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Two Hungarian Families: the Munks and the Goldzihers

This project, entitled Hungarian Jewish Families in the Modern Era – A Prosopographic Study of the Munks and Goldzihers, is being carried out by Dr. Erzsébet Mislovics of the University of Budapest.

On the eve of the Holocaust two studies that can be seen as the foundation stone of the genealogical research on Hungarian Jewish families were published.

In the first work, Sándor Büchler (1869-1944) presented data on the Hungarian branch of the Goldziher family in his serial study edited by the periodical Múlt és Jövő in 1937-1938. The author, a graduate of the Hungarian Rabbinical Seminary and an outstanding historian and rabbi, was himself a member of the Goldziher family. Etienne Kirschen (and others) continued his researches and supplemented his findings in The diaspora of a Hungarian family: The Goldzihers, which was published in 1995.

The second work, the Munk Family Genealogy, was published in 1939 by the National Jewish Museum of Budapest and was intended to be the first in a series of Hungarian Jewish Family Genealogies. The author of this posthumous study was the distinguished Orientalist Bernát Munkácsi (1860-1937), whose life’s work had been dedicated to the languages and cultures of Central Asia, the original home of the Magyar people. Alongside his academic work, he had served as the supervisor of the Jewish educational system in Budapest and in his leisure time he devoted himself to assembling an impressive Munk family genealogy covering fifteen generations, going back to the sixteenth century.

The Goldziher family had lived in Hamburg until the beginning of eighteenth century, when it entered northen Hungary (Köpcsény – now Kittsee, Austria). By contrast, the Munk family had lived in Germany and the Bohemian lands until the mid-eighteenth century when it entered northern Hungary (Nyitra, now Slovakia). However, members of the two families did not remain in these market towns for long. Both families are characterized by mobility (within the country and beyond its borders as well). Their researchers – Büchler (and later Kirschen) and Munkácsi – managed to reconstruct an almost complete record of all the individuals who comprised the last generations of the families living in Hungary, covering two centuries, from the beginning of eighteenth century until the publications of the works. The lists contains information on the vital statistics, occupations, residence, titles and traditional honorifics, spouses, offspring and more, of over 2000 individuals collected on the basis of varied sources.

Thus the Munk család genealógiája and the Goldziher family history are invaluable sources for modern Hungarian Jewish history and for the development of Jewish identity in Hungary from the beginning of eighteenth century until the eve of World War II. This period witnessed the transition from a traditional framework to a modern, acculturated and sometimes highly assimilated milieu. A prosopographic case study of the two families has the potential to investigate an area that has not been a preferred research topic in Hungary so far. On the one hand, the family forms the frame of reference and the unit of analysis, where broader historical developments are manifested in both cases over several generations. On the other hand, the investigation of the two families, utilizing a prosopographic approach, permits the completion of an indepth comparative study of the families in the areas of economic, social and cultural history. In this way, the response of the two families to the expectations created by the Hungarian state and society and their response to the inner challenges affecting Jewish families in general will highlighted and examined over several generations.

Click here  for a preliminary progress report on this project (July 2011).

Click here for a paper on this study, as delivered at the 16th Congress of the World Union of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem, July 2013).