Boycott Sándor Szakály at the 55th Hungarian Congress in Cleveland

One good thing about 59 year old Hungarian historian Mr. Sándor Szakály is that you don’t have to guess where he stands. He is not only a right-winger, a historical revisionist, and admirer of pro-Hitler dictator Miklós Horthy and his gendarmerie but also a Holocaust denier. Mr. Szakály speaks at events sponsored by Hungary’s far-right party, Jobbik.

Poster of Mr. Szakály's speech at a Jobbik event.

Poster of Mr. Szakály’s speech at a Jobbik event.

For example Szakály’s dismissing statements regarding the 1941 deportation of thousands of Jews from Hungary to Ukraine where they were massacred in the notorious Kamenets-Podolskii atrocity have sparked outrage and deep concern across Hungary and beyond. Later Mr. Szakály tried to backpedal, yet his statements were not sincere and there were calls for his removal.

Now he wants to come to the US.

He was invited by John Nádas, a physician and president of an Ohio based organization called Hungarian Congress. According to Dr. Nádas “many people have theorized why and how Hungary became embroiled in World War II. Sadly, many people have also rewritten history to serve their own purposes and views” and now he feels “a deep need to set the historical record straight.” (Hungarian Congress program and invitation here.)

The 55th Hungarian Congress will be held on November 27-29 in Cleveland, Ohio at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. The main theme is “Historical Insights, Hungary and World War II” and Mr. Szakály is supposed to “set the record straight.” English translation will be available if requested and pre-purchased tickets are required for the special luncheon and his presentation. At the Saturday night Gala Banquet Dr. Ferenc Szebényi, Hungary’s Consul General in Chicago will be present and the Árpád Academy will give a medal to Ms. Allison Pataki, daughter of onetime New York Governor George Pataki.

It is important to mention that Mr. Szakály is a Hungarian government employee, he is the Director of the Veritas History Research Center and to my surprise the Honorary Patron of the entire event is the Honorable Marcy Kaptur Congresswoman (D) from the State of Ohio.

Rep. Kaptur (left) with Amb. Szemerkényi (in striped jacket) - Kaptur is the Honorary Patron of the Hungarian Congress.

Rep. Kaptur (left) with Amb. Szemerkényi (in striped jacket) – Kaptur is the Honorary Patron of the Hungarian Congress.

Mr. Szakály has the right to travel and express his views as a private citizen, he is protected by our First Amendment. Holocaust deniers, such as historian David Irving, have visited the United States in the past, although Mr. Irving was later arrested in Canada.

It seems that the Canadian authorities are already suspicious of Mr. Szakály. Last year he was stopped at the Canadian border and interrogated for hours before they let him in. (Read about Mr. Szakaly’s Canadian border experience here.) Yet Mr. Szakály is not coming to the US as a private person. He is a Hungarian Government employee endorsed by a Hungarian diplomat, Dr. Ferenc Szebényi.

Szakály’s invitation is especially troubling because even Ms. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice has criticized his activities and her foundation is supported by the Orbán Government! (Read – The Lantos Foundation about Mr. Szakály) Szakály was also harshly criticized by the Wiesenthal center (Wiesenthal about Mr. Szakály, read here), the US Holocaust Museum (US Holocaust Museum about Mr. Szakály), and by the Jewish Community of Hungary.

Mr. Szakály’s presence in the United States is unacceptable. Please let Rep. Marcy Kaptur know that her name is used as Honorary Patron to promote a Jobbik sympathizer and Holocaust denier. ( 2186 Rayburn Building, Washington, DC 20515 Tel: (202) 225-4146 Fax: (202) 225-7711.)

Also, you may want to contact Hilton’s Ms. Jacqueline Toppings, Director, Brand Public Relations, Hilton Hotels & Resorts (7930 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, Virginia Tel. (703) 883 5381.) It might hurt Hilton’s reputation to provide space for this revisionist event.

György Lázár

10 Comments

  1. Why do the US grant visas to neo-Nazis ?

  2. Charlie London says:

    Szakály is just such a travesty for a ‘historian’ – and he looks a complete idiot.

    Together with compatriot Maria Schmidt – they give history a bad name.

    I’ve been to the ‘Terror House’ in Budapest and it’s a complete disaster for teaching the history of Hungary.

