World War II criminal Albert Wass is celebrated (again) at the NY Hungarian House

On February 23, 2018 the Hungarian House on East 82nd Street in Manhattan hosted another program to celebrate Albert Wass. This is the fifth year that the Széchenyi Society has staged this event. Politicians, Hungarian-Americans, the Wiesenthal Center and other organizations have protested in the past; yet, the organizers were unfazed and the Hungarian House continued the program. (Read the Wiesenthal Center protest here.)

Poster of the Wass event in February 2018

It is hard to believe that in 2018 in New York City this event could take place. The audience worshiped a convicted World War II criminal who fought against the Allies, murdered Romanians and Jews and gained fame with his anti-Semitic writing. It seems that the Orbán government is determined to export its racist and anti-Semitic propaganda to the US with the aim to rehabilitate the reputation of Hungary’s wartime leader, pro-Hitler Miklós Horthy and his regime.

Ildikó Nagy is responsible for the programs at the NY Hungarian House. She is a recent immigrant from Hungary who is also a member of the Hungarian Government’s Diaspora Council. She regularly attends its meetings in Budapest and also received a Hungarian State award for her propaganda work. (In a personal note, although I despise her activities, I admire her husband, Chris Potter who is one of the best saxophonists in the US.)

Ms. Ildikó Nagy (left) receiving a State Award in New York from Foreign Minister Szijjártó (middle) and New York Consul Mr. Ferenc Kumin (right).

The Wass event was sponsored by the Széchenyi Society led by Ákos Felsővályi. A member of his group is Ákos Szilágyi, another immigrant, a member of the Vitézi Rend and friend to Prime Minister Orbán. This program is “imported” by the NY House, they joined to the Budapest “celebration” and the event took place with the full knowledge of the Hungarian Consul, Ferenc Kumin, who frequently talks about having “zero tolerance” for far-right ideas.

Cardinal Erdő in the Hungarian House. On his left Mr. Ákos Felsővályi and next to him NY Consul Mr. Ferenc Kumin.

Here is his statement from 2015:

Consulate General of Hungary in New York
February 14, 2015

In recent days we received emails and phone calls about an event related to the late Hungarian writer Albert Wass, which will actually take place at an independent US-based cultural institution of the Hungarian diaspora. It depended on the quality of our contacts’ information whether they asked why we, the Consulate General would host this event or why we would support it. A significant wave of disinformation manifests behind the questions of these misled people, concerned friends. It’s not the first time that we see this disinformation mechanism in action, and unfortunately for sure not the last. Our humble suggestion is that every time you get disturbing information regarding the activity of our mission, always double check its credibility. Although luckily we’re surrounded by friends here, in New York and in the US, there are minor exceptions.

As diplomats it is an important part of our jobs to observe the sensitivity of all relevant groups. We understand the feelings of those who have question marks related to the historic role and some activities in the US immigration of Albert Wass, that’s why we do not host or support any event related to him at our New York mission. At the same time we also observe the sensitivity of those who respect the literature and patriotism of Albert Wass, and who would reject to be associated with evil ideologies.”

Let’s be clear, there are no “question marks” related to Wass. This event is insulting to Americans and even members of the Wass family avoid attending them. It is evident that the support of the Hungarian government has transformed the House into a center of right-wing Hungarian propaganda in the US.

In the last couple of years more than 50 Wass statues, plaques and commemorative signs were installed in Hungary. While the vast majority of Hungarians reject Wass, requests for the removal of these statues have been ignored by the Orbán government.

György Lázár

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