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Szabolcsi, Lajos

(1889–1943), editor and publisher. Lajos Szabolcsi was the son of journalist and editor Miksa Szabolcsi (1857–1915), the brother of music historian Bence Szabolcsi (1899–1973), and the father of literary historian Miklós Szabolcsi (1921–2000). Lajos completed his studies in Hungarian and French at the Philological Faculty of Pázmány Péter University in Budapest and then studied in Munich and Paris. He received his doctorate in philosophy in 1907 in Budapest. Upon completion of this degree, Szabolcsi started working for the Jewish weekly Egyenlőség, edited by his father. He himself became associate editor in 1911 and full editor in 1915 upon his father’s death, remaining in this position until the paper was banned in 1938. Szabolcsi was already very ill when he was taken into the forced labor service in 1940–1941.

Szabolcsi devoted his entire journalistic career to fighting antisemitism. He was a true liberal who opposed bourgeois radicalism, socialism, right-wing movements, as well as Zionism. Following his father, he adhered to the standpoint that considered Hungarian Jewry a religious community, a group with distinct culture and traditions but by no means a separate race or ethnic minority. During World War I, Szabolcsi collected official data on the participation of Hungarian Jews in the war, and organized the so-called Jewish military archives preserving the memory of fallen Jewish soldiers. In the years following World War I when antisemitism flared up in Hungary, Szabolcsi proved in court with the help of these data that more than 10,000 Jewish soldiers had sacrificed their lives for the Hungarian homeland during the war.

In 1917, a collection of Szabolcsi’s writings was published under the title Az emancipáció 60 éves történte (The Sixty-Year History of Emancipation). In 1918, he published the pamphlet Mi az igazság? (What Is the Truth?), in which he reserved his harshest critique for the “scientific” antisemitism of the vociferous bourgeois radicals around the journal Huszadik Század and in particular, Péter Ágoston’s A zsidók útja (The Way of the Jews). Szabolcsi’s newspaper was banned during the Hungarian Soviet Republic, but after its fall he restarted the paper on 11 September 1919.

In the interwar period, Egyenlőség became a semiofficial organ of the Pest Jewish Community. Szabolcsi was close in ideology to the Neolog national office. He persistently fought against the White Terror and later the numerus clausus law that limited Jewish enrollment in universities; with Vilmos Vázsonyi and Simon Hevesi (the chief rabbi), he founded the Central Committee for Student Aid, which for five years raised funds to support students who were forced by the quotas to study abroad. He also supported the idea of establishing an independent Jewish university. This initiative reached the National Assembly with the help of the member of parliament Pál Sándor, but it ultimately failed. During the last phase of his career, Szabolcsi supported Géza Ribáry’s Országos Magyar Zsidó Segítő Akció (National Hungarian Jewish Aid Association; OMZSA).

Szabolcsi was also a literary writer, having begun this part of his career in 1908. József Kiss published his early poems in A Hét, and Szabolcsi also wrote for its literary and theater column. He published studies on literary history, Az új héber költészet története (History of the New Hebrew Poetry; 1908) and in 1912 wrote a doctoral dissertation on the comedies of Ignác Nagy.

Szabolcsi’s literary works celebrate the past and present of Hungarian Jewry. His main texts include A csillag fia. Egy nép tragédiája (Son of the Star: Tragedy of a Nation; 1918), a historical novel about Bar Kochba; Az áruló (The Traitor; 1923), a drama about Josephus Flavius; Délibáb. Zsidó legendáskönyv (Mirage: Book of Jewish Legends; 1927), short stories; Szól a kakas már (Crows the Rooster; 1929), poems; A mainzi rabbi és más történetek (The Rabbi of Mainz and Other Stories; 1941), short stories; Elsüllyedt világ. Útiképek zsidó élményekről (Vanished World: Images of Jewish Experiences; 1941); Chasszideus könyv (Hasidic Book; 1942), short stories; and A Két emberöltő. Az Egyenlőség évtizedei (Two Generations: The Decades of Egyenlőség; 1993), a posthumously published memoir that amounts to a history of the press.

Suggested Reading

Miklós Szabolcsi, “Előszó,” in Két emberöltő: Az Egyenlőség évtizedei, 1881–1931, by Lajos Szabolcsi, pp. 7–19 (Budapest, 1993).



Translated from Hungarian by Veronika Szabó