Randolph L. Braham’s open letter

Randolph L. Braham

Randolph L. Braham

Anyone who has ever studied the history of the Hungarian Holocaust is familiar with the name of Randolph L. Braham, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the City College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of over 60 books and co-authored or wrote chapters in 50 others. Here are a few titles: The Destruction of Hungarian Jewry: A Documentary Account (1963); The Hungarian Labor Service System, 1939-1945 (1977); The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary (1981); and just last year, The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary. Some of his works were translated into Hungarian while others were first published in Hungarian and later appeared in English.

Randolph L. Braham is highly regarded in Hungary as the foremost interpreter of the Holocaust, and therefore he was honored by both the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest and the Hungarian Government. In 2011 it was the Orbán government that bestowed upon him the Medium Cross of the Republic of Hungary, which is the highest decoration that a Hungarian government can grant. The Library and Information Center at the Holocaust Memorial Center bears his name. At least until now.

 * * *

January 26, 2014

Professor György Haraszti, Chairman of the Board
Dr. Szabolcs Szita, Director
Holokauszt Emlékközpont
Páva utca, 39
H-1049 Budapest

Dear György és Szabolcs:

I am writing to request that you remove my name from the Téka és Információs Központ at the Holocaust at the Holokauszt Emlékközpont.  I reached this decision with a heavy heart, having followed the recent developments in Hungary with great concern. The history-cleansing campaign of the past few years calculated to whitewash the historical record of the Horthy era, including the changes in the constitution that “legalized” the sinister measures that were subsequently taken to absolve Hungary from the active role it had played in the destruction of close to 600,000 of its citizens of the Jewish faith, have left me, and I assume many others, stunned. The straw that broke the camel’s back in my decision was the government’s resolve to erect a national statue relating to the German occupation – a cowardly attempt to detract attention from the Horthy regime’s involvement in the destruction of the Jews and to homogenize the Holocaust with the “suffering” of the Hungarians – a German occupation, as the record clearly shows, that was not only unopposed but generally applauded.

I realize that for a variety of political and economic reasons the leaders responsible for the operation of the Holokauszt Emlékközpont would or could not speak out against the brazen drive to falsify history. I, on the other hand, a survivor whose parents and many family members were among the hundreds of thousands of murdered Jews, cannot remain silent, especially since it was my destiny to work on the preservation of the historical record of the Holocaust.

I hereby also return the Medium Cross of the Order of the Republic of Hungary, together with the scroll signed by President Pál Schmitt with the request that you forward them to the appropriate Hungarian authorities.

Randolph L. Braham
Graduate Center of the City University of New York

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tappanch
Guest
tappanch
January 26, 2014 11:51 am

Professor Braham,

You did the right thing.

I wish the leaders of the Hungarians Jewish communities had the guts to stand up to the Orban government. This government regards itself the spiritual heir of the Horthy era.

petofi
Guest
petofi
January 26, 2014 12:08 pm

Tappanch,

I am saddened by your note. You are a mainstay of this blog with your many informative
submissions. I can only suspect that your libamij went bad in the fridge and you had a bad day…

–The professor does not need your approval;

–The Jewish leaders must eat and pay their bills. They are beholden to the government
and must keep a low profile to keep getting what funds they do. The system is rotten, but
they must still act in accordance with it.

oneill
Guest
oneill
January 26, 2014 12:43 pm

Fortunately Brit and Hungarian expat anti-fascists in London today have shown the way forward for Hungarians to deal with the Fidesz/Jobbik Nazis.
Unfortunately won’t be holding my breathe though to see anything similar in Hungary.
http://www.channel4.com/news/hungarian-fascist-group-hold-rally-in-london

The Nazis are not only on the march again in Hungary unopposed but are actually sitting in and supporting the government. See Kover’s latest outburst for proof.

oneill
Guest
oneill
January 26, 2014 12:54 pm

The brave Jobbik boys were last seen doing a very quick sprint across Hyde park begging the London Met police along the way to give them safe passage out to the nearest Underground station.

A taste of what the Roma families must feel when the rightwing thugs arrive in their village won’t do Vona any harm

petofi
Guest
petofi
January 26, 2014 1:34 pm

re: Jobbik on the run.

Yes, some societies have advanced since the II War days. I would’ve liked to have seen
the heroic motorcycle boys of “Adj Gazd” take their signs to Berlin and see how they would’ve fared..

Mr. Paul
Guest
Mr. Paul
January 26, 2014 2:35 pm

Is this the same Braham whoose book Szakály quoted extensively on ATV to strengthen his own point?? I have never heard of Braham before that ATV interview but I was 100% sure that he is the same type of Szakály, because every time Antónia Mészáros asked something, Szakály would respond with a Braham quote.

