Spotlight on Sebastian Gorka’s Controversial Medal

Today I am republishing a piece I wrote for LobeLog, a foreign policy internet site, which appeared on February 24, 2017. It was a follow-up to the couple of Hungarian Spectrum posts I had done on Sebastian Gorka–the first, “Sebastian Gorka’s road from Budapest to the White House” and the second, “Sebastian L. von Gorka’s encounter with the Hungarian National Security Office.” At this point, we knew relatively little about this man, whom many consider to be something of an adventurer.

Since then, Lili Bayer, working out of Budapest, has done an enormous amount of investigative work. She published several articles on Gorka’s past in The Forward. I especially recommend her first article, “Senior Trump aide forged key ties to anti-Semitic groups in Hungary,” and another titled “Controversial Trump aide Sebastian Gorka backed violent anti-Semitic militia.”

Gorka’s Hungarian past has been the subject of immense interest, as the number of articles that have appeared in the past three months attests. The essay below was intended to inform readers what Miklós Horthy’s Vitézi Rend (Order of Knights) was all about. I might add that Gorka has consistently denied that he was a member of the order, although the evidence to the contrary is quite convincing.

♦ ♦ ♦

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant of President Donald Trump and member of a new White House team, the Strategic Initiatives Group, has been receiving an increasing amount of attention in the last few weeks. Julianne Smith, a former national security adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden, worries about both the existence of this new group and Sebastian Gorka’s presence in it. Counterterrorism experts are particularly concerned about Gorka’s ideas that Islam as a religion cannot be separated from the ideology of terror. Knowledgeable people in the field consider his ideas on Islam dangerous and a radical departure from U.S. policy over the last 17 years.

Several U.S. journalists who have dug into Sebastian Gorka’s past have been puzzled by his proud embrace of his Hungarian roots. Why did he appear at the inaugural ball in a strange braided outfit with an equally strange medallion and decoration? Eli Clifton of LobeLog identified the medallion as one bestowed by the Order of Knights (Vitézi Rend), a group established by Miklós Horthy, regent of Hungary between 1920 and 1944. A day later Allegra Kirkland of Talking Points Memo quoted a Hungarian historian who was less certain about its provenance.

By now we can state with confidence that the medallion is indeed the identifying object of the Order, as Sebastian Gorka himself admitted in a short Breitbart video appearance. He explained that on special occasions he wears the medallion and decoration, which his father received in appreciation of his suffering as a political prisoner between 1950 and 1956. But there is a more complete version of the story that needs telling.

Origins of Vitézi Rend

Miklós Horthy established the Order of Knights to bestow the honor of knighthood on highly decorated World War I veterans. The “captain-general” of the Order was Horthy himself. Although the Order’s leaders today claim that it was always apolitical, they end up describing it as a right-wing, conservative body that promotes Hungary’s military tradition. Unfortunately, this military tradition also includes Hungary’s participation in World War II on the side of Nazi Germany.

Only a few days ago members of the Order marched along with extreme right-wing groups to commemorate the “Day of Honor,” February 11, 1945, when German-Hungarian soldiers in an encircled Budapest tried to break through the Soviet lines. Imre Marosvári, the captain of the Order in Budapest, honored the 72nd anniversary of the event with an unrealistic, pro-German description of the military situation in 1945. The primary concern of these brave soldiers, he said, was to slow down the Soviet advance in order to give the Germans time to develop their “new weaponry.” I assume he is talking about the atomic bomb. He also had harsh words for the Allies. According to him, the American and British air raids were inhumane and cruel and turned the civilian population against the Allies.

The Order still follows its original goals, which among other things aimed “to secure the lordship of the Hungarian race, which could strike down all subversive, anti-national efforts with formidable force.” From its inception the Order was an irredentist organization, whose slogan is still: “I believe in one God, I believe in one country, I believe in the divine everlasting truth, I believe in the resurrection of Hungary,” which means the recreation of Hungary according to its pre-1918 borders. As Hungarian historian Szilárd Tátrai pointed out in a recent article, the ideology and policies of the Order were a faithful reflection of all the key attributes of the Horthy regime. Therefore, nobody should be surprised that the U.S. State Department considered the Order to be an organization under German influence. After all, they argued, Hungary was an ally of Nazi Germany.

