Sándor Szakály, the new head of the Veritas Historical Institute, is embarking on rewriting Hungarian history

One outrage after the other. Here is the enlargement of the Paks power plant that sounds more and more like a very bad and costly investment. I’m sure that in the future we will be forced to return to the topic because there are so many question marks surrounding this “deal of the century” that it is bound to be discussed for a long time to come.

Another recent outrage stemmed from an interview with Sándor Szakály, the newly appointed director of the Veritas Történetkutató Intézet. You may recall that a few months ago the decision was made to establish yet another historical institute which would be directly subordinated to the prime minister’s office. It was designed to be an institute that will “set right” the hitherto falsified history of modern Hungary. I wrote about this proposed institute in November 2013 when its establishment was announced in the official government gazette.

Szakály, a military historian, is 59 years old. After graduating from college in 1980 he got a job in the Archives of Military History. There he slowly moved up until he became director of the Archives during the first Orbán administration. His historical views destined him to be an important figure in molding public opinion. In 2001 he joined the staff of Duna Television, the channel that has the function of influencing members of the Hungarian diaspora in the neighboring countries. Initially he was in charge of cultural matters but soon enough he became vice president of the station. After the lost Fidesz election in 2002 Szakály had to start his career practically anew. For a while he did  historical research without having a full-time job but eventually he landed a professorship at the university that grants degrees to gym teachers. Former president Pál Schmidt received his “doctorate” based on a plagiarized dissertation from that institution.

When Viktor Orbán returned to power in 2010 Szakály’s “exile” ended. He became a full professor at the Gáspár Károli Calvinist University in 2010 and by 2011 was a department head. (Mind you, this university in my opinion wouldn’t even receive accreditation in the United States.) Last year Szakály moved on to become vice president of the newly created Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem (National Civil Service University), which also includes the former Hungarian military academy.

Szakály is not a conservative historian; I think we can safely call him a hard-core right-winger. Only a couple of months ago he gave a lecture on Gyula Gömbös, prime minister between 1932 and 1936, in Szekszárd as part of a series organized by a local Jobbik leader. So, Szakály is obviously a welcome guest in Jobbik circles. I don’t think too many people were aware of this lecture, which was reported only by Népszabadság‘s stringer, but from the description one gets the impression that Szakály’s assessment of Gömbös is a great deal more positive than the accepted view that his plans included the introduction of a fascist-like regime, something similar to Mussolini’s system in Italy.

This speech may have passed unnoticed, but when he shared his plans for the new institute with MTI he made waves. His initial bullet points were that Veritas will have 25 employees, historians who will study the history of Hungary between 1867 and 1990. He is planning a conference entitled “From Occupation to Occupation.” They plan to rewrite the history of the regime change of 1989-1990. They will organize programs in 2016 for the 60th anniversary of the 1956 October Revolution.

After stating that historians mustn’t be biased and that Veritas will be free of political pressure, he immediately explained that Veritas “must represent a little different ethos” from the one that has dominated Hungarian historical institutes. For example, “it is not considered to be correct nowadays to say that there was something that preceded the White Terror.” (A baldfaced lie.)  He went on to explain the Horthy regime’s attitude toward the members of the illegal communist party. According to him, “one mustn’t forget that the local communist party was part of the Communist International, which meant that its members were considered to be spies for a foreign power and therefore the authorities handled them accordingly.” He also thinks that the case of Endre Ságvári must be reconsidered. (Endre Ságvári was a member of the illegal communist party who, while four gendarmes were trying to arrest him, shot and wounded three of them. In turn he was shot and died shortly after. That happened on July 27, 1944, after Hungary allegedly lost its sovereignty on March 19, 1944.)

Sándor Szakály in his study. Note the bust of a gendarme on his desk

Sándor Szakály in his study. Note the bust of a gendarme on his desk.

