The Introduction explains how the history of Subcarpathian Rus' during the first half of the twentieth century, in a period of two world wars and shifting borders, opens a window onto the genocidal dynamics of state and nation building in late modern Europe, and the ways in which the Holocaust unfolded as an integral part of this history of social and cultural destruction. The Introduction provides an overview of the conceptual and methodological approaches that frame the book, including the use of survivors' testimonies and scholarship on emotions. These allow for critical reflection on the terms "antisemitism" and "bystanders" by challenging the straightforward association of antisemitism with hatred and, by implication, a tendency toward violence, which rarely happened between neighbors in Subcarpathian Rus'. The Introduction also discusses the relevant scholarship to this study: on the history of modern Hungary; interwar Czechoslovakia; Holocaust history; genocide research; Ukrainian Studies; and Jewish history.
Chapter 1 discusses how Jews and Carpatho-Ruthenians maintained porous collective boundaries in the nineteenth century and led lives that, in many ways, flowed into each other, constituting together a society and culture that was larger than the sum of its parts. This situation pertained to occupational choices, residential patterns, and popular religious worldviews anchored in beliefs about supernatural powers in the forests of the Carpathian Mountains; no tradition of what we call "antisemitism" emerged among Carpatho-Ruthenians before World War I. Chapter 1 thus challenges the idea that Jews (and non-Jews) in nineteenth-century eastern Europe possessed distinct and immutable ethnic or national identities. Rather than thinking about interethnic relations through this deterministic and conflict-ridden framework of the nation state, a political arrangement that triumphed only after World War I, Chapter 1 treats the nineteenth century on its own terms.
Chapter 2 shows that constructs that defined Jews and Carpatho-Ruthenians as parts of ethnonational collectives spread after World War I and only then, under Czechoslovak rule, began to breed conflict. The stance of the Czechoslovak government shaped the collective notions and emotions that underlined the new ways in which growing numbers of Carpatho-Ruthenians started to ponder their place in the world beyond their villages and towns. That Prague refused to grant autonomy to Carpatho-Ruthenians, contrary to its commitment in the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye (1919), and that Jews chose to support the new rulers proved decisive. Jews thus seemed as agents of "Czechization" and obstructers of Carpatho-Ruthenian collective aspirations. This sense of betrayal facilitated the rise of anti-Jewish resentments on political grounds, which coincided with the growing Ukrainophile national orientation among Carpatho-Ruthenians, deepening this new divide between the groups.
Chapter 3 focuses on autonomous Carpatho-Ukraine, as the region became known from October 1938 to March 1939. Ukrainophiles quickly assumed dominant positions in Carpatho-Ukraine, which intensified the conflict between Jews and Carpatho-Ruthenains, including small-scale anti-Jewish violence that remained sporadic despite the prodding of the Ukrainian nationalists who led the attacks. Another external force, the Hungarian army, stopped this short-lived violence by destroying Carpatho-Ukraine and pursuing Ukrainophiles, in some cases targeting non-combatants and leaving thousands dead. Many Jews witnessed the violence of Hungarian troops against their neighbors and yet publicly welcomed the occupiers who seemed to save them from peril. The new rulers, however, immediately made their aggressive intentions against all non-Magyars clear, with Jews singled out as especially "foreign" and disloyal. A society immersed in tensions and conflict faced this attack of the Hungarian state that would last five years.
Chapters 4 traces how the Hungarian authorities sought to recast the social fabric of Subcarpathian Rus' to fit the ethnonational vision of "Greater Hungary." This translated into systematic persecution that, mostly in summer 1941, morphed into mass violence against Jews, Roma, and Carpatho-Ruthenians. Chapter 4 assumes a lens that looks at the links between layers of violence against different groups rather than the common tendency to think about the fate of Jews in comparison to another group. Jews were first on the Hungarian authorities' list of victims, and they faced a sustained attack on a larger scale than Roma and Carpatho-Ruthenains. Yet the analysis of the connecting threads in this system of violence illuminates the violence against Jews in a new way, showing how anti-Jewish positions acquired specific meaning and translated into violence that figured within a genocidal process aimed at more than just uprooting Jews.
Chapter 5 focuses on the months after the German invasion of Hungary, from March to October 1944. Yet it analyzes the ghettoization and mass deportations of Jews to Auschwitz during the spring as part of the wartime history of Subcarpathian Rus' before March 1944. The miniscule SS force stationed in the region had almost no impact on the course of the operation. The anti-Roma violence that came on the heels of the anti-Jewish campaign—completely unrelated to German plans—likewise drew on the anti-Roma policies of Hungarian authorities before March 1944. To be sure, Germans murdered the vast majority of Jews from Subcarpathian Rus', primarily in Auschwitz, but this site of mass murder stood at the end of the genocidal process that the Hungarian state initiated and carried out against Jews and others through moments of both friction and cooperation with Berlin, before and after March 1944.
The conclusion places the analysis of Subcarpathian Rus' within an emerging historiography on southeast Europe during World War II. A comparison of wartime Hungary, Romania, Croatia, and Bulgaria suggests that what we call the Holocaust unfolded in southeast Europe as several cases of mass violence that assumed murderous proportions through diverse processes tied to national and regional contexts, especially in multiethnic and multireligious borderlands. Territorial ambitions, ethnonational visions, views about the purported loyalties of Jews and non-Jews, and the persecution and mass murder of several groups—all affected the content of anti-Jewish positions and the course of anti-Jewish policies and violence. The conclusion asserts that studying the Holocaust in this way offers invaluable insight about key topics in modern European history, such as state formation, citizenship, relations between groups in multiethnic societies, and the choices people make in the midst of warfare and mass violence.