Tag Archives: Mária Schmidt

Viktor Orbán’s favorite party failed to gain the Austrian presidency

On Tuesday Viktor Orbán, who seems to have an iron constitution, took the day off because, as his office announced, he was sick. Yesterday a humorous little piece appeared in Sztarklikk with the title: “That’s why Orbán fell ill.” Surely, the author said, Orbán needed to be revived with smelling salts after learning that Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), had narrowly lost the Austrian presidential election. Well, smelling salts might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Orbán’s disappointment had to be great because it is a well-known fact that Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of FPÖ, and Viktor Orbán greatly admire one another.

At the end of September when Viktor Orbán visited the Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann (SPÖ), and his deputy, Reinhold Mitterlehner, in order to temper months of quarreling between the two countries, the Hungarian prime minister was also planning to meet Strache. Unfortunately, apparently to the great sorrow of Orbán, the planned meeting had to be cancelled in the last minute. The reason was straightforward enough. Strache is persona non grata in mainstream Austrian political circles, and when the Austrians found out about Orbán’s plans they expressed their strong disapproval. In fact, Deputy Chancellor Mitterlehner, whose party, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), just like Fidesz, belongs to the EU’s European People’s Party, refused to meet with Orbán if he insisted on going through with his original plan. Reluctantly, Orbán cancelled the meeting.

Apparently Orbán is convinced that Strache is a man of the future. Strache’s threat to build a fence between Austria and Hungary to keep Hungarian workers out of his country didn’t seem to dampen his enthusiasm for the man. Strache might not like Hungarians working in Austria, but several times he expressed his admiration for Orbán, who is “one of the few honest politicians who don’t want to sell out or destroy Europe.” He added that Orbán is the only European politician who has any brains when it comes to the migrant issue.

The Hungarian government has had strained relations with Austrian politicians of the two governing parties, SPÖ and ÖVP. Even a cursory look at the political news of the last few months reveals repeated insults being exchanged between Werner Faymann and Péter Szijjártó. Although Faymann resigned as chancellor on May 9 of this year, most likely to the great relief of Viktor Orbán and Péter Szijjártó, it looks as if his successor, Christian Kern, will be no better from the Hungarian point of view. In fact, I suspect that the new Austrian chancellor will be an even more severe critic of the Hungarian prime minister, whose views are practically identical to those of Heinz-Christian Strache.

A few days ago Kern announced that “it is an illusion to think that the refugee problem can be solved by European countries adopting authoritarian systems as the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has done.” Szijjártó, as is his wont, responded immediately and rashly. According to him, what is an illusion is any hope that with a change in the Austrian chancellorship insults from Austria will cease. Kern’s statement, he said, compared Hungary to Hitler’s Germany. “It is unacceptable for anyone to use expressions in connection with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that are in any way attached to the most monstrous and darkest dictatorship of the last century.” Not the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Magyar Idők, the government’s fervent supporter and often unofficial spokesman, followed the Austrian presidential race with great interest, keeping fingers crossed for Norbert Hofer. A day before the second round of the presidential election, Magyar Idők was pretty certain that Hofer would win. The paper also noted that The New York Times compared FPÖ to the Hungarian, Polish, and Slovak government parties. (I don’t know whether the author of the article considered this an insult or not.) An opinion piece that appeared on the morning of the presidential election ran under the headline: “The Freedom Party is the symbol of success while the left is that of failure.”

Heinz -Christian Strache and Norbert Hofer before the presidential elections / Photo APA / Hans Klaus

Heinz -Christian Strache and Norbert Hofer before the presidential election / Photo APA / Hans Klaus

After the election Mária Schmidt, a historian who has great influence over Viktor Orbán, bemoaned the fact that public discourse in Austria is now dominated by baby boomer leftist politicians of the pro-German tradition. She recalled that Orbán in his first term was the first foreign leader to receive Chancellor Wolfgang Schlüssel of Austria, who was at that time considered a pariah in the West because he included the Freedom Party of Jörg Haider in his coalition government back in 1999.

Viktor Orbán’s friend Zsolt Bayer is also disappointed, but he is optimistic that “a new healthy young Europe is coming” that will replace the 70-year-old dying Europe that is full of bedsores. This youthful new Europe will come “from the mountains of the Alps, the fields of Burgenland, from Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland.” For Bayer, the Freedom Party of Strache and Hofer is not the depository of far-right views but, on the contrary, the embodiment of “normalcy.” So it’s no wonder that Viktor Orbán and his fellow “normal” far-right friends were disappointed by the election results.

May 26, 2016


We left Mária Schmidt berating German journalists for being largely responsible for Hungary’s unsavory reputation in the West. She accuses them of being in the pay of the CIA, the German intelligence, and rich Arab countries. Here she relies on a book by Udo Ulfkotte, former editor of the Frankfuter Allgemeine Zeitung, titled Gekaufte Journalisten. Schmidt describes him as someone who is being deliberately passed over in silence because his revelations are so embarrassing to the German media.

