One statue comes, another one goes. Maybe

Let’s start with the one that most likely will come unless Mazsihisz, the organization of Hungarian Jewish communities, really means what it threatened: to boycott the 70th anniversary memorial year of the Holocaust.

In its litany of complaints Mazsihisz wrote that it finds the erection of a statue commemorating the German “occupation” of Hungary on March 19, 1944 highly objectionable. To the current Hungarian government’s way of thinking, this date marks the beginning of a more than 45-year period during which Hungary was deprived of her sovereignty. The intention of the present regime is clear. They want to disassociate Hungarian governments and the nation from all acts associated with the Holocaust. It was only the Germans’ fault. The preamble to the new Orbán constitution makes that clear. The erection of this memorial will be an “artistic” depiction of the appropriate passages in the preamble.

So, how do the current rulers see those events? What was Hungary’s role in that fateful year? The statue, whose plans were made public by an MSZP member of the District V city council yesterday, is a perfect representation of this government’s ideas on history. Or rather their attempt to distort history in such a way that Hungary and the Hungarian people will not have to face the brutal facts: that Hungarian governments had a large share, perhaps the major share in what happened to almost half a million Hungarians of Jewish origin.

The statue depicts Hungary as Archangel Gabriel, completely powerless, being attacked by the German eagle. Naturally, this is an unacceptable interpretation of the facts.  As Magyar Narancs ironically summed up this falsification of history in a headline: “Hungary, the angelic axis power.” Archangel Gabriel, according to the Legend of Bishop Hartvik (1095-1116), intervened on Stephen’s behalf with the pope who originally wanted to send the crown to Mieszko I of Poland. The Hartvik legend cannot be correct, even if Gabriel’s alleged intervention is excised, because by 1000 Mieszko I was already dead. However, Hungarian Catholic tradition kept up the myth, and therefore a statue of Archangel Gabriel was erected at the time of the millennial celebrations in 1898. It stands in the middle of the statues depicting Hungarian kings and heroes on Heroes’ Square.

So, the main figure of the statue is not at all new. It goes back to the same Christian legend and naturally has wings as an archangel should. But if one compares the two, the old and the new, there are great differences in the depictions of the same figure. The 1898 statue is a self-confident and powerful figure, in one hand holding the Holy Crown and in the other the double cross. The new one is beaten and powerless, at the mercy of his enemy. His arms are uplifted in supplication, presumably praying to God for help as his wings are being attacked by an eagle, representing the Reich. A pitiful, sad, blameless figure. A victim.

German occupation

And the statue will be big. Very big. It will be 7 meters tall, and the spread of the eagle’s wings will be 4.5 meters wide. Yes, I think the statue is hideous, but this is the least of its problems. Much more worrisome is the message it conveys.

And now let’s move on to the statue that might be going away. It is a not too attractive statue of Karl Marx, currently still in place at Corvinus University, which used to be called Karl Marx University. Until now the statue didn’t bother anyone. In fact, it is a favorite with the students. It is almost obligatory to have a picture taken with Marx as a memento before graduating. Well, Bence Rétvári, deputy chairman of the phantom Christian Democratic Party and undersecretary of the Ministry of Administration and Justice, decided that it was a disgrace that Marx’s statue adorns the main hallway of the university. He decided to act. He wrote an open letter to the faculty and students of the university and asked them to remove the statue because Marx was a racist and an anti-Semite who hated the Slavs and who wanted to herd women together and force them to be prostitutes. He also approved of slavery. In addition, he was a Social Darwinist and thus a forerunner of Nazism. In addition, of course, to all his other sins, including the 100 million victims of communism.

Sound unfamiliar? You wouldn’t quite recognize Karl Marx from this description? I’m not surprised. Most Hungarian commentators made fun of Rétvári’s ignorance, including a few who actually know something about Marxism because they had to study the works of Marx and Engels. Rétvári, who was ten years old at the time of the regime change, most likely never read Marx. Júlia Lévai, who wrote an excellent piece about the nonsensical nature of his accusations, thinks that Rétvári only acts as if  “he were that stupid.” As opposed to Lévai, I am convinced that this guy really is that ignorant. We mustn’t forget that he attended the famous Piarist Gymnasium in Budapest. Later he received a law degree from the Péter Pázmány Catholic University. I doubt that at either place he had much reason to read Marx.

