Ex-Congressman Ernie Könnyű’s xenophobic speech at the San Francisco 56 commemoration

81-year-old Ernie Könnyű, who is a former member of the U.S. Congress, has been the keynote speaker at San Francisco 1956 commemoration events since 1987. He is now retiring and his farewell speech was delivered on Sunday, October 28, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. at the State Office Building on Van Ness Blvd., San Francisco, California.

After the full text of his speech, we have added a personal note.


Dear Leaders present, distinguished friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sixty-two years have passed since the Hungarian people mostly led by university students revolted in Hungary in the face of Soviet occupation. And thirty-two years ago several hundred of us dedicated the 18 feet tall statue, Gloria Victis or translated from Latin, Glory to the Victims. Today, for the last time in my political career, I will speak to you about the struggles in the Old Country of Hungary to maintain its culture and relate that to the 1956 Revolution.

Today Hungary is a small country of about 10 million people located in Central Europe. She is being attacked by the German chancellor Angela Merkel, officials of the European Union and even by Liberals in the former Obama Administration. All this because Hungary refuses to admit refugees from the mostly Muslim Syrian civil war.

Representing these Liberals, CNN Television’s Christiane Amanpour in a recent interview of Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó, characterized Hungary as being a racist country. She falsely claimed that being against allowing Syrian refugees into Hungary had something to do with racism. Apparently Amanpour was not aware that Hungary for some 140 years starting in 1525 was under Sharia law following Turkish occupiers. Christian practices were forbidden or dishonored in the Magyar lands such as at the very Catholic Church in which centuries later I was baptized. My Tamasi Catholic Church was sacrilegiously misused in the 16th and 17th centuries as a horse stall for Turkish “janissary” soldiers.

Amanpour attacked Hungary apparently not knowing that the Country’s Constitution names Hungary as a “Christian country” or that Hungary’s Holy Crown worn by her Kings was given to the country by the Pope. The CNN mouthpiece said to Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjártó “Your prime minister, Orbán, has repeatedly said that his main aim is to preserve, quote, Christian Hungary.”

Szijjártó’s reply showed he was unbowed. “We (Hungarians) have been a Christian country for a millennium, and I don’t really understand why is it bad news that we don’t want to change that,” he responded. “I don’t understand why is it bad, or why is it unacceptable that we would like to stick to our history, to our culture, to our heritage, to our religion.” All of the sudden I was very glad that Foreign Minister Szijjártó and I shook hands during his visit last year to the Bay Area.

This fight with the German Chancellor, with the European Union (EU) and the Liberal Left on allowing Syrian Muslim migration to EU countries reminds me of the 1956 fight for freedom from Soviet and Communist domination. That fight was led mostly by Hungarian students. It was also a fight for cultural and national freedom through throwing off the 1956 chains which bound the country and its suffering people into Soviet servitude.

With the lessons of the bloody 1956 fight in mind I, as a California State Assemblyman, led an effort in 1985 to find a prominent location for and funding for this statue commemorating the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. I arranged with California Governor George Deukmejian and his administration for the erection of this statue, ”Gloria Victis”. It was placed in this courtyard in memory of those immigrants of California who fought the Hungarian Communist police and the occupying Soviet Army in the 1956 bloody quest for freedom.

Now, I will talk a bit about that Revolution, about Hungarians, that is Magyars, and about what all this means to Californians and American Hungarians.

Let me reflect a bit on why the Hungarians revolted. In the statue you see both the erect glory with her hands open to the sky and the foot of it the mother with her victim son’s body killed in that revolution laying in her lap. Now hear the last stanza of the “Gloria Victis” poem written by Professor Watson KirkConnel of Canada:


Those last two lines were also inscribed on the stone base of this statue.

