Imre Kertész was among the 82,000 Hungarian Jews who returned in 1945. The transition from camp to home, the adjustment fom adolescent trauma to adult life is only hinted at in his works. This paper situates Kertész in the identity crisis of the immediate postwar period. The confusion of displaced identities in the aftermath of WWII, prompted psychologist Erik Erikson to universalize the adolescent identity crisis as a central contemporary problem. In Hungary not only Jews but the entire society was reforging identities. Borders were porous, so were political and religious affiliations. Kertész's identity was defined, at least in a negative way, by the Holocaust: as a Jew without being a Jew, as a survivor when it was best to keep quiet. He lived in the constant of the world of Buchenwald and of Stalinist Hungary, with their constricted options and ideological imperatives fashioned upon twisted idealisms. His recreation of the Holocaust in Fateless and of the existentialist experience of living with memory in Kaddish, has made for disquieting reading abroad, as well. In ignoring heroic clichés he has transgressed the identity of victim and victimizer.
Imre Kertész: "Világpolgár és Zarándok" (Pilgrim and citizen of the world] in Budapesti Aggadák; Novellaantológia. Holocaust utáni próza (Budapest: Múlt és Jövő, 1999), 289-297. From Az angol lobogó [The English banner] (Budapest: Holnap Kiadó, 1991).
Rita Horváth: A Magyarországi Zsidók Deportáltakat Gondozó Országos Bizottsága (DEGOB) története (The story of the Hungarian National Committee for the Care of Deported Jews), MAKOR (Magyar Zsidó Levéltári Füzetek) (1997/1): 25-26.
László Karsai, ed.: Befogadók [Shelterers] (Budapest: Aura, 1993), 179, as cited in Miklós Hernádi, "Unlearning the Holocaust: Recollections and Reactions" in The Holocaust in Hungary Fifty Years Later, Randolph L. Braham and Attila Pók, eds. (East European Monographs, No. 477, New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 665.
István Bibó, "Zsidókérdés Magyarországon 1944 után" (The Jewish question in Hungary after 1944). Válasz [Answer] 8, October-November 1948, 778-877. Reprinted in Zoltán Szabó, ed., Harmadik út (Third way) (London, 1960), 227-354.
Imre Kertész: Galeerentagebuch (Berlin: Rowohlt, 1999), 23.
"Imre Kertész über den Holocaust" Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, Oct. 10, 2002, http://www.faz.net/s/RubCC21B04EE95145B3AC877C874FB1B611/Doc~EFAE11B38D1 DA4ACDA61677317326767F~ATpl~Ecommon~Scontent.html.
Ilona Benoschofsky: "The Position of Hungarian Jewry After the Liberation", in Hungarian-Jewish Studies, ed. Randolph L. Braham (New York: World Federation of Hungarian Jews, 1966), 240.
Neil Belton: The Good Listener. Helen Bamber; A Life Against Cruelty (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998), 107
U.S. National Archive, College Park, Maryland (NARA), U.S. Legation correspondence, RG-84, Dec. 14, 1945.
Gyula Illyés: Naplójegyzetek 1929-1945 (Journal notations) (Budapest, 1986), 379. Cited in Miklós Hernádi: "Unlearning the Holocaust", 669.
Országos Levéltár, Jewish Archive, Pest, XXXIII, Dec. 31, 1945.
Országos Levéltár, Jewish Archive, Dr. Ernő Munkácsi's response to accusations in Fisch circular, ML, XXXIII-8-a #14/1947-18 (1-d), Budapest, 1947, Dec. 23.
Sándor Márai: Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948, transl. Albert Tezla (Budapest: Corvina and Central European University, 1996/2000), 122.
Márai: Memoir of Hungary, 222.
Edmund Mandel: The Right Path; The Autobiography of a Survivor (as told to Lynn Egerman) (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV, 1994), 218.
Victor Karády: "Identity Strategies Under Duress Before and After the Shoah", in The Holocaust in Hungary, Fifty Years Later, 170; András Kovács: "The Jewish Question in Contemporary Hungary", in Holocaust in Hungary, Forty Years Later, edited by Randolph L. Braham and Béla Vágó (Social Science Monographs, No. 190, New York: distributed by Columbia University Press, 1985), 215.