Federation of Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) versus Mária Schmidt

Back in December 2013 I predicted that the creation of a new Holocaust memorial museum, the House of Fates, would be a very controversial issue. I wrote at this time that both Mária Schmidt, the revisionist historian of the Holocaust who was named to head the project, and the Orbán government “have very definite ideas about what they want and what they don’t want. They certainly don’t want an exhibit that exposes the responsibility of the Hungarian government and those 200,000 people who actively worked on the deportation of more than 600,000 people within a couple of months.”

And indeed, the project that still hasn’t quite gotten off the ground has been nothing but a bone of contention between the Jewish community, which was supposed to receive the museum as something of a gift for the seventieth anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust, and Mária Schmidt as the representative of the government.

The presence of Mária Schmidt as the person responsible for the preparation of the plans aroused suspicion in the Jewish community because of her revisionist views. There was fear that Schmidt would create a museum like the House of Terror, whose exhibit is not an accurate portrayal of the history of 60 Andrássy Street, the site of the headquarters of  both the Arrow Cross party and ÁVH, the national security forces of the Rákosi regime. The fear was and still is that this new museum will try to alter the accepted history of the Hungarian Holocaust by adopting the views of Mária Schmidt, which most historians find untenable.

Mazsihisz, the umbrella organization of various Jewish groups, demanded the removal of Mária Schmidt as head of the project. Within a few months, however, it became clear that Mária Schmidt would remain.

Then, after a couple of months of seeming quiet, behind the scenes negotiations took place between Schmidt and leaders of  the Hungarian and international Jewish community. The latter desperately tried to find a way to have at least some say in the concept and eventually functioning of the museum. At last, on June 30, the following agreement was allegedly reached:

Upon an initiative by Rabbi Andrew Baker, who joined the International Advisory Board of the House of Fates project in his capacity as Director of International Jewish Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, Mária Schmidt, the historian in charge of the professional side of the project, briefed András Heisler, Chairman of Mazsihisz (the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities), and Sir Andrew Burns, the Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), together with a number of international and Hungarian experts on the progress made since the project was launched in 2013.

Participants agreed on a five point “road map” to be followed with a view to promoting the successful completion of the project.

  1. The Páva Street Holocaust Museum and Documentation Centre and the future House of Fates will co-operate and complement each other. Páva Street provides a permanent exhibition of the Holocaust as well as serving mainly as a center for research and documentation. The House of Fates will offer exhibitions directed toward young people while also serving as a center for education and training.
  2. Participants agreed that in addition to the International Advisory Board an international working group of academic experts will be set up in cooperation with IHRA to give feedback on the historical content and context of the exhibition.
  3. A similar academic working group will be set up in cooperation with IHRA to help in shaping the educational material and methods of the future Educational Centre which will be an integral part of the House of Fates project.
  4. Steps will be taken to establish regular contacts and exchanges of views between the House of Fates project and Mazsihisz.
  5. The outlines of the exhibition will be presented to the full membership of the International Advisory Board and subsequently opened up to the public at large in the autumn.

It looked as if the hatchet had been buried and that the two sides were getting closer to some sort of agreement. At the same time, however, there were troubling signs that the “road map” was in reality a worthless piece of paper because everything was proceeding apace without any consultation with Mazsihisz and other Jewish organizations. For example, on July 18 the Official Gazette (Magyar Közlöny) reported that the project had been enlarged. The government had generously added another 667 million forints for the restoration of three other buildings belonging to the railroad station. Thus the whole project will cost 7.2 billion forints. And the House of Fates will function under the auspices of the same foundation that is in charge of the House of Terror.

The House of Fates under construction

The House of Fates under construction

In the interim Schmidt indicated that she wanted to concentrate only on the deportations and nothing that preceded them. She claimed that the existing Holocaust Memorial Center deals with this period and there is no need to duplicate its work here. But it is hard to imagine an “education center” on the Holocaust that ignores both the widespread anti-Semitism that existed in Hungary and the government’s role in the anti-Jewish laws.

