István Csurka’s anti-Semitic play in the Új Színház

Do you remember Mayor István Tarlós’s decision last October to turn over the job of theater director of Budapest’s Új Színház (New Theater) to György Dörner and István Csurka? It was described as “the scandal of the decade'” because Dörner and Csurka were not only supporters of the Hungarian far right but were planning to create a theater catering to people with far-right if not Nazi views. It was especially worrisome that Csurka’s influence would most likely make Új Színház a gathering place for anti-Semites. Background material for the latest developments can be found in an earlier post on this blog.

A lot of pressure was put on Tarlós, but the mayor is a stubborn guy and in general convinced of the soundness of all his decisions. He refused the budge. He promised, however, that if the Dörner-Csurka duo actually use the theater to expound and promote far-right, anti-democratic ideas he will act. But not until then.

Meanwhile, István Csurka died on February 2. Soon afterward there was some talk about renaming Új Színház after him, but that idea seems to have been stillborn. His hitherto unperformed last drama entitled “The Sixth Coffin,” however, was included in this year’s repertoire. Csurka’s play is in illustrious right-wing company because Dörner is also planning to perform a József Nyirő play and an Albert Wass’s work “The Witch of Funtinel”  in “modern musical form, performed in the movement theater version (mozgásszínház),” whatever that may be.

“The Sixth Coffin” is an allusion to Imre Nagy’s reburial. Beside the remains of five people executed in 1958 a sixth coffin was placed to symbolize the hundreds of people who died in or were killed after the 1956 revolution. As it turns out, this last drama is not about 1956. Csurka’s aim was to reinterpret twentieth-century Hungarian history with the Treaty of Trianon in the center of it all.

As soon as it was announced that “The Sixth Coffin” will soon be performed in Új Színház people predicted that it doesn’t matter what either Dörner or Tarlós says, this theater will specialize in performing works by writers who have been tainted by anti-Semitism and/or fascist ideas. In any case, “The Sixth Coffin” is definitely an anti-Semitic play. The man who will direct the play claims that “Csurka simply treated a historical event in its historical reality.” So, Csurka’s interpretation is a truthful reflection of Hungarian history. When he was specifically asked whether there is an anti-Semitic overtone to the whole play, he answered in the negative. But if they find something that “offends certain interests” they will handle it.

If we can believe Ádám Fischer, conductor and brother of Iván Fischer, the attempt to remove certain small offending parts will be a difficult task because “the whole play is about a secret Jewish conspiracy that plans, provokes, and directs from the  background all the tragedies of the past one hundred years, including the holocaust. Moreover, just as Csurka blamed 9/11 on the Americans and indicated that they actually deserved what they got, in ‘The Sixth Coffin’ he claims that the Jews are responsible for the fate that befell them.”

Népszava also inquired from some well known intellectuals who read the play what they thought of it. The opinion of Sándor Radnóti, a philosopher and literary critic, is not very different from that of Fischer.  According to him, Csurka’s play is about “an international conspiracy led by American Jewish bankers that was behind the Treaty of Trianon.” Why? Because their goal was the dismemberment of Hungary which under the able guidance of the Hungarian historical class, meaning the nobility, would have become within twenty years a large country of forty million inhabitants. Such a Hungary would have been one of the strongest countries in Europe.

That’s not quite enough. Csurka goes further. “World history is determined by the deadly hostility between Hungarians and Jews.” Everything was carefully planned by these evil American Jewish conspirators: the Entente victory after World War I was arranged ahead of time, and the Jews planned the Russian Revolution of 1917. The sufferings of the Hungarian Jews after the dismemberment of the country was also their doing in the name of Jewish power over the whole world. If all this doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense it doesn’t seem to bother Csurka’s Nazi admirers who were so taken with the play that they could hardly speak after a reading of it in a small right-wing theater.

Népszava also asked Márton Karinthy, grandson of Frigyes and son of Ferenc, a theater director himself, what he thought of Csurka’s play. A year ago Karinthy’s theater actually performed one of Csurka’s earlier plays. Karinthy considers “The Sixth Coffin” a mediocre play with a questionable message. According to him, Csurka’s historical interpretation is biased with a strong anti-Semitic strain.

