Another blunder by Fidesz-Jobbik: Naming a street after the anti-Semite Cécile Tormay

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Viktor Orbán promised zero tolerance of antisemitism in Hungary. Although attendees of the World Jewish Congress appreciated the resolute words, they reserved judgment on the Hungarian government’s policy pending visible signs of the promised zero tolerance.

And what happened? Budapest’s city government decided to name a street after the nationalist writer Cécile Tormay (1876-1937), an avowed anti-Semite. Ronald S. Lauder, president of the WJC, reacted with consternation to the news.”This decision by the Budapest city government, which is headed by a member of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, puts into question the pledge given to the Jewish community that anti-Semitism will be fought vigorously by the Hungarian authorities. However, it seems that they need to be reminded that Cécile Tormay was not only one of Miklós Horthy’s favorite writers. She was also a notorious anti-Semite.” Lauder urged “Prime Minister Orbán to speak with the mayor of Budapest, who is a member of his party, and to persuade him to withdraw the plan for the naming of a street after Cécile Tormay.”

Formally, Mayor István Tarlós is not a member of Fidesz, but naturally he is Orbán’s man. Running as an independent was only a political ploy to make Tarlós more acceptable to voters who would under no circumstances vote for a Fidesz candidate.

Today’s WJC press release mentions Tormay’s most objectionable work, An Outlaw’s Diary, published in 1921. This book by the “Grand Dame of  the Nation,” as his admirers called her, was translated into English–in addition to German and French thanks to the generosity of the Hungarian government–in 1923 and is available online.

I regret that the blog format doesn’t allow me to write a longer study of this woman’s political and personal career. Both are fascinating. Women, especially women of her social class, couldn’t really be active participants in political life in the interwar period. Yet from 1918 until her death in 1937 Tormay was the head of the largest right-wing women’s organization, the Magyar Asszonyok Nemzeti Szövetsége (MANSZ) with a membership of half a million. In addition, she was editor of the right-wing national-Christian literary magazine Napkelet (Orient) that was established with government money as a counterpart to the liberal, urbanite, western-oriented Nyugat, the leading literary magazine (1908-1941) which, by the way, is available online. That wasn’t exactly a normal career for the daughter of a man who had been ennobled by Franz Joseph sometime at the end of the nineteenth century.

Cécile Tormay (1875-1937) / Wikipedia

Cécile Tormay (1875-1937) Wikipedia

Her first works appeared after 1899. Her best effort was a novel (1914) entitled A régi ház (The old house) that met with considerable critical success. In his obituary of Tormay, Antal Szerb (1901-1945), the famous literary historian and critic, talked about the book with appreciation. Szerb only regretted that after the war Tormay turned her attention to politics. “She proved to be so active and energetic that many turned away from Cecile Tormay, the writer.” It was a polite way of saying that the literary elite couldn’t identify with someone who espoused antisemitism and fascism.

Judit Kádár, a literary historian, has studied Tormay’s works and politics. The couple of articles of hers that I read portray Tormay as a vicious anti-Semite infatuated with Mussolini and fascism. Kádár portrays her organization, MANSZ, as “a fascist organization,” invoking Juan J. Linz’s well-known definition: “hyper-nationalist, often pan-nationalist, anti-parliamentary, anti-liberal, anti-communist, populist and therefore anti-proletarian, partly anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois, anti-clerical or at least non-clerical movement with the aim of national social integration through a single party and corporative representation not always equally emphasized, with a distinctive style and rhetoric, it relies on activist cadres ready for violent action combined with electoral participation to gain power with totalitarian goals by a combination of legal and violent tactics.”

I think Tormay would happily have accepted the label. In 1922 she wrote: “Look at Italy! Will they get to where we’ve arrived? Let’s hope so!” She claimed to be a forerunner of Italian fascism. As editor of Napkelet and Magyar Asszony she regularly published pro-fascist articles. In 1932 she personally greeted Mussolini, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Marcia su Roma.

Her support of the Horthy regime yielded numerous benefits. In 1935 after the death of Marie Curie, Hungary delegated her to one of the committees of the League of Nations. In 1937 they nominated her for the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Eugene O’Neill received it that year.)

In the last few days, several foreign and Hungarian Jewish organizations raised their voices against naming a street after this notorious antisemitic and fascist writer. Mazsihisz, the Hungarian organization of Jewish religious communities, also felt it necessary to dwell on Tormay’s alleged lesbianism. Indeed, in 1925 there was a scandal that involved her and her friend, Countess Raphael Zichy. Zichy’s husband accused them of having a sexual liaison. The two women sued him. They eventually won and Zichy ended up in jail for a year and a half. Just recently a Pécs judge wrote a book on the trial and came to the conclusion that the verdict was correct. Zichy didn’t have solid proof. Others remembered differently. Apparently, Horthy’s personal intervention saved Cécile Tormay.

