ORT’s activities in Hungary began in the late 1930s, when anti-Jewish legislation made it impossible for many Jews to practice their professions. It established vocational training courses at the invitation of the local Jewish community and, because of the political climate, operated as a section of the community rather than as an independent entity.
Two technical high schools were set up in Budapest, as well as vocational courses for adults in a variety of subjects. A separate fund supplied equipment and tools for tailors and carpenters. ORT maintained some of its operations in Budapest and a number of provincial cities throughout the war, as well as providing short-term training for young refugees from Yugoslavia and Poland. In April 1944, half the Budapest ORT boys’ trade school’s 150 students graduated. ORT also ran a girls’ school in the capital with 137 students and another 670 mature students attended adult workshops. Eventually, the boys’ school was taken over by the military and the remaining students went into hiding. However, the students communicated with the teaching staff from their hide-outs, receiving written tasks and returning them for feedback.
In 1945 ORT resumed its activities as an independent legal organisation with its own statutes, registered as Orzagos Tovabkepzö Tarsasag, and reopened its two Budapest trade schools. ORT also supported home-workers in Budapest, Debrecen, Lipse, Keczkemet, Nagy-Kanisza, Lajoshicze, Miskolc and Navygarad. In 1948 ORT opened the Bonyhád agricultural boarding school in southern Hungary.
In January 1949, the two big trade schools in Budapest were nationalised, their Jewish identity anathema to Communist ideology. ORT continued running its adult courses in Budapest, Békéscsaba, Debrecen, Gyöngyös, Miskolc and in the Bonyhád farm, but ORT programmes in Hungary effectively ended the following year.