Randolph L. Braham’s open letter

Randolph L. Braham

Randolph L. Braham

Anyone who has ever studied the history of the Hungarian Holocaust is familiar with the name of Randolph L. Braham, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the City College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of over 60 books and co-authored or wrote chapters in 50 others. Here are a few titles: The Destruction of Hungarian Jewry: A Documentary Account (1963); The Hungarian Labor Service System, 1939-1945 (1977); The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary (1981); and just last year, The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary. Some of his works were translated into Hungarian while others were first published in Hungarian and later appeared in English.

Randolph L. Braham is highly regarded in Hungary as the foremost interpreter of the Holocaust, and therefore he was honored by both the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest and the Hungarian Government. In 2011 it was the Orbán government that bestowed upon him the Medium Cross of the Republic of Hungary, which is the highest decoration that a Hungarian government can grant. The Library and Information Center at the Holocaust Memorial Center bears his name. At least until now.

 * * *

January 26, 2014

Professor György Haraszti, Chairman of the Board
Dr. Szabolcs Szita, Director
Holokauszt Emlékközpont
Páva utca, 39
H-1049 Budapest

Dear György és Szabolcs:

I am writing to request that you remove my name from the Téka és Információs Központ at the Holocaust at the Holokauszt Emlékközpont.  I reached this decision with a heavy heart, having followed the recent developments in Hungary with great concern. The history-cleansing campaign of the past few years calculated to whitewash the historical record of the Horthy era, including the changes in the constitution that “legalized” the sinister measures that were subsequently taken to absolve Hungary from the active role it had played in the destruction of close to 600,000 of its citizens of the Jewish faith, have left me, and I assume many others, stunned. The straw that broke the camel’s back in my decision was the government’s resolve to erect a national statue relating to the German occupation – a cowardly attempt to detract attention from the Horthy regime’s involvement in the destruction of the Jews and to homogenize the Holocaust with the “suffering” of the Hungarians – a German occupation, as the record clearly shows, that was not only unopposed but generally applauded.

I realize that for a variety of political and economic reasons the leaders responsible for the operation of the Holokauszt Emlékközpont would or could not speak out against the brazen drive to falsify history. I, on the other hand, a survivor whose parents and many family members were among the hundreds of thousands of murdered Jews, cannot remain silent, especially since it was my destiny to work on the preservation of the historical record of the Holocaust.

I hereby also return the Medium Cross of the Order of the Republic of Hungary, together with the scroll signed by President Pál Schmitt with the request that you forward them to the appropriate Hungarian authorities.

Randolph L. Braham
Graduate Center of the City University of New York

About these ads

74 comments

  1. @Jean P

    If there is no revolution or the constitution is not restored, the guilty fideszniks will escape punishment.

    The prosecutorial system in Hungary has not changed since Выши́нский, i.e. Vyshinsky’s time. The system is hierarchical, the chief prosecutor decides in every important case.

    Chief Prosecutor Polt is appointed for 9 years. At the end of his term, he cannot be replaced without a 2/3 support in Parliament for his successor. By the time he is replaced, the statute of limitations will erase most crimes.

  2. Nothing new. Just extracting a few points that have come up:

    (1) Yes, it is very appropriate that Professor Braham returned the prize and asked to be dissociated from ongoing entities in his name which he does not endorse. Yes, it would have been more appropriate for Professor Braham not to have accepted the prize at all in 2011, when it was already apparent that Orban and Fidesz were relentlessly driving through an anti-democratic constitution with their supermajority. But it is understandable if a senior historian is not familiar with the ongoing details of current Hungarian politics. Professor Braham has now been made aware.

    (2) Those who are familiar with Fidesz’s double-talk and demagoguery will now know — and alert those who do not already know — that the latest concessionary avowals about Hungarian responsibility that are being made now (in response to the outrage at the Horthy and German-victimization statues, the “Truth” institutes, the Fidesz-controlled Holocaust centres and momorial events and hosting) are all cynical cosmetics and mean absolutely nothing. They are just intended to damage-limit the repercussions of Orban’s latest provocations; the duplicity continues, unabated.

