Category Archives: Hungary

Full-court press against the Orbán government

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó compared the European Union to an old gent with halting steps, but lately the old man has quickened his stride. At least as far as Brussels’ relation with Hungary is concerned. Patience seems to have run out with Hungary’s maverick prime minister, Viktor Orbán. One after the other, officials of the EU and the Council of Europe have called on the Hungarian government to explain its past unlawful or at least legally questionable moves.

First came, on November 19, the official announcement that “the European Commission decided to launch an infringement procedure against Hungary concerning the implementation of the Paks II nuclear power plant project.” The reaction of the Hungarian government was predictable. János Lázár, instead of talking about the actual case–the lack of an open tender, which is an EU requirement–talked about the EU allegedly prohibiting Hungary from signing bilateral commercial agreements with so-called third countries. For details see my post titled “Infringement procedure against Hungary on account of the Paks nuclear power plant.” Hungary has two months to give a satisfactory answer. If the answer is not satisfactory, the case will go to the European Court of Justice.

Four days later, on November 23, it was announced that “the European Commission has opened an in-depth state aid investigation into Hungary’s plans to provide financing for the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Paks.” The question is “whether a private investor would have financed the project on similar terms or whether Hungary’s investment constitutes state aid.” Margrethe Vestager, commissioner in charge of competition policy, and her staff think that “this investment may not be on market terms, as Hungary argues.”

Two days after the announcement of the second in-depth investigation, on November 25, Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a speech in the Bundestag in which she talked about solidarity as “the acid test” for the maintenance of the borderless Schengen area. She stressed that “a distribution of refugees according to economic strength and other conditions … and the readiness for a permanent distribution mechanism … will determine whether the Schengen area will hold in the long term.” The speech was interpreted as a sharp warning aimed at the new EU members. Hungary’s immediate reaction was that Hungary couldn’t possibly take any refugees because its economic situation wouldn’t allow such generosity. The government spokesman talked about 15,000 possible “migrants,” who in time would bring other family members. Within a few years Hungary would be stranded with close to 200,000 Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans.

On November 27 Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, after spending three days in Hungary, issued a statement about Hungary’s response to the current refugee crisis and came to the conclusion that “Hungary has not lived up to this challenge.” He complained about the “accelerated asylum procedure lacking essential safeguards.” Under this new procedure “asylum-seekers have seen their claim processed in less than a day and sent back to Serbia directly from the Röszke transit zone.” Muižnieks also noted that the crisis measures Hungary introduced are still in effect although hardly any refugees are in Hungary. After detailing all the reproachable and outright illegal pieces of legislation and practices, he called on the Hungarian government “to refrain from using xenophobic rhetoric linking migrants to social problems or security risks.”

By that time Szijjártó became convinced that “a mysterious conspiracy is unfolding against Hungary.” According to the foreign minister, “it is evident that some people would like see an opaque and confused situation in Hungary.”

On the very same day it was reported that the European Commission had given the green light to a citizens’ initiative launched by the European Humanist Federation (EHF) to strip Hungary of its voting rights in the European Union. What is a citizens’ initiative? According to the official explanation, “a European citizen’s initiative is an invitation to the European Commission to propose legislation on matters where the EU has competence to legislate. A citizens’ initiative has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states. A minimum number of signatories is required in each of those 7 member states.” A list of these minimum numbers can be found online. In Hungary’s case only 15,750 valid signatures are needed.

Call of the European Humanist Federation for a citizens' initiative on their website

Call of the European Humanist Federation for a citizens’ initiative

The European Humanist Federation launched its initiative called “Wake up Europe!” on October 2. Its official website outlines the reasons for the initiative. Nine individuals from eight countries charge Viktor Orbán’s government with “anti-democratic and xenophobic measures that openly violate the basic principles of the rule of law.” In response, “a committee of EU citizens has launched an ECI to call on the European Commission to trigger Article 7 of TEU and bring the Hungarian issue to the Council.”

The Commission approved this citizens’ initiative on a day when Tibor Navracsics, the commissioner representing Hungary, happened to be away. Navracsics “in a strongly-worded letter criticized the decision to hold the meeting in his absence as well as the substance of the initiative.” He claimed that this was “a sensitive political issue” which could result in consequences reaching “far beyond the aim of the initiative.” Szijjártó considered the acceptance of the citizens’ initiative by the Commission to be a case of “revenge by Brussels” for “the successful migration policy of Hungary.”

The most fanciful explanation for the launch of the citizens’ initiative in the first place came from Magyar Idők. The editorial board of this pro-government paper is convinced that, once again, it is George Soros who is behind this attack on Hungary and Viktor Orbán. The explanation, according to Magyar Idők, is simple. Since the European Humanist Federation’s affiliated partners all share Soros’s concept of an Open Society, the EHF must be a front organization for Soros. Moreover, since the Commission accepted the EHF’s citizens’ initiative, “IN ADDITION TO THE CIVIC GROUPS THE EU COMMISSIONERS ARE ALSO IN SOROS’S POCKET.” Yes, in boldface caps. Magyar Idők accuses the commissioners of purposely picking a date when Navracsics would not be present.

Yes, it seems that the whole world is against the poor, innocent Orbán government. But pulling the strings is one man who has the power to move twenty-seven commissioners and their staff to make a concerted attack not just against Hungary but against the very idea of the “nation state.” I don’t know how effective such simple-minded explanations are, but I guess they might resonate with some people, especially since Soros’s name is associated with Jewishness and financial speculation, notions that are anathema to the far right.

Well, George Soros may not be pulling the strings in Brussels, but Viktor Orbán definitely is in Budapest. And through his mouthpieces he’s sounding more and more like Jobbik (and as a result is siphoning off Jobbik supporters).

András Göllner: Is Hungary taking Canada’s Jews for a ride?

This article first appeared in the November 5 issue of  Hungarian Free Press.

“Don’t listen to what I say, but watch what I do!”
— Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary

An essay in honour of Elie Wiesel and Randolph L. Braham

What is affinity fraud?

Affinity fraud is the oldest scam in the book. Eve used it to con Adam into tearing off the forbidden fruit from the tree of life, which led to humanity’s tragic fall from grace. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus with this form of tainted love. In his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, written over 700 years ago, Durante (alias Dante) Alighieri reserved the lowest level of Inferno for those who chose this form of deception to rob their fellow human beings of their soul and of their trust in one another. For Dante, seduction was the most intimate affinity fraud. The most devastating form of this type of affinity fraud is the seduction of a child by the pedophile priest, who uses the child’s innocence, his loving and trusting nature, to rob him of his birthright to happiness. As the affinity fraud unfolds, the child’s confusion and shame is intensified by his memory of the pleasure he felt at being treated as “special.” It is this special treatment that makes it so difficult for the victims of affinity fraud to break away, to report the identity of their “seducer”, to reveal what happened to them, to admit to themselves that their bond with life and natural love has been broken forever. Many end up suffering for decades, some are never able to overcome their pain.

Here is the standard Wikipedia definition of the term: “Affinity frauds prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, language minorities, the elderly, or professional groups. The fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are – or pretend to be – members of the group. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme, by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. These scams exploit the trust and friendship that exist in groups of people who have something in common. Because of the tight-knit structure of many groups…victims often fail to notify authorities or pursue their legal remedies, and instead try to work things out within the group.”

In their insightful book (Dante’s Path. Gotham Books, 2003) two American psychotherapists, Bonnie and Richard Schaub, utilize Dante’s Divine Comedy as a metaphor to assist those who are the victims of affinity fraud. They describe the face of this fraud, and its impact: “The honest face draws you in, stimulates your innate love and then manipulates you. You are fooled and harmed because of your own loving, trusting nature. Fraud counts on you being a good person and uses that goodness against you. We are all extraordinarily resilient. We live with the knowledge that we shall die and in the course of our life we have to adjust to and get past many problems – but we never get past this fraud. You may forget the details of the betrayal, but you never get past the fact that trusting your loving nature turned out to be a dangerous mistake.”

Arbeit Macht Frei, the fraudulent welcome sign that greeted the travel weary Jews at the gates of hell, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland, is perhaps the most memorable symbol of this cruel form of deception. The German Sociologist Max Weber attributes the work ethic to Protestantism. The Nazis knew much better. They knew that the work ethic was nowhere as strong as amongst the people of Abraham. They knew that their seductive offer above the gates of hell would be almost impossible to resist. They chose their words carefully, to sedate and becalm their guests before hastening them to shower, to wash off the dirt that covered their exhausted bodies, so they could get to work refreshed and as fast as possible. A total of 1.5 million Jews, a third of them Hungarians, were taken in and sedated by the Nazi’s affinity fraud at this unforgettable death camp.

The entrance to Auschwitz. Photo: Pimke.

