Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

5
MY NAME IS KoKó
1920-1925

EXTRA HUNGARIAM, NON est vita; si est vita, non est ita: Outside Hungary, there's no life; if there is any, it's nothing like it. For centuries, Hungarians have repeated that remarkable rhyme, a melange of patriotism, exaggeration, and whimsy. I came home full of the strange experience of being extra Hungariam, and expected an interested audience for my account. But in the new Hungary, no one was lighthearted. Extreme agitation was compulsory.

At school, I learned a new pledge:

I believe in one God;
I believe in one country;
I believe in God's eternal justice;
I believe in the resurrection of Hungary.

Those lines, which we chanted in assembly, began my school day for the next five years. Statues of four tattered, grieving women were installed in Freedom Square, a few blocks southeast of Parliament Square, to symbolize the lost lands now annexed to Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.

My father's prediction that anti-Semitism would greatly increase was fulfilled. The emigration of Hungarian Jews began. Those who remained suffered from lack of professional opportunity and sometimes from real harassment. Yet anti-Semitism in Hungary was very different from that of the Nazis—it was based on religion, not race. Among the 8 million inhabitants that remained in Hungary, slightly less than 1 million were Jews by descent. Far fewer were Jews by religion. Although almost half the students in my class at school were Jews, I can think of only a handful (besides myself) who

-31-

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