Hungarian government whitewashes Hitler’s allies

This video says about itself:

26 Apr 2013 “Death to the Jews!” “Auschwitz isn’t this way!” “We’re taking you to a free campsite, with heating!” “No return ticket!”

Slogans like these were heard in the streets of Budapest last year, when the Hungarian capital was invaded by a demonstration by the extreme right.

As police looked on arms folded, one journalist who was filming had his nose broken in five places.

We met up with him six months later. He is still waiting for any charges to be brought, after having filed two complaints against his attackers, and the police.

“I looked over our videos of the past years, when they are shouting for example anti-semitic or anti-gypsy words. In the past it was a bit more covered. But now it’s really direct. It shows maybe it’s more “OK” now to speak directly and to speak with hate,” says Barna Szasz.

This rise in extremism fuelled a record turnout for the ‘March for Life’ in Budapest on April 21st, the traditional march in memory of the more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews who perished in the Holocaust in World War Two.

It is also one of the reasons why the World Jewish Congress‘ Plenary session, normally held in Israel, is coming to Budapest this year.

Anti-semitic incidents have risen in the last few months in Hungary, which has Central Europe’s largest Jewish community.

This is on top of a rising number of regular attacks against Roma peoples. The blame is often laid at the door of the extreme right-wing Jobbik party, the country’s third-largest political force.

One of its leaders made the headlines last winter when he called for a list to be made of members of parliament, the government, and civil service who were Jewish and could represent a threat to national security.

Public outrage followed. He retorted by claiming he was not anti-semitic and was only looking at double nationality issues.

“Any citizen of a country that completely disregards international law and commits genocide 24 hours a day against the Palestinian people means a national security risk anywhere in any country that they go to. This is the reason why Hungarian-Israeli citizenship is of particular interest to us. And also because Shimon Peres, the president of Israel, back in October 2007, talked about my country, Hungary, as the target of Israeli Jewish businessmen and financial people. And this was all in the context of colonisation and building empires,” insisted Marton Gyongyosi.

This is an embarrassment for the Hungarian government, when it is trying to strengthen good relations with Israel.

Beyond political considerations, measures to combat racism and anti-semitism will be reinforced, promises the Speak[er] of the Hungarian parliament, where new house rules have been introduced.

“Recently we reinforced our position on hate speech through the fourth amendment of the Constitution. With these changes, we can silence any MP whose speech harms the dignity of the parliament, or can hurt other people or groups of people. We can also expel them from a session, and the third measure can be a financial penalty,” said Laszlo Köver.

One journalist, who prefers to remain anonymous, insisted this will not be enough to beat a spreading disease. He is on a list of Hungarian Jewish figures that does the rounds of extreme-right internet hate sites, where he is the subject of frequent attacks.

“The commentaries were extremely aggressive, including the regret that the job of Auschwitz was not finished and things like this. The truth is that my feeling of security has disappeared. Not in everyday life, I’m not afraid on the bus or in the subway. But I’m very uncertain about my future. And I have to tell you that I regard it much more as a European phenomenon,” he said.

For the director of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, Mazsihisz, the country still needs to come to terms with its history before mentalities can change.

“In Germany people are confronted with their past. Not here. There are things that cannot be tackled with laws. The most important thing is for things to be clear in people’s minds. We need to discuss everything from the past. The only thing that can help us is education, educating the young,” said Gusztav Zoltai.

Recent recommendations from the Education Ministry, for example adding authors known for their anti-semitism during World War Two to the school syllabus, sparked protests.

By Markus Salzmann:

Hungarian government exploits Holocaust Memorial Year to revise history

14 February 2014

This year has been dedicated Holocaust Memorial Year in Hungary. The right-wing government of Victor Orban (Fidesz party) decided on this course in the spring of 2013 to counter international criticism that it supports and promotes widespread anti-Semitism in the country.

As has now been revealed, the main aim of the official ceremonies is not to commemorate the approximately 600,000 Jews, deported from Hungary from March 1944 to January 1945 and murdered in German concentration camps, but rather to rewrite history. By seeking to rehabilitate the authoritarian regime of Miklos Horthy, which was jointly responsible for the murder of the Jews, the government is exposing its affiliation with extreme right-wing forces.

The National Association of Jewish Communities in Hungary has recently cancelled its participation in the commemorative events. “We are extremely bitter,” association chairman András Heisler told the Spiegel news magazine.

The planned memorial to the victims of the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944 is to be a “stumbling stone” (plaque embedded in the ground). It will be laid on Freedom Square in central Budapest and feature a German imperial eagle, swooping down on the archangel Gabriel, the symbol of Hungary. This corresponds to the government’s perspective on the country’s involvement with Nazi fascism, which has also been enshrined in the preamble to the Hungarian constitution since 2012. According to this, Hungary was deprived of its sovereignty from March 1944 to May 1990, and the Hungarian state thus bears no responsibility for the Holocaust suffered by the Hungarian Jews.

