Antisemitism of the Orbán regime – Cécile Tormay’s statue and plaques

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán frequently talks about having zero-tolerance for racism and antisemitism, yet his government recently honored Cécile Tormay, a prominent anti-Semite.

Cécile Tormay was born in 1877 and died prematurely in 1937 at the age of 60 in the picturesque village of Mátraháza where she shared a house with Countess Ambrózy-Migazzi. The Hungarian writer was an admirer of Mussolini and greeted with enthusiasm the rise of Hitler.

Cécile Tormay

All her life Tormay was one of Hungary’s leading anti-Semites; she obsessively hated everything Jewish. In her view Jews were a failed race corrupting the pure bloodline of the Hungarian nation.

Tormay was also openly lesbian. As a young woman she travelled Europe with her lover Francesca D’ Orsay and her sexual escapades made headlines when she was involved in a highly publicized scandal with her then lover Countess Raphael Zichy. Hungary’s ruler (and self-confessed anti-Semite) Admiral Horthy intervened on her behalf to save Tormay’s “reputation.”

In 1938 Hungary started the introduction of draconian race laws against its Jewish citizens and in 1943 her statue was inaugurated Just two years later, in 1945, after the fall of Hungarian fascism the statue was removed as part of the denazification process overseen by the Allied Control Commission. (The United States was a member of that body.)

Tormay’s books were largely forgotten after WWII but in the 1990s her anti-Semitic manifesto, An Outlaw’s Diary (Bujdosó könyv) became popular in far right circles. Jobbik, Hungary’s then most far-right party, started to idolize her after party leader Gábor Vona praised her in a speech. (Watch Vona’s Tormay speech here.)

Jobbik poster of event to commemorate Tormay.

In 2012 ruling Fidesz party politicians followed Jobbik and with support from Budapest mayor Mr. István Tarlós, Mr. Máté Kocsis and Mr. Sándor Lezsák inaugurated Tormay’s statue calling her a “great patriot.” Kocsis is currently an MP and leader in Fidesz’ parliamentary group; Lezsák is also an MP who serves as Vice Chairman of the Parliament.

Ruling party Fidesz politicians Mr. Máté Kocsis (left) and Mr. Sándor Lezsák at Tormay’s statue.

Hungarian civil leaders protested and there has been an international outcry. “This decision by the Budapest city government, which is headed by a member of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, puts into question the pledge given to the Jewish community that anti-Semitism will be fought vigorously by the Hungarian authorities. However, it seems that they need to be reminded that Cécile Tormay was not only one of Miklós Horthy’s favorite writers. She was also a notorious anti-Semite.” – wrote Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress.

After the protest, the Budapest City Council rejected a move to name a street after her, but the statue still stands as Fidesz politicians refuse to remove it. (Read here.) The statue is located in downtown Budapest, on Rákóczi út at Rókus hospital. Several plaques also commemorate Tormay in the city of Balassagyarmat, (Széchenyi St. 13) and in Budapest (Kőfaragó St. 3).

Needless to say that Tormay’s statue and plaques insult most Hungarians. Kocsis and Lezsák have no place in Parliament. Hungary badly needs a new “denazification” process to remove these shameful memorials.

György Lázár

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