A Hungarian Winery and the Fate of Jewish Property after the Holocaust

July 27 2016

Hungary’s Royal Tokaji winery is one of that country’s best known and most highly regarded. Last month, after a year of negotiations, its owners installed two plaques honoring the Jewish Zimmerman family, who owned it from the 19th century until World War II. The Zimmermans’ story, writes Dorottya Czuk, tells much about how the Hungarian Communist government prevented Jews from reclaiming their property after the Holocaust:

In Hungary, there are still quite a lot of people who feel uncomfortable talking about how they “became owners” of certain things after World War II. The Hungarian state robbed its citizens twice: before and after 1945. The Office of the Commissioner of Abandoned Properties was established in 1945.

“This authority was a very disgusting and horrifying feature of the post-Holocaust Communist system,” explains László Karsai, a historian of the Holocaust in Hungary. He claims that lawmakers formed the organization so that properties stolen from Hungarian Jews could officially be nationalized. . . . [A]fter 1990 only partial compensation has been carried out. . . .

There’s a Hungarian joke: “Communism is a system where anti-Jewish laws apply to everyone.” Honestly discussing the role of Jews in Hungary’s economy and their place in society is a sensitive matter even today. No plaques explain the contribution of Jews to Hungary’s economy. Their properties were once enormously valuable, yet almost nobody has received anything near the value of what they lost. But thousands of buildings in the Hungarian countryside remain silent witnesses to the murdered Jews.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Tablet

More about: Communism, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Holocaust restitution, Hungarian Jewry, Hungary

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism