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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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Antisemitic elements in Communist discourse: A continuity factor in post-war Hungarian antisemitism: András Kovács


András Kovács

Following the collapse of the Communist system, overt antisemitism quickly appeared in post-Communist societies, including Hungary. This development surprised many: it seemed puzzling that 45 years after World War II, anti-Jewish prejudice, antisemitic language and the antisemitic worldview had remained alive in a system that officially deplored antisemitic ideologies and legally sanctioned expressions of anti-Jewish prejudice. Theories of ‘deep freeze’ attempted to provide an answer this question, according to which the atavistic nationalism, ethnic hatred and antisemitism resurgent in post-Communist countries was a consequence of the fact that the Communist system did not allow an opportunity for public reckoning with the past, and did not offer an alternative to past destructive ideologies.1 Rather, it simply banned them. By doing so, a situation was created in which the first opportunity for free expression of opinions allowed those social groups who had lost their orientation and who sought secure points of reference in the new circumstances to locate old ideologies and images of an enemy that had been ‘frozen’ for almost half a century, in particularly atavistic, almost fifty-year-old forms. I have endeavoured to show elsewhere the sort of discourses from which antisemitic language emerged with such surprising speed in Hungary following the system changes.2 This process is difficult to explain, however, if the explanation proceeds solely from ‘deep freeze’ theory. In the early 1990s, antisemitic explanations of the world proved attractive too soon for too many people for us to be able to ascribe this...

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