Rétvári or his staff dug up some lesser known works of Marx and Engels which they didn’t quite understand and came up with bizarre interpretations. Mind you, in the case of Marx’s alleged anti-Slav prejudices Rétvári is actually quoting from an article written by Friedrich Engels. Engels? Marx? Who cares. Rétvári is also not quite familiar with the meaning of the verb “to prostitute” in the sense of “to degrade” and therefore he decided that Marx wanted women to become prostitutes. One doesn’t have to be too familiar with Marx’s work to know that he considered the marriages of his day a kind of prostitution in the sense that women were completely subjugated to their husbands. Since Marx’s ideas on socialism or communism were based on the alleged equality of all, it is hard to imagine therefore that someone would think that Marx promoted the exploitation and oppression of women.

As for Marx’s anti-Semitism, it is not exactly Rétvári’s discovery. However, Marx’s views on Jews are not as simple as the learned undersecretary thinks. Marx talked about Jews as a synonym for capitalists. When it comes to Marx’s approval of the slave trade, Rétvári or his assistants misunderstood the passage which, according to Mihály Kálmán, is actually a critique of the simplistic dialectics of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Some of the works Rétvári mentions can be found on the Internet: Friedrich Engels: “The Magyar Struggle” (Neue Rheinische Zeitung, January 1849) and Karl Marx, “Forced Emigration” (New York Tribune, 1853).

As for precedent, Rétvári began his letter by saying that if after the change of regime the statue of Georgi Dimitrov, the Bulgarian communist leader between 1945 and 1949, could be removed and the square in front of Corvinus University could be renamed, how it is possible that Marx’s statue is still inside the building? As if the intellectual weight of Dimitrov and Marx could be compared. It’s no wonder that Rétvári’s open letter was received with derision in certain circles. But again, I’m not surprised. Most members of this political “elite” are profoundly ignorant, yet they feel free to pass judgment on anyone whose views are different from theirs. For example, István Tarlós, currently mayor of Budapest and an engineer who is very proud of his technical approach to problems, said the following about Marx in 2007: “Marx as a philosopher is a duffer [antitalentum] where the ‘anti-‘ doesn’t signify his lack of talent but tells us about the direction of his activities which is the opposite of normal.”

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Jano
Guest

“However, Marx’s views on Jews are not as simple as the learned undersecretary thinks. Marx talked about Jews as a synonym for capitalists. ”

I would still object to this apology. Most anti-semitic Hungarians talk about Jews as those Rotschilds-likes who rule the world in the background while not being to identify their own Jewish friends.

tappanch
Guest

Retvary repeated his lies about Marx on HirTV tonight.

tappanch
Guest

Chairwoman of the “National Election Bureau” on television: “there won’t be final results for a week after the election, because we have to collect the votes of the “cross-voters” and voters from abroad.

Plenty of opportunity to cheat in the new, Fidesz system.
Opposition should demand lots of foreign observers.

Ovidiu
Guest

“His arms are uplifted in supplication, presumably praying to God for help as his wings are being attacked by an eagle, representing the Reich. A pitiful, sad, blameless figure. A victim…he statue is hideous, but this is the least of its problems. Much more worrisome is the message it conveys.”

Well now.One should be grateful that its message at least implies that the deportations of the Hungarian Jews was not a good thing.
Jobbik would have wanted a different monument too, one with the Reich-eagle and the Turul-bird flying brotherly together each with half of a broken star of David in their claws.
Orban is a “moderate””, he only wants that the Hungarian (state/nation) not be blamed-thus he implicitly agrees that it was not a good thing.

sunyilo12
Member

Eva,
The tunnel vision and complete historic ignorance of the majority of Hungarian people are outright scary. Not just secretary Retvari but his critics such as HVG.hu columnist Laszlo Seres (see http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20140120_Seres_Marx_halott_es_elvezi for Hungarian speaking readers), or some of the youth organizations (http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140120_Good_bye_Marx__tuntettek_a_Corvinuson_) underwrite the theory that Marx – as pointed out by Julia Levay, possibly the most widely cited author in Western philosophical literature – is responsible for the use and abuse of his theories in an age more than a century detached of his.

Those idiots, Retvari, Seres and the rest, just need to realize that most of the achievements in workers’ rights, 35-40-hour work weeks, annual vacation, rights to safe working place, rights to form unions, disability compensation, etc, might not have happened without thought leaders like Marx. These rights support the lifestyle of 95% of the Western population. They just need to read Howard Zinn’s classic of the Peoples History of the United States to appreciate how different our societies operate today.

It is just very disappointing to see the lack of historical common sense left and right in Hungary spare a precious few writers like Levay.

spectator
Guest

tappanch :
Retvary repeated his lies about Marx on HirTV tonight.

¡No Pasarán!
However stupid is what you insisting on, you aren’t supposed to retreat even if it proven thousand times over, that you are wrong, NO WAY! – if you are a real Fidesznik, NEVER!

You just keep repeating on and on again, and after a while it will be the only truth!
That’s the way it is – and working, every time.

An
Guest

@Ovidiu: Where do you see any reference to the deportation of Jews in that statue? The “victim” the statue symbolizing here is Hungary, the country who fell prey to Nazi Germany, not the Jews.
Orban couldn’t care less about the deportations. He wants to whitewash Hungary of the guilt of being the last ally of the Nazi Germany. Yes, including whitewashing the blame for the deportations, too… but that’s not the main political goal here. The main political goal is to promote an interpretation of Hungary’s role in WW2 that is very different than what is commonly held by the West. He (and Jobbik) likes to think big, and I wouldn’t put past them if these efforts of rewriting/reinterpreting history would serve as foundation work for a more aggressive revisionist stance in the future.

James Atkins
Guest
spectator
Guest

“..is responsible for the use and abuse of his theories in an age more than a century detached of his.”

And now I’m going to take a long and hard look on the Holy Inquisition, and the theory behind.
Based on the brilliant logic above, would you guess, if I’ll find the culprit responsible?
What about the statues which related?

I may have to beg the learned Mr.Rétvári for some advice here, I’m afraid…

Ovidiu
Guest

@An–“but that’s not the main political goal here. The main political goal is to promote an interpretation of Hungary’s role in WW2 that is very different than what is commonly held by the West”–

Well, maybe.My “intuitive” first-impression was that this monument is about exculpating Hungary.. but you may be right in saying it aims further.You should develop your thesis further so to became clear what it accomplishes.

spectator
Guest

James Atkins :
Remember the petition for a better statue… hátha…
http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Viktor_Orban_Hungarian_prime_minister_Build_a_memorial_for_unsung_wartime_acts_of_bravery_by_Hungarian_people

On page 21 of the documentation is a copy of an e-mail, which contain among others:
“A Miniszterelnökség nevében arról tájékoztatom, hogy az architrávra az alábbi felirat kerül, írásjelek nélkül:
“Magyarország német megszállása
1944.március 19 .”
Az egyik oszlopon elhelyezésre kerül a következő felirat is:
“Minden áldozat emlékére”

So, after all on “one of the columns” – of the 13 – going to be placed the text “For the memory of every victim” I hope, we will find it somehow.

The date of the e-mail is 17th of January, after your petition as I recall.
According to some people, there are coincidences.
I’m sceptical by nature.

An
Guest

Ovidiu, you are saying the same thing… the goal is to exculpate Hungary… but not only from the responsibility for the deportations, to which the statue makes no reference, but for the whole Hungarian deal in WW2, by portraying Hungary as the victim of Nazi aggression. I’m not suggesting that this particular statue aims at accomplishing more. What I was suggesting that it may fall in line with a political strategy that might, eventually, be aiming for more.

tappanch
Guest

Rétváry considers himself a Christian. Well, there were plenty of wars, murders and misery caused by people claiming to be followers of J C in the last 2000 years.

