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Sándor, Pál

(1860–1936), liberal politician and economist. Pál Sándor studied in Budapest at the Commercial Academy, the alma mater of many Hungarian Jewish youngsters at that time. He supplemented his education with studies in Dresden and a later trip to Antwerp. After continuing his father’s commercial enterprise in corn trading, he became a manager at a number of Budapest-based firms, serving most significantly as chief executive of the city’s communal electric street railway company (Budapesti Közúti Villamosvasút Rt.). He was a member of the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the City Council, and the Stock Exchange Council, and was chairman of the Civil Club of the City of Budapest (Lipótvárosi Polgári Kör). As a participant in the national commercial congresses of the early 1900s, in 1906 Sándor founded the National Hungarian Commercial Union (Országos Magyar Kereskedelmi Egyesülés), which he then led for several decades. Within the Jewish community, he was notably the chairman of the Országos Magyar Izraelita Közművelődési Egyesület (National Hungarian Israelite Cultural Society).

In his initial foray into politics in 1896, Sándor ran for a seat in Budapest but lost to Mór Mezei. His subsequent political career, however, was extremely successful. He eventually won that seat (following both Mezei and Mór Wahrmann before him) and held it for 35 years until his death. At the beginning of his career he was a member of the governing Liberal Party, but for most of his life he appeared in parliament as an independent liberal; from the late 1920s, he approached the left. A devoted liberal and capitalist, he was imprisoned during the Commune of 1919. Even as a member of the opposition in the 1920s, Sándor remained a valued member of the house and the standing committees for financial and economic matters. In addition to speaking on economic issues, he delivered frequent speeches in defense of Jewry in times of heated antisemitism. A man of great physical stamina and intellectual curiosity, Sándor took a trip around the world at age 67. By the end of his life, he was not only one of the longest-serving Hungarian politicians but also a “chairman by seniority” of the house, an honorary position that took on brief practical meaning at every election, before the actual house speaker was chosen.

Suggested Reading

Lajos Szabolcsi, Két emberöltő. Az Egyenlőség évtizedei, 1881–1931 (Budapest, 1993).