Friday, July 11, 2014
ADSS 10.172 Angelo Rotta to Luigi Maglione - persecution of Hungarian Jews; situation of baptised Jews
Reference: Report 915/44; N.Pr. 949; (AES 3317/44)
Location and date: Budapest, 28.04.1944
Summary statement: New antisemitic legislation. Total exclusion of Jews from economic life, creation of ghettos, restrictive rations, no exemptions for baptised Jews.
I am following my report number 855/44 of 19.04.1944 concerning the general situation in Hungary. (1)
With regard to the Jews, there has been a continuing intensification of the fight against them. A new decree totally excluding them from commercial life, so that their shops are closed and they are obligated to hand over all their merchandise. Meanwhile their homes, in some cases, may be requisitioned, and they can be also forced to live in a “ghetto”, which according to the local authorities are to be formed in the cities or in the more important villages. This has already been done in the north-eastern regions of Hungary, that is, those closed to the frontier threatened by the Bolsheviks. There are also restrictions regarding rations in the sense that they are not granted certain foods, and other foods are reduced in quantity after the introduction of special ration cards. (2)
Given that the decrees are racially based, many thousands of baptised [Jews], for the most part Catholics, are gravelly affected by these draconian measures, all the more so since the Government established a Jewish Central Committee for the easier application of the decrees. Christians are at the mercy of this committee, which will, of course, sacrifice them first, to meet the demands of the Government.(3)
Yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I spoke with the secretary general (4) and demanded that serious action be taken by the Government against these provisions, noting once again the inhuman and anti-Christian dimension of the fight against the Jews. I said that the Holy Father could not help but be profoundly grieved seeing Hungary, who had gloried in being a Christian nation, was now heading in a direction that lead to conflict with the doctrine of the Gospel.
The Foreign Affairs ministry understands these things; but there is, unfortunately at the Ministry of the Interior various elements, and above all, the two under-secretaries (5) who are fanatical anti-Semites and who for reasons they do not disclose and who are more papal than the Pope, in the sense that that they sometimes even go beyond what the Germans demand.
Some of the Jewish-Catholics, who feel a little abandoned, would like vigorous action in defence of their rights promoted by the ecclesiastical authorities. Without doubt you are interested in the contents of the letter and conversation his eminence, the Cardinal Primate (6), addressed to the Prime Minister (7). But he [Cardinal Seredi] lives in Estergom, and has not been seen in Budapest, and has, so far, not said a word of comfort for the afflicted: the other bishops generally wait for the Primate’s initiative in questions of general interest. Practically, it seems to many that the ecclesiastical authorities are not dealing with the issue out of excessive caution, even when this does not correspond to reality. Certainly more prompt and direct action, before the publication of certain decrees, would not have been ineffective. I know that soon, his eminence, Cardinal Serédi will go back to the Prime Minister on this issue and will submit a memorandum.
It is hoped that the combined action of the Nunciature and his eminence the Cardinal Primate will obtain some benefits in favour of the baptised Jews and that elemental human rights are safeguarded in the manner of treating the other Jews.(8)
(1) See ADSS 10.153.
(2) The process of ghettoization in Hungary began on 09.04.1944. All Jews living outside of Budapest were to be concentrated in a series of ghettos. A ghetto in Budapest was not set up until November 1944. Along with ghettoization, the German implemented through Hungarian government agencies a special rationing system for Jews. Jewish rations were set below the rates for all other groups. The intention was to starve the Jews and reduce any likelihood of resistance. The nuncio would not have know that the decision to deport all the Jews of Hungary had been made with joint German-Hungarian cooperation five days before. Deportations were due to start on 15.05.1944 – less than three weeks after this report was sent to Rome.
(3) Local government bodies established Zsidó Tanács – Council of the Jews – from March onwards. Samu Stern (1874-1947) was the president of the Jewish community of Pest and head of the national organisation of the councils.
(4) Secretary General – not identified but possibly the more moderate and humane Miklós Arnóthy Jungerth (1883-1957 )
(5) See ADSS 10.207. Undersecretaries – László Endre (1895-1946), László Baky (1898-1946) and shown below just before their executions, were Adolf Eichmann’s collaborators in the concentration and deportation of the Jews of Hungary. Both men were tried as war criminals after the war and executed.
(6) Justinian Serédy (1884-1945)
(7) Döme Sztojay (1883-1946)
(8) See ADSS 10.179.