Joseph Stalin feigned affinity with the proletariat to rob the entire population of the Soviet Union and then the people of Central and Eastern Europe, of their right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Adolf Hitler used his affinity with the Aryan race to eliminate 6 million Jews from the face of the earth and to start a global war that eventually caused the death of 100 million people world-wide. Viktor Orbán, the current Prime Minister of Hungary is seen as a kinder, gentler master of this scam. His government banks on affinity with the victims of Communism, as a way to secure the off-shore votes of hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who left their homeland to escape the horrors of the fraud that Stalin’s and Brezhnev’s henchman perpetrated upon Hungarians between 1945 and 1990. Orbán used affinity with Conservatism, to endear himself to Canada’s former Harper government and to disguise his government’s hostility to the values that are central to Conservatives everywhere. Is he using affinity fraud with the victims of the Holocaust in Canada and North America to cover up his government’s anti-Semitic actions inside Hungary? I will let the readers decide.

I dedicate this article to Holocaust survivors Elie Wiesel and Randolph L. Braham, who not only walked through the gates of Hell metaphorically, like Dante, but did so in their own flesh and came back to warn us about those who engage in the practice of affinity fraud. I salute them, for their sacrifice and especially for their role as messengers to my generation and to those who aspire to follow their example in the future.

The descent into hell…

While the Holocaust came to Hungary relatively late – first in 1941 and then with a vengeance in March 1944 – its gestation period began much earlier and at a time, when Hitler wasn’t even a blip on Europe’s political radar.

Hungary introduced the first anti-Semitic laws of the 20th century’s in 1920, during the Regency of Admiral Nicholas Horthy and at the behest of a rabid anti-Semitic Hungarian bishop, Ottokár Prohászka. Prohászka’s 1920 pamphlet The Jewish Question became a bestseller in Germany, well before Hitler’s Mein Kampf hit the charts. It was translated into dozens of languages and provided the spiritual fuel for the massacre of 600,000 Hungarian Jews. Thousands of Jews were machine-gunned into the frozen waters of the Danube in Budapest during the cold winter months of 1944, by Hungary’s indigineous Nazis, (the Arrow Cross). Tens of thousands more were killed using other forms of cruelty. The first large-scale deportation of Jews from Hungary and their subsequent mass murder at Kamenets-Podolski took place during the summer of 1941 (for some details see below). But the largest mass deportation and murder of Hungarian Jews took place at Auschwitz, the “state of the art” death camp built and operated by Germans inside the war-torn territory of Poland. Hungarians didn’t pull the triggers at Kamenets Podolski or at Auschwitz – they provided the hatred and the target for that hatred.

The officially generated hatred towards the Jews in Hungary was a carefully choreographed affair and the Nazis played hardly any role in the design of the score. Prohászka was generating hate literature when Hitler was still in his diapers in Austria. Theodore Herzl dreamt up the creation of a homeland for the Jews not by reading the collected works of Hitler, but by walking the streets of Budapest, the city of his birth. Horthy, the man who bears sole responsibility for Hungary’s wartime alliance with Nazi Germany, admitted in his private correspondences to being a life-long anti-Semite and needed no encouragement from Hitler. Horthy confesses in his secret papers, that he always wanted to get rid of the Jews, but not all at once and not as fast as Hungary’s true-brown Nazis had wanted. To get rid of the Jews at once, he argued, was an economic folly – it had to be done in stages, and the best place to start was not in Budapest, not in the industrial heartland of Hungary but in the countryside and in such far away villages as the one where little Elie Wiesel ran about freely as a child, before he was packed into a cattle car, without food, water or toilet facilities and shipped off to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

The round-up and deportation of Hungary’s rural Jewry to Auschwitz – approximately 460,000 people – began in March 1944 and took 51 days to complete. Responsibility for the project was given to Hungary’s rural militia, the dreaded csendőrség (in Hungarian, the word means Guardians of Silence). Any of the Jews who broke the silence or spoke out of turn as they were being crammed into the cattle wagons destined for Auschwitz were shot on the spot by the rugged guardians of silence or were beaten severely for their insolence. The csendőrség was under the direct supervision of the Hungarian ministry of the Interior. There were no German participants in the chain of command that rounded up the Jews and shipped them out of the country. SS Obersturmbannführer, Adolf Eichmann, Germany’s designated hitter in Hungary, did not have to get his soft, calf-leather gloves dirty at any time during his stay in Budapest.

Hungary was Eichmanns’s easiest assignment. His biggest challenge was the concealment of the true purpose of the deportations from the roughly 300,00 Jews of greater Budapest. He didn’t want them to panic, to stampede, to make a big fuss and blow his megaproject out of the water. The Obersturmbannführer sat in his boutique hotel in the Buda Hills, with a spectacular view of the city below, drank schnapps with his buddies, sampled the night life of Budapest , flirted with the ladies at the Arizona Club, and engaged in amicable chatter with the likes of Rudolf Kastner.

The latter was a local Jewish community leader, who came to Eichmann with a preposterous idea – safe passage to Switzerland for a pre-selected trainload of Hungarian Jews – 1,600 in all – in return for keeping the other 460,000 calm and ignorant of the fate that awaited them. The Obersturmbannführer couldn’t believe his good fortune – the 1,600 was less than 1 percent of his shipment quota to Auschwitz (For the number crunchers in the audience, the actual percentage of Krastner’s Jews totaled 0.12% of the population that was destined for extermination). Being a shrewd businessman, and no doubt angling for a bonus from his superiors, Eichmann raised the ante with Kastner. He asked Kastner to work with the Allies and get him 10,000 trucks as well, to replace the vehicles the Nazis lost during their battles on the Eastern front. Kastner tried his best to deliver on the addendum, but the allies wouldn’t bite. Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 was still waiting to be written, the concept was not yet in vogue. Kastner was only able to deliver half of his side of the bargain. Eichmann feigned displeasure, but being the gentleman that he was, and having achieved his primary objective with Kastner and the Budapest Jewish Council, he kept his promise. Kastner got his train. His shipment of 1,600 Jews arrived safely in Switzerland while the other 460,000, ended up at a camp whose commander promised to reward them if they showered and got down to work.

There were no riots in the streets of Budapest during the 51 days it took to deport Hungary’s rural Jewry. There was no hysteria in Budapest, and not much hollering in the countryside either, thanks to the guardians of silence.The SS Obersturmbannführer didn’t run around town, beating up hapless Jewish citizens who may have been spreading panic in the streets. He leaned back in his office chair, and waited for the Hungarians to deliver the goods. At his trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann confessed to being surprised by the efficiency and brutality of his Hungarian partners and attributed the brutality to their Asiatic ancestors, their tainted ethnicity

Before turning my eyes forward, I am compelled, like Orpheus, to turn my head one more time, back towards the past. My backward glance at this moment is not the product of a momentary weakness, but a conscious, self-liberating choice, perhaps similar in motivation to the one undertaken by Apollo’s son, the man who forbade the pulling of wool over the eyes of the deceased more than 3,000 years ago. My brief and personal backward glance at this precise moment is necessary, because it is absolutely germane to the narrative that follows, and to the course of my own life from hereon in.

I learned, at the age of 65, accidentally browsing the internet one evening in my Montreal apartment, that my nominal godfather – Uncle Marci – who I never set my eyes on in my life and who, according to my parents died in prison in 1947 – an innocent “victim of Communism” – was in fact a war criminal and a devoted Nazi.

I learned from the internet, that Uncle Marci – Vitéz Márton Nemerey (neé Márton Grósz) – was not just an ordinary Nazi war criminal, but the highly decorated supreme national commander of the Hungarian csendőrség between August 1, 1938 and November 15, 1942. I learned on the internet that he was not only the celebrated author of the militia’s Ten Commandments, but the man who commanded Hungary’s first pogrom – the expulsion and subsequent murder of 23,000 migrant Jews in 1941 at the Ukrainian town of Kamenets Podolski. (When the 23,000 migrant Jews disembarked from the cattle wagons into which Uncle Marczi’s men had cramped them into, they were machine-gunned into open pits by the German soldiers who waited for them across the border. Eyewitness accounts speak of the earth rolling above the burial site for hours, like the surface of the ocean, because so many of the victims, though critically wounded, were buried alive.)

When I learned of the true identity of my nominal godfather I took out an old family photograph, and that picture spoke a thousand words to me. Uncle Marci was a Hitler lookalike – the same haircut, the same mustache, the same expression. I reached for a kosher pálinka, and have not recovered since.

Vitéz Márton Nemerey. Uncle Marczi. Photo: András Göllner.

What shocked me even more as I revved up my search engine was an account of my godfather’s death by a Hungarian historian, Sándor Szakály. Szakály is well known for his publications that glorify the Guardians of Silence. I first became aware of him about ten years ago, when I began looking at the Hungarian academics who were crowding around the then still fledging Hungarian neo-Nazi party, the Jobbik. Szakály was one of their celebrity intellectuals. After Viktor Orbán came to power in 2010, he appointed Szakály to the Chairmanship of the PMO’s newly created historical institute, the Veritas Institute. The main purpose of the Institute is to whitewash Hungary’s responsibility for the murder of the Jews at Kamenets Podolski and at Auschwitz. As soon as he assumed his position as head of the Institute, Mr. Szakály reframed the Kamenets Podolski pogrom as an administrative arrangement against illegal migrants. As far as my nominal godfather’s role in the affair was concerned, Szakály was mum. But he had another astonishing revelation, that did affect me personally. He claimed that my nominal godfather Vitéz Márton Nemerey, did not die in prison in 1947, as my parents and my godmother had told me, but 11 years later, in 1958. According to him, my godfather survived his prison sentence, was set free in 1951 and was free as a bird during the 4 years that preceded my parents decision to whisk me away to Canada from the evils of Communism in 1956.

During my last four years as a child in Hungary, I met my godmother on more than one occasion, but I never met my godfather. I often dreamed of sitting on his lap and having him tell me stories about Hungary’s heroes, the agile horsemen, who came to Hungary from afar and were so instrumental in saving “the West from the barbarians of the East.” (That heroic defense of it’s white and Christian neighbours to the west, is reenacted today by the razor tipped fence across Hungary’s southern border, a defensive corridor to stem “the alien Muslim tide” from the East. The story remains the same, the actions take different forms.)

When I enquired as a child about the whereabouts of my godfather, my godmother told me that sadly, oh so sadly, my godfather was dead. On later returns to Hungary as a grown man, I visited my godmother, who was by then a very old lady. I didn’t pester her with painful recollections of the past, but she did volunteer to tell me how sad she was that her husband, Uncle Marci could never set his eyes upon his beloved godson “who has now grown into such a tall, good-looking man.” She never missed a chance to malign those god-awful Communists for her husband’s bad fortune. She never once told me what her husband’s job was that landed him in hot water, and I never bothered to ask. When she passed away, I inherited Uncle Marczi’s beautiful, art deco desk lamp that stands now in a corner of my Montreal apartment in Little Italy, devoid of a vital, bejeweled part, stolen by a cleaning lady who is no longer in my employ. I don’t often make eye contact with it, and had changed the lampshade on it to be safe rather than sorry.

My parents and those in my family who may have known anything about Vitéz Márton Nemerey are long dead. I have no one in the world to clear up the puzzle for me: Why did my father choose this man, who was not even a blood relative, as my designated godfather? My grandfather, Elemér Szentjóby, hid a number of rural Jews on his estate during the war, who ran to him for protection in the village of Csömör. My own father, saved the lives of dozens more, who worked at his pasta factory in Budapest, sometimes chasing after them in his company’s truck, after the local Nazis absconded with them. He waved official papers at the young hoodlums, screaming with the thugs, that the Jews are needed to manufacture the pasta for the war effort. When the heat of the Holocaust came dangerously close to my uncle, the obstetrician, who saved me from starving to death, my family hid his children, my second cousins, so at least they would survive the horror. Did my father designate the leader of the csendőrség as my godfather to save his newborn son? I shall never know. But I will find out, even if it kills me, who is lying to me about the date of my godfather’s death: Was it my parents, my godmother, or is it Professor Szakály. the man the Hungarian government sent quietly and without any fanfare to Toronto on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, to celebrate with those Hungarian ex-army officers who held up the liberation of Auschwitz.

Sándor Szakály in Toronto, celebrating with Hungarian World War II soldiers who still glorify the Horthy regime.

Fast forward to 2010

“The memory of the Holocaust is the cornerstone of our government’s policy and our country’s national identity. It has to be preserved and respected,” said Bálint Ódor, Hungary’s Ambassador to Canada.

My nominal godfather, Vitéz Márton Nemerey, his beloved Admiral Nicholas Horthy, Ferenc Szálasi and Ottokár Prohászka are long faded memories, destined to live on in the underworld as dead spirits of the past. But the hatred they fomented against the Jews of Hungary burns stronger than ever in that country. There are many who claim that responsibility for the rising hatred today rests squarely on the shoulders of the anti-Liberal, anti-democratic government of Viktor Orbán, which was elected to office in landslide election victories in 2010 and in 2014 and which is now proudly and ably represented in Canada by his excellency, Ambassador Bálint Ódor.

According to surveys conducted by the Simon Wiesenthal Institute, and by the globally respected Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitism in Hungary prior to 2010 was well above the European average. After Orbán came to power, the hate level accelerated more rapidly than anywhere else in Europe and clearly corelates with Orbán’s election to office. Is this correlation a coincidence or is there a cause end effect relationship? I will let the evidence speak for itself and allow my readers to draw their own conclusion.

One of the founders of Hungary’s anti-Semitic, anti-Roma vigilante group, the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) is András Bencsik, a high-ranking member of Orbán’s Fidesz party. His magazine, the Demokrata, runs highly popular tours to Hitler’s “Eagle Nest” retreat each year. Each year the magazine runs a full feature article celebrating the troops that held up the liberation of Auschwitz, and fought to keep Hitler in power to the last day of the war. After Orbán came to power, Bencsik received a string of governmental decorations along with massive subsidies to keep his hate-filled magazine profitable and widely read. He has been inducted into a knighthood – the Order of Vitéz – that Admiral Horthy created in 1920, to maintain Hungary’s racial purity and to guard against the restoration of democracy in Hungary during the interwar years. The Order of Vitéz was banned under Communism, but has been resurrected. The Canadian chapter of this Order of Knights is the proud sponsors of the monument that will be raised to the Victims of Communism in Ottawa, initially planned to go up next to Canada’s Supreme Court building. The single largest contributor to the erection of this pet project of the former Tory Government is the government of Viktor Orbán, the government that sent its official historian, Sándor Szakály to celebrate with those officers who held up the liberation of Auschwitz, and assisted in the prolongation of the war. Standing next to Canada’s parliament building will be a permanent monument displaying the sponsorship of the Hungarian government, that, according to Transparency International, is the most corrupt in all of Europe. Carved into the monument in big letters will be the name of a government, whose leader is a sworn enemy of Liberalism, a man who has publicly declared that he wants to turn Hungary into an “Illiberal State” patterned on the Russian and Chinese templates. Catch 22 has arrived from the East, and the Ottawa landscape will never be the same.

If respect for the victims of the Holocaust is the cornerstone of the Orbán government’s identity, why is that government issuing glossy postage stamps in memory of such celebrities of Hungary’s Nazi past as the actress Zita Szeleczky, Hungary’s very own Tokyo Rose, who spent the war years agitating Hungarians to fight to the bitter end in defense of the Third Reich?

If respect for the victims of the Holocaust is the cornerstone of the Orbán government, why is this government and its Canadian Ambassador celebrating Gyula Detre, who lives in Canada and was the Head of Military Security for the war criminal, Arrow Cross Party leader, Ferenc Szálasi? Gyula Detre is a respected member of Montreal’s Hungarian community, a staunch anti-Communist, a devoted Christian and a patriot. He is also a member of the “Order of Vitéz” that Hungary’s interwar leader, Admiral Nicholas Horthy created to uphold the purity of the “Hungarian Blood” by excluding Jews from its ranks. Detre emigrated to Canada from Germany in 1950. In his autobiography which is freely accessible on the internet, he admits to serving the Hungarian “Führer”, and is proud of it. He recounts how impressed he was with Hitler’s warm and sensitive eyes when they met near the end of the war, and how much he enjoyed serving his own “Führer”, who was executed in 1945 as a war criminal. Detre couldn’t attend this year’s celebration on Dundas Street, but he sent a lengthy and warm memorandum to his comrades in arms who were hooting it up in Toronto with the Hungarian Prime Minister’s trusted right hand man, Sándor Szakály.

If respect for the victims of the Holocaust is the cornerstone of the Orbán government’s identity, why are convicted war criminals like Albert Wass or Arrow Cross Party member, József Nyírő resurrected by Orbán’s government as modern-day heroes of Hungary?

If respect for the victims of the Holocaust is the cornerstone of the Orbán government’s identity, why is that government allowing public monuments to be raised to those in Hungary who fomented hatred against the Jews before and during the Holocaust? If respect of the Holocaust victims is the cornerstone of his government’s policy, why is Viktor Orbán sending enormous wreaths to these memorials along with some of his most prominent officials and Party members?

If the memory of the victims of the holocaust must be respected why are the works of former Nazis put into the national curriculum of Hungary’s secondary school system, why are the men who spread hatred 70 years ago allowed to do the same once more and amongst the most impressionable strata of Hungarian society?

If remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust is the cornerstone of the Orbán government, why did this government embrace the well-known and now deceased anti-Semitic playwright, István Csurka? Before he suddenly died, the Orbán government gave Csurka the co-directorship of the publicly owned Budapest Municipal Theatre. Virtually the entire cabinet, including the President of the Hungarian Parliament attended Csurka’s funeral, while Orbán sent perhaps the largest funeral wreath to the gravesite as a sign of his government’s respect for the man who had nothing in his soul but hatred for the Jews.

One of Orbán’s closest pals, one of the founders of his Party and the owner of Party membership card No. 5, Zsolt Bayer, is also a highly rewarded and regarded propagandist of the Orbán regime and the recipient of numerous publicly funded grants to enable him to promote his racially motivated views. By his own admission, Mr. Bayer, is not an advocate of consensual conflict resolution. His favoured tension-management instrument is force – a punch in the mouth, a good beating “so that even your dentist won’t recognize your face anymore” (See his Hol a pofátlanság határa. Budapest. Kairosz publishers, 2001. pg. 166.) Bayer has the following advice to give to anyone who happens to run over a Roma child with his car: “Anyone who happens to run over a gypsy child in this country, would be best not to think of stopping. If you run over a gypsy, just step on the gas-pedal” (See his article in Magyar Hírlap, Hungary’s second largest pro-government daily, owned by Vitéz Gábor Széles, one of Prime Minister’s most powerful corporate cronies.). Bayer has the following to say about those of his colleagues in the Budapest media, who happen to be Jewish: “the mere existence of Jewish journalists in Budapest is grounds enough for our anti-Semitism.”(op.cit). Some cornerstone, some respect for the victims of the Holocaust, Ambassador Ódor!

When in 2012, one of Hungary’s greatest living writers, Ákos Kertész, a Holocaust survivor himself spoke up against the disgraceful conduct of the Orbán regime and his fellow countrymen’s support for this Party, the Mayor of Budapest stripped him of his municipal decorations, such as his status as an honorary citizen of Budapest. Orbán stood up in Parliament and threatened to introduce legislation to divest Kertész of all his earlier awards, including the nation’s highest literary award, the Kossuth Prize. At the age of 80, Ákos Kertész was forced to pack his bag, escape to Canada and ask for political refugee status in this country, because his life was no longer safe in Hungary. He became “a dirty Jew who dared to malign the reputation of Hungary.” Kertész now lives in Montreal, a permanent Canadian resident of Canada, living in poverty and neglect, but free as a bird, a man shamed in his homeland but not broken in spirit.

The revival of anti-Semitism in Hungary is perhaps best illustrated by the rise of an unabashedly anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, anti-Gay and anti-Democratic Party, the Jobbik, that is now Orbán’s loyal opposition in the Hungarian Parliament. Together, FIDESZ and Jobbik have a stranglehold on power in Hungary, that is unlikely to change for some time to come. The leader of this loyal opposition, Gábor Vona, was weaned inside Orbán’s Party. He served as the President of FIDESZ’s youth wing before branching out on his own, and with the best wishes of his mentor. Vona’s Party is closely allied to some of the most extreme anti-Semitic vigilante groups in Hungary. The Jobbik is also closely tied to anti-Semitic circles around Russian President Vladimir Putin. Orbán and Vona have also established close and ongoing ties to the Iranian regime, that is dedicated, among other things to the destruction of Israel. One of Orban’s top PMO lieutenants, the homophobic Imre Kerényi, who is decidedly not a fan of Ákos Kertész, has openly gloated that pretty soon the headquarters of the “Tel Aviv-New York axis”, will be levelled to the ground, and there will be nothing left but goats grazing on the site of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. When journalists questioned Orbán about the pro-Iranian, pro-Russian, anti-American hatred spewed by one of his top advisers, he shrugged his shoulders and said that he wished he had more people like Kerényi on his staff. His actions speak louder than his words.

The contrast between Ambassador Ódor’s Canadian rhetoric and the practice of Hungary’s ruling political elite is most vividly illustrated by the fact that the Hungarian Parliamentary Committee on Education and Culture is headed by Dóra Dúró, who is a card-carrying member of Hungary’s neo-Nazi Party, the Jobbik. This appointment was only made possible by the support of Orbán’s party colleagues in Parliament. If respect for the memory of Holocaust survivors is the cornerstone of Hungary’s ruling party, why did they elect a neo-Nazi party member to the head of this important parliamentary committee? Dúró is the wife of an out and out, self-confessed Holocaust denier, Előd Novák. Here is Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre: “Reports that the Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Culture was going to Dóra Dúró, the wife of Jobbik militant and Holocaust denier Előd Novák, raise questions about Hungary’s commitment to accurate and appropriate remembrance of the Holocaust. When Novak was asked last week why the couple does not take part in Holocaust commemoration events, he answered ‘we remember only genocides that actually happened’.” ( See: “Simon Wiesenthal Center Questions Hungary’s Fitness to Lead International Holocaust Body”, May, 2014)

Five years after Orbán came to power, the Hungarian landscape is dotted with monuments to Horthy and Prohászka. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Mr Szakály will raise one at the non-existent grave site of my godfather. More often than not, the unveiling of these bigger than life-size monuments, are led by Orbán’s top lieutenants, such as László Kövér or Sándor Lezsák, President and Vice-Presidents respectively of Hungary’s Parliament. Both are frequent flyers to Canada, where they try to drum up support amongst the local Hungarian diaspora, wrapping themselves this time in the flag of anti-Communism, Christian values and patriotism – values that never fail to bring tears to the eyes of the increasingly elderly first generation Hungarian refugees that made their homes in Canada after the war.

Former Prime Minister Harper was unequivocal about where his government stood on January 27th, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz: “The Government of Canada believes that remembrance of the Holocaust is an important way to teach and promote respect for universal human rights, and an important reminder of the importance of preserving and promoting the Canadian values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.” By contrast, and as we have demonstrated with empirically verifiable evidence, the Hungarian government prefers to speak out of both sides of its mouth. It most certainly does not practice in Hungary what it preaches in Canada.

Largely in response to all of the above, and to what they saw as an evident case of affinity fraud, the world’s two most respected Holocaust survivors and scholars – Elie Wiesel and Randolph L. Braham – returned all of the decorations the Orbán regime heaped upon them to secure their silence in the face of the escalating affront to the memory and dignity of the victims of the Shoa. I will quote a small segment from Elie Wiesel’s blistering public indictment of the regime, that Ambassador Bálint Ódor represents in Canada: “Hungarian authorities are encouraging the whitewashing of tragic and criminal episodes in Hungary’s past, namely the wartime Hungarian government’s involvement in the deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens….I do not wish to be associated in any way with such activities and hereby repudiate the Grand Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary granted to me.”

Is IHRA the train for Orbán’s affinity fraud in Canada?

In 2013 and after receiving far too many blows to its credibility, the Orbán regime decided to launch a global PR campaign to remove indignant Jews like Wiesel, and Braham off its back. The strategy was designed by the same communications advisor – Arthur J Finkelstein (aka „The Merchant of Venom”) who is responsible for the former Harper government’s well known negative ad campaigns against the Liberals (eg: Justin is Just Not Ready). Finkelstein has a long track record of catapulting bigots like the late Jessie Helms into power. He is now the advisor of choice, to many of the authoritarian leaders that are coming into their own in the former Soviet sphere of influence. He is the business partner of Orbán’s top communications advisor, Árpád Habony. He has an apartment in Budapest and is fondly referred to as Finkie by the Hungarian Prime Minister. The slogan used by Ambassador Ódor above has all the hallmarks of Finkie, and some are just not ready to swallow it hook line and sinker, as we shall shortly show.

The vehicle for Orbán’s new communications campaign was as carefully chosen as the sign above the gates of hell. It’s name is IHRA: The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.  Hungary joined IHRA during the first Orbán regime that lasted only 4 years from 1998 to 2002. The representative Orbán delegated to the IHRA Forum was István Stumpf, one of the prime minister’s closest political and business cronies. (Stumpf was a rising star in Communist Hungary prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He was a Secretary of the Young Communist League, the son-in-law of the Communist Minister of Interior, a man well on his way to the top, before Gorbachev decided to throw in the towel. By now, he is a multi-millionaire, and is recognized as one of the architects of Orbán’s “Illiberal State.” He is a lawyer by education but never practiced his craft. He jumped on the political gravy-train to power and quickly rose to the top. Even though he never worked a day as a lawyer and never sat on the bench, he was appointed to Hungary’s Supreme Court by Orbán where he has been a valuable asset to his boss, helping him to remove, brick by brick the foundations for the rule of law in Hungary.)

