Blood, Culture, Politics Anti-Semitic Subcultures of the Tiszaeszlár Blood Libel (1882–2015), Abstract by Daniel Véri
Although the Tiszaeszlár blood libel case (1882–83) ended with the acquittal of the defendants, the strong cultural and political impact of the affair on Hungarian society can be ascertained to this day.
In this paper I will argue that the current, politically eminent status of Tiszaeszlár for contemporary Hungarian right wing extremists can only be fully understood following a thorough examination of subsequent anti-Semitic subcultures and their cultural production related to the case.
Already in 1882 an imaginary portrait of the supposed victim had been created and used as a political tool in Hungary as well as abroad at the first Internationaler Antijüdischer Kongress in Dresden. The same year a monumental propaganda painting was created in Zagreb, depicting the imagined murder scene. The role of the press was vital in popularizing both images. The direct impact of these paintings can clearly be traced in the visual culture of contemporary extremists dealing with Tiszaeszlár.
From the very beginning (1882) up until the 1970s, a substantial yet under-researched reception of the case can be attested in folk songs and popular myths. I will argue that these folk songs constitute a deep layer of thinking, which offer an explanation for post-1945 blood libel accusations against survivors of the Holocaust in Hungary. In my opinion, the persistence of these songs is due to the contamination of the original blood libel story with familiar elements, such as the tale of Little Red Riding Hood and various religious motifs.
Only following the analysis of historical blood libel related subcultures and their cultural production (paintings, folk songs, piano and rock music, poems, and a film), can the strength and permanence of current Tiszaeszlár-related anti-Semitism be properly understood. Today, the village of Tiszaeszlár is equipped with the symbolic tomb – in reality: a memorial – of the supposed victim, a veritable lieu de mémoire visited yearly by a pseudo-religious procession of right wing extremists. It appears that after a long and multi-faceted development, a cult has been established.
Daniel Véri is Art historian, PhD candidate at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest, Doctoral School of Art History. He holds an MA in Art History (ELTE, 2009) and an MA in History (Central European University, 2010). His research interests include the Cultural History of the Tiszaeszlár Blood Libel, Holocaust and the Arts, 1960s–1970s Hungarian and Central European Art and Neo-Avant-Garde Art. Recently, he has been the curator of two exhibitions: La Shoah et les arts: histoires hongroises (1945–1989) at the Hungarian Institute in Paris in 2014 and “Leading the Dead” – The World of János Major at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2013 (a bilingual catalogue has also been published under the latter title).
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