The stealth Horthy cult

This was the title of a recent article that appeared in Népszabadság. Prompting the article were two recent news items. The first, which hit the newstands on April 24, was an announcement that the council of Gyömrő, a town of 15,000 only seven kilometers from the Franz Liszt Airport and the city limits of Budapest, decided to rename its main square. Freedom Square would become Horthy Square. The council was renaming it because between 1937 and 1945 the square was called Miklós Horthy Square in honor of the governor (1920-1945) of the kingless Kingdom of Hungary. Gyömrő today is politically on the right although one wouldn’t know that by just glancing at the list of city fathers and their party affiliations. Most of them represent a local formation called Gyömrő 200 Kör. The fact that in 1937 the town decided to name the main square for Horthy leads me to believe that the inhabitants’ political outlook has remained pretty constant. Communism or no communism in between.

At first only MIÉP and later Jobbik made a serious effort to “rehabilitate” Miklós Horthy by insisting on celebrating November 16, the day Miklós Horthy and his National Army entered Budapest in 1919. The organizers even managed to find a white horse for the occasion. The Jobbik leaders also wanted to change the name of Béla Bartók Road to Miklós Horthy Road, as it was called between 1920 and 1945. But lately there are more and more signs that the “Horthy cult” is spreading beyond the far right.

I don’t want to get involved here in a discussion of Horthy’s historical role. Just as the historian Ignác Romsics pointed out in a lengthy article in Mozgó Világ, Horthy’s image has gone through several transformations. After 1989-90 there were attempts to burnish Horthy’s post-1945 image, but these efforts were largely unsuccessful, at least until 2000. According to a Medián poll from 1999, Horthy was deemed to be one of the most negative historical characters of the twentieth century, after Mátyás Rákosi and Ferenc Szálasi. However, since then there has been a slow but steady move toward a more positive public assessment of the governor.

The most notable change is that Jobbik is no longer alone in promoting Horthy’s positive image. People close to Fidesz also took up the cause. Film producer Gábor Koltay with the assistance of István Nemeskürty, who likes to call himself a historian, made a film about Horthy that was based on selective truths. Nemeskürty, who in the 1970s called Horthy a murderer, thirty years later portrayed him as someone who had nothing to do with the anti-Jewish laws or the deportation of Hungary’s Jewish citizens.

Until now there was only one street named after Horthy–in Páty, a village of 6,000 west of Budapest. The name change occurred in 2001 when Páty was led by a MIÉP mayor. Last year the Fidesz mayor of Vác (pop. 35,000) wanted to name one of city’s streets after Horthy but the majority of the city council, after a massive protest, voted the suggestion down.

And now here is the strange case of Gyömrő where most of the council seats are held by members of an organization called “Gyömrő 200 Circle.” Who are these people? Most likely they were recruited from the former Smallholders’ Party, Fidesz, and MDF. One interesting tidbit I picked up was that the mayor, Levente Zoltán Gyenes of Gyömrő 2000 Kör, prior to the elections in 2010 tried to join Fidesz but the local Fidesz organization refused to accept him.

One council member’s past is truly fascinating. In 1998 Zoltán Sas represented Fidesz on the council. In 2002 he received a seat as an MDF member. And behold, the same Zoltán Sas showed up in 2010 as a member of Jobbik. He was the one who came up with the idea of renaming the town’s square. Apparently there was only one person who abstained. All the others without any discussion voted for Sas’s proposal.

Gyomro Szabadsag ter

It was the Gyömrő Fidesz organization which announced the name change. A local Internet paper, Gyömrői Hírhatár, responded disapprovingly. The article pointed out that although there is no legal prohibition against naming public places for Horthy or erecting statues of him, the governor is a very divisive historical figure, and it predicted that the Gyömrő town council’s decision would create a nationwide debate. Indeed, it did.

The Gyömrő Fidesz party announced yesterday that the historian Ignác Romsics, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, will visit the town tomorrow where he will give a lecture on “Horthy and the Horthy Regime.” They urged people to attend, especially because “some people are trying to organize demonstrations in reaction to the renaming of Gyömrő’s main square.”

Szabadsag az nem csak egy terWhat the local Fidesz party was referring to was a liberal organization, K.I.Gy.E. Pesti kerekasztal, that was calling for “a silent demonstration” on the same day that Romsics is scheduled to deliver his lecture. Portraying Horthy in an undoubtedly harsher light than Romsics will, Pesti kerekasztal published a piece by László Karsai, a historian of the Hungarian holocaust. According to the organizers of the demonstration: “Freedom is not only a square.”