Until 2013, Hungary was a very passive, ho-hum member of IHRA, a 31 nation body dedicated to promoting respect for the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and to educational programs designed to raise public awareness about racial prejudice. The Orbán government began a lobby campaign early in 2013 and shortly after Wiesel’s protest, to secure the Chairmanship of this prestigious body. At a meeting in Toronto from 6-10 October 2013, IHRA Board members elected Hungary to chair the Alliance in 2015 the year that coincides with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The first person to sound the alarm, was Randolph L Braham, the custodian of truth about the Holocaust. He rightly pointed out, that Stumpf “misled the audience of the IHRA Forum” from his first day on the job. Braham accused Stumpf of “not mentioning any of the anti-Jewish laws enacted between 1938 and 1945 by the Horthy regime” and downplaying Hungary’s role in the murder of the Jews. Not a very good beginning for this train ride.

The selection of Hungary for the Chairmanship of IHRA in 2013 was also condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Institute as a farce. In May, 2014, and after noting many of the anomalies we have shown above, the SWC issued the following release: “Hungary must choose whether it’s committed to remembrance of the Holocaust or to the distortion of the Holocaust; it cannot have it both ways. Coming on the heels of other actions by the Hungarian government that distort and whitewash the Holocaust in Hungary, these efforts raise legitimate questions about Hungary’s ability to Chair the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2015″. The SWC protest was ignored and as Hungary’s Chairmanship is winding down, the inconsistencies between the Orbán government’s conduct in Hungary and its posturing abroad is increasingly difficult to manage.

Many on Ambassador Bálint Ódor’s train think the world of him. They see their conductor as a sincere, hardworking man, whose affinity towards victims of the Holocaust is as exemplary as the democratic credentials of his boss, Viktor Orbán. Perhaps the most powerful, most enthusiastic boosters of the conductor is Toronto billionaire and Hungarian Holocaust survivor Peter Munk. Munk’s credentials as one of Canada’s leading entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist, are forever secure and deservedly so. Wether he is as good at recognizing affinity fraud as he is at generating profit for his companies is a subject of political controversy. Munk and his family took a ride on an earlier train, the A-train out of Hungary in 1944, conducted by Rudolf Kastner. I suspect, his new train, the IHRA train conducted by Bálint Ódor will be surrounded by just as much controversy as the previous one.

Peter Munk’s extraordinary endorsement of a regime that has so raised the ire of people like Braham and Wiesel is perplexing. How could a man of his moral, intellectual, political and business acumen, be so blind to the evidence of duplicitous behavior outlined above? Why can’t Peter Munk see from Canada what George Soros sees from the USA? How could a Holocaust survivor be so unwary of the basic stratagem employed by affinity fraudsters? Affinity frauds prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, language minorities, the elderly. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme, by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile.

While many of the world’s leaders, have condemned Viktor Orbán’s “Illiberal”, corruption riddled enterprise, Munk, who is a business partner of one of Orbán’s best known Hungarian oligarchs, is an outspoken promoter. Like G eorge W. Bush, who was smitten by Putin after looking the Russian President in the eyes, Munk is smitten by Orbán, the man who was elected this year as second in line to the world’s most corrupt political leader –Vladimir Putin. Many of Europe’s leaders will have nothing to do with Orbán especially after he announced that he will reconstruct Hungary’s polity according to the Russian and Chinese templates. Presidents Obama, Clinton, Senator John McCain, the President of France, Italy along with many others have spoken up against the Hungarian autocrat Many of the world’s leading policy analysts, along with the former President of Czechoslovakia, the late Vaclav Havel had labelled him a fraud. The enthusiasm of Munk and many of the passengers on Ódor’s train in Canada is as perplexing as their reaction to those who are advocating a stop to the joy ride. This author belongs to the latter category. It is now time to highlight with two examples what happens to those who sound the alarm and try to warn the passengers of Ódor’s train about the bipolar nature of his masters, who cannot practice in Hungary, what they preach in Canada.

I decided to climb aboard Ódor’s train during two pre-scheduled train-stops in Montreal, the first on November 11 at Concordia University’s Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence (CEREV), the second on November 12th at the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. I wanted to test the authenticity, sincerity, credibility of the conductor, as well as to test the reactions of the fellow passengers who wanted to travel on Ódor’s train. When I occupied my seat I was surprised and disappointed to find not Ódor but his deputy, Lajos Oláh in the cock-pit.

Lajos Oláh is a well-known pinch-hitter, especially at Concordia University, where he was struck out earlier this year, in front of an internet audience of close to a million people, after he tried unsuccessfully to discredit three highly respected academic critics of his government. (For a replay of Oláh’s earlier performance at Concordia University, please click here.) The Concordia pit-stop featured a talk by the talented young Director of Budapest’s Holocaust Museum, Zsuzsa Toronyi. The speaker gave a masterful presentation of the heroic work of the museum to honor those who received so little attention in their homeland in the past.

During the question and answer period, a young man suggested that it was the invasion of Hungary by German troops in 1944 that led to the murder of Hungary’s rural Jews. He seemed to suggest, that the survival of the Budapest Jews was evidence for the reluctance of the Horthy regime to harm them. To another questioner, who wanted to know why there was so much neglect shown towards the Victims of the Holocaust, the speaker suggested that it was the shame of the Budapest Jews who survived the deportations that may explain this. At this point I raised my hand politely and given the right to speak, I explained to the young man, that the German troops did not invade Hungary but were welcomed as allies. I pointed out, that there was no resistance to their arrival to Hungary either by the Hungarian army or by the country’s citizens. The two countries were war-time allies and German troops played no role in the deportation of 460,000 rural Jews to Auschwitz – the deportations were entirely the work of the Hungarian government. Exterminating Hungary’s rural Jewry was a conscious policy choice of the Hungarian government of Nicholas Horthy. There was a two-step approach in place dictated by logistics. First the countryside, then Budapest. The Budapest deportations were halted by Horthy because the Soviet Red Army was on Budapest’s front door and the allies warned Horthy in writing, that if he continues his two-step strategy, he will be prosecuted as a war criminal at the end of the war. As for the neglect shown to victims of the Holocaust, I pointed out that blaming this on the surviving Jews of Hungary is a bit much. The neglect is not due to their shame but to those who murdered their country relatives. Why blame the victim once again and not the perpetrator of the crime?

The interjection was appreciated by the audience, whereupon I put a question to the conductor of Bálint Ódor’s train, Lajos Oláh. I asked the sponsor of this train ride, the official representative of the Hungarian government, why is it that the Government of Viktor Orbán cannot practice in Hungary what it preaches in Canada? Why can’t it walk its talk? And I gave a couple of quick examples from the list of contradictions elaborated upon earlier. As in March, Mr. Oláh refused to answer and turned the question over to the guest speaker, which raised a loud protest from many of the “passengers.” They too demanded an answer and argued that the question wasn’t directed at the guest speaker but at the sponsor. When no answer was forthcoming, the host of the event decided to end the embarrassing deadlock and asked that the discussion be directed back to its original topic. After picking himself up from the floor, Mr. Oláh finally found his voice, raised his hand and gave a little speech, blaming Communism, and the government that has been out of power for more than a quarter of a century for the neglect shown in Hungary towards the victims of the Holocaust. He kept asking for other opportunities to speak – though earlier he had openly stated that he didn’t come here to talk. Finally the moderator had to close off the session and deny Mr. Oláh a last jab, due to time constraints. A number of the passengers at the Montreal train stop came up to me afterwards and privately congratulated me for speaking up. The people in Mr. Oláh’s camp, including the Hungarian Embassy’s best friends in the Ottawa Jewish community, gave me some dirty looks, while one of them came up to me and said sternly – “András, we have to talk.” I cheerfully agreed to do so. I’m waiting patiently.

A “room full of hatred” at the Montreal
Holocaust Memorial Centre?

Next day, on November 12, the scene shifted to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, where the Embassy of Hungary sponsored a screening of a film by American-Hungarian Holocaust survivor Gábor Kálmán. This time it seems the moderator and the audience was better prepared for a possible embarrassment. I spotted many people in the audience from the Orbán government’s local fan club, many well known to me as outright anti-Semites. Kálmán’s wonderful homage to a non-Jewish woman, who decides to look into what happened to the murdered Jews from her town, was well received by the audience, especially by those, who needed to see some confirmation of the myth, that Hungary’s non-Jewish community is widely empathetic to the suffering of its Jewish countrymen.

Kálmán’s film provided a few important and telling glimpses of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Hungary and I rose to ask a question about that. I first congratulated the filmmaker for his excellent and important work and then I tried to put a question to Mr. Oláh. This time around, the moderator of the Q and A was not as willing to listen to me as the one at Concordia. She hurried me along, interrupting me every couple of seconds and asking me to put my question to Mr. Oláh and spare the audience any details. I did as I was told. The moderator turned to Mr. Oláh and asked him if he would care to respond. He said no and we moved on to the next question. A man rose in the audience at this point, one of the survivors from the village that saw its Jewish population almost fully exterminated. He turned to Mr. Oláh and asked him to stand up. Mr. Oláh declined to do so. The questioner thereupon stated that he wanted to voice his displeasure at the lack of respect given to the question raised by me, and he added one of his own in the same genre. Once again Mr. Oláh refused to answer, saying that this event is about the film and not about the sponsor, not about where his train is taking this audience but about the program being shown to the passengers on the closed-circuit video. A third person stood up and repeated the same question as the previous two audience members. At this point Mr. Oláh turned towards his audience and to a loud gasp stated that he refuses to answer questions in a room that is filled with hatred. The moderator of the session quickly changed the topic and the Q and A came to a halt shortly thereafter.