    It completely overstates Orban’s part in the crumbling of communism – which is no wonder when you consider Schmidt’s reliance on the present regime for credance – her ‘rewriting’ of history has been ridiculed by peers – as has Szakály’s.

    They say history is written by the victors. However when it’s written by sad losers like Schmidt and Szakály it is just propaganda.

    Hungary has had a huge psychological problem owning up to what it did in the war – and has been in denial ever since.

    Compare this with Germany and it’s ‘mea culpa’ where it openly teaches its youth of its dark path. Hungary? No – just revision from the likes of Szakály and Schmidt.

    I think Szakály has been Schmidt’s right-hand man in the construction of the new ‘Holocaust’ museum in Budapest.

    Will I bother visiting it? No.

    The terrible kitsch ‘Gabriel’ being attacked by the German eagle in Freedom Square is a complete misrepresentation of history and which has been championed my Schmidt.

    What is very poignant in Freedom Square is the unofficial Jewish memorial – simple stones painted with names.

    It is symbol of Hungary’s ambivalence to its past that just round the corner is a bust of Horthy – the redeemed war criminal – in a glass box to prevent him being covered in protest eggs – and red paint.

    Aagh! Hungary.

  3. First, dear Christopher, I’m turning to you in the hope that – although it is not in accordance with your declared “publication’s scope and core values” – in the name of fertile debate, you will publish my comment. My short comment to Gyorgy Lazar’s article is as follows.
    Mr. Lazar, I am very surprised about the level of deliberately false judgements in your article about Mr. Szakaly’s published works and his comments made in public media. I’m also baffled about your spasmodic efforts to spatter him with outworn magic words, like “Holocaust denier” (for such baseless attributes I would sue you for defamation here in Australia). Have you ever read his excellent book about the history of the Hungarian gendarmerie, in which he goes into great statistical and historical details, all based on objective research? (And no, he’s not denying their participation in the deportation of Jews, which unfortunate event occurred only in the last few months of their more than 60 years of existence as an organization. It doesn’t make it better, but shows a more truthful picture of them). Because if you have read it, then why are you trying to mislead the unfamiliar readers of yours? If you haven’t read it, then what is the base of your criticism? Also, why do you twisting the truth about his comments on the Kamenets-Podolskii case? From your other articles on HFP, I’m judging you as a well informed and intelligent person, so I’m pretty sure that you know very well the truth about that incident. Therefore, don’t you think that your article should be corrected to reflect the truth, and re-published in the name of honest journalism?

    Les Albert (defected from Hungary in 1979, of course not on a UNESCO fellowship). Retired Land Surveyor, Commissioner for Declarations (QLD), Accredited NAATI translator.

  4. György Lázár says:

    Dear Les,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, it is good to know that HFP is popular Down Under.

    I did read Mr. Szakály’s book and I agree with you; it is a valuable study of the history of the Hungarian gendarmerie. (I even quoted it in a Hungarian language article published in Élet és Irodalom.)

    My objection relates to Mr. Szakály’s admiration for the Horthy regime, his statements and association with neo-Nazi Jobbik. His views are especially distasteful for those whose family fought against fascism in the US military during WWII. I think many Australian veterans would agree with that.

  5. Mr. Nandor Kaity says:

    Receiving agreeing comments only for an article is always suspicious. Mr. Albert’s disagreeing comments have brought a breath of fresh air, saved face.
    Thanks Mr. Albert for your comments – and thanks Mr. Lazar for accepting views from the opposite side. This is the base of an intelligent debate.
    But please be careful, because to deny the Holocaust, is a crime in Hungary and to accuse someone with it without evidence, is also a crime …
    False accusation may also have unwanted consequences like
    – Making a lively, intelligent debate impossible
    – Attracting comments, which may paint an undesirable picture of your readers and sink the level of conversation to depths you wouldn’t want to be associated with
    Given that Mr. Szakaly is a Hungarian government employee, you’re also indirectly accusing the government of harbouring crime …
    This would add another layer of complexity to the equation. I think that you’re a logical thinker Mr. Lazar and don’t want unnecessary complications – so you have the evidence. Can you please share it with us?
    That would be a real bombshell!

    And to spice up this conversation even more; can we have your reply to Mr. Albert’s comment to the Kamenets-Podolskii case?