The Order was organized along military lines. Under Horthy as captain-general were eight nationwide regional captains. Every county had a captain of its own, and every “járás,” a smaller administrative unit, had a lieutenant. The knight had to observe a strict political and moral code, and unmarried knights had to submit for scrutiny details about their future wives’ families. The male children of knights were required to enroll in the Levente Movement, designed to give military training to Hungarian boys between the ages of 12 and 21. Since the title of knight was inheritable by the oldest male child, the “ideological preparation” of the next generation of knights was considered to be of the utmost importance.

The Order’s Political Associations

Although Hungarians of Jewish extraction were not officially excluded from the Order, in practice they were barred from membership. Here is what Miklós Horthy, the captain-general of the order, had to say on the subject in a letter written in October 1940: “A ‘Vitéz’ may marry with a license only, and persons of alien stock are received only when this person is a 100 per cent Hungarian as to feeling, is reliable and applies himself for the Magyarization of his name. Even the bravest and most decorated Jew is excluded.” Those sentences were followed by Horthy’s infamous claim that “as regards the Jewish problem, I have been an anti-Semite throughout my life. I have never had contact with Jews.”

Although apologists of the Order bring up the couple of high government officials and military men who at the very end turned against the German and Hungarian Nazis, these people were few and far between. Even the official history admits that many knights committed war crimes. For example, “unfortunately the organizers of the bloodbath in Novi Sad (Újvidék) were members of the Order of Knights.” Approximately 3,500 Serbs and Hungarian Jews lost their lives in Novi Sad in 1942. The organizers of this carnage, who thanks to Horthy could await their trial as free men, escaped to Germany only to return with the German troops in 1944. Two men who were instrumental in organizing the transports that carried more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to their death in 1944 were also knights: László Endre and László Baki.

Horthy died in February 1957 in Estoril, Portugal. But shortly before his death he was still thinking about the future role of the Order, whose “calling is the rebuilding of a new Hungarian future.” With his death, émigré knights began to reorganize the Order, and it soon spread among Hungarians worldwide. The reorganized Order introduced an important change in the admission procedures: heroes of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution could also become knights. Because of this new policy (loosely interpreted), Sebastian Gorka’s father, Pál Gorka, became eligible for admission to the Order of Heroes. His investiture, in 1979, apparently took place in Great Britain, to which he had escaped after the defeat of the uprising by Soviet troops.

Today there is not one Order of Knights but two because the leaders of the organizations are badly split on several issues. One group is called “Vitézi Red” (Order of Knights) while the other is known as “Történelmi Vitézi Rend” (Historical Order of Knights). The split occurred after the center of the Order moved back to Hungary. Pál Gorka and most likely Sebastian Gorka as well were invested in the Historical Order of Knights led by László Hunyadi, its captain-general.

Knights in inter-war military uniforms teach youngsters about the use of weaponry

Gorka’s Connection to the Order

As for Pál Gorka and his knighthood, I have pieced together his story from bits of information that he and his son provided. The stories, I’m afraid, don’t always jibe. The elder Gorka was arrested in 1950, but the duration of his sentence is not at all clear. When Pál Gorka was interviewed by David Irving, the well-known Holocaust denier, for his book on the Hungarian revolution of 1956, he claimed that he had been sentenced to life imprisonment for espionage because “one of his cell’s couriers was shot on the frontier, and papers found on him enabled the AVH [the Hungarian state security] to break the network.” However, in a Hungarian-language article that appeared in August 2002, he said that he had received a ten-year sentence and that Kim Philby, the notorious British spy, had betrayed him and his comrades.

In that same 2002 interview Pál Gorka also talked about his part-time work for the British government. For 30 years he helped the authorities vet newly arrived political refugees from Hungary. He seems to have been active in the local Hungarian community. For example, he represented the British-Hungarian community in the World Federation of Hungarians and in that capacity attended the Third World Congress of the Federation in Budapest in 1992.

