How It Happened: Documenting the Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry

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Product Details

McGill-Queen's University Press
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.1 X 1.3 inches | 1.55 pounds

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About the Author

Erno Munkácsi (1896-1950), a distinguished Hungarian jurist and writer, was general counsel of the Israelite Congregation of Pest and Director of the Hungarian Jewish Museum. In 1944, during the Nazi occupation of Hungary, he served as secretary for the Hungarian Central Jewish Council or Judenrat. Nina Munk is a Canadian-American journalist and author. She is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty. László Csosz is senior archivist at the Hungarian National Archives in Budapest and co-author, with Gábor Kádár and Zoltán Vági, of The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide. Ferenc Laczó is assistant professor of history at Maastricht University and author of Hungarian Jews in the Age of Genocide: An Intellectual History, 1929-1948. Péter Balikó Lengyel is a Hungarian writer and translator who earned his master's and PhD candidacy in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Susan Papp is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto and author of Outcasts: A Love Story.


"How It Happened succeeds both as a riveting, personal account of the days leading up to the Holocaust in Hungary and as a scholarly work that sheds new light on the tragedy of Hungarian Jewry. A valuable addition to Holocaust literature, this is a very readable story drawn from the pages of a catastrophe we are still unable to fully comprehend." Anna Porter, author of Kasztner's Train: The True Story of Rezso Kasztner, Unknown Hero of the Holocaust
"This is an increasingly anguished memoir by someone whose faith in law and humanity was broken as the details from the Auschwitz Protocols (testimony from camp escapees) became known ... profoundly sad but important reading. We all know how the war ends and how many lives were lost, but this eyewitness account is a good primary source document for understanding how ethnic hatred overtook one of Europe's most seemingly cultured societies." Foreword Reviews
"Could the members of the German-appointed Jewish Council in Hungary have done more to help their fellow Jews, miraculously still numbering more than eight hundred thousand in 1944? The fact that more than half a million perished but the rest survived, including the members of Jewish Council, has led to endless soul-searching and bitter reproaches. Erno Munkácsi's honest account of his and the rest of the Council's doings makes clear that it was not the Jewish Council but the non-Jewish Hungarians who decided who would live and who would die. It is therefore the Christians of Hungary who emerge from the tragedy in part as vile murderers and robbers, in part as indifferent onlookers, and in part as compassionate saviours." Istvan Deak, Columbia University and author of Europe on Trial: The Story of Collaboration, Resistance, and Retribution During World War II
"Erno Munkácsi's How It Happened is a riveting account, told by one who was there, of the anguished decisions that Hungarian Jewish leaders made and of the actions that they took (or did not take) as the Holocaust unfolded around them. One of the very first histories of the Holocaust in Hungary, Munkácsi's account defies genre, combining careful analysis of documentary sources with powerful and detailed personal recollections. The publication of this expertly annotated English translation is a major contribution to international Holocaust studies." Paul Hanebrink, Rutgers University and author of In Defense of Christian Hungary: Religion, Nationalism, and Antisemitism, 1890-1944