The first anti-Jewish laws in Hungary were issued during the reign of St. Ladislaus at the Council of Szabolcs in 1092 prohibiting the marriage between Jews and Christians, the purchase of slaves and work on Christian festivals. Beginning two-hundred years later during the reign of Hungary’s King Bela IV (1235 – 1270) Jews were encouraged to live in Hungary and were granted legal rights. New freedoms, however, were short lived when the in the year 1279 it was decreed at the Synod of Buda under the reign of King Ladislaus IV that Jews cannot appear in public places without a piece of red cloth attached to the upper left side of their garment. Liberties were restored to the Jews under Andrew II (1291- 1301)after the Arpad Dynasty came to an end.
Several periods of oppression and toleration followed under various foreign kings who occupied the throne of Hungary until Joseph II (1780-1790) wiped out all decrees that had oppressed the Jews by issuing a new decree known as "Systematica gentis Judaicae regulation" in 1783. Jews were still subject to social and economic restrictions but civil rights continued to increase and in 1840 the first Jews were allowed to settle in the city of Debrecen. Restrictions were imposed again eight years later as punishment for their support of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. Emancipation was granted again the following year by the national assembly at Szeged and Judaism as a religion was accepted in the state for the first time. Full liberties were enjoyed by the Jews for only two weeks before harsh punishments and heavy war taxes were imposed by the new governor Julius Jacob von Haynau for their role in the uprising.
The question of Jewish emancipation arose again after the Parliament dissolved in 1861 and Jews were again granted rights when a bill granting them their freedom was passed in December 1867. The minor presence of an antisemitic party in the Parliament at that time wasn’t taken seriously until April 1, 1882 when 14 year old Eszter Solymosi failed to return home from an errand. Rumors quickly spread that the Jews had killed the girl to use her blood at the approaching Passover and an investigation ensued. Stories were fabricated that resulted in the arrest of fifteen Jews who were later acquitted after the girls body was exhumed and false accusations were exposed. The entire affair, however, resulted in uprisings in Budapest and other parts of Hungary.
By the early 1900’s Jews made up 5 percent of the Hungarian population but accounted for more than half of Hungarian industry as Jewish businesses flourished. Resentments grew over their success and they soon became scapegoats for much of the nation’s ill's. This resulted anti-Jewish laws that would eventually take on a scale of inconceivable proportion.
Beginning in May of 1938 Hungary began passing a series of laws that restricted the number of Jews allowed to work in commercial enterprises to 20 percent. The following year a law was passed that defined Jews racially as anyone with 2 or more Jewish-born grandparents. Under this law 6.2 percent of the population was considered Jewish.
Forced labor was introduced in 1939 and Jews were inducted into the Hungarian Second Army along with other minorities. Two years later Hungary attacked the Soviet Army under Germany's instruction to fight against the USSR. Most of the men never returned.
In the summer of 1941, 20,000 Jews were expelled from Carpathian Rutheniawere as alien refugees and handed over to Nazi German units who machine-gunned them down over a period of three days.