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The Role of Public Administration in the Hungarian Holocaust. General Assessment and Case Study in Historical Social Psychology

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The role of public administration in the Holocaust has become an intensely debated issue recently. A large number of researchers have been dealing with the legal frameworks and the means of the administrative apparatus but only a few take up the
  80 The Role of Public Administration in the Hungarian HolocaustGeneral Assessment and Case Study in Historical Social Psychology ARTICLES Éva GULYÁS  Abstract The role of public administration in the Holocaust has become an intensely debated issue recently. A large number of researchers have been dealing with the legal frameworks and the means of the administrative apparatus but only a few take up the issue of the moral responsibility of the public servants themselves. This specific aspect is highlighted in the present study, which seeks to answer the question on both theoretical and historical level. Of the theories concerning this topic, the most significant is that of the noted sociologist, late Zygmunt Bauman. The now-classic Polish-born sociologist holds that the major reason triggering the Holocaust is to be found in the characteristics of the bureaucratic machinery but he underestimates the role of anti-Semitism. This study makes an attempt to refute his thesis by highlighting, on the one hand, the activity of the bureaucratic apparatus and the “official anti-Semitism“ in srcinal documents, and, on the other hand, the role of anti-Semitic prejudices in a local community. The study uses Mezőberény, a small town in Békés County, Hungary, as an example of how the right-wing ideologies set foot in it from the 1930s, and how the extreme right-wing anti-Semitic movements prepared the ground for the Holocaust in 1944. Keywords bureaucracy, public administration, Holocaust, anti-Semitism, prejudices in a local community The Role of Public Administration inthe Hungarian Holocaust General Assessment and Case Study inHistorical Social Psychology  *  Éva GULYÁS ** *This article was written in the framework of the Hungarian priority project “Public Service Development Establishing Good Governance“ (identification number: KÖFOP 2.1.2-VEKOP-15-2016-00001) at the request of the National University of Public Service.**The author is an expert of Intercultural Psychology (graduated at the University of Budapest, ELTE), Administration Manager (graduated at National University of Public Service, Budapest), and PhD student at the Doctoral School of Public Administration Sciences (National University of Public Service, Budapest).  81 CENTRAL EUROPEAN PAPERS2016 / IV / 2 Bureaucratic Power and the Activities of Public ServantsGeneral Frameworks Regime and administration are inseparable from one another, since the most common form of modern governance is administration. Administration requires that the superordinate has the commanding power, thus we can state that administration requires domination. It is a management science commonplace that administration takes place in hierarchic organizations, which will be of utmost importance concerning my topic. However, the modern public administration system has numerous other specialties as well. Under public law authorities are limited by three legal points: the office duties and the commanding power to fulfil their duty are permanently divided in the bureaucratic system, and they are strictly limited by the rules of the usage of coercive tools, and constantly regulate the required qualification, the execution and the exercising of rights.Bureaucracy is a hierarchic, pyramid shaped organization that is in this form a great tool to carry out complex tasks. In its organization system office hierarchy and the principles of bureaucracy prevail, and the sub- and superordinate system, where the subordinate have the right to appeal to a higher body. The rule of law demands that bureaucratic organizations practice administration based on laws and that administration is rational and objective.It is a strange contradiction that in order to ensure the maintenance and protection of the democratic system, there is a need for bureaucracy. On the other hand, democracy and bureaucracy are against one another. Bureaucracy can be seen as the consequence democracy; however it is obvious that democracy is the greatest obstacle of the birth of a purely bureaucratic power. However democracy cannot stand in the way of the growing power over people practiced by bureaucratic organizations. Bureaucratic administration never exposes itself to criticism and tends to hide its information and activities, and also strives to exclude the public from management, thus serving as a perfect base for a tyrannical rule. 1 Office routine, the main task of bureaucracy, is carried out by an apparatus of subordinates. Officials are automatically required loyalty in exchange for their stable livelihood. Loyalty in the modern world means being loyal to a specific goal; and behind this goal there may be an ideology or a cultural value. As for the officials, we see that they are striving to gain social appreciation. In their circle, we can distinguish between the ‘clear type’ subordinates and the ones appointed by the subordinates of the rule; the latter ones are dependent on the operating mechanism parties. Bureaucratization is stimulated by the growing office tasks, and even more so when solving a new task demands more from the officials and are also required to be more efficient in quality. The members of office bureaucracy can be compared to mechanic machinery, where the staff does a constantly accurate, rapid, and discrete work. 2   1WEBER, Max: Witrschaft und Gesellschaft. Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie , Frankfurt am Main 2005, 162–166; 721–723. [Hungarian edition: Politikai szociológia. Politikai közösségek. Az uralom, Budapest 2009, 144–145].2Ibidem , 160. [Hungarian edition: 119–122].  82 The Role of Public Administration in the Hungarian HolocaustGeneral Assessment and Case Study in Historical Social Psychology ARTICLES Éva GULYÁS Bureaucrats on the bottom of the career ladder usually have the impression that their work is uninteresting and is only about the execution of the everyday tasks, and they may feel that they have no word in their everyday activities; it is only the leaders on the top who can set their actions. 3 The Connection between the Holocaust and the Administration Zygmund Bauman, Polish sociologist, has a similar view to Max Weber about the operation of bureaucratic systems. Both claim that it is the capitalist economy’s turnover that demands that the administration is smooth and intensive while also transparent and accurate. Both regard the increasing bureaucracy as an unavoidable historic tendency and a somewhat necessity. In Bauman’s view, on the one hand it is connected to the political efforts to create a permanent army and on the other to the financial efforts related to it. Eventually he argues that the spread of bureaucratic organization stems mainly from the technological development. 4 It is a general principle that bureaucracy does not allow officials to manage tasks arbitrarily or to practice personally motivated bias: the norms of office behaviour are ruled by the actual goals together with a devotion to rational aims. When administration is entirely bureaucratized, power - according to the classics - becomes practically irrefutable. Officials become the cogwheels of inconstantly moving machinery that sets what and how things can be done. Officials often become the prisoners of bureaucratic activity simply by struggling for maintaining themselves financially. They are practically indispensible, because the planned unity is only possible when everyone performs their part. Such a system is capable of operating impersonally and for anyone; it is enough that there is a change at the top and the bureaucratic apparatus continues to carry out the will of a possibly evil power. 5 Since its introduction the term, “bureaucracy“ has been used with a negative connotation and the same is true when we connect it to the Holocaust. American sociologist, Paul du Guy, has tried to confront this critical viewpoint and the most common arguments against bureaucracy. According to him, the Holocaust was made possible, when the racist beliefs of the Nazi ideology conquered obeying the laws, the basis of bureaucracy. 6  Paul de Guy agrees with Bauman that only the advanced bureaucratic institutions of the modern societies made such horrible atrocities possible as the Holocaust. The killing of six million people was only possible in a system, where moral responsibility was not an issue. His theory suggests that the Holocaust was not an animalistic sign of violence; it was made possible merely because of the creation of a rational bureaucratic institution system, where the execution of tasks were separated from their consequences. Bureaucrats and soldiers did not question the sense of their assigned tasks; they solely focused on the precise 3Cf. DU GAY, Paul: In Praise of Bureaucracy. Weber – Organization – Ethics, London 2000. [in Hungarian: DU GAY, Paul: Valóban olyan rossz dolog a bürokrácia?, in: Szociológia, GIDDENS, Anthony, Budapest 2008, 495–496].4BAUMAN, Zygmunt: Modernity and the Holocaust  , Cambridge-Maldon 1989, 102–104. [in Hungarian: A mo-dernitás és a holokauszt  , Budapest 2001, 151–152].5See also WEBER, Witrschaft und ..., 716–718. [Hungarian edition: 139–142.]6Cf. DU GAY, Paul: Bauman’s Buerau: ’Modernity’, Identity, Ethics 35–61. [ i.m. 495–496].  83 CENTRAL EUROPEAN PAPERS2016 / IV / 2 execution to the best of their abilities. Bauman clearly absolves the perpetrators from personal responsibility by saying they were only part of a bureaucratic system. The German government was filthy with the Jews in a way that was and is unprecedented. 7  Asking a few questions may stir up trouble ie. what kind of people were the ones executing such a genocide and what circumstances made otherwise moral people to let this happen.We may even state that modern civilization was not sufficient, but necessary condition for the Holocaust. In order to organize and execute it, the technological advancement of the industrial society was not enough; the effective organization of the bureaucratic society was also required. 8  Although Bauman does not offer an exact definition of his understanding of modernity, it is “obvious that he considers [modernity] to be characterised by constantly progressing technology becoming the centre of civilisation, and, perhaps most importantly, by bureaucratic culture, almost lifestyle, whose consequences included the “Endlösung“. Bureaucratic culture stands for a hierarchically regulated way in which certain decisions are taken: the decisions that jointly establish the Gestalt of public policy. In Bauman’s view, holocaust showed the negative side of modernity, not the one described by optimistic positivist sociology which saw modern civilised society as the curb of mass murder.“ 9  Bauman himself formulated it in the following way: “Though modern civilisation was not a sufficient criterion for the Holocaust, it can certainly be claimed that it was a necessary condition for that. Without it, the Holocaust would have been unimaginable.