicinity of the residential areas of the Pest Jews,
should be the subject of further research. For instance, the outside back cover of the Erzsbetvros Bulletin carried the
following call both in 1937 and in 1941, Catholics should only buy from Catholics! It should be noted that no scholarly
research has been made into the local history of the Budapest Catholic parishes to date.

10

themselves and serve the unity of the Catholic camp. Parish followers, buy from parish merchants,
order work from parish artisans!55
The work of parish priest Leiner was assisted at the time by the buda Parish Council with the
following composition (Parish Bulletin, 1936, Vol. 3, inside back cover):
Lay chairman: Dr Jnos Botzenhardt, Hungarian royal government councillor, permanent
member of legislative committee
Deputy chairmen: Dr Jnos Hanthy-Haidekker, district magistrate; Dr Lajos Kuncze lawyer,
permanent member of legislative committee
Secretary: Dezs Pataky church choir master.
Controller: Kroly Kirch retired bank clerk
Chaplains: Dr zsb Reimann, Jzsef Lszl, Kroly Draskovits.
It clearly shows how the contemporary social lite and the local church leadership were intertwined. It
is no surprise, then, that the lower social classes did not feel it was their church; they had been
alienated. It is excellently illustrated by a paper by Antal Schuszter, parish priest of Magdolnavros,
and the situation could not be much different in either buda or in any other parishes of Budapest: We
are talking about the Lent in class. A small student of mine stands up and remarks, My mum said why
it is the business of the priests what is cooking in the pot of poor people? Lent should be held by the
priests and the nuns.56
While the 1938-39 circulars by Prince Primate Serdi touched upon the problem of the anti-Jewish
laws albeit in a quite moderate and reserved manner, the readers of the Bulletin of the Budapest Roman
Catholic Parishes could hardly perceived any of it. Mainly because interest was fully focused on the
double holy year (from 23 May, 1937 to 3 December, 1938). At that time the 34th Eucharistic World
Congress as well as the Saint Steven Jubilee Year (commemorating the 900th anniversary of the death
of Saint Steven) was jointly organised. Therefore, all attention was focused on religious life / infidelity
and morality (i.e. the problems of marriage). Providing board to visitors was a regularly returning
worry (as there were not enough offers for housing). It is a surprise that side by side with clericals,
politicians also felt necessary to speak about Catholicism!57 The message, however, could only reach a
part of the population. At that time the Catholic church exercised hardly any influence on the workers
of Budapest who had distanced themselves from the church. The same was true in buda, one of the
most rundown districts of the capital, where the church tried to increase the number of members in the
Parish Workers Unit (EMSZO) by offering cheap potatoes from Szabolcs County and access to
firewood for the winter.58 Strangely enough, the improvement of religious life and morality were hoped
to mitigate social problems and restore social peace.59

The call was replaced in 1938 by Buy from Catholic artisans and merchants!, but the initial text was reinstated from
issue 4. In 1937/38, Lajos Peisz was the parish priest, in 1943 it was Lszl Merva and Jnos Juhsz. A comparative study
of the three parishes of District 3 (St Peter and Paul, Sarls Boldogasszony and Kvi-Saint Mary) could be made in the
future.
56
Antal Schuszter, Hitoktat s szl, [teachers of religion and parents], Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja
[bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1940, Vol. 3, p. 13.
57
Cf also, Jnos Krdi Katona, former MP, a lot must be made in Budapest to promote Catholic marriages, Budapesti R.
K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1937, Vol. 1, p. 2; Kroly Huszr former
PM, A ketts szentv s a budapesti katolikusok, [the double holy year and Budapest Catholics], op.cit, pp. 3-4.
58
Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1938, Vol. 4. Inside front
cover of buda bulletin.
59
Ferenc Bihari, Egyhzkzsgi munks-szakosztlyok, [worker units of parishes], in Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek
Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1937, Vol. 1, p. 13.
55

