In defense of Christian Hungary : religion, nationalism, and antisemitism in inter-war Hungary, 1919-1944 / Paul A. Hanebrink.
This thesis argues that religion was central to the formation of Hungarian national identity in the first half of the twentieth century. This process developed as a three-way competition to define the nation, a struggle that pitted secular forces against rival Catholics and Protestants. After 1918, each of these groups claimed that Hungary's culture was Christian, and each claimed to defend Christian and national values better than the others. Moreover, every attempt, both secular and religious, to define this “Christian-national” identity depended for its coherence on a vision of modern “Jewish” culture as an anti-national menace to Hungarian society. However, Hungary's secular and religious nationalists disagreed on the uses to which antisemitic politics should be put. Their competition to define and control national identity was thus first and foremost a debate about antisemitism: What sort was necessary? What kind was dangerous? Hungary's Christian clergy had ready answers to these questions, arguing that antisemitism could be an instrument with which to reshape national society on explicitly religious premises. Yet their visions, like the secular nationalism that rivaled them, raised doubts about the extent to which Hungary's Jews could ever be considered Hungarians. The thesis explores this aspect of inter-war Christian-nationalism in detail, examining the responsibility of Hungary's Christian leaders, both religious and lay, for propelling antisemitism to the center of Hungary's political culture. Both the confessional and the antisemitic elements of religious “Christian-nationalism” shaped the responses of the Churches to fascism and growing Nazi German hegemony in Central Europe. Their ambiguous legacy of resistance, accommodation, and silence both before and during the German occupation in 1944 sprang, the thesis concludes, from the very idea of the Christian nation on which they had founded inter-war Hungary.
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