Anti-Semitism in Hungary and hopeful signs to combat it

On March 21 the Hungarian media reported widely on the results of an international survey on anti-Semitism. The study was conducted in ten European countries by the Anti-Defamation League, an American Jewish organization. The general conclusion is that anti-Semitism is more prevalent in Europe than in the United States and, as MTI reported, it is “alarmingly high” in Hungary, Spain, and Poland.

The degree of anti-Semitism in Hungary, Spain, and Poland is high enough to demand “serious answers from the political, civic, and religious leaders” of these countries. Hungary has the dubious distinction of having the highest degree of antisemitism at 63%, while in 2009 the same organization reported only 47%.  In Spain the result was 53% and in Poland 48%. More details can be found at ADL’s website and in NépszabadságIn the last three years the growth of anti-Semitism has been enormous.

The spread of anti-Semitism in Hungary cannot be separated from the existence of an openly anti-Semitic party in the Hungarian parliament. Moreover, Hungarians who are inclined toward an anti-Semitic bias see that Fidesz-KDNP–the government parties–openly cooperate with Jobbik. This Hungarian neo-Nazi party’s MPs deliver speeches in the Hungarian parliament with anti-Semitic overtones. The first one by Tamás Gaudy-Nagy was veiled, but since then there have been several more open outbursts by other Jobbik MPs.

I wrote about the the case of the theater in Eger where a certain actor was banned because the local Fidesz leaders didn’t like his politics and because he was “a filthy Jew.” Mazsihiz, the Hungarian Jewish umbrella organization, not only protested but also went to the police to initiate proceedings against the town of Eger.

A few days later, as “payback” for Péter Dániel’s action against a newly erected Miklós Horthy statue, far-right sympathizers hung pigs’ feet on Raoul Wallenberg’s statue in Budapest. The police found the culprits within a few hours. Three days later, on May 25, anti-Semitic slogans were painted on the Holocaust Memorial: “This is not your country, filthy Jews!” and there were others promising execution and the drowning of Jewish Hungarians in the Danube just as in late 1944 under Ferenc Szálasi’s rule.

At this point Fidesz released a communiqué in which the party’s spokesman said that Fidesz “condemns all extremism … and political provocations because it is obvious that extremists only reinforce each other.” This message was anything but forceful.

Only about two weeks after this incident Rabbi József Schweitzer encountered a man who verbally assaulted him. At this point the government “expressly condemned the incident.” In the statement the government repeated its earlier condemnation of all “extreme acts” and promised “to defend all citizens from such attacks.” Religious leaders also expressed their concern. The new president, János Áder, went so far as to pay a private visit to the Schweitzers.

Jobbik naturally didn’t condemn any of the anti-Semitic incidents. On the contrary, on June 6 Ádám Mirkóczki, a Jobbik member of parliament, found it “horrifying that just because allegedly a stranger insulted Schweitzer within a few minutes the leaders of the historic churches issue a joint declaration and the government publishes a communiqué against a phantom.” According to Mirkóczki, the Hungarian government instead should pay more attention to the grievances of Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries.

Two days ago there was another anti-Semitic incident in Nagykanizsa. This time a memorial depicting a Menora was damaged. All seven candles were broken off. The police are investigating.

But there is a good piece of news. Today a young man received an 18-month suspended sentence because of Holocaust denial. This is a first in Hungary.

I think it is worth mentioning that until now the Hungarian public was blissfully ignorant of the whole case. Or at least I found no sign of it in either the Hungarian media or the archives of MTI. But, as we found out today, György N. on October 23, 2011, at an anti-government demonstration held up a Hebrew-language sign claiming that the “Holocaust didn’t happen.” It seems that György N. is a busy fellow who by now is quite well known to the police. Only two days ago in another case he and an accomplice of his were sentenced to community service for throwing eggs at Gábor Demszky, mayor of Budapest between 1990 and 2010, while he was delivering his customary speech in front of the statue of Sándor Petőfi on March 15, 2010.

What I especially appreciated in the judgment of the court in the Holocaust denial case was that the culprit not only received a suspended sentence but he is also required to visit the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest at least three times and summarize his reactions in an essay. Alternatively, he can make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz or go to Jerusalem and visit the Yad Vashem Museum. In addition, he is forbidden to join political meetings and demonstrations.

The Holocaust Memorial Center that György N. is supposed to visit three times

János Ádler after the Schweitzer incident noted that ” it is not enough to cry out against” such incidents. The courts must act as this wise judge did in the case of György N. Moreover, the schools have to do more than stage Holocaust days full of pro forma speeches. Just as history teachers should set students straight on Trianon. Today’s youngsters who are drawn to the ideas of the extreme right lack the most basic knowledge of the recent past. And without it, it is easy to get lost and end up in the gutters of political thought.

