Undisguised anti-Semitism of Viktor Orbán’s chief ideologue, the historian Mária Schmidt

In the June 26 issue of Válasz, formerly Heti Válasz, a fairly lengthy article entitled “In the captivity of the past” appeared. It was written by Mária Schmidt whom I earlier described as the “chief ideologist of the current government’s very controversial views on history.”

In this latest article Schmidt, the official historian of the Hungarian “Jewish question” in Viktor Orbán’s regime, does not even try to hide her aversion toward the Hungarian “left-liberal” intellectual elite. Moreover, a careful reading of the article reveals that in that hated group the Jews play a prominent role. The whole article is basically an attack on those “infallible,” mostly Jewish intellectuals who have been keeping Hungarian public opinion “under intellectual terror” for decades. Singled out for especially vituperative attack is the older generation of that intellectual elite.

It is hard to understand Schmidt’s vehemence against this aging group since at the very beginning of the article she confidently states that “since the 2014 election the influence and intellectual terror of the left liberal elite has slowly dwindled to nothing.” The election proved that “these clever ones” simply don’t understand the twenty-first century which, according to Schmidt, “began in 2008.”

What kinds of people are these old-fashioned liberals who understand nothing of the present because they are locked in the intellectual framework of 1968? They are, according to the court historian of Viktor Orbán, anti-Christian, anti-Hungarian, Marxist internationalists who talk about a future beyond nations. They are accused of launching a hate campaign, and “in our country only atheistic, intolerant, Marxist groups” are capable of such a hate campaign. These people are unable to understand the very concept of “Hungarian interest.” Instead, they talk about progress and internationalism while actually “they become servants of foreign interests. While there was the Soviet Union, they represented Soviet interests, now they serve the West, that is, the United States, the European Union, and Germany.” She continues: “Every member of this group is against the nation.” For them the nation is dangerous, repugnant, old-fashioned, pre-modern. They like to talk about “the preferred topics of the empire,” meaning the European Union: Holocaust, racism, Roma, homosexual marriage. And where can these people be found? “In the new SZDSZ, the Demokratikus Koalíció.”

Once she sets the stage she moves on to a specifically Jewish topic, or at least what she considers to be a topic that elicits opposition only from the Jewish community. Of course, this is not the case; about half of Hungarians consider the monument the government intends to erect to commemorate the occupation of Hungary by the Germans on March 19, 1944 a falsification of history. Schmidt’s tirade against those who oppose the depiction of Hungary as an innocent victim of German aggression begins with a side swipe at the United States. She says that some people find the proposed statue aesthetically inferior, but after what “the U.S. Embassy did with one of the most beautiful public places of Budapest” one should refrain from such criticism. This is a reference to the alterations made to the building after 9/11 for security reasons.

Then Schmidt embarks on listing  the arguments that were brought against the erection of the monument, finding all of them bogus. Naturally, according to her, it mattered not that although the German army did move into Hungarian territory, it came not as a foe but as a friend, an ally.

The second argument that the memorial’s message blurs the distinction between victim and perpetrator also receives short shrift from Schmidt. Monuments often do that. There is, for example, the Soviet Memorial standing on the same square. It is a memorial to the soldiers who died in Hungary in the course of the war, but, adds Schmidt, they were the same soldiers who  raped 100,000 Hungarian women. (I don’t want to be irreverent, but surely in this case the perpetrators of the rapes were not the ones whose death is memorialized by the Soviet Memorial.)

The third argument is that Hungary cannot be depicted as an innocent victim because “there were Jewish laws and Hungary deported some people who couldn’t prove their citizenship.” But this doesn’t make the occupation any less of a tragedy. The victim becomes a victim not because he is innocent but because of the aggression of the stronger. It happens often enough that “some of the victims later become perpetrators.” Because I am familiar with other writings of Mária Schmidt, I know exactly whom she has in mind: some Jewish survivors who later became willing supporters of the Rákosi regime and whose activities are so vividly depicted in the House of Terror, whose director is Mária Schmidt herself.

