“Why We Fight” Hungarian Style: War, Civil War, and the Red Menace in Hungarian Wartime Feature Film

By David S. Frey (US Military Academy)

The date is November 1942. Seated in one of Budapest's premier theaters, you watch the film To the Fourth Generation (Negyediziglen; dir. Zoltán Farkas, 1942), a story that begins with rousing footage of Hungarian military success. If you actually were Hungarian, your patriotic pride likely would have been stirred by this imagery. Hungarian military victories in the early 20th century were a rarity, and to see Hungarians triumph on the silver screen might have soothed the lingering sting of your nation-state's rapid decline from Great Power status since 1918.

Projected before you is Vinyica [Vinnytsia], a city in south central Ukraine. Hungarian troops lay siege to the town as the locals flee, ostensibly in mid-1941. A single, bedraggled, humbled man remains and surrenders to the Hungarian soldiers. We quickly discover the man is himself Hungarian. He is István Keresztes, who in 1919 was the president of the Communist Directorate of Tiszakövesd, a Transylvania village in what is today Romania. After having been jailed for his participation in Hungary's failed Bolshevik experiment, István had fled to the Soviet Union. In a partial mea culpa before the military authority, he expresses his disappointment with Communism and, naturally, his wish to return to his native land. We learn that when he fled Hungary in 1920, he and his wife had abandoned their son Gábor, leaving him in the care of relatives. While living in the Soviet Union, István and his wife had had a daughter named Vera. The film's dramatic narrative rests upon this family division, resulting in children raised on the polar opposites of Hungarian land and in “Soviet air.”

István's abandoned son, the Hungarian-born Gábor Keresztes, is now a valiant sergeant in the Hungarian Army, serving at the vanguard of the advancing Hungarian force. His Soviet-born sister, Vera, whom he does not even know exists, is a factory worker who has been drafted to defend the Soviet motherland. Because she speaks Hungarian, Vera is dispatched to Krivoi Rog (today Kirovgrad) in Central Ukraine to sabotage gas storage tanks the Hungarian Army has captured. In a cruel twist of fate, Gábor is guarding the tanks Vera is sent to destroy. Unknowingly, she kills her brother in the course of her mission, shooting him in the back after having convinced him, in Hungarian, that she was not the enemy. In the chaos of war and in part at the bidding of her evil Soviet handlers, she flees to Vinyica and finds her father. Together, father and daughter travel to Tiszakövesd, the birthplace of the father, the home of the murdered son and his family, and now the infiltration point for the secret-agent daughter, who, unbeknownst to her father, is a central player in the Soviet plan to invade Hungary.

Before revealing the entire plot, I will briefly describe the making and reception of To the Fourth Generation in order that readers better understand the nature of propaganda in wartime Hungary. This feature film was a novelty in wartime Hungary: a state-funded propaganda tale detailing a specific national narrative. It offered an explanation for why Hungary was fighting the Second World War. It constructed, as well, a clear outline of what a powerful faction of Hungary's leaders felt should be the hallmarks of Hungarian identity. As was true of any notion of Hungarian-ness, it provided a concept of nation grounded in Hungary's immediate post-First World War trauma. Yet, because its creators came from a class of political, military, and cultural oligarchs who prioritized profit and domestic order, the vision of nation they produced differed markedly from the more populist, and popular, ideas of what was Hungarian in 1942.

The concept for To the Fourth Generation was developed by the Film Division of the Chief of Staff of the Army. Initially, the Army Chiefs attempted to use a privately-owned company to produce the film, but this effort appeared headed for disaster (Langer 238-243). Officials at Hunnia, Hungary's primary state-funded film studio, intervened and combined forces with the newly created Ministry for Protection of the Nation and Propaganda, run by István Antal. The Propaganda Ministry assigned one of its writers, György Patkós, to the film, and he was assisted by Hunnia's Zoltán Hosszú, a writer and actor who played the lead in the movie. The effort thus received funding from at least three branches of the state, the largest subvention coming from Hunnia. To the Fourth Generation, almost by chance, became the Hungarian government's first attempt at what it considered to be a feature-length propaganda film and the state-run studio's first attempt at an independent production.

