Fascinating Color Photographs Portray Everyday Life in Budapest Between 1939 and 1944


This captivating collection of color photographs provides a glimpse of daily life in Budapest between 1939 and 1944.

Despite the turmoil of World War II, Budapest remained surprisingly quiet during this era.

These rare images from Fortepan offer a glimpse into the city's past, showcasing its residents going about their daily lives amid the chaos of war.

In the years leading up to 1939, Budapest was a vibrant cultural paradise.

Its majestic architecture, the legacy of its past as the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, set the stage for a bustling café scene where lively discussions and intellectual debates flourished.

This cosmopolitan environment particularly attracted Budapest's large Jewish population, estimated at around 200,000.

The city became a center of Hungarian Jewish life, providing a sense of security for refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in neighboring countries.

Hungary initially hesitated to fully adopt Nazi ideology but eventually enacted discriminatory laws against its Jewish population.

Despite these restrictions, Budapest remained a relatively safe destination compared to other parts of Europe.

However, this changed dramatically in 1940 when Hungary aligned itself with Nazi Germany.

The German occupation of Hungary in March 1944 was a tragic turning point for Budapest. The sense of security for the Jews soon vanished.

Under Nazi control, a Jewish Council was established, and restrictions on movement and daily life became harsher.

Apartments were confiscated, and hundreds of Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

During this dark period, hundreds of thousands of Jews from Hungary, including a significant number from Budapest, were deported to concentration camps, notably Auschwitz.

Upon retreating, the Germans also blew up all the Danube bridges as a way of hindering the advance of the Soviet Union's communist Red Army.

The two-month-long siege of Budapest destroyed the entire city, but left much of the Castle District in ruins, as it was assigned to mostly Hungarian forces with German leadership to defend and "retreat".

Most of the roofs in Budapest were blown off by Soviet bombs, the walls were blown up by Soviet tanks.

The occupants took shelter in cellars to survive and ate the meat of dead horses found on the streets.

These color photographs were taken using Agfacolor, a revolutionary color film developed by Agfa of Germany.

Agfacolor was introduced in 1932, based on Agfa's previous color plate technology, similar to the French Autochrome process.

In 1936, Agfa introduced Agfacolor Neu (New Agfacolor), a groundbreaking film that laid the foundation for modern color photography.

The new Agfacolor was originally a reversal film used for making "slides", home movies, and short documentaries.

By 1939 it had also been adapted into a negative film and a print film for use by the German motion picture industry.

After World War II, Agfacolor expanded to include a variety of color negative films for still photography, with the reversal film being rebranded as Agfachrome.

1 comment:

  1. ...Budapest is a great place...though not always one place. It is made up of the cities of Buda & Pest, now referred to as Budapest.


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