Another intriguing aspect of the Gorka family’s life in Great Britain is their relationship to David Irving, a revisionist historian who tried to clean away the “years of grime and discoloration from the façade of a silent and forbidding monument” to reveal the real Hitler. His 1977 book, Hitler’s War, tried to whitewash Hitler while blaming the allies for escalating the war. Irving was prolific, coming out with a new book practically every year. Eventually, he decided to write a book on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which he published in 1981 under the title Uprising! One Nation’s Nightmare, 1956. The massive 740-page book is available online. Irving’s conclusion is that the revolt was “primarily an anti-Jewish uprising,” a gross misrepresentation of the facts. He interviewed a lot of people both in Hungary and abroad who had a role to play in the events. Although Pál Gorka, who had been freed from jail a few days after the outbreak of the uprising, certainly wasn’t a key player, he got at least a couple of footnotes. More interesting was the introduction where Irving thanked his three interpreters, one of whom was Susan Gorka, Pál’s wife and Sebastian’s mother. Considering that Irving, according to his own admission, spent about six years off and on doing research on this book and knew not a word of Hungarian, Susan Gorka must have worked with the author fairly closely.

Returning to the issue of the medallion, I would like to correct Sebastian Gorka’s somewhat misleading description of how his father acquired the medallion. The medallion is not bestowed by the Order in recognition of some heroic deed. It is tangible proof of membership in the Order. A person must apply for membership and must be approved by the leadership of the Order. Presumably, Pál Gorka was approved because he was a “hero” of 1956 who adhered to the precepts of the Order. Moreover, once a person undergoes the process of investiture he is expected to be an active participant in the organization. Pál Gorka was probably an active member of the organization when the Gorkas lived in Great Britain. He was certainly active after his return to Hungary. He and his wife settled in Sopron, a town close to the Austrian border, where he worked on behalf of the Order under Kornél Pintér, “territorial tribe captain” of the region. In the last ten years of his life he served as “knight lieutenant” on the county level.

According to the rules of the Order, inheritance of the title is not automatic. The eldest son must be approved by the Board of the Order. One cannot just “inherit” the medallion and use it “in memory” of one’s father. If we can believe Kornél Pintér, the “tribe captain,” Sebastian is a full-fledged member of the Order in his own right. That’s why Pintér is so proud that “one of our fellow members is now in the White House.”

June 2, 2017
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Delta sounds
Guest

Gorka, who has no security clearance, can keep his White House job because nobody wants it. Thousands of positions in the Trump administration remain vacant as nobody normal wants to go down in a sinking ship.
Gorka might try to break out of the White House on a Day of Honor with his Order of Knights medallion and run through enemy lines on his way back to Hungary. Let’s hope he makes it. We won’t miss him or his decoration.

Guest

Delta sounds-
” Gorka…..on his way back to Hungary.”

But we don’t want him in Hungary either!

Istvan
Guest
The discussion of Mr. Gorka’s security clearances is highly speculative, who has and who does not have a United States security clearance is not subject to a freedom of information act request for journalists under the law. There are three levels of security clearance here in the USA, with the highest level being Top Secret. Secret is the next level of clearance and Confidential is the final. The the classification process in the USA is to assign a reason for the classification. Classification categories are marked by the number “1.4” followed by one or more letters (a) to (h). In general the clearances are good for five to ten years depending on the level of clearance granted. Clearances are determined using what are called adjudicative guidelines are established for all U.S. government civilian and military personnel, consultants, contractors, employees of contractors, licensees, certificate holders or grantees and their employees and other individuals who require access to classified information. It is a violation of protocol to publicly announce your own level of security clearance for more than obvious reasons. When a cleared individual leaves the job or employer for which they were granted access to classified information, they are formally debriefed from… Read more »
David North
Guest

I find all this stuff about the ‘knights’ quite sick-making. As for Gorka, he comes across as an adventurer. He has a glib way with words and fits neatly into the White House of Donald Trump, a chancer of epic proportions.

wrfree
Guest

Curious where he’ll wind up after he got ‘outed’ here on his feelings for the Vitezi Rend. And guys like this get a job as deputy assistant to POTUS. Anyway he’ll have much to puff up in his resume now that’s he could be finishing up his far-right mole job at the White House.