With this introduction about “victims” and “perpetrators” Schmidt specifically addresses the Hungarian Jewish community. She claims that “in the last couple of decades the status of the victim became absolute. We got so far that there are groups that would like to look upon their ancestors’ tragic fate as an inherited privilege and expand the victimization to generations whose members have not suffered any atrocity.” In her opinion this view, held by some members of the Hungarian Jewish community, has “serious consequences” because if the status of victim can be inherited then so can the status of perpetrator. “We lived through two dictatorships. We are full of former perpetrators and their descendants.” Schmidt claims that the soon to be erected monument was created to be “the monument of reconciliation and propitiation.”

Memorial for those who were killed on the banks of the Danube and their bodies thrown into the river Source; budapest-foto.hu

Memorial for those Jewish victims who were killed on the banks of the Danube 
Source: budapest-foto.hu

As if this were not enough, Schmidt goes on attacking the Hungarian Jewish community. “Those very people who laid the foundations of and represented the historiography of the dictatorship want to prevent us now, seventy years after the tragedy, from placing the flowers of reverence before all the Hungarian victims. They still want to prescribe whom we can mourn and whom we cannot; for whom we can cry and for whom we cannot. They prescribe empathy from us every day of the year, while they remain blind and deaf toward other people’s sorrows. … With this act they exclude themselves from our national community.

Well, this is at least straightforward talk, not the usual coded anti-Semitic discourse. This is the real thing from the chief ideologue of the Orbán regime. And a threat. At least the members of the Hungarian Jewish community now know what they can expect from the Hungarian nation, from which they just excluded themselves.

 

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Minusio
Guest

Mária Schmidt has a troubled mind. It is difficult to look her in the eye and even more difficult to determine where she stands at any particular moment, as she is said to have changed her mind quite often. – Just now she seems to be the top protagonist for re-interpreting Hungarian history against the facts. My daughter, a distinguished historian, does not give her historical knowledge and methodology a lot of credit.

Member

HUNGARY IS COMPOUNDING SHAME UPON SHAME UPON SHAME

If Maria Schmidt’s abominations are not the majority view in Hungary, it’s up to the majority of Hungarians to make that known — prominently.

DB01
Guest

These were confused history views in 1800s, 1900s like now in the 2000s.

Segregation, racism, suspicion, and self – destruction are the fate of the nation.

Unity would be a good policy, but too many nasty Schmidt Marias prevent it.

gdfxx
Guest

What a difference between the poisons this person spews and a short speech I heard recently at a Jewish Film Festival from the Consul of Germany in San Francisco.

Here is the essence of what he said: in Germany the children are educated about the Holocaust. They are taught the difference between guilt and responsibility. Obviously, generations born after the war cannot be guilty for any of the events during the Holocaust. But they are responsible forever or at least for many centuries to educate themselves and their own children about what was done, to make sure that those horrible crimes are never repeated.

latefor
Guest

It’s time for religious leaders to get together and find a peaceful solution to this psychological war between Jews and Christians and open universities specializing on training more psychiatrists. All this hate, guilt, accusations and responsibilities need to be addressed urgently. The damage is done, it might be too late already.

Nofene
Guest

Would someone please send this blog to Ms. Ann Applebaum? She seems to be still supporting this monster on the basis of anticommunism.

Member

Psychological war between Jews and Christians???

What I see is the dangerous legacy of Anti-Semitism in Hungarian society. Connected as it was, in a strange way, to Blut-and-Boden patriotism, it was instrumentalised in the Horthy era (which then, together with the cooperation with Nazism, led to the Hungarian holocaust). And now it is cynically instrumentalised again by the present government.

