Separated from the Society — International Conference

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13 Oct

A two-day international conference titled Separated from the Society – The Jewish Ghettos in Europe and Hungary, organized by the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network will take place in the Synagogue of the Memorial Center on 19 and 20 October, 2021.

Outstanding experts from Europe, the United States, Israel and Hungary will attempt to outline the general features of the process of ghettoization in the Nazi-occupied territories, as well as to describe the specificities in selected countries, from the Baltics to Belgium. The second day of the conference will be devoted to the Hungarian chapter of this tragic story.
Hungarian and English interpretation will be provided at both days of the conference. The event will be streamed on the Facebook page (in Hungarian) and the YouTube channel of the Memorial Center (in English). For participating in person to the event please register at,registration in case of on-line participation would be highly appreciated.
For additional information please see the attached program and the abstracts of the lectures below the program.


Dan Michman “Ghetto: The History of a Term and its Relevance for a Proper Understanding of the Holocaust”
Professor emeritus, Yad Vashem and Bar-Ilan University 

Many historians have hitherto believed that the ghettos were a clearly well-calculated and bureaucratically measure intended to segregate Jews from the general society, a measure that was a cog in the developments leading to the Final Solution. This interpretation was based on the mentioning of the idea of concentration and – separately – the term “ghetto”, in the meeting of Heydrich with the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen on September 21, 1939. However, this perception is wrong. The term “ghetto” had a long cultural history, starting in the sixteenth century. In German Jewish discourse after the ascendance of the Nazi party to power in 1933, the term was used metaphorically. In the beginning, Nazi bureaucrats also used it in this meaning. However, the term was intensely used in the Jewish discourse in Poland between the two World Wars regarding the need to abolish “ghetto” life, i.e. the life in densely populated by poor Jews in down-ridden neighbourhoods. The meaning of “ghettos” according to this discourse was internalized in German Judenforschung (“academic” research on the Jews). According to this approach, the Eastern European Jews, concentrated in “the ghettos” were the source of the Jewish power and peril.
When invading Poland, the German troops and authorities encountered these “ghettos” and had to cope with them. The gradual and unsystematic reaction – decided upon by local commanders and administrators – was to contain the Polish Jews in the already existing ghettos (=Jewish neighbourhoods).
Ghettos were established in occupied Poland from October 1939, but most of them since spring 1941. The phenomenon spread in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union shortly after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, was copied by Rumania in Bessarabia, Bucovina and above all in Transnistria, and was finally implemented in the form of transit ghettos in Hungary. All the ghettos, about 1200, were established in Eastern Europe; the only exceptions were Theresienstadt and Saloniki. It should be emphasized, that the emergence and implementation of the ghetto phenomenon differed from the much more systematic installation and earlier conceived phenomenon of Judenräte (Jewish Councils). Finally, ghettos never became a complete system, and even in Eastern Europe many smaller Jewish communities lived until the very moment of deportation without a ghetto.

Jan Grabowski “Ghettos in Poland 1939-1944. An Overview.” 
Professor, Ottawai University
Soon after the conquest of Poland, the Germans sbegan the implementation of the policy of ghettoization of the Jewish population. The ghettos (first of which have been established even before the end of 1939) have been created both in the Generalgouvernement, and in the territories incorporated directly into the Reich. Although some of the largest ghettos (such as Warsaw, Lodz, Krakow) have been closed-off by walls, the majority of the smaller “Jewish living areas” remained relatively opened, separated from the “Aryan” side by nothing more than a flimsy fence and barbed wire. The lecture will focus on the social, political and economic dynamics inside the ghettos, as well as the German policies and the contacts of the Jewish populations with the outside world. I will equally address the issue of the primary (pre-liquidation) and the secondary (remnant) ghettos.

Silvia Goldbaum Tarabini Fracapane „18 months in Theresienstadt: The ghetto-life of Jews from Denmark”
PhD at the University of Copenhagen
Following the “Judenaktion” in Denmark in October 1943, 470 Jews were deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt. After five months they began to receive food parcels from Denmark, something which considerably improved their living conditions and status in the ghetto. Exempted from further transports, 89% of the Danish deportees survived the 18 months of imprisonment and were released in April 1945 and brought to Sweden.
Over the years at least a third of the survivors have given testimony. This vast documentation gives insights to the daily life in Theresienstadt, where, as put in words by 20-year-old Isidor Schindelheim in April 1945: “On the one hand there was great misery, but on the other one could go to concerts, football matches and various entertainments.”
With a micro-historical approach my lecture will explore aspects of everyday life in Ghetto Theresienstadt through the eyes of the deportees from Denmark.