So, who is this man? According to Wikipedia, the only source I found for information on his career, he spent a good twelve years in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan. He was born into a Christian family but at the age of 21 declared himself to be an atheist. While in the Middle East he converted to Islam, which he later abandoned. He is now a born-again Christian.

As for his activities, I found an article by David Vickrey in German-American Opinion: Politics and Culture in which Ulfkotte is called a “fake journalist” and a “Putin propagandist.” According to the author, Ulfkotte “distinguished himself as a racist and anti-Islam hatemonger, demanding that all Muslims be deported from Germany in order to create more Lebensraum for ethnic Germans.”

Indeed, he was pretty well ignored in the last few years, but lately he was revitalized by two events: the Ukrainian crisis and the rise of the “Pegida movement” (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident). He began writing in Russian propaganda outlets and appeared as a speaker at Pegida gatherings. Earlier Vickrey reported that at one event organized by young social democrats protesting Ulfkotte’s speech on the dangers of immigration, he choked and threw a 15-year-old boy against the wall. Currently he is in hiding because, he claims, he received threats against his life.

Mária Schmidt seems to believe every word Udo Ulfkotte has ever uttered. She even managed to drag Boris Kálnoky of Die Welt into the controversy when she claimed that Kálnoky, whose parents left Hungary in 1947 and who learned Hungarian only as an adult, actually confirmed Ulkfotte’s allegations when in an interview on a Hungarian television station he said that he and his fellow journalists were told that, when writing about the migrants, they should concentrate on families and children. Later Kálnoky expressed his regret that Schmidt had misunderstood him. Perhaps his not quite perfect Hungarian was the reason for the misunderstanding. He was simply referring to readers’ interest in the travails of refugee families on the road.

That didn’t deter Mária Schmidt from retelling the story that Kálnoky denied. She reiterated that German journalists are instructed to present a positive picture of the migrants. In Germany “what really counts is the never-ending war against racism, anti-Semitism, and Hitler.” This from the woman who was entrusted with the establishment of a new Holocaust center, the House of Fate, specifically devoted to the children who were victims of the Holocaust. She has the audacity to complain about this “never-ending” fight.  Has she thought through what she is saying here? I guess if I confronted her about the exact meaning of this sentence she would tell me that I had taken the sentence out of context. She was talking only about “the leftist generation of 1968” who today think that they are the only ones who can make judgments about this issue. And then what? Would this be an acceptable explanation?

The much criticized selfie with a Syrian refugee

The much criticized Merkel selfie with a Syrian refugee

About half way through her text Schmidt completely lost her logical faculties, writing such sentences as “when as is her wont Chancellor Merkel talks about the sins of Europe and Germany, does she know that in the 17th and 18th centuries the Saracens (Muslims) carried off masses of Christians from Italy and sold them as slaves?… Perhaps she hasn’t heard of an Afghan custom which has been related by many ever since the 19th century that [the Afghans] cut off all four limbs of their English, Russian, and American prisoners of war?”

In this long harangue there are a couple of sentences that deserve more attention than the horror stories about cut-off limbs: “Does she [Merkel] believe that there were no mass murders on other continents? That at other places there was nothing to be ashamed of? … When will the Western European elite end this fruitless ritual of self-recrimination and self-abandonment?” Here Schmidt first of all equates the Holocaust with other mass murders and, second, pretty well tells the Western Europeans to forget about what happened to the Jewish population of the European Continent.

In the last few weeks Viktor Orbán accused Angela Merkel of not being democratic enough because she doesn’t listen to the people. Hungary is vastly superior to Germany in this respect: they introduced several national consultations and at the moment Fidesz is collecting signatures against the quota system. Schmidt decided to chime in and teach Merkel a thing or two about democracy. The proof that “Merkel can’t stand democracy” is that she prefers grand coalitions, and therefore it is practically impossible to distinguish the right and the left “especially if they are both gray and boring.” Schmidt is convinced that the reason for these grand coalitions is Merkel’s lack of democratic commitment. What she most likely purposely neglected to say is that in all three cases the reason for these grand coalitions was the refusal of the greens and the social democrats to form a government with the communist party (Linkspartei), not Merkel’s anti-democratic impulses.

What else is Merkel guilty of? Merkel and the ruling elite’s goal is “to replace the Germans and Europeans with a multi-cultural, globalized, and Muslim population. The only thing that matters is cheap labor.” In fact, Merkel can’t stand either the Germans or the Europeans in general. “She especially hates the Germans who will always remain Nazis and collectively guilty.” She is not a compassionate person when it comes to her own kind. “She never quotes from German books. She never talks about German history. And when she does, it would be better if she didn’t because it is always about the Holocaust.”