Perhaps the real problem is the paranoia (“everybody hates us”) and Messiah complex (“we are a Very Special Nation”, we have suffered more than any other people ever) which have been in-built into Hungarian patriotism since the 16th century. There are too many Hungarians who refuse to “understand the difference between guilt and responsibility” and instead of seeing their responsibility, resort to whining and putting the blame on “enemies of Hungary”, wherever they are. This is the target audience of the present government, these are the people Mária Schmidt is writing to.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

The Hungarian religious leaders are part of the problem. For example, catholic Bishop Ottokár Prohászka (+ 1927) was the most important ideologue of anti-Semitism. Moreover, there is a real cult of Prohászka in Hungary.
Another problem: The reformed Church of Hungary is tolerating Lóránt Hegedüs jun. who is inciting anti-Semitism. They started recently church-judicial procedure against him. However, since he has many followers they are afraid to exclude him.
So let us face the fact, anti-Semitism is part of Hungarian politics in the beginning of the XXI century.
This was also the case in Austria decades after the end of World War II. This has changed because today the vast majority of the younger generations who were brought up in the Second Republic reject National Socialism, anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism and German nationalism.
The communists under Kádár believed, if they do not talk about it, anti-Semitism would disappear. They were wrong. The liberal SZDSZ – which was branded right from the beginning as Jewish – was backpedaling when Csurka and his ilk in MDF started with open aggressive anti-Semitic incitement.

stop the hate
Guest
The Maria Schmidt article had nothing to do with Jewish people in fact the word Jew or Jewish appears exactly zero times in it. This blogpost is a hate filled attack by Balogh, that only serves to illustrate the truth in Maria Schmidt’s writing perfectly. Balogh’s above article is the perfect example of “intellectuals who have been keeping Hungarian public opinion “under intellectual terror” for decades. ” The “intellectual terror” is not created by Jewish people but rather people who just went mad with hate and dedicate their lives to hatred of Hungarian leading intellectuals like Maria Schmidt. They think they can destroy people’s lives and reputation EXACTLY like Balogh is attempting here. But this ideological terror has nothing to do with being Jewish and everything to do with unlimited willingness to hate. Balogh uses her blog to launch a tirade and spread hate against her victims who are helpless to respond and defend themselves against Balogh’s libel and defamation. What should the victims do? Start a blog themselves, what would that achieve? Balogh’s ability to generate unlimited hate against any target is getting ever more dangerous. Maria Schmidt who spent years in Israel on various grants and dedicated about… Read more »
Guest

Not too much OT:

Avi Primor (former Israeli ambassador in Germany) wrote a novel about Jewish soldiers in WW1. Here’s an interview with him about the fate of the around 100 000 (!) German Jewish soldiers, many of which were deported and murdered by the Nazis:
http://www.spiegel.de/einestages/juedische-soldaten-im-ersten-weltkrieg-a-975473.html
Though Jews were not allowed to become officers in the Prussian army, in WW1 they were needed, so they became “Reserve officers” which meant that they were not acknowledged after the war.

Guest

@stop the hate:

So please give us a “correct” translation of Schmidt if you know so much about her – thanks in advance!

Ferenc Kumin would probably the best person for the job – he’s so excellent at telling those uninformed foreigners about what Orbán and his henchmen really meant when they said/wrote something strange ..

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@stop the hate@ According to the Historian László Karsai your idol Mária Schmidt is a “falsifier of history” (történelmhamisitó) and a relativizer of Holocaust. Karsai also declared at an ATV Egyenes beszéd interview, that Schmidt is not starting procedure against him, despite the fact that he qualified her in the past also as a “falsifier of history”.
Scapegoating, blaming the victim, victim-perpetrator reversal, trivialization, and denial are the backbone of Mária Schmidt’s strategy.
It is also a strategy of “Us” abd “Them”. Such political rhetoric is supposed to distinguish between the “good” and “bad” guys.
The specifically Hungarian form of anti-Semitism, with its venom and greed, is explicable only in terms of the psychological condition in which so many Hungarians found themselves at the time. Cursed with a rankling inferiority complex towards both Germans and Jews but unable to vent their spleen on the former, the Hungarian majority tried to cope by fawning on the Germans while savaging the Jews.

