No 22 (2020): Popular Culture and War

Published September 10, 2020


Historical Ethnology

Varieties of desire for peace on German postcards of World War I

In this study the author is looking for correlations between figurative and handwritten messages on German postcards in World War I. In research literature it is mostly claimed that illustrations and news do not correlate with each other. As postcards were increasingly censored during war time and could be read by everyone the postcard writers very rarely mentioned any criticism about war matters. At first sight one can agree to this. But by deeper research of the front and back of the postcards, as well additional research in directories, archieves and historical literature the author elaborates connections between both sides and even more war criticism.

On the basis of six picture postcards, mostly written by soldiers to their families the author discovers different critical attitudes towards war and peace which were depending on the actual war situation, social-cultural background of the writer himself and the offical war propaganda of those days. Sometimes the handwritten message is in contrast to the affirmative message of the postcard picture. Accordingly it can be claimed that the picture on the postcard was often used as a camouflage. Furthermore the longing for peace was mainly presented by postcard-illustrations and inscriptions with Christian references. The figurative message of these postcards were even more emphasized when the writer refered to the brutality of war.

Literacy of lower social classes at the turn of the century: Letters in the First World War

The paper discusses the literacy of lower classes in the last decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and focuses on the correspondence of the First World War. Besides briefly reviewing the general contexts for the literacy of lower social classes (education, legislation), the paper discusses language/ethnicity issues as well. By summarizing linguistic remarks from selected research papers, the author underlines that the large number of letters was due to the increased need for communication and these pieces of writing reflect the literacy and the language of the masses; consequently, wartime correspondence is an accurate reflection of the communica­tion of lower social classes.

Stereotypes Surrounding the Hungarian Peasantry During the Years of the First World War

The paper examines the use and political, ideological, and social meanings of the term peasant and its synonyms. It reflects on how these meanings were modified as a consequence of the structural and experiential changes in the social situation of the agrarian population.  The textual analysis is based on publications from the press during the First World War and, thus, the concepts, in their contexts, can be under­stood first as instruments for propaganda and mental mobilization, that is to say, as political action. Second, these notions and concepts also incorporated past (histor­ical) phenomena and future expectations, through which they offered arguments for programs and ideas to transform society. Third, the texts frequently prompted debates in the media, which strengthened the discursive nature of the press, the controlled publicity, and the usage of vocabulary and language. By the same token, they can also represent a chance to examine the social stereotypes and the experience of personal relations crystallized in these texts.

Competing Nationality Politics Targeting German Communities at the Hungarian-Romanian Border Zone after the Great War

In my study, I focus on the events that took place in the short period after the Great War ended (1918) and before the consolidation of Romanian power in the Hungarian-Romanian Border Commission (1922) from the point of view of the artificially created ethnic category: the Satu Mare Swabians or Sathmar Swabians. The historiography related to the “ethnographic” aspects of these events have appeared multiple times and in several contexts and forms in the years since. However, the question of ethnicity has not arisen in relation to the population of German descent, but rather in relation to the Hungarian-speaking Greek Catholic communities of Romanian and Rusyn/Ruthenian origin who were treated by the Romanian side as Magyarized Romanians. Following this example, the Romanians later began to collect data on the Magyarized Germans, which they then presented to the Border Commission. Germans living in the territory witnessed a strong competition between identity politics and discourse supported by rival Hungarian and Romanian states. One of the key features of this rivalry was the intensive propaganda activity promoted by both the Romanian and the Hungarian authorities to gain territories to the detriment of the other.

The expulsion as historical turning point in the religious and cultural life of the German-Hungarian village Budaörs/Wudersch?