11

The only obvious reference to the Jewish issue appeared in a 1939 paper by former Prime Minister
Kroly Horvth. He thought it was not enough to push Jews out of economic positions and cultural
life, unless the vacant places were filled by men and women who touched by the spirit of saints and
heroes reformed the whole Hungarian state in the spirit of Christ. It is not enough to distribute the land
unless it is settled by families in which the Christian tradition and noble morality are alive. () Christ
must be the only leader of mankind and all power on Earth must come from Him alone. The power that
is not from God and does not serve God will drive mankind to hell. Without God there are no law, no
culture, state security, international peace, social progress, family loyalty and love, charity protecting
the weak and discipline curbing egoism.60 In his opinion, many people who only wear Christianity as
a masque must be permeated with the only bliss of true Christianity. The millions of Catholics by their
certificates only must be educated into conscious Catholics who will fight determined to be martyrs
so that the empire of Saint Steven should not be upturned and so that the Hungarian people should not
fall victim to the evil and rancour of Satan.61
The circulars by the Prince Primate hardly reflect the political and social processes on-going in the
country beginning from the 1940s. It is as if the Hungarian catholic church lived in a self-created
peculiar world far from the realities.62 Only the decree number 8199 on the exemption from charges
on birth certificates issued for defence purposes (12 November, 1940)63 indicates that it must have
been related to the anti-Jewish laws, particularly to the second one (Act No IV of 1939), because the
baptism and marriage certificates of a given person and his parents (grandparents for reserve officers)
were used to decide whether the person will be a soldier or a labour serviceman (Act No II of 1939).
There is no doubt that a nationwide frantic search started due to the obligation of certifying your origin
and religious denomination. It can be seen in a message by the abbot of Pannonhalma (dated 25
February, 1942) printed separately on the front of Circular II of the year (283/1942) using lilac ink:
Seeking to learn where Mria Sas (daughter of Jnos Sas and Katalin Mezei or Mezericzki) had been
baptised between 1830 and 1840, or where Jnos Wener and Mri Sas had got married between 1850
and 1860. 20 Peng award for the answer.64 A similar notice was stuck on the front of Circular V as
well: To certify his origin, Zoltn Bitt is seeking the baptism certificate of his mother, Johanna Rcz,
born in 1850 54. The certificate of baptism, or if it cannot be found, the notice thereof is requested to
be sent urgently / by return post to the address of the Pannonhalma decanal office (934/1942; dated
Pannonhalma, 30 July, 1942).65
In the political and social context identified by the anti-Jewish laws the responsibility of the Jewry with
respect to Catholic religious life and morality is discussed in an interesting manner by Lajos rdi, a
member of the buda Parish Council. It is shocking to read that lament written after two decades of a
national-Christian political regime. The text implies that those involved are mainly responsible for the
situation, in addition to Jews, of course. And the source of all ills is that the majority of the city
population of Budapest fail to attend the Holy Mass on Sunday! According to the author, it was
different in the good old patriarchal times, when every man got up in the morning and went to bed at
night with no worries! He worked on weekdays and attended the mass and the sermons on Sundays
when there had been no night or Sunday shifts yet when the priest found all his followers around his
Kroly Huszr, A katolikus frfiak s az idei Katolikus Nagygyls, [Catholic men and the Catholic Assembly this
year], in Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1939, Vol. 1, p. 6.
61
Ibid. p. 7.
62
In his decree dated 18 August, 1941, e.g. (No 4202: Arrangement of the followers in church) Prince Primate Serdi
urged reinstating the old order of men and women separated. Litt. Circ. 1941, 33.
63
Litt. Circ. 1940, pp. 52-53.
64
Litt. Circ. 1942, p. 7.
65
Litt. Circ. 1942, p. 25. Collection of the National Szchenyi Library (OSZK).
60

