Dissonant government voices on the Hungarian Holocaust

The Orbán government’s efforts to falsify history are proceeding full steam ahead. The “madness”–as Imre Mécs, one of the heroes of 1956, called it–continues. It looks as if Viktor Orbán refuses to listen to reason and insists on erecting a monument that depicts suffering Hungary as Archangel Gabriel at the mercy of the German imperial eagle. The originally stated purpose of the statue was to commemorate the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944. After the first outburst of indignation, the monument’s rationale was changed to a commemoration of the victims, both Jewish and non-Jewish, of German aggression. There is only one problem with the whole concept. Hungary was an ally of Germany, and it was a legitimate Hungarian government that handled the deportation of about 600,000 Hungarian citizens of Jewish heritage. Not without reason, critics of the whole idea of the monument suspect that the Orbán government wants to shake off any responsibility for the Holocaust and to shift the blame entirely to Germany.

The protest around the foundation being built for the future monument has been going on for two weeks. Today about twenty people were removed and taken to police headquarters. The two best known demonstrators who were taken away are Imre Mécs, a former member of parliament who was sentenced to death as a result of his participation in the 1956 revolution, and his wife Fruzsina Magyar, a well-known dramaturgist.

It seems unlikely that the “madness” will end any time soon. Not only will the memorial stand but Sándor Szakály, a historian with far-right political views, will remain the director of the newly created historical institute,”Veritas.” As far I as can see, this new institute will be the government’s vehicle for a revisionist interpretation of modern Hungarian history. And we can only expect more historical madness. Just wait until young historians affected by the extremist ideology of Jobbik begin writing their own revisionist interpretations of historical events.

Mazsihisz, the umbrella organization of Jewish groups, objected to Szakály’s appointment, but considering that Sándor Szakály just signed a document ensuring long-term cooperation between the Veritas Institute and the Holocaust Documentation and Memorial Center, we can be sure that Szakály’s appointment is secure. How could it happen, one might ask, that the Holocaust Documentation Center would ever sign such a document? The answer is simple. One of the first acts of the Orbán government was a personnel change at the head of the Holocaust Documentation and Memorial Center. The old appointees were fired and the new guard arrived. At that point it was clear that the Orbán government had plans for the Center. Since the Memorial Center is financially dependent on the government, Viktor Orbán thinks he has every right to run the place the way he likes. In his world there is no such thing as an independent foundation. So, while Mazsihisz stands against Szakály’s appointment, the Orbán-appointed head of the Holocaust Memorial Center, György Haraszti, signs an agreement of long-term cooperation with the head of Veritas. On the face of it, it might seem that Orbán managed to split the Jewish community, but my feeling is that most Hungarian Jews applaud Mazsihisz and have a rather low opinion of the new head of the Holocaust Memorial Center.

Last Sunday’s March for Life, a yearly gathering in remembrance of the Holocaust, was the largest ever, definitely more than 30,000 people. The crowd filled the streets between the Danube and the Eastern Station. Quite a distance. The government was represented by President János Áder, who then joined the International March for Life on a pilgrimage to Auschwitz. This year the Hungarians led the procession from Auschwitz to Birkenau because of the 70th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust.

The Hungarian group in Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Hungarian group in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Áder made a speech there that was welcomed by all those who are critical of the Hungarian government’s attitude toward the Holocaust. Áder emphasized that the Hungarian state didn’t resist “the diabolical plan of the German occupiers”; in fact, it became its enablers. He called Auschwitz “the largest Hungarian cemetery.” He went as far as to say that “in order to understand the tragedy of 1944 we will have to take a look at ourselves.”  He added that there is no “forgiveness when a state turns against its own citizens.”

János Áder in Auschwitz-Birkenau / MTI

János Áder in Auschwitz-Birkenau / MTI

These are very strong words. The strongest I have ever heard from a member of the Orbán government. I can’t quite decide how to interpret them. I have the feeling that this was Áder’s first visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and I understand that the place makes an incredible impression on visitors. Perhaps the president changed his speech in the last minute to place greater emphasis on Hungary’s guilt than he had originally planned. Perhaps he was simply saying what he thought the pilgrims expected to hear. Perhaps he really does believe that the Hungarian government was complicit. In any case, Áder’s admission of Hungarian guilt stands in stark contrast to what Viktor Orbán, László Kövér, and Zoltán Balog think of Hungary’s anti-Semitic past. Áder didn’t look for excuses, he didn’t try to bury uncomfortable truths. Was this an example of what we call the good cop, bad cop syndrome or was it genuine? I don’t know whether we will ever be able to answer this question properly given the tight-lipped Fidesz leaders.

As for whether the Germans were true occupiers or not, here is an amusing story. A few days ago neo-Nazi groups also decided to demonstrate on Szabadág tér. Great was the panic among the anti-monument demonstrators. They were afraid of physical attacks by these skin heads. To their surprise it turned out that, just like the Budapest liberals, the neo-Nazis came to demonstrate against the monument. Why? Because, as they explained, the Germans did not occupy Hungary. How could they? Hungarians and Germans were comrades-in-arms who fought together against Bolshevism. No comment.

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Guest

OT Hungarian Melodi Grand Prix contribution: Song on domestic violence.

Istvan
Guest

Eva the comment from the Hungarian neo-nazis in your post was priceless. Even the one old Hungarian SS member I knew growing up in Chicago through our church did not make such statements as that. He would prefer not to talk about such things, but he was of course an ardent anti communist and racist as was to be expected.

Hungary
Guest

This is a bit off-topic, but I would like to get some feedback on Hungary’s attitude toward the current events in Ukraine (I am a 3rd generation American living in the States — I do not have a good feel for current events in Hungary). Is it fair to say that Hungarians generally disdain Russia for the Communist-era occupation, including the 1956 debacle? I assume that if Russia ever tangled with Hungary, that Hungarians would lay down their lives to stop them — but I’m not sure. How do Hungarians feel about Orban’s recent business overtures to Russia (energy deals, etc.)? Do Hungarians have any idea of what life under Russia is like? Orban is increasingly autocratic. Do you think Hungary is or will soon be Soviet-like — no vocal opposition, total control of the economy by a small circle of corrupt cronies, government by fear and paranoia?

PWT
Guest

Does anyone have an explanation for why none of the large churches in Hungary have lodged a protest against this monument? At the very least, isn’t a portrayal of the Archangel Gabriel first as a particular human nation and second, as a victim of human violence totally without theological precedence, if not theologically impossible? Biblically, Gabriel appears as a messenger of the Lord to nations and, in Ezekiel’s prophesy. as the destroyer of Jerusalem. While integration of Gabriel into the Hungarian founding myth as delivering the crown, on behalf of god, to St Stephen is at least consistent with his scriptural character, as in Hero’s Square, identifying Gabriel with a particular human nation and then allowing him to be a victim has no source in either the bible or the greater Christian tradition.

Minusio
Guest

“…most Hungarian Jews applaud Mazsihisz and have a rather low opinion of the new head of the Holocaust Memorial Center.”

The Jews I know share your feeling.

1956 questions
Guest

“Imre Mécs, one of the heroes of 1956”

Unfortunately we do not always know who the real heroes were. Sadly, many of the 1956 participants were Communist informers, spies, secret supporters of the Communist regime, or have betrayed the real revolutionaries, or have been secretly members or agents of the Communist secret police.

Unfortunately we do not really know who was who in 1956 because the secret agents and spies of the Communist regime numbered in the hundreds of thousands if I remember correctly. Many of the agents got fake sentences so as not to blow their cover, the whole business is completely in the dark. It is sad but it is true.

I am sure that Imre Mécs was not involved in anything in secret and was a real participant. But every time I read the words about anyone being a hero during that time I cringe because the incredibly number of informers and agents is just a historical fact.

tappanch
Guest

1.
Orban will have the Nazi eagle erected in Freedom square within a week, perhaps tonight or tomorrow. Today/tonight, there were/are a hundred policeman, shoulder to shoulder, guarding the building site from the maximum of two hundred, mainly elderly demonstrators.

2.
” head of the Holocaust Memorial Center, György Harsányi”

Harsányi is the chairman of the board of trustees, the acting director is historian Szabolcs Szita.

http://www.hdke.hu/kapcsolat

Kirsten
Guest

Éva: “Was this an example of what we call the good cop, bad cop syndrome or was it genuine?”