By Rétváry’s logic, every statue of J C should be removed in Hungary.

(In addition, J C would approve this, since he came to fulfill the law…)

WeMustResist
Guest

Thank you for the serial bad news.

Here is a good one: There is resistance among the young people against the dangerous orban system:

http://szexesnewyork.network.hu/

PS I am waiting for your feedback, if this website is representing a real resistance, or is just a tool of public confusion?

tappanch
Guest

@WeMust

Your link is a Jobbik site

petofi
Guest

@ spectator

“You just keep repeating on and on again, and after a while it will be the only truth!”

–Goebbels 101

WatchOutHungary
Guest

tappanch
January 20, 2014 at 9:16 pm | #17 Quote
@WeMust
Your link is a Jobbik site

Tappancs – you are right. it is a jobbik trash site, to recruit more young hungarian idiots for the next national suicide.

Guest

Proposals for new sculptures in Budapest are proliferating. Here is my contribution.

I wouldn’t mind if they removed all statues in Budapest in exchange for one depicting the famous anti-totalitarian writer George Orwell. The plinth should be inscribed “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”, and it should be placed outside the domicile of Veritas.

Mr. Paul
Guest

This is really a silly debate that the Left should never engage in. This Marx debate was already lost when they renamed the Marx University of Budapest. If Marx is good enough to have a statue he is good enough for the univeristy’s name too.

This is once again a debate that can never be won in the wide public this way. You cannot do these things half assed. The minute you rename your university that was for 50 years the Marx University, then you already lost the debate. The other side should push for naming the University back to Marx University, and push hard for it, that is the only solution.

If you admit that the name should be something else (why? because Marx is so disgusting the University cannot be allowed to wear his name?) then Marx is already unacceptable on many levels. Then removing the statue is the only logical choice.

Either be for something or be against it, this sort of wishy washy half solutions only lead to defeat here and defeat at the polls come April.

Dort
Guest

Mr. Paul, the renaming took place many years ago and for various reasons. That decision has nothing to do with the current presence of one statue inside a vast building complex, which is now the university. Even if that decision would be relevant in our case, do you suggest that just because a Parliament (government, university, anybody) took one decisions, it is forever bound by it? Of course this whole thing is pointless, it is just a media hype, as the righteous conservatives like Retvari need to get into the media, need to assert their existence, so they started a debate which they knew was gonna be controversial in the media. I guess they will soon raise, yet again, the cases of Szabo Ervin Library and Rajk Laszlo Szakkollegium. Needless to say just because Karl Marx Stadt was renamed back to Chemnitz, Marx is still a part of any course on economics and sociology (even literary theory) everywhere in Germany, and around the world.

malaclopo
Guest

Yesterday Viktor Orban used the anniversary of the expulsion of the german Hungarians to make his intentions behind its commemorations or non-commemorations explicitly clear: “Each person is responsible for his own sins. These whose “sin” is to speak the same language can not be held responsible for the sins of the representatives of a criminal regime. There are still people who still insist to condemn nations and ethnic groups collectively. A sin can not be made good by another, a supposed sin can not be redressed even less with a sin, and a supposed sin through collective punishment certainly not. Hungary needs a commemorative culture against any shame and iniquity. Memory serves the pacification, and that can come true in 2014 … ”
(http://www.kormany.hu/en/prime-minister-s-office/news/the-deportation-of-hungary-s-ethnic-germans-is-the-nation-s-irreplaceable-loss)

tappanch
Guest

New, detailed poll about anti-Semitism in Hungary.
sample size= 1200.
The poll was commissioned by “Tett és Védelem”, an organization close to Chabad.

The full results will be published soon. Some of the interesting observations:

1.
The number of anti-Semitic people reached its peak in 2010, there is a slight decline since then. But the anti-Semites are more vocal than ever.
2.
Hungarians are anti-everything. Almost a third of them would not like to have an ethnic Hungarian neighbor from Transylvania either.

