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Anti-Jewish Quotas in Central Europe Online Conference

Monday, November 23, 2020, 3:00 pm – Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 6:15 pm


organized by the Nationalism Studies Program and Jewish Studies Program at Central European University (Budapest/Vienna) and the Tom Lantos Institute (Budapest)

3.00 to 6.00 PM (CET), November 23, 2020 and
3.00 to 6.15 PM (CET), November 24, 2020

In 1920, the Hungarian parliament introduced an anti-Jewish quota for admission to universities, thus making Hungary the first country in Europe to pass antisemitic legislation in the post-World War I period. On the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the so-called ‘numerus clausus law’, we are organizing an international conference to examine the history of restrictive ethnic and racial quotas in the first half of the twentieth century.

The conference aims to explore the ideologies of quota regimes and the ways they have been justified, implemented, challenged and remembered. We will discuss the historical origins of quotas, the moral, legal and political arguments developed by their supporters and opponents; the domestic and international debates surrounding anti-minority quotas; as well as the consequences – both intended and unintended – of their implementation. Particularly attention is paid to the role played by the Hungarian ‘numerus clausus’, not only as a model for other restrictive quotas, but also as a touchstone in the larger debates about liberalism, the “Jewish Question,” and the “Refugee Question” in the interwar period.

The conference will take place on Zoom on November 23 - 24, 2020 between 3.00 to 6.15 PM (CET). All participants must register online here. Registration closes at midnight CET on Thursday 19th November 2020.


Monday, November 23 3pm – 6pm CET


3:00 – 3:15       Welcoming Remarks

Michael L. Miller (CEU), Anna-Mária Bíró (Tom Lantos Institute)


3:15 – 4:00       Keynote Address 

Mária M. Kovács (1953-2020)

The Hungarian Numerus Clausus: Ideology, Apology and History

Introductory remarks by András Kovács (CEU)

Keynote address to be read by Luca Váradi (CEU)


4:00 – 6:00       Anti-Jewish Quotas: A Central European Perspective  

Chair: Máté Rigó (Yale-NUS College; Imre Kertész Kolleg)           

Jeremy King (Mount Holyoke College)

National Autonomy, Quotas, and a Classificatory Dilemma in Late Imperial Austria

Grzegorz Krzywiec (Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw)

Anti-Jewish Quotas and their Radicalization in Interwar Poland. Towards a Reconsideration of the Fascist Appeal in East Central Europe

Natalia Aleksiun (Touro College, New York; Gerda Henkel Fellow, Jena University)

Jewish Response to the Numerus Clausus in Interwar Poland

Andreas Huber (University of Vienna)

The Anti-Semitic Pact: How German National and Catholic Elites Fought for a Numerus Clausus at Austrian Universities after 1918


Tuesday, November 24 3pm- 6:15pm CET


3:00 – 4:00       Anti-Jewish Quotas, Antisemitic Violence      

Chair: Laura Almagor (The University of Sheffield)

Roland Clark (University of Liverpool)

Rioting for Quotas in Transnational Perspective

István Pál Ádám (Selma Stern Zentrum für Jüdische Studien, Berlin-Brandenberg) (20 min)

Anti-Jewish Incidents in Interwar Hungary and the Numerus Clausus Debate


4:00 – 6:00       The Numerus Clausus: Hungarian Jewish Perspectives

Chair: Éva Kovács (Vienna Wiesenthal Institute)

Linda Margittai (University of Szeged)

Numerus Clausus in the Southlands, 1941-1944: Implementation of Ethnic Discrimination in Higher Education

Ágnes Kelemen (Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences) (20 minutes)

Rebels Against the Numerus Clausus: The Emigration of Hungarian Jewish Youth

Judith Szapor (McGill University, Montreal) 

'A Path to Zionism' or 'Loyalty to the Nation'? The Impact of the Numerus Clausus on Jewish Identity in 1920s Hungary

Michael L. Miller (CEU) 

A Foreign Relations Fiasco?  The Hungarian Numerus Clausus Law and Weimar Germany 

6:00 – 6:15       Concluding Reflections