Putin and those of his persuasion surely had to revel in the incompetence of vetting. But that’s the Trump presidency.. shooting off the cue ball in the White House pool room, bang everything around real good and then line’em up again. It’s all for the ‘best!’

mediaaccess
Guest

I haven’t been here for awhile now once I found your communist leaning, sheepel (sheep + people = sheepel) leaning biases, and this is just more example of that. George Soros is Anti-semite, but no, you sound the alarm that this wicked crp head is pushing progressivism (aka communism) in all his institutions and all his schools. When I first came to this site it seemed inteesting, but it is nothing more than a Soros front group with easy to refute arguments.

Guest

Troll alarm!

Please don’t respond!

mediaaccess
Guest

I haven’t been here for awhile now once I found your communist leaning, sheepel (sheep + people = sheepel) leaning biases, and this is just more example of that. George Soros is Anti-semite, but no, you sound the alarm that this wicked crp head pushing progressivism (aka communism) in all his institutions and all his schools is being protested against, and Orban (who I seldom like) is going to shut down all international schools. When I first came to this site it seemed inteesting, but it is nothing more than a Soros front group with easy to refute arguments. The articles are crap.

Guest

The vitéz order has no means to enforce its rules. A man of my acquaintance inherited the vitéz title from his father, a Horty era dignitary. He moved to Germany and added von to his name. His offspring of both sexes all call themselves von Xx which supposedly should be reserved for his oldest son.

exTor
Guest

That antisemitic scumbag Zsolt Bayer will undoubtedly be pissed to learn that a Jew with the same family name, namely Lili Bayer, wrote antiGorka pieces in Forward, a left Jewish media outlet. May he choke on them.

Organizations (like the Vitéz Rend) where dressing militarily is mandated are for wetdreamers like Sebastian Gorka, a wannabe man of importance. Gorka’s palpable need for approval is desperately pathetic.

The German use of ‘von’ in naming is pretentious. Gorka used ‘von’ for a while. Miklós Horthy was officially known in Hungary as Vitéz nagybányai Horthy Miklós. Perhaps someone can clarify this for me. What would have appeared on Horthy’s birth certificate? What about his passport?

MAGYARKOZÓ

aida
Guest

I guess they are both available in the Hungarian national archives. But you have answered your own question.

old1956
Guest

Gorka is a decent man.
Not antisemitic, and not rightwing. Quite the opposite, he is a great supporter of Israel, and the ordinary oppressed men in the Middle East and Asia.
Lili Bayer has unintentionally become a tool of the active measures, or has been always.
Where is her courage to investigate the real harmful people in the Hungarian and Russian regimes on the pages of the Forward or New Republic?
The Forward itself rarely writes a credible article on Russia.
Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/The-Forward-is-dead-wrong-Sebastian-Gorka-is-a-defender-of-Israel-and-Jews-484471

I am wondering about our friends here. Let us end the one – dimensional thinking. Do you own research.

exTor
Guest

comment image

Gorka a “decent man”, old1956? Perhaps to his wife and future kids. Gorka an antisemite? Nobody here said he is. Gorka not a rightwinger? Huh !!! What planet do you live on, old1956 ???

Anybody with the kind of bio Gorka has, from supporting the Hungarian far right to writing for the American far right [eg: Breitbart] is certainly rightwing. The Jerusalem Post (a newspaper that moved rightward since its founding, just as Viktor Orbán moved rightward since his founding) supports Gorka because Gorka is vituperatively antiIslam.

Restating my earlier point, Gorka is a palpably insecure wannabe intellectual, chosen by a palpably insecure nonintellectual to be an ‘advisor’ on matters of US security. Gorka manifests an ongoing pathetic laughable need for approbation pinned to his psyche like a Vitéz slug.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Ferenc
Guest

Exactly!! Thanks for stating this so clearly!!

Guest

I have to agree:
Anyone who has any connections to breitbart e g has automatically lost all credibility! (That goes for you too, Andy)
the ugliest propaganda tool in the universe – horrible and worse than RT or spuniknews!
Over the years I looked at breitbart.com maybe two or three times – and immediately the old syaying comes to mind:
I can’t eat as much as I want to throw up!

wrfree
Guest

Re: Horvath from Prothero piece: ‘It doesn’t look good for America’

Perhaps with Gorka we can see how ‘good’ governments meanders on its way to possibly go bad. He can’t leave soon enough being an alt-right lightning rod. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’.