I don’t quite understand what Tormay’s sexual preferences have to do with her political views or her antisemitism. It would have been quite enough to quote a few choice passages from The Outlaw’s Diary. But even Judit Kádár makes a connection between her alleged hatred of men and her antisemitism, which I find forced. But I should probably re-read The Outlaw’s Diary. The first time around I read it as a historical document for the years 1918-1920. Perhaps it’s time to look at it again from a different perspective.

Finally, a few words about István Tarlós, the mayor, and Fidesz-Jobbik cooperation on the Budapest City Council. Outlandish ideas, like naming a street after Cécile Tormay, usually originate with the Jobbik members who then receive the support of the Fidesz delegation. Together they have a majority on the council. Tarlós, an engineer without much background in the liberal arts, readily (and I suspect often out of ignorance) obliges.

After Mazsihisz asked Tarlós to reconsider his decision to support naming a street after Tormay, he quickly backed down. He announced that he will suggest that the decision be reexamined. But it remains an embarrassment for Hungary.

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Member

Tarlos reconsidering? Like he reconsidered the Ujszinhaz and Csurka…

Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

Wikipedia writes the following:

Cécile Tormay (Budapest, October 8, 1876 – Mátraháza, April 2, 1937) was a Hungarian writer.
In 1919 she began expressing her political views, and opposed the Béla Kun regime. She published a book (An Outlaw’s Diary (Bujdosó könyv, 1925, literally The Proscribed Book)) about the events of the 1918-1919 revolution, protesting against the subsequent communist government and regretting the division of the kingdom of Hungary.

Member

Didn’t Tarlos referred the case to the Academy of Science?

Another famous anti-Semite of the Horthy regime, Prohaszka got his endorsement from the president of the Academy personally. President Palinkas is a former Fidesz minister of education.

I cannot count how many squares and streets were named after anti-Semites like Albert Wass, Pal Teleki in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary in the last three years.

Member

I just randomly looked into Tormay’s chef d’oeuvre “Outlaw”.

volume 1
p. 239
“Humanity has deprived the Jewish people of the flowering time of youth and manhood”
“The Wandering Jew paints his face young, and indulges in orgies on the edge of the grave.”
“He was remarkably pale, and only his big, Jewish nose shone red…”

volume 2
p. 60
It was during the days of the Turkish Revolution that a Jew said proudly to my father :
” We made that : the Young Turks are Jews.” I remember at the time of
the Portuguese Revolution Marquis Vasconcellos, the Portuguese Minister in Rome, telling me :
” The Revolution of Lisbon is instigated by Jews and Freemasons.” And
to-day, when the greater half of Europe is in the throes of revolution, the Jews lead everywhere in accordance with their concerted plans.

p. 63
“… a shudder went through the crowd : the same people had smitten
Him two thousand years ago.”

So I conclude that Tormay harbored three types of anti-Semitic prejudice:
racial, political and religious.

4455
Guest

Some kindergartens don’t give up.
They successfully hypnotize young toddlers in anticommunism and compulsory negativity on Jews.
We have to create a list of the ultra-nationalist kindergarten teachers, probably also members of joddik.
Their hypnotic gift should be directed towards soccer.
Our futball has failed. This is the only hope.

Member

Csaba K. Zoltani :
Wikipedia writes the following:
Cécile Tormay (Budapest, October 8, 1876 – Mátraháza, April 2, 1937) was a Hungarian writer.
In 1919 she began expressing her political views, and opposed the Béla Kun regime. She published a book (An Outlaw’s Diary (Bujdosó könyv, 1925, literally The Proscribed Book)) about the events of the 1918-1919 revolution, protesting against the subsequent communist government and regretting the division of the kingdom of Hungary.

..and this contradicts that she was an anti-Semite, because?

Should we name streets after everyone who were good in something but they opposed the Red Terror, communism or the Treaty of Versailles for example?
I just found this on Wikipedia: “Adolf Hitler was a painter[1][2] and was deeply interested in art.[1] He produced hundreds of works and sold his paintings and postcards to earn a living during his Vienna years (1908–1913).” “Hitler was a decorated veteran of World War……Hitler gained popular support by attacking the Treaty of Versailles.” Maybe they should name a street after him in Hungary.

Member

Csaba K. Zoltani :
Wikipedia writes the following:

We can look it up too, thank you. Are you saying she wasn’t an anti-semite? What do you think?

dvhr
Guest

muttdamon :

Csaba K. Zoltani :
Wikipedia writes the following:

We can look it up too, thank you. Are you saying she wasn’t an anti-semite? What do you think?

