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Beregi, Ármin

(1879–1953), engineer and Zionist leader. Growing up in the house on Dob Street in Budapest where Theodore Herzl’s uncle lived, Ármin Beregi knew Herzl personally. Beregi studied at the Technical University of Budapest and went on to work at the Ganz-Danubius factory as an engineer. While a student, he met Mózes Bisselisches, who later became a well-known Zionist leader. The two of them—with the help of several others—founded a group of Zionist organizations: Makkabea for university students (Beregi was its vice president in 1905), Ivria for high school students, Júdea for clerks, and Debóra for women.

Beregi served as president of the Hungarian Zionist Organization between 1911 and 1918; in this position, he demonstrated great rhetorical talent and wrote the annual report for the organization’s first general assembly. Wounded several times during World War I, he was finally injured so severely that he was discharged before the end of the war, earning the rank of captain.

The high point in Beregi’s career came in 1918, when the government of Mihály Károlyi instituted democratic changes and Hungary gained independence with the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. At that time, Beregi suggested to War Secretary István Friedrich that an independent Jewish police squad be set up in order to avert violence against Jews. This was the first time a Jewish force as such had existed in Hungary.

Friedrich subsequently placed the Albrecht Garrison in Budapest at the Jewish community’s disposal, supplying weapons, ammunition, and vehicles. Beregi commanded the squad, Lieutenant Jenő Brünn was his deputy, and Jewish war veterans formed the staff. Volunteer Zionist guards functioned between November 1918 and April 1919 and were officially called the Volunteer Police Squadron. Lipót Lebovits, the leader of Mizraḥi in Budapest, provided kosher meals. In February 1919, however, Friedrich forced the volunteers to merge with the National Guard. Beregi resigned, and in March 1919, the month in which the Hungarian Soviet Republic seized power, the squadron disbanded.

In 1921, Beregi was invited to Tel Aviv, where he planned and built a factory to fabricate silica brick that would replace older building materials. He also introduced steel concrete to Palestine. Upon his return to Hungary he wrote numerous articles for Jewish periodicals such as Zsidó Szemle (Jewish Review) and Múlt és Jövő (Past and Future), popularizing the Jewish community in Palestine.

Beregi headed the Palestine Office in Hungary between 1920 and 1925, convincing both the Neolog and Orthodox leadership to support the first aliyah from that country. Approximately 60 engineers and technicians moved to Palestine in 1920 and 1921, and he himself immigrated in 1935. The municipality of Tel Aviv named a street after him in Yad Eliyahu.

Suggested Reading

Ármin Beregi, Isten árnyékában, 2 vols. (Budapest, 1933); Livia Bitton, “A Decade of Zionism in Hungary: The Formative Years; The Post–World War I Period, 1918–1928” (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1968); David Gil‘adi, Sefer ha-mehandesim veha-‘aliyah ha-shelishit me-Hungaryah, 1920–1930 (Tel Aviv, 1990/91), also in Hungarian as Pesti mérnökök: Izrael országépítői (Budapest, 1992); Peter Haber, Die Anfänge des Zionismus in Ungarn, 1897–1904 (Cologne, 2001).



Translated from Hungarian by Veronika Szabó