Orbán’s Veritas Institute looks at anti-Semitism in the Horthy era

It’s time to take a break from Hungarian party politics and the mess the Brexit referendum has created and talk about history. Specifically I would like say something about the recent activities of two historians working for the generously endowed Veritas Institute established by the Orbán government. The absurdity of an “Institute of Truth” serving a government doesn’t need to be spelled out, and I do hope that one day, in the not too distant future, the Institute of Truth will be thrown onto the garbage heap with the other debris Fidesz left behind.

The Veritas Institute is a large organization with 26 historians and administrative personnel who are doing research in three different areas: (1) the era of the dual monarchy (1867-1918); (2) the Miklós Horthy era (1919-1944); and (3) the post-1945 era. The two historians whom we meet most often in the pages of the daily press are Sándor Szakály, director, and Gábor Ujváry, senior research fellow.

Gábor Ujváry’s goal in life seems to be the rehabilitation of Bálint Hóman, the controversial minister of education in the 1930s. I had hoped that the Hóman case was finally closed when, in December 2015, Viktor Orbán gave up the fight for a statue of Hóman, caving under international pressure. Reluctantly he announced that no one who collaborated with the German occupying forces after March 19, 1944 can have a statue in Hungary. But, as I pointed out in my post of December 16, 2015, the idea of having a Hóman statue initially came from Viktor Orbán himself. Thus, his parliamentary announcement was a personal defeat.

Has he given up the plan to completely rehabilitate Bálint Hóman? I’m not at all sure. Ujváry’s efforts at whitewashing Hóman’s role indicate that Hóman may yet be portrayed as a hero. Ujváry is writing a book on Hóman’s life and political career, a project for which he as a member of the Miklós Horthy Era Team needed the approval of Director Sándor Szakály. The director of the Institute, as we learned recently, also finds Hóman innocent of most of the charges leveled against him.

Ujváry is a man with a mission. Instead of quietly toiling in libraries and archives, he grabs every opportunity to publicize his interpretation of Hóman’s political career–in popular magazines, in interviews, and at conferences. One of his latest salvos was a short article in the popular historical magazine Rubicon, in which he argued against the interpretations of those historians who “attack Bálint Hóman.” Among other things, he tried to justify the introduction of the numerus clausus of 1920. Since Ujváry’s targets were Mária M. Kovács and Krisztián Ungváry, the two historians answered him in Mozgó Világ in a joint article titled “Bálint Hóman in the captivity of the Truth Institute.” But Ujváry will press on, explaining to the Hungarian people what a great guy the former minister of education was. The Orbán regime’s efforts to rehabilitate Hóman unfortunately seem to be continuing with full force.

The other politically active historian of the Veritas Institute is the director himself, Sándor Szakály. About two years ago I wrote a post titled “Sándor Szakály: portrait of a historian” when Szakály in an interview called the deportation of approximately 23,000 Jews in July 1941 to German-held Soviet territories, most of whom were subsequently killed by the Germans, merely “a police action against aliens.”

Szakály burned himself pretty badly with that interview, but he is persistent. He wants to debunk mainstream historical thinking about the Horthy era and replace it with a more sympathetic interpretation. And so he decided to give another interview, this time to The Budapest Beacon. The interview is very long and covers a range of topics. I will look at only two issues, which are also part of the Hóman narrative of Gábor Ujváry. One is the assessment of Hóman as a historical figure and the second is the meaning of the numerus clausus of 1920, which restricted the number of Jews who could enter Hungarian universities.

Sándor Szakály at a conference on Bálint Hóman organized by the Veritas Institute

Sándor Szakály at a conference on Bálint Hóman organized by the Veritas Institute

Szakály’s limitations as a historian once again became evident when the reporter asked him about Hóman’s role as a historical figure. He either can’t or doesn’t want to go beyond a strict interpretation of the written word. Here is an example of what I mean. Historians point out that Hóman, along with many far-right politicians, remained a member of parliament even after the Szálasi takeover on October 15, 1944. Here is Szakály’s rebuttal. Hóman was not a member of the Arrow Cross parliament “because such a parliament simply didn’t exist.” It is true, he continued, that “after the Arrow Cross takeover a truncated national assembly (országgyűlés) remained in session and Hóman was a member of that body, but that doesn’t mean that he was a member of the Arrow Cross party.” Or another example of his inability to think either contextually or causally. When asked about Hóman’s attitude toward Germany and his views on the German-Hungarian alliance, Szakály announced that he doesn’t think that Hóman was in any way “a harbinger” of the German occupation because “at the time he had no political role to play.” So, the possibility that Hóman’s actions influenced events leading up to the German occupation simply doesn’t enter his mind.

The director of the Institute of Truth further manifested his astute historical thinking in responding to questions on the meaning of the numerus clausus law of 1920, which most Hungarian historians consider to be the first anti-Jewish law, not just in Hungary but in the western world. Admittedly, the law didn’t contain the words “Jew” or “Jewish,” but it was clear to everybody which group was being targeted. No other “nationality” or “ethnic group” was over-represented in Hungarian higher education. The aim of the government was to restrict the number of Jewish students to 6%, the same as the percentage of Jews in the population at large.