In fact, most of the Hungary-related articles of the English wikipedia are strongly right-leaning, misleadingly FIDESZ-supportive. See, e.g., the one on Eva Tetenyi, Klubradio, or Paul Lendvai.

Sandor
Guest

I am disgusted further by the mayor, as if I hadn’t been already with his waffling always on behalf of the nazis.
What kind of a man, what kind of an adult is he when pressed for decency, he turns tail and seeks refuge behind the Academy of Sciences? And this is not the first time either.
Doesn’t his Honour know already, that vicious antisemites and nazis are not suitable monikers for streets? Especially not when they replace others, with true merit.

Guest

@Tappanch:

I took the liberty of putting your quotes from Tormay up on the relevant thread on pol.hu – I hope you don’t mind.

PS:
My wife told me I shouldn’t read Tormay’s books, they’re crappy …

PPS: For those who can read German

Just found a very interesting (but also high level – difficult to read if you don’t know enough about that time) study on the translations of Hungarian literature into German around 1900 in the Pester Lloyd. A very anbitious work by Amalia Kerekes, a Hungarian author!

This also contains a short description of Tormay’s novel Menschen unter Steinen (Emberek a kövek között)

http://www.kakanien.ac.at/beitr/fallstudie/AKerekes2.pdf

MBL
Guest
4455 : Some kindergartens don’t give up. They successfully hypnotize young toddlers in anticommunism and compulsory negativity on Jews. We have to create a list of the ultra-nationalist kindergarten teachers, probably also members of joddik. Their hypnotic gift should be directed towards soccer. Our futball has failed. This is the only hope. Far too late. Fascist indoctrination has already taken place in Hungarian schools. Wistfulness over Trianon in literature lessons. Idolization of the Horthy period in history lessons. Glorification of “great Hungarian scientists” in science lessons (…all while forgetting that science is international, it is in the service of all of humanity). Brainless chatter in mathematics lessons about how the Hungarian mind is far more logical than the minds of other nations (with constant reference to János von Neumann, who many people I know don’t realize was a Jew who had to run for his life out of this place). So, when my two Hungarian children reach the age when they’ll be attending kindergarten, they’ll be doing so elsewhere. Not because I want to wrap them in cottonwool and keep them from hearing what the fascists think, but because I want them to learn science in science lessons, not ideology.… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

Another completely marginal topic posted on this blog, amidst all the economic news that have been dominating domestic press for weeks (not Fidesz press – all of them).
Nice try.

Guest

Johnny Child – just go back one entry …

There you’ll find lots of info on the latest economic numbers – enjoy (or not …)!

PS:
Are you again starting that game of trying to divert from the rise of antisemitism, racism, Homophobia and outright Nazism in Hungary ?

jacksmith
Guest

I disagree with Johnny Boy. All government policy, including economic policy, is rooted in deeper motives related to subjective values and notions of self-identity. The de facto Fidesz mayor’s decision to name a public space in Budapest after Tormay is a concrete manifestation the “us vs. them” mentality that underlies the government’s nationalistic economic policies. If you want to understand why Orbán is pursuing short-term economic benefit in taxing the profit of foreigners at the expense of long-term benefit in encouraging increased foreign investment, you must look no further than the official resurrection of Tormay. Simply crunching the numbers will only get you so far.

Guest

Johnny Boy :
Another completely marginal topic posted on this blog, amidst all the economic news that have been dominating domestic press for weeks (not Fidesz press – all of them).
Nice try.

There was economy on the blog yesterday. The title Hungarian Spectrum is well chosen. The whole spectrum of Hungarian affairs is covered.

Dirk Diggler
Guest

JB……if you think the economic developments are good …well come back to me in a year’s time. I lived many years in Latin America and Hungary is taking the road chosen by Argentina……have you seen how that has worked out for them. They too pursued “unorthodox” economic policies

I spend a great deal of time in the Hungarian countryside…..if you think the economic developments of the last three years are positive than I want what you are smoking. Times are very very tough for many many people.

From only a month ago in the FT

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/07a2f35c-a284-11e2-bd45-00144feabdc0.html

And the post script from Wolfi above is spot on. How can one justify the rise of nationalism in Hungary? These ideas were out of place in the inter war years let alone in the 21st century

Sandor
Guest

As MBL writes:

“And I don’t want them, throughout their school lives, to have to sing the tribalistic words of the Szózat:
A nagy világon e kívül / nincsen számodra hely.”