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Guest
June 13, 2012 5:54 pm

London Calling!

The overt anti-Semitism in Hungarian society is shocking, truly shocking.

What is more insidious is the covert and anti-Semitism where it abounds.

For example – the rehabilitation of Horthy. By eulogising Horthy (when many Hungarians must know of his enactment of the anti-semitic laws – of his own volition) there is an almost official sanction for anti-semitism.

Ditto the anti-Semite-theatre director.

Ditto an alleged genetic-diagnostic company being asked to certify that a member of parliament did not have Roma or Jewish heritage.

Ditto the problems the Jewish organisations have had registering as religious organisations.

And of course the many unreported incidents against the Jews in Hungary.

(I’m sure many readers here will have even more indicative examples.)

These hidden and not so hidden examples indicate a disturbing depth of the problem.

Insidious, truly insidious – in the true sense of the word.

Regards

Charlie

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
June 14, 2012 1:27 am

I recommend to watch at ATV egyenes beszéd of yesterday to watch the resigning state secretary Géza Szöcs praising the former catholic priest József Nyirö, a writer and a politician of the anti-Semitic Erdélypárt, an admirer of Goebbels and a member of Szálasi’s Rump Parliament, who even in 1945 made propaganda to continue the war, who became after 1945 one of the leaders of the arrow cross emigration. You can read more about Nyirö and his cult propagated by László Kövér and Géza Szöcs on http://esbalogh.typepad.com/hungarianspectrum/2012/05/the-third-conservative-writer-in-the-new-hungarian-curriculum-j%C3%B3zsef-nyir%C5%91.html and http://forward.com/articles/157433/transylvanian-drama-over-fascists-ashes/ Of course Fidesz blinking in direction of a possible future coalition with Jobbik is also to blame for the increase in open and coded anti-Semitism, one should not forget the responsibility of the liberal SZDSZ, which advocated “freedom for nazi speech” believing that Hungarian society will be strong enough to repeal this. I do not share the optimism of Éva. In the present economic and political situation of Hungary, coded anti-Semitism is a possibility to divert attention from the disastrous politics of Fidesz. Speeches like those of Áder without any measures against the open and aggressive anti-Semitism will not have the effect desired. The judgment in the case of a Holocaust denier… Read more »

Guest
Ovidiu
June 14, 2012 1:52 am

For this subject, “anti-semitism in Hungary”, a writer stands out (in my opinion) : Magdalena Marsovszky. She has written a number of articles on this subject since 2006 ( a link bellow but more articles can be found on net).

Anti-semitism in Hungary is a case of “anti-semitism without Jews”. It is an identity-crisis issue which affects the nation which should be understood in the context of the changes which have affected Hungary since 1989 (globalization, EU-membership, etc.)

….[A]ntisemitism in Hungary is not to be strictly interpreted as a hatred directed towards a demographic group that exists in reality. The animosity is directed instead against symbolic “Jews”, against “foreignness itself”, more against politicians and media figures (especially Socialists and Liberals) than against actual Jews. Hungarian antisemitism can be interpreted as a “cultural code” a “worldview”, an “earthly metaphysics”, or a “universally projective identification”, directed against those who – in contrast to the myth of the “Magyar fatherland” and the “native soil soaked in our own blood” – embody cosmopolitanism, urbanity, and intellectualism…..

http://www.hagalil.com/archiv/2011/02/24/hungary-7/

Guest
June 14, 2012 2:19 am

London Calling?

Oh right. So it’s ok then?

(We’ve ALL ‘suffered’ Globilisation, joining the EU …and ‘bloody foreigners’!)

Regards

Charlie

Guest
June 14, 2012 2:35 am

and btw…this is exactly what I was alluding to in my first entry. She seems to be an apologist for anti-Semitism – so it seeps into the Hungarian psyche almost unconsciously.

I owe it to you to read more of her outpourings – but I’m suspicious……

Guest
June 14, 2012 2:44 am

Ovidiu! I may have misunderstood ‘…..stands out (in my opinion)’? I read you as ‘she’s an exemplary example’….rather than ‘a good example of an apologist’. Depends what you mean by good! – Sorry if I’ve read you incorrectly.

Regards

Charlie

Guest
Ovidiu
June 14, 2012 2:46 am

@Charlie..”Oh right. So it’s ok then?”

The issue here is not whether it is right or wrong. One has first to understand the nature, the causes, of a problem before attempting to solve it. Moralizing alone won’t work.