Szakály is planning to rewrite the history of the bombing of Kassa/Košice. No one knows who actually bombed the city on June 26, 1941, an act that prompted the Hungarian government to declare war on the Soviet Union. There are guesses but no solid evidence. Some historians thought that the Hungarian High Command, whose members were pro-German, in cahoots with the German military planned the bombing in order to force the Hungarian government to join Germany’s war effort. Others were certain that the planes came from Slovakia. Still others tried to argue that it was the Soviets who bombed the city by mistake. As far as I know, no evidence has emerged in the last few years that would decide the issue. But I assume that a lack of evidence will not deter Szakály.

The most outrageous comment Szakály made concerned the fate of those Jews who couldn’t properly demonstrate to the authorities their Hungarian citizenship. Several thousand of them were actually Hungarians; others came from Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Austria. Shortly after the declaration of war, in July 1941, the Hungarian authorities deported approximately 14,000 of these people to territories that are part of Ukraine today, which were then occupied by the Germans. Once in German hands they were massacred in a place called Kamenets-Podolsk together with the local Jewish population. According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia altogether 23,600 Jews were massacred in this action.

The “reinterpretation” of this event is obviously on the table at the Veritas Historical Institute. According to Szakály, “some historians consider this event to be the first deportation of Jews from Hungary” but in his opinion it can more properly be considered “a police action against aliens” (idegenrendészeti eljárás). He also claimed that when the Hungarian authorities discovered that these people had been killed, the minister of interior immediately stopped the deportations.

It was this description of the deportation that hit a nerve in Hungary. Even the young conservatives of Mandiner are outraged. Demokratikus Koalíció immediately demanded Szakály’s prompt dismissal. Of course, Szakály will not be recalled and everything will continue on its merry way with the rewriting of Hungarian history, including that of the Holocaust.

Tomorrow I’m planning to give a brief summary of what actually happened in July-August 1941 in the northeastern corner of Hungary, from where these poor people were deported and sent to German-occupied territories. But I can say one thing right now. Szakály is not telling the truth the whole truth. The Hungarian government didn’t put an end to the deportations alone, it was also urged by the German authorities.

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Guest
tappanch
January 17, 2014 7:00 pm

Dear Eva,

The number of deported Jews was higher, about 18,000.
Here is a summary of the events with eyewitness reports:

http://www.degob.hu/index.php?showarticle=19

Guest
January 17, 2014 7:01 pm

1. What is the bust of a Gendarme doing on the desk of a “historian” ?
2. Ferenc Keresztes-Fisher is regarded as a good Minister of the Horthy regime. Is it realised that he was the Minister of Interior at the time when the first deportations occurred, resulting in the massacre of those deported to Kamenets Podolsk? Or does his arrest after 19th March absolve him of guilt?
3. It seems we are going to get one more interpretation of the glorious history of Hungary.

Guest
January 17, 2014 7:15 pm

Szakály is scheduled to give a lecture at the Hungarian government’s official commemoration on International Holocaust Day Jan.27th. His topic: “The spring of 1944 in the mirror of memoirs”. As he’s not a known expert on Holocaust survivors’ testimonies, he’s pretty likely to quote and exculpate gendarmerie members involved in the deportations. http://www.hdke.hu/programkalauz/szakmai/emleknapok/nemzetkozi-holokauszt-emleknap-2014
Szakály was one of the two experts in the Sándor Képíró trial 2011, presenting doubt about the evidence presented by the prosecution. It’s all on youtube. http://hungarianspectrum.org/2011/07/21/the-kepiro-trial-indictment-and-verdict/

Guest
petofi
January 17, 2014 8:07 pm

I don’t know why you say that Szakaly is not qualified. After all, he has the same mustache as Kover…

Guest
January 17, 2014 8:29 pm

Without wishing to make light of this idiot or his views, anyone who wears a cardigan like that these days, doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. I note also that the map behind him is of ‘greater’ Hungary. Enough said.

Guest
Gabor Fuchs
January 17, 2014 9:21 pm

Eva,my family is from Beregszasz and Nagyszolos.In 1941 all Jewish people in Karpatalja had to show proof of Hungarian citizenship.Many long term residents ,who couldn’t produce the document were sent to Korosmezo- Kamenets podolsk.Not only the alien refugees!My father’s certificate of citizenship ( Allampolgarsagi bizonyitvany) is in my hands.The date of issue is August 22,1941. He was lucky.