Then came several seeming blows to Mária Schmidt’s project. First, Mazsihisz (Federation of Jewish Communities) released a statement on the requisite conditions for future cooperation between Mazsihisz and the House of Fates project:

The president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities in Hungary – as he had agreed with the Prime Minister – attended on July 28 a consultation about the House of Fates project and a site visit of the future museum.

On July 30, the office of Dr. Maria Schmidt issued a declaration about the meeting. The content of the declaration was not truthful to the statement agreed by the participants at the meeting.

At the meeting, Dr. Maria Schmidt made the false declaration that she had no information on the future operation of the museum. In fact, ten days earlier, the government by its resolution 1390/2014.(VII.18) ordered the ‘Middle- and Eastern European History and Society Research Public Foundation’, directed by Dr. Maria Schmidt, to operate the House of Fates Museum.

This yet another unconsulted government decision, and the untrue declaration by Dr Maria Schmidt, undermined all agreements previously achieved.

In order to restore transparency and good faith, MAZSIHISZ specifies the following conditions for its cooperation with the House of Fates and its directing institution, the Middle- and Eastern European History and Society Research Public Foundation.

  • The interpretation of history at the House of Fates should be in line with that of the universally accepted exhibition in the Holocaust Documentation and Research Center in Páva Street, Budapest.
  • The House of Fates should reach an agreement on the composition and competence of the academic working group supported by IHRA. The educational working group should also be set up and its competence should be clarified.
  • The expert group of MAZSIHISZ should continuously participate in shaping and controlling the scenario and the educational material.
  • In setting up the team of exhibition guides, the House of Fates project should use the knowledge and the commitment of the experts educated at the Rabbinical Seminary – Jewish University, which is the higher education institute of MAZSIHISZ.
  • The operation of the House of Fates should be controlled by a body consisting in equal proportions of individuals selected by the government; the international academic experts; and the scholars delegated by MAZSIHISZ. Such a body would guarantee the politically independent operation of the institution under any future government.
  • A precise schedule of the preparations should be drawn up, and both the participating members and the public at large should be notified. The dates should be accepted by all participants of the July 28 meeting.

MAZSIHISZ hopes that by accepting and observing the above terms the House of Fates will become a worthy memorial of the hundreds of thousands innocent victims of the Hungarian Holocaust.

And then followed the statement of  Sir Andrew Burns, chairman of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance:

Contrary to media reports, IHRA will not be in a position to endorse the House of Fates concept until the consultations with the national and international experts as well as with the Hungarian Jewish Community have been taken into account. Dr Heisler has published a letter to Dr Schmidt about the points of concern to the Jewish community which are shared by IHRA. Close cooperation with Mazsihisz is not only desirable but essential in ensuring the integrity of the project.

Meanwhile work on the future museum is proceeding. According to Mária Schmidt, the grand opening will occur sometime in the fall. Mazsihisz’s refusal to support the project will not deter her or the government whom she represents from carrying it to completion. Even if, as András Heisler, president of Mazsihisz, said, “it will be the only Holocaust memorial center in the whole world which would be created without the participation of the local Jewish community and one which has not taken into consideration its views.”

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
D7 Democrat
Guest

“According to Mária Schmidt, the grand opening will occur sometime in the fall. Mazsihisz’s refusal to support the project will not deter her or the government whom she represents from carrying it to completion.”

A regime, whose leader, its apologists and electorate which are fundamentally racist and anti-Semitic at its core still knows, for appearance’s sake, some kind of makeshift memorial has to be erected. The dilemma for the Fidesz Nazi apologists is solved by attempting to downplay the significance of the Holocaust and the role Hungarians played in making sure the Final Solution was so “successful”.

