September 17-23, 1918. An eventful week

Barkóczi Janka

The 1918 mid-September news are portraying an exhausted and tormented hinterland at the end of war. Once again, the main location is Budapest, but we also get to join the delegation of German journalist on their trip to Esztergom and Tátra.

Housing problems, supply shortage, a murder and a funeral – this week we are flooded with sad stories and a bold cartoon by Marcell Vértes.

Housing problems

In 1918 Budapest was suffering from major housing problems as the city had to accommodate military offices, soldiers who were stationed here, and refugees arriving from the borders. The city decided to move their offices from apartment buildings to barracks, which were supposed to be built at the town hall's courtyards, so locals could take over the apartments. But they were facing some issues; the wooden pavilions would have required serious fire safety measures, and they never managed to choose the actual location. At one point, they thought about using Vérmező Park, but the II. district committee vetoed the idea. The 8 Hour News speculated that the real reason behind the project's halt was that people were afraid of the idea of having new neighbors, whose values and traditions are unknown to them.

Queue at a silk sale on Károly körút

This segment is also about the misery of war: people waiting in line with their umbrellas to buy silk on Károly körút. An umbrella was already a luxury item, as components became extremely expensive and rare. Some were suspecting the „fabric and thread hiders, and handle maniacs” as the reason behind the shortage. The report also chronicles the history of the city. This footage was recorded on front of a building which was later replaced by the Madách Houses. In the background a dark statue of a horse rider appears, the Statue of National Sacrifice. Ferenc Sidló's work was installed in 1915 at the Anker House to commemorate the locals' sacrifices on the front and back home. For a couple coronas, people could hammer a metal plate with their names on the wooden structure, and were given a certificate with the exact location of that plate. After the war, school kids were peeling off the plates with their pocket knives, then it was covered with a red cloth during the Republic, and in 1924 the tumbledown structure was transferred to the Ludovica Academy.

German journalists visiting the archbishop in Esztergom

We already met the German delegation last week, who had important meetings and sightseeing to do in Hungary. On September 16, 1918 they travelled to Esztergom to visit archbishop, János Csernoch. The group sailed there on the Franz Joseph I steamer, where the tragic playwright Ludwig Fulda was listening to Antal Kóczé's magnificent gipsy band. They were even mentioned by Gyula Krúdy in Régi pesti históriák. Police chief, László Sándor on the left in a bright hat, and Ferenc Harrer deputy mayor is on the right in glasses and hat. Mayor István Bárczy in sunglasses is playing cards, and they are all surrounded by German and Hungarian journalists and other prominent figures. The news reported in great detail about the bishop's lunch with 80 guests, after which they were taking photographs in the garden and took a tour in the palace, gallery, basilica and treasury. They returned to Budapest around 23:00, where more visits and feasts were waiting for them.  

Hiking in the Tátra

On the last day of their trip, September 18, the delegation went to see the Tátra. József Vészi, head of the Association of Budapest Journalists joined them on the train ride from Poprad-Vel'ká to Csorba lake, alongside Count Sándor Teleki counselor, Zoltán Tóth assistant commissioner, Countess Ernőné Zichy, Countess Jolán Pejacsevich and many others. They took a Ganz cog wheel from Tátrafüred to Hrebienok, and enjoyed the spectacular view from the gazebo, which was built to commemorate Dezső Szilágyi. Then they had a farewell dinner organized by the Company for Tourism at the legendary event hall of the Tatranská Lomnica Palace hotel.

Murder on the racetrack

Here is an interesting crime story, recorded on September 18. Two caretakers found the corpse of an unknown man at the Csömöri út racetrack next to the starting gate. The footage shows crime scene investigators trying to reconstruct the events, and the man on the left wearing a hat is Kornél Tábori, godfather of Hungarian investigative journalism. Hoping that viewers would provide the authorities with further information, the news published images of the victim, who was cut by the throat and robbed. He was later identified by his POW number found on a piece of paper in his pocket. He was imprisoned at the Esztergom-Kenyérmező camp, the largest prison camp of the Monarchy, which operated between 1914 and 1918. They kept tens of thousands of Russian, Serbian, Italian, Romanian prisoners in awful circumstances, they had their own laws and even their own currency, suffered several epidemics, major crimes, and a large number deaths until they shut down on November 3rd. The major institution collapsed by the end of the war and prisoners were escaping on a daily basis. Our victim, Lithuanian prisoner Kaplan Gelle fled the camp with 32 other inmates. From the 1920s the state news had a limit on crime related news, as images of a dangerous town would have had a demoralizing message.  