Guest
tappanch
January 17, 2014 10:02 pm

The deportations that started in July 1941 actually lasted until October 1942.

http://korosmezokam.atw.hu/files/FROJIMOVICS_mt.pdf

Guest
tappanch
January 17, 2014 10:04 pm

Interior Minister Keresztes-Fischer forbade the deportation of foreign Jews on October 28, 1942.

Guest
tappanch
January 17, 2014 10:14 pm

In 1940, there were 96.2 thousand foreign citizens in Hungary, including 10.4 thousand Jews, according to the government data.

http://www.korosmezo1941.netai.net/files/mt_a_korosmezei_zsdep_1941_mt.pdf

Guest
DayVictory
January 17, 2014 10:30 pm

What a polarized nation!
From Blessed Sara Salkahazi to historical revisionist Szakaly, there are all types of Hungarians.
Good ones and bad ones.
(Truly, even the Hungarian Jews can not escape this division. Besides the good ones, there were an equally big number of badly corrupted Jews. Just like among ordinary Hungarians, the evil social virus is an equal opportunity infectious disease among the Jews, too. However,only a few Jews rose to the honor of war crimes.)
One day the good Hungarians of all religions will be victorious.

Guest
January 17, 2014 10:31 pm

Another pathetic step in the wrong direction. Orban really asociates himself with the “wrong crowd”. If things go downhill at this rate we are going to go down the Nazi-German past faster than they ever did in the 1930s… Deception and double talk everywhere. Nazis hoodwinked all of Europe at the time and caught leaders asleep at the weel. Will fasists repeat the action once again, unhindered??? Will the allies: Obama, Cameron, Merkel, and Hollande let themselves be taken for fools once again? How much more obvious can you get about the re-writing of history when you call a newly formed historical society ‘Veritas’. That by itself gives away the simplistic attitude of this government. Examining the past does not give simple answers to the ‘truth’… Remember my commment back in the summer days about the Hungarian penchant for “igazság” “igazam van” like holding the keys to truth, to THE TRUTH. TRUTH as such is RELATIVE depending on your perspective. Truth is not a scientific formula like the magic number for pi. Therefore ‘Veritas’ in the name gives the institutuion away as a false purported posessor of ‘the truth’ because definite truth can be alluded to only in the widest… Read more »

Guest
Wondercat
January 18, 2014 1:08 am

Beneficial, surely, for this Institute to turn over the muck-heap of Hungarian history. VERITAS will cite its sources, make them accessible, invite other explorers of the past. And both the good and bad in it will come into the light and air, the bad to stink, the good to glitter. Other historiographers, and indeed Truth herself — as distinct from VERITAS — will prosper.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
January 18, 2014 1:19 am

In the actual ES (elet es irodalom) I found an article of the historian Judit Molnar >>Merjuenk nagyot csuztatni!<<. She is putting her finger on government sponsored History falsification.
By the way the Railway station Jozsefvaros has nothing to do withe deportation of Jews.

Guest
MaxMix
January 18, 2014 1:35 am

Veritas is just the very tip of the iceberg. Fidesz will continue to support people like Szakály, or Maria Schmidt, as it wants to make a very clear declaration that it has strong and indisputable right-wing credentials. First, these people enter the discourse as the fringe, then the extreme and then they will be the mainstream. From than on, actually earlier, they will rewrite elementary/highschool history books which are – after Fidesz’ recent takeover of the school book industry – now written by the government and which schools are prescribed to use. In 10 years, Szakaly’s ideas will be the mainstream and we will look strange to any people who dares to question him. His ideas will be the doxa. Fidesz operates on the long-term and Fideszniks have plans, which they execute slowly, but surely. The democratic opposition has no ideas about history, because it starts from the belief that science should be left alone and politics has nothing to do on the field of science — thereby leaving the area to ideologues at Fidesz and Jobbik, who slowly, like the forest taking over a clear field, take over the discourse. One of the most important constituencies of Orban’s are… Read more »

Guest
Guest
James Atkins
January 18, 2014 8:54 am

OT question.