Before it was released in Hungary, To the Fourth Generation opened at the September 1942 Venice Biennale. The official Hungarian film trade journal, Magyar Film, claimed that the Venice premier of the film was marked by spontaneous interruptions of applause during the showing and afterward a long “celebration” of the film's stars. According to Magyar Film, Italian papers called the film “powerful,” an “excellent film,” and a “great success” (“A ‘Negyediziglen'” 2).[1] While it did not take any of the top awards, the Venice judges gave To the Fourth Generation a Medaglia della Biennale (essentially this was the “thank you for participating” award, but most Hungarians who read about the Biennale were ignorant of this fact). At home in Hungary, To the Fourth Generation became one of the ten top grossing films of the entire wartime period, its sales no doubt inflated by the fact that the government required it to be shown in two of Hungary's largest premier theaters during the lucrative Christmas period of 1942 (Interfilm 54-55).[2] Into 1943 and beyond the borders of Hungary, the film enjoyed spasms of success, particularly in countries such as Finland, where anti-Soviet sentiment seethed.[3]

Despite the apparent importance of the film to Hungary's political and cultural elite, the authors of the most comprehensive texts on interwar and wartime Hungarian film ignore To the Fourth Generation entirely or give it only passing mention, referring to it as a “typical anti-Soviet war film” (Sándor 176).[4] While it was certainly anti-Soviet, it was hardly typical. The film constructs a multi-faceted Bolshevik “other” against which Hungarian identity is defined. The early scenes of the film define the contrasts. In a flashback that occurs while István Keresztes explains himself to his Hungarian interlocutor, we see Bolshevik soldiers break into an underground church, where István's wife secretly prays. István's wife is returned to him, her bible thrown into their sparse apartment, and he is told that if this behavior continues, both he and his wife could end up in Siberia. Just to insure that we believe the earnestness of this point, the soldier leaves the room and murders the Keresztes' neighbor, whom the soldier had overheard yelling anti-Soviet opinions through the paper-thin walls of the apartment. In a second flashback, which occurs some three years after the first, the filmmakers hammer their themes home in a rapid, blatant, even farcical scene: two Soviet soldiers burst into the Keresztes' apartment, seize, and then abduct the Keresztes' infant daughter, Vera. When both István and his wife try to resist, they are told that the child does not belong to them, rather she is the property of the Soviet Union. “We have directions, we have orders; [it is fruitless] to yell!” exclaims one of the soldiers. Vera is taken to Moscow, to be raised “in Soviet air.”

As these two early scenes make apparent, it is not only the actions of the Soviets that communicate evil, but the images as well. The soldier that returns Mrs. Keresztes from her prayer session is a cold-blooded killer. The soldiers that steal baby Vera are scarred, deformed, even downright ugly. They have no qualms about destroying a family. These images are reinforced throughout the first third of the film. A contrived montage, seemingly a reference to Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925), shows a Soviet naval man shot for forming ranks in poor order. Soviet women are not only taken from their children and forced to work in factories, but are then forced to take up arms and fight. If not heartless soldiers, Soviet men are conniving conspirators who look exactly like Lenin.

In contrast to this image of the Soviets as conspiratorial, godless, merciless, and anti-family, the filmmakers construct the Hungarian.[5] Hungarians are guileless, committed Christians, devoted family members, and boundless in their compassion, even as soldiers. Our Hungarian soldiers fight hard, but dream of their families and small farms. They are sympathetic, providing jackets and transport to Soviet refugees, who are naturally moving toward Hungarian lines, rather than retreating back into the Soviet Union. Our image of Hungarians is shaped further in the second half of the film, where we pick up the narrative. After murdering her brother, blowing up the gas supplies of Krivoi Rog, and fleeing to Vinyica, Vera Keresztes appears in her father's apartment, distraught over what she has done. He is shocked, as he has not seen her in years, and he assumes that her arrival means the authorities will not permit them to return to Hungary. Of course, our deep-thinking, sympathetic Hungarian colonel deigns to dissent: “We are all Hungarians…,” he commands, “there are not many of us… bring your daughter out of this foreign place.” With this, Vera, her father, and a long-time friend of her father are permitted to return to Tiszakövesd.