Szakály said that he doesn’t consider the law to be discriminatory. And why not? “Because the law stated that only those will be admitted to the universities who are absolutely dependable as far as their national loyalty and morality are concerned.” In addition to morality and patriotism, “intellectual abilities” were also considered, as well as ethnic quotas. As to whether the law was designed to restrict the number of Jews in universities, Szakály responded that “not only was the word ‘Jew’ not mentioned in the law, but at that time [Hungarian law] didn’t yet stipulate exactly  what ‘Jewish’ meant.” Perhaps, he added, they meant “people who belonged to the Mosaic denomination.” It is beyond me to make sense of this gibberish.

In Szakály’s estimate, the introduction of the numerus clausus was in hindsight “unfortunate” because it violated the concept of equality before the law, but from another point of view it was “a case of positive discrimination in favor of those youngsters who had less of a chance when it came to entering an institution of higher education.” So, said the reporter, “on the one hand and on the other?” Yes, in Szakály’s mind it is that simple and thus justified.

June 26, 2016
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Guest

London Calling!

“……….a case of positive discrimination in favor of those youngsters who had less of a chance when it came to entering an institution of higher education.”

So presumably sending Hungarian Jews to the gas chambers via the Nazis was a case of positive discrimination giving poorer Hungarians a higher standard of living with the looted finances, possessions and real estate?

Am I an historian now?

petofi
Guest

Precisely.

1956
Guest

Here is a plan for Veritas.

When Jewish assimilation became very successful in the West, in the Hapsburg empire, in Germany, France, Italy, the Tsarist and Communist Russian State made all efforts to use the antisemitism card for domestic and foreign policies.

It is continuing this corrosive effort in the Muslim world until these days.

To stabilize its own rule, and to destabilize the West, including Hungary and Israel.

Can Veritas research and publish the history of the Russian role in the 200 year long antisemitic incitement?

Can Veritas show the Hungarians, how easily they were duped by this foreign disinformation campaign?

webber
Guest

Good idea, only it’s already been done:

comment image

But there is something still – the “white” Russian immigration to Hungary after WWI has certainly not been adequately researched.

webber
Guest
petofi
Guest

The logic of slavishness is something else, ain’t it?

Atleast, Hungaricoes lead the world in something!

(By the way, 4-0. I was hoping for 6-donut. The clock struck 12 and the cinderella story came to an end. Man, the team looked pathetic as soon as they were confronted with some quality–the typical result of any Hungarian, thing or person…)

Guest

Re: ‘… confronted with some quality’

Viktor will have to re-think some things. It won’t be a slam-dunk to get the team reafy y for ‘primetime’. Look for alot of overtime and added-time to get the national team going. A long way to go.

And from England’s weak display today it showed how monied players/teams sometimes can’t hold a candle to determined football minnows. The ‘Vikings’ did well.

petofi
Guest

The Englanders stood around while in possession. It was terrible to watch. One of the worst performance was by Rooney–the one-time golden boy was falling all overhimself and never made a good play.

Tactically, they were totally at a loss. Atleast they should’ve kept lobbing the ball into the goal area but they didn’t even do that until the last 5 minutes. Pathetic.

First Brexit; now, Englexit!

Guest

Re: ‘Brexit…Englexit’

Britain’s getting banged around lately aren’t they? First perhaps a bit of buyer’s remorse and then beaten by a team they were supposed to sail through.. Woody Allen the comedian says 80% of success is showing up. And poor Hodgson now gone in sacrifice just didn’t even get them to do that.

Yes, not sure why they didn’t get the ball in the goal area since the story on the backs was that they were ‘slow’. Iceland covered that weakness with some great individual and group defending. They were real prepared for what they had to face. I give them credit for polishing off a glittering name team.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Thank you Éva for this article.
On a FB page defending Hungarian fans of the football team (0-4), because “only two of them raised their hands in the Hitler salute” I found the news that the young Hungarian minister of foreign affairs was in Israel to tell their rightwing friends, that Hungary will act against BDS. So 1. Orbán’s ilk are telling the Israelis, that they will not vote in the EU and in the UNO with those who are the enemies of Israel. 2. As Éva shows, they try at the same time to rehabilitate rabid antisemites like Bálint Hóman. Veritas historians do, what decent Hungarian historians during the last 20 years of Kádár rule refused to do, they are ready to become government propagandists. They twist History in order to serve a megalomaniac Orbán who believes to be a polymath.

Guest

In a way we all have to thank Horthy and his minions – without those laws Szilard, Teller, von Neumann and others would not have gone to the USA to build the A-bomb and maybe the Nazis would have been first …

End of sarcasm!

Actually there already was a lot of discrimination in pre-worldwar1 Hungary as I found out reading the biographies of famous mathematicioans and physicists.

principal
Guest

Numerus clauses was really just an affirmative action program aimed at deserving white, Christian youngsters. Liberals, what’s the problem with that? The US also has affirmative action programs, why can’t Hungary have one?

webber
Guest

Aha. An “affirmative action program” for the ruling majority? Get real.