12

pulpit on Sunday and could influence all of them. How many people cannot attend mass or the sermons
today even if they wanted to. How many people must be up and working on Sunday and deal with
material things from morning till night. How many Catholic men and servant girls work for Jews who
are rarely patient enough to allow their servants to attend the low mass of half hour! And then,
there is the misery of apartments with a thousand moral dangers, immorality exercised in big cities for
fun; places of merry-making forging capital out of human debauchery, the disorder of womens issues.
Who would dare to dismiss the question with the naive saying that women should be at home, when
there are many thousand women that have no home under the social circumstances of today. All that is
then followed by the dissolution of family life, the decline of public morality, the spiritual neglect of
children, women and the world of workers. In those chaotic circumstances a pastor must try to find new
tricks again and again to get to them. But if a pastor is in a real maelstrom, the huge amount of work
waiting for him takes all his time, it is no wonder that he has no time even to think on how to conquer
those territories beyond his vista so far.66
Compared to the above description of the behaviour of Jews, a report on Goldberger Plc owned by a
Jewish family supporting the Charity of the buda Catholic parish with Christmas donations looks
quite strange.67
Having read Lajos rdi you should not be surprised that buda parish priest Leiner had fully
decontextualized and Christianised Mary as if she had never had anything to do with Jews those who
lived in the immediate vicinity of his parish church. Sometime the Earth waiting for the Messiah
burdened with sins was a wilderness like this. It happened in the great Advent of four thousand years,
he writes, when she had come, the flower of Jesses root and Aarons rod bloomed, the Blessed Virgin
Mary, the rose of a secret meaning, burst into bloom in mens souls. Because all the beauty created in
the following Christian centuries, all the respect shown to women can be traced back to Her. She will
be the ideal of knights, the example to be followed by women. Our king Saint Steven also offered his
country to Her. Ever since that time, She has been our Lady, the protector and defender of our country.
Her white maternal hands protect our Homeland more than any guns or arms over difficult centuries of
bloodshed. Her picture is on the flags of freedom with the inscription: Pro libertate, for freedom. Our
most excellent men and compatriots were all followers of Mary.68
Mikls Nagy, the national secretary of Actio Catholica expressed in a coded form but to be understood
by many that the greatest problem of Hungary is the possibility of Jews and Christians marrying each
other. The anti-family and anti-church laws of a liberal age have broken the dams for a stream of
immorality and irresponsibility. Those laws have taken out of the hands of the Church marriage, the life
condition of the survival of any race. They have opened the way for irresponsible divorce and the
persecution of children. Yes, it is a persecution of children, because children were already persecuted in
their mothers wombs when many-storey schools with coat-of-arms were built behind the deteriorating
homes of families losing their residents. A dam has been broken and under the protection of the laws a
dirty tide that cannot be stemmed is gushing forth into the Hungarian race, into this people having
endured the fights of a millennium that is today seeking its future in the turmoil of forces of world
history. Where is the strong Hand that would strangle the blood-sucking hydra? Where is the strong
Lajos rdi, Gondolatok az Actio Catholica tanfolyamairl [thoughts on the courses of Actio Catholica], Budapesti R. K.
Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1940, Vol. 1. buda bulletin, inside front
cover. My italics.
67
Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1941, Vol. 2. buda bulletin,
inside front cover.
68
Parish priest, Queen of May, Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic
parishes], 1940, Vol. 2. buda bulletin, inside front cover.
66

13

call to shout Stop to that nemesis?! Not the efforts of diplomacy or thousands of tanks and airplanes
will obtain a future for the nation, but strong and clear laws, strong and clear family life.69
After all that the third anti-Jewish law (Act XV of 1941) that was meant to stem the dirty flood
gushing into the Hungarian race followed almost seamlessly. The law on supplementing and
amending Act XXXI of 1894 on matrimonial law simply banned marriage or sexual intercourse
between Jews and non-Jews. The Christian ecclesiastical leaders, however, could not vote on the law as
it was clearly contradictory to Christian matrimonial law.
The next two anti-Jewish laws (Act VIII of 1942 degrading the Israelite community to a recognised
one and Act XV on agricultural and forestry properties of Jews) triggered no reflection in episcopal
circulars or church news.
On the other hand, you can find traces of how top church leaders provided guidance in some kind of
concord with the basis following the Soviet air raid on Budapest (night of 4-5 September, 1942). In his
address at the Catholic Assembly, Jusztinin Serdi said the following, When our heroic soldiers
defend the life of Hungarian families and the Hungarian nation at the Eastern fronts even at the price of
their own lives, we Catholics must not allow that life given to individuals, families and the nation by
God via the sacrament of marriage be abused!70 buda parish priest Leiner expressed himself in a
more unambiguous and marked way, the world has again been torn into two parts. Darkness, misery,
folly and sin want to destroy the camp of the followers of light, purity, love and truth. It is up to us
whether Christ will overcome or the thousand-year-old empire of the great Saint Steven is inundated by
dirt and a murderous tide.71
In the previous issue Dr Lajos Kuncze the lay chairman of the buda parish (the CEO of the Budapest
Crafts Credit Institution) explained his views as follows, The Russian Soviet has spent millions to
propagate atheism; it has prevented the religious acts of its population and thus has degraded most of
its subjects to faithless automatons. A year ago it attacked our country treacherously, but our heroic
soldiers repelled the attack. Since then, together with our glorious allies, our soldiers fight the battle of
life and death against Communism striving to annihilate the European culture and Christianity. In this
battle those fighting on the front and those at home need to be in total spiritual harmony. Therefore I
request all followers of our parish, with love, that we having remained at home accept any ordeals and
restrictions, make every sacrifice for our soldiers fighting on the front and fulfil our duties
enthusiastically, because then we shall overcome with Gods help.72
All in all, you should not be surprised that Christian clearly appeared as a racial category in 1943.
Prince Primate Serdi had to face the fact that military offices obliged even reserve army chaplains to
verify their Christian origin quite illegally. For that, they were expected to submit their ancestors
documents, although Article 6, Act XIV of 1942 exempted Christian pastors from verifying their origin
(cf also writ No I/7212 PM dated 19 December, 1942).73 In this respect, a commercial advertisement in
Mikls Nagy, A magyar csald drmja[the drama of the Hungarian family], Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek
Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1940, Vol. 3, p. 8. Re relevant literature, cf Andrs Gianone, Az
Actio Catholica trtnete Magyarorszgon, 19321948 [the history of Actio Catholica in Hungary] (Monographs, 1), ELTE
BTK Trtnettudomnyok Doktori Iskola, Budapest, 2010.
70
Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1942, Vol. 4, p. 2.
71
Ibid. buda bulletin, inside front cover.
72
Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1942, Vol. 3. buda bulletin,
inside front cover.
73
No 756: Certificate of origin for reserve army chaplains (20 January, 1943). Litt. Circ. 1943, p. 3.
69

