Another Hungarian lawyer’s case with a twist

I don’t know whether you heard about the disappearance of the remains of the German-Austrian businessman Friedrich Karl Flick, which happened more than a year ago. Flick was perhaps the richest man in Austria; he died three years ago at the age of 79. He was buried in a modern, tasteful mausoleum in Velden, Carinthia, Austria. The marble slab covering a double coffin made out of zinc weighed about 100 kg. It was therefore assumed that the removal of the coffin and body was the work of several hefty men.

When it was discovered that the corpse was missing the Flick family offered a reward of 100,000 euros to anyone able to provide useful clues. Months went by without any response. Eventually a man called “Grizzly” promised a lead. The money was given to him in Vienna, but the Flicks never heard from him afterward. As it turned out only a couple of days ago, “Grizzly” is a Romanian-Hungarian whose real name is László Faragó and who happened to be one of the perpetrators.

Anyway, more than six months went by after the Flicks paid “Grizzly” and there was no word from the body-snatchers. Then at the end of November of this year from a hotel near the Eastern Station in Budapest someone sent an e-mail to the Flicks that read: “Dear Flick family, I’m the boss of the coffin robbers. I’m glad that I can talk with you. Don’t worry, the coffin is safe. Please don’t inform the police. Your only chance is to pay.” Apparently the “boss of the coffin robbers” demanded 6 million euros.

As it turned out, the “boss” was Barnabás Sziráki, a forty-one-year-old lawyer and a faithful worshipper in the Cistercian Saint Imre Parish in Újbuda.Sziraki Barnabas He is married and the father of three boys. In fact, his connection with his parish until very recently was very close. He was a member of the parish’s lay overseers and was running a “family circle” called “Mustard Seed” where he passed on all his noble thoughts on family life to younger people. He received his law degree from Hungary’s Catholic University. He often, especially around Christmas time, gave talks to the congregation which he subsequently collected under the title “Road Signs.” As soon as his name appeared in the Austrian paper Österreich, Father Ákos (Ákos Előd Brückner) immediately announced that Sziráki was being stripped of all the positions he held in the parish.

The second accused is a certain Zoltán N. (31) from Ercsi who is currently unemployed. He was the one who was arrested first, and it was he who told all he knew about Sziráki, the “boss.” Four more people remained on the loose until this afternoon when a third man–to wit, László Faragó akaGrizzly
“Grizzly”–was arrested in Romania. Put it this way: I wouldn’t want to meet Grizzly late at night in some deserted section of town.

Just about the time that I first learned of Sziráki’s connection with the Saint Imre Parish I happened upon an article in Harry’s Place, a blog that often carries articles on Hungary by Karl Pfeifer. In it I learned that Saint Imre is not just an ordinary Catholic parish in Buda; it has close ties to Jobbik. For example, the parish’s website carried a call to join Jobbik’s latest project: setting up crosses on the first Sunday of Advent. This “tradition” goes back about seven years when a Jewish group erected a Hannukah display on Lujza Blaha Square that so outraged the Hungarian far-right that they immediately set up crosses at various places in the city. Conservative Christians were not too happy about this cross business because they didn’t think that the cross had anything to do with the birth of Christ. They interpreted the gesture as a call for a crusade against Jewish influence. Just lately Miklós Csapody (MDF) raised his voice against this new custom which clearly uses religious symbols for political purposes. Moreover, said Csapody, all this is happening with the assistance of some Catholic priests and Protestant ministers.

On the parish’s web site is a call to attend the ceremony in which the Catholic dean Antal Musits and the Hungarian Reformed Bishop Tamás Csuka, who was the Protestant bishop of the Hungarian army at one time, will officiate, and in which Kamilla Dévai Nagy will participate. Kamilla, whom someone sarcastically called “formerly the singing lark of KISZ” (Kommunista Ifjúsági Szövetség/Communist Youth Organization), nowadays specializes in religious and patriotic songs. See for example this video. The invitation mentioned that Keresztény Úriemberek Társasága (KÚT [Association of Christian Gentlemen]) will serve hot tea with rum for “our kind” at the event. Krisztina Morvai reinforced the antisemitic nature of the phrase “our kind” when she explicitly divided the country into “their kind” and “our kind,” that is, Jews and non-Jews. The Catholic weekly Új Ember (August 21, 2005) wrote about the Association of Christian Gentlemen, which was apparently organized in Budapest at the Saint Adalbert Parish. Their aim is to organize summer camps for children in Transylvania and Slovakia where they can learn about proper patriotic thinking about nation and fatherland. The association hires experts in various fields. One of the speakers mentioned was none other than Bertalan Andrásfalvy, minister of education and culture in the Antall government whom until now I considered to be a moderate conservative. Yet it turns out that he was the guest of KÚT, the same KÚT that is offering hot tea with rum at a Jobbik event for “our kind.”

All in all, the extreme right is by now everywhere, even where we don’t suspect. Cardinal Péter Erdő, head of the Hungarian Church, might raise his voice against the “new paganism” that is spreading in far-right circles, but some individual parishes have cozy relations with Jobbik.