Lately one can read a lot of “interesting” news items. Who would have thought twenty years ago that Hungarian youngsters in a provincial town in Tolna county are planning a “Szálasi concert”? I wrote so many times about Ferenc Szálasi that I don’t think I have to dwell on him here. He became the leader of the Hungarian Nazis who called themselves Hungarists; the Germans, even if reluctantly, decided to use him in the last few months of the war. He was executed in 1946 for war crimes.
A Szálasi concert on March 12? Oh, these youngsters are well versed in the history of the Hungarian Nazi movement because March 12 is the anniversary of the day when Szálasi was executed. My first question was rather mundane. What kind of music will be played in this concert? Some national rock that is popular in far-right circles or perhaps some songs from World War II? Naturally the former. A rock group called “Hunnia and the Accusing Gallows” was supposed to play nationalistically inspired pieces.
Well, I didn’t have the pleasure of finding out more about this Szálasi concert because the mayor of Szekszárd (Fidesz) intervened. He admitted that he knew about the concert since the organizers had approached him ahead of time, but “he didn’t know anything about the content of the posters that were plastered all over town.” From the brief report one has the feeling that if the organizers hadn’t advertised their concert commemorating Szálasi’s death, then most likely the concert would have been held. But since the city council undoubtedly received complaints, the mayor told the youngsters “to solve the problem.” An interesting way of putting it, but the organizers obliged.
Then a few days later I read about a “Szálasi memorial column” that was erected on private property in Mezőkövesd. The brave Hungarists released a picture on their website, but they made sure that they are unrecognizable.
The event was written up on March 14, though I suspect that the memorial column was unveiled two days earlier on the sixty-fifth anniversary of Szálasi’s death. Once the news reached the media, the reporters ran to the police to inquire what was going on. As usual, the police spokesman hadn’t a clue. “The police captaincy is studying the Criminal Code to ascertain whether or not a crime was committed in connection with the public display of forbidden symbols.” I have the feeling that they are still studying the matter.
As a result of subsequent discussions of the matter, the “legal question” is whether the Arrowcross symbol visible on the picture can be seen from the street. I guess that would make it a public display. The moral problem is not so much with the symbol but with the whole memorial column honoring a man responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of innocent people. After all, the Hungarists were to the very last minute murdering Jewish Hungarians.
So, here are the Hungarists who seem to be getting along splendidly with the Hungarian Guard, lately called the Hungarian National Guard. One of the leaders of the Hungarian National Guard is a Jobbik parliamentary member, György Gyula Zagyva. I also wrote about him earlier. He is well known for his outrageous, brutish behavior. His latest is that at a demonstration of the Hungarian National Guard he made a speech which was reported by Magyar Nemzet. In it Zagyva said that “Hungary needs a Hungarian Ku Klux Klan just as the United States needed one in the past.” The American ambassador, Eleni Tsakoppulos Kounalakis, was swift to respond. She made the following statement on the very same day: “The comments attributed by press reports to a far right politician on March 21 calling for the emergence of a Hungarian Ku Klux Klan are despicable and represent the worst kind of incitement of racial intolerance and hatred. Both American and Hungarian societies are based on common values of free speech and freedom of expression. However, there is no place in civic political discourse for groups that foster a climate of fear and violence. In recent meetings with government officials, I have heard assurances that the government will not tolerate violence against its citizens or a climate of intimidation, and will take appropriate action to ensure that citizens’ rights are protected. We commend the government’s commitment to protect the rights of all Hungarians, no matter what their racial, cultural, or social heritage. We stand together with Hungary ready to counter hatred wherever it should appear – either here or in the United States.”
MTV’s Híradó headlined its story: “The American ambassador condemns the alleged Ku Klux Klan remark of Jobbik.” At the end of the news item it published “a correction” by György Zagyva. He asked MTV to report that “he didn’t wish to see the Hungarian appearance of the Ku Klux Klan and that he didn’t praise the organization in his speech.”
Magyar Nemzet published the MTI’s Hungarian translation of Eleni Tsakoppulos Kounalakis’s statement under the headline: “The American ambassador sends a message and stands by Hungary.” Well, yes, on the surface, but we know what she was signaling.