Guest
Odin's Lost eye
June 14, 2012 2:57 am

Ovidiu Your ideas that Anti-Semitism is a sort of ‘cultural transference’ or blame shifting where those of the Jewish religion are blamed for all the ills and evils that have befallen Hungary over the past centenary.
Many of these ills and evils Hungary has brought on its self mainly due to its belief as expressed in the saying “Extra Hungarium non vita est. Si est vita, non est ita”. (Outside Hungary there is no life, But if there is life really life). This attitude combined with a language which you can only really learn if you speak it as a child only or you are a supreme linguist. Has led Hungary into a trap which is of their own making. To ease their minds they need for some form of ‘scapegoat’. I will agree with you that they have turned to ‘Anti-Semitism’.

Guest
June 14, 2012 3:06 am

Ovidiu :

……One has first to understand the nature, the causes, of a problem before attempting to solve it………

London Calling!

Indeed it is – that’s what this blog is for.

Regards

Charlie

Guest
Ovidiu
June 14, 2012 3:14 am

CharlieH :
Depends what you mean by good! – Sorry if I’ve read you incorrectly.
Regards
Charlie

I believe she explains well the issue. I agree with her explanations, interpretations.
Anti-semitism in Hungary serves a symbolical function. It is (fundamentally) a cultural-imaginary construct not an inter-ethnic conflict.
Anti-semitismn serves defining (and enforcing) group boundaries by creating an imaginary enemy -the “other”- the very non-Magyar.
These are symptoms of an identity crisis, symptoms of fearing dissolution and reacting to it, synptoms of believing oneself under threat from external (and hard to define) forces.
The imaginary-“Jew”-construct serves as a sort of personification of these “forces” (of globalization, EU integration).

You are on the wrong track if you attempt to treat it as garden-variety case of ethnic strife (say as that between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, or as that between Hungarians and Romanians in Transilvania, for that matter).

Guest
Ovidiu
June 14, 2012 3:55 am

Odin’s Lost eye :
Ovidiu This attitude combined with a language which you can only really learn if you speak it as a child only or you are a supreme linguist. Has led Hungary into a trap which is of their own making

Well, what do you mean “by their own making ?” What did they do, when did they fall into the “trap” ? When they left Asia and settled in Europe in the 9th century ?
It is a fact that Magyars have always had a sense of cultural-linguistic “isolation” in Europe but this fact only explains why they are (relative to other EU nations) more prone to such negative-defensive reactions (“To be Hungarian is a collective neurosis” A.Koestler).
It doesn’t change the argument/explanations, it only singles out the Hungarians as being more likely to develop such reactions (that the reactions will be more intense in their case).

Guest
June 14, 2012 4:55 am

Ovidiu :

Ovidiu :

……It is a fact that Magyars have always had a sense of cultural-linguistic “isolation” ……

……….It is (fundamentally) a cultural-imaginary construct not an inter-ethnic conflict

London Calling?

On the first quote:

Really?

Where can I get information and evidence of this ethereal fact?

Is this an example of your “understanding the nature, the causes, of a problem before attempting to solve it”?

On the second quote:

No need for this micro analysis – it can’t change the fact that it’s wrong. You seem to be justifying it if it can be analysed in these terms? What other “garden varieties” does anti-Semitism come in?

Strange.

Regards

Charlie

Guest
Ovidiu
June 14, 2012 7:01 am

@Charlie

—Where can I get information..

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7498.html

for a start, you will get enough references there

—What other “garden varieties” does anti-Semitism come in ?

the Jewish-Arab conflict in Middle-East

—You seem to be justifying it if it can be analysed in these terms ?

I was neither justifying nor condemning. It looks that you don’t like my approach, you want a sermon.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
June 14, 2012 7:18 am

Ovidiu, there is much in Marsovszky’s view. However antisemitism in Hungary has not only one face. The fact, that Hungarian society – with very few exceptions – looked away when about half a million of Hungarian citizens were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau has never been really confronted by Hungarian society like in Germany and during the last 25 years in Austria. One has only look at the new constitution, like Eva has done http://esbalogh.typepad.com/hungarianspectrum/2011/04/refusing-to-face-the-past.html You have in certain segments of Hungarian society an obsession to deny also the fact, that most Hungarians made their peace with the Kádárregime. This is especially true for some of the Fidesz leaders. I heard it often myself in Hungary: “communism is not a Hungarian invention, the German Jew Karl Marx invented it, in Hungary the majority of those leading the 1919 short communist gov. were Jews like Béla Kún. Some even said, that the Holocaust was the revenge for the “red terror” of Kún. And in the view of those people Rákosi was the revenge for the Holocaust. Of course Kádár was not Jewish, so they claim, that in reality there was no Kádár but an Aczél period. I am very pessimistic, if the present… Read more »

Member
Some1
June 14, 2012 7:44 am

On the idea of Fidesz and Jobbik coalition, that I also think will happen if Fidesz starts to loose more ground. I would be curious to know how Agness Hankiss and Tamas Deutsch are digesting how Fidesz started to conform to the Jobbik group’s expectations? ALso, is there any feedback from Hankiss regarding the Nyiro affair? I try to find stuff but no luck so far.