I was looking at the Noble Truths in Buddhism and saw they are called “arya sacca / satya” in Pali and Sanskrit. Apparently “sacca”/”satya” come from “sat” meaning “being” or “how things are”.

I wondered idly if the Hungarian suffix “-ság” is somehow connected to this – I mean remotely, of course. It could have had a similar meaning way back when it worked as an independent word as suffixes often did. Also whether these are related to German “sache”?

Just in case there are some Hungarian linguists there? (btw I am not trying to prove that Orban is directly descended from Buddha.)

Guest
January 18, 2014 9:31 am

“As part of their re-evaluation drive, history cleansers have expended considerable effort to bring about the absolution of the gendarmerie, which played a crucial role in the roundup and deportation of the Jews, by placing all responsibility onto the Germans. Toward this end, they have among other things produced a “documentary” that was first shown on Hungarian television in early December 1998. The effect of the video was to help bring about the exoneration of the gendarmerie by deflecting attention from the barbaric manner in which that force implemented its role in the Final Solution. The “historians” featured in the presentation advanced a variety of propagandistic arguments. The moderator, Sándor Szakály, who also performed a function in the production of the program, argued that there had been no need for the gendarmerie to use force because the Jews—law-abiding citizens that they were— carried out the anti-Jewish measures of their own volition.”
Braham, R. L. (1999). An assault on historical memory: Hungarian nationalists and the Holocaust. [emphasis mine]

Guest
mezei
January 18, 2014 9:31 am

OT:

re Paks II. Phenomenal (see link below).

It turns out that the official statement made by the Hungarian Chamber of Engineers (all Hungarian engineers have to be member of it by law) to fully support Paks II was written at MVM, the state-owned energy giant which already operates Paks I and will be responsible for Paks II.

That is how independent this organization is.

It is of course a common knowledge that Fidesz slowly (well before the 2010 elections) took over almost all important and important sounding quasi-civil organizations from the chamber of doctors, engineers etc. to the association of big families etc. so that Fidesz could support its policies from within the civil society, to be able to show a ‘strong’ civil support (of course the memberships of many of these organizations were leaning Fidesz to begin with, such as the chamber of doctors).

http://cink.hu/az-mvm-nel-diktalhattak-mi-legyen-20000-mernok-velemen-1503577949

Guest
tappanch
January 18, 2014 10:11 am

@Karl Pfeifer

“By the way the Railway station Jozsefvaros has nothing to do withe deportation of Jews.”

This is not true. I do not know about deportations from this station under Horthy, but there were thousands of forced laborers that were deported from here under Szalasi, in November 1944. They were sent to various camps, for example, to Bergen-Belsen.

Guest
January 18, 2014 10:38 am

Ive had enuf !!!! of the current government.
Call in da Drones !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guest
tappanch
January 18, 2014 10:53 am

As expected, Ader chose the earliest possible day, the most advantageous for Fidesz as the day of the election.

The Fidesz argument for abolishing the second round of the election was that the country has to save money.

But now they chose to separate the May EU election from the Hungarian election, which results in more spending.

Guest
Historical reality
January 18, 2014 11:00 am

James Atkins :
OT question.
I was looking at the Noble Truths in Buddhism and saw they are called “arya sacca / satya” in Pali and Sanskrit. Apparently “sacca”/”satya” come from “sat” meaning “being” or “how things are”.
I wondered idly if the Hungarian suffix “-ság” is somehow connected to this – I mean remotely, of course. It could have had a similar meaning way back when it worked as an independent word as suffixes often did. Also whether these are related to German “sache”?
Just in case there are some Hungarian linguists there? (btw I am not trying to prove that Orban is directly descended from Buddha.)

Finno-Ugrian lnguages are more european than I-E languages.

In the Eurasian supercontinent: 2/3 part of IE speaking people live in ASIA (remember the huge population of India Pakistan and Iran) and only 1/3 part of IE speaking people live in Europe.
However 99% of finno-ugric speaking population lives in Europe, and only 1% live in Asia.

