70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel
A life in the service of Zionism
Dr. Arje Kaddar (1912 - 2002), founding editor of the Israeli Szemle
By Mária Markovits - 2018-04-04
Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll
Motto: “If something bad happens to me:
never, under any circumstances
shall I betray the Zionist idea
or be dishonest.”
Dr. Arje Kaddar, February 1, 1953,
Budapest; in a letter to his colleagues.
He was my Editor-in-Chief and mentor, teacher and good friend. Two years after having made aliyah, I found out on January 24, 1990 that the Hungarian magazine, the Israeli Szemle [Israeli Review] was hiring editorial staff. Later Arje - that is, Uncle Pali, told me, smiling, that he had liked my naive enthusiasm, my complete ignorance of the issues and concerns of the country – and that I was not even proficient enough in typography – (well, until then I had typed only Romanian and Ivrit texts, had no clue where the Hungarian letters were on the small machine, but eventually I have heroically figured it out). At that time, I was attending a nine-month vocational retraining course organized for olim [newcomers] with diplomas, and after that I became secretary of WIZO's welfare department – and worked there till my retirement. I worked at my editorial-secretarial-layout-corrector tasks at Szemle during afternoons, evenings and weekends. Here and in this way I became immersed in the thrill of Israeli life, right in the middle of it. Very good, enriching, fascinating years followed, and I got closer to the main purpose: thanks to Arje Kaddar, the ignorant wife of the Jewish galut [person from the Diaspora] became a convinced Zionist.
We worked together for twelve years - until Arje’s death. That year, in 2002, the magazine celebrating its 40th anniversary was published without him. His only son, Yigal, decided to continue his father's lifework, of course, with me. He was an engineer at a major factory of the country, and I have continued my work at WIZO, but we have devoted all our free time to the magazine - for another ten years, until November 2012, so our beloved journal could celebrate its half-century anniversary.
Dr. Arje Kaddar
Dr. Arje Kaddar, original name Lipót Pál Fazekas, was born on July 2, 1912 in Nagyvárad [Oradea]. Later, the family moved to Debrecen because his father was a manager of one of the nearby estates, so the youngest child of the family had finished high school at the Jewish Secondary School in Debrecen. Later he studied in Budapest, earning a doctorate in political sciences at the Faculty of Law.
In 1944 his father, mother and sister were deported to Vienna, together with a part of the Debrecen Jewish community. His father did not survive the hardships, his ashes rest in the Jewish cemetery in Vienna. Chana, his mother returned home, she passed away years later, in 1953, in Budapest. His oldest brother, Sándor, a lawyer, the president of the Zionist Federation, Debrecen, was killed in forced labor. His other brother Lajos, the director of the Jewish Secondary School in Ungvár, did not return from the forced labor either; his wife and child were deported from Ungvár [Uzhgorod], and perished in the concentration camp. His sister, Elisheva, escaped with their mother and later made aliyah; she lived in Haifa until her death. On 25 December 2001, exactly four weeks before the death of Arje, we buried her.
After his older brothers had been active in the Zionist movement, it is understandable that the younger son, too, got enthusiastically involved in the work of youth organizations in 1929, at the age of 17, initially as secretary of the Makkabi in Debrecen, and later in Budapest under the Zionist Union, as a member of the Cionista Munkás [Zionist Worker]. At the same time, his journalism career began: between 1929 and 1939, he became a staff member of the Zsidó Szemle [Jewish Review] published in Budapest. They soon took notice of him: in spite of his young age and assumed inexperience, he was placed in leading positions. His enthusiasm, his faith and his hard work helped to eliminate any of their doubts inherent at the beginning, and he was appointed secretary of the Hungarian Zionist Association between 1932 and 1936, although it could not have been easy to reconcile his legal studies with the many tasks of the forever-worsening times. In addition, from 1936 to 1939 he held another important position: he led the Keren Hayesod [United Israel Appeal – fundraising organization] Budapest office. In the same period he also worked as a liaison for the Zionist Congress - he provided information to the Central Office in Paris concerning the fate of the Hungarian Jewry in the series of discriminations and the imposition of legally enforced measures that made their lives more difficult. We need not mention that the activities of the still very young L. Pál Fazekas became more and more dangerous in this period.
