When the Jewish Bambi became the „poison to the collective Hungarian soul”

We just marked the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the books, both Hungarian and foreign, that were categorized as Jewish in the First Hungarian Carboard Factory- writes Kibic.

Some half a million books were destroyed completely, the efforts were led by Mihaly Kolosváry-Borcsa, deputy state secretary.

Some 500 thousand books, works of 120 Hungarian and 35 foreign writers, were transported the courtyard of the First Hungarian Carboard Factory in Budafok on June 16th, 1944 to be ceremonially destroyed in the factory. As one journalist reported from the scene: “that which has poisoned the Hungarian soul was turned into grey matter in an instant”.

The destruction of the books was an event that was long planned by the propaganda department of the regime and in which Mihály Kolosváry-Borcsa, deputy state secretary played a key role.

Miklós Horthy, admiral and governor of Hungary, accepting the recommendation of deputy governor Döme Sztójay, appointed Kolozsváry-Borcsa as deputy state secretary on April 15th, 1944. Just two weeks later the decree that proposed the “clearance of the Hungarian spiritual life from the works of Jewish writers” was passed.

fotó: Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum Történeti Fényképtára

This decree that bared number 10.800/1944 M.E. stated, that works of that were listed in its attachment were forbidden to be published, copies that were available in public libraries were to be destroyed.

Some 447 627 volumes arrived on June 16th 1944 to the First Hungarian Carboard Factory in Budafok, from 58 collecting stations, out of which 14 were from Budapest. This meant 22 train wagons of “raw material”. Kolozsváry-Borcsa opened the event in a ceremony that we followed closely by the press and was, according to film archives, just at the same time as the Book Festival across the country.

Kolozsváry-Borcsa himself ceremonially threw two volumes into the flames for journalists to record.

The first was a volume of József Kiss, the famous poet, who was named an illustrious person who „infiltrated the Hungarian spirit with Jewish poison”. The second volume was “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh”, by Franz Werfel, a novel about the Armenian genocide.

Among the destroyed books was Bambi, the children’s book written in 1923 by Felix Salten, aka Zsigmond Saltzmann, who was born in Budapest in 1869.

The Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association has held public reading from the destroyed books in the pedestrian boulevard by the Danube, next to Shakespeare’s statue, on the 75th anniversary of the event.