Slow down, MBL!
There is an other, plausible interpretation to these lines, if you consider the context.
The poet here actually complains about the restrictions placed on the Hungarian, the false expectation of remaining behind for “patriotic” reasons. But even more bitter is his complaint, because here, in Hungary, the only thing waiting for the person is merely living and dying and nothing more.
It is true, most Hungarians see something mystical, a majestic profession of unconditional loyalty in these lines, but considering the historical context, it is just as likely to mean either bitter resignation, or possibly even the refusal to accept the dismal fate, perhaps even a rebellion against it.
See if you can read it again, will you see it so?

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Tormay Cécile in An Outlaw’s Diary:Through every action of practical Marxism, through all its ordinances and institutions, even through the communication of its news, there grins cruelty the repulsive, morbid cruelty of sensuality.The brave kill, the cowards torture. The Hungarian people can be wild, ruthless, coarse and even vindictive, but through all its history it has never been cruel. It is not a sensual race. It expresses sensuality neither in its ancestral religion, nor in the conception of its gods of pagan times, nor in its legends, stories, folk-songs, humour or art. The cruelty of the Bolsheviks, on the other hand, is imbued with the sensuality of pathological aberration. Its origin is neither Slav nor Turanian, but of another race living in our midst. The history of the Hebrews, the Covenant, the Talmud and the Jewish literature of the various languages of the world, everything that originates with Jews, is overflowingly sensual. Cruelty finds its fantasy and energy in sensuality. The bloody invasion of the Turks, the merciless oppression of the Austrians, were incomparably milder than the cruelty of the Bolsheviks.

Though not particularly innovative for Central Europe at the time, this antisemitic pamphlet seems quite a classic.

tomaasj
Guest

hilarious

Tyrker
Guest
it remains an embarrassment for Hungary An embarrassment for Hungary? Perhaps you meant an embarrassment for the proponents of the name change. Most Hungarians don’t even know who Tormay was (although this will surely change after the inclusion of her works in the literary curriculum), and have nothing whatsoever to do with the “embarrassing” proposition. tappanch: I cannot count how many squares and streets were named after anti-Semites like Albert Wass, Pal Teleki in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary in the last three years. I don’t think that reducing people to their anti- or filosemitism is desirable practice. Kosztolányi, for instance, was a rabid anti-Semite (despite having a Jewish wife). Just read his letter to Gyula Juhász, dated 15 February 1920, in which he wrote about the “racial tyranny” of Béla Balázs, György Lukács and “their ilk.” Do you think he should be excluded from the curriculum and denied the honour of being the namesake of dozens if not hundreds of streets all across the country? If not, why are you so upset about streets being named after Teleki, for instance? He was a multifaceted man – an anti-Semite, to be sure, but that’s not why we remember him. Did… Read more »
Member

@Sandor

“who had the mind at all to think that there is an other world elsewhere?”

Vitus “Veit” Bach (cca 1550-1618) was a baker in Hungary, left for Germany because of religious persecution (was a Protestant) and became the great-great-grandfather of Johann Sebastian.

Johann Michael Strauss (1720–1800) was born in Buda. He was Johann Strauss I’s grandfather.

Member

It is interesting to read how Hitler falsified Strauss’s origin.

http://www.johann-strauss.at/wissen/faelschung_e.shtml

Louis Kovach
Guest

I nominate this blog for the Hedda Hopper award.

Mark
Guest

Apparently, there is already a statue of her in Budapest. From the Hungarian Wikipedia:

2012. március 31 -én avatták fel Tormay Cécile szobrát a budapesti Józsefvárosban, a Szent Rókus Kórház előtti parkban. Az írónő innen nem messze, a Kőfaragó utca 3. szám alatti házban lakott, melynek falán szintén megemlékeznek róla. 2012. április 15-én avatták fel Mátraházán, a Hotel Ózon Residence parkjában az írónő emlékoszlopát, melyet Tóth Péter szobrász készített.

Member

Poll by Fidesz’s Szazadveg:

Fidesz 24%
Jobbik 8%
democratic opposition [my term] 22%
other parties 2% [which parties??]

“uncertain” 44%

http://www.szazadveg.hu/kutatas/aktualis/kitarto-fidesz-foleny-498.html

Guest

Louis Kovach :
I nominate this blog for the Hedda Hopper award.

Thank you for mentioning Hedda Hopper. Otherwise I would never have heard about
her. She had an interesting career. I quote the first lines of her Wikipedia entry.

”Hedda Hopper (May 2, 1885 – February 1, 1966) was one of America’s best-known gossip columnists, notorious for feuding with her arch-rival Louella Parsons.
She had been an actress of stage and screen for years before being offered the chance to write the column “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” for the Los Angeles Times in 1938. In the McCarthy era she named suspected communists.”

It seems that she has the credentials for giving name to a major square in Budapest.

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