How It Happened

Documenting the Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry

A gripping first-hand account of the devastating “last chapter” of the Holocaust, written by the secretary of the Hungarian Judenrat and a member of Budapest’s Jewish elite, How It Happened is a unique testament to the senseless brutality that, in a matter of months, decimated Europe’s largest and last-surviving Jewish community. This long-overdue translation, edited by Nina Munk, “skillfully contextualizes [Ernő] Munkacsi’s work” (History) and makes available his profound and unparalleled insight into the Holocaust in Hungary.

Writing immediately after the war, “Munkácsi not only explores the broader historical forces that culminated in the genocide of Hungary’s Jews, but also recounts the confused, painful, and often absurd day-today decisions that Jews were forced to make, both individually and collectively, as the horror of the Holocaust un-folded around them” (Hungarian Studies Review).

As secretary of the Hungarian Central Jewish Council (Judenrat) established in Budapest immediately after the German occupation, Munkácsi “observed at first-hand the terrible events that followed: the arrival of Adolf Eichmann’s murderous Sonderkommando, the Jews’ confused and uncertain responses to repression, the chilling indifference of the Hungarian government, the rapid deportations to Auschwitz of roughly 430,000 provincial Jews, the desperate attempts to save Budapest’s Jews, and the coup on October 15 that brought to power the fascist Arrow Cross” (Holocaust and Genocide Studies).

With a preface by Nina, an in-depth introduction by Ferenc Laczó, a biographical essay on Munkácsi, a glossary and incisive annotations, two dozen archival photographs, and expertly drafted historical maps, How It Happened is “a major contribution to international Holocaust studies” (Paul Hanebrink, Rutgers University). Selected as a 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title by the Association of College & Research Libraries.

How It Happened is available on Amazon or directly from McGill Queens University Press. An excerpt of Nina’s preface was published in The Toronto Star. Other excerpts, of Ferenc Laczó’s introduction and Munkácsi’s first chapter, are on the EHRI Document Blog. University professors interested in using the book in their courses can request an examination copy from MQUP.