I subscribe to Google Alerts for news on Hungary that I might not otherwise find, and in the last day or so I have been flooded with links to the László Csatáry case. I must have read at least a dozen descriptions of the career of the former police officer who was in charge of the Kassa/Košice ghetto in 1944. Most of the accounts agree on the essentials. He was instrumental in sending 300 so-called alien Jews to Kamenetz-Podolsk in Ukraine in 1941 where the deportees were murdered by the Germans. And he engaged in acts of extreme cruelty in the Jewish ghetto.
In Kassa two ghettos were set up, one in the center of the city and another in the outskirts of Kassa in a brickyard. This latter ghetto also housed Jewish citizens from the surrounding villages. They numbered 15,700, and according to the articles I read only 450 managed to survive the deportation to Auschwitz.
The mayor of Kassa was a rabid Hungarian Nazi who received eager help from the local police force, including László Csatáry, a high-level police officer who was put in charge of the brickyard. Csatáry’s cruelty was infamous already at the time; news of his cruelty even reached Mrs. Horthy.
Csatáry has the dubious distinction of being mentioned by Randolph L. Braham in his monumental The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary. According to Braham there is a detailed eyewitness account of events in Kassa and of Csatáry’s cruelty that appeared in Menóra-Egyenlőség (June 1, 1984), a Canadian publication. Moreover, Braham himself has a few relevant documents on Csatáry in his possession.
As the Soviet troops were advancing László Csatáry with many others retreated with the German and the Hungarian armies, ending up in Germany. From there he emigrated to Canada in 1949. First he settled in Nova Scotia and later in Montreal where he was an art dealer. By the 1990s he lived in Toronto. Whether he used his own name when he entered Canada is unclear, but he didn’t tell the truth about his citizenship and his criminal record to the Canadian immigration authorities. He claimed to be a Yugoslav citizen. Moreover, a year before, in 1948, he was condemned to death in absentia in Czechoslovakia.
He lived undisturbed in Canada until 1997 when it was discovered that he had provided false information about his nationality and had failed to provide information concerning his collaboration with Nazi occupation forces while serving with the Royal Hungarian Police. As a result, the Canadian government revoked his citizenship on August 28, 1997. As deportation proceedings were under way, Csatáry voluntarily left the country. In October 1997, when officials of the Canadian Justice Department’s war crimes unit went to Csatáry’s home, his daughter told them he was living in Europe.
Although the daughter didn’t say anything specific about her father’s whereabouts, it looks as if Csatáry settled in Hungary. He lived undisturbed in Budapest for the last 15 years, until a few days ago when a couple of reporters from the British tabloid, The Sun, found him in a “smart section of Buda.”
At this point the story becomes a bit muddled. Ephraim Zuroff, the current head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, received information from “a paid informant” that Csatáry was living in Hungary. According to one account the informant will receive $25,000, but only when Csatáry is convicted. Because Csatáry is now 97 years old and because the Hungarian judicial system is exceedingly slow, I have the suspicion that “the very reliable informant” will never receive his bounty.
When did Zuroff inform the Hungarian authorities about Csatáry’s whereabouts? It is hard to say, but I found one source that claims that the Hungarians were told about Csatáry’s Hungarian sojourn already in 2006. In September 2011 Zuroff even gave them Csatáry’s Budapest address. Nothing happened, and the frustrated Zuroff turned to The Sun, whose reporters broke the story. According to one report Zuroff and The Sun have cooperated on several cases hunting down war criminals. Zuroff’s aim was to bring the case to the attention of the public because it was becoming obvious that the Hungarian prosecutors had no intention of bringing charges against Csatáry any time soon, if at all.
The spokesman for the prosecutor’s office announced that the investigation has been under way but added that collecting all the facts surrounding a crime that was committed 68 years ago is a very lengthy affair, especially since the witnesses are scattered all over the world. Moreover, the scene of the crime, Kassa/Košice, today belongs to Slovakia.