I would classify such speech definitely as positive. Janos Ader might be a loyal Fidesznik but at least it cannot be ruled out that he can (eventually, or already now) also use his brains for a sober assessment of reality. My interpretation is that this only confirms that what Fidesz is doing in Hungary currently does not follow any rational plan as to its content, but is linked really only to securing power, and seizing the opportunity. The nationalism, racism, hatred of all sorts are “just” very useful means, people are divided and absorbed with their animosities. The extensive use of EU funds while the EU is the greatest enemy follows the same logic (none), but it serves the purpose of creating confusion and securing positions. So, in principle good news, albeit just with respect to the observation that brain-washing (or group think) has fortunately not yet affected all. The “nation” should take notice what purpose these statements about Hungarian exceptionalism, victimhood and the enemy within serve.

petofi
Guest

Has Ader ever been known as anything other than an ‘arm’ predisposed to do whatever the Great O wishes? I think not.

So, good cop/bad cop? You better believe it: Felcsutian shenanigans at its best–“Keep them
off balance, keep them wrong-footed.”

PWT
Guest

Dear “1956 Questions”,

Imre Mecs sat for years in prison, sentenced to death by the pro-Soviet communists for his activities in 1956. If anyone deserves the label heroic, he does.

tappanch
Guest

Mr Szita, the acting executive of the Holocaust Center did not know about the agreement with Veritas. Szita’s term expires in three days. The government did not renew his contract, and did not start the job search procedure two months ago as required by law.

http://www.168ora.hu/itthon/szita-szabolcs-nem-tudtam-veritassal-kotott-megallapodasrol-126323.html

tappanch
Guest

In the comments to the article above, a member of the board of trustees of the Holocaust Center informs us that she did not know about the agreement with Veritas either.

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
Guest

Here is another profile of his:

http://www.tti.hu/tagok/userprofile/gyharaszti

tappanch
Guest
Szakály is a member of the “Vitézi Rend”, a nobility replacement, whose original members were pseudo-knighted by Horthy. (Horthy was not a king, so he could not ennoble people) http://vitezirend1920.hu/content/view/123/56/ The members of the Order (Rend) received 10-15 hectares of agricultural land. They had to prove that they had no Jewish ancestry already in 1920. Horthy preceded the Lebensborn program. Horthy to Teleki in 1940: “főleg a fajnemesítés gondolata vezetett. Azonkívül jutalmazni, lekötni, és az ország vezetése iránti hűségben megtartani kívántam mindazokat, kik a világháború és a lezajlott forradalmak alatt egyénileg vitézségükkel és nemzeti érzésükkel kitűntek. Az ősi nemesi inszurrekció ez újabb formájával egy mindhalálig megbízható magyar alakulatot akartam, úgy a kívülről jövő támadás, mint a belső destruktív erők újbóli forradalmi kísérlete esetén örök időkre a főkapitány rendelkezésére állítani. Hogy ez a sereg mindég megbízható legyen, fő a származás és családi körülmények tisztasága, az erkölcsi alap, valamint az egészséges vér. A vitéz csak engedéllyel házasodhatik, idegen fajból származót csak akkor veszünk fel, ha 100%-ig magyarul érez, megbízható, és ha maga kéri a névmagyarosítást. Így a Vitézi Renddel mindég egy megbízható ütőerő is áll rendelkezésemre. A legbátrabb és legjobban dekorált zsidó is ki van zárva.” [I was inspired by the thought… Read more »
Member

Éva: “Was this an example of what we call the good cop, bad cop syndrome or was it genuine?”

I think Orban is teaching his pava tanc (peacock dance).

For those who are new to the blog, Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban made a statement regarding those changes that were requested by the EU in order for Hungary to comply with European Union norms, practices, and laws. Orban informed Hungarians that although the European Union will believe what the Fidesz government is doing is a compliance, in reality they take a step to show they comply then they take a step in the other direction. He called this move from his part, the “peacock dance” (pava tanc).
Since 2010 he whole world was able to witness the peacock dance of the Fidesz government.

tappanch
Guest

Detailed description about Haraszti’s family and activities from 2010:

Another Szakály, Ferenc (a relative of Sandor?) gave him his first job as a historian.

http://www.remeny.org/remeny/2010-3-szam/zorog-a-haraszti-deutsch-gabor/

Rob
Guest

PWT: another question, why Germany does not care either about the memorial?

