Győr and Jewry

The Past is not Past

Confronting the 20th century in the Hungarian-Austrian borderlands

Book written by Frank N. Schubert

What is the book about?

How do we remember the past?  What do we choose to remember?  And, just as important, what has been erased from public memory?  Where do we find these erasures, the “forgotten” remnants of the wrenching events that defined the 20th century? The Past is not Past (A múlt nem múlt el) examines the ways that Hungarians and Austrians on both sides of their common border remember, distort, forget, and ignore the wrenching events that mark the generally horrible century. 

These episodes and developments include World War I, the collapse of the Habsburg empire and postwar political instability, the Treaty of Trianon, World War II and the Holocaust, removal of ethnic Germans, the Iron Curtain and the 1956 revolution, the end of Soviet rule, and the post-1989 migration crisis.

Based on fifteen years of travel throughout the borderlands from the author’s home in Győr, the largest city in the region, as well as on published sources and conversations with residents, the book – part travel guide, part social history, and part memoir – addresses these questions.

Fifteen maps and more than 140 illustrations help readers find the answers.

The author, Frank N. Schubert, for his friends Mick, and his spouse, Irene
© F. N. Schubert

Personal impressions

I had the opportunity to read two chapters of Mick Schubert’s book before its publication. The ones entitled „Győr – the Wonders of It All” and the „Reverberations of 1944”. It is an absorbing and fascinating read. Mick raises points of view, shares insights with the reader that have been surprising and/or unfamiliar to me, having grown up in Győr long ago. He takes us, with a touch of irony, through the twisting and often shocking transformations of many well-known Győr landmarks from the early 20th century to the present day.

He shows how people of the recent past and present try to cover up and deny the past, to one-sidedly present the truth of the time, to forget and make other people forget the inglorious and criminal deeds of those who took part in the extermination of the Jews, among others.  Mick points out on almost every page that the past always reappears; the fate of the victims, their persecutors and descendants is intertwined in one way or another. Some reconciliation is possible only by uncovering the truth.

Yes, the past is not past and it can certainly repeat itself if we do not care. For each other. (Note by the site editor.)

The quote

Based on revelations of this book, and my own experiences, I say, Mick, you are right, the past is still walking among us. We all must face up to it sometime. (Note by the site editor.)

With Mick’s consent, I am publishing a few paragraphs about the Révai gimnázium , which made a profound impression on me as a former student of this institution. I attended the school for four years and my former class still meets every five years. I had never heard before that a part of the school building played a miserable role in the tragic fate of mixed Jewish-Christian couples from Győr in 1944. The full details of this stunning historical moment should be revealed though it would not change the poignant fate of the people concerned. Under the influence of the book, I myself tried to make some modest initial steps to clarify the issue and learned from archival sources in Győr that documents of the district’s chief magistrate appointed by the Arrow Cross government contain dozens of petitions from mixed couples kept in the Révai gimnázium , which only confirms the book’s claim.

Quote from Chapter 7.  Győr – The Wonders of It All


The Révai gimnázium or high school on the west side of the park was adapted early in the war for use as a military hospital because of its proximity to the railroad station.  It also continued to function as a school through the academic year of 1942-1943, when Jewish students were dismissed en masse. The building survived the wartime air raids, though with considerable damage.  At war’s end, the Russian occupiers also used it as a hospital.

The high school bathing in sunshine

When the ghetto was established in May 1944 across the Rába in the Sziget neighborhood that contained three Jewish houses of prayer, part of the Révai building became the “mixed” ghetto, where Jewish-Aryan couples were confined.  Those people numbered somewhere between thirty and forty.  They survived longer than residents of the general ghetto.  In fact, they almost made it through the war.  At around nine o’clock on the night of 26 March 1945 they were taken to the Moson Duna and shot into the river, called by some locals the “moving ghetto,” from the Medve Bridge, now the Széchenyi Bridge.  Soviet forces arrived just hours later.[1]

[1] The moving ghetto should not be confused with the floating ghetto.  The latter name was given to boats bringing more than 3,000 Jews fleeing east from Austria in the wake of the 1938 Anschluss.  The vessels tied up at places like Ásványráró, sometimes for months, before the refugees were allowed to debark.

Many have worn the owl-handle of the Révai gate

The Révai bears no markers to indicate its wartime use or the fate of those taken away to be killed.  Nor is there a marker at the murder site, either at the bridge or along the river.  All that appears to be known is the approximate number of victims.  And while there are no markers for this catastrophe, the park in front of the school has two marble plaques embedded in the grass in front of newly planted trees, both within twenty meters of the building itself.  The local natural gas company planted the first in 2009, in celebration of reaching 800,000 customers.  Members of the Lions Club International placed the other one in remembrance of their international convention, held at Győr in 2015.  As far as the victims of Arrow Cross murder are concerned, they—and their killers–might just as well have never existed.  A sense that something is missing is missing.[2]

[2] The massacre of the Révai prisoners is actually mentioned in the text of the exhibit concerning the life of Bishop Apor Vilmos at the bishop’s palace.  With phrasing adapted directly from Randolph Braham’s encyclopedia of the Holocaust (volume I, p.- 482), the exhibit identifies the site of their incarceration as ”egy győri iskolaépület,” a Győr school building, without specifying which one.

The Hungarian and English editions are expected to be published together by the Holocaust Memorial Center (HDKE) in Hungary later this year.

See also:

Featured image: note in Wikipedia, extract, about F. N. Schubert