The Representation of Jews in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Hungarian Proverb Collections


  • Ilana Rosen Ben Gurion University of the Negev



Hungarian Jews, Emancipation, proverbs and sayings, stereotype, András Dugonics, János Erdély, Andor Sirisaka, Ede Margalits, Gyula Paczolai, Gabriella Vöő


Proverbs are concise formulations of folk wisdom and as such, when seen in masses, they may well express the spirit of their time and place. In Hungarian proverbial lore Jews figure prominently in nineteenth-century proverb collections but fade out of such collections as of the mid-twentieth century. In the nineteenth-century proverb collections Jews are invariably portrayed as faithless, dishonest, greedy, physically weak and unattractive. Largely, this portrayal as well as the dynamics of the earlier presence of Jews versus their later disappearance from Hungarian proverb collections match the shared history of Hungarians and Hungarian Jews since the 1867 Emancipation of the country's Jews and possibly even earlier, through their growing integration in significant arenas of their host society, up to their persecution and annihilation in the Holocaust, and later their decade long forced merging into the general Hungarian society under communism. This article traces the occurrence and disappearance of Jews in Hungarian proverb collections throughout the last two centuries and analyzes the language, content and messages of the proverbs about Jews in these collections.






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