Presentation by Eszter Gantner on the Panel “Heritage Care and Objects of Negotiation in Cold War Eastern Europe: A Conversation across Borders” at the 2017 Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies annual Convention.
Between 1948 and 1989 recollections of Judaism and Jewish culture and of the Holocaust had been taboo in the former socialist countries of East Central Europe. A main reason for this prohibition laid in the anti-Zionist and Israel-hostile politics dictated from Moscow. This silence, which also meant a denial of the past and of the existence of Jewish culture, manifested itself in neglect of the tangible heritage of Jewish communities, including synagogues and cemeteries. Synagogues in Hungarian settlements, which in many cases were transformed into concert halls or Houses of Technics (Technika Háza) with various exhibitions, especially reflected the mechanisms through which the Hungarian state excluded Jewish heritage from the official Hungarian heritage landscape during the Cold War period. This paper will examine selected case studies of the reconstruction and reuse of formal synagogues during the 60´s and 70´s, including in Sopron, Esztergom, Kecskemét and Budapest. It will do so situating them in the matrix of party politics, Holocaust remembrance and local heritage management, arguing that the complexity of decision-making for or against the reconstruction of a formal synagogue in socialist Hungary can be understand and analyzed with the help of this matrix.