“Western Europe with its media and politicians see value everywhere except in their own. What moves them is self-hatred. And the greatest problem is that they have completely depleted their democracies.” The migrant crisis for this people comes in handy because again “they can prove their ideological commitment against racism, fascism (whatever they mean by it), and clericalism, while they affirm their allegiance to multiculturalism.”

I’m trying to be charitable, but on the basis on this text I consider Mária Schmidt to be guilty of Holocaust relativism, if not much worse.

Angela Merkel and Germany from the perspective of the Hungarian right. Part I

German-Hungarian relations are troubled, due primarily to Viktor Orbán’s relentless attacks on Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he accuses of being largely responsible for the arrival of close to a million asylum-seekers in Europe. On one occasion he denounced her for “moral imperialism,” and he even meddled in internal German politics when he sided with Horst Seehofer, minister president of Bavaria, in his debate on the migrant question with Merkel. A few days ago vs.hu learned from reliable sources that a scheduled meeting between Angela Merkel and Viktor Orbán at the Malta summit was cancelled at the last minute by the German side. Apparently several meetings between German and Hungarian ministers were also cancelled during the month of November.

The pro-government media naturally follows Viktor Orbán’s lead, so anti-German, specifically anti-Merkel, articles abound in the Hungarian press. Back in October Zsolt Bayer, the prolific anti-Semitic, foul-mouthed hack, wrote an open letter to Angela Merkel in four parts in which he called her a liar who mixes up “the friendly face of the European Union with the snicker of slobbering idiots.” Hungarians who are angrily watching this refugee crisis unfold don’t understand how Angela Merkel could  join “those who are destroying Europe.” He labeled her an untalented person who in no way can be compared to Konrad Adenauer or Helmut Kohl. The Germans who now promise to integrate the refugees from the Middle East didn’t even manage, in 25 years, to integrate the East Germans. The former GDR is today a wasteland with hopeless old people. “So, what are you talking about?,” Bayer asks Merkel. “You are not a doddering leader of an embroidery club.” But listening to some of her idiocies, one can question her sanity.

In Bayer’s opinion the “soul of the German nation was crushed after World War II and all [Germans] are victims of a tragic mistake.” Germany’s political leaders think that divesting the Germans of national character or rights is the only antidote to Nazism. This is nonsense. Instead, Merkel should utter the “magic word, ENOUGH.”

Well, one can say that Zsolt Bayer cannot be taken seriously. He loves to hear his own voice and tries to shock. Still, one must not forget that Bayer is “one of them,” one of the founders who brought Fidesz into being. And, by the look of things, he remains close to Viktor Orbán.

This must be Schmidt's favorite picture. She herself picked it for this article

This must be Schmidt’s favorite picture. She herself picked it for this article

Using Bayer’s rants as a reasonably reliable source for the thinking of the top leadership is justified by a long tirade by Mária Schmidt on the same topic. One would think that one cannot top Bayer. Well, Mária Schmidt managed. The “learned” historian, the close adviser of Viktor Orbán, spewed out her venom not only against Merkel but also against Germany. In her essay she goes as far as to glorify the communist interlude that made East Europeans superior to the effeminate westerners. Schmidt has never sunk so low to please her boss. A complete translation of this incredible piece would be warranted to understand the Hungarian right’s current mindset.

Schmidt’s essay is titled “Útban az önmegsemmisítés felé” (On the road to self-destruction). The title bears a striking resemblance to that of Thilo Sarrazin’s book, Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany destroys itself), which created such a controversy when it was published in 2010. Because of the length of the piece I will concentrate here only on passages relating to Angela Merkel, Germany, and western attitudes toward “the inferior” easterners.

The first staggering claim is that western politicians were “irate” when East Europeans didn’t allow Gorbachev to finish his reforms. “Why didn’t we wait until he fashions the existing order into socialism with a human face?,” she claims they asked. These western politicians were disappointed and angry that “we ruined their peaceful and comfortable world” by allowing the East Germans to leave Hungary and join their fellow Germans in the West. The “idiotic” Hungarians thought that they did the West Germans a favor, but “it was exactly this gesture that caused the unbridled hatred of the German media and intellectuals toward us.” We forced them to join their “poor relatives” who were safely tucked behind the Berlin Wall.

And now that the poor relatives, East Germans as well as other East Europeans, have joined the European Union, it is time to re-educate them. The East Germans live in a world that is even worse than it was during the 45 years of Russian occupation as far as freedom of speech is concerned because now they have to conform to the rules of “politically correct speech.” Two former East Germans, Angela Merkel and Joachim Gauck, lead Germany, but they so desperately tried to conform that they became more Wessis than the original Wessis: “they have given up their national identity and try to hide their Christian values.” The conclusion Schmidt draws at this point is that perhaps those years behind the Iron Curtain were beneficial in some respects. “They strengthened our resolve against outside forces and hardened our belief in our own value system.” While East Europeans have their national identity, “West Germans are citizens of the world–Europeans, and the German Federal Republic is simply a comfortable place of residence to which they feel no particular attachment.”