Their return to Hungary allows the filmmakers to engage in the typical Blut und Boden (Blood and Land) tactics used in Nazi Germany and elsewhere during the interwar and wartime period.[6] As Vera, her father, his pig-farming friend, and a troop of soldiers cross the border into Transylvania, which the Axis powers had only two years before awarded to Hungary, we visually witness a complicated intertwining of peasant virtues, sacred Hungarian land, martial patriotism, and a somewhat racial concept of identity. The old men weep at the sight of the hills of Hungary; the soldiers salute the Hungarian flag in perfect unison; and Vera sees the disembodied face of her brother, the apparitional offspring of the fatherland that she most callously betrayed. The uniqueness of the lands of Hungary is further underscored in contrast to the Soviet Union. When Vera remarks that the Tisza River is like the Bug River, her police escort corrects her, remarking that the Tisza is similar to the Tisza, and nothing else. There is but one sanctified Hungarian land.

The movie enters a new phase after the repatriation scenes, and the nature of a distinct Hungarian national identity is revealed in greater detail. Once they are firmly ensconced on Hungarian soil, the returnees, particularly Vera Keresztes, undergo a transformation.[7] Vera cannot resist this transformation because she cannot deny her genetic origins or the innate superiority of the Hungarian way of life. Her transformation accelerates once she reaches Tiszakövesd and the home of her brother, Sergeant Gábor Keresztes. While not welcomed into Hungary with open arms by those who recognize them, our former Bolsheviks receive unconditional love from Sergeant Keresztes' perfect wife and three immaculately dressed, porcelain-skinned, ideally-behaved, intelligent, cherubic children. The filmmakers make this happy family reunion possible by making sure that each of the key players remains ignorant of some important fact. The family of Sergeant Keresztes has received no reports from the front for three months and, thus, is unaware that he has perished in Krivoi Rog; Vera does not yet know the identity of the soldier she has killed; and, finally, István is oblivious to the fact that his daughter is a Soviet spy.

Almost immediately after arriving in Hungary, István and Vera begin to look more Hungarian. István now dresses in Hungarian chaps and knee-high leather boots, smokes a clay pipe, and wears a traditional Hungarian shepherd's cap. Vera dresses in her sister-in-law's elaborately embroidered Hungarian clothes. Intellectually, however, their metamorphoses take more time. One night, as the children say their nighttime prayers, they invite Vera to join them. She shocks everyone in the room by saying: “I don't know how to pray.” Just a scene later she offends Erzsi, her sister-in-law, by asking if Erzsi really believes in god. Vera quickly reconciles with Erzsi by explaining that “in the USSR there is no god—just the Soviet.”

As Vera's attraction to Christianity grows, so does her fascination with Hungarian village life and peasant capitalism. A simple, but fascinating exchange occurs as she helps Erzsi milk her cows. Having been raised in a communist society, Vera is dumbfounded and barely able to grasp that Erzsi owns the cows herself and can sell the milk she takes from them. That the home and small farm belong only to the Keresztes family also flabbergasts Vera. The exchange between Erzsi and Vera is a ringing endorsement of a particular brand of capitalism, but it is not the modern, urban, Western-style of capitalism. On the contrary, when cities appear in the film at all, they are sites of Soviet factories, Soviet conspiracies, or places of violence where armies clash. In this Hungarian capitalist idyll, there are no cities, no middlemen, no class conflict, and no exploitation, just your small farmer selling his or her surplus. Everyone profits, and no one desires to challenge the existing hierarchy.