And so, the debate over Miklós Horthy’s place in history continues. Since 1990 no Hungarian historian had attempted to write a full-fledged biography of Miklós Horthy until a young Ph.D. candidate, Dávid Turbucz, wrote a slim volume (Horthy Miklós, Budapest: Napvilág, 2011). From what I gather, the more moderate Hungarian right likes Turbucz’s portrait of Horthy. But even from this “more balanced” biography Horthy emerges as a man whose thinking was much closer to the radical right than to true conservatism. Although in the 1920s, under the influence of Prime Minister István Bethlen, he suppressed his attraction to right radicalism, in the final analysis he always remained the man who marched into Budapest in 1919 to punish the sinful city. Horthy in no way should serve as a model for a democratic Hungary in the twenty-first century.

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Commenter
Guest

You might want to add an update considering these:
http://hirszerzo.hu/nyuzsi/2012/5/6/Minek_ide_Jobbik_ha_van_Fidesz_RAOSOA
http://www.vitezirend.com/ (on the first sculpture of Horthy)
http://www.vitezirend.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=59
“A Vitézi Rendnek hármas célja van: jutalmazni a vitézséggel párosult honfi erényt, megtartani a nagy idők legjobbjait és biztosítani a hősök nemzetségének fennmaradását, végül bennük és utódaikban a magyar fajnak olyan hatalmat biztosítani, amely rettentő erővel sújt le minden felforgató állam- és nemzetellenes törekvésekre.”
http://www.helyihirek.hu/index.php?fp=cikk&id=6167&v=fooldal (pictures of the ball)

Commenter
Guest

I think it’s unclear from the Hírszerző article but two MP’s (including an undersecretary) was scheduled to be present at the ball: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=380534135322101&set=a.135312323177618.12073.119056498136534&type=1&ref=nf

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Commenter, I’m planning to write another article that would also include the statue of Horthy.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Commenter: I think it’s unclear from the Hírszerző article but two MP’s (including an undersecretary) was scheduled to be present at the ball”
There is a hilarious article about Peter Kovacs, mayor of the 16th district, on ATV’s website. I think this fellow is an idiot. I think the very low level of intelligence of some of these Fidesz clones will be the death of Fidesz.

petofi
Guest

There ought to be a new field of study: psychoanalysis
of nations and their emotionally crippled citizenry–Hungary fits the bill.
One possible scenario: Hungary leads a right wing rev old in Europe against the IMF and the ‘financiers’ who control the world. Some Poles, Moldavians, and Frenchmen (lost in the woods) will join. Some years pass by and the movement will fall to pieces. Poland and Moldavia will give a sigh of relief: “Wow. We just managed to escape disaster.”
Unfortunately, Hungary will have a less pleasant experience…

GDF
Guest
Interesting chapter about the Horty-founded Vitezi Rend in a study: Tátrai Szilárd : A Vitézi Rend története a harmincas évektől a felszámolásig The History of the Knightly order of Vitéz from the Thirties to Its Dissolution Summary The Knightly Order of Vitéz, established on the basis of landed property as a reward of military virtue, was founded by Miklós Horthy in 1920. With its foundation, the aim of Horthy was to create a stratum of small and medium landowners, loyal to the political system, and to enlarge his social basis. The building up the Order and the legal regulation of its function lasted to the thirties. The main problem was that there was no possibility to bestow all the members of the Order on grants of land: the number of gratuitous allotments was very limited so the Order had to get connected with the redistribution of lands, too. The allotments, granted this way, however, were lands of rent and developing them into profitable smallholdings proved to be extremely hard. This is why the members of the Order could not become decisive elements of the agrarian society of the country – in spite of the positive governmental discrimination. After the reannexations… Read more »
Louis Kovach
Guest

How can you dislike Horthy? Even Uncle Stalin liked him. 🙂

Member

Louis: “Even Uncle Stalin liked him. :-)”
That explains Orban’s attraction.