Merkel’s Germany is a place where “newly announced opposition parties face a ban and the elite immediately label them far-right regardless of who they are and what they want.” Anyone who opposes them is called “fascist.” Merkel prefers to form “coalition governments” that greatly resemble the former SED, the East German unity party. As if Merkel would purposely choose a coalition over a purely CDU government. Merkel “is unfamiliar with the history of her own country, the region, or for that matter Europe. In fact, she has only limited knowledge of the world. In her view, as in that of the German elite, only the compulsory Walk to Canossa for Auschwitz can fit.” Her speeches are “hopelessly shallow and common.” They remind Schmidt of the 70s when activists from the youth movement of the German Communist party spent their summer vacations at Lake Balaton. Schmidt and her friends used to make fun of them because “it didn’t matter what the topic was, they kept repeating the party’s official line.”

Germany today is being governed by the left media and intellectual elite. Merkel “talks their language, she meets their requirements. She doesn’t really formulate policies because for such a task she is too irresponsible, barren of ideas, without any accomplishment.”

At this point I’m about half-way through Mária Schmidt’s masterpiece, but I guess there is enough here to digest and discuss. This is the Orbán regime’s way of “making friends and influencing people.”

To be continued

Jewish conspiracy theories in the wake of the refugee crisis

István Gusztos, who often writes opinion pieces for gepnarancs.hu, pointed out a few days ago that, although one cannot equate Fidesz with its media empire “mostly financed from taxpayers’ money,” one cannot help thinking that the conspiracy theories propagated by Magyar Idők, Magyar Hírlap, Echo TV, Lánchid Rádió, and 888.hu cannot be separated from the “official” position of the party and the government. It might be the case that some of the reporters at these media outlets go too far, but by and large Fidesz and its media work hand in hand. We know from one of the reporters at HírTV how pleasant life has been around the station since Viktor Orbán and his once favorite oligarch parted ways. No longer do they get weekly instructions from Fidesz headquarters telling them what they have to write about.

Lately George Soros has frequently been invoked by Viktor Orbán and other Fidesz politicians as the real culprit behind the refugee crisis. In fact, in this case the pro-government media anticipated and prepared the ground for official anti-Soros pronouncements. Magyar Idők began excoriating Soros in late September, when János Csontos wrote an op-ed piece about the “outrageous suggestions” of George Soros concerning the refugee crisis. By the time Viktor Orbán joined in, a month later, the accusation had spread far and wide that Soros was actually funding individual asylum seekers in their quest to reach Europe. For anti-Semites, of course, Soros’s name is code for the “evil influence of Jews and Jewish capital.”

By mid-November two favorite conspiracy theories circulated in Hungary. One was that the whole refugee exodus is a Zionist conspiracy; Jews and the Israeli state are jointly responsible for the crisis. The other theory, which I heard from Mária Schmidt, the director of the House of Terror and Viktor Orbán’s adviser on matters concerning history, claims that rich Arab countries are providing loans to the migrants, who will have to pay the money back from “the generous aid provided by European governments.” I don’t think I need comment on this nonsense from the learned historian.

Viktor Orbán and his fellow politicians reinforce the ignorant public’s outlandish theories, which then gain legitimacy by their repetition. It is therefore not at all surprising that Fidesz officials can occasionally be caught expressing totally unacceptable thoughts that derive from the party’s own more subtle anti-Semitism. One will never catch Viktor Orbán saying anything that can definitively be labelled anti-Semitic. He knows exactly how far he can go. Instead, as István Gusztos aptly said, party officials hand off their anti-Semitic propaganda “as contract work” to Fidesz media outlets. And they, in turn, “plant” anti-Semitic ideas into the heads of ordinary local Fidesz politicians, like the mayor of Szentgotthárd (population 10,000) at the Austro-Hungarian border.

An internet news site called nyugat.hu got hold of a recording of the Szentgotthárd local council meeting at which the mayor, Gábor Huszár, said: “Everybody should accept from me that what happened in Paris is clear proof that certain business circles–and here I can state that the Jewish state is behind [the attack] because it wants to turn Christian Europe against Islam.”  This leaked anti-Semitic comment was especially embarrassing, coming as it did after Péter Szijjártó’s visit to Israel, where he kept referring to the excellent relationship between the Israeli and the Hungarian governments.