Just as Vera seems to be acclimating to village life and to her “true” genetically-programmed identity, she is visited by a Soviet spy. The spy gives her the order to prepare for the impending arrival of a group of Soviet parachutists. These soldiers, we discover, are the advance force that will lay the groundwork for a Soviet counter-attack against Hungary. Torn by her conflicting loyalties, Vera's fate is sealed when a wounded Hungarian officer arrives on the Keresztes' doorstep with news of Gábor's death. Within seconds, as Vera cowers in the corner, everyone present realizes it was she who killed her brother. Everyone, that is, except Erzsi, who has conveniently gone to the local church to ask that the bells ring for her fallen husband. István Keresztes is about to choke his whimpering daughter, but he is restrained by his need to show respect for his son when the bells begin to peal. “Poor Vera,” says the wounded officer as he stands, hand-over-heart, listening to the tolling bells, “she was raised a Russian.”

The full revelation of the Keresztes family tragedy is the impetus for the final transformations of both István and Vera Keresztes. Vera, overcome with grief and a realization of her innate Hungarian-ness, resolves single-handedly to fight off the Soviet infiltrators. Coincidentally, the Soviet paratroopers arrive that very evening. Vera sends her nephew to the police with a note informing them of the impending invasion. Meanwhile, she succeeds in killing four of the five machine-gun toting Soviet jumpers. The officer who had informed the family of Gábor's death is still in town, chatting with the local constables. Upon hearing an airplane engine he recognizes as Soviet-made, he leads the constables to the hillside on the village outskirts. They arrive just as Vera is shot by the last Soviet paratrooper, whom they quickly dispatch. They race to Vera, but are too late. In the arms of her brother's comrade, she heroically expires, her blood symbolically mixing with the soil of her one true nation.

For István Keresztes, the passing of his two children allows him to complete his circular transformation. Upon learning of the death of Gábor, he picked up his bible and began reading, something he had not done since before he had joined the Communists in 1919. With the death of Vera, István physically returns to the church, a symbolic act of reintegration and reconciliation—not only with religion, but with Hungary as well. Double exposures of the sad face of István and the hills of Transylvania communicate the familiar iconography of suffering, reclaimed land, faith, and ultimately, Hungarian redemption.

Beyond the obvious reasons of defining and vilifying the enemy, creating national cohesion, and evoking patriotic support for the war, what were the makers of To the Fourth Generation hoping to accomplish? Why did they believe such peasant populist, anti-Soviet pabulum would resonate among Hungarian film-goers? To grasp their reasoning and intentions comprehensively, we must consider Hungary both in the era just after 1918, at the end of the First World War, and in the early 1940s. Examination of the politics of these periods will elucidate the filmmakers' secondary aims: to re-write Hungary's history by discrediting their country's Bolshevik experience. By attributing all of Hungary's afflictions to the Bolshevik interim, they hoped, by extension, to reinforce their own regime's legitimacy.

Two weeks before the end of the First World War, the Habsburg Emperor, Charles IV, federalized his empire in a last ditch attempt to maintain unity. In effect, he dissolved the union between Hungary and Austria, a joint and frequently contentious political association that had existed for nearly 400 years (since about 1527). This set in motion the further splintering of the Habsburg lands. The leaders of the newly independent Kingdom of Hungary, hoping to maintain power and the territorial integrity of their lands, initially attempted to appease their minority populations. They offered to reconstruct Hungary as a confederation, within which minority groups would enjoy cultural autonomy. But few of the millions of Romanians, Serbs, Croats, Czechs, Slovaks, German-speakers, Poles, Ukrainians, and many others had any desire to remain in a Hungarian-led Danubian confederation. Some had already declared independence and won the support of the Allies. Others formed armies, commenced land-grabs, and struck deep into Hungarian territory, crossing Allied lines of demarcation. The liberal reformist government of Mikhály Károlyi was unable to defend Hungary against these incursions.