Observer
Guest

@principal

In that case I would suggest similar “affirmative” actions after the Orban regime falls, e.g. no fidesznik in gov job above clerk level, every fidesznik functionary property ownership limited to the average (e.g. panel 76 m2), savings or financial assets limited to the median say 1.5 million Ft, and forget about university enrollment.

How’s this for affirmative action?
Naturally, only to give opportunities to those who didn’t have any opportunity to loot under the Orban regime.

Waldmann Otto
Guest

A singular passion to defy reality and fill it with the sounds of self-incrimination while deluding themselves that Hungarian pride alone can prevail. How smart can you be while believing that we are all TOTALLY unaware of the legacy of a history known by all. So incredibly typical of an attitude I’ve known all my life, blind hard-headed intolerance steeped in the most vile prejudice – nothing like the Hungarian antisemite !!!

Observer
Guest

Kudos for the wording!
While antisemitism is probably the “top seller” it really is ANTI and then -something (gypsy, labanc, tót, left, liberal, homosexual, Brussels, US, Soros, migrant) anything, just keep the hate flowing.

Guest

Re: ‘…keep the hate flowing’.

Veritas would appear to be a grouping of oxymoronic proportion. If the revisionist history professed to be done is to uncover truth its action appears propelled by vile ideology.

With Veritas the practice of history unfortunately is a casualty where the creators of historical narrative gravely interfere in the ensuing biased analysis. Such ‘scientific’ work is a sham in their promulgation of ‘truth’.

So ….

‘Ill fares the land , to hastening ills its prey
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay’.
Oliver Goldsmith

And true historiography is lost with the hatred indelibly hidden in its words.

OT
Storck’s players fought the fight against a much much better team. Things could have changed though if they got a goal to tie. And Gabor was pretty good for an ‘oreg’ by the onion bag. He was keeping them in the game.

petofi
Guest

“…just keep the hate flowing.”

Let’s remeber that the basement Pavlovians of the KGB long ago discovered the uses of Hate–adrenaline-providing, motivator with no cost. Simple. Allow/Fan…the hatred, and watch the mindless rats take off–Sic Hungarica.

Hajra Magyarok!

Observer
Guest

The whole unseemly Szakály/Veritas story fits perfectly in the larger picture – a quasi fascist regime hires a know fascism/Horthy apologet to whitewash these earlier regimes in a “scientific” way. Why do this ?
To show that there is nothing wrong with the Orban’s quasi fascist dictatorship, we had such before already and it was not bad at all, according to that bunch.

PALIKA
Guest

I wanted to ask the same question as Observer.
However the Orbanist Horthy admirers are delusional if they think they can make out an even halfway convincing case for their hero. Without delving into the details he presided over a racist state bent on revenge on its neighbours. He escaped being hanged as a war criminal by stroke of luck. What kind of role model to set for the young in Hungary?

The persistent attempts to rehabilitate a succession of evil tossers serves no purpose but gives OV the opportunity to create a clientura of bogus historians and other impostors.

petofi
Guest

“…what kind of role model…”

This was precisely the question I asked of my in-laws who were/are rabid Orban and Fidesz supporters. There was no answer, just the look of, “we’ll never be able to explain it to this jew…”

And so, now, I am the pathetic one in their eyes.

Jean P.
Guest

Photo: I wouldn’t be caught dead with that background colour.

PALIKA
Guest

Just in case anyone missed it, this day 75 years ago exactly Horthy invaded Yugoslavia which led to Prime Minister Teleki to kill himself in shame. Nepszabadsag today has an article on this which alas is poorly written.

bimbi
Guest

Palika, I think a correction is due here. It was not “Horthy” who invaded Yugoslavia but Nazi Germany and the access was through Hungarian territory after an assurance had been given that such permission would not be given. Can someone confirm this for us? Thanks.

Jean P.
Guest
pappp
Guest

The Irish do speak English as an official language, so I guess it could remain.

PALIKA
Guest

They speak English , yes, but neither they not Malta registered English as their official language. But do not worry it is not going to happen. The EU will not want to erect a language barrier in communicating with the USA.

pappp
Guest

thanks, and hopefully the Scottish will register it.

Guest

Sure, but on the level and importance of Hungarian, Slovak or Portuguese … 🙂

tappanch
Guest

Orban again deployed his crack skinhead troops yesterday.

comment image

Their aim is to keep legal protesters out, to facilitate the large-scale cutting of the trees in Varosliget (park), which will make it possible to move museums from the royal castle here, so Orban could move to the royal castle eventually.

http://nol.hu/belfold/kopaszok-vedik-a-ligetet-a-ligetvedoktol-1621345

tappanch
Guest
petofi
Guest

Thanks for the pic, Tappanch.
It speaks volumes: not legality but brawn.

petofi
Guest

If those schmucks in the picture knew any history, they’d know what had happened to the brownshirts in nazi Germany…

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