Ferenc
Guest

Hey Seb, you’re going to “III.Országos Vitézi Találkozó”? (2017.Jun.10-11, Budapest, https://www.facebook.com/avitezirend/)
No? Why not?
Ah understand, you’re from the other “Hysterical” club (http://www.vitezirend.co.hu/index_2.htm).

Ferenc
Guest

sorry typo, read: “Historical” club (although…)

Guest

I can well imagine that these people would like a return to the class society of Horthy (or even the degenerate Austrian emperors of the 19th Century) wher everybody knew their place and life was great – if you were a member of the upper class …

aida
Guest

Now, this reminds me of my youth. We were told and some even believed it, that the Habsburgs were degenerate. I do not know what evidence is produced in support of the rather vague and entirely undefined description. However, I know of the life of France Joseph, Emperor Karl and his son Otto Von Habsburg. I have not seen any evidence of degeneracy. Further back the Empress Maria Theresa. How was this giant of history degenerate? Her daughter Marie Antoinette, was she degenerate?

You may not like the rule of the Habsburg dynasty but degenerate? Please let us see the evidence. I am happy to learn something new every day.

Wolfi, have by chance swallowed a large dose of old Stalinist propaganda without checking it out?

Guest

I read somewhere that inbreeding was the norm in all the kingdoms (among the German/Prussian emprors there also were several bad cases of short lived sick people and think about the Bavarian Ludwig who either was a suicide, an accident or a murder – depending on who you believe).
Another typical example were the Russians – by inbreeding they got the “blood sickness” (they inherited it fromQueen Victoria afaik, several bloodlines came together).

On the other hand if you read Karl Kraus (who was a contemporary) you get a feeling that at the end of the 19th Century the whole aristocracy in Vienna (and Berlin etc) was decadent/degenerate/you name it.
“Fin de siècle” – read it up!

PS:
That was the crazy situation at the start of WW1:
All the European dynasties were related and inter-married – so it was like a family feud/civil war between the aristocrats.

aida
Guest

Related, intermarried, decadent? The late 19 century in Vienna was run by Czech liberals and foreign affairs by Hungarians. Where is the evidence of degenerate kings? I am sure that the show that the Habsburg’s ran did not conform to your world view. I believe that your degeneracy point needs building up. Please start with a definition and then marshal the evidence followed by copious illustrations.
I do not know Kraus, yet

Guest

If you can read German:
http://diepresse.com/home/zeitgeschichte/1403637/Der-schiesswuetigste-Habsburger
The crown prince who was murdered by that Serb student killed tens of thousands of wild animals …
In den folgenden Jahrzehnten teilte sich das Habsburger Reich in eine spanische und eine deutsche Linie. Viele Ehen zwischen den beiden Familienteilen sollten den Zusammenhalt fördern. Mit Nebenwirkungen, wie Brigitte Hamann feststellte, denn die Heiratsverbindungen „beschleunigten durch zunehmende Inzucht das biologische Ende der Dynastie“.
http://www.focus.de/wissen/mensch/geschichte/tid-12301/die-habsburger-zunehmende-inzucht_aid_343655.html
And one of the consequences:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemophilia_in_European_royalty

Frakk
Guest

Hungary is indeed getting more important by the day.

“In the meantime, Malinowksi said he is concerned that there may be other, less public ways the administration can undermine the Russian sanctions. He noted that much of their force results from parallel sanctions imposed by the European Union, whose members must unanimously renew them each year.

“I had this nightmare vision of [White House senior adviser ] Steve Bannon or [National Security Council staffer] Sebastian Gorka calling in the Hungarian ambassador and telling them President Trump would not be displeased” if his country opposed the renewal of sanctions, he said.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-administrations-secret-efforts-ease-russia-sanctions-fell-short-231301145.html

Guest

Thanks for the link!
The connections between the Trump people and the Russians seem to be really strange and if the USA really lifts the sanctions against Russia then that would be the end of the Transatlantic Partnership with the EU.

Now I start to understand how Mrs Merkel, Macron etc are thinking – you can’t rely any more on the USA as a partner!
Trump is too crazy!

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