  6. György Lázár says:

    Dear Nandor,

    Thanks for pointing out that according to Hungarian law Mr. Szakály probably committed a crime. As you might know, here in the US distortion of history or even Holocaust denial is not a crime. The US Holocaust Museum document linked in my article talks about Mr. Szakály’s “falsifications of history” in great detail (e.g. pp 30). Hungary should have investigated him based on that document alone.

    In 2008 Rep. Lantos sponsored HR 4197 to ban Magyar Gárda and Jobbik operatives & their families from the US. Due to Mr. Lantos death the bill never passed. If we have that bill today Mr. Szakály could be turned away or arrested in the US.

    • Mr. Nandor Kaity says:

      Dear Mr. Lazar,

      You may have misunderstood my reply;
      I pointed out that probably you have committed a crime by falsely accusing Mr. Szakaly with Holocaust denial without any evidence.

      Reading documents you’ve suggested, searching on Mazsihisz website, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, I haven’t found a single reference which proves that Mr. Szakaly is a Holocaust denier.

      As you obviously know, there is a sharp dividing line between the subjective terms of “falsification of history” and “Holocaust denial”.
      The latter needs to be proven, because Holocaust denial is a crime in many countries. However, as “falsification” is not a crime, it has become an easy weapon of choice for some to simply discredit their opponents …
      During my search, I have found the term of “falsification of history” used plenty of times against Mr. Szakaly – but everybody were carefully avoiding to call him a Holocaust denier… simply because like you, they didn’t have evidence either.

      Well, I must say, not everyone was so careful; you’ve crossed that line in your article, Mr. Lazar.
      I’m very disappointed to see HFP sinking to such a low standard…

