Tag Archives: Ádám Gellért

The afterlife of György Donáth’s bust

I would like to return to the topic of the György Donáth case I wrote about a couple of days ago in a post titled “Another attempt to erect a statue honoring an anti-Semitic racist.” There are at least three reasons for doing so. First, because since the scuffle and the aborted unveiling of the bust there have been new developments that is worth discussing. Second, right-wing publications have been filled with articles full of indignation that a small minority “dictates” the rest of the nation whom it should honor. Third, Ádám Gellért, a legal scholar and a student of history, has taken the trouble and has done some research on Donáth’s political past.

First, the bust of Donáth has been removed. Apparently, Péter Boross, former prime minster (1993-1994) and the man who is an active promoter of the rehabilitation of the “progressive elements” of the Horthy regime, decided that the bust was in danger. Two days ago I expressed my suspicion that, just as in case of Bálint Hóman’s statue, it was likely that the government contributed money for the memorial. My feeling about the source of money was correct, a fund, established by the Orbán government, contributed 15 million forints toward the cost of the bust. Boross thinks that the Donáth bust on the building where Donáth once lived at the corner of Páva utca and Üllői út is not a safe place because it would be defaced. They will erect is somewhere else considered safer.


Only the pedestal is left

Compare that reaction to the government’s response to the erection of the memorial for the victims of the German occupation of March 19, 1944 when Viktor Orbán, ignoring the domestic and international protest, insisted its erection even if it had to be done in secret in the middle of the night. Perhaps because of the lessons learned from the Hóman controversy, the government decided on an early retreat. The other possibility is that in the Donáth case Viktor Orbán was not personally involved and therefore Boross and others could make independent decisions. In any case, it was the right step in the right direction although it would have been much smarter to forget about György Donáth’s bust altogether.

Second, quite a few opinion pieces appeared in the far-right press that expressed the authors’ outrage at the Hungarian left’s and the Jewish community’s condemnation of a man who was “the first victim of the Stalinist-type show trials” and who at his trial testified that his name in no way can be connected to anti-Semitism. Moreover, again quoting from Donáth’s last plea, he disapproved of both national socialism and fascism. According to the author, Sándor Faggyas, a right-wing journalist currently working at Magyar Hírlap, “Donáth’s cardinal sin,” according to the ignorant and hysterical left, “was that he had been a Christian politician who defended the Hungarian people and who participated in the secret organization called Magyar Közösség.” We will see later that Faggyas was mistaken on both accounts.

Naturally, Zsolt Bayer, the professional anti-Semite and old friend of Orbán with a long Fidesz past from the very beginnings of the party, couldn’t have remained quiet when a good Christian is being maligned by “the descendants of the rubble of 1919 and 1945, who if they could would kill again with pleasure just as their predecessors did,” furtively pointing the finger at Hungarian Jewry. It is intolerable that Hungarians are forced to view history through the “annals of Jewish sufferings.” Bayer promised us a second installment of his opinion piece titled “Intolerable.” I assume he will continue to quote from Donáth’s last plea that indeed showed great bravery.

I indicated in my first piece on Donáth that we know very little about the man aside from his involvement in Magyar Közösség. Several books or chapters of books were devoted to that secret organization but no one has searched through documents looking for Donáth’s political views prior to 1945. Because of the favorable impression his plea made on those who studied the story of the Közösség drew a favorable portrait of him. However, even on the basis of these available secondary sources I had an uneasy feeling that Donáth’s life most likely has a very dark side. I suggested that someone close to the available sources should do some serious research and write at least a longish scholarly article on the man’s past. Well, the first step was taken by Ádám Gellért yesterday when he published an article full of quotations from Donáth’s speeches delivered in parliament. Clearly, this is just a first stab at learning more about Donáth because in addition being a member of parliament, he was also the publisher of an extreme right-wing magazine, Egyedül Vagyunk (We are alone) and therefore he must have written scores of opinion pieces for the magazine. Egyedül Vagyunk was a notorious anti-Semitic publication whose editorial board included such war criminals as Béla Imrédy, Andor Jaross, and Ferenc Rajniss, who all were condemned to death in 1946. Andor Jaross was in charge of the deportation of Hungary’s Jewish citizens to Auschwitz where most of them were murdered. These were the people Donáth kept company with. After the fall of the Szálasi regime Donáth was arrested but after a few months was let go.