According to Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center “last week submitted new evidence to the prosecutor in Budapest regarding crimes committed during World War II by its No. 1 Most Wanted suspect László Csatáry.” This new evidence is “related to Csatáry’s key role in the deportation of approximately 300 Jews from Košice to Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, where almost all were murdered in the summer of 1941.” The Hungarian prosecutors promised to investigate this evidence as well.
All this couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Hungarian government. The Orbán government is under fire at the moment because of its tacit approval of an emerging Horthy cult and because of its foolish identification with far-right anti-Semitic writers of the interwar period. László Kövér, speaker of the house, got disinvited by his counterpart in the Israeli knesset because Kövér sponsored the reburial of József Nyirő in Romania. In a great hurry Kövér was replaced by the new Hungarian president, János Áder.
While Áder was amiably chatting with the Israeli president Shimon Peres, the leading Israeli paper Haaretz ran an article entitled “Israel has a tough time finding a Hungarian leader not identified with anti-Semites.” Haaretz learned that “Hungarian President János Áder also participated in a ceremony honoring an anti-Semitic artist convicted of war crimes during the Holocaust.” The person in question was Albert Wass, “a nationalistic anti-Semitic writer found guilty of murdering Jews.” According to the paper Áder attended an unveiling ceremony of a Wass memorial in 2008.
And now the clear implication that the Hungarian authorities, although they have known that László Csatáry lived in Budapest for six years, failed to bring charges against him. All in all, it doesn’t look good. Actually, it looks very, very bad.
There is a fundamental difference between the nazi and the communist regimes.
The communist regimes were based on the theory of equality between people. Now we know it didn’t work out and that when these countries became totalitarian regimes (at this point ignoring their theoretical roots), many people in charge committed horrible crimes, against all of their real or imagined enemies, killing millions in the process.
The nazi regimes were openly advocating the superiority of one group of people and openly legalized first the marginalization and then the extermination of those groups they defined as undesirable.
Making these two occurrences of horror equivalent is wrong (in my opinion).
I stand corrected on his name.
However, your acuity regarding minimal facts only ‘suggests’ thoroughness without actually possessing it. To wit, Eszaterhas’ wrote an autobiography in which he clearly details
that the father posed as a member of left-wing groups in Cleveland. The father’s living
a lie led to the mother’s eventual suicide. I may even be wrong about his membership
in the Arrow Cross–I read the book many years ago–but what is clear in the book is that
the father was a rabid anti-semite during the war years in Hungary.
I’m with you on this.
But you are getting close to arguing that killing people is somehow less heinous if the people doing it are inspired by an ideology you approve of. If you feel that cold blooded murder is wrong, then I think there is an equivalence between Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany.
I find this an interesting question, because my gut feeling is that Hitler was worse, But I’ve yet to read a convincing explanation why. And I really don’t like gdfxx’s attempt.
Can I just add something? Someone in this thread made a throw away comment about the average not being bothered by the Csatáry business. Frankly, they have more on their plate at the moment. I was in Hungary recently, the first time for a little while, and everyone is being existentially squeezed. Pensions are being eaten into, people are being taxed into the ground and can’t pay off their loans, they are cutting back on everything and in mortal fear of losing their jobs. Things are grim. And no one I met was remotely interested in the pre-occupations of this blog (no one I met mentioned or was interested in the Horthy cult, Nyiró, Judaism etc etc.) Instead, they feel trapped by a corrupt government and mortally afraid that they could soon be on the streets. So if people are not swarming onto the streets in indignation about Csatáry, I for one can forgive them.
@Kingfisher I believe what gdfxx is saying is that Hitler’s goal was to systematically exterminate a group of people while the Stalinists got heavy handed, so to speak, to keep their power. So the difference is the original intentions. I think there’s nothing wrong with a communist. A communist with an AK-47 is the problem. But a nazi is a nazi.