14

the buda Parish Bulletin is quite telling, You can buy your textiles at the best prices from the
Krtvlyessi original Christian firm in buda. Address: 14 Flrin Place, District 3.74
The obligation to verify origin, however, represented a major administrative workload on churches.
Those involved request the ministries to issue such a high number of birth certificates for military
purposes as well as for verifications related to the anti-Jewish laws, Prince Primate Serdi wrote, that it
endangers their ordinary pastoral work. To partly avoid it, I issue the following information and
instructions. With reference to data after 1895, they are usually not obliged to issue birth certificates
free of charge. That is the responsibility of the state registries. It is an exceptional case if the person
involved is a follower of the Catholic faith at variance from the record in the state register because
he/she has been baptised in the meantime and the fact has not been recorded in the state register yet. If,
except for the above exception, somebody still requests a birth certificate from that period for the above
purposes, it can only be issued against the proper fee identified in the resolutions of the Council.75 Not
to mention the fact that, in time, birth certificates will have to be sent to Germany or obtained from
Slovakia.76
All that took place in the context when the Hungarian society first had to face the possibility that the
war may be lost. On 12 January, 1943 the Soviet troops broke across the Hungarian defence at
Voronezh and wiped out the Hungarian army within weeks. Given that, the leading motif of the Lent
circular by Prince Primate Serdi (9 March, 1943) was the sacrifice of Christ, which has nothing to do
with the Gospel or with historical truth not even with Christian faith. He spoke about that sacrifice
actualised to the Hungarian situation so that he avoided to use the term Jew! According to the
archbishop of Esztergom, Christ is willing to accept any sacrifice for his homeland. His greatest desire
is to carry his Fathers name as a flag of victory all over the world. In his life on Earth, he hardly left
the territory of his homeland and only spoke directly to the sons of other nations in exceptional cases so
that he could devote all the more time to educating the chosen people. How carefully he prepared
everything for his surrender to God. He fulfilled the prophecies for the chosen people, he clarified and
built up the revelations given to him only to facilitate its path. His caring love is best expressed in the
most moving way when he is crying bitterly for his people, because the sacrifice of his God-mans life
was in vain and he could not drive the whole community along the path of peace.77
According to the Prince Primate, when the community of men, the homeland is suffering from
hardships, men following Christ must also accept a series of sacrifices. The homeland as a value is
beyond the value of individual in many ways. If the homeland is in danger, all its sons must unite to
avert the threatening danger. Take it, therefore, quite naturally that you must sacrifice your property or
even your life for your homeland. Remember that peoples can be alive because their best ones, the
most unselfish, the strongest and cleanest sacrifice themselves for them. If the members of a people are
unwilling to make a sacrifice for their homeland, that people is ripe for destruction; who should regard
the homeland valuable if its own sons fail to do so. People abandoning the fate of their homeland only
recognise too late that as the tree of the homeland has fallen, their own small leaf of life is also ripe for
destruction. On the other hand, if they fought for it with self-sacrifice, their sacrifice would bear
courage, which would make them heroes. A nation will be brave, heroic and so invincible, if it has
many sons accepting sacrifice.78
74

My italics. Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1942, Vol. 4,
buda Bulletin, inside back cover.
75
No 3023: Issue of birth certificates (14 April, 1943). Litt. Circ. 1943, p. 15.
76
Litt. Circ. 1943, p. 29 (No 1214) & 44 (No 8955).
77
Litt. Circ. 1943, p. 6.
78
Litt. Circ. 1943, p. 8.