On the basis of the quotes Gellért unearthed we can safely say that despite Donáth’s protestation he was both an anti-Semite and a follower of the Hungarian version of national socialism or fascism, Ferenc Szálasi’s Arrow Cross Party. He imagined the establishment of a “Hungarian Empire” (birodalom) which would “in its size” equal Hungary before 1918 but in contents it would be very different. It would be built on truly Hungarian traditions. He considered “national socialism or fascism” vastly superior to democracy because the former ones are better suited for the creation of “a healthy hierarchy.” What did he mean by “healthy hierarchy”? It seems that what he actually had in mind was the exclusion of all Jews which the first anti-Jewish law in his opinion didn’t ensure. Stricter laws were necessary which were already under preparation and which “will perhaps achieve better results.” He was thinking about the second anti-Jewish law

When Béla Varga of the Smallholders Party spoke against an amendment to the marriage law that forbade marriage between Jews and Gentiles Donáth became truly animated. Varga thought that “50% of Hungarian blood, plus the sacrament of baptism surely can balance the 50% Jewish blood” Donáth exclaimed: “The Negro will not become white either.” Or when liberal Károly Rassay argued against the second anti-Jewish law, pointing out that it is against the interests of the nation and that “it is impossible to speak of a pure Magyar race” Donáth interjected: “Unfortunately! Not pure. We must purify it! We will purify it!” Or, Donáth didn’t consider the ban on mixed marriages quite satisfactory because it didn’t specifically cover children born out of wedlock. This omission, he argued, “on the one hand, gives encouragement to sexual intercourse outside of marriage and, on the other doesn’t punish its evasion.”

During the debate on the third anti-Jewish law he made a fairly long speech out of which I will quote some of the most important sentences. Donáth was describing the difficulties the Imrédy government had to face when hundreds of laws had to be enacted during a very short time, “making up for the omissions of 20-50 or even 100 years.” All that has to be done in the middle of the war and during the building a new Hungarian empire. “We must bring up a new generation of the intelligentsia … now that a large segment of the present intellectual elite is being excluded as in our opinion, these people should have no place among Hungarian intellectuals.” Let’s face it, György Donáth was a maniacal anti-Semite. Not what Zsolt Bayer tried to make him at the end of his article. “Was György Donáth an anti-Semite? Yes, he was. Just as other innumerable great and talented men without whom no Hungarian culture and history would exist: Sándor Petőfi, Ferenc Herczeg, Dezső Kosztolányi, Sándor Márai, László Németh, Gyula Illyés, and Zsigmond Móricz.” How Petőfi could be listed here is beyond me because Petőfi in fact raised his voice against German citizens of Pest who refused to accept Jews into the national guard.

According to Bayer, the accusation of anti-Semitism is often unfounded. Surely, in case of György Donáth it wasn’t. But as far as Bayer is concerned “the Jews who were unfortunately overrepresented in the revolt of the rats and the mass murderers in 1919—against the will and the wishes of the majority of Jews–themselves ‘succeeded’ to gain the deep antipathy and anger of the majority.” In this all these outstanding Hungarians’ anti-Semitism is perfectly understandable.

February 27, 2016

No rest for the weary: A busy summer in Hungarian politics

During the summer everything slows down. Soon members of parliament will leave for their summer holidays. Certain programs on KlubRádió will suspend broadcasting for the next two or three months, and ATV has only skeleton programming. One would think that political life must be really boring in Hungary. Nothing to discuss or analyse. But the funny thing is that there are so many topics worth thinking about or investigating that I simply cannot keep up with them. At the same time I don’t want to ignore them, so I decided to cover two topics today.

