For those who don’t know who David Irving is, here’s a brief bio. Although he is often called a British historian, the fact is that he never finished college, and the couple of years he spent at two different universities had nothing to do with the study of history. However, he was fascinated with military history, especially German military history during World War II. Professional historians were not too taken with his work even when he stuck to military history, but they were especially critical when he began rewriting the political/social history of the war with a decidedly German slant. When he became a Holocaust denier that was too much for most countries: he was deported and barred from Germany, he was kicked out of Canada, and finally he was arrested in Austria and sentenced to three years in 2006. He spent a year in jail.
David Irving made several trips to Hungary where there are no laws against those who deny the Holocaust. Loránt Hegedüs, a Hungarian Reformed minister, was his host, and it was in Hegedüs’s church that he spread his ideas.
David Irving has not been in Hungary recently, but he’s once again in the Hungarian media. Irving is on a lecture tour in the United States. According to my information, an organization called Anti-Racist Action (ARA) managed to prevent Irving from giving a lecture in Washington, D.C. So he moved on to New York. Irving was obviously playing a cat and mouse game with ARA. He announced that he would speak at the Primavera Restaurant, 1578 First Avenue. That was a false address. But two people directed the arriving guests to the real site of the lecture, St. Stephen of Hungary Parish on 82nd Street.
The “small group of people” who asked one of the parish priests to allow the use of a meeting room in the church apparently didn’t tell him who the speaker would be. They simply said that “they wanted the space to discuss a book.” Well, in a way, that was true. According to the New York Sun (a neoconservative, pro-Israel daily) a journalist, Max Blumenthal, attended the event for a documentary he is making on Irving. According to him, Irving refused “to even use the term ‘Holocaust'” in his lecture. However, he did say a few things that would be illegal in certain countries.
St. Stephen of Hungary is a church shared by Hungarians and Italians. It seems that in the past extreme right-wing Hungarians used the church for events the priests found inappropriate. And they continue their bad behavior. The ARA (who, tipped off, showed up at the restaurant and were duly directed to the church) in no time organized a sizeable group of protestors in the currently heavily Jewish neighborhood outside the church.
Now comes the question of the link between New York and Budapest. New York Hungarians claim that an extreme right-wing Hungarian group headed by Ernő Hóka often uses the church for some of his gatherings and that Hóka has close relations with Ákos Szilágyi, the founder of the New York Polgári Kör, part of the network of civic circles of right-minded people who were supposed to rally when the call came from Viktor Orbán. These civic cells at one point seemed to be critically important vehicles of Orbán’s political strategy. Orbán put Csaba Hende, formerly an MDF member of parliament, in charge of the network of cells. Hende by now is so far to the right that only a few days ago he shocked the country by suggesting that when Fidesz takes over the government they will fire all 45,000 policemen and build the force from scratch. Obviously, only those who share the values of Fidesz will be rehired. The establishment of the New York civic cell was inspired by Hende during one of his visits to New York. From the beginning the cell espoused extreme right-wing ideas and had close ties to kuruc.info.hu, a notorious neo-Nazi site advocating the overthrow of the Hungarian government. Recently the American server hosting both of these sites shut them down.
This morning Zoltán Szabó, an MSZP member of parliament, responding to the news from New York had a few choice words about Fidesz’s cozy relations with extreme right-wing groups. What Szabó wanted to know was how far Fidesz is willing to go. How long can a so-called “moderate” right of center party maintain close ties with the extreme right? Szabó said that he understands that hard-core right-wing voters are important to Fidesz since they make up between 8% and 10% of the electorate, but surely, he continued, a serious party can’t afford such nefarious association with neo-Nazis.
On György Bolgár’s call-in show this morning Zoltán Szabó reiterated his assessment of the situation. A split second after the conversation with Szabó ended, Ákos Szilágyi, straight from New York, phoned in. He denied that he had anything to do with the invitation. That, he alleged, is the figment of the imagination of László Bartus, editor-in-chief of the Amerikai-Magyar Népszava Szabadság, who, according to Szilágyi, is a liar whom he is suing because of another article he wrote. I checked Amerikai-Magyar Népszava and there was no mention of either Szilágyi or the New York Polgári Kör. It simply said that “according to many people, the St. Stephen Parish of New York has long been a meeting place of people with Nazi sympathies.” Szilágyi, by the way, also claimed that it wasn’t even Hungarians who invited Irving. That is hard to believe. I became especially suspicious when ARA supporters were described as homosexuals and communists. It sounded all too familiar.