Guest

Stop-the-hate’s comment of sixteen sentences uses the word hate or a derivative thereoff exactly nine times. In one sentence it occurs twice, and in one occurrence it is qualified as “unlimited hate”.

Nevertheless it does not convince me that Eva Balogh hates Maria Schmidt. I think she detests her.

Nádas
Guest

Well, Schmidt is right about one thing: the security cage the Americans built around the embassy on Szabadság tér is a monstrosity, a monument to fear.

latefor
Guest

I’ve been the reader of this blog since it’s beginning. Not so long ago, I remember that another well known and respected historian was accused of possible antisemitism. Thank God, after a few heated debates published on Galamus, he was finally declared “kosher”. It seems to me that in Hungary, Jews and Christians have a completely different interpretation of the past. One interpretation is completely different to the other……poor Hungarian people, poor students of history…I don’t even know what to say anymore….the best thing for me is to pray that one day all this madness will stop in the best interest of the Hungarian people, Jews and Christians alike. God bless the Hungarians!

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@Nádas@ The security mechanism in front of the US Embassy is not such a monstrosity when compared to the Tisza monument on Kossuth tér.
@latefor@ It is not a question of interpretation, but a question of recognizing the facts. And the prolonged, embarassed silence in respect of the history of the Hungarian Holocaust.
We have a spirit of historical forgetfulness in Hungary. Whereas in Germany and later in Austria a critical historiography of the Nazi period grew up that resulted, in the establishment of institutes charged with the scholarly investigation of the phenomenon of Nazism.
Now wathever Hungarian Historians found out about the Hungarian Holocaust under Miklós Horthy, the impression was conveyed of the Hungarian population that was an unwilling party to what happened between 1938 and 1945.
I wonder if a Historian, an artist or writer will break through the wall of hypocrisy by hitting a deeper layer in the Hungarian political psyche, producing instant cathartic relief.

tappanch
Guest

@stop the hate

“Hungarian leading intellectuals like Maria Schmidt. ”

Vae victis mentalibus, woe to the country, where M. Schmidt is a leading intellectual.

Kavé
Guest
Stop the Hate says “The Maria Schmidt article had nothing to do with Jewish people in fact the word Jew or Jewish appears exactly zero times in it.” Go to the article here http://valasz.hu/publi/a-mult-fogsagaban-101365 Now click on the “find” tool in your browser and type the Hungarian word “zsido”… The word “Jew” appears 25 times in the text. An even more telling feature is Schmidt’s use (12 times) of the term “ballib” and “balliberal” (left liberal) as an epithet to label her enemies. It is a political term common in Hungarian trolling, as you obviously know so very well. It would not be acceptable as a term to be used in the company of professional historians, the kind with real academic degrees who submit their work to peer review. After Orban’s electoral defeat in 2006 many expected him to step down as leader of FIDESZ, as is normal when a leader loses two elections in a row. In 2007 rumors circulated that Schmidt Maria was considering taking over the leadership of FIDESZ, but it turned out to be an internal test to see just how much support Orban still maintained. Schmidt publicly apologized and Orban graciously accepted her back into… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Fidesz has submitted an amendment to their few-days old anti-RTL law to hit the only major non-Fidesz media company stronger.

This must be Fidesz’s punishment for RTL’s truthful newsreels in the last 2 weeks.

http://www.parlament.hu/irom40/00467/00467.pdf

http://nol.hu/gazdasag/reklamado-ujabb-torvenymodositasal-mennek-neki-az-rtl-nek-1471215

Bowen
Guest

On the #2 tram in Budapest on the weekend. It was full, and a bunch of normal-looking young Hungarians pointed at the Shoes on the Danube Bank, as the tram went past.