15

A year earlier buda parish priest Leiner looked at and envisaged the war against the Soviet Union as a
kind of Crusade. According to him, we [Hungarians] have not shouldered the grave cross of war for
power, booty or vanity. Our sons march in a Crusade against darkness and sin. The horrors of Hell on
Earth embodied threatened our childrens innocent dreams, clear smile, our churches and family
hearths. The rebellious fallen angel, Satan wants to take man away from his Creator. We have seen him
stealing souls with honeyed words and a smooth face. Now he has reached out for mankind with flamethrowers, violent rough hands and iron fists. We Hungarians already know the deathly embrace he uses
to bestow happiness on his victims. We have already met him and we have not forgotten. Now, he
was again lurking behind the ridges of the Carpathian Mountains waiting for the moment when he
could bear down on us. But God was with us when he allowed us to notice the threatening menace in
good time. He took care of us, when he gave into our hands the flag of the Crusades and started us on a
hard road to fight Satan. Brethren! The goals of a war have never been as clear and obvious as those of
our war today. People have never shed blood for a clearer and greater idea than what we are shedding
our dear Hungarian blood now. No sacrifice has been made for a better cause than what we are making
a sacrifice for now. Because it will be decided in this war whether Europe remains Christian or the
marks of humanity are wiped from the face of our children and our descendants if they survive at all
sink to such depths in animal ignorance and darkness as our enemies have sunk. We alone can win
this fight. Because not even the gates of Hell can overcome Christianity, Christ said. Therefore, my
brother, take the cross! Accept the cross with a devoted soul, sacrificially and with unflinching faith.
God and truth are with us. Take the cross, keep it high, even if your heart is bleeding. Do not be mean
now, forget your own sacrifice when so many thousands of sacrifices go to God. Lift your misery to
Heaven for atonement and salvation. Take the cross, my suffering and crying brother and we are going
to win under this token.79
The hopes of victory, however, started to melt away in 1943. On 19 March, 1944 the German troops
occupied Hungary and the Allied forces launched air raids in the first days of April. And while military
operations reached the country, a war was launched against the Jewry regarded to be the internal
enemy. Its goal was to segregate, isolate and deprive Jews from their properties. A strange world was
being formed some of which can be revealed from Catholic sources.

1944: the Holocaust and the buda Catholic parish


If Hungarian or Budapest/buda Catholics expected some guidance from ecclesiastical leaders, they
failed to receive it in any form. Prince Primate Jusztinin Serdi had nothing to say with reference to
Jews obliged to wear the yellow star (Decree by the Sztjay government No 1.540/1944. PM; 5 April)
while he was worried about the spiritual-moral education of German children. He issued a decree on 15
April, 1944 on the religious-moral education of children of the German Reich (No 2216), Requested
by several priests and parents of the children of the German Reich holidaying in Hungary, I call the
attention of all pastors to arrange for the pastoral care of the children of the German Reich. It is
desirable that school-age children receive religious education during the school year either in the
church or at another location. According to the laws of the German Reich, parents shall decide about
the religious-moral education of their children up to the age of 12. At the age 12-14, the parents still
decide but the children are also asked if they are willing to attend religious classes. The children alone
decide from the age 14. At present, there are mostly Catholic children in the country and it can be
79

Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1942, Vol. 2, buda
Bulletin, inside front cover.

16

hoped that the leaders of the holidaying arrangement will not make any difficulties. The parents
opinion can be easily learnt from the host families.80
At the time when the Jews were deported from the countryside and afterwards Serdis main problems
were the registration of cathecumens (Liber Catechumenorum)81 on the one hand, and on the other
hand, banning the use of incomplete birth certificate forms (No 5096; 3 July, 1944): It has
repeatedly occurred that certain parishes sent, for official use, to offices of the diocese or to other
ecclesiastical and lay authorities birth certificates issued on quarter-sheet forms that failed to display all
data in the Register. I hereby ban the issue and use of such incomplete and therefore irregular birth
certificates for official purposes.82
An opening address by provost Bla Witz, episcopal vicar is also quite telling. It simply disregards the
provisions hitting the Jewry, the deportation of Jews from the countryside, and only focuses on
Budapest followers suffering from the air raids. This beautiful city, he writes, has to face difficult
weeks now. The tempest raging over our heads announces a double lesson for us. All suffering we have
to endure is the punishing or trying blows of the righteous God. We have to accept both with patience
and surrender because the good God has a purpose with both. () I welcome with fatherly worry and
love those who have lost everything they had but they have faith in their souls that can mitigate even
the greatest catastrophe. I ask you, my suffering followers, Hungarian brethren, not to waver in your
trust in the good God even in the hours of your worst misery. () Do believe that the blow hitting you
now will become a caress by Gods fatherly palm and the dawn of a new and very happy Hungarian life
will sparkle above the smouldering ruins, above the ruins of orphaned and destroyed small family
homes. () You, the devoted and loyal people of Marys country, be even more the servant of God and
your Church, because that is what the good God expects us to do, so that it would compensate our
country and nation for all their sufferings and loss with his plentiful blessing.83
Dr Jzsef Koszterszitz, chamberlain to the Pope, director of college, urged patriotic education, The
family has been educating children into becoming patriots and patriotic women. The Magyar feelings
of the mother will make them active, selfless and conscientious Magyars. You need not use empty
slogans but you should permeate the little souls with true and noble patriotism.84
Side by side with the deportation of Jews from the countryside, the Budapest Jews were ordered to
move into confined areas. The Housing Office of the Association of Hungarian Jews marked the main
area No IV in buda, District 3 (56, Lajos St), directed by Nndor Gergely and Mihly Weisz. It had
three sub-areas with separate leaders. 85 On 22 June, 1944 the minister of the interior issued a decree
No 148.451./1944-IX on the final demarcation of buildings to be used by Jews on the Buda side of the
capital. In accordance with it, Jews were even more crammed, as a number of houses were simply

80

Litt. Circ. 1944, p. 20.


Litt. Circ. 1944, p. 25
82
Litt. Circ. 1944, p. 30.
83
Bla Witz, Opening address, Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic
parishes], 1944, Vol. 2, p.1.
84
Jzsef Koszterszitz, Letters by Mum, Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman
Catholic parishes], 1944, Vol. 2, p. 4.
85
Ilona Benoschofsky Elek Karsai (ed): Vdirat a ncizmus ellen. Dokumentumok a magyarorszgi zsidldzs
trtnethez. 2: 1944 mjus 15 1944 jnius 30. A budapesti zsidsg sszekltztetse, [indictment against Nazism.
Documents to the history of the persecution of Jews in Hungary, Part 2: from 15 May, 1944 to 30 June, 1944. Moving
Budapest Jews into confined areas], published by the National Council of Hungarian Israelites, Budapest, 1960, pp. 304306.
81

17

deleted from the list of buildings to be used by Jews in District 3.86 The Jews were compelled to move
into 116 star-marked buildings by 24 June instead of the 229 identified initially by the mayor (on 16
June). In buda it meant buildings located in Vrsvri and Bcsi roads, Pacsirtamez, Szl and
Lajos streets and in rmi road.
With respect to the tragedy of Hungarian Jews, the archbishop of Esztergom was only capable to issue
a short message not saying much in essence. I order the Prince Primate wrote , that the following
message [No 5443, 10 July] should be read out to the followers on the Sunday after the receipt of this
circular [No 6 during the year] in connection with the sermon, i.e. either before or after the sermon
without any further ado: Cardinal Jusztinin Serdi, the Prince Primate of Hungary informs the
Catholic followers on his own and the respected Bishops Benchs behalf he has repeatedly turned
to the Royal Hungarian Government regarding the issue of the provisions affecting Jews
particularly baptised Jews, and he will continue his negotiations on the issue in future.87
Following the deportation of the Jewry from the countryside, a real fever of conversion broke out
among Budapest Jews living in the state of complete uncertainty of existence. It must have been
encouraged by the establishment of the Association of Christian Jews in Hungary on 14 July, 1944. A
gleam of hope; maybe those baptised will not be taken away in another wave of deportations.
In a Catholic context, however, the demand for baptism had clearly resulted in anxiety, which was
expressed by prelate Mihly Marcell, university professor, In todays passionate atmosphere the issue
of belonging to a nation or to the church has become a sensitive one, as one trend of political life
strongly proposing an idea of racism emphasises the expulsion of certain races, particularly of the
Jewish race, from the framework of the nation. What is more, it is trying to say no to the option that
those outcasts could approach Christianity. The part of the question wishing to regulate the cohabitation
of races, nationalities and the ancient forces maintaining the country does not have a direct impact on
the Catholic church. On the other hand, its consequence intending to lay obstacles for those who want
to join the church requires major consideration both from a theoretical and a practical aspect. The
reader might believe the author is for baptism. All the more so, as in his wording, the sanctioned laws
of the state, which include the option of changing your religion by applying the form of two
notifications of departure and one registration among human rights, promote the sacred laws of the
Church and their implementation. Here, however, the point is quite different. According to the prelate,
the Church is not a collector of flocks, or commander of Christians on the conveyor belt and it
does not want to get richer with new followers described in similar terms. The teaching of Christ
obliges his Church and the Church implements it using strict measures to lead to the sacred well of
Christianity those who want to join the flock of Christ in their soul in their life after examining their
honest intentions and following regular often lengthy studies. The troubled circumstances amid which
masses of people knock on the gate of Christs Church cannot at all have an impact on the basic
principles of the Church based on Christs teachings. On the contrary, it demands increased attention to
keep away those knocking without vocation but out of self-interest, on the other hand, to humiliate
those with a vocation to bow to the feet of Christ. It would be an exaggeration to condemn all who
want to convert to Christ; but it would be a similar mistake violating the regulations of the Church to
accept via quick baptism relying on emotional waves. The gates of the Church are open for all people
with just intentions, but those lacking a spiritual preparation may not be part to the country of God on
Csaba Katona Zoltn lmosi Andrs Oross Lszl Sos va P. Szigetvry Dra Szab Katalin Varga (ed):
Emlkezz! Vlogatott levltri forrsok a magyarorszgi zsidsg ldztetsnek trtnethez, 19381945, [remember!
Selected archive sources to the history of the persecution of Hungarian Jewry], Hungarian National Archives, Budapest,
2004, p. 209.
87
Bold in the circular. Litt. Circ. 1944, 33.
86

18

Earth. Those knocking in urgency due to the extremely difficult situation88 should join the spiritual
community of the Church via the desire for baptism [baptismus flaminis]89 and should only be baptised
after serious preparations meaning preparations for months or even years. In other words, the fact of
persecution cannot mean more lenient rules! With such strict rules and efforts demanding spiritual
transformation, the threat of baptising people flocking in out of material interests is a superfluous
worry; also pushing original Christians out of Catholic churches is an exaggerated accusation and
fear. All the more so, as the prelate writes - the Church has never allowed smuggling improper
elements into the body of the Hungarian state, on the contrary, it took upon itself the responsibility of
educating its followers from any nationality or race to be loyal, zealous, obedient and devoted citizens
of the Hungarian nation.90
The buda Catholics could read the above clarification and reassurance in early autumn of 1944. In
their case, however, the fears were ungrounded. Compared to Pest, the number of converted Jews in
Buda, particularly in buda was much lower.91
Year
Pest
Buda
buda
1920
905
Cannot be exactly stated due to
3
deficient registration
1921
380
1
1922
283
1923
298
24
1924
235
43
1925
239
48
1926
270
42
3
1927
274
38
7
1928
344
23
1
1929
369
119
11
1930
392
66
8
1931
387
60
2
1932
409
47
9
1933
495
77
12
1934
581
141
11
1935
667
83
13
1936
916
184
10
1937
871
194
6
1938
2716
1012
137
1939
1111
386
78
1940
2260
199
33
1941
1463
198
39
1942
1858
242
40
17723
3226
424

88

The author must have meant the persecution of Jews !


According to Catholic teaching, that desire ensures salvation in the case of death even without the act of baptism.
90
Mihly Marczell, Az rk igazsgok szolglatban [in service of eternal truth], Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek
Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic parishes], 1944, Vol. 3, pp. 3-4.
91
Dr Jzsef Katona Jzsef, Zsid megjhodsrt. A fvrosi zsidsg lelki kpe, [for a Jewish revival. The spiritual
profile of the Jewry of the capital] in Jnos Kbnyai (ed), A zsidsg tja, [the path of Jewry], Mlt s Jv Kiad,
Budapest, 2000, pp. 390-391.
89