In the spring of 1944, Reich administrator and Hitler ally Miklós Horthy headed the Hungarian government that deported more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, almost all of whom were murdered in the gas chambers. Hungarian historian Krisztián Ungváry also points out that although Hungary was formally occupied, it was actually one of Germany’s most important allies. Ungváry concludes that “The [present government’s] commemoration of the occupation is therefore a crude and tendentious falsification of history”.

Ungváry along with two dozen other Hungarian historians signed an open letter to the Orbán government, asking it to refrain from laying the commemorative plaque. A spokesman for the ruling Fidesz party then referred to the debate about the memorial and objections from historians as “hysteria mongering.” In a letter to the Jewish community association, Mazsihisz, Orbán himself condemned the “political exploitation” of the monument.

The planned Holocaust Memorial and Educational Centre near the Josefstädterstraße railway station has also become a controversial issue. Many Jewish communities and historians accuse the project manager, Mária Schmidt, of wanting to downplay the Holocaust. Jewish victims of the Holocaust were said to have been placed in the same “class of victims” as the Hungarian Germans, while whitewashing the Horthy era.

In recent weeks, it was repeatedly demonstrated that the current downplaying of fascism in Hungary is not simply a political gaffe.

Personally selected by Orban as head of the government’s “Veritas” history institute, Sándor Szakály said in an interview with the MTI news agency that Jews in Hungary suffered “significant losses” only after the German occupation of the country on March 19, 1944. He described previous deportations by the Hungarian state as “police operations involving foreigners,” since the Jews concerned were not holders of Hungarian citizenship. He also said there had “indeed [been] a Jewish question” in Hungary during the interwar period.

The large number of memorial services for Hungarian soldiers, fallen in the Soviet Union, is also symptomatic of the aims of the government campaign. At the main event in Budapest on January 11, Defence Secretary Tamás Vargha interpreted the German Wehrmacht’s attack on the Soviet Union, which also involved Hungarian soldiers, with the words: “Hungarian soldiers defended their homeland on the distant battlefields of Russia.”

Right-wing forces are being systematically rehabilitated. Statues and busts of Horthy are erected nationwide. Members and sympathisers of the fascist Jobbik party are protected by the police, as they march through the streets commemorating Horthy and simultaneously calling for the expulsion of the Roma population. Openly extreme right-wing authors are honoured with official prizes, while their critics are silenced.

The mounting social polarisation in Hungary is revealing itself to be less and less compatible with democratic forms of rule. According to a survey by the TARKI Social Research Institute from the end of last year, poverty in Hungary has greatly increased. The survey showed that almost half the Hungarian population—exactly 46.6 percent—now live below the poverty line of €260 (US$355) a month. The figure for the Roma minority is as high as 92 percent.

The report exposes the fact that 4 out of 5 households have no material reserves and are unable to afford, for example, a household repair or any other additional expenditure of more than 100,000 forints (approximately €330). The income gap between the highest and the lowest 10 percent has grown by 25 percent since 2009. The share of the poorest 10 percent in the total national income has fallen from 3.1 to 2.6 percent.

According to reliable estimations, more than 250,000 children in Hungary are not adequately nourished. About 50,000 of them regularly suffer starvation. Another clear indication of the social misery is the birth rate. Some 5.5 percent fewer children were born in the first half of 2013, compared to the same period in the previous year.

After taking office in 2010, the Orban government immediately began to dismantle democratic rights, set up authoritarian structures, and integrate extreme right-wing forces into its political ranks.

A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation reached the conclusion that 59 of the 75 democratic countries examined over the last 8 years evidenced considerable backsliding regarding democratic standards, such as fair elections, press freedom, just legal institutions and governmental separation of powers. The report states, “With respect to Europe, these include Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.” Setbacks in some of the European countries were so severe that they could no longer be said to comply with fundamental democratic standards.

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11 thoughts on “Hungarian government whitewashes Hitler’s allies

  1. Hungarian chemical workers’ strike continues

    A hundred employees of the United Chemical Works Company (EVM) in Budapest have been on strike since February 3. They are members of the Federation of Chemical Workers of Hungary (VDSZ).

    They began the strike in response to the company’s plans to relocate from their Budapest site, leaving current staff with outstanding unpaid salaries. To prevent the company moving equipment out of the Budapest site, the workers are mounting a round the clock picket of the factory. The union planned a demonstration through Budapest on Wednesday in support of their demands.


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