Guest
June 14, 2012 7:49 am

London Calling!

Ovidiu

I want a sermon?

No!…I just want you to condemn anti-Semitism in all its ‘Garden varieties’.

Analyse it all you want – there are no differing moral gradations – or geographical differences.

Even stranger.

Regards

Charlie

Guest
June 14, 2012 8:29 am

London Calling!

Ovidiu

“for a start, you will get enough references there”

It’s not exactly a slam dunk to quote just one source – and a book at that. I have to put my response on hold until I’ve read it. But I reserve judgement on your sweeping statement. One swallow doth not a summer make.

Expensive too – but it looks like a good read – as does his other oeuvre on the uprising.

Watch out for a more cogent response to Hungarian issues from this outpost of Europe!

Regards

Charlie

Guest
Ovidiu
June 14, 2012 10:27 am

Karl Pfeifer : I am very pessimistic, if the present policy of Orbán is continued and if the European peoples parties will protect Orbán and his regime from criticism. I won’t expect much from EU and the “European peoples parties”. EU learnt the limits of its power when trying to apply pressure in the case of Haider-Austria. As long as such demagogic leaders enjoy democratic support at home there isn’t much that EU can do to alter things. I would put my faith in the Hungarian people. And it the emergence of political alternatives to Jobbik/Fidesz (they are sides of the same party, merely factions playing the “good cop bad cop” routine with the Hungarians and EU). But first the former liberal elites have to understand that they have failed badly in addressing real problems that people have, and, by failing to do, so they have opened the doors to the success of the parties which did ! Which did and which also promoted populist and fantasist solutions to these problems but, point here, is that they did. Jobbik doesn’t talk all day only about Horthy, the Turul-bird and Jewish world-wide conspiracy, they are a modern party which use the… Read more »

Guest
June 14, 2012 11:34 am

Ovidiu. Thank you for a very erudite description and critique.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
June 14, 2012 11:41 am

Hankiss and Deutsch are utterly cynical. Deutsch is also an uncouth slob.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
June 14, 2012 11:56 am

Thanks Ovidiu. As one who had close contacts with the democratic opposition before the change of system, I was very disappointed to hear from them, that in Hungary there is no need for laws forbidding nazi activities like in Austria. I was shocked, when G. Gadó MP dared to critizise the semi official burial of Horthy, SZDSZ hurried to distance itself from Gadó instead of supporting him. And of course I did not forget when János Kis argued in Népszabadság “freedom for Nazi discourse”.
Almost all the VIPs of SZDSZ were invited by G. Soros to the USA and they came back with the silly idea, that what Hungary needed was the first amendment.
I am convinced that SZDSZ deserved what was coming to them.
One should not underestimate the possibilities to incite people with anti-Semitism and racism.
I do not hope much from EU as long as peoples parties protect Orbán & Co and agree with you also on this point.
The fact, that Orbán does not dare to touch the paramilitary nazi groups is showing that situation could become for minorities dangerous.

Guest
June 14, 2012 12:23 pm

“Anti-Semitism in Hungary is a case of “anti-Semitism without Jews”. I am not sure what this means. I could read many things into this one short statement. Anti-Semitism in Hungary without Jews because they were largely eliminated 60 some years ago? And now it is just a benign way of thinking? There are some Jews left, who do not feel safe there, chief among them; old people! Of course my opinion is a bias one, but to me the only fact that matters is that there is REAL ANTI-SEMITISM AND REAL RACISM IN HUNGARY. Romas were killed, so nobody can say that racism against the Roma is racism without Romas! Perhaps when (noticed I wrote when and not if) some Jews will be beaten up or god forbid killed then we can say anti-Semitism with Jews? The facts of 1944 were never honestly and openly discussed in Hungary. Children are not taught about their parents’ and grandparents’ sins (unlike in Germany) but rather the events are more and more idolized. These are reasons and without correcting them, without educating the new generations and ingraining in their brains and souls that racism is not acceptable, no change can be expected. Hungary… Read more »

Guest
Odin's Lost eye
June 14, 2012 12:50 pm

Karl There is one very good reason why Hungary must have a very strong law prohibiting any form of NAZI /Fascist activity. It is Part 2 Section 1 Article 4 of the treaty of Paris 1947.