“Ha ha! Look – they left their shoes behind when they fell in!”

kommentelo
Guest

An even more telling feature is Schmidt’s use (12 times) of the term “ballib” and “balliberal” (left liberal) as an epithet to label her enemies. It is a political term common in Hungarian trolling, as you obviously know so very well. It would not be acceptable as a term to be used in the company of professional historians, the kind with real academic degrees who submit their work to peer review.

Are you sure “balliberális” is an ephitet used to label “enemies”? Then why did Népszava print this article?

http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1022252-a-balliberalis-foldcsuszamlas-husz-eve

Title: “A balliberális földcsuszamlás húsz éve”?

Or blog post which has 850 comments

http://orulunkvincent.blog.hu/2014/04/16/a_balliberalis_ertelmisegi_elit_tundoklese_es_higgadt_indulatposzt

kommentelo
Guest

I wonder if a Historian, an artist or writer will break through the wall of hypocrisy by hitting a deeper layer in the Hungarian political psyche, producing instant cathartic relief.

The writings of historians, their books and articles in historical journals have very good metrics as to how many buy and read them (from few hundred to few thousand). What happens to everyone else?

kommentelo
Guest

I lost a comment I posted. It had two links in it, one to nepszava and the other to orulunk vincent, a blog, maybe one of those is black listed or it was a bug?

fg-gh
Guest

@stop the hate – June 30, 2014 at 2:49 am

karl pfeifer etc. replied this apologetic post very well.

schmidt’s aspiration to become fidesz boss is astonishing. she and orban wounded hungary for another couple of hundred years.

the stupidity is widespread all over the world.

i watched the movie Zelary. with Gyorgy Cherhalmi and Ana Geislerova where the number of nasty rotten people in a small village is shocking, hardly balanced by a few good ones. where is the hope for us?

petofi
Guest

@latefor

“…he was finally declared “kosher”’

For non-yids, kosher is for food.
We don’t eat mal-informed historians: we eat little virgin girls.
You’d better visit your priest to bring you up to date on the latest jewish ‘tastes’…

petofi
Guest

@fg-gh

“…she and orban wounded hungary…”

Nope.
Orban and Schmidt are the perfect representations of mainstream Hungary.

As Willy the S. used to write: “I just hold up the mirror to nature.” Ahem.

carlos
Guest

The first quote in Maria Schmidt’s article:

“A zsidóság tragédiája a nemzet tragédiája lett”

“The tragedy of the Jewish people is the tragedy of the Hungarian Nation”

It is the most important quote in the Maria Schmidt article but it was left out from this discussion entirely. Why do you think this quote is left out?

Kavé
Guest

Carlos: perhaps because the rest Schmidt’s article reveals her to be an insincere, ideologically rigid sophist?

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
@fg-gh@ thanks for the compliment. One should not lose hope. I have written here about changes in Austria. Austrian officialdom took many years to bring itself to make a public admission of the co-responsibility of Austrians for National Socialism… There is no denying that after 1945 broad swathes of the population made up of former National Socialists and the “war-generation” were highly skeptical about democracy. As a result, and partially under the influence of Nazi propaganda that stoked up fear of “the Russians” the events of April/May 1945 were perceived by no small number of Austrians, including many non-Nazis, not as liberation but as defeat, as a “Zusammenbruch” What Historians researched was the involvement of Austrians, some in leading positions, in the crimes of the Nazi regime. Tens of thousands of Austrians profited from the expropriation of Jewish assets, with over 60.000 Jewish homes being “Aryanized” in Vienna alone. The hounding of Jews did not have to be commanded by the Germans but was initiated and carried out by Austrian Nazis. Furthermore, many who were not NSDAP (Nazi-party) members were party to a ferment of anti-Semitism and the incessant round of anti-Semitic acts, or at least profited from them. During… Read more »
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