The Orbán government denies Hungary’s WWII collaboration with the Nazis

On October 28 six diplomats based in San Francisco gathered at Congregation Emanu-El to discuss the growing anti-Semitism in Europe. “The New Anti-Semitism in Europe” panel attracted close to 200 people at the synagogue, a surprisingly high number, considering that Game 6 of the World Series was playing on a television in a nearby room.

European and especially Hungarian anti-Semitism is hot topic in California. Ms. Gunda Trepp, a local journalist, convened the panel discussion, after hearing from European friends who have become increasingly afraid to identify publicly as Jews.

Hungary was represented by Ms. Eva Voisin, the local Honorary Consul General. Her view was that anti-Semitism is flourishing in Hungary because as a former Soviet-dominated country, “the Holocaust and the whole Israeli question were not taught at all.” The country now is raising its first generation to live in a “multicultural, democratic society,” and the nationalist and anti-Semitic Jobbik party is harmless. Although it became the nation’s second largest parliamentary party after the last elections, it “has no political power.”

Éva Voisin

Éva Voisin

While Ms. Voisin did not admit the anti-Semitic tendencies of the Orbán-government policies, Ms. Gunda Trepp brought up the fact that the government is unwilling to acknowledge the nation’s collaboration with the Nazis. Ms. Trepp mentioned the new Budapest memorial that focuses on Hungary’s loss of sovereignty to the Germans without mentioning Jews or the Holocaust. Her husband, Rabbi Leo Trepp died in 2010; he was a prominent Holocaust survivor in California. As a Rabbi he led a congregation in Germany before WWII. In 1938 he was arrested and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, he was released after Joseph Herman Hertz, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom intervened; he got two weeks to leave Germany.

The event brings up an uncomfortable issue – the role of Honorary Consul Generals. The position is voluntary; Honorary Consuls don’t get salary from Hungary, and in North America they are U.S. or Canadian citizens. Public appearances of these “volunteer diplomats” suggest that they often act as lobbyists for the Orbán-government; they try to explain and sometimes defend Hungary’s policies.

Some Honorary Consuls feel uncomfortable with this role. One consul, Mr. Zoltán Vass in Vancouver, Canada already resigned, as he was not willing to continue assisting the Hungarian government. Others have pulled away, or ignore Budapest, and there are still a few who dutifully explain and even defend the Orbán-government.

The time has come for Hungarian Honorary Consuls in North America to take a stand. The actions and policies of the Hungarian government are indefensible. The values represented by Mr. Orbán are unacceptable for the majority of Americans and Canadians; Hungary’s Honorary Consuls should stop defending Budapest. I also urge them to make a statement and forcefully condemn the policies of the Orbán-government.

György Lázár

New Antisemitism in San Francisco


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