In this context, radical solutions—on both the right and the left—found increasingly fertile ground among Hungarians. On the right, a xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist brand of elite-led populism arose; and on the left, the Communist party gained adherents. When the Allies authorized Romanian troops to advance into the Hungarian heartland in March 1919 in order to establish a base of operations, from which the Allies could combat the Russian Bolsheviks, Károlyi found himself with few options (Kontler 333-334). He appealed to the Social Democrats to join his government, and they then sought the aid of the Communists, one of the few parties that possessed the organizational and militia capabilities to defend Hungary from outside interventions.

Once in power, the Communist-led Revolutionary Governing Council of Béla Kun nationalized factories, all large and medium-sized estates, and most educational institutions. Soviets of workers, peasants, and soldiers replaced traditional local, city, and county governments, and revolutionary tribunals replaced existing courts. For a short time Kun's Republic of Councils was able to strike back at the invading armies, even advancing beyond the borders of Hungary created by the Allies. However, military gains were short-lived, and the political initiatives of the Republic resulted in more alienation rather than unity. Its common cause with the Bolsheviks lost it support among the Allies. Its programs of nationalization, requisition, summary justice, and anti-clericalism created disgruntled peasants and elites alike. And the presence of a large number of Jews among the top Commissars allowed its opponents to cast it as “foreign.” In the upheaval of the immediate post-war period, counter-revolutionary movements emerged, and when the Romanian army appeared on the outskirts of Budapest in early August 1919, Hungary's Bolshevik experiment collapsed.

In the chaos that followed, anti-Semitic pogroms broke out, counter-revolutionary tribunals exacted revenge, leftist intellectuals fled, and the Romanian Army occupied Budapest and pillaged Hungary (Kontler 339). Out of this confusion emerged Miklós Horthy, a former Habsburg Admiral who now was a leading figure on the counter-revolutionary right. With the dissolution of the Hungarian Red Army, Horthy commanded the only viable Hungarian fighting force (Hajdú and Nagy 311). In November 1919, he entered Budapest with great fanfare and proceeded to denigrate the city for rejecting its past, in particular for giving in to Bolshevism and sacrificing its traditional “Christian-national” value system. In early 1920, a packed Parliament elected Horthy as Regent of Hungary. Horthy, now an Admiral without a navy, ruling a kingdom without a king, remained in this position until forced out by Nazi Germans in October 1944.

Under Horthy and the governments he appointed, the franchise remained restricted. Thus, the governments were generally gentry- or aristocrat-led oligarchies that had little interest in land reform and had difficulty appealing to the working classes. For Horthy, the glue that bound his governments together was that all on the right agreed upon the perfidy of the Hungarian Bolsheviks and the mortal threat of world Communism. Nothing was more dangerous than the Pan-Slavic Communist threat, or, depending on how far right your political leanings were, the Judeo-Bolshevik threat. In fact, it was Hungary's Bolshevik experiment in 1919 that had irreparably harmed the kingdom, weakening it to such an extent that Horthy believed the Hungarian Communists were responsible for Hungary's greatest national tragedy, the Treaty of Trianon. This 1920 treaty, which officially ended Hungary's participation in the First World War, truncated the Kingdom by reducing its former possessions by two-thirds, and awarded portions of its land to Romania, the newly created states of the Serb-Croat-Slovene Kingdom, Czechoslovakia, and even Austria. As a result of the treaty, Hungary's pre-war population of over 18 million declined to less than 8 million.[8]

The Trianon disaster was the lynchpin of the right's version of history. Without the application of “foreign” Communist ideas, Hungary would not have torn itself apart in 1919, nor would it have been so harshly judged by the Allies at Trianon. Notwithstanding the fact that this historical thesis blatantly ignored the substantial contributions Horthy and his governments made to Hungary's worsening condition and its loss of power, this concept of blaming the Hungarian Communists for everything that went wrong in the early interwar period became a common lament of the governments of the Horthy period.

