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16:15 - 17:45

Bystanders. Jews and Their Neighbors Respond to Each Other’s Plight in the Carpathian Region and Other Borderlands

Vortrag am 6. Juli um 16.15 Uhr im Vortragssaal des Herder-Instituts

Raz Segal (Stockton University)
The Hungarian army rolled into the Carpathian region, as Hungary joined Nazi Germany in destroying Czechoslovakia in late 1938 and early 1939. They came with a mission: to transform this multi-ethnic and multi-religious borderland into an integral part of an ethno-national “Greater Hungary.” This vision translated into mass violence whose first victims were among the majority Slavic population, Carpatho-Ruthenians; mostly — though not exclusively — members of a local militia that resisted the invading Hungarian troops in March 1939. Hungarian soldiers quickly overpowered them, but went on, for several days, to massacre a few thousand of them, mainly very young men, in some cases in organized killings of prisoners. Jews saw and heard this, and they recounted the violence in their testimonies. My paper examines this instance of bystanders, and it argues that it is linked to another instance of bystanders, five years later, in spring 1944, when Carpatho-Ruthenians saw and heard the Hungarian authorities swiftly ghettoize, rob, and deport their Jewish neighbors to German hands (and to Auschwitz). Looking beyond a static picture of only one instance, the paper explores the meanings of the position of bystanders when two groups in the same society face different yet related assaults by the same state. What, in other words, did it mean for both Jews and Carpatho-Ruthenians to witness the Hungarian occupiers destroy their society? While focusing on the Carpathian region, I will address in my lecture these kinds of social dynamics in the other borderland regions that Hungary occupied during World War II.

Raz Segal holds a Ph.D. in History from Clark University (the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 2013). He is Assistant Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Sara and Sam Schoffer Professor of Holocaust Studies at Stockton University. Focusing on central and southeast Europe, Dr. Segal is engaged in his work with the challenges of exploring the Holocaust as an integral part of late modern processes of imperial collapse, the formation and occasional de-formation of nation-states, and their devastating impact on the societies they sought to break and remake. He has held, inter alia, a Harry Frank Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Lady Davis Fellowship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His last book is Genocide in the Carpathians: War, Social Breakdown, and Mass Violence, 1914-1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).

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