Every single time Mazsihisz and other Jewish representative organisations walk into Orban’s trap. The hatred of Jews may not be a fundamental tenet of Orban’s belief system (an unquestioning adoration of Orban pretty much sums up his personal belief system) but he sure as hell will use anti-Semitism if it means he gets at least one more vote.

punnic
Guest
Heisler writes: “On July 30, the office of Dr. Maria Schmidt issued a declaration about the meeting. The content of the declaration was not truthful to the statement agreed by the participants at the meeting.” I am sorry but isn’t it breathtakingly arrogant to say that the five point declaration is “not truthful to the statement agreed” WITHOUT saying how the two differs? The declaration seems pretty clear: ” The Páva Street Holocaust Museum and Documentation Centre and the future House of Fates will co-operate and complement each other. Páva Street provides a permanent exhibition of the Holocaust as well as serving mainly as a center for research and documentation. The House of Fates will offer exhibitions directed toward young people while also serving as a center for education and training. Participants agreed that in addition to the International Advisory Board an international working group of academic experts will be set up in cooperation with IHRA to give feedback on the historical content and context of the exhibition. A similar academic working group will be set up in cooperation with IHRA to help in shaping the educational material and methods of the future Educational Centre which will be an integral… Read more »
andysomos
Guest

E D I T O R I A L
by Andy Somogyi

Hungarian P.M. Viktor Orbán is hereby declared Prime-Minisiter “out-ov-kontrollll”.

One day he tells his charges to collect money to pay back the debt, the next day he is buying chateaux and stuffing his buddies’ pockets with illegal cash.

At the same time he is fining the homeless for sleeping under the skies…

And on and on goes this cycle of MADNESS.

USA, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Great Britain.

ARE YOU GONNA STAND BY AND WATCH THIS GUY illegally MAKE MINCED-MEAT of 9 million of his fellow citizens !!! ???

Guest

London Calling!

punnic Tosh.

That the person in the guise of eminence grise, Sir Andrew Burns, should be unhappy might give you an insight to the international concern here.

Stuff the dosh – think it through.

Great Britain had to sort out the travesty of the holocaust and have no axe to grind.

” The UK has long played a leading role internationally on Holocaust education, remembrance and research. In 1991 England was the first European country to make teaching about the Holocaust a mandatory part of the history curriculum in state secondary schools, whilst in 2009 it was the first country to undertake extensive national research into Holocaust teaching and learning. Holocaust Memorial Day has been marked in the UK since 2001, having been inaugurated the previous year by the then Prime Minister. ”

I would suggest you give your Prime Minister – soon to be ‘President’ some advice.

It’s not the cost – it’s the revisionist history, Sunny Jim.

But neither you, Schmidt or President thug will get it.

Understand?

Regards

Charlie

gdfxx
Guest

punnic complains about the HUF7.2b allocated to this project. First of all considering that the GDP of Hungary was US$125.5B, and assuming 1USD=233HUF, the HUF7.2B is 0.02462% of the GDP. Second, it should be clarified to those who complain about the amount that many of those who object to the way the Hungarian Government and this “Dr.” handle the issue would rather have the whole project scrapped. At least that is my opinion.

petofi
Guest

And all the while in Felcsut, over a midnight snack of fine canine delicacies, those surrounding the campfire laugh their guts out…

Steven Geiger
Guest

Sir Andrew Burns and not Baker is the the head of IHRA. Andrew Baker is a rabbi from the U.S.

Too many Andrews!!!

Shalom, Steven Andrew Geiger

Paul
Guest

What on earth is she a ‘Doctor’ of?

Member

@punnic (August 11, 2014 at 4:29 pm) You seem to know way to much about the issue, and sounds you have way to much opinion considering this is your first post on this forum….
Shill?

ZoldVirag
Guest

Hungarian Jews are not different from non-Jewish Hungarians.

Void of creative and honest thinking, with a few exceptions.