The expulsion of the German minority in Hungary at the end of World War II started on the 19th of January 1946 in the small village Budaörs/Wudersch close to the capital Budapest. The village has become well-known in the interwar period for its flower carpets prepared for the feast Corpus Christi, made by its German-speaking population until over 90% of the inhabitants were forced to leave the country for the American occupation zone of Germany, a moment that has been long established as the historical turning point in the history and culture of the German minority in Hungary. The expulsion thus divides the tradition of making flower carpets for Corpus Christi into two eras. Previous research has often struggled with connecting these two eras with each other, when analyzing the development of the feast. The main goal of the research paper is to describe the situation of the Catholic Church in Hungary in the times of transition to Socialism, both on national and local level and to deconstruct the idea of the year 1946 being the one and only possible turning point when considering the changes in the tradition. A newly found source in the Esztergom Primatial Archives, an album with photos taken of the flower carpet in 1948, a present made for Cardinal Mindszenty, shows that the route of the procession has stayed the same, although changes in the number of observants and the lack of women wearing the traditional costume of Budaörs can be observed. These findings demonstrate a continuity of tradition and village life, straddling the supposed divide, and hence suggest a re-interpretation of the feast’s significance as demonstration of the catholic inhabitants’ resistance to the slowly establishing soviet system.

“It all started with the match factory in Debrecen”: Swabians from the Tokaj-Hegyalja area as forced laborers in the former Soviet Union

In the last year of World War II, the Soviet army occupied Eastern Hungary. Following the military order of Marshal Malinovsky, the ethnic Germans in Hungary were forced to perform forced labor. The abducted people were branded war criminals and taken to coal mines in the Don-bassin, the so called "soviet paradise". Altogether 348 people were taken from the ethnic german settlements of Tokaj-Hegyalja, 30 of whom never returned. The youngest of the civilians was 16 years old and the oldest 65. They were told that they had to go to the match factory in Debrecen for a "little work / Malenkij robot". Most of the deportees could only return home after 2-4 years - spent in inhumane contitions. Our project commemorates their memories. Since the years of silence are over, nowadays, we are free to talk about events that have taken place 70 years ago. We hope they will never happen again.

Cultural Heritage or Traces of the War? A Case Study From Oblivion to Memory and ’Heritagisation’

The paper explores the memory of the internment camp in Tiszalök (Upper Tisza region, Hungary) in selected social, historical, and ethnic contexts. After a brief theoretical overview of key concepts such as heritagization, the author highlights some significant facts and events from the history of the camp. This camp was established after the Second World War, and deportees of German origin, who could not go home to their families after returning to Hungary from Russian captivity, were held there. Furthermore, the paper outlines how the history of the camp was first concealed in public, then gradually discovered by scholars and memorialized through commemorative events and a monument which was erected by the local community and former inmates. Subsequently, the author presents the case study of a deceased Hungarian woman who used to work in the camp’s kitchen. Based on several interviews with her relatives and after the careful examination of a wooden box from her estate, the author demonstrates that her family history and the history of the interned members of the German minority are closely intertwined in a way, which had been unknown to her family. Finally, the author argues that similar personal objects may reveal further untold stories and entangled memories from the postwar years.

(Non-)fictitious war experiences and war stories

The First World War not only destroyed almost all life, it also restructured established traditions and structures and completely redefined social relations. In my contribution I try to present the generation and time experience of that time by examining in more detail the reactions of German intellectuals to the shattering of occidental values. It is about the crisis of the monarchical principle, the call for democratization, the experience of death and the evaluation of knowledge.

The image of the multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire: From its dismissal in 1919 to its rediscovery for the European Union after 1989

This article delineates the image of the Habsburg Empire in the 20th century in order to analyse its current representation in historiography in the German language. Before the Great War, the comprehensive compendium „Die österreichisch-unga­rische Monarchie in Wort und Bild“ (The Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy in Word and Image) presented the old Habsburg Empire in a very positive light. According to the compendium, the strong and progressive multi-ethnic state served as a model for the institution of the nation state. After the Great War, the Habsburg Empire appears as a weak, even non-functional state in historiography in the German language.  It is described as internally divided due to ethnic conflicts of interest. However, after 1990, following the publication of Claudio Magris’ renowned works, in particular his book on the river Danube, the image of the multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire as a culturally and politically dynamic actor has been reclaimed. After the enlargement of the European Union in 2004, the state’s multi-ethnic character has frequently been presented as a role model for European integration. To further illustrate this point, this article will examine the reasons for which Temeswar in the Banat was selected as European Capital of Culture.

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