After November 12, Ambassador Ódor’s IHRA road-show went on to Ottawa, then Toronto. Next week there will be some new stops with new politicians from Hungary and new speakers to vouch for the affinity of the Orbán regime towards the victims of the Holocaust. I encourage more and more passengers to speak up and ask the questions that need to be asked: Where is this train taking us? Why is Dr Ódor’s government unable to practice in Hungary what it preaches in Canada?

Humankind stares into the abyss / The art of weirdness (2012)


What’s the motivating force behind the Hungarian government’s affinity fraud in Canada? Orbán is in a desperate struggle to restore his tarnished international reputation. His government needs massive infusion of foreign capital to sustain itself. Canada is an important battle station in this struggle. Fully 90% of Hungary’s national development budget is externally funded, primarily by EU taxpayers. A significant portion of these funds are frozen because of corruption allegations. Hungary is in desperate need of friends and money.

Last year, the Orbán government mounted a massive propaganda campaign to convince Canadian Conservatives, that it is part of the family. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s embrace was a coveted prize, was seen as the key to winning the support of key Republicans in the American Congress. Millions of dollars are being spent on this lobby effort by Hungary on both sides of the 49th parallel. Toronto’s Bay Street, and the most influential Canadian-Hungarian businessmen on that street are hotly pursued for their endorsement. The strategy seemed to be working. Will it hold up under the newly elected government of Justin Trudeau? Will he be ready to call a spade a spade?

The most recent Transparency International Report shows that Orbán runs the least transparent regime in all of Europe, the European Parliament, the EU’s Venice Commission the Organization for Security and Cooperation have issued numerous declarations about Orbán’s rule of law violations. Earlier this year, the European Parliament passed a stinging resolution by a substantial majority, calling upon the EU’s highest decision-making body, the European Commission to take a tougher stand and to consider withholding financing outright. Such blue ribbon anti-communist crusaders as the late Czech President Vaclav Havel, or Polish Solidarność leader, Adam Michnik, have gone public with their criticism as well. Will Justin Trudeau’s Liberals follow the path of Harper’s Conservatives and swallow the affinity-fraud?

While many of the Atlantic-community’s leaders have raised their voices against Orbán’s autocratic behavior, the Harper government has remained silent. Will Trudeau’s Liberals remain silent as well? According to Ottawa insiders, the Hungarian PM, with the support of his friends on Bay Street, is busy angling for an invitation from the Canadian government, using the help of prominent Jewish community leaders, to bring this about. Will Justin Trudeau clamber aboard Ambassador Ódor’s train, or will he join the growing number of passengers who are wondering what type of ride they are being taken on?

* **

András B. Göllner

A dual Canadian-Hungarian citizen, András B. Göllner is one of the Founders, and International Spokesperson, of the Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter. With a Ph.D in political economy from the London School of Economics and higher degrees in International Relations from Carleton University and Université de Montreal, András B. Göllner is a respected international scholar on Democratic Governance, Political Communications and on a broad range of business and society issues. He is an Emeritus Associate Professor at Montreal’s Concordia University and the author of a number of well-known books and articles on business, politics and international affairs including Social Change and Corporate Strategy. Stamford:IAP, 1983; Public Affairs in Canada. Montreal: IRPP. 1984; and Canada Under Mulroney (ed. with D. Salee), Montreal: Véhicule Press, 1988. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences on both sides of the Atlantic. Following the collapse of communism in Hungary, Dr Göllner played an important role in the broadening of democratic processes in the country of his origin. He coordinated Hungary’s first communications strategy for EU accession, and worked as a strategic communications advisor for various democratically elected governments over the past twenty years in Hungary. He lives in Montreal.

A foiled attempt on Viktor Orbán’s life? Unlikely

János Hajdu, head of the anti-terrorist center (TEK) created by Viktor Orbán, spent Tuesday visiting the more important TV stations to announce his crack police force’s discovery of a terrorist organization with possible international ties. The following day I wrote a summary of what actually transpired in the two separate raids, one of which involved two Hungarian men with automatic weapons and homemade silencers who were described by Hajdu as members of an organization called “hadsereg (army) or something like that.” In any case, he seemed to know practically nothing about this “army” except that the two suspects held confused extremist beliefs.

Since then we have learned from Sándor Pintér, the interior minister, that the two men were on their way to kill “a member of the government.” It wasn’t difficult to figure out that Pintér was most likely talking about Viktor Orbán himself. Pintér revealed that the target of these men was a “a person protected” by TEK. At present only two people are protected by TEK–Viktor Orbán and Péter Polt, the chief prosecutor. Polt, of course, is not a member of the government.

Blikk tracked down an organization called Magyar Nemzeti Hadsereg (MNH/Hungarian National Army), whose existence was announced on YouTube in 2011. even included a video on which a man in his sixties is delivering a 10-minute harangue about Jews as “genetic vermin.” The speech is confused all right, but consistently and virulently anti-Semitic. During the press conference Pintér read a few sentences from an alleged conversation between the two men. In the conversation one of the men used the phrase “genetic refuse,” which is reserved in Hungarian neo-Nazi talk for the Jews. They don’t call members of the government “genetic refuse.” So, I assume we are talking about the same group and perhaps even the same two people who can be seen on Blikk and heard on

I therefore consider it unlikely that the alleged target of these two madmen was Viktor Orbán or any other government official. But isn’t it an inspiring, confidence-building narrative to have TEK foil an assassination attempt on the prime minister?

The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives at Central European University

A few months ago I wrote a review of Anna Porter’s biography of George Soros titled Buying a Better World: George Soros and Billionaire Philanthropy, in which I concentrated on Soros’s philanthropic activities in Hungary. Nowadays Soros’s name is frequently bandied about in Hungary, often as a result of Viktor Orbán’s sudden “discovery” that Soros is responsible for the refugee crisis. He is one of those internationalists, along with Jürgen Habermas, the renowned philosopher, who wants to destroy European culture as it exists today. Of course, every time the names of Orbán and Soros are mentioned in the same breath someone will recall that Orbán’s student association benefited from precious copy machines and individual scholarships to study abroad funded by a generous George Soros.

Soros spent both time and money trying to lead Hungary toward his ideal of an “open society,” which is described by the Open Society Foundations as “a vibrant and tolerant society whose government is accountable and open to the participation of all people.” The Foundation seeks “to strengthen the rule of law; respect for human rights, minorities, and a diversity of opinions; democratically elected governments; and a civil society that helps keep government power in check.” As things stand now in Hungary, George Soros’s efforts haven’t borne fruit, but there is one institution he funded and still funds, Central European University, that might be Soros’s most significant Hungarian achievement as István Teplán, one of the co-founders of the university, told Anna Porter.

Originally, George Soros established three campuses of Central European University (CEU): in Prague, Warsaw, and Budapest. Shortly after Václav Klaus became president of the Czech Republic in 2003, Soros decided to close the Prague campus due to Klaus’s antagonistic attitude toward both Soros and his idea of an open society. The Warsaw campus didn’t thrive. On the other hand, the Budapest campus has become an important university in the region since its opening.

CEU is accredited in both the United States and in Hungary and offers English-language master’s and doctoral programs in the social sciences, humanities, law, management and public policy. It has approximately 1,400 students and 370 faculty members coming from more than 130 countries. The student: faculty ratio is 7:1. (By way of comparison, the Yale ratio is similar at 6:1.) Forty percent of the students are on a full CEU fellowship and 21% are on partial scholarship. Only 5% of the students pay full tuition. The drop-out rate is low: 2.5% of those who spend one year at CEU and 4% of those who are enrolled in the two-year program. The situation is different in the doctoral program where the drop-out rate for the graduating class of 2014-2015 was 27%.

The crown jewel of CEU is its archives, which as of November 3 is called the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives. Regular readers of Hungarian Spectrum will recall that I wrote a brief review of Vera and Donald Blinken’s book Vera and the Ambassador: Escape and Return. Donald Blinken was U.S. Ambassador to Hungary between 1994 and 1998, and his Hungarian-born wife Vera did an enormous amount of good work in Hungary in those days. In one short post I could cover only a fragment of the Blinkens’ work in Hungary in promoting closer U.S.-Hungarian relations, but their contribution was noteworthy. Donald Blinken is considered by many to have been the best U.S. ambassador to Hungary in the last 25 years.

