Hungarian Catholic university requires all students to study Holocaust

Hungary’s Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPKE) has become the first institution of higher education in Europe to make Holocaust courses a graduation requirement in all programs offered by the school. This means that PPKE undergraduates are now all required to take two courses, regardless of discipline, namely: an introduction to the Roman Catholic faith and a Holocaust history survey course. PPKE rector Szabolcs Szuromi held a press conference with Israeli ambassador Ilan Mor, in which they explained that the new compulsory Holocaust program would be developed by two professors from the University of Tel Aviv, namely Dina Porat and Raphael Vago. Mr. Szuromi noted that it was the ambassador’s comments at an event a year ago, co-sponsored by PPKE and the Hungarian Catholic Conference of Bishops, about how new initiatives are needed to make antisemitism unacceptable among the younger generations, which inspired the university to take this step.

The PPKE campus in the town of Piliscsaba, located 25 km north of Budapest.

The PPKE campus in the town of Piliscsaba, located 25 km north of Budapest.

“This day is a milestone for Hungary, a country that struggles with it past and its present, said Ambassador Mor. “I extend my hand of friendship to Hungary, as it processes the past,” he added. Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, as a result of the enthusiastic collaboration of Hungarian authorities with Nazi Germany.

The ambassador also noted that society has a moral obligation to condemn all forms of prejudice. “Societies must stand up and reject antisemitism, homophobia and racism,” said Mr. Mor, making a very clear and critical reference to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who suggested that homophobia isn’t a problem in Hungary, as long as LGBT activists are not too provocative. Mr. Mor noted that this type of commentary is not an example of tolerance.

The Israeli ambassador added that educating young people about the Holocaust starts at home and parents needs to play an essential role. “Parents serve as a GPS: they help to provide their children with the right coordinates. If this is missing at home, then the importance of what we invest in formal education increases,” observed Mr. Mor.

As a clear indication of why such a program is important at a major Hungarian university, two young journalists from two major far-right online publications– and Alfahír–showed up at the press conference and began asking provocative questions that bordered on Holocaust denial. According to a report in Hungary’s largest circulation national daily newspaper, Népszabadság, the rector and the ambassador responded “wisely and patiently to questions that attempted to relativize the Holocaust.”

Népszabadság has since contacted the prosecutor’s office, asking whether it will launch legal action against, considering that the website, which focuses on the most rabid forms of hate speech and Holocaust denial, is operating illegally, and can now at least be tied to a Hungarian citizen who showed up at a press conference and claimed to represent the publication. Until now,’s reporters and editors have lurked in the dark and used pseudonyms when publishing hate speech.

Pázmány Péter Catholic University was established in 1635 and currently has 9,500 students enrolled in theology, humanities, law and teacher training programs, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The private institution was founded by seventeenth century Hungarian archbishop and Jesuit philosopher Péter Pázmány.

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