Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 1: Diary of János Hoffmann, 1940-1943


Extracts from the diary of János Hoffmann, a Hungarian Jew who perished in Auschwitz, describing early persecution from 1940 on.


  • János Hoffmann (Szombathely 1895 – Auschwitz 1944): Ködkárpit. Egy zsidó polgár feljegyzései 1940-1944. Szombathely 2001 (extract). Published with kind permission of Dr Judit Varga-Hoffmann. She initiated a translation project of the diary of János Hoffmann.

János Hoffmann in the 1930tiesJános Hoffmann, lawyer and businessman from the Hungarian city of Szombathely, began a diary for his children in 1940. In it, he described on the one hand, family memories, and on the other the increasingly restrictive living conditions under the Hungarian regime.
Shortly after German troops occupied the country in March 1944, deportations of the Jewish population of Hungary began. János Hoffmann, his mother Regina, his wife Helén and their children Sándor (Sanyi) and Judit (Juci) were among the first to be deported to Auschwitz in May 1944. The daughter Judit was the only survivor from her extended family. She found the five notebooks with her father’s diary entries after her return.

Diary Entries of János Hoffmann:

"My dear children,
I began writing in the month of October of the year 1940, in those times that, in a note that has recently come to my hands, my cousin Aladár called dark and threatening. … Prime Minister Teleki had just pronounced the third Anti-Jewish Law. What new humiliations and disenfranchisements would it bring, how many people would it make into have-nots and beggars? In fact, I still often imagine: this is not true, this cannot be true, this must just be a bad dream; the memories of the dark past are throwing sad shadows onto our times. Captivity in Egypt must have been like this.

17 October 1940

[...] Today it was announced that because the Anti-Jewish law had been "bypassed", 50 to 60 local businessmen (including a few Christians) would be jailed for 8 to 14 days and fined 40 to 1,000 Pengő [National currency 1927–1946]. For the most part, their reports had been late, imprecise or not handed in on the prescribed form.

My brother-in-law Faludi Feri was called up to the labour camp at Gödöllő. His own fate will not be hard, he is the lieutenant, my other brother-in-law Zsiga is in Sáska, near Tapolca, my cousin Guszti is somewhere in Komitat Pest, Schwartz Laci near Vác, Szönyi Laci also in Gödöllő. Almost every male member of our family is thus passing his time in a labour camp. How long can anyone bear that, economically or mentally?

I was affected too, but fortunately only for 10 days. I was in Sárvár in June. Perhaps I’ll write about that later.

24 January 1941

[…] Our legal position and thus our economic situation worsened day by day over the last two years, our fate is uncertain and if we look at our neighbouring countries, the examples are terrifying. And we can do nothing about it, there is no way of helping ourselves.

[…] Yes, it is like this, we love our homeland, it means everything to us: past, memory, our parents’ graves. It is the nest of our happiness. We want to live here, we would gladly die here loving – the way a child loves a punishing father we love, we idolise this homeland. But for how long can childish love overcome the pain of a whiplash? […]

12 December 1942

Even if there are no streets designated solely for Jews in Hungary, we have been living in a ghetto for years. We live cut off from the fresh air, we scarcely dare venture out onto the streets and in the truest sense of the word, we dare not speak up. We only share our thoughts behind firmly closed doors and only with our best friends, morning and evening, the coming, uncertain day hovers before our eyes. […]

[…] I cannot believe in nationalism, especially not now, in Europe, where it is burning up everything that we held as human ideals with a flame that blazes to heaven. Nationalism, a century old, has made it impossible for people to live together – that cannot be the path to the future. Therefore I cannot believe unconditionally even in a Jewish nationalism, but I see that Palestine has saved the lives of tens of thousands, that it secures the progress of tens of thousands. For Judaism, assimilation – as we practiced it in Europe – has led to ruin. […]

Source: János Hoffmann (Szombathely 1895 – Auschwitz 1944): Ködkárpit. Egy zsidó polgár feljegyzései 1940-1944. Szombathely 2001. Published with kind permission of Dr Judit Varga-Hoffmann (extract). She initiated a translation project of the diary of János Hoffmann.


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