Budapest by Mátyás Sárközi

By Mátyás Sárközi

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The losses would have been even more serious but for the Russian army's rapid advance to the capital and the fact that Budapest Jews, herded into a fenced ghetto area, could not by then be taken away. This meant that whilst almost all the Jews living elsewhere in the country perished, a large percentage of the Budapest Jewry survived, and today, numbering approximately 80,000, it forms the largest Jewish community in East-Central Europe. When, after the war, businesses were taken over by the state to get rid of capitalism, and the communist oppression hardened, many middleclass professional people emigrated or escaped to the West and many Jews went to Israel.

In: Hungary. Budapest: Hungarian Rotary Club, 1931. 247p. This is a presentation volume for Rotarians of every part of the world and therefore its aim and purpose is to give a rosy picture of Hungary. Nevertheless, if one disregards the short articles, including the one entitled 'Budapest, Pearl of the Danube' (p. 21-44), which provide no more than basic facts and nationalistic propaganda, the book is quite remarkable as a period photograph album. Altogether there are more than eighty photographs of public buildings, statues, streetscapes and of the sporting life of Budapest.

Whereas almost everywhere else in Eastern Europe German settlers maintained their separation, in Budapest they allowed themselves to be merged with the Magyar majority. They became bilingual, and excelled as patriotic Hungarian writers or politicians, in the spirit of the 1896 celebrations of Hungary's 1,000-year-old nationhood. For this occasion the ageing Emperor of Austria and Hungarian King, Franz Joseph, arrived from Vienna dressed in Hungarian hussar uniform. There were military parades, street parties, ox-roasting on the open fields beneath the Castle walls, and a grand Millennium fair was built in the newly enlarged City Park, complete with a full-sized replica of a mediaeval Transylvanian Castle and of the Gothic country church of Ják.

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