Paul Valent

Paul Valent

Consultant liaison psychiatrist, psychotherapist, traumatologist,
Co-founder and past president Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies,

Anti-Semitism in Hungary

This paper examines some features and roots of anti-Semitism with Hungary as an example.

Is the Clock Ticking for Hungarian Jewry?

Limmud Oz 8th June 2014

John’s erudite history of the Hungarian Jews is a sophisticated adult narrative.

My own narrative begins with a double lack of sophistication. 1st, I was a child of 4yrs when I entered a traumatic world of Holocaust Hungary. I rode on my father’s shoulders when we crossed the border from Slovakia to the supposed security of Hungary. We eked out our survival in Budapest living as Aryans.

After the war I wanted to know what happened to me, why, and I wanted to write a book that would prevent such things happening again. But I did not have the words.

I am still on the journey to find the right words.

In the beginning was the word. At the beginning of Jewish history was Abraham. Where better to start? I want to tell 2 stories attributed to Abraham.

The first one was about a man who came into his father’s shop of clay idols and wanted to buy an idol. Abraham asked him ‘How old are you?’ and the man said I’m 50.’ Abraham asked ‘How can a man of 50 be so stupid as to believe that these clay figurines are gods?’

The other story is that Abraham smashed his father’s idols except for one. He put a stick in the remaining idol’s hand. His horrified father asked what happened? Abraham answered ‘This god was jealous of all the other gods and smashed them up.’ His father did not believe him. Abraham was exiled.

I want to highlight 2 parallel contradictory ways of thought. One believed in magic. The other insisted on reality.

The story of Abraham reflects evolution of the human mind from animism to thought. Since Abraham the Jewish God was one of thought. Communication with him could only occur through thought, reading, discussion and argument. Absence of a religious hierarchy made thinking, reading and discussion open to all Jews.

Evolution from magic to objectivity was a worldwide phenomenon around 600 BC. It is re-enacted in each person as the child’s mind moves from a world of magic to a more objective world between the ages of four and 7.

Evolution of the brain and the mind of a child reflects a shift of views between two worlds we all carry in the two halves of our brains. The right hemisphere is emotional, experiential, unaware of words, thought, self, or of time and subserves magical thinking. The left hemisphere carries thought, speech, awareness, and history. It subserves objective thinking.

Around 600BC and at the age of 7 there is a notable shift from right brain dominance to relative greater equality in the right-left brain see-saw. In times of trauma the see-saw loses its equilibrium and shifts one way or the other.

I’ll briefly review kernels of anti-Semitism and see if the Abraham dilemma has reverberated to current times.

Religious anti-Semitism

In the steps of Abraham, Jews continued to reject religious animism, idols, icons, human gods, magic, witchcraft, and demons. They kept studying and arguing about their invisible God.

From the ancient Greeks to the present day, Jews were resented for their disbeliefs. The worst of gentile religions was projected on the Jews. They were in league with the devil. They were killers of God. Religious anti-Semitism persisted in Hungary, as in the rest of Europe, till recent times.

Education and financial success

Jews valued literacy and education from the earliest times. As today, already in the Greek and Roman empires it gave them a foundation to be successful professionals and traders. Because Christian and Muslim religions prohibited charging interest, Jews became important court financiers and money-lenders.

Hungary was a prime example of Jewish success. Between the world wars 90% of Hungarian industry was owned or operated by a few closely related Jewish banking families, reminiscent of the Rothschilds. Over half Hungarian doctors were Jewish; half the lawyers were Jewish.

Over the centuries Jewish ‘cleverness’ and success led to envy, robbery, expulsions and murders both by indebted nobility and underprivileged masses.

Superiority and Exclusivity

Since ancient Greek times Jews were accused of thinking of themselves as superior. They did not eat with gentiles, did not inter-marry with them, and marked themselves as different by circumcising themselves. These accusations have resonated even in recent ‘assimilated’ societies such as Germany and Hungary.

Accusations of power

Jewish cleverness it has been claimed by both Christian and Muslim empires, has allowed Jews to penetrate into positions of power with the nobility.

More recently, it was claimed, they ruled the capitalist west, evidenced by the Rothschilds, and Jewish bankers in Europe and America. They ruled the east where from Karl Marx on they were prominent in the Bolshevik movement. Lenin (who was quarter Jewish), once remarked, “An intelligent Russian is almost always a Jew or someone with Jewish blood in his veins.”

Jews were leaders in postwar Communist Poland, Czechoslovakia, and under the fervent Stalinist Rakosi, in Hungary.

Jewish conspirators in east and west wanted to take over the world, according to the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

That was projection of Nazi, Soviet, and Islamicist anti-Semites, each of whom has wanted to take over the world.

Rejection of the magical animistic aspects of Christianity, emphasis on education literacy and numeracy, financial and professional success entrepreneurship and exploitation of opportunities are all left brain activities. They helped Jews to survive, and gave them dignity, pride, and a sense of power in generally hostile environments.

Why were the environments hostile? Why has a minority of between 5-10% been so singled out? Let me be poetic. The left hemisphere of the brain takes up about 5% of the body. It is essential to the body, but it is deeply resented, because it provides unwelcome knowledge, such as that idols don’t answer prayers. Such knowledge is resented especially in traumatic conditions when powerful idols are deeply desired.

If you want to sense the resentment of knowledge, think of the knowledge the trauma of the Holocaust provided: that there is no God. That is the knowledge Jews gave Christians: no Jesus, Mary, saints, etc..

The clash between right brain magical and left brain objective world exists within each person, community, and culture.

When we talk of the clash of civilisations we refer on the one hand to Islamofascist though we could also refer to Dark Ages hatred of secularism, education, knowledge, technology, finance, freedom of women, multiculturalism, and democracy- all aspects of left brain expression.

Let us add, that in times of trauma such as plagues, bad harvests, revolution, national bankruptcy, depression and Grand Financial Crises, there is intensification of right brain thinking that demands a Satan, a scapegoat to attack. It allies with charismatic populist leaders, religion, tribal nationalism, propaganda, and brute force in order to magically defeat evil.

What it really defeats is left brain knowledge of traumatic circumstances, and greedy oppressive leaders. It eliminates Jews, symbols of left brain knowledge.

After the mayhem Jews are readmitted and their education and professions utilised once more: until the next cycle.

John has brought me back to Hungary. What to do about the Jobbik Party? About the statue that supposedly commemorates the Holocaust but shows Hungary as the oppressed victim?

When I revisited Hungary I met the family that lived in the same house where we hid during the Holocaust. I learned that they knew that we were Jewish. One of them risked her life for me. I asked why did you not denounce us? We are not that sort of people she answered. We had suffered the bombings together. We are all susceptible to traumas.

Some try to survive traumas through their right brains, others through their left. The balance depends on circumstances, on what is available. Christians and Jews, Arabs and Israelis have had different ways of dealing with their problems.

Perhaps recognition of divergence of the use of human potentials to deal with traumatic problems may be a step in resolution not only of anti-Semitism but also the initial problems of humanity that lead to anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia generally.

Categories: ,

© 2013-2020 Paul Valent: Trauma, Stress ~ Log in FacebookTwitterLinkedin