The closest relatives of the old ancient aryan languages (like sanskrit) are the gypsy languages.

Guest
tappanch
January 18, 2014 11:07 am

Mr Rétvári, undersecretary in Orban’s cabinet demands that the Economics University of Budapest should remove Karl Marx’s sculpture from its premises.

His argument is that Marx was racist for supporting the 1818-49 Hungarian revolution and calling the Serbs, who revolted against the Hungarians pan-Slavist rabble.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140118_Retvari_Marx__nepirtas

Guest
Istvan
January 18, 2014 11:07 am

Sámndor Szakály’s current interest in Gyula Gömbös is not surprising given that some of both Jobbik and Fidesz economic thinking seems to parallel what is called Corporatism. That economic ideology was adhered to by Fascist Italy and Gömbös thought Corporatism would be the perfect model for a fascist Hungary. To discuss why I believe there are parallels between some the economic practices of Orban and corportism would require more work than I have time for right now.

Even though Sámndor Szakály may be a crackpot what we are seeing here is something more than just historical revisionism, it appears to be an attempt to solidify a coherent ideology for Fidesz and Jobbik. An ideology that gradually moves from nationalism to a full blown modern version of Fascism.

Guest
Historical reality
January 18, 2014 11:16 am

Istvan :
Sámndor Szakály’s current interest in Gyula Gömbös is not surprising given that some of both Jobbik and Fidesz economic thinking seems to parallel what is called Corporatism. That economic ideology was adhered to by Fascist Italy and Gömbös thought Corporatism would be the perfect model for a fascist Hungary. To discuss why I believe there are parallels between some the economic practices of Orban and corportism would require more work than I have time for right now.
Even though Sámndor Szakály may be a crackpot what we are seeing here is something more than just historical revisionism, it appears to be an attempt to solidify a coherent ideology for Fidesz and Jobbik. An ideology that gradually moves from nationalism to a full blown modern version of Fascism.

Wrong. Marx and Engels admired the Czechs Poles and Croatians, and speak about them positively. They didn’t consider Orthodox Balkan people as “civilized nations”.

Guest
tappanch
January 18, 2014 11:21 am

Russia is Orban’s new friend —> Russia loves pan-Slavism

Marx did not like pan-Slavism —> his only remaining sculpture should be removed

Member
January 18, 2014 11:23 am

Historical reality :
Finno-Ugrian lnguages are more european than I-E languages.
In the Eurasian supercontinent: 2/3 part of IE speaking people live in ASIA (remember the huge population of India Pakistan and Iran) and only 1/3 part of IE speaking people live in Europe.
However 99% of finno-ugric speaking population lives in Europe, and only 1% live in Asia.
The closest relatives of the old ancient aryan languages (like sanskrit) are the gypsy languages.

Nostratic Wise-cracks?

I’m not sure the above post was meant seriously! The Finno-Ugric Language group is a subgroup of the Uro-Altaic language group, just as the Helleno-Romance-Germanic-Slavic group is a subgroup of the Indo-European group. Both groups migrated, and if you calculate current proportions from site of origin, neither is of “European” origin (and all are probably of African origin) and so what?

The “monogenetists” think all languages evolved from one original proto-human language at one place, the “polygenetists” think it evolved independently in multiple places.

All agree that the linguistic distance between the Uro-Altaic Group and the Indo-European group is considerable…

Guest
spectator
January 18, 2014 11:44 am

tappanch :
Mr Rétvári, undersecretary in Orban’s cabinet demands that the Economics University of Budapest should remove Karl Marx’s sculpture from its premises.
His argument is that Marx was racist for supporting the 1818-49 Hungarian revolution and calling the Serbs, who revolted against the Hungarians pan-Slavist rabble.
http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140118_Retvari_Marx__nepirtas

It clearly amazing, how all the wannabe historians swarming to serve the system. Looks like a competition going on, to outperform the yesterday’s loonies today at any cost, there is no place for common sense and reason.

Guest
tappanch
January 18, 2014 12:45 pm

Here is a 2007 article about the deportation of Jews in 1941.

http://www.es.hu/index.php?view=doc;17765

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