Louis Kovach
Guest
A tabulation from Gosztonyi’s book “Magyar Golghota.” BP 1993: The following table, based on data from the book and ancillary sources speaks for itself. As Gosztonyi states, the Kadar-Munnich-Marosan clique has the ignominious distinction of having executed more Hungarians than Haynau, Horthy and Szalasi combined. Regime Dates Est. Executions Notes ______________________________________________________________________ Franz Josef 1849- 123 Bela Kun 1919 590 (1) Miklos Horthy 1919-1944 68 (2) Ferenc Szalasi 1944-1945 60 (3) Rep. Hungary 1945-1947 189 Matyas Rakosi 1947- 400 (4) Janos Kadar 1956- 600 (5) (1) An interesting historical footnote is that the internationally known Hungarian intellectual Gyorgy Lukacs is implicated in some of the executions. (2) Vigilantes murders raised the total number of victims to an estimated 600. The number 68 refers to Royal Court Proceedings. (3) Estimate only. Data from all prisons is not available. Figure does not include deportation of Hungarians to German concentration camps or atrocities commited after the German occupation by fascist gangs. (4) It should be noted that between 1945 and 1949 55,000 persons and 1949-53 23,000 persons were imprisoned without the benefit of judicial proceedings. According to Tamas Berecz between 1952 and 1955 1,136,434 people were “under investigation”. (5) Other sources give much larger… Read more »
Guest
London Calling! I am bemused by the Hungarian pastime of renaming things; moving statues; and generally trying to erase or change the past. There must be a psychological explanation. One administration or council broadcasts its credentials by nailing its colours to the mast and making matching changes – only for a later administration or council to change them back – or change them further to fit their ideology. Then you have to move the statues; only for a later administration to move them back? Or change them around to fit THEIR ideologies and beliefs. Strange! I can see a whole industry building up in specialist statue movers and restorers; street and square name plates manufacturers and many debates and reports being produced to justify each move. If all the old street name plates are kept – then a whole new industry in second-hand street signs could start and even an advisory service. “Er Hello! We are thinking of renaming Ferencziek Tere – what can you do for us?” “Well we’ve got 8 Roosevelt’s, 10 Moscow’s, 15 Andrassy’s, 12 Erzsebet’s, 50 Stalin’s and 256 Lenin’s. And today’s special offer 24 Horthy’s – they’re a bit distressed as they’ve been used quite… Read more »
Tyrker
Guest

“István Nemeskürty, who likes to call himself a historian”
What a malicious description. In fact Nemeskürty holds a degree in art history and has been a Professor since 1979.

Member

Regarding Louis Kovach’s data . I am not sure what is your point? Horthy did not need to execute the Hungarian himself. He sent them to the War. He sent the Hungarian Jews to concentration camps. You cannot argue history. These are hard facts. I actually find it very disturbing that you try to whitewash this criminal.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Tyrker: “What a malicious description. In fact Nemeskürty holds a degree in art history and has been a Professor since 1979.”
According to you to have a degree in art history is the same as having a Ph.D. or equivalent in history?

Frank T. Csongos
Guest

Dear Professor Balogh,
An off-topic question, if I may. Is the Hungarian Quarterly still being published? I see no sign of a 2012 edition on the Internet. Thanks and best wishes.

Tyrker
Guest
Some1, don’t be stupid. Even as late as 1943, Horthy and Kállay firmly resisted Hitler’s urges to hand over the country’s Jews to Germany, prompting Hitler to label Hungary a “Jews’ paradise” (Judenparadies) – which was far from being true but shows how outraged Hitler was at the Hungarians’ unwillingness to send the country’s Jewry to concentration camps. It was not long after this meeting that Hitler ordered the OKW to draw up a plan for the occupation of Hungary (Operation Margarethe I). And it was during this occupation that a large proportion of the country’s Jewish population – along with a number of people who did not even consider themselves Jews – were actually deported, with the active help of the country’s new prime minister, Döme Sztójay, an ethnic Serb (original name: Dimitrije Stojaković). Kállay, the previous PM, had to take refuge at the Turkish embassy but could not, eventually, escape being deported to Mauthausen and later Dachau. Horthy’s idleness through the months of April, May and June proved deadly for Hungarian Jews living in the countryside – but to claim that he sent them to concentration camps himself is totally wrong. As I said elsewhere, Horthy wasn’t a… Read more »
Guest

London Calling!
Tryker!
Horthy sent many jews to their deaths – he just slowed the rate down.
He only stopped the flow after Roosevelt bombed the armaments factories in Hungary.
A slow-rate criminal – but still a criminal.
And even at his age he was a feisty old man – he beat up some Arrow Cross supporters in the Budapest Opera House!
If I was Hungarian I’d keep quiet about Horthy – history has been very kind to him.
Regards
Charlie

Commenter
Guest

@Eva S. Balogh: thanks for your response, looking forward to reading the next article!
That ATV interview is crazy. I nearly gave up at the point where he replied “It was long ago, it was a war.”

GDF
Guest

Tryker:””István Nemeskürty, who likes to call himself a historian”
What a malicious description. In fact Nemeskürty holds a degree in art history and has been a Professor since 1979.”
Two observations:
1. Nemeskurthy is not dealing with art history but with history. That seems to be not his specialty.
2. Having a degree or being a professor in anything in Hungary does not seem to mean to much nowadays, not to speak about 1979….

GDF
Guest

Tryker:”Horthy should have resigned as Governor after the German invasion, ideally several years earlier.”
But he didn’t. Thus he bears responsibility for what happened during his “idleness”.

