A Hungarian acquaintance of mine calls Hungary Absurdistan, and, I must say, today’s news provides ample reason for that moniker. First, the continuing Keystone Cops saga. A young guy was arrested and handcuffed. Behold, he managed to escape–handcuffs and all. At least the police managed to round him up again. What a heartwarming result! Then, much more seriously, five or six MSZP parliamentary members’ houses were attacked in the middle of the night. The perpetrators were not joking either: they were planning to burn down the dwellings with the owners inside. In one case they tried to tap into the gas line. It was a miracle (or perhaps just incompetence) that they didn’t succeed. If they had, there would have been at least one fewer MSZP member in parliament today. The Hungarian equivalent of the FBI considers these incidents acts of terrorism. The perpetrators, if arrested and found guilty, could receive ten to fifteen years or even life. (Oh, but then perhaps the courts would once again argue that, since nothing horrific happened, the perpetrators were just exercising their right to protest against the government.)
For weeks now, several MSZP parliamentary members have been receiving envelopes containing a mysterious white powder that turned out to be a combination of flour and baking soda. Whoever the senders are, I must say they are not too imaginative. Today, there is a new twist to the powder story: an MDF parliamentary member received red powder. Oh, why red? I have an idea, and I think my readers familiar with the Hungarian political situation will concur.
Ildikó Lendvai looked very grave today. She considers these attacks against members of parliament attacks on democracy itself. I am convinced that these actions are the brainchildren of the extreme right: the few people who are the professional demonstrators. Yet I don’t want to minimize the danger. The fact is that a large segment of the Hungarian society is open to the teachings of the extreme right. I may consider Orbán’s strategy irresponsible, but the Fidesz leader is simply responding to the political demands of a certain percentage of the Hungarian people. There are all sorts of estimates, but I don’t think that 20% is too high an estimate as opposed to the western average of 10%. There would be no Orbán if there were no "need" for him. (Just as there would have been no George W. Bush as president of the United States if roughly 25%-30% of the white population hadn’t been evangelical Christians.)
But back to Absurdistan. A historian discovered that among the "martyrs of the nation" in Plot 298 of the Cemetery of Rákoskeresztúr there are the remains of Ferenc Szálasi, the Hungarian Nazi leader who was executed in 1946! How could that have happened? Of course, the plaque bearing the names of the martyrs doesn’t include Ferenc Szálasi, but it does list Ferenc Lukács, about whom nobody knows anything. Well, it seems that Ferenc Lukács is actually Ferenc Szálasi. It seems that when Szálasi was executed the authorities buried him as Ferenc Lukács because they didn’t want to have a grave with Szálasi’s name on it that could serve as a shrine for Hungarian Nazis. So far this makes sense, but how is it possible that today’s Hungarian extremists seem to know that this Ferenc Lukács is no ordinary Joe Schmo? His grave seems to be a place of pilgrimage judging from the many flowers and candles placed on it. You can see the picture here: http://tinyurl.com/2rja6b
Well, in Hungary things like that can easily happen. There was a young Hungarian Nazi, Imre Bosnyák, who joined the Arrowcross party fairly early, in 1935. He was active in District VIII in Budapest as a youth organizer. He was a great admirer of Szálasi and in 1939 when Szálasi was for a brief period in jail he and some other hotheads tried to free him. He wasn’t successful and he himself ended up in jail where he stayed until October 21, 1944, that is, after the Szálasi takeover of the government. He escaped west with the German troops but didn’t get very far. Soviet soldiers arrested him in Vienna. After Bosnyák attacked one of them, he ended up in the Gulag somewhere. He was allowed to return to Hungary in 1955. In 1957 he was again arrested and spent three years in jail. What he did between 1960 and 1990 no one really knows.
Not surprisingly Bosnyák became very active after 1990. He joined the Smallholders’ Party, then considered to be the party of the far right. No one checked his past, although it seems that some of his friends in the party knew that "Uncle Imre" belonged to the extreme right. Whether they knew that he had such close ties to the Arrowcross Party we don’t know. In any case, "Uncle Imre" died in 1997 at the age of eighty-four and the burial expenses were paid by the Smallholders’ Party. Népszabadság even learned the amount spent: 124,421 Ft. A handsome sum even today. His wish was to be buried in Plot 298 among the "martyrs of the nation." Apparently Bosnyák knew who Ferenc Lukács was and his greatest wish was to be buried close to Szálasi, his idol. According to some who researched Bosnyák’s case, his last years were spent convincing the authorities to make Plot 298 a pantheon to the victims of communism. He was quite successful in convincing Péter Boross, then minister of the interior, later prime minister, to fix up Plot 298. No one seemed to bother to take a closer look at the names on the graves. A great number of them were Nazi killers of Jewish soldiers of labor batallions. The usual schlamperei [carelessness] so typical of that part of the world. Now, Boross has to explain how on earth he could have chosen Bosnyák to be in charge of the project, why they didn’t check who was buried there. Surely, Nazis don’t have any right to be buried in a plot bearing the name "martyrs of the nation." Boross, who is still a member of the MDF delegation of parliament, hastily announced that Ferenc Lukács’s name must be taken off the commemorative plaque, but I have the feeling that this is not the end of the story.
Right now I am waiting to see what can top the news of the last two days. I’m sure Absurdistan will oblige.