Martin C. Dean „Ghettos in the Baltic States under German Occupation, 1941-1944”
Researcher for the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center
For many years the historiography of the Holocaust in the Baltic States focused on the larger ghettos in Latvia and Lithuania and neglected the role played by ghettoization in the mass shootings conducted in the countryside in 1941. More recent studies, by Christoph Dieckmann, Menakhem Barkagan, and others, however, have shown that more than 100 ghettos were established in Lithuania and some 29 in Latvia. Many were short-lived and served mainly to concentrate the Jews for a short period prior to the killings. Nonetheless, the Jews were housed separately from the non-Jewish population, and they were subjected to forced labor, plunder of their property, and other forms of discrimination.
This paper will examine the patterns of ghettoization in the Baltic States using specific examples. These will demonstrate how the many smaller and short-lived ghettos were used to concentrate the Jewish population and facilitate the process of destruction. The role of local collaborators will also be examined and their cooperation with the German killing squads. Finally, the history of the larger ghettos, forced labor camps, and concentration camps in this region will be reviewed, as the policy of “destruction through work” was applied here through to the end of the Nazi occupation.

Matej Beranek „Transit camps during the first wave of deportation from Slovakia in 1942.”
Cultural-Promotion manager, SNM-MJC-Sered’ Holocaust Museum
The Slovak state introduced anti – Jewish legislation from the beginning of its existence. Jews were stripped of the basic human and civil rights and they were excluded from the public, economic, cultural and public life. On 9 September 1941 the Slovak government passed a decree on the legal standing of Jews – known as the Jewish Codex. The Jewish Codex was one of the strictest pieces of legislation from the period of the existence of the Slovak State during the years 1939-1945. It was only a short time before the deportation from Slovak territory. The deportation started in March 1942 and the authorities of the Slovak states established transit camps for the organisation of the deportation. Two of them were part of Labour camps in Sereď and Nováky. Other three were established in Bratislava-Patrónka, Žilina and Poprad. Transit camps were a crucial element of the first wave of deportation from Slovakia, from the camps were organised transports to extermination camps in occupied territories of Poland.

Lauren Schram „A ghetto without walls”
Senior Reasercher, Kazerne Dossin, Mechelen
When the Nazis conquered Belgium, they had to take into account the complex conditions of the occupation. They were too few in number to manage the country without being obliged to rely on Belgian intermediaries, in particular to carry out the ‘final solution of the Jewish question’. The Nazis opted for a pragmatic system, installing a military administration. They could not treat the Jewish population in Western Europe as they did in the East. Judeocide did not take on unlimited barbarity there, even though it remained one of the Nazis’ main goals. The process of Jews’ exclusion in Belgium took place in a different time frame. Its implementation was slower and more discreet, but still searching for a better efficiency. In Belgium, the Jews were gradually excluded administratively, economically, professionally and socially from the rest of the population and finally stigmatised by the yellow star. They have ended up completely isolated in a ghetto without walls. Moreover, the Jewish population was given a Jewish council, the Association of Jews in Belgium, which was a Jewish tool in the hands of the Sipo-SD. After leaving the Jewish population in such a vulnerable position, the Nazis could begin its genocidal deportation.


Kinga Frojimovics “Ghettoisation in Hungary in 1944”
Archivist-Historian, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, Austria

In my presentation, I will first introduce the legal and administrative background of the establishment of ghettos and concentration camps in Hungary, and the role of the Hungarian government.
Then, using the examples of three cities – Szombathely, Nyíregyháza and Hódmezővásárhely – I will analyse the room for manoeuvre of the local administration, and how much depended on their humanity or inhumanity.

Attila Jakab “Christians classified as Jews in Hungarian ghettos in 1944”
Historian, Holocaust Memorial Center

During the Dualism period, Jews with a Hungarian identity were expected to be baptised and join a Christian denomination (Catholic, Reformed or Lutheran). After the First World War, however, the emergence of the Jewish question in the public sphere brought with it, as if by law, a distrust of and aversion to converts. Dezső Szabó had already clearly stated in 1921: “the Jew who converts, if necessary twice a day […] is the most dangerous type, the one sent forth by the fearsome race to occupy the outposts in the bosom of the people […] these Hungarian and Christian Jews of national colour are the most despicable scum of humanity, and our instinct for life must first of all eliminate them from Hungarian life.” This took place in 1944, when Christians, who were also classified as racially Jewish, were also ghettoized and then deported. In my lecture, I will reflect on the attitude of the Christian churches during the period of the Jewish laws and what it meant to be a Christian in the Hungarian ghettos.

Edit Linda Németh “The visualization of rural ghettos based on the Holocaust Memorial Centre’s collection sources”
Historian, Holocaust Memorial Center

Perhaps the most important shortcoming of the extremely diverse source material on the history of the Holocaust is the visual, i.e. pictorial and filmic forms of representation, especially the contemporary, real-time footage. Researchers have very few photographic sources at their disposal on the ghettoisation process, which took place at an incredible speed in Hungary. The sources in the Holocaust Memorial Centre’s Collection -all of which are photographs -provide an opportunity, albeit in a rather limited context, to present the ghettos in a visual form.

