Lecture on the Zionist Youth Resistance Movement in Hungary – Ghetto Fighters House, 2020

First, I would like to show you a short 10-minute video, that we produced at the Society for the Research of the History of the Zionist Youth Movement in Hungary, presenting a summary of the events and operations of the resistance movement members. This summary can perhaps give us a sense of the mood and the feeling of those days. Afterward, I will try to explain the events in more detail.

The video was prepared at my request, from excerpts from the four documentaries that Benny Barzilai produced for the society (The film: Summary of the resistance operations).

Toward the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944, it was obvious to the leadership of the Zionist youth movements in Hungary that the Germans were systematically exterminating the Jews of Europe.

On March 19, 1944, when the Germans invaded Hungary, the leadership realized that Hungarian Jewry was the remnant of European Jewry. It was the obligation and responsibility of the leadership to do everything possible, and even the impossible, to rescue Hungarian Jewry and foil the plans of the Germans and their Hungarian collaborators. The Zionist youth movement leadership made a conscious decision to not take up arms, but rather to engage in rescue operations, and the reasons that tipped the scales unequivocally in favor of rescue were:

  • Lack of topographic conditions – most of Hungary is an enormous plain, with few forests and no swamps
  • Lack of time – as soon as the Germans entered Hungary, the anti-Jewish decrees were issued one after the other at a dizzying pace. Within a shockingly short time the Jews were concentrated in ghettos and within a few weeks the Jews in the rural areas were deported to Auschwitz. There was no time to organize an armed resistance.

Lack of an arms-bearing population group – most of the Jewish men aged 21-42 served in forced labor units in the Hungarian army, and in 1942 most o