Munkács Under Hungarian Rule

Before WWI, Munkács had belonged to the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the war, it was annexed to Czechoslovakia, and after November 1938 to Hungary. Hungarian anti-Jewish legislation was enforced across Subcarpathian Rus', including Munkács, more severely than in Hungary. The Hungarian authorities quickly began to remove Jews from their businesses, steal their property and damage the activities of Jewish institutions.

The value of Jewish life was diminished from the start of Hungarian rule, and attacks on Jews in the streets became commonplace. Religious Jewish men with beards suffered especially from public humiliation. In 1939, less than half of the Jewish tradesmen were allowed to continue working in their professions. The situation worsened with the many restrictions placed on Jews involved in the free professions and economic life, as well as the flow of Jewish refugees from Czech and Polish territories. The Joint Distribution Committee did all it could to ease the suffering of the Jews in Subcarpathian Rus'. It provided milk and food for the children, set up soup kitchens across the region, assisted Jewish refugees with money, set up vocational workshops to maximize their employment possibilities, and even helped transfer financial support to the Munkács Yeshiva.

Anti-Jewish policy was enacted by governmental bodies, including the police and Hungarian gendarme (Csendőrség). Civilians also collaborated with anti-Jewish activities in the town. The gendarme set up its investigative headquarters in Munkács, which interrogated many Jews from the town and the surrounding area on charges of illegal political activity, in particular Communism and Zionism. Wealthy Jews were also grilled for information on their capital and properties.

The Hungarian authorities were also outwardly hostile to the Zionists in the town, and came down heavily on Zionist movement activities. The Hungarians interrogated and persecuted the veteran activists of these movements. As a result, many Zionist leaders fled from Subcarpathian Rus', and some joined underground movements, including Dr. Chaim Kugel, Director of the Hebrew Gymnasium who fled Munkács and arrived in Eretz Israel in 1939. The Hebrew Gymnasium continued to operate under Hungarian rule. In the summer of 1940, the mayor of Munkács published a list of Jewish and Zionist organizations whose activities were now outlawed. Zionist activity in Subcarpathian Rus' after the summer of 1940 was therefore greatly debilitated, but continued in a restricted manner until the German invasion in March 1944.

At the beginning of 1940, many Jewish men were recruited for forced labor in the Hungarian army, and set to work across the country. From 1942, most of the forced laborers were sent to the eastern front in Ukraine, where many perished. Most of the recruited men left behind whole families without any source of income.