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“All of You Hungarians are Anti-Semites”

“All of You Hungarians are Anti-Semites”

A Hungarian, non-Jewish supporter of Israel experiences bitterness and mistrust from Jews, especially survivors.

by

“It’s in your blood. All of you.”

He looked at me right in the eye. All I could read was resentment. But there was sadness, too.

“All of you Hungarians are anti-Semites. It’s just in your blood."

I stood there frozen in the large auditorium of The Museum of Jewish Heritage after an emotional hour honoring the Holocaust Remembrance Day while twenty pairs of eyes stared at me. I knew that anything I said would be used as a judgment against me, the non-Jew. Not against him, the Holocaust survivor.

“I’m so sorry for what some of my people did to you. I will never be able to understand what you went through. But I assure you, we aren’t all anti-Semites.”

“Well, young lady, you can say whatever you want, just look at your government today.”

Up until this point I tried to stand up for my nation, my people, and myself, but once he started to talk about my government, I understood I had nothing else to do here. This was not the place and time to prove that my blood is anything but anti-Semitic.

I wasn’t angry at him. After all, what moral grounds do I have to be angry at a Holocaust survivor? How would I dare? I genuinely wished him to find peace.

I wasn’t angry but I cried until I got home.

At an Israel rally against a UN resolution

After that encounter I met four other Holocaust survivors in person and read memoirs written by three others. And I realized something that is true for anyone who went through a trauma in life. There are those who come out stronger, find a way to thrive, and share their stories to help others (and perhaps to heal themselves a little more). And there are those who face life with resentment, wishing for revenge, and still share their stories. The former group considers the Holocaust as only part of their story. The latter group never left the concentration camp; the Holocaust is their full story.

On the way home, with tears behind my sunglasses, I wondered why I even felt the need to go to him and say sorry? Why was I so surprised that he would not accept my feeble apology?

Later that week I realized that I had a utopic vision about Holocaust survivors. I thought that by surviving hell they would embrace life and be able to survive everything life placed in front of them. I imagined them kind and caring, never wanting to hurt anyone because they were hurt so badly. I imagined that they share their stories not only to make sure we never forget but also to show us that we always have a choice in life. Just as they chose to survive, they were now choosing to thrive. I imagined them as superheroes.

A lot of that remains true but what I never considered is that while they are superheroes, they are also human beings, and that makes everything so much more complex. How naïve I was.

That Holocaust survivor who put me on a stand as a Hungarian sent me on a journey that allowed me to understand that surviving the concentration camps wasn’t the only hardship they endured.  Surviving freedom, waking up the day after liberation, taking those first steps after the DP camps – the decision to start their second act and choose life is also incredibly difficult.

I can show that we are not all anti-Semitic by continuing to stand with Israel and the Jewish people.

I still struggle to find the right balance between my patriotic Hungarian heart and my love towards Jews and Israel. I realize that I am an anomaly. Since my first trip to Israel in 2012, I am torn between worlds. In one world I am immersed in Judaism and surrounded by Jews.  I work with pro-Israel organizations to make sure their message is heard.  I enrolled in a MA Program to study Judaism, I am a loud advocate of changing the stereotypes about Jews and Israel, and I spend my evenings learning Hebrew. In my other world, I often feel like an outsider, an Eastern European non-Jew who should feel guilty and apologize for what happened before I was even born.

When I am confronted by Jews with stereotypes regarding my non-Jewish identity, I am faced with a choice. I can get upset and hurt, and turn my back on this whole Jewish world and stop investing so much time into something that isn’t always rewarding or appreciative. Or I can accept that this is just one person who is deep down expressing his own inner pain, and show that we are not all anti-Semitic by continuing to stand with Israel and the Jewish people.

For many Holocaust survivors, their revenge on Hitler is the ability to cuddle their grandchildren. My revenge against the frequently expressed hatred towards my nation is to stand with the Jews in spite of everything.

Because what good it will bring if we stare at each other in resentment? We’d just freeze history in a moment that should never have happened.

October 1, 2017

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 19

(12) Anonymous, October 3, 2017 8:01 PM

Thank you

You seem like a very special person, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for standing with Israel and the Jewish people.

(11) anonymous, October 3, 2017 6:06 PM

Check your roots

Like you said, it is an anomaly to be so torn between worlds. Many Jewish children were given to non-Jewish neighbors during the holocaust, could it be that your mother and mother's mother were Jewish? Maybe your unusual solidarity with the Jewish nation has more behind it than you think...

Virag Gulyas, October 8, 2017 3:42 PM

I tried to check. But no, no Jews in my roots. (Sadly)

(10) Ayelet Elbaz, October 2, 2017 8:38 PM

No one can stand in their shoes

Dear Ms. Gulyas,

Thank you for your solidarity and for your efforts on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. Thank you for standing up for what’s right when it’s not always easy. We could definitely use more people like you.

Please understand that you are doing a great disservice even to the holocaust survivors whom you look up to, by making their psyche so simple, so easy to understand. They do not owe it to anyone to be our heroes. If they were able to somehow pull themselves up and make a life for themselves after the utter hell they have gone through, it was not to be put on a pedestal higher than their fellow survivors and sufferers.

I do not now much about Hungary politics today, but I encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t wait with baited breath to be embraced by people who’ve been destroyed by your nation. Stand up and make an identity for yourself as one who defends truth, no matter how difficult that may be.

Thank you and May G-d help you.

(9) Stephanie Alber, October 2, 2017 1:05 PM

We appreciate you!

Ms. Gulyas,
As a Jew I appreciate your love for us and Israel very much. I know most of us do. Please stay strong and do not get frustrated by those people who are understandably embittered. We value friends like you!

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