Sure enough, it is this lament that surfaces as one of the crucial themes developed in To the Fourth Generation. When István Keresztes surrenders to the Hungarian liberators at the outset of the film and pleads his case to the Colonel in charge of Vinyica, he claims that he did nothing wrong in 1919—he merely believed in Communism. The Colonel berates him for saying this, adding “That's all, and you want to return to Hungary as if nothing happened? You threw the country over to Communism, to the enemy. You threw away weapons when they were needed most!” The clear implication of this scolding is that, conforming to the conservative Horthy-era vision of Hungarian history, Communism was responsible for Hungary's inability to defend itself in 1919 and, thus, for the truncation of 1920. Beyond that, the Colonel's simple lines conflate the Communists that Horthy and his men had fought in 1919 with the Soviet Communism that Hungary was battling in 1942. By this logic, the Second World War was merely an extension of the civil war Hungary had fought at the conclusion of the First. Likewise, the battle against the Communist hordes would allow Hungary to regain those lands that had been so wrongly taken from it. The story of the prodigal son, one who suffers but in the end vanquishes Communism and returns to the hallowed ground of church and village, is a personification of the journey Hungary's elites were prescribing for the nation. Christian faith, obedience, maintenance of the social order, and virulent anti-Communism would restore the Hungarian kingdom and bring success in the war. Mutilated Hungary would become heaven's land once again![9]

The makers of To the Fourth Generation believed that the film had accomplished exactly what they had hoped: it made money; it offered a compelling, cohesive national vision; and internationally, it portrayed Admiral Horthy as one of the big three anti-Communist triumvirs, beside Hitler and Mussolini.[10] The success of the film convinced the filmmaking, political, and military elites that their efforts could be successfully combined and financially profitable, particularly if the Interior Ministry required premier theaters to exhibit the films. The fledgling Propaganda Ministry became enamored of its own worth and of the persuasive power of feature-length propaganda films, planning a series of “Great Man” films after the debut of To the Fourth Generation.[11] The leaders of Hunnia determined that they were capable of developing and funding film production without private investment. They tumbled head-over-heels into film production, simultaneously lobbying other branches of the government for special privileges and rights to premier theaters. Part of the legacy of To the Fourth Generation was that it expanded the role government itself played in the film business.

But perhaps what is most intriguing is what the film did not do and did not include. To the Fourth Generation was notable for its lack of overt anti-Semitic sentiment. I suggest that the very popularity of anti-Semitic thought accounts for its absence from the film. Hungary's political and military elite feared a restive, radicalized population more than anything else. Since the late-1930s, Hungarian prime ministers and their governments had alternately attempted to co-opt and to suppress the movements of the radical right, including the most extreme anti-Semites. Hungary's rulers had adopted anti-Semitic legislation, in part out of conviction, in part to win mass political support and to undermine the extremists, while at the same time jailing the most radical leaders and outlawing their political parties. In early 1941, when The Jew Süss (Jud Süß; dir. Veit Harlan, 1940) premiered in Hungary, leading figures in the Hungarian High Command, most avowed anti-Semites themselves, were shocked by the reactions of their troops. To maintain order and discipline, to prevent uncontrolled radicalization, and to indoctrinate a “suitable patriotism,” they forbade organized showings of Süss within Army confines.[12] This experience, I believe, helps explain why the film's writers did not incorporate blatant anti-Semitism into the script of To the Fourth Generation. In addition, during 1942, as To the Fourth Generation was in production and ultimately released, Hungary's Prime Minister, Miklós Kállay, and his Defense Minister, Vilmos Nagy, resisted German demands that Jews wear the yellow Star of David and actually endeavored to improve the dreadful conditions facing Jewish men consigned to labor battalions (Tilkovszky 349). For Hungary's political and military leadership, a film that tied Hungarian nationalism too closely to anti-Semitism risked ceding too much ground, and perhaps power, to the radicals. Populist pogroms induced by a state-made propaganda film could prove as deadly for Hungary's oligarchs as for Hungary's Jews.

