The other day the Order of Knights held a ball.
By way of background, Horthy as governor couldn’t bestow titles of nobility, so in 1920 he established the Order of Knights to honor men deemed especially worthy. Originally military valor in World War I was a necessary prerequisite to becoming a knight, but soon enough the order was expanded to include both military and civilian supporters of Horthy’s regime. Eventually knighthood became hereditary. Admission to the Order also carried with it a land grant of about 60 acres for a former officer and about 12 acres for lower ranks and civilians. Jews were banned. As C. A. Macartney, the British historian of interwar Hungary, said, “the unspoken function [of the knighted individuals] was to form nuclei of order and patriotism throughout the country.”
Members of the Order who left Hungary with the German troops and settled in Western Europe, the United States, and Canada kept up the knightly tradition and allowed “worthy” emigrants into the ranks. After the change of regime in 1990, the Order of Knights became a legal entity once again in Hungary. It is clear from the website of the Order that one of the functions of the organization is to keep alive the memory of Miklós Horthy and to “educate” the populace about the true historical role of Hungary’s governor between 1920 and 1945. Currently they are collecting money for a statue of the governor on horseback.
It turns out that two Fidesz politicians were patrons of the ball. Both are members of parliament. In addition, Péter Kovács is the mayor of District XVI (Sashalom) and Kristóf Szatmáry is an undersecretary in the Ministry of National Economy. I assume that both men belong to the right wing of Fidesz. Péter Kovács is certainly making his district “a citadel of right-wing politics,” as the district was described by an MSZP member of the city council. Runic writings can be seen all over the place and just lately the council passed a resolution about erecting a Trianon Memorial.
As for Krtistóf Szatmáry, I don’t know a lot about him except that he has degrees in geography and political science. So, it seems that it was not exactly his knowledge of economics that made him a desirable addition to György Matolcsy’s ministry. I was somewhat surprised that the organizer of the ball was a certain Knight Lieutenant László Szatmáry. Since there is a resemblance between the two Szatmárys, perhaps they are brothers. In any case, even a general would be envious of the outfit of this lieutenant:
Péter Szegő, a reporter for ATV, decided to have an interview with Mayor Péter Kovács to ask him what he knows and thinks about Miklós Horthy. Kovács, according to his biography on Fidesz’s website, “finished his studies at the University of Technology’s “‘építőmérnöki” faculty. The reason that I used the Hungarian designation is because I want to make clear that whatever degree Kovács has it is not in architecture (építészmérnök). I would ask the engineering types who read this blog to visit the university’s website and enlighten us about what Kovács actually learned at the university. There is another odd thing about this degree. Kovács neglected to mention it on parliament’s site. However, he claims to know English well enough to be able to carry on negotiations in that language and to know “conversational” French.
His knowledge of history definitely leaves something to be desired. The reporter wanted to find out how much Kovács knows about Horthy. He expressed the commonly held view that Horthy’s last few years were not exactly successful. Kovács replied: “I don’t know but I learned differently from a lecture given by the Fraternal Circle of Noon Bell Ringing (Déli Harangszó Baráti Köre).” The reporter wanted to hear Kovács’s version but instead he heard the following: “I suggest that in case you have doubts about this question look for the Fraternal Circle of Noon Bell Ringing. They give free lectures on the life of Miklós Horthy.”
When the reporter mentioned the disastrous war against the Allies and the death of 437,000 Jewish Hungarian citizens, Kovács could only answer that “it was a long time ago. It was during a war.” After the reporter pressed him further on the details, instead of giving an answer Kovács asked the reporter: “Are you historian?” It turned out that the reporter had a degree in history. Kovács triumphantly answered: “You see, I am not a historian.”
Eventually the conversation turned to the Order of Knights, and the reporter pointed out that the Order was “one of the most important bases of the counter-revolutionary regime.” Kovács simply answered: “This is not how I know it.” But then it turned out that he knows absolutely nothing about the history of the Order and began talking about the present knights who are wonderful people. For example, they assisted the work of the locals when the Tisza River flooded. The reporter tried to get back to the origins of the Order. Kovács’s answer: “1920 was quite a few years ago.” The reporter pressed on and asked whether Kovács didn’t find it troubling that today’s knights consider themselves the successors of the original Order, thereby associating themselves with the Horthy regime. Answer: “Are you sure that they themselves think that way?” Kovács at that point admitted that the present knights do consider themselves members of the original Order of Knights but they never said to him that they associate themselves with the Horthy regime. So, surely the reporter must be wrong.
Finally, the question of Hungary’s entry into the war came up. The reporter pointed out that the Barbarossa Plan didn’t count on Hungary’s joining the German war effort but Hungary decided to declare war because it was competing with Romania and Slovakia for German favors. Kovács: “That’s how you think. … This is just one of the readings of history.”
I can’t get over the colossal ignorance that some of these foot soldiers of Fidesz exhibit. And we mustn’t forget that Péter Kovács was hand picked by Viktor Orbán.