In 1937, as correspondent of the Zsidó Szemle weekly magazine, he met with the Secretary General of Keren Hayesod World Organization in Zurich, who promised a movie to the Hungarian Zionists titled Zot hi Haaretz (This is the land). L. Pál Fazekas has given Hungarian subtitles to the inspirational documentary encouraging aliyah that was presented with great success at the Omnia cinema in Budapest and later in the entire Hungary.
Arje with his brother Sándor at the port of Haifa in 1939
The decisive experience of his life became his visit to the future Israel, as a member of the delegation of Keren Hayesod office in 1939, where he traveled with his brother, Sándor. In the same year he attended the last Zionist Congress in Genova in the wake of the war, as well as the first one after the war in Basel in 1946.
Between the two dates, however, a significant part of the Jewish population of Hungary was destroyed in the Holocaust, which neither spared him nor his family. Between 1942 and 1944, he was a forced laborer in Ukraine, but he managed to escape and, under adventurous, life-threatening circumstances, he returned to the already occupied Budapest on foot. Then and there he met his later wife, Chama, with whom he joined the underground movement. For their activities, both of them were rewarded with the "Warrior of Nazism" medal, already here in Israel.
Chaja and Arje Kaddar
Dr. Arje Kaddar's wife, Erzsébet Grosz, Chaja, a music teacher, was born in Érsekújvár, and she studied in Pozsony. (It is worth mentioning here that one of the characters of the Izrael70 project, Mirjam Roth, the well-known Israeli storyteller, was born in the same house as Böske Grosz, with only a week apart; they spent their childhood and youth together, working together at Makkabi in Érsekújvár, until 1931, Mirjam Roth’s aliyah. Their friendship for 78 years remained unbroken; they corresponded when they could, and then met again after 25 years - here in the country. Some stories of the storyteller - Hordó asszonyság [Mrs. Barrel] and many others – are reminiscences of their enchanting shared childhood).
Arja and Chaja's marriage proved to be the strongest bond; Chaja remained a brave companion to her husband all the time. Until her death in 1988, she provided secure stability; she was his most trusted colleague and his best friend; their only child born in 1950 grew up in this atmosphere and received a moral value system that anyone could be proud of.
After the war, Arje became the vice-president of the Zionist Association of Debrecen and was editing the Zsidó Munkás [Jewish Worker]. In 1947 he traveled the country as the secretary-general of the territorial organizations of the Zionists, and due to his activities, the number of rural organizations increased from 30 to 200. At the same time he became a member of the National Leadership of the Zionist Association. In 1949, the official powers abolished the Zionist Association, so his work had to pause for a while.
In the meantime, the Zionist idea became reality - the spring of 1948 brought the dream of Herzl to the Jewry of the world: the State of Israel. The young Jewish country opened its diplomatic missions in Budapest, so between 1950 and 1956, Arje, still a Hungarian citizen, worked at Israel's embassy and edited its official journal in Hungarian. These were dangerous years, no wonder that the letter, the motto at the beginning of my writing, was addressed to Arje's embassy colleagues – quasi as a testament. Look at the date of the document: 5 February 1953 – just one month before the death of the dreaded Stalin! That explains why, among other things, he wrote, “If something bad happens to me.”
“My request is that my son, Yigal ben Arje, accomplish for me the dreams that I may never be able to complete. Do everything to help my child go to Israel !!! If I knew this happened, my own fate would be nothing compared to such a great, reassuring happiness. (...) Of course, I would like him to arrive at HOME with his mother.
My mother is about to undergo a serious operation, and she must not know anything about my fate, in her time remaining - if she has any - she should not be shocked by this.
Stand by my wife during the hardship, which I know you’d always do, she has always been my faithful partner in life and in ideas.