Propaganda serves a variety of purposes and, in the case of today's example, can reveal much about the proclivities of those who produce it. In early-1942, just months after the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, Hungary's political, cultural, and military elites began their one, and only, successful coordinated effort to propagate their regime's vision of national solidarity. These elites devised a profoundly anti-Communist, pro-family, pastoralist, semi-capitalist, thoroughly—yet not blatantly anti-Semitic—“ Blood and Land”-based nationalism. They chose themes they hoped would resonate with the Hungarian masses yet not inflame them, defining enemies as external and national cohesion as attainable. The result of their efforts, To the Fourth Generation, is an often heavy-handed and sometimes farcical story that ultimately provides a justification for Hungary's involvement in World War Two and resolves the domestic conflicts resulting from the previous conflagration. It is fantasy indeed.


Notes

Research for this essay was supported in part by a grant from the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad program administered by the U.S. Department of Education, and an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship for East European Studies. The Hungarian National Film Archive provided the author with a copy of the film To the Fourth Generation and permission to use stills created from it. The author would like to express his gratitude to all of these organizations. All opinions and judgments expressed in this article, however, are the author's responsibilities alone. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Film and History Biennial Conference (Fort Worth, November 2004).

1] Official government reports concerning the reception of the film were more honest. They admitted that most Italian reviewers panned the acting. Hungarian National Archives —KM [Foreign Ministry] K 99, 109 csomó, 1942, Alapszám 649, file pages 784-789, Római Követség [Embassy in Rome]. Dr. Páll Antal to Prime Minister Kállay, dated Venice, 11 September 1942.

2] Langer claims To the Fourth Generation was one of the five top grossing Hungarian-made films of the wartime period (286), but my data indicate other features surpassed it.

3] In Hungary, the showing of the film was curtailed as a result of the destruction of the Second Hungarian Army on the Don in January 1943. In Finland, however, the film had great success even during the Stalingrad breakthrough. Hungarian National Archives—KM [Foreign Ministry], K 66, 609 csomó, 1943, III-6/c, file pages 517, 629; MKK Helsinki to KM, coded 465/1943, 15 March 1943; and OMME Körlevél, coded 820/1943, Budapest, 18 September 1943.

4] Tibor Sándor is the author of the best Hungarian language text on domestic film production from 1938-44. The same dismissive language is used by the dean of Hungarian cinema studies, István Nemeskürty, in his seminal texts on Hungarian film (Word and Image 111-137; A magyar film 75). At least they consider To the Fourth Generation. Cunningham, in the most recent comprehensive text on Hungarian film, ignores the film entirely (41-60).

5] The theme of Bolsheviks-as-godless and evil incarnate was not something specific to Hungary. It was prominent in interwar anti-Soviet propaganda and taken up again by American Cold War propagandists in the 1950s; see, for example, the German films Frisions in Distress (Friesennot; dir. Peter Hagen, 1935), Battleship Sevastopol (Panzerkreuzer Sebastopol; dir. Karl Anton, 1936), and several other films that employ such stereotypes (Giesen 108-114). Shaw discusses several 1950s Hollywood products that do the same (3-5).

6] The application of “Blut und Boden” theory to film is described in Welch (esp. 94-97, 134-44).

7] For a consideration of the economic, cultural, and psychological reasons for the paradoxical privileging of women cum heroines in the Second World War film in patriarchal societies, see Denise Youngblood's analysis of Soviet war film, specifically her chapter “The Great Patriotic War.” (55-81).

8] Hungary became one of the most ethnically homogenous states in Europe, with nearly 90 percent of its population defined as Magyar. In addition, Hungary's economic infrastructure was crippled by the war and its settlement. Hungary lost 89 percent of its iron production, 84 percent of its forests, 62 percent of its rail network, and 44 percent of its food processing industries (Hajdú and Nagy 314).

9] The mantra of Hungarian revisionists was “Multilated Hungary is no country; the entire Kingdom of Hungary is heaven” [“Csonka-Magyarország nem ország; egész Magyarorzág menyország!”].

