The Past is not Past

Confronting the Twentieth Century in the Hungarian-Austrian Borderlands

by Frank N. Schubert (Author)
©2024 Monographs XVIII, 288 Pages
Series: Cultural Memories, Volume 22


«A unique, invaluable, and potent reminder that the past shapes the future and yet all the while is being rewritten and reinterpreted.»
(Dr. Dennis Deletant, OBE, Emeritus Professor, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London)
«Points out on almost every page that the past always reappears; the fate of the victims, their persecutors and descendants is intertwined in one way or another.»
(Dr. Péter Krausz, Chairman, Jewish Roots in Győr Foundation)
«Returning to his parents’ home country, the author uncovers the history of the Austrian-Hungarian border region. He works through layers of truth and falsification, and gives a fascinating insight into the history of this region»
(Dr. Erwin A. Schmidl, retired director of the Institute of Strategy and Security Policy of the Austrian National Defense Academy, president of the Austrian Commission of Military History)
How do we remember the past? What do we choose to remember? And, just as important, what has been forgotten and erased from public memory, and where do we find the erased and forgotten reminders of the wrenching events that defined the twentieth century?
This book examines how Hungarians and Austrians living along their common border remember, distort, forget, and ignore episodes marking recent times, among them World War I, the collapse of the Habsburg empire, postwar instability, the Treaty of Trianon, World War II and the Holocaust, removal of ethnic Germans, the Iron Curtain and 1956 revolution, the end of Soviet rule, and the post-1989 migration crisis. The book examines the shaping of memory, both public and private, of this tumultuous century of upheaval, including war, revolution, systematic theft, and murder, along with changes in political regimes, national borders, and demographics.
The author draws on fifteen years of travel in the borderlands from his home in Győr, the largest city in the region, along with published sources and conversations with residents. Part social history and part memoir, this highly illustrated book contains sixteen maps and sixty illustrations to help readers find the answers.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part I Eight Towns
  • CHAPTER 1 Szombathely: Coffee at Ground Zero
  • CHAPTER 2 Rechnitz: Murder capital of the Austrian side
  • CHAPTER 3 Kőszeg: Murder capital of the Hungarian side
  • CHAPTER 4 Oberwart: Jews, Romani, and murder
  • CHAPTER 5 Sopron: Archetypal border town
  • CHAPTER 6 Eisenstadt: Mass graves and museums
  • CHAPTER 7 Győr: The wonders of it all
  • CHAPTER 8 Bruck an der Leitha: The multicultural border town
  • Part II The Past Is Not Past
  • CHAPTER 9 Reverberations of 1944
  • CHAPTER 10 1989 and the limits of change
  • Afterword
  • appendixThe List: Caretakers of real property confiscated from the Jews of Győr in 1944
  • Bibliography
  • Index