My sister, the last one of us four, is waiting for her aliyah.
We do not know what our fate will turn out to be, but one thing is sure, the Jewish people will live forever.
Shalom. Arje Fazekas “
I would like to ease the dramatic mood created by this excerpt: shortly after their mother's passing, his sister, Elisheva received permission for her aliyah, and for a further three years there was a lively correspondence between them, usually by regular mail, the envelopes stamped by censors, but the possibility of diplomatic mail also helped their relationship: so via this mail, they could talk about the problems and things that could not be mentioned in the regular post: shared by the little family waiting for the aliyah with the only living relative ... who was really looking forward to seeing them again.
In September 1956, Arje, Chaja and the six-year-old Yigal arrived at the Haifa Port. At first they were staying in the criff group, which was provided by Sochnut [start-up help for newcomers], at the Kiraka Chaim Barracks Camp, where Hungarian and Polish families with higher education were offered accommodation for a predetermined time. As a next stage in the process of integration, Arje received a job as a Sochnut officer, while becoming the Haifa correspondent of Új Kelet
[New East]. The housing problem has also been solved, in the Kiryat Eliezer district of Haifa, where they got a three-room flat. He stayed there for the rest of his life. His wife, Chaja, helped the family's income by giving piano lessons.
As a correspondent of the Új Kelet- already under the name of Dr. Arje Kaddar – he published articles with social, political and cultural themes almost every day - this was a very fertile time of his life. The dream of the Zionist activist has come true, but since that time he has been working on bettering the ups and downs of Israeli life with a sharp pen, albeit with a lot of humor. Initially, he wrote and published several of his articles in Hebrew. His writings have been taken over by a number of foreign papers, and in several languages - in English, French, Spanish, and Yiddish - he has reported on the Eichmann trial, for example, from the court room. His articles published in Israel could fill many volumes.
In April 1962, he could finally realize his next great dream: he founded and edited his own “independent socio-critical journal” for nearly 40 years, until his death on January 21, 2002; in the first seven years under the title Haifai Szemle [Haifa Review] and later in 1969 as Izraeli Szemle [Israeli Review].
In recognition of his outstanding journalistic work, he was awarded the Herzl Prize in 1975.
To conclude: in a Hungarian newspaper, his ideas were extremely well summarized on occasion of the 100th anniversary of the very first Basel Zionist Congress. From this interview I would like to quote, if I could, every sentence, but in any case at least some of his ideas:
“If the Jewish state had existed then the WWII genocide could not have happened, or at least a significant part of the Jews could have been saved. In recent years, there has already been a similar example when the Sochnut, the Jewish agency, evacuated those threatened Jews from the civil war of Yugoslavia who had nothing to do with the ethnic-Serb-Croatian-Muslim dispute. This is what I consider to be the result of the existing Zionism. This idea therefore has its justification and its significance. I would like to quote Theodor Herzl, who among other things had said that Zionism was the idea of returning to the Jewish country and the idea of returning to Judaism. It is not enough, then, that someone lives in Israel. You must consciously live your Jewish life. Every nation must have an idea that unites it. I think the task of Zionism today is to strengthen this cohesion.”
The interview was made by Csaba Pál, a staff member of the Hajdú-Bihari Journal, Debrecen, in 1997. Arje was 85 years old by then ...
Lecture in the eighties
Dalmát Dán wrote: “He was, in any case, one of those who had already clearly recognized in the thirties of the last century that for the Hungarian Jewish youth, despite all the difficulties, the most viable way was to go to Palestine! If they had listen to him, many Hungarian Jews could have saved themselves from the Ukrainian mass grave or from the Auschwitz gas chamber!”
In his youth, he said that as a goal of Zionist education, it is not enough to take the Jews out of the diaspora, but the diaspora must be taken out of the Jews.
Throughout his life, he walked this walk with extreme consistency dictated by his convictions; he accepted no compromise in this, but also not in other matters.
His grave is in Haifa, in the city that he fell in love with already in 1939.
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