The collection of sources by József Harmat guides us through the horrors of the takeover by the Arrow Cross Party in Hungary; it presents the biggest massacre of the Gypsy executions, its preceding period, and its aftermath. It commemorates the 120 men, women, and children from Székesfehérvár and Várpalota executed at Acaia Lane at Lake Grábler. The lengthy introductory study discusses laws and regulations on law enforcement and health care against Gypsies in the first half of the twentieth century, as well as summarizes the conditions of the Gypsies in Székesfehérvár and Várpalota at the time. Through articles and interviews published in the book, the author unearths the steps which led to the mass massacre and how it was done, reporting on the happenings from almost minute to minute.
An outstanding merit of the volume is that it does not restrict its sources to those concerning only Gypsies, it takes in a wider range of investigation. It discusses in depth the rampage of the Arrow Cross Party over the Gypsy population in Székesfehérvár and Várpalota both in the introductory study and in the commentary to the sources. In addition to the introductory study, the almost 100 sources from archives, and the contemporary newspaper articles and interviews, there is a versatile appendix (timeline, list of victims and survivors, autobiographical database) helping the reader navigate through the volume in this period and understanding the massacre at Lake Grábler.
With contemporary articles from local newspapers, Harmat depicts the outrageous lashing out of the anti-Gypsy atmosphere of 1944. Hungarian Gypsy inhabitants of Székesfehérvár were scattered through the city, while Vlach/Olah Gypsies lived in settlements on the outskirts of the town. In Várpalota, both groups lived on the outskirts of the town, in so-called Gypsy rows; Hungarian Gypsies in houses, and Vlach/Olah Gypsies in tubs/ huts. Most of them made a living as migrating craftsmen, day labourers, or musicians; but it was hardly unusual for them to work in the brick or [End Page 146] cement factory in Székesfehérvár or in the mines of Várpalota. Most of the Gypsy population had permanent, or at least temporary employment in the given city. Despite this, the local papers (Új Fehérvár and Fejérmegyei Napló) instigated bad public sentiment against Gypsies–not shying away from mentioning internment camps–with quotes such as "Gypsy characteristics: criminal acts and reluctance to work," "Track them! We would be happy to see a temporary Gypsy ghetto, just as we were seeing Jews deported," "They are just as migratory and sneaky as the Jews," "The radical treatment for the Gypsy issue is internment, and separating the men from the women, and educating them in the work ethic" (pp. 60–3).
At first, the post commander refused to execute the Gypsies in Székesfehérvár and Várpalota, saying that they were there to control, not to execute. The commander demanded that the supreme authorities give the order in writing. Later the written order arrived from the National Controlling Detachment (Nemzeti Számonkérő Különítmény), with some sources attributing the issuing of the order to the Gestapo and the sheriff of the Arrow Cross Party. According to memoirs, a regulation of the Interior Ministry was circulated which ordered the gathering and deportation of Gypsies. However, the execution of the Gypsies mentioned above was based in the report from the Arrow Cross Party, which stated that at...