Regarding people being not bothered by the Csatary case. Well it’s not surprising in a country where nazis are in the national curriculum. Not so long ago 500k people marched behind the biggest anti-Semite of the country. On the other hand you’ve jumped the gun with you explanation. There isn’t much to be bothered by right now. Csatary is in custody.
One other bitter remark about this existential fear. Some people seem to be very agitated and active since the perpetrator got arrested in the Kata Bandy murder in Pecs. It seems that the guy’s hyperpigmentation was enough to get them excited.
Another disheartening “activity” (same group obviously) the comments on the kuruc.info and alike about the recent bombing in Bulgaria.
Kingfisher, let me explain what I mean:
If the communist regimes would have ended in a society where everyone is equal, everyone is doing what their abilities are, everyone is getting everything based on their needs, and if they had achieved this without degenerating into a mass-murderous totalitarian system, I suppose this would have been acceptable to most thinking people.
On the other hand, if the nazi regimes would have ended in a similar society after fulfilling their stated goal: extermination all the undesirables, I doubt that thinking people would have found this acceptable.
As far as the people of Hungary caring or not about Csatary’s fate, that is not the important point. The authorities are the ones who should not only care but do everything to bring a mass murderer to justice.
Csatary under ‘house arrest’!??
Of course, the average Hungarian citizen is probably saying: “Those damn Jews. They can’t leave a 97 year old alone.” Would it ever occur to them that because of this indecent old fart, people ceased to live to be 12 or 18 or 35 or 45 or 60? That those same people, young and old, died a horrific death in a gas chamber?
What Csapary deserves is to be put in a padded room with a million killer bees…
Petofi: “To wit, Eszaterhas’ wrote an autobiography in which he clearly details
that the father posed as a member of left-wing groups in Cleveland. ”
I wouldn’t give too much credence to the autobiography, at least parts of it. According to folks who knew them, the mother was mentally sick before committing suicide. Eszterhas junior is not totally balanced person either. You can read some Eszterhas Sr’s in the US written and published books, even on the web.They sure are not leftist sounding.
Obviously you need to be directed towards a little reading which might highlight the differences between
Stalinist genocide and the Hitler version. May I suggest a little perusal of eye-witness accounts of the gas chambers? It can easily be found online.
Sure, Stalin starved millions but can the those deaths be compared to one in a gas chamber?
Petofi: “Sure, Stalin starved millions but can the those deaths be compared to one in a gas chamber?”
Stalin killed a lot more folks than he starved. Just as an example Katyn. Mao did the same thing in China. There are estimates that the Stalin/Mao duo and their minions killed about 30 million people.
You sohould also watch once the video “Soviet Story” to understand how Hitler and Stalin were feeding off each other. The equality routine went out the window already under Lenin and communism was a brutal fight for power by a small group of people. It may help you also to read Orlando Figes’ “A Peoples tragedy”.
I reject the argument presented often in comments about Hungarian news articles and even here, that Nazi genocide is somehow balanced by Communist genocide.That one should not mention one unless the other is mentyioned with equal force. This is nonsense. Two wrongs do not make a right. Both are crimes against humanity. Both should be prosecuted. But when a case like Csatary comes up, it should be prosecuted with full force. And if the camp commander of Recsk is found, he should be prosecuted with the same force.
There’s no doubt on the totalitarian nature of communist regimes, and the horrors they led to. To that extent, Stalin’s USSR and Pol Pot’s Cambodia are unfortunately on par with Hitler’s Germany.
Yet there’s no need to throw casualty numbers at each other as if it was some kind of contest. Of course, separate accounts are indispensable to understand the extent of the abuses that took place over a particular period of time, in a particular geographic area. However comparing these accounts – a habit that has been steadily growing in Europe – is playing on very dangerous chords.
First, it reduces deaths to numbers, failing to grasp the social consequences on the very structure of whole societies and communities. No society can nor should ever be described by its population count. Secondly, every accounting comparison leads to a balance, as if here we had to choose beetween the lesser of two evils. I don’t want to choose beetween two totalitarisms. I don’t want totalitarianism at all.
