Hungary’s Jews shouldn’t trust Orbán

The Hungarian Government is reaching out to the county’s Jewish community. Mr. János Lázár, Chancellor Minister and a trusted confidant of Prime Minister Orbán, recently wrote a letter to the Alliance of Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) in an attempt to restore cooperation on the government’s Holocaust Memorial Year, a series of events planned to mark the 70th anniversary of Jewish deportations.

Hungarian Jews should be aware that the Orbán-regime is continuing its „doubletalk”. On one hand they offer an olive branch and want to build a relationship with the community, on the other hand they continue praising convicted WWII criminals and other figures that collaborated with Hungary’s wartime fascist regime.

Relations with Mazsihisz have cooled over the erection of a statue to the Victims of the 1944 German Occupation because many believe that the memorial trivializes the country’s responsibility in the genocide of Hungarian Jewry. Mazsihisz’s president, Mr. András Heisler, called on Jewish organizations to boycott State Holocaust Commemoration events and refuse their funds. He also demanded the sacking of Veritas Historical Institute director, Mr. Sándor Szakály, considered by many a revisionist of Hungary’s WWII history. In addition, greater say is desired into the design of the ‘House of Fates’ Holocaust museum planned for construction later this year.

The main aim of Mr. Lázár’s gesture is to get Mazsihisz and Ms. Mária Schmidt, who leads the team responsible for the new Holocaust museum, back to the negotiating table. Earlier this year Ms. Schmidt published a couple of articles accusing Hungarian Jews of exploiting the Holocaust for political and economic gain. This did not go down well with the Jewish community. Yet the Orban government cannot develop the ‘House of Fates’ museum without the participation of Hungarian Jewish leaders, since this a prerequisite set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association.

Mr. Lazar hopes that a photo op with prominent Jewish leaders will help to improve Mr. Orban’s image and counter an outpouring of international and domestic criticism. However Mr. János Lázár is not the right person to talk to the Jewish community as he is part of the problem, not the solution.

In June 2010, as mayor of the city Hódmezővásárhely, Mr. Lázár inaugurated the statue of Albert Wass. Mr. Wass was a fascist and a convicted WWII criminal. According to a 1946 Romanian court case, Wass was sentenced to death in absentia for participating in the slaughter of two Jewish girls and several Romanian peasants. He committed suicide in the United States in 1998.

Chancellor Minister Mr. János Lázár (left) inaugurated the statue of fascist WWII criminal Albert Wass in Hódmezővásárhely.

Chancellor Minister Mr. János Lázár (left) inaugurated the statue of fascist WWII criminal Albert Wass in Hódmezővásárhely.

In the past prominent US politicians have vigorously protested Hungarian tributes to supporters of its wartime fascist regime.

One example is Senator Ben Cardin’s Congressional testimony in June 2012:

„The most recent manifestation of this revisionism includes efforts to rehabilitate convicted war criminal Albert Wass and the bizarre spectacle of the Hungarian government’s role in a ceremony in neighboring Romania–over the objections of that country–honoring fascist writer and ideologue József Nyirő. That event effectively saw the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, László Kövér; the Hungarian State Secretary for Culture, Géza Szőcs; and Gábor Vona, the leader of Hungary’s most notoriously extremist party, Jobbik, united in honoring Nyirő. Several municipalities have now seen fit to erect statues honoring Miklós Horthy, Hungary’s wartime leader, and the writings of Wass and Nyirő have been elevated onto the national curriculum.”

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel also spoke out in a 2012 letter to Mr. Kövér, Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly:

„It is with profound dismay and indignation that I learned of your participation, together with Hungarian Secretary of State for Culture Geza Szőcs and far-right Jobbik party leader Gábor Vona, in a ceremony in Romania honoring József Nyirő, a member of the National Socialist Arrow Cross Parliament. I found it outrageous that the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly could participate in a ceremony honoring a Hungarian fascist ideologue of the Horthy and Szálasi regimes. This distressing news came following the resurgent practice of naming public places after wartime leader Horthy Miklós and of rehabilitating Albert Wass and other figures that collaborated heavily with the Hungarian fascist regime.”

It is a disgrace that today Hungary’s governing party openly praises WWII fascists, and has installed more than 30 statues of Mr. Wass. He was commemorated by Mr. János Áder, President of Hungary, and Mr. Viktor Orbán himself praised Wass in a 2009 letter sent to the erection of his statue in the city of Pomáz.

In order to mend ties with the Jewish Community (and with the civilized world) Mr. János Lázár should stop the government-sponsored cult of Albert Wass, and apologize. It is also time to remove the Wass statue in his hometown, Hódmezővásárhely!

György Lázár

(The author is not related to Mr. János Lázár)

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