Naturally, the Israeli embassy in Budapest  immediately responded. Gábor Huszár’s words “are proof that there are still those who haven’t learned from history and still repeat negative views on the Jewish state, Israel, and Jewish people.” The embassy finds it unfortunate that “a public figure, the mayor of Szentgotthárd who should be a model in his electoral district, puts forth such untrue and ridiculous claims.” Official Fidesz could only muster the lame response that Gábor Huszár expressed his anti-Semitic views as “a private person.” It was Lajos Kósa, the newly appointed leader of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, who came up with this brilliant reply. How could Huszár be a “private person” while presiding over a Fidesz-majority city council?

Behind the scenes, however, Fidesz most likely moved with lightning speed. Although Huszár himself was unreachable when ATV wanted to find out more about his opinion on Israel’s role in staging the terror attacks in Paris, his secretary assured the television station that a statement would be released soon about the incident. And indeed, after a few hours Huszár apologized for “the unfortunate phrasing.” Opposition parties demanded the man’s resignation. DK was the most direct in its condemnation of Fidesz as the source of the general approval in rightist circles of the various conspiracy theories.

There is no question that Viktor Orbán’s accusations against Soros are linked, even if indirectly, to the Zionist conspiracy theories. And yet, despite the mayor’s apology, the attacks on Soros continue. Yesterday both Lajos Kósa and Antal Rogán railed against him in parliament, this time charging him with being responsible for the citizens’ initiative accepted by the European Commission.

Mária Schmidt, the court historian of Viktor Orbán

“Europe, especially its western and northern parts, have created such wealthy societies that they deservedly elicit the admiration and envy of regions with lower living standards. These countries are rich and weak,” and therefore it is not surprising that a flow of “settlers” has been arriving in the richer parts of the European Union from the poor regions of the Middle East and Africa.

Do these ideas sound familiar? They should because they show up, practically word for word, in Viktor Orbán’s speech at the Kötcse picnic. They were written by Mária Schmidt, the court historian of the Hungarian prime minister, and published on the very same day Orbán delivered his speech. We can be sure that the lengthy essay titled “Kopogtatás nélkül” (Without knocking) that appeared in “Látószög” (Viewpoint), one of the several blogs created by the government, had been read and perhaps even commented on by Viktor Orbán before he began work on his speech. In fact, he mentioned Mária Schmidt’s essays in which the historian “regularly demonstrates” the two-facedness of the United States.

So, let’s see what kinds of lessons Viktor Orbán learned from Mária Schmidt, whose knowledge of the Middle East and of U.S. foreign policy verges on zero. In her view, in the old days of a bipolar world order the great powers could keep up a fragile balance in the region, but by now “the United States can handle the Middle East with its enormous oil reserves only if it creates perpetual chaos and steady civil and religious wars.” This is a notion to which Viktor Orbán also briefly alluded. According to Schmidt, this chaos comes in handy for those who “wish to give the impression that there is no other way [out of the situation for the population] but emigration.” In fact, however, there is a concerted effort on the part of some unnamed persons to get millions of people to take to the roads and leave. A bit later we learn whom Schmidt has in mind: the rich oil billionaires of the Arab states.

Mária Schmidt, director of the House of Terror

Mária Schmidt, director of the House of Terror

Why do the so-called refugees but actually settlers keep coming? They come to take what “we, Europeans, have created over the centuries.” They come “to make a new home for themselves…. We should have no illusions: this new wave of settlers is a part of a well-planned and well-executed strategy.” Again we are left in the dark who is behind this strategy, whose aim is the destruction of European culture and freedoms. The oil magnates don’t seem to be the culprits here. Most likely the culprit is the U.S. government with the help of “the useful idiots” who don’t recognize the diabolical nature of the American plan. Two days later an article appeared in Hungary Today, the Orbán government’s propaganda internet site, by a Hungarian-American, Adam Topolansky, with the title “‘Useful Idiots’ of the West and the Creation of Chaos through Mass Migration.”

You may recall that Viktor Orbán in his recent speech talked at some length about Christian Democrats in Western Europe who have been cowed by the reigning liberal ideology and by the pressure coming from the liberal press. Mária Schmidt also talks about the liberalism of the Christian Democrats who no longer represent conservative Christian values. And she has a few words of scornful rebuke for those who appeal to Christian notions of charity and compassion when it comes to handling the refugee crisis. The Muslim billionaires should take care of the region’s poor, and it should be the duty of the Arab states to stabilize the region “instead of paying for the trips of those they consider superfluous.” Truly outlandish ideas which even Viktor Orbán didn’t dare to incorporate into his speech.

Mária Schmidt praises the wisdom of the East European politicians because “they don’t accept the newspeak just as they didn’t serve the communist agitprop.” They don’t suffer from the inferiority complex of the left-liberal crowd, which accepted the propaganda from Moscow and is now following the mantra coming from Berlin.