Member

Tyrker: “Some1, don’t be stupid. ” Well, Tyrker I guess the stupid one is you. Mixing up facts, calling a war criminal kind of like a victim of circumstances, is plain stupid. I would not say that to you, but well, you called for it. A REAL man would of stood up for the Jews. A real Hungarian would of protect ALL Hungarians, even if it would of cost him his life. BY you failing to see that makes you also a weak and unreliable commenter. MAybe if your mother would of been on the train because poor Horthy did not resign in time, maybe then you would said, “Hey, this kind is not so brave after all!” THe real man, even if it was not HUngarian was Raoul Wallenberg. You know why? Because he was not even Hungarian, and he had more compassion than Horthy and of his shithead comrades ever had for Hungarians. So Tryker, please do mot be stupid!

Louis Kovach
Guest

@GDF & Some1. I posit that if Horthy resigned or resisted in March of 1945. There would have been no Jews left in Hungary to save by anybody. Under complete German control no other possibility would have existed. IMHO, Hitler would not have given a damn about how it looks in the West and neither would have the West done anything for the Jews.

GDF
Guest

Louis Kovach:”I posit that if Horthy resigned or resisted in March of 1945. There would have been no Jews left in Hungary to save by anybody.”
This we will never know.
But we do know that during Horthy’s “idleness” hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were were sent to their deaths, with active participation of the Hungarian government’s officials. And then the real estate of those killed was gifted to the members of the Horthy-founded Vitezi Rend.

Louis Kovach
Guest

@GDF. If you can’t come to the same conclusion than I do not think you are familiar with the then extant circumstances. Just consider Szalasi(or someone of similar ilk) in power from March 1944. Cite me any person or domestic or foreign power that could have protected the Jews in German occupied Hungary.

GW
Guest

Louis Kovach asked:
“Cite me any person or domestic or foreign power that could have protected the Jews in German occupied Hungary.”
Raoul Wallenberg and more than 350 helpers.

GDF
Guest

GW:”Louis Kovach asked:
“Cite me any person or domestic or foreign power that could have protected the Jews in German occupied Hungary.”
Raoul Wallenberg and more than 350 helpers.”
And since Louis Kovach asked who COULD HAVE protected the Jews, I would like to add: the non-nyilas Hungarian population. But that was much harder than cheering Bardossy after he declared war on Russia.

LwiiH
Guest

It’s my understanding of things that the Germans actually weren’t so happy about sending Jews off to camps and that the “final solution” was much more vigorously executed in Hungary than it actually was in Germany.

Louis Kovach
Guest
The response to LWiiH: @LwiiH. Next you will claim that Auschwitz was run by Hungarians? Lets look at some actual history about the details of German involvement in the deportations. “The German representation in Hungary included a large special team dispatched by the RSHA and headed by HSSPF Otto Winkelman. Also attached to it was Himmler’s special representative, Kurt A. Becher. The Special Operational Commando, which had earlier been constituted by Eichmann in the Mauthausen camp, came to Budapest on the very day of the occupation for the purpose of organizing the deportation of the country’s almost eight hundred thousand Jews. Counted among the team of sixteen men were some of Eichmann’s most experienced office and field aides…Parties were disbanded and ministers and senior officials throughout the country were replaced by people acceptable to the Germans…..two men from the radical right, Laszlo Endre and Laszlo Baky were installed by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the RSHA as chief aides in all matters related to Jews” “The Holocaust” by Leni Yahl 1990. How the Jews of Hungary stated the case, from the March 23, 1944 issue of Journal of Hungarian Jews “Jewry has been requested to establish a Central Council, which… Read more »
GDF
Guest

Mr. Kovach, if your contention is that several hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were deported by a group of 16 Germans, something is wrong with your thinking process. Give up, please!

Louis Kovach
Guest

@GDF and GW.It is estimated that there were 762,000 jews alive in Hungary on March 19, 1944. Of this number 618,000 were deported or killed and 5,000 succeded in escaping so that when Hungary was occupied by the Szoviets on April 1945, there were 139,000 Jews in Hungary 20,000 of them outside Budapest. 116,500 returned from deportations and yje labor service bringing the number of survivors to 255,000. This indicates that there was a 33 % survival rate of Jews in Hungary.
Compare this number with the survival rate of other German occupied countries:
Poland 10 %
Baltic Countries 10 %
Germany/Austria 12 %
Protectorate 11 %
Slovakia 17 %
Greece 23 %
The Netherlands 25 %
White Russia 35 %
Ukraine 40 %
Belgium 40 %
Norway 50 %….
So it is not correct to ascribe Hungarians a special “crueler” status than other , including western nations. Besides Wallenberg, there were others in Hungary who protected the Jews and even a much larger number who did not cooperate with the Jews.
Regards

Louis Kovach
Guest

@GDF. Oh no it was not the 16 I forgot to add Horthy to it, it was 17…..
I have stated before, to me, opinions do not count as facts, regardless of who writes them. I really hope that you realize that it was not only 16 Germans occupying Hungary!!!

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