Judit Csáki, a theater critic, considers the performance of this play “a political and cultural scandal.” Csáki thinks even less of the artistic merit of the play than Karinthy. She found nothing in the play except a questionable historical message that is basically designed  to arouse hatred. The play is “full of lies and falsifications.”

What? Lies and falsifications? On the contrary, Hunor Bucz of Magyar Fórum, Csurka’s paper, finds the play “a work designed to resurrect the collective memory and to unveil the falsification of history.” So, instead of falsifying history it uncovers the truth. And as far as the play’s artistic merits are concerned, “it is a masterpiece.”

The question is whether the play will be performed. I think it will. Foreign criticism, as we have seen in the last couple of months, doesn’t seem to have an effect on the Hungarian government. Ádám Fischer’s letter to György Schöpflin, Fidesz EP member, about this very issue was answered with a lecture on “different narratives.” I think “The Sixth Coffin” will be performed and the theater will be full of admiring anti-Semites and chauvinistic neo-Nazis. And the mayor of Budapest will refuse to say anything pro or con.

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gdfxx
Guest

This will not generate a lot of noise in the US, because most will assume it is just a question of freedom of speech.

However, I think if those whose opinion counts will find out that this theater is financed by the government, by a mayor who is a member of the 2/3 parliamentary majority governing party, that is a different story. I guess this aspect needs to be emphasized by those who care.

petofi
Guest

“And the major of budapest will refuse to say anything pro or con.”

Would silence, now, put in doubt Tarlos’ preferences?

I think not.

Hungarians are sooo clever. Orban will defend the jews, he declares. He’ll slap down those nasty, inconsequential extremists. Yes, and he’ll take care
of the police and the judiciary who are–no surprise–ready to display the country’s naked, soiled undies as they prepare to charge the head of the Wiesenthal
center for presenting ‘false documentation’. Yes, yes..
and a man who runs away from country and accepts
deportation rather than defend himself is ‘innocent’…

What a tainted, putrid, reputation this country is getting! And who cares…? Hungarians are the
center of the universe. They’ll soon be ‘able to question, and perhaps reverse, Trianon’!!

What a people…morons; sheep; genetically inferior
indeed.

latefor
Guest

“Petofi -What a tainted, putrid, reputation this country is getting! And who cares…? Hungarians are the
center of the universe. They’ll soon be ‘able to question, and perhaps reverse, Trianon’!!

What a people…morons; sheep; genetically inferior
indeed.”

There we go again! Anti-Semites vs anti Hungarians! As the saying goes, “every action has a reaction”….I guess that’s what you are hoping for!
Well…knock yourself out! I find your comment appalling !

Ms KKA
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

gdfxx :
This will not generate a lot of noise in the US, because most will assume it is just a question of freedom of speech.

With out having read the text of this play, I am fairly certain that it would fall into the category of hate speech, which the First Amendment does not protect.

Petofi1
Guest

@ latefor:

I AM HUNGARIAN.

STICK YOUR SICK, HUNGARIAN PRIDE WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE.

AND I AM APPALLED BY PEOPLE WHO CAN FIND ANYTHING TO DEFEND IN ORBAN’S
HUNGARY.

latefor
Guest

This is my last comment on this blog. God bless you all!

Member

latefor :
This is my last comment on this blog. God bless you all!

You cannot be more Hungarian.
It’s time to realize that choices have consequences. If a nation supports a government that finances a theatre that stages anti-semitic plays then they will be called morons.

Pete H.
Guest

Mutt Damon :

latefor :
This is my last comment on this blog. God bless you all!

You cannot be more Hungarian.
It’s time to realize that choices have consequences. If a nation supports a government that finances a theatre that stages anti-semitic plays then they will be called morons.

Support for Fidesz is currently very low. To call an entire people morons is a bit over the top. It is always important to qualify such negative statements. I have meet far to many intelligent and honorable Hungarians to support such a sweeping statement.

latefor
Guest

to Mutt, for the last time:

One should NEVER GENERALIZE , as I have said many times before: Not all Hungarian Christians are anti-Semites and not all Hungarian Jews are anti-Hungarian!