The Biszku case

You may recall that sometime at the end of May the Budapest appellate court ruled that the verdict of the court of first instance, which had sentenced Béla Biszku, János Kádár’s first minister of the interior, to a three-year prison term, was null and void. The fault lay with both the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office, which prepared the case, and the lower court judge who most likely felt pressured to produce quick results. Even Ádám Gellért, the young lawyer who was responsible for Biszku’s indictment, had to admit that the case the prosecutors came up with was unspeakably poorly prepared. The appellate judge had only two options: either to throw the case out or to acquit Biszku.

The reaction of the Budapest chief prosecutor, Tibor Ibolya, was not that of a “shrinking violet,” as his family name would indicate. (I saw him in action once with Olga Kálmán and in fact recommended viewing this interview in one of my earlier posts.) In his frustration and anger, he accused Biszku’s defense lawyer of “making a clown with cap and bells out of the court, which, instead of objecting, assisted him.”

The chief prosecutor of Budapest is not the only one who is upset. Ádám Gellért is also frustrated. At a conference held today, he offered a dangerous suggestion: a law should be enacted that would transform political responsibility into a criminal act under certain circumstances. A right-wing historian, Tibor Zinner (Veritas Institute), went even further. He wouldn’t mind having a law that would allow the sentencing of people already dead.

Since Biszku is 94 years old, by the time the prosecutors, judges, legal scholars, and historians decide what can be done with high-ranking communist politicians who may be responsible for the deaths of people after the uprising of 1956, he will most likely be dead.

What’s happening with the Hungarian Gripens?

During the first Orbán government (1998-2002), under mysterious circumstances, Viktor Orbán went against the advice of his military advisers and acquired 16 Gripen fighter planes. The cabinet had been expecting an announcement that Hungary would purchase F16 planes from the United States. Instead, out of the blue, Orbán announced that he had decided on the Swedish Gripens. The decision was suspicious at the time, but it became even more so after we learned that the Saab Group, manufacturer of the Gripens, was quite generous when it came to “convincing” its customers. I wrote about the Gripen scandal at least three times: in August 2007, March 2009, and September 2012.

Now we have a Gripen scandal of a different nature. On May 19, one of the 16 fighter planes was totally destroyed while taking part in an exercise in the Czech Republic. The Hungarian public has learned nothing since about the cause of the accident. The Hungarian planes are leased because the country’s finances didn’t allow for an outright purchase. The original arrangement was that after a certain period Hungary would be able to take full possession of the fleet. But eventually it became clear that the country couldn’t even keep up with its monthly payments. In any event, the plane, which is a total loss, is probably a further strain on the Hungarian military budget. The financial situation of the military is so bad that, as Magyar Nemzet sarcastically remarked, although the planes have been in Hungary for nine years, “they didn’t manage to buy a single bomb for them.”

And then, less than a month later, another accident happened, this time in Kecskemét, the Hungarian airbase. The plane is not totaled, only damaged, but the pilot who had to catapult from the plane, just like a colleague in the Czech Republic, injured his spine. This time, it looks as if the accident was due to technical difficulties. Something is very wrong with either the Gripens or the Hungarian airmen and servicemen, or both.

After the accident in Kecskemét

After the accident in Kecskemét

Imre Szekeres (MSZP), minister of defense between 2006 and 2010, commented on these accidents on Facebook. According to him, perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of flying time. Szekeres suspects that there is not enough money for fuel. The pilot of the plane that was damaged in Kecskemét had eight hours in the air this year. Moreover, apparently it is not known how many planes are actually flyable. Two are definitely not, but there was a third plane that was returning from Sweden where its pilot had received flying instruction. It never reached the Kecskemét base but had to force land in Košice/Kassa. No one knows in what shape that plane is.

The Hungarian Air Force, with its inexperienced pilots and its ailing planes, will soon be responsible for the defense of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Beginning in August, it will be spending four months on a Lithuanian airbase. Since these countries don’t have air defense capabilities, other NATO countries protect them on a rotating basis. We can only pray that no one decides to attack any of these countries between August and November.