Peter Bihari is a history teacher in a high school (gymnasium) in Budapest and the author of The History of the 20th Century (Budapest: Holnap Kiado, 1991). He comes from an assimilated Jewish family; his parents were middle-class Communist Party members with no deep ideological commitment to Communism. He notes the absence of political discussion in his family, especially about the Holocaust, but heard his grandfather make occasional critical remarks about the Kadar regime.
Bihari recalls the Kadar years of the 1970s and 1980s as better than earlier years, but by the late eighties he was convinced the system was unworkable. During his year in the military (the question about what he did in the army he calls a “hard question”), he became friends with Hungarians from other educational and economic backgrounds and counts this a very valuable social experience. He then went to university. During his university career, he spent four months at the University of Jena in East Germany, where he met students from Russia and other Eastern European countries; he memorably watched election debates with his companions on West German state television. Upon graduation he became a high school history teacher and continued this after he got a Ph.D. in Hungarian history at Central European University.
He finds life in Hungary after 1989 quite different, and presents an insightful critique of current social, political and economic conditions in Hungary today. He is not optimistic about the future but sees achievements Hungary can be proud of, both present and past, especially its contributions to world culture. He assisted the historian and news correspondent Kati Marton in preparations for her 2006 book, The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World.
Discursive Table of Contents: Family background—life under Kadar—education—limitations of family discussion—military service and its value—at the Budapest university and at Jena—teaching history—PhD dissertation—the changes of ’89—post-’89 cultural changes—present situation in Hungary—Hungarian pessimism—Hungarian literature—great interwar Hungarian teachers and gymnasia