Kata Bohus


’Hotel California’. Hungarian Jewish Refugee Experiences In Toronto After The 1956 Revolution


Following the failed revolution of 1956, about 200,000 Hungarians left their native country, and about 37,000 of them landed in Canada. About 10-15 percent (20-30,000) of those leaving Hungary were Jews, and the number of those who went to Canada has been estimated to be between 4,500 and 7,000. As Jews constituted less than two percent of the overall population of Hungary at that time, their predominance among the immigrants is striking. Why did they leave in such high numbers? What identity did they assume after their arrival? What are the main characteristics of the immigrant experiences of the Hungarian Jewish ’56-ers?


The cultural baggage of being a Jew in Hungary weighed so heavily on the backs of émigrés, that losing their heritage was not as easy as they might have hoped. While previously they had opted for assimilation, after their arrival to Canada they retained elements of their Hungarian heritage, while also keeping their Jewish self-consciousness. Their integration into Canadian society was successful, but this can not be said about their inclusion into the existing Canadian Jewish community. This paper aims at presenting the circumstances and the considerations that influenced their choices.