Making Room for Jews

Viktor Orban and Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel, July 2018.

With reference to note verbale No. 257, June 26, 1944, concerning a communication regarding the inquiry of American government with respect to treatment of Jews in Hungary, Royal Hungarian Foreign Ministry has the honour to inform the Swiss Legation of the following:

As in most European states, the Jewish question has, particularly in recent decades, also became one of the greatest economic, social and political problems in Hungary. The Jewish problem became especially difficult as Jewry, thanks to the liberal organization of the state, had been able secure prominent position in economic, political and cultural life.

Also in those large states where the race problem was far less important—as for instance the Negro question in the United States— the government was obliged to take corresponding measures for the protection of its own race. As a consequence, various governments of Hungary were obliged to strive against the excessive influence of this foreign race, as Hungarian Jewry constitutes a far greater danger for Hungary than, for instance, Negroes or Japanese are for the white population of United States.

Jews not only possessed the most important economic positions in Hungary but thereby exerted a very strong influence on the national life of the country as a whole, which threatened to degenerate the foundations of the national character of the people. Recognising this danger, as in other European states, the Hungarian governments of the time also undertook the solution of the Jewish question. Articles of law XV of 1938, IV of 1939 and XV of 1941 formed the legal basis for measures which tended towards the solution of the Jewish question.

Military events on the eastern front and the approach of Soviet army to the Hungarian frontier made it necessary to fully mobilize all military, material, and moral forces of the country for the defence of the nation’s existence. This also meant the elimination of everything that would undermine or diminish the country’s resisting power. As defeatist propaganda and the agitation of Jews —as in 1918 — became more and more perceptible in this decisive phase of the war, and in order to prevent the repetition of the tragic events of 1918-19, the government was obliged to eliminate on an increased scale the influence of Jews.

They were consequently separated from the rest the of the population and put to more useful work —e ither in the country itself or abroad. In doing so, the government and its functionaries did not fail to consider the laws of humanity and justice. If individual cases of injustice occurred, they were always due to sporadic actions of some subordinate organs, which in each case were made responsible.

Numerous Jews were placed at the disposal of German government as workers, as was the case for years for tens of thousands of workers of Hungarian nationality and Christian faith. The treatment of Jews working in Hungary is similar to that accorded other workers in work camps (for example students, etc.).

With respect to food rationing, non-working Jews do not receive certain more or less luxury articles (such as rice, fowl, butter, poppy seeds). Concerning basic necessities, however, they are on the same basis as the rest of the population.

It may be added as a supplement that during recent weeks, the situation of Jews has been notably improved. At the instance of some foreign organisations (International Red Cross), the Hungarian government has made it possible for Hungarian Jews to emigrate to neutral states, respectively, to Palestine.

The present status of action taken by the Hungarian government regarding Jews is the following:

I. 1. Deportation of Jews for work abroad temporarily suspended.

2. Viewing proposals presented by the Swedish Red Cross, by the Swiss Legation acting on behalf of the Palestine Immigration Commission as well as by (US) War Refugee Board, the Hungarian government authorised the emigration of Jews to Sweden, Switzerland, Palestine and other countries.

II. In addition to the concessions above mentioned, following mitigations accorded in treatment Jews:

1. Deportation of baptised Jews for work abroad stopped.

2. a) Administration on behalf baptised Jews entrusted the Counsel for Baptised Jews, established 6 July, 1944.

b) Jews baptised prior to 1 August 1941, remain in the country but their segregation from non-Jewish persons will be ordered.

c) They are obtaining all facilities in exercise of their religion.

3. a) Facilities ordered for baptised Jews residing in Budapest will be extended to baptised Jews outside of the capital.

b) Revision of situation of baptised Jews sent to work in Germany foreseen.

4. It will be decided as soon as possible who will be considered converted Jews and such action will affect not only Jews aged 16 to 60 but Jews of all ages.

5. The following are exempted bearing the Jewish star:

a) Family members of ministers of Christian religion (parent, brothers and sisters, wives and children of Protestant ministers).

b) Bearers of ecclesiastical (papal) decorations.

c) Members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.


a) Discretionary right reserved for a certain number of Jews. There will be exempted:

b) Jews living in marriage with persons of Christian origin.

c) Jews bearing certain war decorations (golden medals for military bravery, etc).

d) Jews of certain special merits.

It will be permitted to send via Red Cross food parcels to persons interned in concentration camps.

Adapted from State Department cables. Published under a Creative Commons license. Screenshot courtesy IsraeliPM. All rights reserved.