19

An interesting fact: while advertisements had mostly disappeared from different parish bulletins, the
cover of the buda bulletin continued to carry ads (optician, pharmacy, stone cutter, ladies hats,
ironmonger and confectioners advertised their wares).
Beginning from 6 November, 1944, every day 2,000 Jews confined to the buda brick factories, which
had served as collection camps, were made to depart on foot towards Hegyeshalom on the road across
Piliscsaba Dorog Stt Szny Gny Dunaszeg and Mosonmagyarvr. But there was no
mention of that in the Bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic Parishes. The authors consoled religious
readers with meditations on the sense of suffering and the knowledge of having contributed to
salvation, while the blockade of Budapest had slowly become complete and the fights had reached
buda. By that time, however, only a few Jews hiding or hidden were still alive in buda.92 Now we
pay more respect to the infant Jesus, Ott Endrefalvy wrote, we are starting to understand now how
much he loved us, what he undertook and suffered for us. We want to help him in the hard work of our
salvation.93
Knowing the end was near, buda parish priest Mihly Leiner meditated about death in the 4th and
last issue of the Bulletin in a paper entitled Lost in my thoughts. Other writings also reflect an
atmosphere of the Apocalypse, The Pope prayed together with us on 8 October (p. 1.); Are the
prophesies true? (pp. 2-3.); Jzsef Jandik, The infant Jesus of Christmas is our only hope (pp. 4-5);
Tibor Kapos, Suffering in the light of Christmas (pp. 6-7).

Jews rescued and summary


To sum up, given the circulars by the archbishop of Esztergom and the Bulletin of Budapest Roman
Catholic parishes, it is no surprise that the persecution of Jews in Hungary was carried out with the
active cooperation of the authorities and a high degree of passivity by the Christian population. A
lengthy mental tuning up emphasising that Jews were different and, mainly, they were the root cause of
everything (from bolshevism to capitalism) had made its impact. In buda getting free of the Jews in
1944 was mostly executed by their neighbours Arrow Cross Party supporters and Volksbund
members. In such a social context the moderate extent of rescuing Jews can almost be explained. 94
According to uniform opinion, the buda Saint Alajos Salesian Monastery played a major part, where
people who were able to escape on the road to the buda collection camp were given refuge.
Obviously, the personality of Mihly Kiss (1946) Salesian prior (19401946) played a major part in
that.95
Side by side with the Salesians, a couple must also be mentioned. Gza Koncz and his wife, Mrs Gza
Koncz (born Irn Sri), who had had a locksmiths shop in buda and who had had many Jews among
their friends. They received the award Righteous among the Nations in 1997.96 There is no word
about parish priest Leiner or other important members of the Catholic parish of buda.

Cf, Lvia Varsnyi, Tiszteljtek az embert![respect man], in Sndor Balzs (ed.), buda ostroma [the siege of buda]
19441945, Budapest, 2005, pp. 109-113.
93
Ott Endrefalv, God still loves us!, Budapesti R. K. Egyhzkzsgek Tudstja [bulletin of Budapest Roman Catholic
parishes], 1944, Vol. 4, p. 9.
94
Its buda implications are rather unprocessed.
95
Cf, Mikls Gulys, op. cit., pp. 65-66.
96
Imre Lebovits, Zsidtrvnyek zsidmentk, [anti-Jewish laws, rescuers of Jews], Ex Libris Kiad, Budapest, 2007, p.
273.
92

20

What you can learn about parish priest Mihly Leiner is that he left for abroad in 1947. We could not
find out where exactly. Although his personal collection of documents if it exists at all could/would
be an important source of historical research, since the most baleful period of the history of buda
Jewry happened at the time when he was the parish priest.
It can be stated in general that the inimical attitude of the population towards Jews in the period of the
persecution and their passivity regarding the exclusion and deportation of Jews have been surrounded
by the silence of concealment to the very day. It is as if they wanted to exclude the buda Jewry from
the 20th century history of buda.97 It is true also for the buda Catholic community. In that respect,
the remembrance to the war period is on the verge of surrealism, At the beginning of the 1940s the
number of leagues and societies increased: in buda the Rosary Society, the Mary Society, the League
of Catholic Mothers, the Catholic Popular Association and the Society for Spreading the Faith were
established. Music life in buda was enriched by societies such as the Lied Society, the Levent
Orchestra, the Choir of Law-Justice-Truth, the Hungarian Credo Choir, the Parish Choir, the CREDO
Orchestra and the Grdonyi Orchestra of Scouts. But, side by side with sacred music, ill-boding
sounds, such as air-raid sirens were also sounded. World War II had been going on in earnest.98

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