chapter  4
35 Pages

Interwar Hungary

Democratization and the fate of minorities
WithBéla Bodó

This chapter examines the policy of the Hungarian government toward ethnic Germans and Jews in the context of international relations and the ongoing democratization of the country after 1918. It challenges the accepted wisdom that the League of Nations and the liberal international order that emerged after 1919 were a complete failure: at least until 1933, Hungary and the countries in the region of East Central Europe were forced to make occasional concessions to international opinion on the issue of minority rights. This all changed with the rise of the “fascist international community” with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at its center. After 1933, international relations favored forced assimilation, increased discrimination, exclusion, and, during World War Two, expulsion and genocide. On the other hand, democratization, which, in the regional context, also implied social reform, posed a threat from the start to the relatively well-to-do German and Jewish minorities in Hungary. The chapter shows how democratization and social reform, in the context of war, led to increased discrimination, the genocide of the Jews, and, after 1945, the expulsion of ethnic Germans.