It’s just ridiculous, how impotent the Germans are.

They are content with being the richest country, but would never enter into any conflicts with anyone.

This is funny, though, classic.

Minusio
Guest

@Rob

How, in your opinion, should Germany intervene? Seriously.

Steven Geiger
Guest

It’s George Haraszti not Harsanyi.

On Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 1:29 PM, Hungarian Spectrum wrote:

> Eva S. Balogh posted: “The Orbán government’s efforts > to falsify history are proceeding full steam ahead. The “madness”–as Imre > Mécs, one of the heroes of 1956, called it–continues. It looks as if > Viktor Orbán refuses to listen to reason and insists on erecting a monument > tha”

Tódor
Guest
Remember: with Fidesz there are no surprises when it comes to HR. They do a thorough background search and only use people they can really trust (and control). Re Haraszti this is a good excerpt from his long bio (not autobio) published by Remény: “Munkahelyről a pártfogó állam gondoskodott, pár évre (segéd)munkás, majd ismét programozó le(hete)tt, utoljára – a rendszer ellentmondásaként – egy olajipari kutatóintézetben. Titkot ne áruljunk el, akkortájt számos üzem – így az övéké is – fedőnéven dolgozott, haditechnikai kutatással, fejlesztéssel is foglalkoztak. Példával élve, a Lámpagyárban készítettek világító testeket is, de nem biztos, hogy az volt a fő profiljuk.” In short: the guy illegally emigrated to Germany (disszidált), but after a couple of years he returned and when he returned he could keep his German savings and got a job immediately in a state owned research institute which was making defense industry products (which operated under an unassuming name as the articles writes). OK, so if somebody is not a total amateur this obviously indicates that the he was (and thus he still is for all practical purposes) a state security agent, perhaps even his emigration was fake, but certainly it did not work in the 1970’s… Read more »
Igazi Szabadsagot Hozzon A Jovo
Guest
Igazi Szabadsagot Hozzon A Jovo

1956’s spies concept can be applied to the fidesz. not one has got any credibility.

tappanch
Guest

@Eva “Steve Geiger, you may not have noticed but the name has been changed at least two hours ago.”

Yes, László Harsányi, an economist, is a different person.

1995-2002 Szonda Ipsos – director of this pollster

2002-2010: chairman of the National Cultural Fund, NKA.

2009-2011: acting director of the Holocaust Center. Orban fired him

Sources:

2009: http://hvg.hu/kultura/20091217_harsanyi_laszlo_nka
2010, June: http://hvg.hu/itthon/20100629_harsanyi_laszlo_felmentes
2011, May: http://hvg.hu/itthon/20110519_felmondtak_holokauszt_emlekkozpont

Boateng
Guest

In case you missed it, Tibor Navracsics, everyone favorite gentleman, told his listeners that we must step into the 21st century, because, as he said it, a political community cannot live closed in the past. According to him: the dead should be mourned, the perpetrators must be caught and punished of course, but we must finally move forward into the 21st century.

Which everybody interprets in Hungary as:

“there is just too much of this Holocaust thing, it’s time to move on and deal with the real issues.”

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140427_Navracsics_a_holokausztrol_Tovabb_kell_le

Rob
Guest
Ron: Like they start to oppose the memorial openly?? Like they grow balls?? Do you know why the Soviet memorial cannot be moved away from Szabadság tér? (Even though it would be a huge political move for Orban as the right wing demands it and the removal is one of the foremost demands of Jobbik’s cultural chapter of their party manifesto, never mind their recent Russia-love, and that is why they erected the Ronald Reagan statue 5 meters from the Soviet memorial.) Because the Russians would go ballistic immediately and would create a huge fuss about it (there is even an old international treaty specifically on the Soviet memorial, which we could terminate, but we will not). This is the inverse of the situation with the Germans. The memorial is a lie and would absolve Hungary of its responsibility and push that entirely onto Germany (it is also hideously distasteful). Why are they fine with it? Cannot they oppose that? Of course, I know they will not, because the are OK with the situation and this is the way they repent, that they let everyone to do to them whatever they want (after all they are rich, so why would… Read more »
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