The Living Memorial, a grassroots monument in Budapest’s Liberty Square, in memory to the 600,000 victims of the Holocaust in Hungary, was vandalised this weekend, shortly after the neo-Nazi Kuruc.info website published an article threatening to destroy the monument. Photographs displayed at the site were torn and other items of remembrance added to the Living Memorial by survivors and descendants of survivors were shattered or removed.
The Living Memorial was established in March 2014 by activists and ordinary Hungarian citizens, as a protest against the controversial German occupation monument erected by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The government monument served as a way to deflect responsibility for the Holocaust in Hungary away from Hungarian authorities and onto the Germans. In contrast to the Living Memorial, which for more than two years has served as the site for regular talks, lectures, discussions groups, musical performances and commemorations, the government-erected monument was never so much as formally unveiled, was completed quietly in the dead of the night and remains entirely neglected.
“With the exception of a few smaller incidents, respect towards the victims of the Holocaust always protected the memorial from the worst attacks,” writes the Living Memorial group in their statement, which was also signed by two other partner groups, namely: the Szabadság Színpad (Freedom Stage) and TÉR-KÖZ Társaság. “But yesterday something happened, which until now nobody dared to commit”–added the activists. Unknown perpetrators vandalised the monument, a mere three weeks after the Kuruc.info website, the most vile neo-Nazi Hungarian publication, published the following:
“I promise that one night, in the beginning of September, I will walk by the Living Memorial and I will pack up four or five kilograms of the display, which legally is considered to be garbage, into a strong bag. And putting that into my car, I will take it to where it belongs. Naturally, I won’t dump it into the Danube, because that is already very polluted,” wrote someone using the alias of Alitea Guzmán on Kuruc.info.
The Kuruc.info article mentions our publication, the Hungarian Free Press, by name, for having published pieces on the Living Memorial.
The Living Memorial group filed a police report immediately after the vandalism of the monument. The activists note that nearly the entire square is well-equipped with CCTV cameras, so the police should be able to identify the perpetrator(s). Yet they also add: “We do not expect any meaningful response from the state.”
As such, the Living Memorial group, along with its partners in the community, is organizing a flash mob on September 18th, 2016 at 4:00 PM, in Liberty Square. Participants are asked to bring votive candles, rocks, photographs and other items used for commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.
“Let’s show the provocateurs that we are not afraid,” notes the group’s statement.
The Kuruc.info website is registered in the United States, but it is widely believed to be affiliated with Jobbik. It has published daily hate speech since 2006. The editors and most authors publish pieces under pseudonyms. It is believed by many, however, that Előd Novák, a former Jobbik politician, is among the editors.
The website was launched by a Hungarian-Canadian–at the time living in California–by the name of Béla Varga. Mr. Varga appears to own the Kuruc.info domain and reportedly also controls Kuruc.info’s bank account. Mr. Varga, who owned a store called The Red Paprika in Healdsburg, California, had a $300,00 bench warrant issued for his arrest in 2014, after he did not show up at a San Francisco court for charges relating to uttering death threats, harassment and stalking. Mr. Varga, who is a Canadian citizen, fled California and according to reports ended up in Ontario. He is believed to be in hiding in Canada, along with his two sons and wife, to this very day.