Schmidt is not given to checking her sources. For instance, her “useful idiots” include Bernie Sanders, the Democratic hopeful in the current presidential campaign, whom she describes as such a lover of the Soviet system that he decided to spend his honeymoon in the Soviet Union in 1988 “as an ideological gesture.” This story is borrowed from a recent column of George Will, the conservative commentator, that appeared in The Washington Post. Although it is true that Sanders and his new wife did go to the Soviet Union right after they got married, it was on official business.

Schmidt also claims in this article that “according to a recent survey half of Muslims consider suicide bombings a legitimate way of fighting the enemies of Islam.” Her source is an article by David Cole that appeared in Taki’s Magazine, which is described by its editor as a libertarian organ. There are a couple of problems with this source. One is that Cole’s numbers bear little resemblance to those of the Pew Research Center and the other is that David Cole is a Holocaust revisionist. So, if I were Viktor Orbán, I would be hesitant to rely on Schmidt’s so-called research. But he uncritically accepts both her views on history and at least some of her interpretations of current events.

Both Mária Schmidt and Viktor Orbán deeply resent, and reject, all references to Western Europe’s financial contribution to the poorer regions of Eastern Europe. It is enough to quote Orbán’s latest on the subject in the translation of The Budapest Beacon:

It is difficult to use light language when reacting to any talk [in the EU] about connecting any discussion of money to the issue of immigration. Not to mention that….I don’t think [Hungary] gets money as ‘help’ from the West. This is a complete misunderstanding. We can’t accept that and I have never accepted this idea that they are giving us money out of solidarity.  Like heck they are! What we’re talking about is that Hungary is the member of a common economic zone. We had to live under communism for 40 years while they had 40 years of capitalism. They are rich and have lots of capital, while we are poor and lack capital because we’ve lived under communism. Regardless of this, we together decided to unite our economic areas. It’s completely obvious that we can’t have honest and fair competition between businesses, people and countries that have had 40 years to become rich while the other group was robbed for 40 years. There has to be some kind of mechanism that provides fair and honest competition for these two groups to interact in. If we didn’t have this, they would invade us economically. We would be a colony if this disparity was allowed to stand. They know this too because they’ve had colonies.

And both Schmidt and  Orbán have devastating views of the European Union. Yes, criticism of the European Union’s handling of this particular crisis is certainly warranted. Brussels was unprepared and continues to flounder. But the real problem the European Union faces is that it is an assembly of largely independent nation states that are unwilling to cede some of their prerogatives to a common government. Hungary is among the most recalcitrant. So, Orbán should be the last to condemn Brussels for its inability to act.

The Hungarian media scene is still in flux

Although the Hungarian government’s only concern of late seems to be how to keep asylum seekers out of the country, I don’t want to succumb to the same tunnel vision. And so today I’m turning to the state of the Hungarian media.

So-called public (közszolgálati) television and radio are by now mere mouthpieces of government propaganda. Magyar Rádió is still, by default, the station that most people who are interested in more than pop music listen to. Magyar Televízió’s M1, a news channel, turned out to be a flop. On the other hand, a few days ago MTV began broadcasting a sports channel that is, not surprisingly, a hit since most Hungarian football games can be seen there and only there. Of course, the government’s media experts made certain that the canned news of MTV can also be heard on the sports channel. So one cannot escape the barrage of propaganda.

Back in May I wrote a post on the new media landscape, which included the purchase of Napi Gazdaság, a financial daily that imitated the look of The Financial Times. Former editors of Magyar Nemzet followed their editor-in-chief and began transforming Napi Gazdaság into a second Magyar Nemzet. As far as the contents are concerned the work has been pretty well completed, but the name of the newspaper doesn’t really fit, nor does its colored paper. A few days ago we learned that the new quasi-government paper will be called “Magyar Idők” (Hungarian Times), and soon enough it will be printed on normal newsprint.

The capital that was originally sunk into the paper was relatively modest, but subsequently János Sánta, the beneficiary of the latest redistribution of the wholesale sector of the tobacco state monopoly, purchased a 49% stake in the new paper. I wrote about the details of this redistribution, which benefited only Sánta’s Continental Tobacco Group and British American Tobacco, in a post titled “The Orbán government in action: Graft and fraud.” Clearly, Sánta was told that it was time to pay his benefactor, Viktor Orbán, for the fantastic business opportunity. The deal was most likely struck way before the government decision was announced.

Meanwhile Árpád Habony, Orbán’s mysterious adviser, and others are working on new projects. They want to come out with an online news site, but nothing has materialized yet. On the other hand, they put together Lokál, a free paper that is supposed to replace the very strongly pro-Fidesz Helyi Téma that went bankrupt a few months ago. According to Origo, this new paper seems to avoid political topics altogether and concentrates on the activities of Hungarian celebrities.