Funeral of actress, Márta Szentgyörgyi

The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history, taking lives on both sides of the war. It was a "type A" influenza with high fever, headache, aching limbs, and was especially dangerous for the youth. The media was trying to talk about it as little as possible, to prevent the enemy from knowing what is weakening the country, but the country still had to close schools and set up precautionary measures. Actress Márta Szentgyörgyi from Zalaegerszeg died from the flu at age 29. Her apartment on Eszterházy street was decorated with flowers and masses visited to pay their respects. She was buried in Kerepesi cemetery on September 19, where Artúr Bárdos director of Central Theater gave a speech and the ceremony was conducted by János Hock, who became head of National Council on the 1st of November.  

Medical congress

The Austro-Hungarian-German alliance had a 3 day medical congress from September 21, 1918 at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Almost 1300 medical professionals attended and discussed the future of medical education, epidemics - with a focus on malaria -, army medics and rehabilitation of WIAs amongst other important issues. The film shows prominent guests Prince Joseph and Princess Augusta leaving the event after the opening ceremony. Augusta was famous for her charity work, helped wounded soldiers with Red Cross and founded the „Gold for Iron” movement to raise money from the upper class. She also launched the Augusta fund in 1914, which became an important military aid. Her red armbanded coworkers whose slogan was „Easing sorrow and misery", made a lot of effort to make the war somehow more bearable: they improved medical care at hospitals, helped people in need and organized missions. People of that time were familiar with the Augusta fund ticket, Augusta cigarette blanks and even the Augusta Christmas tree.  

Celebration at the Institute for Military Families, Szombathely

On September 22, 1918, members of the royal family travelled to Szombathely for a charity event with the Institute for Military Families and Veterans and the regiment's widow funds. Charity was obviously important for the aristocracy and was often covered by the news. Princess Maria Theresia, mother of Queen Zita, Princess Maria Antonia and her children were welcomed by their loyal servant, bishop János Mikes. The celebratory mass was followed by a trip to the Szent István Park festival, and next day they visited hospitals and attended numerous protocol events. The footage shows the festivities at Szent István Park, the Kid Cabaret and a special baby carriage show. The "Baby Carriage show" was a popular event in the 1920s in Transdanubia, where people pushed around their children in strollers, which they decorated with flowers. It was an early version of today's beauty pageants, where the jury picked a winner based on creativity, the stroller's decor and the babies' overall charm.  

This week's joke: the German guests in Budapest

This segment makes fun of the German journalists' delegation with a cheerful chalk drawing. It was certainly odd that an opinion section somehow made it into the news, which also reflects on a report they aired moments earlier with utmost gravity. The creator was Marcell Vértes, who later got his own series on the news. His works are the first ever documented Hungarian animations. He was a magnificent graphic artist, master illustrator and caricaturist, who also made political posters in the Republic. He left the country after the Republic fell and had major success in France and the United States.  

DFC (Prague) vs. MTK soccer game

Football was already an important part of the news by then, and now we get to take a look at the MTK-DFC game which took place on Sunday, September 22, 1918 on front of a 12,000 people audience. "The weather was magnificent, perfect for football" and the Hungarian team won by 8 to 0. DFC complained several times about the Hungarian team's brutality, which was also mentioned by a reporter from Sporthírlap. He congratulated them and asked both teams (but mostly MTK) „to pay more attention to fair game in the future, especially at international events.” DFC, as in Deutscher Fussball-Club Prague is a perfect example of the multinational Monarchy's sporting teams, which often formed based on religion and ethnicity. Most of DFC's players were German Jews from Prague, whose carriers were destroyed by the Nazis, and several members lost their lives in concentration camps. This 1918 Hungarian win was particularly pleasing, as DFC was one of the best teams of the time. At the end of the game, fans ran down to the field in ecstasy to carry players back to the lockers on their shoulders. DFC was reestablished in 2016.