They have to be reminded of the brave and intelligent messages by Imre Kertesz, Gyorgy Konrad, Akos Kertesz, Ferenc Donath, Tamas Csapody and rallied around a united antiLilliputin strategy.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@Paul@ Mária Schmidt has several academic degrees as Historian.
She was one of the most important advisers of V.O. 1998-2002
I would not buy anything she peddles

Zoltán
Guest

“considering that the GDP of Hungary was US$125.5B, and assuming 1USD=233HUF, the HUF7.2B is 0.02462% of the GDP.”

If your number is correct it allows the comparison between countries. Using that % number and having an estimate of the US GDP (about 17 trillion dollars) gives the result of:

4.1854 billion dollars. If America spends the same % of GDP on something it equals to 4.1854 billion dollars.

Attila
Guest

This is insane ,we don’t want any new holohoux museum of yours,,,made by public money,,that the only think
You care,,,,your subventions,your holocaust,old socialist crybabies, your time is gone..
Here your glory days,,,
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IXc5kJYGf3I

petofi
Guest

@Attila

You simp. What do you think VO, Pinter, and Kover belonged to pre-1989?

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
Zoltán: If your number is correct it allows the comparison between countries. Sorry, but such a GDP-based comparison makes no sense in that field. Firstly, because in the U.S. the level of public funding for cultural/educational institutions is generally minimal. Second, because I can give you many examples in Europe that would, should one apply the rule you chose, make the Hungarian government look stingy. Such as the costs of the upcoming Memorial at Camp de Rivesaltes in France, 23 M€ financed by the Languedoc-Roussillon Region … whose GDP is 40% of Hungary’s. What could make some sense is: 1) Comparing, between Central EU countries, the relative amount of public funding of all new/renewed cultural institutions – and also the level of private co-funding for these projects (something the Sorsok Háza, given its disastrous project management, seems unlikely to attract). 2) Comparing the costs of that particular project with the overall funding of all new/renewed cultural institutions in Hungary. For instance, the costs of the Varosliget ‘cultural Disneyland’ project have been announced at HUF 75 Bn (for the five museums) + HUF 150 Bn (for the park). And we can safely assume that the final costs will be, as always,… Read more »
BA
Guest

An interesting blog about Sigetvari
http://uzenofuzet.blog.hu/2013/04/15/bemutatkozik_szigetvari_viktor

this blog was commissioned and dictated by MSZP politicians to attack Bajnai and Viktor Szigetvari.

MSZP apparatchiks like Árpad Velez had hired bloggers to get them to place all sorts of materials. The interesting thing is they not only placed these to attack Fidesz, they used these methods to attack Bajnai and Viktor Szigetvari, the leaders of the Egyutt party.

But now a blogger they used and then betrayed after using him, started to air the dirty laundry.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Zoltán
Guest

“Such as the costs of the upcoming Memorial at Camp de Rivesaltes in France, 23 M€ financed by the Languedoc-Roussillon Region … whose GDP is 40% of Hungary’s.”

I am sorry but your example shows you do not understand the math at work here. First you have to calculate a project at % of GDP of the country the project is located. In case of French project you calculate the % to the French GDP. If this project really exists with this budget (I only found a small museum by this name 4000 square meters only, so maybe I looked at the wrong link) it would cost 0,79% of GDP in France.

To imagine a similar project you would use 0.79% of GDP in Hungary. The difference between this number 0.79% and the 40% that you think is so large that I think you made a mistake in imagining how this calculation works.

(for simplicity I used 23 billion $ instead of Euros because I don’t think that number was correct anyway, and estimated the French GDP at 2.9 trillion dollars)

