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Simon Wiesenthal Lectures


The Simon Wiesenthal lecture series takes place regularly every six to eight weeks and aims to present the latest research findings on the Holocaust to both a professional and a broader audience. They take into account the impressive spectrum of this discipline, the numerous questions and issues from empirical-analytical historiography to topics of cultural studies and involve young scholars as well as established academics.


Since 2007, when the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) was still being established, the lecture series – at that time in cooperation with the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) and the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna– has developed into the flagship of the VWI's outreach activities as a supporting element in the communication of recent academic findings in the field of Holocaust research and Holocaust and genocide studies.


For over a decade, the Austrian State Archives generously offered shelter to the Simon Wiesenthal Lectures in the roof foyer of the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv. During the challenging years of the pandemic, the lectures were held online. From autumn 2022, in order to reach out to further audiences, a new cooperation partner was found in the Wien Museum. Until the reopening of the main location at Karlsplatz, the SWL will take place at MUSA, Felderstraße 6-8, next to the Vienna City Hall.



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Simon Wiesenthal Lecture
Mária Kovács: Disenfranchised by Law. The "Numerus Clausus" in Hungary 1920 - 1945

Thursday, 12. December 2013, 18:30 - 20:00

Dachfoyer des Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchivs, Minoritenplatz 1, 1010 Wien


Adopted in 1920, the ‘Numerus Clausus’ law introduced a mechanism to keep Jews out of universities by screening all applicants as to whether or not they were Jewish, either by religion or by birth. Jewish applicants were listed separately and their admission was only possible up to six percent of all students.   
The lecture will challenge a number of false historical legends that understate the significance of the ‘Numerus Clausus’ law and, more generally, of state-sanctioned antisemitism in the Horthy regime. It will provide strong evidence to dispel the convenient legend that Hungarian antisemitism was a policy externally imposed by Nazi Germany. It will demonstrate that government-sanctioned antisemitism in Hungary was a story in and of itself, a story whose beginnings had predated the rise of Nazism in Germany by over a decade. It will show how the ‘Numerus Clausus’ law not only legitimised antisemitism as state-policy, but also served as an inspiration all throughout the inter-war years for racist movements to demand further anti-Jewish quotas and legislation.  
Finally, the paper will address current implications of debates over the law in Hungary’s memory war and demonstrate how apologetic accounts of the numerus clausus still serve to whitewash the Horthy regime from charges of state-sanctioned antisemitism.  
Mária M. Kovács is Professor of History and Chair of the Nationalism Studies Program at the Central European University in Budapest. Her research interests and publications concern issues of antisemitism, right-wing movements and nationalism. Her latest book entitled Törvénytől sújtva. A numerus clausus Magyarországon, 1919-1945 (Budapest: Napvilág 2012) [=Disenfranchised by Law. The History of the Hungarian Numerus Clausus, 1919-1945], earlier publications include Liberalizmus, radikalizmus, antiszemitizmus. A magyar orvosi, ügyvédi és mérnöki kar politikája 1867 és 1945 között. [=Liberalism, Radicalism, Antisemitism. The Politics of the professional chambers of medical doctors, lawyers and engineers.] (Budapest: Helikon 2001) and Liberal professions and illiberal politics. Hungary from the Habsburgs to the Holocaust. (Washington: Oxford University Press 1994).
Einladung Kovacs
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