Jews in Hungary Following WWII through the Stalinist Communist Government

By Melissa Kaliner


At the conclusion of the Holocaust in Hungary in 1945, approximately 565,000 Jews fell victim to the Nazi regime. The Soviet Union came in to free Hungary from Nazi occupation, but then occupied Hungary itself. Many sources cite the initial excitement of Jews to be freed from German occupation, but the Jews then faced harsh realities under the Hungarian Workers (Communist) Party, headed by Stalinist Mátyás Rákosi between 1948-1956.  An understanding of this time period is important because it shows how the Jewish people were dealt with in Hungary, right after the brutal happenings of the Holocaust.

At the current time, many works have been written on the subject but a comprehensive list of these sources does not exist. To help explain the state of the Hungarian Jews post World War 2 and under Stalinist rule, this research guide contains many sources that will create a clear picture.  It is divided into 4 sections. The first section, General Overview, explains the overall Jewish situation in Hungary after World War 2.  The next section, Hungarian History, provides sources that explain Hungary’s political transformation as occupied by Germany, then the Soviet Union. These two sections provide a lot of background information. In the third section, The Jews in Hungary, books, primary sources and journal articles directly address the issues, feelings and so on of the Jewish people during this time period. Lastly, the section Reconciling with the Stalinist Period Today, reflects on how the Hungarian government deals with its communist past.


General Overview

Haraszti, György, YIVO. “Hungary from 1918 to 1945.”

  • This article describes the Holocaust in Hungary. This is important background information because the Holocaust must be understood in order to comprehend the next phase of Hungarian life.

Kovács, András, YIVO. “Hungary since 1945.”

  • This article provides a detailed background of the Jewish situation in Hungary post 1945. The article explains the progression of the anti-religious policies of the government and the deterioration of Jewish institutions in the 1950s. It breaks down Jewish social, political and religious standing into different sections, which makes it a very clear article.

Silber, Michael, YIVO. “Budapest.”

  • I included an article specifically focusing on Budapest because after the Holocaust, the Jewish population became very concentrated in the country’s capital. On top of this, Budapest maintained the largest Jewish community within the communist bloc (outside of the USSR), which is explained in the article.

Hungarian History

Kenez, Peter. Hungary from the Nazis to the Soviets. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

  • This book explains the progression of political rule in Hungary. It also details the anti-Semitism that lead to sets of pogroms backed by the Hungarian communist party. The book explains how anti-Semitism was not a covert movement, and there were commonly anti-Semite outbursts that the non-Jewish citizens backed.

Litván, György. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956. New York: Longman Publishing, 1996.

  • This book explains how Stalinization came to rule Hungary. The source shows how Hungary transformed over time in order to welcome communism. It gives a good general background to communism.

Varga, László, YIVO. “Rákosi, Mátyás.”

  • This source explains how Mátyás Rákosi came to lead the communist party in Hungary. Based on the information in the article, it would give context to how the communist party gained power.

Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.. 2012. “Mátyás Rákosi.” (accessed December 4, 2012).

  • This source explains succinctly, but well, the time line of Rákosi’s power in Hungary.

Mikes, George. A Study in Infamy. London: Andre Deutsch Limited, 1959.

  • This book describes the AVO, the state security police of the communist takeover in Hungary. The book details how the organization came about and of its reputation for brutality. The AVO was another source of Jewish fear.


The Jews of Hungary

Hanebrink, Paul. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Continuities and Change in Hungarian Antisemitism, 1945–1948.” Last modified 2001. Accessed December 1, 2012.

  • This article provides background of the Jewish situation  in the years 1945 to 1948, before the official communist takeover in 1948.  It explains the continued antisemitism in the country, even though anti-Semitic laws had been appealed. Antisemitism had transformed from a social and political issue to be grounded on a cultural basis during this time period.

Applebaum, Anne. “Cruelty and injustice in postwar Europe.” The Jewish Chronicle Online, November 12, 2012.

  • This article reflects upon the fact that Hungarian communist party leader, Mátyás Rákosi, was actually a Jew himself. The article describes the steps Rákosi took to disassociate himself with being a Jew. The article helps to explain the political situation at the time so we have a better understanding of Rákosi’s disassociation.

Kovács, András. Hungarian Jewish Politics from the End of the Second World War until the Collapse of CommunismJews and the State. Edited by Ezra Mendelsohn. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

  • In this book, there is a specific section titled “Helplessness or Collaboration? The Years of Stalinism.” This section fully outlines the restrictions placed on the Jewish community, as well as other religious groups. The article describes as well the collaborationist policy towards the communist regime Jewish leaders took during this time period and the effects it had on the Jewish population.

Handler, Andrew, and Susan Meschel. Red Star, Blue Star The Lives and Times of Jewish Students in Communist Hungary (1948-1956). New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

  • This book is made up of first hand accounts of the discrimination and issues Jewish students faced in communist Hungary. Most of the accounts have a common pattern: They often begin with excitement as a result of the liberation from the Nazi troops, but then explain how their situation did not improve since they were persecuted by the communist government. 

Patai, Raphael. The Jews of Hungary: History, Culture, Psychology. Wayne State University Press, 1996

  • In this book, there is a section titled “Under Communist Rule.” The book explores the Jewish identity in post-war Hungary due to the impact of communist political developments. Throughout the article, it cites different first hand accounts. For instance, it describes an account of a Hungarian citizen’s feelings of Russian takeover and another account of a communist Hungarian sociologist dealing with the “Jewish question.”

Kovács, András. “Jews and Jewishness in Post-war Hungary.” Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of Fondazione CDEC. April (2010).

  • In this journal article, there is a section specifically dedicated to Jews “under Stalinist rule (1948-1956).” The article explains how some upper class Jews were not hurt by the communist regime, but the majority of the Jewish population was very negatively affected. The source not only explains how the Jews were repressed in Hungary, but how the Zionist movement was hindered as well. It is a strong source also because it provides statistics about families hiding their Jewishness during this period.

Goldstein, Donna Meryl. “From Yellow Star to Red Star: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Communism, and the Jews of Hungary.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. (1995). (accessed December 5, 2012).

  • In this journal article, the author explains how Jews dealt with their identity in Hungary after the Holocaust and under Stalinist rule. She explains how many Jews tried to downplay their roots, such as by changing their names, in order to assimilate.

Braham, Randolph. The Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.

  • In this book of essays, the essay “Some Social Aspects of Jewish Assimilation in Socialist Hungary, 1945-1956” by Victor Karady explores Jewish assimilation into communist Hungary and their Gentile relations. Karady also delves into how Jews dealt with anti-Semitism.


Reconciling with the Stalinist Period Today


The next section focuses on the House of Terror located in Budapest, a memorial to the victims of Hungary’s past. Although the museum is a big controversy, understanding its purpose is still helpful because the Terror House reflects upon the Stalinist period.

Michael, Jordan J. JTA, “Controversy over terror museum.” Last modified 1999. Accessed December 5, 2012.

  • This article gives great insight into why the House of Terror Museum is specifically controversial for the Jewish people.

House of Terror Website:

  • Opening in 2002, the House of Terror was created to recognize and give retribution to the horrifying aspects of Hungary’s Communist and fascist past. The museum’s website gives details about the purpose of the museum and its permanent and current exhibitions.

Fuller, Thomas. “Stark history / Some see a stunt: Memory becomes battleground in Budapest’s House of Terror.” New York Times, August 2, 2002.

  • This New York Times article discusses the opening and popularity of the House of Terror. The article discusses the many critiques of the museum, as all Hungarians did not open it with welcoming arms.