Erika Szívós “Houses with stars in Budapest in 1944: an unusual form of ghettoisation and its experiences”
Associate Professor, ELTE BTK Institute of History
After the ghettoisation and deportation of the masses of Hungarian Jews had been completed by June 1944, the ghettoisation in Budapest in June 1944 took a particular form. In contrast to the practice followed in other countries and in rural Hungarian cities, in Budapest – at that time – those who were considered Jews according to racial laws were not concentrated in a designated area, but a system of so-called houses with stars was established covering all districts.
The presentation will outline the history of the creation and existence of such houses, highlighting the specificities of each district in Budapest. It will also focus on the specificities of the inner district no. 7: this was the neighbourhood where the so-called big ghetto was later designated in Pest. The lecture will also focus on the reactions of the population to the house with starts decrees, the everyday experiences of people living in such houses, and the relations between Jews and non-Jews. Finally, it briefly touches on the issue of the memory of these houses, both post-war and today.

Laura Csonka “The circumstances of the creation of the international ghetto”
Historian, archives educator, Hungarian National Archives
In November 1944, the Hungarian authorities organised the international or small ghetto for Jews protected by neutral countries in Újlipótváros. In my presentation, I will describe the characteristics of the international ghetto, the circumstances of its establishment, the role of diplomats from neutral countries and the difficulties of moving to the ghetto, by using contemporary sources.

Csilla Fedinec “Lili Jacob’s homeland” 
TK Institute for Minority Studies
As Oren Baruch Stier puts it, Holocaust icons distill historical events and memories into easily comprehensible symbols. Such icons are Anne Frank or Lili Jacob Meier. Lili’s homeland – Sub-Carpathia is a historically and culturally well-defined region of historical Hungary, both Jewish and Ruthenian, despite the lack of unified administration. The period of the First and Second Czechoslovak Republics divided the country internally between Slovakia and the province known as Podkarpatska Rusz, located across the border between Czechoslovakia and Romania. With the revision, the region is once again dominated by a single state power, but territorial unity is not achieved despite the separate administrative structure that has been established. In 1941, Sub-Carpathia was the first area to be affected by the deportation of Jews of ‘irregular citizenship’. Life in Zone I is described on the basis of documents and contemporary press material.

Attila Gidó “Ghettos in Northern Transylvania”
PhD, Researcher, Romanian National Institute for Minority Studies, Kolozsvár
In my presentation, I will try to answer the question to what extent the ghettoisation process in Northern Transylvania, the functioning and emptying of the ghettos, coincided with the Hungarian and international typology, and to what extent it differed from it.
The fundamental difference was mainly in comparison to the early and long-standing ghettos in Poland and Lithuania. In those ghettos, the assembled Jews had time to organise their lives and to build up some kind of functional system, whose daily life included regular work, economic activities and the running of various institutions. In the ghettos of northern Transylvania, on the other hand, there was neither time nor opportunity to develop a functioning system. The steps in the chronology of the ghettos in Poland, Lithuania or Belarus, which had existed for a long time, even for years, were completely absent in the ghettos in Northern Transylvania.

Attila Simon “Divergent paths to the same end. Ghettos and ghettoisation in the reannexed Southern Slovakia”
Dr. habil, external member of the Hungarian Academy of Science
The Holocaust in the reattached Southern Slovakia is still partly unexplored. Therefore, in my presentation, I will describe the most important events in the process of ghettoisation in that area, including where ghettos were established in those territories and where the Jewish population of the region was deported from. Since, unlike in Hungary after Trianon, Czechoslovakia between the two wars was not characterised by anti-Semitic public discourse, I will also address whether this made a difference to the fate of the Jews and the way in which the Christian population in Southern Slovakia viewed the ghettoisation process and the Holocaust in general.

Attila Pejin“Ghettos in Northern Serbia” 
Historian-Museologist, Zenta City Museum
After the violent demonstrations in Belgrade on 27 March 1941 in reaction to the signing of the Treaty of Accession to the Tripartite Pact, and the coup that overthrew the current government, Hitler decided to invade Yugoslavia, counting on the participation of Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary. With the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia on 10 April, official Hungarian policy no longer considered the non-aggression pact valid and took part in the invasion of Yugoslavia. In return, Hungary regained the Bácska, the Baranja Triangle and the Muraköz, but (against expectations) Banat was placed under German military administration and the Serem region was transferred to the Independent State of Croatia. Thus, the fate of the Jews in the territories known before Trianon as the ‘South’ varied for a time, but the end result was the same tragedy everywhere.
In my lecture I will deal primarily with the Jews of the territories reoccupied by Hungary, briefly touching on the extension of the Jewish laws and discriminatory measures to these areas, and then in more detail on the ghettoisation and deportation after the German occupation; however, due to the historical continuity and the different specifics, I will also discuss the other two areas – Banat and Serem.

Realized by the support of the Hungarian Government.