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Fri, 07 Sep 2012 11:51:53 EDT by admin, 104472 views
University of Florida, Gainesville
History paper by Freifeld, Alice (all papers)
World War II War Crime Trials in Hungary
War Crimes Trials began in Hungary in January 1945, before the end of the war in the West. These trials tried to distance the nation from the deeds of its fascist leadership. Small fry trials delved deeper into the stench of wartime behavior, and spread its tentacles into the parishes, threatening politicians, priests/pastors, schoolteachers, as well as the local thugs of communities. At the time, the trials were understood and feared by the Hungarian majority population as Jewish revenge. Yet, death or severe sentences were comparatively small.
War Crimes Trials are being roundly criticized as setting the stage for the Purge Trials just a few years later. This paper will argue, the trials also served to water down, systematize and distance the public from guilt. The trials reassured Hungarian Jews of the possibility of re-assimilation. Surviving Hungarian Jews were more likely to decide not to emigrate. Increasingly, Jewish survivors came forward as defense witnesses in rather dubious circumstances. The trials defined the new social ethos; the narrative of the trial transcripts developed defenses of the “hard working.” A quick switch of party, especially Communist party membership, washed away the past. The trials also seem to have served as a social palliative, establishing the accepted social narratives (and silences) regarding World War II for the coming 50 years.
Brief Professional Bio:
Alice Freifeld received her PhD (1992), M.A. and B.A. from University of California, Berkeley. She joined the University of Florida in 1994 after teaching at Wheaton College, University of New Hampshire-Durham, University of Connecticut-Storrs, University of Nebraska, and Transylvania University, Lexington, KY. Professor Freifeld has published Nationalism and the Crowd in Liberal Hungary, 1848-1914 (2000), which won the Barbara Jelavich Book Prize in 2001. She also coedited East Europe Reads Nietzsche with Peter Bergmann and Bernice Rosenthal (1998). She has published numerous articles and is currently working on a manuscript entitled Displaced Hungarian Jewry, 1945-48.