Jano
Guest

Mutt: We are all so very Hungarian here, even Paul:) But I’m with latefor here. My genes are hurt…

Guest

Maybe a bit OT:

We didn’t watch yesterday’s football (or soccer, if you prefer) match between Israel and Hungary – did anyone ? Was there anything special ?

PS: I really don’t get it – if anything is said here against Fidesz, Orbán and the government, some people immediately react as if it were an aggression against Hungary …

It not only happens here but on pol.hu also.

PPS: This Csurka really is/was an abominable person – why are so many Hungarians full of hate generally ? Can’t they get over Trianon ? If you compare the situation there with Germany – I haven’t heard ANYONE ever complaining about the Versailles treaty (of course I wouldn’t talk to any Nazis) …

petofi
Guest

latefor :
to Mutt, for the last time:
One should NEVER GENERALIZE , as I have said many times before: Not all Hungarian Christians are anti-Semites and not all Hungarian Jews are anti-Hungarian!

One can always generalize. It is the reader’s responsibility to understand the pros and cons of generalizations.

One of the problems of modern education is that people don’t really learn how to read properly.
I recommend Mortimer J. Adler’s “How To Read A Book”.

Kirsten
Guest

latefor :
to Mutt, for the last time:
One should NEVER GENERALIZE , as I have said many times before: Not all Hungarian Christians are anti-Semites and not all Hungarian Jews are anti-Hungarian!

That is a very good start and certainly correct. And most probably you were referring only to the “genetically inferior” idea. No doubt, that is stupid. But the problem I see is that there appears some notion of “pro-Hungarian = anti-semitic” or “anti-Hungarian”. This classification should be refused from the start. A play such as that of Mr Csurka should be labelled neither pro-Hungarian (because of the Trianon grievance) nor anti-Hungarian (because all Hungarians must be quite stupid if their interpretation of history is based on conspiracy theory only) but the work of a person who has fallen for conspiracy theory. Why must a Hungarian feel offended if a fellow-citizen is criticised for believing in very doubtful historical concepts? You accept his claim to be “pro-Hungarian” even if you perhaps refuse to be also “anti-semitic”. What I think is that it is certainly possible (or even preferrable) to be “pro-Hungarian” and dislike and refuse the fabulations that come with it as regards the national myths.

free-at-last
Guest

I am very proud of Petofi.
To defend humanity is a duty, even if we have to dump all Hungary.
I left the Kadar Hungary, but in a transformational way, I said goodbye to more.
To the Hungary of Horthy, Szalasi, Mindszenty, Tiszaeszlar, to the future Csurka and Orban ….but also to Mohacs, Arad, the Don, and 1956.
I elected not to have a Hungarian soul for any more.
I can appreciate, or worship Ferenc Deak, Sandor Petofi, Janos Arany, Sandor Marai, or Miklos Radnoti without being a sentimental handicapped Hungarian.
I can enjoys Edna St. Vincent Millay or John Rawls without being a born American.

Leo K.
Guest

petofi: What a people…morons; sheep; genetically inferior indeed.

That is of course an outrageous remark. I have at times been angry enough for similar thoughts. But one should never say or write anything like that. It’s rubbish.

Concerning Csurka. I think of Céline, who had strange opinions but was a fascinating writer. Or, say, Neruda. But Csurka was not of their stature, and I suppose his work even deteriorated over the years. It appears that with this last play he completely lost his mind.

That can happen. But it is a scandal if such filth is produced in a leading theatre (subsidized or not), before an appreciating audience. If it comes to that, I wonder if Hungary has a law against hate-malingering that could be relevant?

Probably not. This is a country where the judicial system has been systematically used to slander political opponents. Airing suspicions, starting investigations, then dropping them. And starting all over with some new alleged crime. Again and again.

But somehow I don’t think the Polts would be interested in this case.

Member

latefor :
to Mutt, for the last time:
One should NEVER GENERALIZE , as I have said many times before: Not all Hungarian Christians are anti-Semites and not all Hungarian Jews are anti-Hungarian!

What I mean is this: if WE can finish 8th on the Olimpics then WE should be able to stop anti-Semitism.

Member

If WE let this government spend our tax Forints on antii-Semitic art the world will call US … two-thirds Asian.

petofi
Guest

@ Leo K.
“Outrageous remark” is it? Outrageous words.