    (3) Yes, the Hungarian Jewish community — both lay and observant — should moblize, together with all decent Hungarian democrats, to create a common front against Fidesz and Jobbik. Koves’s appeasement and somnambulism is indeed deplorable, indeed shameful, and history will bear witness to this. What is needed is people with character and vision, not parochial pawns with their heads down, shuffling along the path of least resistance.

  3. Perhaps Slomó Köves could ask Csanád Szegedi to speak up? :)

    Anyway I don’t see why the Jewish community organizations should be alone in this debate.

    Historians have already spoken, where are the teachers? Parents associations? Students? Civic groups? Roma NGOs? Artists? Churches? Doesn’t this concern the society as a whole?

  4. Show me a decent Jewish leader in Hungary!
    Show me a decent Roma leader in Hungary?
    Show me a decent any leader in Hungary?

    Since Ferenc Deak, there have been very few.

  5. There are new developments at the MSZP congress. Mesterházy was talking about a Fidesz oligarch, saying that if they are really this talented in economic matters as their results (company revenue and profits) show, they should be given a “katedra” (teaching position) at an economic university. However some in the crowd were incensed by the suggestion of “katedra” and started shouting “kötelet” (hanging rope) which can be heard clearly in a recored version of the event http://coub.com/view/jl4d .

    Now here comes the important part. Mesterházy went on ATV shortly after and said that the crowd in fact did not shout “kötelet” (probably it would be more fortunate to say instead that he did not hear it, since video proves otherwise), but “börtönt” (prison), and this is what he agreed with. (later Mesterházy said “maybe the thing that was shouted before is better”).

    The problem is that nobody knows that whether the crowd really shouted “börtönt” too. Video proof where “börtönt” shout is audible would be important (the event was in a huge arena, so microphones placed in different places can only cover so much of the full grounds of the event). The tape of the “börtön” shouting would be very important in debunking the narrative that Mesterházy agreed with the other shout in the heat of the moment.

  6. tappanch :
    @Jean P
    If there is no revolution or the constitution is not restored, the guilty fideszniks will escape punishment.
    The prosecutorial system in Hungary has not changed since Выши́нский, i.e. Vyshinsky’s time. The system is hierarchical, the chief prosecutor decides in every important case.
    Chief Prosecutor Polt is appointed for 9 years. At the end of his term, he cannot be replaced without a 2/3 support in Parliament for his successor. By the time he is replaced, the statute of limitations will erase most crimes.

    I am aware of all of the legal monstrosities that are meant to keep Fidesz in power after they have been thrown out of office, but I don’t respect them and the opposition coalition should not respect them. Laws that prevent successor governments from governing should not be respected. The Fidesz appointees should be fired first thing. The self-legalisation of crimes by the Fidesz government should be met with retroactive laws by their successors. Retroactive laws are bad but they are not worse than the Fides laws emasculating future governments and they are far better than civil war.

  7. Thanks to Pulp For providing the link to the Edward Lucas article on the Ukraine situation. The media in the US seems determined to portray the battles in the Ukraine as being between the pro-EU forces and the government which is moving towards Russia. The US media largely is not covering the role of the far right in the demonstration which as Lucas points out is significant.

    The EU and the IMF by their economic policy decisions are opening the door for Russia which has deep cash reserves and could still utilize some industrial production from the Ukraine. Might Hungary go down that path as Pulp suggests? Right now Orban is making the required debt payments, even though he is upsetting the EU with various nationalizations, as long as those payment keep going as scheduled the EU will not move to revoke EU membership of Hungary no matter what deals are cut with Putin.

    Because European bankers don’t want to risk capital the EU is losing the hearts and minds of many in east Central Europe. The immediate profit motives of the west have problems dealing with Putin’s ability to use the resources of Russian state capitalism to further the foreign policy goals of the Russian federation.

  8. Let me stir some debate…

    If the Ukraine splits into two (and it should to prevent civil war, because election results show the actual split of people consistently) then Hungary can take over the Beregszasz (Berehove) district with its majority ethnic Hungarian population.

    Orban will follow Horthy’s horse steps.

    Perhaps this thinking is one of the reasons of Orban’s approchement towards Russia.

  9. @Mr.Paul
    I don’t think, that Mesterházy – or anyone else in his position as a speaker of an important event, would have agreed with a proposition to hang someone, let alone, would have done it publicly while his every word being recorded and he knows it.
    In my opinion we can discard this as an option.

    The other options would be to find another recording of the same event, since you absolutely right, it’s a huge space with various acoustic levels, so it would even be interesting to hear what was recorded near the speaker. As normally happens, the microphones “targeting” the speaker, the background noises also coming mainly from one direction, but not really from others, so it easily possible, that there was a number of different remarks as well, even if the broadcasted version presented only from a narrow path.

    By the other hand, it isn’t that hard to “fix up” the recording every which way you’d like it, or let someone sit between your microphone and the speaker and shout whatever you will…

    Apart from the conspiracist solutions, just try to imagine, that you speaking to thirteen thousands of people, it’s important and you probably concentrating on your speech as much as you can, and at the same time you’re supposed to listen to the shout ins too, and hear it right?
    Well, I have limited experience in the latter, but I hardly think so.
    Another storm in a glass of water, it seems.

  10. tappanch :
    Let me stir some debate…
    If the Ukraine splits into two (and it should to prevent civil war, because election results show the actual split of people consistently) then Hungary can take over the Beregszasz (Berehove) district with its majority ethnic Hungarian population.
    Orban will follow Horthy’s horse steps.
    Perhaps this thinking is one of the reasons of Orban’s approchement towards Russia.

    If the Russians had any wit–but Russians are not characterized by the bear for nothing–than they would maneuver that Hungary get the western portion of the Ukraine. And if that happens, Orban will be in place for 30 years.

  11. petofi :
    Tappanch,
    I am saddened by your note. You are a mainstay of this blog with your many informative
    submissions. I can only suspect that your libamij went bad in the fridge and you had a bad day…
    –The professor does not need your approval;
    –The Jewish leaders must eat and pay their bills. They are beholden to the government
    and must keep a low profile to keep getting what funds they do. The system is rotten, but
    they must still act in accordance with it.

    Petofi, surely you are just joking. My first reaction was to congratulate Prof Graham, when I read this 2 days ago, thinking it’s about time somebody is doing something that will generate some response internationally among the Jewish scholars and historians. I am also deeply disappointed in Mazsihisz, for them it should not matter in questions like this whether they can pay their bills or not. They should be making enough loud noise to make a difference.
    G.

  12. A little bit off topic …

    Does anyone know the exact location of the planned monument in Szabadsag Ter? From what pictures I’ve seen, it seems to be either replacing, or going very near the interactive fountain (in front of the Unicredit bank) which is very popular in warm weather with families with young children.

    It seems also that the monument will be next to the children’s playground.

  13. @Bowen

    It will not be far from the Horthy bust. If you go back a few days, you will find a link to the full plan among my comments, including a map.

  14. petofi, pal, that day you wrote that comment giving free reign to the Jewish leaders to collect their paychecks from the governement, I could not beleive the thinking, coming from you! I thought somone had broekn your word-press code and had taken control, of your comments…

    That beast of a statue could influence the haphazard thinking of all the borderline people on the holocaust issue and have them continue on a make-believe jaunt that has poisoned hungarian realtions for over 150+ years… Time for society to come clean on the issue. We are not in a concentration camp yet where the enemy can order us around as their servants.

    The alteration of history in Hungary, after all of Western Europe and the west has pretty much come clean with their perceptions of historical facts, history in Hungary is the last bastion of evil vis-a-vis the Jewish people. Even GERMANY has come clean !!! Now is the time Hungary must clean up its act because the price to pay later is going to be THOUSNDS of TIMES more severe…

  15. G. :

    petofi :
    Tappanch,
    I am saddened by your note. You are a mainstay of this blog with your many informative
    submissions. I can only suspect that your libamij went bad in the fridge and you had a bad day…
    –The professor does not need your approval;
    –The Jewish leaders must eat and pay their bills. They are beholden to the government
    and must keep a low profile to keep getting what funds they do. The system is rotten, but
    they must still act in accordance with it.

    Petofi, surely you are just joking. My first reaction was to congratulate Prof Graham, when I read this 2 days ago, thinking it’s about time somebody is doing something that will generate some response internationally among the Jewish scholars and historians. I am also deeply disappointed in Mazsihisz, for them it should not matter in questions like this whether they can pay their bills or not. They should be making enough loud noise to make a difference.
    G.

    Actually the whole Hungary seem to have learned from Petofi – everyone trying to salvage even as little as they can while they can at all, instead of straighten up and throw out these … (well, trying to be polite isn’t always easy) Orbán&co gangsters, or at least should protest by no end, to call the attention and press them to their senses.
    Nothing of a kind, apparently.

    As long as everyone “acts in accordance” with a rotten system, then nobody is better a bit.
    Yes, I have heard, that they should live somehow, that’s why they keep silent, but remember, ‘those who exchange their freedom for welfare will end up having neither’ – you see it happens, one step at the time, but relentlessly.

  16. My contribution today is the URL to two excellent articles which are in Hungarian and appeared recently. My father, who lived in England for 40 odd years was of the opinion that everybody should learn Hungarian. That he was correct is proven by these articles:

    http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20140127_Budapest_1944__2014

    I assume that readers know that President Ader asked for a 70 second remembrance on this 70th Holocaust Day.

    http://hvg.hu/velemeny.nyuzsog/20140127_A_70_masodpercnyi_csend_amig_a_kivegzoosz#rss

  17. Putting @spectator’s comments in another way, We are left with a question of who might raise their voice against erecting a statue that inappropriately sorts the blame for the murder of hundreds of thousands of persons:

    I think anyone who perceives the injustice should raise their voice.

    However, as far as risking their livelihood (being able to keep their jobs due to the danger of retribution) the decision is evidently in each persons’s hands.

    The question has a significant influence on the LONG term future (10+ years + progenity influence) for Hungary as a nation (perceptions by others thereof) and directly on an entire segment of the population.

    Evidently those at the top of the leadership hierarchy of the Jewish population need to be most determined to show opposition by their willingness to risk their livelihood on the matter.

    As for the rank and file Jewish population, they need to openly reason and protest within the confines of the effectiveness they can muster.

    To a disturbing extent it begins to appear that often, the harder you protest against Orban and Co. the more they are determined that they will get their way one way or the other. So, unfortunately this may be a battle that is tough to win before the elctions.

    The elctions could be a watershed point simply because Fidesz is doing all it can to get Jobbik folk to choose Fidesz delegates.

    This whole issue of the statue may be to woo the extreme right wing into the Fidesz camp, though that may be wishful thinking. Ultimately this thinking will probably just fit fine for Fidesz and delusional Orbán himself.

    The question has been raised by previous commenters within the last 10 or 15 comments, namely why are trade-unions, teachers and other groups not protesting in groups and in large numbers against Fidesz. The answer to those who are up-to-date with curent Hungarian politics is evident. Fidesz has a dogged attitude of punishing anyone who steps out of line from their views – these punsihments have been meted out untold times to state bureaucrats, teachers, social workers, students, you name them you’ve got them – all the way to the theatre and the arts.

    The system has in the last 3 1/2 years restructured itself into a military style hierarchy in every government controlled field, has gobbled up private enterprise and made it into state-governable entities run from top down by yes-’men’. Since saying no to the state has been made very difficult (re-writing of the constitution and innumerable amendments thereof) persons whose livelihoods are affected are powerless to effectively challenge the state. At best the court decisions here and in Brussels would take many many years. In the meantime the state could use their tax and police autorities to drum up charges against anyone daring to put up a fight with the state.

    The foregoing is the answer for anyone still asking why more people are not going out to protest on the streets for a litany of complaints,

    If somone in the future comes up with this same question, that is, why more people are not protesting more, just direct them to me: The Date and title of Eva’s above article and the comment No.___ by Andy.

    And Bingo – maybe we’ve swatted ‘him’.

  18. Andy, as I see it: you damned if you do and damned if you don’t protest anyway, so, why don’t do the right thing?
    Yes I know of the retributions and the threat’s hanging over everyone’s head, but the only question no longer the ‘if”, but the when. It’s only questin of time, before you either give up your honor and dignity and join to howl with the wolfs or be enslaved, stripped from your last pieces of assets anyway, to make some vassal even richer.
    Keep silent and hope for survival?
    To what end?

    There is no easy way out, believe me, particularly if the coming decades going to be signified by a “Putinized Orbanistan” image, as the “new” Eastern nation emerges in place of Hungary.

  19. Spectator… (ehem), I agree and I have hesitation. Theres a human nature in us all that wants to survie as long as possilbe – now am not talking about the leaders (Opposition, the Jewish, et al – who have a political responsibility, awful as that may seem). Human nature wants to prolong existence as long as possible. Just remember the poor souls in the gas chambers who had to climb on top of another becausse the gas stayed at the lower levels before reaching the heigher levels… So keeping your existance at a minimal level is of paramount importance.

    Yar hoping against hope that something might happen in the last second to save you before youre reaching for that very last gasp of air.

    Therefore, though it might be a question of time, that time counts when yar at the bottom of the barrel. Believe it or not people have indeed survived the evils of communism, nationalizations, put-downs, servitudes, concentration camps, wanton attempts at murders, so its just human not to want to go first straight ahead.

    You NEVER know if a welcoming arm is waiting for you before your days are over….

  20. Andy, the worst thing is, that you are … right – in your assessment.
    And this is friggin’ frustrating to be honest, probably I just don’t want to believe it.
    Perhaps I’ve left the place too long ago, – Viktor haven’t spoken yet at the funeral – but I remember different kind of people, people with integrity, whatever it would cost, and the other kind, who sold themselves, but not this neutral-grey mass all over.

    Well, I’ll drop it now, and anyway, why should I care, if they don’t?
    Or else.

  21. Spectator: Ah just wrote a reply but it got eaten up by the system…

    Essentially what I tried to say is that by the time I came back from the USA in 1993 I also didnt find what I expected. Straight honest-to goodness freedom yearning folk who would give their life for justice as they had attempted to do in 1956.

    Instead what I found was a people who mistrusted honesty, straightness and the sense of right or wrong. Corruption at a high level and particularly a dislike and distrust for anyone who had not gone through what they had experienced here. That you were noone, that you could not possibly understand them and above all that you were nuts to have returned.

    But that was not enough. 99,9% of the folk thought that something was really wrong with you as a returnee and that you were definitely here to get in their way and that they were damned if they were going to introduce you to any of their friends since you were not only not a friend but their WORST ENEMY! That you had an infectious disease.

    The above was a forceful attempt to keep you from becoming a threat to them on the laddr of social and finacial advancement. That you were the one and only person in their way to nirvana… Even if you were in an entirely different area of employment etc.

    I could go into details -at my job, etc etc (not negligible stuff…) but I’ll spare you the dirty stuff,

    Suffice it to say that 99.9% of the people in this ‘country’ (thats a kind name) fit into the mold described above.

    And lo and behold its not one bit dissimilar to the anti-semitic stance over the past 150+ years… F. foreigners, f… competition, get out-o-my way, I’ll do everything I can (under the belt) to keep you from suceeding.

    THAT is the LONG and SHORT of Hungary as a ‘country’… You wonder why its the LAST country in Europa and going downhill?

    SIMPLE. People have an INSULAR and PARANOID MENTALITY.

    As they say in common parlance in the USA: The place is SICK.

    GOT IT? :-)))))))))))))
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comments are closed.