Telling the history of the Holocaust in Hungary has long meant telling the story of 1944. Raz Segal, in his new book Genocide in the Carpathians: War, Social Breakdown and Mass Violence, 1914-1945
(Stanford University Press, 2016), reminds us that this is only part of the story, and that focusing on 1944 misleads us about the nature of the violence in Hungary and in much of Eastern Europe.
Segal's book examines at a small area in the Carpathian mountains. By beginning in the 1800s, he is able to show that shared experiences and worldview shaped this area much more than national or religious differences. He then narrates the emergence of tensions in the interwar period. Finally, he explains how the vision of a greater Hungary cleansed of its minorities drove persecution, ethnic cleansing and death in the region during the Second World War.
Segal uses this region to reexamine our assumptions that perpetrators of mass violence across Europe shared a common motivation and goal. Instead, he argues there were parallel Holocausts which differed in nature and motivation. And he calls into question our casual use of terms such as 'anti-Semitism' and 'bystander,' pleading for more nuance and care. In doing so, his examination of a small region in the Carpathians leads readers to big questions important across the field of Holocaust and genocide studies.
Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the
Reacting to the Past series, including
The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda,