Hungarian stamp celebrates wartime fascist film star Zita Szeleczky

Many of us in the United States are disturbed that the Hungarian Postal Service has recently issued a stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Zita Szeleczky. She is not a role model for today’s Hungarian youth, her support of Hungarian fascism was nothing less than shameful, and as an actress she did not exhibit unusual talents.

Hungarian Post celebrates a fascist in its most recent commemorative stamp.

Hungarian Post celebrates a fascist in its most recent commemorative stamp.

Who was Zita Szeleczky? A young pretty starlet who got juicy movie roles from Horthy bureaucrats and Arrow Cross thugs for supporting Hungary’s fascist wartime propaganda. The stamp is another example of the Orbán Government’s relentless drive to whitewash wartime fascists and rewrite history.

Ms. Szeleczky was born in 1915 Budapest, she finished theater school in 1937. The pretty, vivacious and athletic brunette received small stage roles, but after the Hungarian cinema discovered her good looks – things changed. She got film role after film role, playing in almost 30 films. She also became a regular at Hungary’s Nazi rallies and was the darling of the Arrow Cross.

Zita Szeleczky

Zita Szeleczky

In 1940 she married Gyula Haltenberger, a sympathizer of the fascist movement. Even in 1944, when the Soviet troops were almost in Budapest and the Allies were bombing Hungary, the 29-year-old actress gave fiery performances in traditional Hungarian costume. She agitated for the continuation of the war, supporting the murderous Szálasi-regime.

In December of 1944, just before the collapse, she escaped with the retreating German Nazis and hid in Austria, and then later in Genoa, Italy. In 1947 she received a three-year prison sentence in absentia from a Hungarian judge for her fascist propaganda. On the run, her next stop was Argentina, a favorite hiding place of the Hungarian far-right. Not knowing Spanish she was unable to revive her theatre career and made ends meet by touring Hungarian émigré communities. Her kitschy performances ranged from operettas to poetry recitals and variety shows. In 1962 she moved to the US and married an American of Hungarian origin, Paul Illés. The marriage didn’t last, but she could stay in California. In 1974 she married an Australian actor, Sándor Novák. That marriage did not last either.

Ms. Szeleczky’s true soulmate was Albert Wass, also a convicted World War II war criminal. The two collaborated when Mr. Wass was trying to make money by peddling his books, and Ms. Szeleczky made cassettes and LPs reciting his writings and singing Hungarian folk songs.

Albert Wass and Zita Szeleczky in he United States.

Albert Wass and Zita Szeleczky in the United States.

By 1988 she was broke and alone, so at the age of 73, Ms. Szeleczky decided to move back to Hungary, where she died in 1999. She is buried in a village cemetery at Nekézseny where her family originated.

In 1993 the Superior Court of Hungary exonerated Ms. Szeleczky, stating that the 1947 conviction was based on fabricated charges. She was even awarded the Cross of the Hungarian Republic.

During her long life Ms. Szeleczky was an unrelenting Hungarista, a Hungarian-style fascist. She never expressed any remorse about her wartime activities and never acknowledged that her fascist propaganda contributed to the suffering of the Hungarian people. She considered her support of Szálasi’s Arrow Cross as an expression of patriotism, never condemning them. Her small social circle of fellow Hungarian émigrés expressed similar views; to them she was a hero.

We ask for an explanation from Mr. Zsolt Szarka, Postal Service CEO, who is responsible for stamp issuance in Hungary.

György Lázár


N.B.: An explanation to the above film-clip. The first speaker at the 1944 fascist rally in Budapest is Hungarian Arrow Cross State minister, Mr. Béla Kerekes (black shirt and arm band), who was convicted for murders and executed after WWII. The actor is Mr. Ferenc Kiss, who was arrested by the Americans in Germany and received an eight-year prison sentence for fascist propaganda in 1945. He fully served his sentence and later became a popular actor in Budapest during the Kádár-era. Zita Szeleczky’s performance starts after the 3rd minute. (György Lázár)

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