“ 10 Office hierarchy was permeated by the punctuality of the officers and the insensitivity of the army. Setting up the camps and extermination centres was made possible by the industry, while the Nazi party and its politics served the official’s ideology and mission-centeredness. A well-organized and gigantic bureaucratic apparatus carried out genocide, while all they focussed on was the correct office routine, proper wording and obedience to the law. 11 Obedience as a Virtue Thanks to the advancement of bureaucracy we witness two parallel processes: the outstandingly accurate work sharing and the vanishing of moral responsibility. The personal morals of public servants became irrelevant compared to the technical achievements of the organization. Under strict pressure from the superordinates, they continued to perfectly focus on their tasks, in hope of a promotion. If the question of moral responsibility emerged during their service, they fought it down by the depersonalization of the aims – writes Bauman. They created a distance between human beings and labour, where humans were transformed into quantifiable data. A “cargo“ of which’s financial effect was taken into consideration can be easily understood as a quantifiable data, and not as a group of 7BAUMAN, 15–18.   [ i.m. 38–42].8BROWNING, Christopher R.: The German Bureaucracy and the Holocaust, in: Genocide: Critical Issues of the Holocaust  , GROBMAN, Alex – MILTON, Sybil – LANDES, Daniel (eds.), Los Angeles 1983, 148. As quoted by Cf. BAUMAN , 13 .  [ i.m.  35].9Cf. BAUER, Yehuda: Comprehensive Theories: Zygmunt Bauer, Jeffrey Herf, Götz Aly, in: Holokauszt: történelem és emlékezet.  [ Holocaust: History and Memory  ], KOVÁCS, Mónika (ed.), Budapest 2005, 76.10Cf. BAUMAN, 13 .  [ i.m.  35].11Ibidem   102–105.   [ i.m.:  151–154].  84 The Role of Public Administration in the Hungarian HolocaustGeneral Assessment and Case Study in Historical Social Psychology ARTICLES Éva GULYÁS sentient people. Originally bureaucracy is coded in a way to always seek for the optimal solution. It is part of its job to not to make a difference between people (clients). We see that in order to increase efficiency and decrease the costs, it is willing to do the same in connection with human beings and inhuman ‘objects’. 12 The department responsible for the genocide of the European Jews was formally called Main Economic and Administrative Office in the Headquarters of SS. The name did not cover the whole truth but still referred to the purpose of its activity. It was not different from any real economic or administrative activity; the staff was involved in planning, controlling and supervising, as in any other instance. In light of the Nazi ideology Hitler set out to cleanse the German Reich from Jews, but he did not specify as to how this will be reached. The idea of the forced migration of the Jews from the continent has also emerged, but it would have needed too much money and time; the choice of physical destruction proved to be more efficient. After this decision was made it was all about the cooperation, the adequate technical tools and the resources of the offices of the European countries. First and foremost office bureaucracy was needed in order to implement the Holocaust. 13 Before World War II, there is no record of a genocide that was carried out with the help of the ‘scientific’ theories of modern administration. One of these scientific theories is the honour and self-esteem of the public servant, when they are open to a self-sacrifice taken as a virtue, thus placing the will of their superordinates ahead of their morals. 14  As people say, officials profit from this ability. We despise the clergyman if he preaches against his conviction, but the judge is respected who makes a decision against his will but in accordance with the law and we acknowledge the public servant who – even when it is against their will – executes the directions. Thus officials form a belief that only the inner rules are accepted as a guarantee for their actions, which sometimes contradicts their own moral sense. This contradictory process is called the transformation of administrative work to moral sense.During the Holocaust by using bureaucracy a social behaviour was created which made morally not corrupted people kill. It is crucial to remember that most participants of the genocide contributed to the mass murder indirectly. Most of them only took notes, made phone calls, prepared plans and participated in meetings while sitting behind their desks. 15  Without doubt, the accumulation of such minor actions paved the way to the elimination of six millions of European Jews.However, bureaucracy is not only a tool but it has its own logic and pace. 16  The more satisfaction the officials drew from the leaders, the more eager they were to look for new areas, where they could prove the achievements of their perfect work mechanism. Functionalists 12Ibidem,   102–104.   [  i.m. 151–153].13Ibidem   15, 104–107.   [38, 154–156].14Cf. WEBER, Max: Politik als Beruf   (1921), Tübingen 1988. quotations from: Berliner Ausgabe 2016, 32.   [in Hungarian: A tudomány és politika, mint hivatás.  Medvetánc füzetek, 1989, 82]. 15HILBERG, Raul: The Destruction of The European Jews , New York 1983, 1024, as quoted by BAUMAN, 24. [i.m. 49].16ARENDT, Hannah: The Origins of Totalitarianism, Cleveland and New York 1968, 185. [in Hungarian: A total-itarizmus gyökerei  . Race and bureaucracy, Budapest 1992, 225–261].
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