  7. Pingback: Letter to the editor: In defence of Sándor Szakály

  8. Andrew Ludanyi says:

    SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
    One good thing about György Lázár who posts regularly on the „Hungarian Free Press” is that you don’t have to guess where he stands. He is a consistent critic of everything Hungarian, particularly the present Orbán government in Hungary. Furthermore, his criticism is always relentless and brutal, he minces no words and is a master in using expletives to carry out his character assassination of Hungarian leaders and writers, past and present! In a recent post, on November 17th, 2015, he picked as his most recent target Sándor Szakály an excellent historian of 20th century Hungary and East Central Europe.
    Lázár begins his demolition work and demonization by calling Professor Szakály „a right-winger, a historical revisionist, an admirer of pro-Hitler dictator Miklós Horthy, a Holocaust denier and a speaker at far-right Jobbik events.”
    As a Trustee of the Veritas History Research Center I can personally vouch for Professor Szakály’s independent perspective as the Director of Veritas. He is definitely not a Holocaust denier! Veritas has held working sessions at the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest on Páva Street, at which I was also present. In fact, Dr. György Haraszti, the President of the Holocaust Center Board is at the same time also a Trustee of Veritas.
    The great merit of the Veritas History Research Center is that it does not pander to the easy generalizations or the simplified communist historiography of the period between 1947 and 1990 which provided the disinformation for the Western scholarly world during the past half century. Indeed, the demonization of interwar Hungarians and Miklós Horthy are part and parcel of this official propagandistic history writing. Fortunately, American historian Thomas Sakmyster, and United Kingdom historians Bryan Cartledge and C.A. Macartney have already challenged these observations with their fine scholarly writings. In Hungary, challenging these flawed perspectives has taken more time. Finally there is a research institution that does just that. It examines the communist myth-manufacturing of the past fifty years and has involved young untainted historians in the re-assessment of the half-century of distortions. This is particularly important insofar that its time to provide school children in Hungary with history books that are not simply a re-hash of the distorted, falsified and guilt-ridden interpretations of the communist establishment.
    But let me return to the accusations that Mr. György Lázár levels against Professor Szakály. First, Szakály treats Horthy objectively rather than as a „pro-Hitler dictator.” He points out that Horthy was a leader cought between a rock and a hard place. He was a conservative, former Austro-Hungarian naval commander who came to power after the collapse of the Dual Monarchy in 1918 and the Entente imposed punitive Treaty of Trianon (1920). Horthy became the leader of a small country, impoverished and de-militarized. As the next door neighbor of growing Nazi power after 1933 he did not have many options. He was the Regent of Hungary in this trying time surrounded by an antagonistic Little Entente (successor states Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia). He did have an autocratic streak, but he always governed within Hungary’s Constitutional limits. He made mistakes, but to the very end kept the Nyilas fascists from coming to power.
    These collaborators with Nazi Germany began to gain power only after April 19, 1944 when the German Wehrmacht occupied Hungary and imposed the Sztójay Döme government on Hungary. Even after this, until his final overthrow in October, Horthy held the Nazi Jewish-killing machine at bay. Until April, 1944, Hungary, more than any other European state, was a refuge for Jews on the continent. When their deportation began ostensibly to provide a labor force for the war effort of German factories and mines, he stopped the deportations when he found out that the work details led to death camps. The most dramatic example of this was when he ordered Colonel Ferenc Koszorús, commander of the one remaining tank unit inside Hungary, to bring the armored unit to Budapest to forstall a putch by Interior Minister Laszló Baky. Had the putch succeeded it would have opened the door to Eichman’s efforts to deport the 250,000 Jews of Budapest. This was the only instance when an ally of the Axis thwarted the will of the Fuerer. (Even today, Budapest still has the largest Jewish population of any city in Europe.)
    The accusation that Professor Sándor Szakály is a „right-winger” a „historical revisionist,” is only true to the extent that he is an opponent of the communist disinformation in the history books of the past fifty years. To the extent that the Veritas Research Institute under his direction exposes the falsehoods and distortions of this historical legacy, he is a „revisionist.”
    Regarding Pofessor Szakály’s statements on the Kamenets-Podolskii atrocity he is quoted out of context. This deportation of non-Hungarian Jews crossing into Hungary from Czechoslovakia and Poland after the Nazi German-Soviet Russian invasion of the latter, was the expulsion of some undocumented illegal border violators to Ukraine. For the precipitating circumstances see the thorough study by György Dupka, „A magyar-szovjet határon 1939-1941-ben átszökött zsidók története,” in Páncélosokkal az életért: Koszorús Ferenc, a holokauszt hőse (2015). However, as Bryan Cartledge points out in The Will to Survive: A History of Hungary (2006), between 1941 and 1943 the Hungarian Ministry issued 14,000 „Christian” identity documents to Polish Jews so that they would not be deportable. At the same time when the government was made aware that a massacre had been carried out by the German SS units in Ukraine, the Ministry immediately stopped further deportations and recalled the remaining trains that were enroute to Ukraine.
    György Lázár’s distortions and character assassination of Professor Szakály is also objectionable for one other reason: Mr. Lázár and the „Hungarian Free Press” uses these unfair attacks to mislead American Congressional Representatives like Marcy Kaptur as well as Public opinion in general. The damage has already been carried out with the „Hungarian Free Press” calling for a boycott of the 55th Hungarian Congress in Cleveland. Unfortunately such last minute attacks cannot be refuted in time. It drives a wedge between the American Hungarian community in Cleveland and their Congressional Representative.
    Shame on you Mr. Lázár as well as the other „Free Press” staff who have joined the wolf pack in this media feeding frenzy (i.e., Christopher Adam and András Göllner). In spite of your shameful activities VERITAS will prevail in the end.
    Dr. Andrew Ludanyi
    Emeritus Professor of Political Science Ohio Northern University

  9. Mr. Nandor Kaity says:

    Dear Mr. Ludanyi,
    Thanks for “Setting the record straight”.
    There is a world of difference between the quality of your comment and the “quality” of comments from certain regular commentators on HFP.
    Mr. Lazar, I can only hope that you’re listening … and your readers are listening too …
    Because after reading Mr. Ludanyi’s excellent comment, I just realized that, apart from baseless accusations, you’ve committed another shameful act; you’ve mislead your readers!
    The readers who trusted HFP, taking the content of articles at face value, because they don’t have the time and resources to check and research every “fact” you’ve published. But why should they do it?
    They trust the words “Hungarian” and ‘Free Press” – and you’ve betrayed them, by intentionally falsifying facts.
    Shame on you!
    You’ve also betrayed your readers by ignoring their uncomfortable questions; you’ve simply decided not to answer them … what a degree of arrogance …
    But as a last chance, I give you the opportunity to prove me wrong; just answer the simple question from one of your readers:
    “Who are the ones financing the Hungarian Free Press?”

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