dromedár
Guest
BA, is this relevant any more? MSZP is now like SZDSZ was in its final period, sorry, but nobody really gives a s**t about what they say or do anymore. MSZP is way beyond repair. As 444.hu aptly formulated “the remainder of the MSZP’s wreck [with its last breath is trying to torpedo the opposition agreement…]”. http://444.hu/2014/08/12/az-mszp-roncsanak-maradeka-az-utolso-erejevel-meg-egyszer-keresztbe-fekudt-a-budapesti-ellenzeki-megallapodasnak/ MSZP’s main people have been purchased by Fidesz (hopefully the details will also emerge, but I am not optimistic), what remains is a unbelievably pathetic bunch. There are no words to describe MSZP’s irrelevance. MSZP is by far the most rejected party in all polls. Can you imagine? Fidesz, after these crazy 5 years is not only way more popular, but is still much less rejected by those who are not so enthusiastic to really like Fidesz. If you are an openly MSZP supporter people will shun you like the plague. But this is how the left wing ends in Hungary. Együtt is non-existent without Bajnai, who already gave up (though he never really wanted to go into politics) and DK is just too dependent on Gyurcsány who is disliked by most people, so there is no way DK could take over Western-Hungary… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
@Zoltán: Sorry, but the example I took was correct, as 1) French Regions have their own GDP – four of which are > Hungary’s btw – and 2) This particular project, to be opened next year, is financed by the Region that will host it. Languedoc-Roussillon GDP: €64Bn (my bad, that’s 67% of Hungary’s). Camp de Rivesaltes memorial project: €23M (roughly the same as Sorsok Háza). Do your math. And I can also give you examples of projects that did cost 0,4% of the GDP of their financing community… The new Pierre Soulages Museum in Rodez, for instance (also in France, €26M, and I’m being nice because I used the whole Département’s, or megye if you prefer, GDP – while the museum was financed by the much smaller Urban Community). Then again, comparing the value of one single project to the GDP of the public community that finances it makes little sense if any since: – the costs of projects involving new construction or heavy building repurposing do not vary that much. And ‘Museal’ fixtures are pretty expensive everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Meaning there is a bottom price for every institution designed to welcome a substantial amount of visitors.… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
Sometimes I have discussed with my fellow Americans including my very American children that Central Europeans and people from the Balkans live both in the present and past. To be honest its a very non-capitalist approach to life. Fundamentally here in the USA we have what is called for better or worse creative destruction, and it includes cultural destruction. The entire heat of the discussion over memorials and museums in Hungary is truly astounding. On very rare occasions we have flare ups in the US over various historical memorials to the southern Confederacy and then they fade into irrelevance as people are more concerned with making money and taxation. In the West there are historical flare ups over the annihilation of native peoples and then various tribes get paid off with gambling casinos, tobacco sales perks, or oil sale rights and their leadership become Republicans. I even see this living in the past and present in some Hungarian literature or how the Dance House movement revival became politicized and linked to Jobbik nationalist ideology. While the USA has experienced various folk music revivals it always get absorbed into a commercially based entity and is creatively destroyed by the next movement… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@István@ While the horror of the Holocaust is a truth it lives on as part of the historical living memory in Hungary in a manner simply not fully conceivable on this side of the Atlantic.

Have you been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC?

Zoltán
Guest
“Languedoc-Roussillon GDP: €64Bn (my bad, that’s 67% of Hungary’s). Camp de Rivesaltes memorial project: €23M (roughly the same as Sorsok Háza). Do your math.” Ok so the museum is definitely Million and not Billion then, I didn’t notice earlier. So this museum comes out to 0.03594% of GDP of this region. If the region really financed it itself without no outside help or compensation it is impressive even though a country and a region have probably of different finances. The example you brought, this French museum is costing: 0.03594% of GDP is not hugely different from the number “0.02462% of the GDP.” calculated by gdfxxxx for the Hungarian museum An important issue that you skipped over is time. If a museum is built over 5 years then the budget must be compared to 5 years budget. So comparing yearly budgets vs yearly budgets is important. 0.03594% vs 0.02462% I am not sure what you wanted to prove with this example but we have the numbers now at least. “– the US is not a good comparison point for that, as it is well-known that cultural financing there is mostly private. ” The US is a very good comparison point because… Read more »
Guest

@Istvan:

What you describe is imho not only typical for the USA but also for (most of …) Western Europe. We Germans like the Brits and the French etc have had our problems with our empires but that’s a thing of the past. At least those people I know look into the future!