  1. Figure 0.1The Hungarian-Austrian border region in the twentieth century [Map 1].
  2. Figure 1.1Szombathely [Map 2].
  3. Figures 1.2 and 1.3The memorial to the 1956 revolution in Szombathely was not unique. Installations commemorating the 1956 revolution often have Christian design motifs. The October 26 massacre of demonstrators by security troops firing from their garrison in Mosonmagyraróvár was by far the bloodiest clash in the border counties during the revolution. The monument shown here was erected in 2001 on Gyász Square near an industrial park on the western side of the city, at Határőr Street, which runs between Alkotmány and Bártok Streets. The pietà scene is the central element of the memorial, which covers the entire park, with individual markers for those shot by the security forces from the borderguard barracks across the street.
  4. Figure 1.4The Unknown Rebel.
  5. Figure 1.5The stumble stone at the site of Imre Wesel’s home.
  6. Figure 1.6A postcard view of the coffeehouse at the Kovács, a classic example of an elegant provincial café of the late Habsburg years.
  7. Figure 1.7The memorial to the massacre on 56 Square.
  8. Figure 1.8Former Communist Party headquarters.
  9. Figures 1.9, 1.10, and 1.11Reminders of 1944–5: A newspaper article reporting the large amount of money and valuables found in the ghetto after removal of the Jews for deportation; symbols of oppression (a Nazi pennant, an Arrow Cross armband, and a gendarme hat); objects found in a labor service mass grave outside of Kőszeg. These were photographed in the museum next door to the synagogue.
  10. Figure 2.1Rechnitz/Rohonc [Map 3].
  11. Figure 2.2“Out of sight but not out of mind.” This motto is on panel 6 of the recently emplaced 10-panel walking tour of Jewish life in Rechnitz. The pamphlet for the Rechnitz tour is available in English and German at the Geschriebenstein Park office as well as in boxes at the individual panels.
  12. Figure 2.3Gustav Pick shown on panel 2 of the RE.F.U.G.I.U.S. walking tour of Jewish life in Rechnitz.
  13. Figure 2.4The former Hotel zur Rose. The front windows on the right look over the Hauptplatz to the site of the Batthyány Castle across Bahnhof Strasse.
  14. Figure 2.5The memorial park.
  15. Figures 2.6 and 2.7The tower and the memorial park at Geschriebenstein.
  16. Figure 2.8The castle on a postcard mailed in 1922, shown from the southwest corner, looking north up the street.
  17. Figure 3.1Kőszeg [Map 4].
  18. Figure 3.2Under the awning at the Ibrahim. The room at the top right is 214.
  19. Figure 3.3The main building of the garrison from Rákóczi Street, on a postcard published in 1936.
  20. Figure 3.4The Brenner House and the historical marker. It is all about the architecture and the music school.
  21. Figure 3.5Can you read this?
  22. Figure 3.6Kőszeg environs [Map 5].
  23. Figure 4.1Oberwart/Felsőőr [Map 6].
  24. Figure 4.2Inside the Schranz.
  25. Figure 4.3The district court building, with the Prónáy/Portschy balcony over the front entrance.
  26. Figure 4.4Wiener Strasse 18, during the Third Reich. The building housed party headquarters for both the district and the town.
  27. Figures 4.5 and 4.6The two memorials to the 1995 murder, across the street from each other.
  28. Figure 5.1Sopron [Map 7].
  29. Figure 5.2The entrance to the garrison on Táncsics Street during the days of the Empire.
  30. Figure 5.3The Vas Honvéd [Iron Defender of the Homeland] in the Sopron Museum.
  31. Figure 5.4The Kellner memorial, from a picture postcard.
  32. Figure 5.5Sopron vicinity [Map 8].
  33. Figure 5.6The open door at Sopronpuszta.
  34. Figure 5.7The monument commemorating the lynching in Sopronkövesd.
  35. Figure 6.1Eisenstadt/Kismarton [Map 9].
  36. Figure 6.2The Ignaz Till dwellings today.
  37. Figure 6.3Towns in Győr-Moson-Sopron County where the only indications of a Jewish presence are cemeteries [Map 10].
  38. Figure 6.4The mass graves and memorials in the new section of the Jewish cemetery. Overall, according to a list compiled by Simon Wiesenthal in 2002, 27 mass graves contain the remains of Jewish slave laborers in Burgenland.
  39. Figure 6.5The entrance to the Burgenland Museum.
  40. Figure 6.6The entrance to the Jewish quarter. The chains are on the right, and the parking ticket vending machine is on the left.
  41. Figure 7.1Győr, 1944, An Archipelago of Theft [Map 11].
  42. Figure 7.2The only red star in town that is not on a Heineken bottle.
  43. Figures 7.3, 7.4, and 7.5Three iterations of the corner of Baross and Szent István or Lenin and Stalin. The first image shows the kiosk with the Iron Warrior visible in the bottom right corner. In the next image, the Soviet war memorial is on the left. In the third one, the monument to builders of socialism is on the right. All are postcard views.
  44. Figure 7.6The center plaque names the three young people killed at the jail. The one on the right bears their likenesses.
  45. Figure 7.7Győr 1956 [Map 12].
  46. Figure 7.8The Bank Palace, on a picture postcard from 1913.
  47. Figures 7.9, 7.10, and 7.11Two images of the memorial to the children, followed by the Roth plaque by the door of the synagogue. The fate of the children haunted artist and memoirist Eva Quittner, who miraculously survived Auschwitz as a 13-year-old girl: “I cannot erase from my memory the fact that all the little Jewish children of Győr, without exception, were condemned to die.”
  48. Figure 7.12The facade of the technical high school. This bit of socialist realist public art from the Communist period survived the massive deaccessioning of the early 1990s.
  49. Figure 7.13The doors to the gallows and cells.
  50. Figure 7.14A copy of the Alexovits Radnoti on the grounds of the hospital on Zrinyi utca.
  51. Figure 8.1Bruck an der Leitha-Királyhida [Map 13].
  52. Figure 8.2The “hyphen,” that is, the bridge connecting Bruck and Királyhida. Even the postcards were bilingual.
  53. Figure 8.3Prisoner-of-war camps in the border region [Map 14].
  54. Figure 8.4The Emperor and King in the Kaiserpark.
  55. Figure 8.5A tank at Ungerberg, dug in and facing east.
  56. Figure 9.1The Schlichter villa at the bus depot across the tracks from the train depot. The 2014 renovation covered bullet holes from an October 1956 firefight.
  57. Figure 9.2Connections with a caretaker, across generations and continents [Chart 1].
  58. Figure 9.3The plaque at Árpád 18 notes that the Csillag sanitorium operated there for 20 years. It does not mention a connection with the Jewish community of Győr. However, whenever 1944 is noted as an end date for an organization or activity, it is almost inevitable that it was shut down as part of the mass theft and murder of that year. This tablet exemplifies remembrance without revealing the reason. Only those who understand the significance of 1944 can begin to comprehend what happened.
  59. Figure 9.4Popper and Pohárnok [Chart 2].
  60. Figure 9.5The marker inside the gate at Kossuth 14 was placed in 1948 by Dr. Sándor Korein, the son of Vilma Popper’s sister Heléna and Dr. Adolf Korein. The younger Korein was also a physician. He practiced at the Csillag sanitarium, survived deportation, although his wife and daughter did not, and resumed his practice in Győr. Pohárnok’s nephew, the son of his brother István, also became a physician and practiced on the staff of the city hospital. The two doctors must have known each other, continuing the strange connection between Vilma Popper and Jenő Pohárnok into the next generation.
  61. Figure 9.6The memorial to victims of the bombing is behind the Arkád shopping center, on the site of the freight car and engine factory that was a key target for bombers on the first raid of April 13, 1944. Just south of the site, the water tower of the period still stands, with a bright red neon Arkád sign. The tower was a convenient aiming point for Allied aircraft and survived the war unscathed.
  62. Figure 10.1The church at Albertkázmérpuszta.
  63. Figure 10.2Hegyeshalom [Map 15].
  64. Figure 10.3The memorial to the ethnic Germans who were removed in 1946. The severed top of the candle points westward.
  65. Figure 10.41989 and afterward [Map 16].
  66. Figure 10.5Phase 4 of the Iron Curtain as shown at Felsőcsatár.
  67. Figure 10.6A field kitchen known as a “goulash cannon” on display at Apátistvánfalva.
  68. Figure 10.7This placard was displayed on walls and utility poles in Győr in the spring of 2008. The question in the center asks, “Whose children are you?” the children of Cain or the children of Árpád? The one in the blue stripe at the bottom asks, “Who doesn’t belong here?”

