Central European University (CEU) hosted a discussion to launch How it Happened: Documenting the Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry (McGill-Queen’s University Press), the first English translation of Erno Munkacsi’s account of the Holocaust in Hungary.
Munkacsi was the secretary of the Budapest-based Hungarian Jewish Council, or Judenrat, during the Nazi occupation from March 1944 to early 1945. He originally published his account of those months in the 1947 book Hogyan történt? (How it Happened).
As noted by the Canadian-American journalist and author Nina Munk (related to Erno Munkacsi), the book “illuminates the agony and the moral weight of ‘choiceless choices.’” Having edited the English edition of How it Happened, Munk added that, whilst a historical publication, the book also “feels particularly vital right now as Jews everywhere anxiously confront a surge of antisemitism, as bigotry and hatred have become embedded again in our everyday discourse.”
Munk was in discussion with the two historians and CEU graduates who co-authored the book’s extensive annotations: Laszlo Csosz (HIST ’00), senior archivist at the Hungarian National Archives, and Ferenc Laczo (HIST ’04, PhD ’11), assistant professor at Maastricht University. CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff offered opening and closing remarks.
Munkacsi’s text is an early account of the Nazi occupation of Hungary, during which time hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were deported to concentration camps. Munkacsi (1896-1950), general counsel of the Israelite Congregation of Pest and Director of the Hungarian Jewish Museum, relied largely on Jewish documentary sources, including many that he co-created as the secretary of the Judenrat during the occupation.
The event at CEU was followed by the opening of the important new exhibition A Calling Heard by Generations: The History of the Munk-Munkácsi Family at the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives.