Letters back and forth: Will they change the course of events in Hungary?

I will share two letters with you this time. One was written by fifty members of the U.S. Congress to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The letter in my opinion doesn’t properly underscore Fidesz’s and the Hungarian government’s share of blame for the spread of anti-Semitism and anti-gay sentiments in Hungary. The letter concentrates only on Jobbik when the real situation is that Fidesz and the government are just as responsible for the current state of affairs as Jobbik. Perhaps even more so.

Quill etc /Flckr

The letter specifically mentions Jobbik’s “calling for the ouster of Robert Alfoldi, the director of the National Theater, based on his presumed homosexuality.” Yes, this is the case, but what the U.S. Congressmen don’t address is that the new Fidesz undersecretary for cultural affairs, László L. Simon, already announced that Alföldi’s reappointment was unlikely. Never mind that the appointments are determined by an “independent” jury based on the candidates’ proposals and that Alföldi already announced his intention to reapply. Fidesz is a willing partner of Jobbik.

Someone suggested that the Congressmen cannot go any farther than the official U.S. policy prescribed by the State Department. But I would like to call attention once again to what U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal had to say on the topic: “The recent rehabilitation of figures from Hungary’s past who are tainted by their support for Fascism and anti-Semitism contributes to a climate of acceptance of extremist ideology in which racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of intolerance can thrive.” And Rosenthal is an employee of the U.S. Department of State.

Here is a facsimile of the “letter of the fifty” as it became known in Hungary:

And finally, here is a letter written by Attila Mesterházy to Viktor Orbán.

* * *

Dear Viktor Orbán:

Hungary is going through a serious moral crisis that was created by the government and the governing parties by their efforts to minimize the gravity of the historic crimes of the Horthy period and by their attempt to rehabilitate Miklós Horthy and his supporters who shared his ideology.

It is in this context that one must place László Kövér’s zealous effort to make József Nyirő’s reburial possible.  By making this funereal act a political event the organizers are not only recalling the memory of an anti-Semitic author who openly declared his adherence to a fascist ideology but are also reviving the political creed of a politician who enthusiastically and faithfully served Nazi Germany and the Szálasi regime to the bitter end.

The government does the same when it makes the works of writers with right extremist views compulsory readings in schools.

It is also shameful that the government parties in spite of domestic and international  scandals intend to erect a statue for Ottokár Prohászka on publicly owned land. Until now the judgment on Ottokár Prohászka has been unambiguous: he was a Catholic bishop who as a chief ideologist and politician of the Horthy period stirred up hatred against Jewish citizens of the country. He   most vociferously demanded the numerus clausus. The anti-Semitism of Prohászka is a fact. It cannot be the topic of debate.

By now every honest democrat is watching these developments with righteous indignation while the relatives of the former victims and the survivors of the Holocaust are looking on with fear and trepidation not only in Hungary but all over the world.

Nobel Peace Prize winning writer Elie Wiesel’s letter to László Kövér was a warning sign in which he declared that “it has become increasingly clear that the Hungarian authorities are encouraging the whitewashing of tragic and criminal episodes in Hungary’s past, namely the wartime Hungarian governments’ involvement in the deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens.” As a result Elie Wiesel repudiated the Grand Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary given to him in 2004.

Another serious warning is the letter of protest written to you by fifty member of the U.S. Congress in which the undersigned expressed their concern over the growth of hate speech and the spread of anti-Semitic and homophobic sentiments. At the same time they made it clear that such pronoucements have no place in civilized discourse and cannot remain unanswered.

The Hungarian Socialist Party, the Hungarian democratic opposition, every democrat at home and all over the world most categorically condemn these developments, but only you can stop them.

Therefore, more emphatically than ever before, I call on you as chairman of the association of the two governing parties and as the prime minister of the country to  unambiguously declare your condemnation of  attempts to spread views of hatred and the revival of anti-Semitism.

We socialists suggested the establishment of a parliamentary ethical committee that would make possible taking steps against extremism, racism, and xenophobia. Fidesz with an amendment made the the establishment of such a committee impossible.

I suggest to you that such a committee be set up and I expect you personally to support this suggestion.

I’m also calling on you to prevent the erection of the planned statue of Ottokár Prohászka, thereby avoiding a domestic and international  outcry and the destruction of our country’s reputation and honor.

All this is not a historical, not a cultural, not even a political issue but a human obligation.

What is decided now is who stands where:  on the side of the former propagandists and their followers of criminal ideologies or on the side of the victims, the survivors and the well meaning—right and left—democrats.

You, as the prime minister of Hungary, bear a special reponsibility for making sure that no one is being discriminated against, that nobody would have to suffer verbal or physical abuse because of his or her origin or sexual orientation or any other reason.

We as citizens of Hungary expect that you at last would actually meet this obligation!

I am looking forward to your answer.

Budapest, June 22, 2012

Attila Mesterházy

Chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party

* * *

Although László Kövér’s answer to Elie Wiesel “was long and very cordial,” when it came to the essence of things Kövér tried to convince Wiesel that József Nyirő was neither a fascist nor an anti-Semite. Wiesel, not surprisingly, didn’t find Kövér’s answer satisfactory. Wiesel especially found his explanations for the revival of a Horthy cult unsatisfactory. The full letter will be released on Monday.

I expect that Viktor Orbán will send a similar answer to the Congressmen. As for Mesterházy’s letter, it is possible that Orbán will not even bother to answer him.

About these ads

30 comments

  1. Paul :
    Purely out of interest – were the 50 mostly Democrats, or was this letter more generally supported?

    It looks like they are all Democrats.

  2. Paul :

    Purely out of interest – were the 50 mostly Democrats, or was this letter more generally supported?

    I haven’t check but I would be surprised that it was a bipartisan effort. Nowadays there is absolutely no cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

  3. gdfxx :

    Paul :
    Purely out of interest – were the 50 mostly Democrats, or was this letter more generally supported?

    It looks like they are all Democrats.

    Easy for Orbán to ignore then – it’s fits exactly with his view of the external ‘Hungary haters’.

    I can just hear my anyu-in-law saying “most of them are probably Jews”…

  4. Paul :
    Purely out of interest – were the 50 mostly Democrats, or was this letter more generally supported?

    All Democrats, which makes me even more ashamed of the Congress than I already am, a state I did not think possible. Perhaps the idiots in DC and Budapest went to the same training camp.

  5. I wonder whether bipartisanship played a role or not in the sending of this letter. Unless one knows who initiated it and who else was asked to sign it (and then either signed or refused), it is hard to draw conclusions. It seems that most of the signers were from three states (New York, California and Pennsylvania). Ms KKA is being ashamed of the Congress because only Democrats signed it; she then should also be ashamed of all the Democrats who didn’t sign it (all 153 of them).

    Also, as Eva pointed it out, the fact that the letter only mentions Jobbik as the cause of all wrongs makes this letter look like it was written by uninformed people. It is as if during the communist era somewhat would have written a letter to the general secretary of a communist party complaining about the behavior of the KGB (although Jobbik is not a division of FIDESZ – yet).

    In any case, a letter from members of the Senate wold have had more weight, since the Senate’s role in foreign policy is somewhat more important than that of the House.

  6. gdfxx :
    Also, as Eva pointed it out, the fact that the letter only mentions Jobbik as the cause of all wrongs makes this letter look like it was written by uninformed people. It is as if during the communist era somewhat would have written a letter to the general secretary of a communist party complaining about the behavior of the KGB (although Jobbik is not a division of FIDESZ – yet).

    I saw a draft of this letter before it was sent out. I strongly stated to the staff member of one of the signatories that the problem is with Fidesz more than Jobbik. The staffer understood my point.

    I would have written the letter quite differently, but I suspect the writers wanted to give Fidesz some room to distance themselves from Jobbik. I don’t think they were completely uninformed.

    I have no idea how to convince Fidesz/Jobbik that I think they are hurting Hungary by thumbing their noses at the rest of the world (and the rest of Hungary). Maybe this letter isn’t worse than my approach.

  7. I think the best way to get Orbán to actually condemn anti-semitism would be not to criticise him and his party, because as everyone here may have noticed they can get a bit defensive and tend to lash out.

    This way, they give him an ‘out’. It’s not against you Orbán, but in your job as Prime Minister we’d like you to condemn anti-semitism.

  8. Over the past week or so, the words and actions coming from Fidesz which give encouragement to the core ideas of Jobbik, are becoming more strident. Just what is going on? Is this a smoke screen which is being used to hide something nasty?

    I have noticed that there have been two comments made ‘in passing’ by members of the senior ranks of Fidesz,

    The first was to the effect that those who gave whole hearted support to Fidesz would be rewarded with money, but they would be carefully watched and closely controlled.
    The second was that those who did not give absolute and total support to Fidesz, would lose everything (money, property and reputation). They and their families would be destroyed.

    In the English translation I think the words they used was ‘eliminated’. To me this implies a ‘New Final Solution’.

  9. Wouldn’t it be interesting to direct an inquiry to the Catholic head in Hungary–I suppose that would be the Bishop of Budapest, though I don’t know–and ask his opinion (and the Church’s official stance..) on the erection of the Prohaszka statue in district 13?

  10. 1) Kövér and Orbán believe to be infallible, therefore only brute force could convince them to regret. I mean if the peoples parties of Europe would not protect trhem anymore
    2) Some rightwing bishops were informers of III/III
    3) Did you know that at Esztergom cathedral they play every day at 4.30 pm a sad music, because Trianon peace treaty was signed at 4.30 pm? This music can be heard in Sturovo
    (Párkány) on the other side of the Danube in Slovakia

  11. petofi :

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to direct an inquiry to the Catholic head in Hungary–I suppose that would be the Bishop of Budapest, though I don’t know–and ask his opinion (and the Church’s official stance..) on the erection of the Prohaszka statue in district 13?

    The head of the Hungarian Catholic church is Cardinal Péter Erdő, archbishop of Esztergom. I heard yesterday that Prohászka (bishop of Székesfehérvár) hated Budapest so much that every time he had to travel there he became practically ill.

    So, the argument went, erecting a statue for him in Budapest is especially ridiculous. By the way, District XIII is Angyalföld, a working-class district of Budapest and one that actually voted for a socialist at the 2010 elections.

  12. Eva S. Balogh :

    petofi :
    Wouldn’t it be interesting to direct an inquiry to the Catholic head in Hungary–I suppose that would be the Bishop of Budapest, though I don’t know–and ask his opinion (and the Church’s official stance..) on the erection of the Prohaszka statue in district 13?

    The head of the Hungarian Catholic church is Cardinal Péter Erdő, archbishop of Esztergom. I heard yesterday that Prohászka (bishop of Székesfehérvár) hated Budapest so much that every time he had to travel there he became practically ill.
    So, the argument went, erecting a statue for him in Budapest is especially ridiculous. By the way, District XIII is Angyalföld, a working-class district of Budapest and one that actually voted for a socialist at the 2010 elections.

    Angyalfold is only one part of district XIII. Closer to the korut, it is largely a jewish neighborhood so the erection of the statue on the district perimeter is another one of
    those ‘in-your-face’ acts Viktor is so good at. That Orban is using the Jobbik for this particularly odious task is not surprising.

  13. London Calling!

    O/T – Every time dear Gyorgy opens his mouth some fool speaks!

    The EU voted to lift sanctions against Hungary on Friday after:

    “Budapest convinced its European partners it was committed to keeping spending within EU limits.”

    http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/22/eu-hungary-idINL5E8HM5FR20120622

    Dear Gyorgy said: “The money will be in our pockets and hopefully in the economy very soon,”

    Some for me, some for Hungary, some for Orban’s dad, some for Orban, some for Gánt-Kő Kft, some for Közgép , some for….

    Regards

    Charlie

  14. Angyalfold is only one part of district XIII. Closer to the korut, it is largely a jewish neighborhood so the erection of the statue on the district perimeter is another one of
    those ‘in-your-face’ acts Viktor is so good at. That Orban is using the Jobbik for this particularly odious task is not surprising.

    Petofi is right. This part of the 13th district is where many modern-day Jewish people live.

  15. petofi :
    As a member of the UN, doesn’t Hungary have certain obligations as well?

    Just for curiosity, did you ever noticed that the present Hungarian government has even the slightest intention to oblige to international norms?
    I – for one – didn’t.

  16. NPR (the public radio in the US) had a segment in its Weekend Edition Saturday program this morning about Antony Beevor’s new book, The Second World War. I found the following portion of the program relevant to this discussion:

    “Are there parallels between Europe in the years leading up to the war and crisis-ridden Europe today? Beevor sees some, but he advises caution: “The Second World War has become the dominant reference point for every single crisis and conflict today.” But, he says, the European Union and its single currency were devised as a direct response to the nationalistic conflicts that sparked the war.

    “I’m afraid we’re seeing a terrible paradox at the moment,” Beevor says. To control the euro’s slide and the economies of the nations in crisis, the EU will have to centralize power. “And that’s going to be seen as … at best, elective dictatorship,” he continues. “Now, this is going to reawaken the very monster of nationalism, which the whole European Union was hoping to put to sleep.”

    Beevor says there are specific things the EU must watch for. “This is the real parallel with the Second World War, if you ever start seeing the dehumanization of ethnic groups or of foreign minorities or whatever it might be,” he says.

    And he points to one more parallel: In 1938 as in 2012, the European population is ill-informed about the danger of their situation. “The difference, of course, is that the threat of war tends to be a unifying factor, and the threat of economic collapse could not be more divisive,” Beevor says.”

    http://www.npr.org/2012/06/23/155524825/lessons-for-europe-from-the-second-world-war

  17. Interesting post, gdfxx, nice to see a slightly different take on things.

    My personal view on the EU is that the Euro has started it on a path that must inevitably lead to a United States of Europe, in everything except name.

    The Euro crisis demonstrates clearly that you can’t have a shared currency without a great deal more being shared as well. This should have been blindingly clear from the beginning. Imagine the fate of the Dollar if the US was just a loose confederation of independent countries, or the Commonwealth trying to use the Pound as a single currency – it would be utter chaos. And yet that is, more or less, what the EU tried to do when it introduced the Euro.

    So, assuming the Euro stays, and most countries stay in it, those countries simple have to become more closely tied together, both politically and financially. Which makes now very different indeed from the 30s.

    The Euro, accidentally, has created the very conditions that the EU was set up to achieve – it has made war between the Euro countries impossible.

    Of course, there is the small matter of those countries in the EU who won’t join the Euro (and I’m sitting in one of those as I type this). But I think that basically boils down to the UK – the only EU country of any significance that will never join the Euro, and the EU has got used to us behaving as if we don’t want to play in their game over the years.

    Much more worrying are the few other countries, like Hungary, who are not yet in the Euro. The stabilising effect of Euro membership doesn’t affect them, but the destabilising effect of the Euro crisis can have a real effect on them. Add to that internal/political problems, such as Hungary is experiencing and you have a tinder-dry situation, only waiting for a significantly large spark.

    So, I have no fear that a ’30s style’ situation will lead to European war, but I do very much fear ‘minor’ conflagrations in one or more of the peripheral countries. After all, what other way is there for Fidesz/Jobbik to be removed, or even challenged, other than violent revolution, or an insurgency, at the least? And what might happen between two non-Euro neighbours, such as Hungary and Romania if one of them becomes too belligerent?

    What then will the rest of the EU do? Will they just sit back and watch people die and houses burn, or will they send in ‘peacekeepers’? And what about Russia, will they sniff a political advantage supporting one side/country against the other – an advantage worth risking military intervention?

    No matter how similar things may feel to the 30s, it’s not going to lead to the 40s – history never quite repeats itself exactly. But I fear it is going to lead to something nasty – perhaps nowhere near as bad as WWII, but then neither were the recent Balkan wars, and no one would wish that on, for instance, Hungary.