All maps reproduced in the volume were made by Béla Nagy, cartographer for the Hungarian Academy of Science.


This book draws largely on research-centered short trips from our home in Győr to sites on both sides of the Hungarian-Austrian border. These excursions were made possible by dear friends with automobiles, broad knowledge of the region, and tolerance for my agenda. I thank them all for their patience, friendship, and help. They included long-time friend and colleague Dr. Erwin Schmidl and his wife, Elena, of Vienna; professional tour guide and friend Lajos Simon and his wife, Éva, of Szombathely; and our friends from Győr, Dezső and Ániko Jakabovits, István and Marika Nagy, and Ernő Tükovics and Erika Szenftner. They shared their knowledge of the region and its history, at coffeehouses or around dinner tables in their homes and ours. It was difficult to remember that I was actually working while traveling with these delightful people. The same applies to two most patient and tolerant taxi drivers who became dear friends, István Tűttő and Laci Komjáti.

In addition to accompanying me on research forays, István Nagy, Győr photographer and author of several books on regional history, helped me in myriad ways. He shared his knowledge, research, and connections. In addition, he as well as Erika Szenftner and Irene Schubert provided most of the photographs that appear in this book. All are used with their kind permission. During many pleasant encounters over coffee and pastry, mainly at the Bécsi Kávéház, István and I discussed my work and the local past. We did not always agree, particularly about whether I should publish the list of caretakers assigned by the city government to watch over residences taken from Jewish citizens in 1944, but he remained my friend and always went out of his way to be helpful.


XVIII, 288
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2024 (May)
Central Europe Holocaust anti-Semitism Cold War Iron Curtain Migration Deportations Borderlands and border changes Memorials and Monuments Dark Tourism Public Memory
Oxford, Berlin, Bruxelles, Chennai, Lausanne, New York, 2024. XVIII, 288 pp., 49 fig. col., 26 fig. b/w, 1 table.

Biographical notes

Frank N. Schubert (Author)

Frank N. Schubert was a Historian with the U.S. Department of Defense from 1975 to 2003. During 2003–2004, he was a Fulbright lecturer at Babas-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. He has published books on U.S. military operations and construction and Buffalo Soldiers in the U.S. frontier Army and, most recently, Hungarian Borderlands: From the Habsburg Empire to the Axis Alliance, the Warsaw Pact, and the European Union (2011).


Title: The Past is not Past