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Antisemitism in an Era of Transition

Continuities and Impact in Post-Communist Poland and Hungary

Edited By François Guesnet and Gwen Jones

The post-Communist transition in Eastern Central Europe has brought about democratic reform, liberalized economies and accession to the European Union, but also the emergence of political movements that revert to antisemitic rhetoric and arguments. This volume compares the genealogies and impact of antisemitism in contemporary Poland and Hungary. Leading and emerging scholars contrast developments in both countries from the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the present, analysing the roles played by organised religion, political leaders, media and press, but also by Communist Parties. They present historical analysis as well as the results of qualitative and quantitative research on contemporary public memory, the image of the Jew, antisemitic media, political constituencies and the interplay of prejudices, specifically anti-Roma racism. A topical bibliography of research on antisemitism in post-Communist Eastern Central Europe offers pathways to further research.
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An Old-New Story: The continued existence of the Tiszaeszlár blood libel1: János Dési

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János Dési

On 11 September 2003, the Hungarian Justice and Life Party [MIÉP] laid a wreath at the grave of Eszter Solymosi, a thirteen-year-old Calvinist girl who disappeared without trace 120 years ago. Today it is still a taboo subject that 120 years ago, members of the Jewish community of Tiszaeszlár murdered the young Christian girl for ritual purposes, and that their judicial acquittal was as a result of political pressure.

Excerpt from a publication of the Hungarian Justice and Life Party youth section, September 2003.2

For almost 130 years, one recurring allegation of Hungarian antisemites is that in 1882, Jews killed a young teenage maid, Eszter Solymosi, for ritual purposes. Furthermore, antisemites believe that although Israelites were almost proved guilty, the defendants had to be released as a result of a large international Jewish conspiracy. This blood libel, originating in the Middle Ages that remained virulent in modern Central Europe,3 and which surfaced even after World War II in Hungary,4 certainly belongs among the darkest anti-Jewish falsehoods.

The blood libel also surfaces with some regularity in our time. Its appearance in public discourses is something of a chicken-and-egg question: which came first? Did news of the Tiszaeszlár blood libel arouse antisemitic passions, or were already existing antisemitic sentiments searching for some form of outlet, proof ← 51 | 52 → that there was reason for anti-Jewish suspicions? Proportions and emphases will, naturally, change over time. Yet it...

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