Zionists, who saved lives: the story of the Hungarian resistance

A new book, written by historian Péter Róbert was published recently telling the story of the Hungarian resistance during WW2 by the underground Zionist organizations.

„Although we still do not have enough knowledge about those, who tried to save their brethren from certain death, we do know, that there were many, perhaps a couple of hundred during the most horrific times in Hungarian history” – said Lajos Szarka and Szabolcs Szita during and event held by the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Forum and the Hungarian Zionist Organization honoring the publication of the book.

At the event there arose an interesting conversation regarding the events of 1943-44, when trying to find out what kind of reaction was received regarding the information that came through mainly Zionist activists from abroad regarding the atrocities of the Jews.

The answer given by Péter Robert was simple: devastating. But also logical in a sense, that Hungarian Jewry was mostly assimilated, Zionism was never too successful and had little effect on decision makers of the time.

Lajos Szarka, Péter Róbert and Szabolcs Szita

„The biggest sceptics were the leaders of the Jewish community themselves” – said Róbert. „Whether we talk about orthodox or neolog leaders, none of them wanted to acknowledge the mass murder of the Jews of Czechoslovakia or Poland. These leaders were of the opinion, that any opposition to the Germans may be lethal.”

Szabolcs Szita said in the event, that „today, when we experience pressure from all sides, it is even more important to remember what happened.”

Szita also said, that books like this are much needed, and he remarked, that „most of these Zionists were young, their actions were not merely driven by humanitarian aid, but also national ideology of a dream of forming a Jewish homeland.”

Péter Róbert, whose earlier book was about the Zionist press in Hungary and their underground activity, highlighted, that the main goal of the Zionist groups was not resistance, but saving human lives. He said, that though we do not have accurate figures, it is estimated, that some 7-10 thousand people were saved through their efforts in 12 months. Róbert also said, that though these young activists never shot a single Nazi, they maintained close contact with Carl Lutz, Raoul Wallenberg and other diplomats in the country.

Many of those saved made Aliyah, escaping toward the Romanian border to Palestine, but there were many who were placed in orphanages holding protection documents.

Number of Hungarian victims of the Holocaust exceeds half a million. The amount of those saved by Zionist activists is noteworthy compared to the total amount of the victims.