How They Lived

The Everyday Lives of Hungarian Jews, 1867-1940
$85.00 / €75.00 / £67.00
$60.00 / €54.00 / £47.00
Publication date: 
250 pages, with numerous photos

This book documents the physical aspects of the lives of Hungarian Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: the way they looked, the kind of neighborhoods and apartments they lived in, and the places where they worked.

The many historical photographs—there is at least one picture per page—and related text offers a virtual cross section of Hungarian society, a diverse group of the poor, the middle-class, and the wealthy. Regardless of whether they lived integrated within the majority society or in separate communities, whether they were assimilated Jews or Hasidim, they were an important and integral part of the nation. We have surprisingly few detailed accounts of their lifestyles—the world knows more about the circumstances of their deaths than about the way they lived. Much like piecing together an ancient sculpture from tiny shards found in an excavation, Koerner tries to reconstruct the many diverse lifestyles using fragmentary information and surviving photos.

The Diversity of Hungarian Jewish Lifestyles
The Three Aspects of Lifestyles Selected for Examination
The Structure of This Book
Other Characteristics of Hungarian Jewish Lifestyles
The Group of People, the Period, and the Geographic Entity That are the Subject of This Book
Old Photos as Records of the Way People Lived
The Advantages and Limitations of Describing a Culture Through Pictures
The Sources of Photos

Historical Overview
Hungarian Jews in the Second Half of the 19th and First Half of the 20th Centuries

1. What They Looked Like
The Way Hungarian Jews Looked in the Decades Before 1900
The Orthodox and Hassidim in the Carpathian Regions
Rabbis’ Clothing, Beards, and Moustaches
The Way Hungarian Jews Looked Between 1900 and 1940

2. Where They Lived
Jewish Neighborhoods in Budapest
The Apartments, Villas, and Palaces of Budapest Jews
Jewish Neighborhoods, Houses, Apartments, and Mansions in Provincial Towns and Villages

3. Where They Worked


Selected Bibliography
The Sources of the Pictures

"In How They Lived, Koerner shows the realities behind the nostalgia; a diverse world composed of individuals, not stereotypes. The book that began on a mournful note on the deaths of Hungarian Jews ends up as a rich and colorful exploration of their lives. It is refreshing to see the faces and to discover the connections between them. Koerner has revived the world of Hungarian Jewry in our historical imagination, and his book is a reminder that, ultimately, their lives outshine their deaths."
"A profusion of extraordinary old photographs are at the heart of Koerner’s indispensable How They Lived: The Everyday Lives of Hungarian. Jews. 1867-1940. 'The problem,' he writes, 'was not so much finding new, previously unknown photos (though of course I managed to find quite a few), but to organize them so that they become parts of a cohesive narrative. Also, there are some subjects, like people’s clothing and the apartment furnishings of which tell us about their mentalities that can be better studied with the help of photos than by text alone.' He was surprised to discover that he was filling in a lacuna."
“András Koerner's book gives an overall picture of various layers of Hungarian Jewish existence with a large number of photographs accompanied by seminal historical analyses about their meaning and relevance. This is an ingenious introduction into a problem area rarely explored in scholarly literature. It can serve future research as well as offer an original approach to the often ambiguous situation of Jews in a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional nation state, where they constituted the most dynamic force of modernization, cultural, and economic progress. This book is the fruit of a highly ambitious and indeed unique enterprise, without any real precedents.”