10] Hungarian National Archives , Óbuda - Hunnia Filmgyár Rt., Z 1124, Raktári sz. 1, Dosszié sz. 24; Velencei filmkiállítás [Venice Film Exhibition], 1938, 1941, 1942; miscellaneous papers related to To the Fourth Generation.

11] Hungarian National Archives, Óbuda — Hunnia Filmgyár Rt., Z 1123, Raktári sz. 1, Dosszié sz.2. Igazgatósági jegyzökönyvek, 1940-42, file pages 71, 89. 103. 23 September 1942 Jegyzokönyv - Hunnia Igazgatósági ülésrol [Minutes— Hunnia Directorate meeting], minutes page 2; 11 November 1942 Jegyzokönyv — Hunnia Igazgatósági ülésrol [Minutes — Hunnia Directorate meeting], minutes page 7; 30 December 1942 Jegyzokönyv —Hunnia Igazgatósági ülésrol [Minutes— Hunnia Directorate meeting], minutes page 4. For more on the The Jew Süss controversy, please see the author's contribution to David Culbert's forthcoming essay accompanying the International Historic Films re-release of the film.

12] Hungarian National Archives —KM [Foreign Ministry] K 63, 199 csomó, 1941, 21/7: Magyar viszony I [Hungarian relations I], Jud Süß, file pp. 479-82. In particular, see KM 1844/pol.-1941, Napi jelentés, [Daily report] dated Budapest, 18 March 1941.


Works Cited

“A ‘Negyediziglen' velencei bemutatója” [“The Venice showing of Negyediziglen”]. Magyar Film 4.37 (14 September 1942): 2.

Cunningham, John. Hungarian cinema from coffeehouse to multiplex. London: Wallflower P, 2004.

Giesen, Rolf. Nazi Propaganda Films. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland and Co., Inc., 2003.

Hajdú, Tibor and Zsuzsa L. Nagy. “Revolution, Counterrevolution, Consolidation.” In A History of Hungary. Ed. Peter F. Sugar, Péter Hanák, and Tibor Frank. Bloomington Indiana UP, 1990. 295-318.

Interfilm. Sonderheft 1 (Spielfilm-Produktion 1942): 54-55.

Kontler, László. A History of Hungary. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Langer, István. “Fejezetek a filmgyár történetébol” [“Chapters from the History of Hungarian Film Production”]. Part 1. Budapest: MFI kézirat [Hungarian Film Institute], 1980. Unpublished manuscript.

Nemeskürty, István. Word and Image. History of the Hungarian Cinema. 2nd ed. Trans. Zsuzsanna Horn and Fred Macnicol. Budapest: Corvina, 1974.

Nemeskürty, István, ed. A magyar film 1939-1944: Egész müsort betöltö játékfilmek [Hungarian Film, 1939-44: A Comprehensive List of Feature Films]. Budapest: Magyar Filmtudományi Intézet és Filmarchívum, 1980.

Sándor, Tibor. Orségváltás. A magyar film és a szélsojobboldal a harmincas-negyvenes években [Changing of the Guard. Hungarian Film and the Radical Right in the 1930s and 1940s]. Budapest: MFI, 1992.

Shaw, Tony. “Martyrs, Miracles, and Martians Religion and Cold War Cinematic Propaganda in the 1950s.” Journal of Cold War Studies 4.2 (Spring 2002): 3-22.

Tilkovszky, Loránd. “The Late Interwar Years and World War II.” In A History of Hungary. Ed. Peter F. Sugar, Péter Hanák, and Tibor Frank. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990. 339- 355.

Welch, David. Propaganda and the German Cinema, 1933-1945. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1983.

Youngblood, Denise J. Russian War Films: On the Cinema Front, 1914-2005. Lawrence: U of Kansas P, 2007.

 

All stills courtesy of the Hungarian National Film Archive. All stills in this article come from the film To the Fourth Generation and may not be cut or reproduced without the expressed written permission of the Hungarian National Film Archive (Magyar Nemzeti Filmarchivum).

© David S. Frey, 2008

Updated: 24 Jan 08