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Tours in Hungary

It was not until the 13th century that any substantial Jewish community was established in Hungary. At that time, King Bela IV, desperate to restore Hungary’s economy after the devastating Mongol invasion, formally invited people with mercantile experience to enter the country. From that point on, Jewish communities emerged in almost all major Hungarian towns, including Buda, Sopron, Kőszeg, Komárom, Esztergom, and Székesfehérvár. Remnants of medieval synagogues exist today only in Buda and Sopron; such buildings were completely destroyed throughout the rest of the country.




Jews did indeed serve the purpose for which King Bela IV intended them and were instrumental in the economic revitalization of Hungary. Their disproportionate contributions to the country’s economic health and growth continued throughout the country’s history and well into the modern era. However, they remained segregated physically and culturally from the rest of the population until 1867, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire issued an edict emancipating its Jewish citizens. Then in 1895, Judaism was recognized as a legal minority religion. These reforms came at a time of rapid economic and industrial development in Hungary, and Jews began to take on even greater roles in encouraging this unprecedented modernization. The result was the gradual assimilation of the Jewish community into the larger Hungarian intellectual and cultural community. Jews quickly also became involved in the modern artistic movements that swept the country, and numbered among Hungary’s premier sculptors, painters, and architects.
Unfortunately, this unprecedented era of freedom soon came to an end. The First World War left Hungary scarred and broken and, looking to retain some national pride, the Hungarian government allied themselves with Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s. Simultaneously, the


Hungarian parliament passed a series of three laws that curtailed all Jewish activities and eliminated basic rights. The deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz began almost immediately following the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944. During this dark time Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat and Carl Lutz, the Swiss Consul heroically issued forged visas allowing tens of thousands of Jews to escape to safety. However, many more perished: approximately 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust.

Following the Second World War, the few Jews left in Hungary found themselves again unable to practice Judaism as they would have wanted, as the Communist Regime instated in 1948 restricted religious life and made formal Jewish education nearly impossible. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, Hungarian Jews were finally able to expand and revive their community for the first time in over 50 years. Synagogues have been restored, new schools and cultural centers have opened and festivals have been established. Hungary is currently in the midst of a Jewish revival.

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