3. Somewhat anti-Semitic: 35-40%
Hard-core anti-Semites 15-16%

4. Percentage of anti-Semites among the supporters of various parties:

Jobbik 49%
Fidesz 39%

MSzP 38% (this is a surprise to me)
E14, DK 30%
LMP 12%

5. Men are more anti-Semitic than women.

6. The age group 30-39 is the most anti-Semitic.

7. Hungarian anti-Semitism is mostly secular.

8.The second richest fifth of the population is more anti-Semitic than the average.

http://www.szombat.org/politika/a-magyar-antiszemitizmus-nem-kirivo-de-nincs-ok-a-megnyugvasra

Mr. Paul
Guest
“Even if that decision would be relevant in our case, do you suggest that just because a Parliament (government, university, anybody) took one decisions, it is forever bound by it? ” I’m not saying that at all, read what I wrote. I am saying that the previous decision makes it impossible to effectively defend the statue. Now the key word is “effectively” here. I don’t know if you noticed but this issue is not about whether the statue remains or not. The issue is how many resources will be lost by needlessly defending the statue. Resources such as votes, media space, activist power. To put it more simply, to have a Marx statue in the Marx University is perfectly normal and it is a defensible position. But to have a Marx statue in the Corvinus University, you cannot defend that to the average voter, no way no how. Not when the renaming itself flatly declared that Marx is unfit for the University to wear his name. He was already declared undesirable in the eyes of the average voter. No amount of detailed analyisis of his works will change the public’s perception. You will leak votes if you try to defend… Read more »
Mr. Paul
Guest
“MSzP 38% (this is a surprise to me)” Did you think the MSZP voters came from some other soceity? Statistically speaking for a party as large as MSZP (which used to have 2.3 million voters, many more sympathizers), it is impossible to have a significant difference in ANYTHING to the national average. It is not surprising to me that when the national average is between 35-40% MSZP falls into the same range with 38%. We could show this with another example. Say the national average in education is 14 years total education (made up stat) thats the average that the 100% produces. Let’s say MSZP has 30% of the population. Now theoretically the most they can differ is say selecting the top 30% most educated, and say they are all MSZP voters. The difference simply is not large enough because the 30% is too large a sample. MSZP’s 30% is also counted in the national average too!!! This is why it is not possible for them to be TOO different. They are the same in a large percentage! Now if you select the top 1% or top 0.1% then you are talking then you can have ppl who are massively… Read more »
Ovidiu
Guest

@tappanch–“Somewhat anti-Semitic: 35-40%/Hard-core anti-Semites 15-16%”–

A lot of potential voters for Fidesz.
This statue, which is a kind of “soft-revisionism”, will appeal to those 35-40%.A small investment for a big electoral return.

CukiMuki
Guest

For Hungarian speakers. Krisztian Ungvary on the occupation memorial (link below). It is a must.

The arguments against the ludicrous and outrageous memorial are numerous and devastating.

This debate also shows how utterly unprepared, unprofessional these right wing Fidesznik/Jobbiknik historians are, besides being partizan political troopers.

I am trying also to find a link to Tamas Krausz/Varga Eva Maria reply to Peter Szabo in Törtenelmi Szemle, 2/2013 re the Szabo’s review of the formers’ book on the occupying Hungarian forces in the Soviet Union. I have never in my life read such a devastating reply to any critical review in any form of media anywhere, especially in front of a professional audience. I kinda felt sorry for Szabo, but he was so unprepared and unprofessional that it must have been a little miracle that he could obtain a higher educational degree. And it tells a lot about the editorial board which apparently prints out anything. The articles are a must for Hungarian readers, if they can get access to the papers (previously they were available on the net).

http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20140121_Az_eleven_borzalom

Tyrker
Guest

tappanch :
New, detailed poll about anti-Semitism in Hungary

The main takeaway is that approximately two-thirds of the Hungarian population is completely free of anti-Semitic prejudices; and this figure is stable, unchanged since 2006.

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