But now this letter describes something different entirely, shows a strong anti-Szakály stance. Though I found the accusation against the Jewish leaders very tasteless in Braham’s letter ” for political and economic reasons… would or could not speak out”. It’s the “economic reasons: you were bought with money” type of cheap shot against the Páva center, which as far as I know, did nothing wrong.

Paul
Guest
Paul
January 26, 2014 3:00 pm

Excellent. Very well done Professor.

And, unlike some on here, I fully support his criticism of some Hungarian Jews. There comes a time when things are so bad that people just have to take a stand, whatever the consequences. If enough people said ‘nem’, even Orbán would have to back down.

Have we learnt nothing from the appeasement of Hitler?

Revolt2014
Guest
Revolt2014
January 26, 2014 3:31 pm

Prof Braham spoke the truth.
The officers of all Holocaust and Memorial Centers must rise up against the Orban theories.
The Jews of Hungary deserve a leader like Zoltan Radnoti.
Shlomo Koves has got lots to explain.

patent kapolcs
Guest
patent kapolcs
January 26, 2014 3:57 pm

Professor Braham is to be congratulated on his stance against the drive towards historical distortion adopted by the Orban government. That policy is outrageous and Professor Braham states it as such. However, perhaps the matter could have been somewhat more forcefully presented through a letter to Mr. Orban directly since it is he that is setting the policy that Professor Braham rejects. He is certainly eminent enough to make his voice count. He just needs to tell the man responsible for these new insults to the memory of 600,000 Hungarian citizens deported for death.

spectator
Guest
spectator
January 26, 2014 4:03 pm

Finally someone with a distinct backbone and manners to go with!
Thank You, professor Brahman!

Isn’t it strange, that people in/from other countries just have principles and knows what to do about it, while Hungarians in Hungary cowering, trying to explain away, find a reason, why not doing anything against the present system?
Just look around: in Wien and London they expressed explicitly that they don’t want to take any part of the resurrection of Nazism, in Kiev they went o the streets for far less to begin with – Hungarians don’t want to hear, see and speak.

Well… I rather won’t say it, but yes, that’s Hungary!

Steve
Guest
January 26, 2014 4:05 pm
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Steve
Guest
January 26, 2014 4:09 pm

It is totally unimportant what I may say about Professor Randolph Braham, for he is undoubtedly the most important of all historians who ever researched the Hungarian Holocaust. His books are detailed and cannot be argued and if you want to find out what happened to any one of the 437 thousand Jews from the Hungarian provinces, consulting his book/s will give complete details from their villages to the gates of Auschwitz and in some cases, beyond.

That he felt the need to write this open letter shows his disappointment with the whitewashing attempts of the present Hungarian Government and should awaken those (including some Jews) who have not as yet recognised the disgusting events and methods by the Orban Government representing Hungary, not withstanding their recent apology at the United Nations.

petofi
Guest
petofi
January 26, 2014 4:20 pm

I must correct something in my note above: I don’t think that the jewish leaders should ferment the opposition. However, if the people choose to march in the streets and need their leaders….certainly, the jews of every organization should be among them.

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oneill
Guest
oneill
January 26, 2014 4:40 pm

“Jobbik’s fascist hatred has no place in a modern society here, or in the rest of Europe,” United Against Fascism official, Sabby Dhalu, said in London.

It has a place in Hungary due to a Fidesz government which contains members sympathetic with many of its ideas and too many in the population too cowardly-apathetic to stand up for what is morally correct.

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[…] (Übersetzung PR nach der ungarischen Version; englisch bei Hungarian Spectrum.) […]

Kave
Guest
Kave
January 26, 2014 5:15 pm

It would seem that the FIDESZ campaign to appear as the “protector of the Jews” and the entire “Holocaust Memorial Year” PR effort is going to pieces rather quickly. They are able to allocate millions of Forints to museums, conferences, and PR campaigns, but they fail not because the SZDSZ and Socialists are calling on foreign press networks to blacken their name. They fail because they entirely lack sincerity or good intention.

No No 2014
Guest
No No 2014
January 26, 2014 5:30 pm

What Jewish leaders?
Show me an upright one.
Zoli Radnoti is way ahead. The others must follow him.

J Grant
Guest
J Grant
January 26, 2014 5:32 pm

petofi :
Tappanch,
I am saddened by your note. You are a mainstay of this blog with your many informative
submissions. I can only suspect that your libamij went bad in the fridge and you had a bad day…
–The professor does not need your approval;
–The Jewish leaders must eat and pay their bills. They are beholden to the government
and must keep a low profile to keep getting what funds they do. The system is rotten, but
they must still act in accordance with it.

I am absolutely amazed at you having written this and that nobody challenged you on it. So the Jewish leaders (or at least some of them) keep quiet and thus betray their community because they have to eat. I suppose you are very close to a biblical quote here, as I am thinking of the well known case of the thirty pieces of silver.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
January 26, 2014 5:35 pm

What an honorable thing to do. Bravo.