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Istvan, I’m surprised you didn’t mention memorials dealing with slavery, and African-American history in general. They have long been, and still are, object of heated public controversies in the U.S. To quote a few in recent years: the long and painful progress of the NMAAHC, George Washington’s old slave quarters in Philly, the inscription on MLK’s statue, the Juneteenth monument in Texas, etc.

Guest
London Calling! Istvan Hungarians do seem obsessed with the past – not just the recent past – but the Seven Tribes of the Magyar’s past (895AD!). But it is heightened by a country not at ease with itself. I believe what you so pin-pointedly observe is the psyche of a country that has not come to terms with its past. Germany, as I have previously observed, has had a mea culpa over what it did in WW2 and the guilt line between the generations has been placated. Others on here will confirm the excellence of their education programme which deals with this. I also believe that there are parallels with the the Spanish psyche – where there are still enmities between even people on the same street over what each did in the civil war – under a similar leadership – with General Franco. You can sometimes feel the enmity when you visit Spain. No catharsis there. South Africa has been able to move on after the Truth and Reconciliation commission – they just have problems in other places in their society. Until there has been a full catharsis – and a facing up to what happened, then you will… Read more »
chubby
Guest

The current news is that the opposition parties couldn’t reach an agreement and it all fell apart, likely Egyutt will run alone and cooperate only on a case by case basis in the district.

http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20140812-meghiusult-az-ellenzeki-osszefogas-budapesten.html

It is unbelievable how MSZP and the rest always show they are unable to coexist in a civilized fashion even with each other. And then they ask for voters to give them a chance to form a coalition government when every day there would be more problems to solve then this one single agreement about who runs in which district… These are the days when you can almost understand the people who voted for Fidesz. What a disaster would it be if the same negotiations that fell apart now were to be about which party gets which cabinet position…

I really wish I knew what is going on in their heads when they can’t agree in such a simple thing. How hard can it be to agree within your own political side?

Istvan
Guest

Marcel its true memorials relating directly to slavery have been controversial in the US, but to be honest it does not keep the attention of the media for more than a few days. As to the US Holocaust museum in DC, I have not been to it because when I have been to DC it’s not for tourism but for lobbying or to the Pentagon when I was in the military. For Jewish Americans the Holocaust has a reality, but for most Americans it’s just part of the mosaic of history taught in school. For many older Americans the war memorials in DC are of deeper significance. I personally can’t emotionally take the Vietnam memorial because there are names on the walI I know, it’s just too upsetting. my children really don’t grasp it.

Our children here don’t live in the past, it is totally not a living reality for them in my opinion.

Member

@ Attila August 12, 2014 at 3:15 am
Bahaha Attila. Are you suffering a ‘bit from illusions? It is your ex-party colleagues who want to use your money. THey want to pay to your friends from your money to design, maintain and manage the place you a referring to, just like they did with the new “memorial” on Freedom Square that cost millions of forints just to “protect”. Any of your complaints regarding the design, management, concept should be directed to ex Communist party members, like Kover, Orban, etc. You are on the wrong forum, but then again based on your comprehension skills, no one is surprised.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Zoltan: as it is customary for these kind of projects, we’re talking initial costs, i.e. construction/renovation, equipment, project management and content production up to the public opening. The operating costs (and maintenance) are another matter.

You cannot, as you unfortunately do, ignore the context: European countries spend a lot more (public & private) on culture than the United States. And a lot less on defense… yet GDP disparities don’t mean that the cost of one aircraft carrier should be 7 times in the US what it is in the UK.

My guess is any American who knows about the financing of cultural institutions and uses a currency converter knows that HUF 7.2Bn is far from outstanding for a place with some ambition. By the way, the initial costs for the USHMM were around $150M (private funding) in the early 1990s.

wpDiscuz