What is truly outrageous is that Hungarians are not
seriously offended by what is happening to their society; that a government official can defy the populace to do something about his illegal act; that nazi-like incitement is tolerated; that demonstrators
can be threatened without due protection of the authorities; that a war criminal is protected by state
institutions; that pensions are stolen; that the weak and maimed are ridiculed and abandoned….and a lot more.

And by god, if it’s anti-Hungarian to be appalled than their is a greater malaise in Hungary than these facts alone…the mind itself is diseased.

“Cure Thyself”–And a good place to start is here:
why are virtues (‘virtus’) trumped by the nationalist
interpretation of what virtue is?

LwiiH
Guest

petofi :

latefor :
I recommend Mortimer J. Adler’s “How To Read A Book”.

How would you read that if you don’t know how and if you did why would you want to?

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
When he was specifically asked whether there is an anti-Semitic overtone to the whole play, [Dörner] answered in the negative. But if they find something that “offends certain interests” they will handle it.

The ‘bizonyos érdekek’ expression itself sounds definitely antisemitic (of the ‘politically oppressed’ kind, I-can’t-give-names-but-you-know-what-i’m-talking-about).

Adam Fisher published a text about this last March in the International Arts Magazine: http://www.internationalartsmanager.com/news.php?id=696

Petofi II
Guest

More kudos to Petofi. I am all Petofi.
Where is the popular rejection of Csurka, Orban, Jobbik, Krisztina Morvai etc?
Were Kertesz Akos, Laszlo Bartos, Andras Gollner, Gyorgy Moldova, Eva Balogh and Sandor Marai right?
Where was the Hungarian moral completely eternally lost?
With Szent Istvan?

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

wolfi :Maybe a bit OT:We didn’t watch yesterday’s football (or soccer, if you prefer) match between Israel and Hungary – did anyone ? Was there anything special ?

Yes according to Péter Németh (Népszava chief editor) one could hear on state TV the shouting “mocskos zsidók” dirty Jews.
Many Hungarians have violent fantasies directed at the destruction of the Jews, whom they qualify “anti-Hungarian”. Such fantasies can’t be excused as an “answer” to anything that may or may not have happened.

Member

My niece in a college freshman camp in Szeged. They made this banner yesterday. This could be the new Hungarian coat of arms. The olimpic sheep on a palinka still.

http://bit.ly/Srzw3M

I think my Asian level is too high (way above .5). I need to rest. Pour me a palinka …

petofi
Guest

Pete H. :

Mutt Damon :

latefor :
This is my last comment on this blog. God bless you all!

You cannot be more Hungarian.
It’s time to realize that choices have consequences. If a nation supports a government that finances a theatre that stages anti-semitic plays then they will be called morons.

Support for Fidesz is currently very low. To call an entire people morons is a bit over the top. It is always important to qualify such negative statements. I have meet far to many intelligent and honorable Hungarians to support such a sweeping statement.

“Intelligent…honourable..” –Really? And they stand calmly, idly, by while all we have abhorred is being done. Allow me to paraphrase whoever it was (once
already quoted herein) that all that’s needed for the
destruction of a society is for intelligent and honorable
people to do nothing.

Actively ‘intelligent and honorable’ people do not allow
such things to happen without raising their voices, whatever their religion or political leaning.

Petofi II
Guest

Suggestion for the political rescue of Hungary, stolen from somewhere:

Vissza a becsuletes utra!

Retake our honor!

enufff
Guest

Hunor Bucz of Magyar Fórum, Csurka’s paper, finds the play “a work designed to resurrect the collective memory and to unveil the falsification of history.”

This collective memory, is it supported by any witness account or research ?
Otherwise it is just work of fiction.

Kirsten
Guest

enufff :
This collective memory, is it supported by any witness account or research ?
Otherwise it is just work of fiction.

Most of that is fiction. But explain that to people deeply believing in “Hungarianism”. They do not even seem to understand that there is nearly no link to witness account or research. Their “witness account” is the national anthem.

petofi
Guest

The Question is, “Why have the traditional moral concepts of Right and Wrong been abandoned?”
And for what?

Louis Kovach
Guest

Petrovics: “Why have the traditional moral concepts of Right and Wrong been abandoned?””

It became the Right and the Left.!

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