PS @Mr Paul: since when have two excellent historians like Pr. Szita and Haraszti, or any member of the managing or curatorial teams at Páva utca for that matter, become “Jewish leaders” ?!?

petofi
Guest
petofi
January 26, 2014 5:54 pm

J Grant :

petofi :
Tappanch,
I am saddened by your note. You are a mainstay of this blog with your many informative
submissions. I can only suspect that your libamij went bad in the fridge and you had a bad day…
–The professor does not need your approval;
–The Jewish leaders must eat and pay their bills. They are beholden to the government
and must keep a low profile to keep getting what funds they do. The system is rotten, but
they must still act in accordance with it.

I am absolutely amazed at you having written this and that nobody challenged you on it. So the Jewish leaders (or at least some of them) keep quiet and thus betray their community because they have to eat. I suppose you are very close to a biblical quote here, as I am thinking of the well known case of the thirty pieces of silver.

I think I didn’t read Abraham clearly.
No, the jewish leaders should not stay quiet. But, knowing the mealy-mouthed nature of Hungarians–jews or not–I wouldn’t want the leaders to go ahead ‘attacking the barricades’ with nary a supporter behind. We’re dealing with a very iffy-itchy sort of society here..

Mr. Paul
Guest
Mr. Paul
January 26, 2014 6:09 pm

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :
What an honorable thing to do. Bravo.
PS @Mr Paul: since when have two excellent historians like Pr. Szita and Haraszti, or any member of the managing or curatorial teams at Páva utca for that matter, become “Jewish leaders” ?!?

You avoid my central point completely. If they are “excellent historians” as you say, why did they deserve such a crude and tasteless attack by Braham?

“for a variety of political and economic reasons the leaders responsible … would or could not speak out”

As I read this, it questions their moral integrity. “You get money, and your economic reasons stop you from speaking out when you really should”. Did these historians do anything wrong, did they support Szakály? Did they aim to falsify history? What was their crime that resulted in such a harsh treatment?

Is their only crime that they didn’t release a statement yet? What if they already have a statement written out but waiting for a moment when it will have bigger impact? Braham himself waited more than 25 days after the Memorial’s plan became public.

AB
Guest
AB
January 26, 2014 6:28 pm

Mr. Paul, the leaders of Pava utca have not speak up about the preamble ofvthe constitution and we did not see a press release about the memorial either. Professor Braham is the leading expert on the Hungarian holocaust, no other country has such a documented holocaust history like Hungary, thanks to Professor Braham.
Everyone who ever dealt with this topic knows him

Andy -- Fake kudos
Guest
January 26, 2014 6:43 pm

Braham did the only honorable thing. He returned the items which sullied his reputation and the memory of his parents and religious beliefs

The statue debacle is so serious that the Holocaust center should stop cowering behind its and its leaders’ financial needs.

Collaborating with the Devil i.e. Orban is tantamount to participating in the creation of the holocaust that is, in its recreation. It is unpardonable. No ifs, ands or buts.

As to why on earth Braham did not return the items directly to Orban with a letter rebuffing the admisnistration is something that needs to be asked to him directly.

The most evident is that at his age he is no longer in the medical condition to begin a direct confrontation. After all, his own parents were annihilated by Orban’s sort and logically he was not going to give them another go to take one more life prematurely some 70 years later. Having not written about Hungarian politics since he left 67 years ago I think he decided getting out alive was the most important thing for him and he has certainly regretted ever having accepted the fake kudos from the Hungarian authorities in the fist place.

Mr. Paul
Guest
Mr. Paul
January 26, 2014 6:43 pm

AB :
Mr. Paul, the leaders of Pava utca have not speak up about the preamble ofvthe constitution

But why would they speak out against the constitution preamble? When they saw the foremost expert historian, Braham accept the “Medium Cross of the Order of the Republic of Hungary” in the exact same year the Constitution was passed 2011? They could very well think that it was not appropriate to speak out, just based on that acceptance alone?

An
Guest
An
January 26, 2014 6:51 pm

@Mr. Paul: I guess each of us can interpret written words differently, but I didn’t see his words as an attack… but more as an expressions of understanding that they may not be in the position to openly stand up to OV.

January February March April 2014
Guest
January February March April 2014
January 26, 2014 6:58 pm

Every decent Hungarian, like Eva Balogh, and now Randolph Braham attack the Orban clique.
The Orban team has failed us all.

Andy -- progenity
Guest
January 26, 2014 6:59 pm

Additionally another benefit of this retruning-the-medals strategy was to show an example to the leaders of the Holocaust to act firmly. And how not to compromise your beliefs.

And to repeat from the above: Collaborating with the Devil i.e. Orban is essentially tantamount to participating in the recreation of the holocaust, that is, lighting the fire that could destroy the remaining who managed to get out of the grip the last time — and their progenity.

Andy -- correction
Guest
January 26, 2014 7:07 pm

Correction above No 26: Holocaust to ‘Holocaust Center’

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