Vera and Donald Blinken at the dedication ceremony on Nocember 3, 2015

Vera and Donald Blinken at the dedication ceremony on November 3, 2015

What is the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA)? It is “one of the world’s most valuable archival collections related to the Cold War, human rights movements and grave international human rights violations.” It holds more than 9.5 linear kilometers of paper records and 12 terabytes of digital records related to communist-era political, social, economic, and cultural life. It also includes the extensive collection of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute, personal papers of a number of political, cultural, and counter-culture figures from the Cold War, and samizdat literature from the Soviet Union, Poland, and Hungary. The Archives is also the depository of documents related to human rights, such as the investigative material on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, papers of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights as well as the Index on Censorship. It is also the official archives of the Open Society Foundations established by George Soros.

The Blinkens, with their generous bequest, have now made the Archives’ future secure. This, by the way, is not the Blinkens’ first gift to the Archives. Back in 2006 they made a contribution to establish the Donald and Vera Blinken Collection of interviews with Hungarian refugees from 1957-1958, which was digitized on the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. You may want to take a look at these interviews, which are available on the Archives website.

We all ought to be grateful for this gift that will further research on the communist period in Hungary.

The greatly touted Hungarian terrorist story is a hoax

Last night Reuters reported from Budapest that the Hungarian anti-terrorist police had detained four people traveling toward Budapest with explosives in their car and later found “a bomb-making laboratory set up for a mass killing.” The source of the information was the director-general of TEK (Terrorelhárítási Központ), János Hajdu. In addition, Hajdu revealed that two other people had been arrested in a separate raid, in whose possession they found submachine guns, silencers, and ammunition. When asked whether the subjects were jihadist terrorists, he said “Let me reply to that in the next few days.” He also declined to disclose the suspects’ identities, nationalities or motives but indicated that the case had “an international dimension.” Reuters seemed to know that the “suspects had been formally placed under arrest.” In no time this Reuters report from Budapest was picked up in the major newspapers of the world. Fox News announced this development with a bright yellow sign behind the anchor reading “Alert!”

In Hungary, meanwhile, János Hajdu, the former bodyguard of Viktor Orbán, made the rounds at several television stations in addition to MTV’s M1 where he made his initial announcement. I watched him on ATV where he was a guest of Egyenes beszéd.

The news spread like wildfire. Since the initial announcement of TEK’s raids over the weekend hundreds of Hungarian media outlets painted lurid pictures of the possible dangers posed by these “bomb makers,” further disquieting an already jittery Hungarian public. Hajdu described a full-fledged laboratory in which the suspects were ready to manufacture bombs which they could either use themselves or make for others. There was talk of detonators, test tubes, disguised fire extinguishers filled with explosives capable of killing hundreds of people, and grenades of all sorts. He showed a picture of a contraption that was described as a starter mechanism for would-be assassins. The impression he tried to convey was that Hungary was in mortal danger. International terrorism had reached the country.

János Hajdu with his boss / Photo Népszava Péter Szalmás

János Hajdu with his boss / Photo Népszava / Péter Szalmás

There is only one problem with the story: not a word of it is true. There is no bomb factory, and there are no terrorist suspects. It is would be easy to conclude that members of TEK are staggeringly incompetent. The best example of their incompetence was the time they seized theater props arriving in Budapest for a film production, thinking they were real weapons. I wrote about that fiasco earlier. But this time it is almost certain that we cannot chalk up to incompetence what happened during this past weekend. Here we are dealing with the willful misleading not only of the public but even of the parliamentary committee on national security. The reason for the deceit? It is most likely a desire to help Viktor Orbán’s current propaganda campaign against the asylum seekers.

Currently the Hungarian government is in the midst of a ferocious anti-refugee campaign. Activists knock on doors gathering signatures to oppose the quota system that the European Union will most likely introduce to deal with the refugee crisis. It was only a few days ago that Viktor Orbán in an interview said that “of course, it’s not accepted, but the factual point is that all the terrorists are basically migrants… The question is when they migrated to the European Union.” The anti-refugee propaganda has been in full swing for months, and by now the great majority of Hungarians have been convinced that the world would come to an end if Hungary accepted even a single refugee. It looks as if it was TEK’s job to find a few terrorists in Hungary to heighten the fear that is already widespread.

So, let’s see what actually happened. There were two raids, both in or close to Budapest. The first took place on Saturday. It seems that TEK had been following two Hungarian men who, from the details Hajdu gave to Olga Kálmán of ATV, are “extremists” and who illegally had in their possession submachine guns, home-made silencers, and ammunition. I suspect that they are the ordinary neo-Nazi types who are unfortunately rather common in Hungarian far-right circles. The second raid took place on the highway, where they arrested four men. These are the ones suspected of terrorism. This is the case that, according to Hajdu, has “an international dimension.”

What is the truth? A young fellow who lives in Budapest is a World War II history buff who collects wartime memorabilia. This past weekend, with his father and two of his friends from Slovakia, he headed to some wooded areas around Veszprém with a metal detector to look for items like shells and old grenades. They packed the things they had found into the trunk of the car and headed home. Great was their surprise when they were surrounded by members of the Hungarian anti-terrorist group. TEK units, with their uniforms, masks, and heavy weaponry, are quite a frightening sight. A search of his parents’ apartment followed, where TEK grabbed everything that looked suspicious to them, including, for example, the above mentioned fire extinguisher. Naturally, the three boys and the father were arrested.

The case was so weak, however, that even the prosecutors asked for temporary custody only for Roland S., who is most likely the boy with such an interest in war memorabilia. This afternoon, however, the court ruled that none of the four should be detained, and in the press release the court stated that “there is nothing in the documents that would indicate that the suspect whose interest in World War II is no more than a hobby has any connection with other organized criminal groups or terrorist organizations…. In fact, everything indicates the lack of any such connection. There is no proof of any extremist views or any foreign connection with the exception that his two companions with a similar interest are from Upper Hungary [Slovakia].”

This morning János Hajdu and other high officials of TEK, who were asked to appear before the parliamentary committee on national security to brief the lawmakers on the background of the terrorist threat, lied. HVG learned that Hajdu talked about the Roland S. case as being of great importance. When the committee members left the conference room, they–including the opposition members–announced that TEK had done an excellent job. Hajdu never said that Roland S. was a collector of war memorabilia or that the so-called international connection was nothing more than two friends from Slovakia.

Try to imagine what would happen to János Hajdu if he pulled this trick at a hearing of one of the committees of the U.S. Congress. He would be charged with contempt of Congress. This is exactly what happened to Rita Lavelle, an EPA official, in 1983 when she was indicted for lying to Congress. She was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, five years probation thereafter, and a fine of $10,000.

But rest assured, nothing of the sort will happen in Hungary. I hope that the opposition will have the good sense to raise hell and that journalists will follow up on this disgraceful story.

Orbán system or Orbán regime: Debate on the nature of the Hungarian government

I’m sure that readers of Hungarian Spectrum know that I have a very low opinion of Hungarian “political scientists” or, in Hungarian, “politológusok.” They are not really political scientists as we define the profession in the West. A Hungarian “politológus” is an unaffiliated political commentator at best. At worst he is in the pay of a political party as a so-called adviser. These “talking heads,” instead of doing research, normally go from one TV station to the next, pontificating about current politics.

But here and there we can find genuine political scientists in Hungary. A case in point is András Körösényi. Right after Fidesz won the 2010 election, he was named director of the Political Science Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Körösényi is described in the media as an “ősfideszes,” one of the progenitors of Fidesz from the late 1980s. Naturally, his appointment and his subsequent firing of some well-known political scientists were considered to be political acts. Körösényi protested in vain that the purge was not political, especially since most of those who were let go were considered to be associated with the left. He claimed that his decision was based on three considerations: (1) the staff was too large, (2) some of the political scientists were merely talking heads, and (3) the professional attainment of several associates was below par. In fact, Körösényi most likely was telling the truth. The very first man to be fired was the Fidesz propagandist Tamás Fricz, whose weekly column in Magyar Nemzet and lately in Magyar Idők is a disgrace to the profession. Körösényi, who is the best known Hungarian political scientist abroad, encourages the Institute’s associates to publish in foreign professional journals. Körösényi’s own list of publications is impressive in this respect.

You will not find either Körösényi’s or any of the associates’ names in daily publications. Nor are there any lengthy TV interviews with them about current political events. I wouldn’t be surprised if such activities were either discouraged or outright forbidden. However, the Institute periodically organizes conferences on selected topics. The topic of today’s conference was “Twenty-five years of the Hungarian political regime: 1990-2015.” The occasion was the publication of a new volume edited by Körösényi himself titled “The Hungarian political regime after twenty-five years.”

