Hungary’s responsibility – An open letter to Deputy State Secretary Csaba Latorcai

This morning, Népszava–one of Hungary’s daily newspapers–published an op-ed from me, which effectively serves as an open letter addressed to Csaba Latorcai. A couple of weeks ago, here in Ottawa, I met with Hungary’s Deputy State Secretary for Priority Social Affairs, whose works in the Prime Minister’s Office focuses on the Jewish minority, as well as other religious/cultural communities. Deputy State Secretary Csaba Latorcai offered to answer any of my questions about his government, of which I am critical, in order to address any possible “misunderstandings” that I might have. I thanked him, but explained that 45 minutes would not likely be enough for this.

I did, however, indicate to him my concerns with how Budapest handled the refugee crisis and the government’s overt fear-mongering on this front. Our readers may recall our articles, for instance, on the Orbán government’s openly xenophobic and alarmist billboard campaign from this past spring and early summer. This preceded Budapest’s stunningly callous response to the refugee crisis, which made headlines throughout the world. And the meticulously calculated alarmist language continues, even here in Canada, where high-ranking civil servants from Hungary come to give talks that are overtly Islamophobic, sprinkled with dog-whistle antisemitism.

After having spoken with Mr. Latorcai, I felt that these are not discussions that belong behind closed doors; they should form part of the public discourse. In my article, I argue that the legacy of the Holocaust in Hungary–the death of 600,000 Hungarian Jews and the fact that more Jews were deported to Auschwitz from Hungary than from any other country–means that contemporary governments in Budapest have an on-going responsibility and a unique opportunity to serve as a compelling voice of anti-racism on the world stage. Moreover, while the work that the government has done in terms of Jewish cemetery and synagogue restoration is important, in terms of preserving Hungary’s diverse historic heritage, it can’t be emphasized enough, that these cemeteries and synagogues fell into a state of disrepair and abandonment as a result of the Holocaust and the decimation of a community that once numbered over 800,000.

As I argue in my Népszava piece, one of the most meangingful ways to remember the victims and preserve the memory of the Holocaust is for the Hungarian government of the day to serve as a role model internationally, when it comes to inclusion and anti-racism. As we all know, the Orbán government has failed terribly in this regard.

I am quite confident that if Mr. Latorcai wishes to respond to my open letter, Népszava would be willing to publish it. Should he wish to respond in English, HFP would certainly welcome and publish his response.

The screen capture of the print version of my piece in Wednesday's Népszava.

The screen capture of the print version of my piece in Wednesday’s Népszava.

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