Revolutionary poet Tibor Tollas with whom I had the honor to meet with during his 1985 U.S. visit, was sentenced to prison for his derisive public comments about the Hungarian Communist ”paradise”. He wrote in his poem about communist prison life a warning to the world concerning the nature of the Communist dictatorship. This poem became a symbol of why the world had to retreat from the tyranny of worldwide communism. Here are two stanzas from that poem likening prison life to existence under communist dictatorship:


By: Tibor Tollas

Our ten mouths gasping for the missing air
Ten of us lie, in one closed kennel pent,
As fish gills on the bank might gasp despair.
To eat the food which stinks of excrement,
Our stomachs lack the power to begin;
for they walled up every window tight with tin.
Radios out West shout hoarsely of new deals,
Of freedom and justice due to man,
But here my dungeon body only feels
The million lashes of foul Stalin’s plan.
From Hungary’s Vác to far Beijing his slaves make din:
”Beware! Beware!” or through the entire world
They’ll wall up every window tight with tin.

The revolution won but was short lived lasting but weeks. The Soviet Red Army counterattacked in force on November 4, 1956. The Soviets crushed the newly born legitimate government. Thousands of Hungarians were killed during the fighting best characterized by college boys with Molotov cocktails attacking mostly machine gun shooting tanks. And after the occupation, thousands more died through judicial murders carried out by the new Soviet created puppet state of Communist Party Chief János Kádár.

We, American-Hungarians, have every reason to be proud of the historic role Hungarians played in undermining the Soviet Empire in 1956 and causing one of their buttressing nation columns to fall in 1989. Indeed, Professor Kirkconnell was right in stating that the 1956 Revolution was redeeming for mankind. The blood of the 1956 Revolution not only eventually freed Hungary in 1989 but it became a key development in redeeming the West from the Evil Empire, from the Soviet Union! We must continue our work ceaselessly to not allow this historic event to ever be forgotten.

I salute the 1956 freedom fighters present today as well as freedom fighters scattered throughout the World. As a former United States Congressman I salute all of you and all those fighters throughout the World who fought for the gift of freedom in the streets of Budapest.

I wish to thank the Bay Area’s Hungarian freedom-fighters led by President Andrew Rekay to allow me to bring you this statue from California’s government. I wish to also thank the Jackovics family for financing the rebuilding of the bronze outer shell of this statue a couple of years ago. Finally, I want to thank all of you on behalf of freedom lovers everywhere for commemorating the 1956 Hungarian Revolution! Gloria Victis! Glory to the Vanquished!

(Ernie Könnyű is a Hungarian born (Tamási, Tolna county) American residing in San Jose, California, and is a former member of both the United States Congress and the California State Assembly. At the request of the Bay Area American-Hungarian community Könnyű secured in 1985 the funding and the location of the statue “Gloria Victis” from then California governor George Deukmajian. The bronze 18 feet tall statue and it’s four feet tall stone base was erected in the Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco located state office building courtyard in memory of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.)


A personal note.

Congressman Könnyű’s admiration for the pro-Putin and pro-Iranian Orbán regime does not represent the American political mainstream. His statements are not supported by his own Republican party. President Reagan has never called Kádár a “Soviet puppet.” On the contrary, his Secretary of State George Shultz called Mr. Kádár a “wise interlocutor.” Könnyű implies that American-Hungarians support his views, but nothing is further from the truth. Most Hungarian Americans support Democratic candidates and voted for Hillary Clinton in California, even in Mr. Könnyű’s old district.

Könnyű omitted from his bio that he was “voted out of office in 1988 after allegations that he sexually harassed employees in his Congressional office.” There were numerous complaints. For example Michele Morse said that Könnyű wanted her to wear high heels and frilly blouses and asked her to stand up and turn around so he could “see what you look like.” She was fired after refusing to spend time with the Congressman after hours. This was 30 years ago, well before the #MeToo movement.

I met the Congressman over the years. He is a friendly, jovial man; at the same time, I find his public rhetoric embarrassing. To his credit, Könnyű has a dry, self-deprecating sense of humor and last year he wrote about his career: “Slowly fading away, Ernie Konnyu.”


György Lázár

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *