EÖTVÖS, BARON JÓZSEF° (1813–1871), Hungarian statesman, author, and jurist; he fought for and brought in the legislation granting *emancipation to the Jews in Hungary. Eötvös became a member of the Hungarian diet in the Liberal opposition. In 1840 he published his classic work A zsidók emancipatiója ("Emancipation of the Jews") where he refuted the arguments of those who rejected emancipation of the Jews unconditionally, as well as of those who first required the "betterment of the Jews" before they attained emancipation. Only emancipation without any prior conditions, Eötvös claimed, would improve the way of life of the Jews whose defects he did not deny, and whose assimilation he advocated in this as well as in his other writings. Eötvös was a member of the revolutionary government (1848) as minister of public instruction and religious affairs. After the failure of the revolution, he fled to Germany, from where he returned in 1851. He retired from political life and was elected president of the Hungarian Academy. With the formation of the independent Hungarian government in 1867, he once more held the same ministerial position and succeeded in having the bill on the emancipation of the Jews passed during that year. Eötvös also sought to organize the structure of Hungarian Jewry upon the principle of a unified community, without any intervention in its internal affairs. To this end, he convened a national congress of the Jews of Hungary in 1868, but his project did not materialize. Eötvös was a talented writer of fiction and in his fictional works also expressed his ideas concerning the Jews (A falu jegyzöje, 1845; The Village Notary, 1850).
B. Heller, in: IMIT, 36 (1913), 7–55 (Hung.); J. Bánóczi, in: J. Eötvös, A zsidók emancipatiója (1922), 3–8; N. Katzburg, in: Bar-Ilan, Sefer ha-Shanah, 1 (1963), 282–301 (Heb.), 56–57 (Eng. summary); idem, in: Aresheth, 4 (1966), 322–6 (Heb.); idem, Antishemiyyut be-Hungaryah 1867 – 1914 (1969), 19–24; idem, in: R.L. Braham (ed.), Hungarian Jewish Studies, 2 (1969), 1–33 (Eng.).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.