I suspect that the use of the word “regime” in the title sparked the interest of reporters. After all, “regime” is often used as a derogatory term, implying an authoritarian government or dictatorship. And since the public associates Körösényi with Fidesz, there was great interest in his thoughts on the nature of this regime. (Although he himself told a political science undergraduate at Corvinus in an interview for the political science department’s newspaper not long ago that he doesn’t keep in touch with his former political friends.)

The differences between a political system and a political regime are crucial to Körösényi’s argument. According to standard definitions,

A political regime is a set of political structures that make up a state. These political systems range from direct democracies to totalitarian regimes, such as military dictatorships. Common systems in the modern world include democratic republics, monarchies, and representative democracies.


A political system is the set of formal legal institutions that constitute a “government” or a “state.” This is the definition adopted by many studies of the legal or constitutional arrangements of advanced political orders. More broadly defined, however, the term comprehends actual as well as prescribed forms of political behavior, not only the legal organization of the state but also the reality of how the state functions. Still more broadly defined, the political system is seen as a set of “processes of interaction” or as a subsystem of the social system interacting with other nonpolitical subsystems, such as the economic system. This points to the importance of informal sociopolitical processes and emphasizes the study of political development.

Körösényi labels the present political Hungarian setup the “Orbán regime.” His reasons for this label are manifold. All of the political changes that have occurred in the last six years are connected to Orbán himself. A political system, in his opinion, is a “stable, permanent phenomenon, but a regime is very temporary. A regime might not be capable of ‘consolidation.'” Even those who sympathize with the right don’t trust that this regime will survive Orbán himself. Körösényi believes that the changes introduced since 2010 have not basically altered the political system, i.e. democracy. He brought up freedom of the media, free elections, and an independent judiciary. What is really different in this Orbán era is “a new kind of exercise of power.”


Examples of this new kind of exercise of power are the following: (1) the government always wants to solve some kind of crisis; (2) because of the perpetual crisis situation there are always extraordinary situations which demand authoritarian governance; (3) Fidesz created the myth that in these extraordinary times the country needs a leader of “extraordinary talents” who also satisfies the desires of the People and therefore his rule is democratic; (4) after taking away most power from the constitutional court “the concept of political majority is raised over the rule of law and meritocracy”; (5) public debates are superfluous; (6) the government avoids dialogue with institutions and elites and turns straight to the People; (7) this paternalistic and anti-pluralistic regime “has reorganized the relation between government and society and it more and more tries to influence our everyday existence”; and, finally, (8) the Orbán regime is right-wing but in many respects transcends the distinction between left and right. Its chief ideology is anti-communism, but even that can change. It can always substitute some other enemy instead. Ideology and pragmatism are mixed in its everyday governance, which Körösényi calls “tinkering” (barkácsolás).

His opponent was Zsolt Boda, department head of the Academy’s Social Science Research Institute, who criticized Körösényi for “beating around the bush.” In his opinion, this governance can be understood only “within the paradigm of hybrid [illiberal, authoritarian] regimes.” Boda doubts, for example, that the Orbán regime can still be called democratic, given the present state of the constitutional court, the functioning of the judicial system, especially the prosecutorial branch, and the present electoral system.

According to Gergely Tóth, a reporter for Index, “although Boda didn’t draw the conclusion, many political scientists present strengthened [his] opinion that in light of the changes that have taken place since 2010 the fine distinction between regime and system …doesn’t make much sense.” Most likely Boda is right, but considering Körösényi’s past association with Fidesz and its basically right-of-center political views, it is pretty remarkable that he got to the point of such a fundamental critique of the Orbán regime.

Viktor Orbán encounters Jürgen Habermas

Viktor Orbán is on his way to China from where no appreciable news has yet reached Budapest. Nonetheless, the prime minister’s name is prominent on practically all online news sites today on account of an interview he gave to before his departure. Actually, what we can read there is not strictly speaking an interview but only an article based on a 90-minute interview that took place in Budapest. Therefore it is not always clear how faithfully those parts of the conversation have been transcribed that are not direct quotes. In any case, the interview highlights new aspects of Viktor Orbán’s thinking, and anyone who follows the maverick prime minister’s intellectual career should definitely read it. I should, however, warn readers ahead of time. Matthew Kaminski, the reporter, was overly impressed by Viktor Orbán, who most likely used all his considerable charm on the reporter. It is enough to remember former U.S. Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis’s memoirs in which she recounts that all American visitors who met Orbán fell under his spell.

Here I would like to focus on one little scene from the lengthy article.

Getting up from his seat around a large conference table, Orbán walks over to the books stacked on his desk and shelf. He picks up a tract on Europe he’s reading by Jürgen Habermas, the German philosopher and proponent of a closer, federal EU. “The most dangerous book,” he calls it.

Why is Habermas so dangerous? To find the answer we have to go back to the speech Orbán delivered upon the publication of the booklet “Signs of the Times” on October 30. In this speech he expressed his suspicion that the arrival of close to a million people in Europe is the result of a purposeful plan of left-liberal elements who want to transform Europe into a “cosmopolitan community of world citizens.” He added that “even Ferenc Kőszeg brought up the possibility of a politically constructed world community in one of the weeklies.” He added that he has been thinking about this theory and its political and cultural implications and that he “will have to polish up his thoughts” on the subject before the forthcoming Fidesz Congress.

After some research I found the article by Ferenc Kőszeg that Viktor Orbán was talking about. It appeared in HVG‘s print edition on October 18 and about a week later on the internet. The article’s title is “We need another Trianon.”

First, a few words about Ferenc Kőszeg. We haven’t heard much about him of late, but he was a prominent member of the democratic opposition in the 1970s and 1980s. During this period he was a regular contributor to the famed samizdat publication Beszélő. After the regime change he was a member of parliament (1990-1998) and in 1994 became one of the founders and eventually the director of the Hungarian Helsinki Commission. He is the author of several books.

So, what does the article have to say about a possible second Trianon? Kőszeg reminds his readers about how the Hungarian ruling political elite at the turn of the century managed to ruin the good name of the country within a relatively short time in Great Britain, where ever since the revolution of 1848-1849 the British public had followed the fortunes of Hungary with great sympathy. But then came the forceful Magyarization of Hungary’s minorities, and soon enough on the pages of The Spectator under the pseudonym of “Scotus Viator” (Scottish wanderer) articles appeared about the Hungarian situation that turned British public opinion against the country. Hungary, partly because of its deserved bad publicity, was probably treated more harshly than it would have been otherwise. And, says Kőszeg, at the moment Hungary’s reputation is as bad as it ever was because of Hungary’s harsh treatment of the refugees. He brings up the White Terror of Miklós Horthy’s detachments in 1919 and the execution of Imre Nagy in 1958. So, if Viktor Orbán is not careful, he might find his country outside of the European Union because of international public opinion condemning his behavior.

It was in this article that Kőszeg mentioned Jürgen Habermas’s name. The sentence in which his name appeared was this: “If the number and influence of euroskeptics keep growing, then Jürgen Habermas’s concept of a European constitution in which human rights occupy center stage might not be a utopia. Or much less of a utopia than the dreams of Orbán and his friends of illiberal nation states marching to the tune of Hungary.” This was the sentence that aroused terrible suspicions in Viktor Orbán’s mind.

world citizen

As I learned from Ferenc Kőszeg, he was quoting from Habermas’s Zur Verfassung Europas: Ein Essay (2011) which a year later appeared in Hungarian translation as Esszék Európa alkotmányáról. (In English the title is The Crisis of the European Union.) Most likely it was the Hungarian translation of this book that Orbán was studying to help him define his own position against the ideas outlined in this “most dangerous book.”

What does Viktor Orbán find so objectionable in Habermas’s ideas about the future of the European Union? Let me quote here a succinct summary of the main thrust of his position. According to Anson Rabinbach in the July 10, 2012 issue of The Nation,

Habermas argues that the ethical and political self-understanding of citizens in a democratic community needn’t be rooted in a historical or cultural essence. Simply put, citizens do not have to “feel” that they belong together culturally or ethnically to act in a democratic manner and experience solidarity with their neighbors, especially beyond their borders. It is enough that they share a common set of ethical and civic values and participate in a set of institutions that enable them to communicate and debate.

I might add to all this that, not surprisingly, Habermas, who gave a lecture to an overflowing audience in Budapest in May 2014, is no fan of Viktor Orbán. Before he began his lecture, Habermas talked at some length about the Hungarian political situation and Viktor Orbán’s role in the destruction of liberal democracy. He added that it would be “false politeness” not to talk about the populist nationalist voices coming from Hungary.

I am curiously awaiting the “philosophical treatise” that Viktor Orbán will present at Fidesz’s forthcoming congress. You may recall that the congress was supposed to be held during the weekend of the Paris tragedy but was postponed due to the official day of mourning Orbán declared. It will be held on December 13 instead. This will give Orbán a little more time to find answers to Habermas’s picture of the world sometime in the future in which nation states will have less and less of a hold on their citizens.