The only black soldier of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1915

According to news reports at the time, Simon Paris (also known as Ali Mahmud) was born in either the Congo or Senegal and came to Hungary when he was a little boy. Originally he was a servant of a Turkish man living in Budapest.

After the death of his mentor, he worked as a porter in a cinema in Nagyvard (now Ordea) and spoke fluent Hungarian, which was reportedly very adept at using colored insults. While certainly a curiosity in early 20th century Hungary, he was clearly liked for his good humor in the city and he was also very patriotic and proud of Hungary.

Ali Mahmud applied to join the Austro-Hungarian army, but was rejected because he was a foreign national. But he didn't give up. He has repeatedly tried to reapply, even to the Secretary of Defense. According to a news article from the time, he declared "I am so ashamed that as a Hungarian I have to sit at home when others can fight. I want to fight for my motherland."

Eventually, he was accepted into the army and fought on the Russian front in 1915, earning several military awards and was promoted to corporal.

This picture during this time covered the front page of various newspapers. He wrote: "A man with a completely black face is walking the streets of Budapest in a Hungarian military uniform". He was described as a szerecsen (Saracen).

While szerecsen is derived from Saracen, it refers to black people, although its use diminished over time. Saracens were often used for Arab and Turkish troops of the eastern Mediterranean, were used during and after the Crusades and had some respect. They were considered enemies but were still skilled soldiers.

When an officer asked him why he wanted to be a soldier, Ali Mahmud replied "Because I want the qualifications of a Hungarian girl!". Sadly, there are no records after him, whether he survived or married someone. Hopefully, he found a Hungarian woman and lived a happy life.

This photo was taken during the Great War and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was probably the only European empire at the time that was not built around nationalism, but around sovereignty.

The empire included and recognized over a dozen distinct ethnicities that used diverse languages, followed different traditions, and had distinct histories. The only thing that united the empire was that all these peoples were under the emperor, regardless of their ethnic origin.

This was a major problem during the war that Austro-Hungarians started so foolishly, as soldiers often did not really want to fight, especially during a war deliberately initiated to avenge the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. which no one, including the emperor, really liked. , Even more so, Slavic soldiers generally did not like the idea of ​​fighting other Slavs.

We can guess but it seems that this picture was very useful as a propaganda tool, showing that anyone coming from such a distant country could identify themselves as Hungarian. Even such people are ready to fight for their country and they are allowed to do so, showing that there was such a huge shortage in the country.

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