DÉnes (Springer), BÉla

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Dénes (Springer), Béla

DÉnes (Springer), BÉLA (1904–1959), Hungarian physician, author, and Zionist leader. Born in Budapest, Dénes was paralyzed in both legs from the age of four after an attack of poliomyelitis. He studied medicine at the universities of Pécs and Budapest, and during the 1927 antisemitic riots there was beaten up as a result of which he became deaf in one ear. He was forced to go to Brussels, where he graduated with distinction in medicine. Dénes received medical work upon his return to Budapest, but the appointment depended on his agreeing to abandon his religion. He thus ceased work as a physician and began writing political commentary in his newspaper, entitled Független Szemle ("Independent Review," 1933). Dénes was an active member of the Social Democratic Party but in 1933, after prolonged disagreement with its leaders, he joined *Po'alei Zion. During the Holocaust period he was arrested (1942) for concealing and supporting Jewish refugees, and in 1944 he went into hiding. When Budapest was conquered by the Soviet army (1945), he tried to found a Zionist newspaper, Zsidó út ("Jewish Way"), but it was stopped after three issues through Communist intervention. Between 1945 and 1948, Dénes was the leading Zionist figure in Hungary. In 1949, after the dissolution of the Zionist Federation, the authorities granted him a passport, but he was arrested and sentenced for "spying for Israel" and spent five years in prison. In 1957 he managed to go to Israel. His most famous essays are A háború biológiája ("The Biology of War," 1933), Hogyan élnek, mit keresnek Magyarországon a tisztviselők ("How the Clerks Live in Hungary and How They Find Their Sustenance," 1937), and Hat évszázad kulturhistóriája ("Six Centuries of Cultural History," 1938). His autobiography, within the diary of his prison period, is extant in manuscript form and in 1945–49 he was editor of Johud-Mapaj Haoved pamphlets.

[Baruch Yaron]