This states “Hungary, which in accordance with the Armistice Agreement has taken measures for dissolving all organisations of a Fascist type on Hungarian territory, whether political, military or para-military, as well as other organisations conducting propaganda, including revisionist propaganda, hostile to the United Nations, shall not permit in future the existence and activities of organisations of that nature which have as their aim denial to the people of their democratic rights”.

I think this clause or something like it was also included in the Treaty of Vienna 1956 which is why the Austrians have such a law.

I will admit that I had forgotten about the bit which says “shall not permit in future the existence and activities of organisations of that nature which have as their aim denial to the people of their democratic rights”. I wonder if FIDESZ could seem to fit this bit of the text of this treaty.

Guest
June 14, 2012 1:22 pm

I do agree with you Eva. Everybody becomes a Jew, who disagrees with the far right.

Guest
Ovidiu
June 14, 2012 1:59 pm

Thomas : I do agree with you Eva. Everybody becomes a Jew, who disagrees with the far right. Yes, Eva puts it right. I preferred the expression “anti-Semitism without Jews” because it is a ‘striking’-one. Once learnt it helps one staying aware that the Jew that exists in the head of the Hungarian anti-Semite is a cultural construction, it is the “negative-Magyar” rather than the Jew. Because of this the anti-Semitism in Hungary is not only directed against Jews and ‘alleged Jews,’ but “against everyone who embodies cosmopolitanism, urbanity and intellectualism”, against everyone who threatens to “undermine” the Magyar nation through his lack of (acute enough) ethnic consciousness and solidarity and his lack of ethnic conformism. That is, one does not need real Jews around for this kind of anti-semitic neurosis, a pure Magyar, with a blood-line demonstrably going back to Arpad himself, would be regarded as Jew as well if he doesn’t share the Fidesz-Jobbik mindset. As far as the real Jews are concerned the best therapy for the Jobbik-crowd would be a few weeks vacation in Israel. There they will be surprised to find there all sorts of real Jews, as opposed to walking “imagined-concepts”. Find some soul-mates… Read more »

Guest
June 14, 2012 3:54 pm

London Calling! Ovidiu “…an example of this kind could be Charlie’s reactions here to my post, a reaction focused on condemning and bashing anti-semitism instead of understanding what drives it.” One of the problems in Hungary it seems is that anti-Semitism is not condemned (“or bashed”) enough – clearly to this outsider it isn’t. In England we stamp on it first – then maybe analyse it – for those who can’t see it for what it is. I’m sure you have read ‘Thomas’ above – his indignity of analysing ‘anti-Semitism without Jews’ is palpable. He had to leave Hungary in 1956 and well knows anti-Semitism in its evil viciousness – care to advise him what ‘Garden variety’ it was? Care to tell him that it’s ok- we’re still analysing what drives it? “Anti-Semitism without the Jews!” – Analysis for analysis’ sake – what a futile exercise! – Meanwhile real anti-Semitism is happening in Hungary – and you rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic. You’ve had a few hundred years to analyse it. And btw – your example of another ‘garden variety’ of anti-Semitism being the Jewish-Arab conflict in Middle-East is a poor response The Arabs hate the Jews because they… Read more »

Member
Mutt
June 14, 2012 3:58 pm

“Anti-semitism in Hungary is a case of “anti-semitism without Jews”” It’s not just Hungary. In Europe and Russia anti-semitism was and always will be “anti-semitism without Jews”. The materialized invisible enemy. The punchbag. Now you can list your local grievences here and presto, you have a social study about a European country. Phd granted. Add the tzars, the poverty, the wars, Trianon or the high beer prices. Whatever is at hand. It was never an ethnic conflict, not even the progroms. Attacks on real Jews was always just the manifestation of the hatered, but not the actual conflict with them. I very well understand CharlieH’s frustration. At the end of they, when these guys start slamming the boxcar doors on us, Jewish or not, it will not matter, will it? Just read about Poland and Ukraine. The Nazi salutes, monkey chants and beatings of Asians after the soccer matches. Welcome to Eastern Europe. The inferiority complex is under our skin. The question is not really how we got the disease but how do we control it. Hungarians have serious anger management issues so to speak. This is the interesting part. Why is it escalating since this government rose into power.… Read more »

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