It has also been widely reported that Andy Vajna, formerly producer of the Rambo and Terminator movies, who was rumored to be interested in buying TV2, is now thinking of starting a cable television station of his own. There is no question in whose service Vajna’s station will be if it materializes. Andy Vajna, who left Hungary as a young boy in 1956, has made a spectacular career for himself in Hungary. His latest coup is that he will run five of Hungary’s eleven gambling casinos. His life in and out of Hungary certainly deserves a post or two.

Heti Válasz only last week published a very critical article about Andy Vajna's  financial affairs

Heti Válasz only last week published a very critical article about Andy Vajna’s financial affairs

These accomplishments are not, however, enough for Viktor Orbán. He wants to get rid of all of the media outlets still in the hands of Lajos Simicska and his business partner, Zsolt Nyerges: Magyar Nemzet, HírTV, Lánchíd Rádió, Heti Válasz, and Class FM, the only commercial radio station that can be heard everywhere in the country. An unlikely person has surfaced as a potential buyer of a couple of print and online publications: Mária Schmidt, the court historian and director of the House of Terror. Apparently, Schmidt is interested in buying Heti Válasz and perhaps Origo.

Mária Schmidt is a very rich woman. She inherited quite a fortune from her husband, who died unexpectedly in 2006. Népszabadság learned that she recently established a company called “Médiaháló” (Media Net) and is looking for newspapers to buy. She put out feelers to Magyar Telekom, which apparently has been wanting for some time to get rid of Origo. The other paper she is interested in is Heti Válasz. But Lajos Simicska, despite his recent troubles at the hands of Viktor Orbán’s government machine, is not ready to sell any of his media holdings. I don’t know how long Simicska will be able to maintain his unbending attitude because, as things stand now, Viktor Orbán has made sure that Simicska’s firm, Közgép, will not be able to bid for any government contracts in the next three years. Simicska is ready to fight the decision and, if necessary, go to the European Court of Justice, but that takes time. And who knows what other “misfortunes” will befall Simicska in the interim.

Whether Origo will land in Mária Schmidt’s lap is not at all certain because another newly established media firm, Brit Média Befektetési Zrt, already started negotiations with Telekom months ago. The company’s majority stake belongs to B’nai B’rith International, based in Brussels. András Jonatán Megyeri is a minority owner. Megyeri at one time worked for TV2 and Viasat, a high-speed internet company. He is a religious Jew who serves as the volunteer cantor of the Bét-Sálom Synagogue. A couple of weeks ago his new company invested 40 million forints in KlubRádió, which is still in dire financial straights. Mária Schmidt versus B’nai B’rith International, I’m curious whom Magyar Telekom will choose. I’m sure that opponents of Viktor Orbán are keeping fingers crossed for Brit Média.

House of Fates: Mária Schmidt versus János Lázár

For months there was silence on the new Holocaust museum, the brainchild of János Lázár, head of the prime minister’s office. I covered the story of the project from its inception to the temporary impasse in October 2014. The project, to be known as the House of Fates, was more or less foisted on the Jewish community, whose religious umbrella organization, Mazsihisz, felt that the 7.5 billion forints allocated to the project could have been better used elsewhere. They thought that some of the money could have been utilized for improvements to and an enlargement of the existing Holocaust Memorial Center.

By now, however, it has become evident that the Orbán government wants to have its own parallel institutions because the existing ones are suspect. They might not serve the Fidesz government. So, the project went ahead without any consultation with representatives of the Jewish community. By October, however, it seemed that the government realized it had overstepped. Lázár announced that there will be no new museum without the express approval of Mazsihisz and the organizations it represents.

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Mária Schmidt, who was entrusted with overseeing the project, was largely responsible for the impasse. Since her interpretation of the Hungarian Holocaust is rejected by serious historians, her appointment signaled to the Jewish community that the Orbán government was embarking on another falsification of history. All the blame for the deportation of Jews will be placed on the shoulders of the German occupying forces. That historical view even found its way into the new Hungarian Constitution, adopted by the Orbán government, which in its preamble states that the country’s self-determination was lost on March 19, 1944, and therefore Hungarian authorities were not responsible for anything that happened during the summer of 1944, when the deportations took place. Moreover, Schmidt’s initial proposals indicated that the exhibit would concentrate only on the deportations themselves and would ignore all the anti-Jewish laws that were passed during the Horthy period, starting in 1920. Schmidt also planned to stress the rescue efforts of non-Jewish Hungarians, efforts that were neither widespread nor substantial.

