István Deák is Seth Low Professor Emeritus at Columbia. He is the author, with Jan Gross and Tony Judt, of The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath.

Could Stalin Have Been Stopped?

Joseph Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Tehran Conference, 1943
Bad feelings about Roosevelt’s policy of cooperation with Stalin persist in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, which, unlike the other Eastern European countries, never collaborated with the Nazis. The Polish people fought Germany with amazing fortitude; yet at the end of the war, the Western Allies consented to Poland’s political subjection and territorial losses to the Soviet Union—with partial compensation for the losses in the form of German territories. Frank Costigliola wants to combat such a negative judgment. He hopes to show that, popular perceptions to the contrary, FDR did as much as anyone could to mitigate the effects of the inevitable Soviet imperial presence in Eastern Europe.

Hungary: The Threat

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on his way to an EU summit, Brussels, March 24, 2011
Hungarians often complain that the world ignores their little country, which has given humanity some of its greatest freedom fighters, mathematicians, physicists, architects, musicians, photographers, film directors, financiers—and war criminals. Truly international attention has come to Hungary only periodically, with the revolution of 1848–1849 under Louis Kossuth, Béla Kun’s Republic …

Heroes from Hungary

This notice and these photographs of Kati Marton’s parents were distributed by the AP wire service on July 9, 1955. They appear in her book Enemies of the People.
During the 1930s a story was told about a sign outside the entrance to a Hollywood film studio: “It is not enough to be a Hungarian; one must also have talent.” Another story was about a meeting of top US atomic scientists at which, when Enrico Fermi has stepped out …

Did Hitler Plan to Kidnap the Pope?

Few popes were met with greater public expectation than Eugenio Pacelli when he was elected in 1939. It was hoped that as both an admired religious leader and a well-known diplomat, he would prove a welcome agent of European stability, a “prince of peace.” Yet few popes exercised less political …

Did the Revolution Have to Fail?

During the thirteen days between October 23 and November 4, 1956, crowds of unarmed Hungarian demonstrators and a few thousand lightly armed revolutionaries forced a tyrannical one-party government to resign. They also caused the retreat from Budapest of the Soviet occupation forces, the dissolution of the hitherto all-powerful Communist Party, …

Scandal in Budapest

There are fewer policemen in the streets of authoritarian countries than in democracies because control is exercised more subtly, by a system of undercover informers, some of whom are coerced, others voluntary. The volunteers are sometimes rewarded by such privileges as a passport for vacationing abroad or a new car …

Survival of the Smallest

Between May and July 1944, approximately 437,000 Jews and persons of Jewish descent but of a Christian religious affiliation were deported from Hungary to the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most of them were older men, women, and children, because Jewish men between eighteen and forty-eight were being used by the …

Improvising the Holocaust

The Final Solution of the Jewish Question was a unique undertaking, its execution an industrial enterprise of unprecedented proportions. Yet it was only one in a series of murderous ethnic campaigns that began well before Hitler and is not yet over. Heinrich Himmler called the Final Solution a Flurbereinigung, a …

Stranger in Hell

At the end of June 1944, when he was fourteen, Imre Kertész was sent to Auschwitz. How he got there and what happened to him afterward became the subject of Fateless, the remarkable novel that would bring him the Nobel Prize in Literature last year. Central to his story is …

Jews and Catholics

Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners[^1] must have been one of the most widely read American books on European history, and in Germany itself it was a best seller, even though it charges several generations of Germans with having been precisely what the title of the book says, the willing executioners …

The Crime of the Century

Today, fascism, Nazism, and communism inspire only some relatively minor political groups. Although they caused untold destruction, and left behind ugly buildings and tasteless monuments, a young European can grow up in ignorance of his country’s fascist or Communist past. Hungarian high school students nonchalantly confuse the 1944–1945 National Socialist …

Artful Dodger

The routine of our daily life soon began to take shape. At seven each morning we crossed the Danube [in Budapest] to visit the swimming pool at the Rudas Baths. Coming home from our exercise, we tackled breakfast with a good appetite. I could find no better solution [to our …

Heroes and Victims

In 1941 Polish townspeople and farmers who had been persecuted by the Soviet occupation forces took their revenge on their innocent Jewish neighbors by torturing them and burning them alive. In 1943 Bulgarian right-wing politicians saved virtually all the Jews in their country and were later rewarded for their efforts …

Strangers at Home

Arthur Koestler, by origin a Jewish Hungarian, tells us in his autobiography of the many countries he lived in during his youth, often under terrible regimes, either in enviable comfort and in touch with Europe’s best minds, or in prison or a concentration camp. His tale ends in 1940, when, …

The Pope, the Nazis & the Jews

Few twentieth-century statesmen have been more enigmatic, contradictory, or controversial than Pius XII, who was Pope from 1939 to 1958 during one of the world’s, and the Catholic Church’s, most trying periods. Pius was an ascetic; his face pale, his hands nearly translucent. He did not drink, smoke, or have …

Survivor in a Sea of Barbarism

In 1920, Miklós Horthy, a former officer in the Austro-Hungarian navy, was elected regent of Hungary by the Hungarian parliament. He remained in that post until 1944—a very long stretch by contemporary Central European standards. During Horthy’s tenure, Hungary was still officially a kingdom, but it had no king—the last …