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Károly Pap

PAP, KÁROLY (1897–1945), Hungarian author. Born in Sopron, where his father Miksa *Pollák was the rabbi of the Neolog community, Pap was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I and was decorated for bravery. After demobilization, he joined Béla *Kun's October Revolution and became a Hungarian Red Army commander. On the collapse of the revolution he was arrested, reduced to the ranks, and condemned to 18 months' imprisonment. After his release he left the country until 1925. Then, settling in Budapest, he began writing poetry and stories. He soon became known as a short story writer, but wishing to remain independent, he refused to take any employment.

Pap's first novel, Megszabaditottál a haláltól ("Thou Hast Delivered Me from Death," 1932), which dealt with a popular Jewish Messiah in the time of Jesus, was enthusiastically received by liberal and radical writers, notably the great Hungarian author, Zsigmond Móricz, who gave him much encouragement. The character of Jesus and the period in which he lived recur constantly in Pap's writings, not because of any attraction to Christianity but because, in his opinion, this "classical" period of Judaism retained traces of the Divinity, and at the same time presented social contrasts and gave Jews the taste of suffering. His great autobiographical novel, Azarel (1937), which portrayed his father's house through the eyes of a child, aroused great indignation among some Jewish readers because of the cruel frankness of its descriptions. In his sensational essay, Zsidó sebek és bűnök ("Jewish Wounds and Sins," 1935), Pap made a thorough and candid analysis of his Jewish and non-Jewish social surroundings. He traced the history of the Jews, particularly of Hungarian Jewry, in order to expose conventional lies, especially those concerning emancipation. He found only one solution to the Jewish problem: acceptance of the fate of a national minority. He himself was fanatically attached to all aspects of Jewish life and was uncompromising in his loyalty.

During World War II the Budapest Jewish Theater performed two biblical plays by Pap: Bathsheba (1940) and Moses (1944). In May 1944 he was sent to a labor camp. From there he refused to escape and was deported to Buchenwald, and is presumed to have died in Bergen-Belsen. Three works which appeared posthumously were A szűziesség fátylai ("The Veils of Chastity," 1945), A hószobor ("The Snow Statue," 1954) and B városában történt ("It Happened in the City B," 2 vols., 1964).


Magyar Irodalmi Lexikon, 2 (1965), 433–4; D. Keresztúry, in: Pap Károly, A hószobor (1954), introd.; A. Komlós, in: Nyugat, 2 (1935), 41–43.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.