restricted access About Antisemitism in Post-1989 Hungary
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28 About Antisemitism in Post-1989 Hungary Magdalena Marsovszky (Translated from the Hungarian by Márta Goldmann and Peter Hargitai) What is antisemitism in post-1989 Hungary? I begin with a taxonomical definition: following Fabian Virchow, I use the term "antisemitism" instead of "anti-Semitism" in order to avoid the notion that there is any kind of given "Semitism" with certain characteristics against which the antisemite holds his or her beliefs or acts. Instead, it is the antisemite who constructs the notion of the "Jew" and "Semitism" in a contingent manner (Virchow 162). The standard understanding of the notion is that of "being against Jews." If, however, we regard those definitions by which antisemitism is a "cultural code" (see Volkov), a "worldview" (see Holz), "secular metaphysics" (see Kiss), or the "projective identification extended to a universal level" (Csabai and Erős 120), it then becomes clear that we are dealing with a more complex phenomenon . Although the term antisemitism—as used in the nineteenth century when proponents of the doctrine turned it consciously into a label—in and of itself is not unproblematic either, in recent times a consensus has been reached regarding its use. Accordingly, the phenomena in which antisemitism is already palpable through their intellectual-structural dimensions can only be unmasked if we understand anisemitism not only in the sense of "being against Jews," but as an anthropological and cultural concept as well. In Western cultures preceding the Enlightenment, religion played a large and defining role. Since Jews' religious affiliation also defined their dress and customs, by and large up until the Enlightenment they were also recognizable visually. The preconditions of antisemitism were established in Western culture owing to the secularization of society that followed the Enlightenment, advances in philology, including the works of such thinkers as Herder, as well as ideas arising in the period of Romanticism and emerging notions about people and peoples' character (see, e.g., Dunk; Herder, "Abhandlung"). Although antisemitism as a concept appeared much About Antisemitism in Post-1989 Hungary 29 later, it was already distinguishable from anti-Judaism by way of anthropology. With religion no longer playing a decisive role, the perceived differences among a peoples ' character came to the foreground to take its place. The argument of universality of the Enlightenment and the law of reason paved the way toward integrating Jews into Christian society; however, emerging Jewish emancipation and efforts toward civil equality were met with a noticeable shift in the direction of anti-Judaism based on anthropological perceptions. This meant that since liberalism and the favorable ground it gained for Jews toward universal emancipation and assimilation, it became increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to identify by outward appearance alone those who belonged to the Jewish community (Dunk 70). The anthropological shift from anti-Judaism towards antisemitism was significant in yet another way: stereotypes designated earlier as belonging to a certain identifiable group were now becoming independent, yet the labels were already applied to those persons and groups who had nothing at all to do with the Jewish religion. In antisemitism research today, the consensus that has become a central thesis is that the cause of antisemitism cannot be found in either the Jewish religion or in the Jews' de facto behavior. Antisemitism, I postulate therefore, has actually nothing to do with "real Jews." Antisemitism heaps on Jews such a massive body of negative social attributes that they have no—and cannot possibly have—any foundation in material reality. We have learned from psychoanalysis that hatred toward the "other" or "foreignness" is always projected self-hatred, which will be mobilized by anxiety and fears. We hate that which we do not like in ourselves. The "Jew" of antisemitism is an image of an enemy or an antisemitic construct and, as such, a cultural construct and ideology. People usually understand the term's meaning as discrimination against Jews for their religion. At the same time, in its logical consequence antisemitic ideology forms a base for concrete discrimination and it involves the potential for violence, since it is about supposedly justifiable self-defense in which the presupposed dangers can only be suspended by the elimination of the alleged enemy. Historically, antisemitism emerged as a reaction to industrialization and to its accompanying changes throughout Europe in the nineteenth century. According to Thomas Haury, in his "Der moderne Antisemitismus" and Antisemitismus von links, antisemitism rejects and interprets modern society in two sets of principal categories. Haury's first set of principal categories is that...


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Persecutions -- Europe, Central -- History.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- History.
  • Kertész, Imre, 1929- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Europe, Central -- History.
  • Hungary -- Ethnic relations.
  • Europe, Central -- Ethnic relations.
  • Jews -- Persecutions -- Hungary -- History.
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