So much by way of background. We don’t know exactly why, but in October Viktor Orbán decided that in order to avoid an international scandal the government might have to sacrifice Mária Schmidt. By December there were rumors that Schmidt might be removed from the project. In early February János Lázár sent Mária Schmidt’s 200-page proposal to the Jewish organizations and to historians who deal with the subject. He gave them a month to look over the material and to give him their opinion. A cursory look at the document reveals that of the 200 pages only 30 deal with the concept of the museum. The rest are photographs, maps, tables, etc.

Well, a month went by and the experts spoke. Not only Jewish organizations but scores of historians, including associates of the National Academy of Sciences, found Schmidt’s proposal unacceptable. I was not surprised about their verdict, but I was astonished at the open fight that ensued between two people so close to Viktor Orbán.

Only yesterday I watched a political discussion among former members of parliament on ATV who described the Orbán government as a rickety structure that is going to fall apart soon. Of course, there’s a hefty dose of wishful thinking in such a description, but there are signs of crisis on all levels. When four important Fidesz members of parliament (János Kövér, Mihály Varga, Miklós Seszták, and Sándor Fazekas) vote against a proposal submitted for consideration by János Lázár, this is something one cannot ignore. The loss of popularity of Fidesz and Viktor Orbán has made party leaders and government members brave. After all, they would like to keep their jobs and their political clout, and it looks as if Orbán’s policies are threatening both.

Mária Schmidt decided to fight for her position and her project. She accused Lázár of “purposely and willfully going against the decision of the government.” Moreover, Lázár, instead of listening to her, is relying on the advice of a former communist. She was talking about Gusztáv Zoltai, the Hungarian representative to the World Jewish Congress and president of one of the Hungarian Jewish organizations, who to everyone’s astonishment became an adviser to Lázár in October.

Lázár was not about to let her charge go unanswered. The next day he said that “there will be a museum with the approval of the Jewish community or not at all.” In order for the museum to be opened, “the organizers, the planners, the historians, and also the government must gain the approval of the Jewry of Hungary. If they don’t support it, then the House of Fates will not be built.”

Schmidt, who is apt to vacillate between the syrupy and the shrill, fought back, claiming that Lázár sent out a preliminary description of the project, not the final one. Lázár in turn told her that he will be happy to oblige if there is a newer, approved version of the document. No new version has emerged, but she gave an interview to András Stumpf, which appeared yesterday in mandiner.hu.

The interview is long and covers a range of subjects. I will deal with only those that are directly related to the House of Fates project.

First, she insisted that a complete project description does exist and that she showed it to Csaba Latorcai, the undersecretary in the prime minister’s office in charge of the project. The problem is that Latorcai has no recollection of the encounter. Otherwise, she refuses to reveal her ideas because “a curator doesn’t need to make his concept public.” The curator gets the job, works out the concept, puts the exhibit together, and after the opening “the public will judge.” This is the same argument the Hungarian government made when critics of the toll-road project complained that the government hadn’t discussed the project with the mayors and the public.

When the government first came up with the idea of the museum, she continued, Lázár never conferred with the Jewish community, which doesn’t even want a second Holocaust museum. This criticism is not unwarranted, but practically all government decisions are made this way and, as the journalist conducting the interview pointed out, Lázár didn’t act on his own in proposing the museum.

It looks as if Schmidt objects to Mazsihisz, or any Jewish organization, having a say in the matter of the Holocaust museum. By acceding to Mazsihisz’s request, Lázár “gave them the right of veto” over the project.  To Schmidt this is a serious matter because if “the government decides that it should be Mazsihisz that will do the job, then it must also consent to the notion that the Holocaust is not the concern of Hungarian society. My greatest problem with the activities of Lázár,” she said, “is that he created an internal Jewish affair from the Holocaust.”

Schmidt also accused the Jewish leaders of Mazsihisz of falsely spreading the charge of anti-Semitism in the last twenty-five years. These Jewish leaders are happy that the controversy surrounding this new Holocaust museum deepens the rift within Fidesz and the government. She claimed that the president of Mazsihisz, András Heisler, is a racist who wants to employ people in the new museum who “come from Jewish universities” whereas the government hires people not on the basis of ethnicity but of ability.

When the reporter intimated that János Lázár’s decision to gain the acquiescence of the Jewish community must have the approval of Viktor Orbán, Schmidt loudly protested. No, Viktor Orbán is a brave man while Lázár is a coward who has gone back on his word and abandoned his original plan.

If it depended on Mária Schmidt, she would open an exhibit that was never vetted by the Jewish organizations that currently exist in Hungary. Her position is that Mazsihisz and its affiliates represent only religious Jews, who in her estimate number no more than about 2,000 people. Heisler and others are not entitled to speak in the name of Hungarian Jewry as a whole. Although Schmidt’s figures are most likely right, as a result of the Orbán government’s mishandling of the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust, the entire Jewish community pretty well lined up behind Heisler and the other leaders. This is a new and most likely positive development.