  18. You can only fool ‘them’ (naive Canadian apparatchnicks) for so long. This goes for the Pakistanis, the Somalis, the Ethiopians and the rest of would-be immigrants who are really a blight on their native land. That’s not to say you can’t find legitimate Roma who would be
    contributing members to Canadian society…but one of the things Canadians have to get over is to place immigrants where they need them, rather than in the populations centers like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Let new immigrants go to Saskatoon and similar places that need population, for the first five years in the country…

  19. Paul :
    Interesting post, gdfxx, nice to see a slightly different take on things.
    My personal view on the EU is that the Euro has started it on a path that must inevitably lead to a United States of Europe, in everything except name.
    The Euro crisis demonstrates clearly that you can’t have a shared currency without a great deal more being shared as well. This should have been blindingly clear from the beginning. Imagine the fate of the Dollar if the US was just a loose confederation of independent countries, or the Commonwealth trying to use the Pound as a single currency – it would be utter chaos. And yet that is, more or less, what the EU tried to do when it introduced the Euro.
    So, assuming the Euro stays, and most countries stay in it, those countries simple have to become more closely tied together, both politically and financially. Which makes now very different indeed from the 30s.
    The Euro, accidentally, has created the very conditions that the EU was set up to achieve – it has made war between the Euro countries impossible.
    Of course, there is the small matter of those countries in the EU who won’t join the Euro (and I’m sitting in one of those as I type this). But I think that basically boils down to the UK – the only EU country of any significance that will never join the Euro, and the EU has got used to us behaving as if we don’t want to play in their game over the years.
    Much more worrying are the few other countries, like Hungary, who are not yet in the Euro. The stabilising effect of Euro membership doesn’t affect them, but the destabilising effect of the Euro crisis can have a real effect on them. Add to that internal/political problems, such as Hungary is experiencing and you have a tinder-dry situation, only waiting for a significantly large spark.
    So, I have no fear that a ’30s style’ situation will lead to European war, but I do very much fear ‘minor’ conflagrations in one or more of the peripheral countries. After all, what other way is there for Fidesz/Jobbik to be removed, or even challenged, other than violent revolution, or an insurgency, at the least? And what might happen between two non-Euro neighbours, such as Hungary and Romania if one of them becomes too belligerent?
    What then will the rest of the EU do? Will they just sit back and watch people die and houses burn, or will they send in ‘peacekeepers’? And what about Russia, will they sniff a political advantage supporting one side/country against the other – an advantage worth risking military intervention?
    No matter how similar things may feel to the 30s, it’s not going to lead to the 40s – history never quite repeats itself exactly. But I fear it is going to lead to something nasty – perhaps nowhere near as bad as WWII, but then neither were the recent Balkan wars, and no one would wish that on, for instance, Hungary.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with the German insistence on greater central control. This hype of ‘nationalism’ is the refuge of the political scoundrel who wishes to stay a ‘big fish in a small pond’, and, once he gets his ducks in a row, to control the country as he wishes.
    Orban is a case in point.

  20. (Sorry for the reprint of the whole article. I meant to respond to it but I only saw a ‘quote’ button.)

  21. I’m drawing everybody’s attention to the illegality of fascist organisations in Hungary according to a current Hungarian law based on the 1947 Paris peace treaty signed by USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and other countries (http://antifa-hungary.blogspot.com/2011/10/paris-peace-treaty-1947.html). In spite of the offence, none of the signatories cares about the violation of this treaty. So international agreements are good for nothing…? The responsibility is not only Hungary’s but the other countries’ too.

  22. evitae :
    I’m drawing everybody’s attention to the illegality of fascist organisations in Hungary according to a current Hungarian law based on the 1947 Paris peace treaty…….

    London Calling!

    Evitae

    This has been recognised here quite a few times – thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    You may have to look deep in Eva’s blog to find it though.

    Some of us have written to Mr Barroso to bring it to his attention in the vain hope, probably, that the EU will enforce it as a breach of principles – which is all democracy allows us to do.

    Regards

    Charlie

Comments are closed.