Nevertheless, there is an irrevocable specificity to the Shoah and Porajmos: ethnicity, when defined by the State upon ancestry and ‘science’, is something people cannot act upon. It cannot be escaped – within the boundaries of the law of course – by acting differently. Penance, conversion, ‘reeducation’ etc. are denied by the State not ony to one individual, but to its whole lineage, past, present and future. When your mere existence becomes a crime, all that human justice stands for is erased.
Focusing on casualties contests clearly overlooks this specificity, favouring emotional response over reason. Of course, it’s a political choice; in my opinion such a choice has never been good news.
Sackhoes C: ” And if the camp commander of Recsk is found, he should be prosecuted with the same force.”
There were several. Is anybody looking for them? Many of the guards are on disability retirement from various Gov. companies.
I do not believe in having a “philosophy” for extermination. Brutal killing is brutal killing irrelevant of what the killer believes.
Why aren’t you looking for them ? Or maybe you tell the Hungarian government to search for them (actually I don’t know if it’s their responsibility because I don’t know where Recsk is …)
wolfi: ” I don’t know where Recsk is …)”
You have said a lot by this statement. A number of them was interviewed for books published in Hungary, so they can easily be found. So far any post 1990 trial of communist sadists ended up with not guilty verdicts.
Maybe some of those judges should be retired……
Recsk is in North East Hungary. The real question is what was Recsk. It was the most notorious Communist prison labor camp that existed during the hight of the Stalin/Rakosi period, from 1950 to 1953. Google it, man….
Wolfi didn’t have to know what Recsk was. He was a school child in Germany at the time.
FG will be not charged in the Sukuro case. Not enough evidence. Five others will be/are charged.
Just read. Viktor Orbán must be very sad. He was hoping but even Polt’s prosecutors couldn’t find any evidence. The others will not be found guilty. Mark my word.
I agree. SO, how do you feel about Orban is praising the Chinese regime, and making open comments about how Hungary should follow the example of China?
Kovach, We are talking about here about a killer that actually someone found, and that justice should be served on that particular killer. You are totally welcome to support any other groups to look out for killers, communist killers, nazi killers, mass murderers, and so forth. Nobody tries to stop you and anyone who you support or not to go and find anyone who committed any crimes. When they find someone, maybe Eva will talk about on her blog, maybe not. Now, that they found this killer (not because you or the Hungarian neo-nazis gave their permission, but they just went ahead) should be justice served or should justice only be served when all criminals arrested at once?
I guess Orban could not replace the judges soon enough. Probably now this will become a Day of National Mourning, just like Trianon. Wait ’til Orban orders the church bells to be rang.
Some1: “I agree. SO, how do you feel about Orban is praising the Chinese regime, and making open comments about how Hungary should follow the example of China?”
I do not belive in “inherited” guilt, in which many of the blog participants do. It was not the current China or the current Russia that committed the crimes. Those current regimes unfortunately are not prosecuting the criminals, but they are not the ones who committed the crimwes.
Some1 “I guess Orban could not replace the judges soon enough. Probably now this will become a Day of National Mourning, just like Trianon. Wait ’til Orban orders the church bells to be rang.”
Let me see your logic, the LMP claims Gyurcsany participation in the “crime” and requests judicial action….but Orban is the one who the LMP up to it?????
Dr Balogh: “Just read. Viktor Orbán must be very sad. He was hoping but even Polt’s prosecutors couldn’t find any evidence. The others will not be found guilty. Mark my word.”
An Andras Shiffer an LMP member filed the charges against Gyurcsany which was dismissed, and you ascribe the case to Orban….faulty sequencing.
Louis Kovach, what is exactly current China? China is still a communist country led by the very Communist Party responsible for example, firing into demonstrating students on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Also, you are not too bothered by the fact that the Chinese government oppress minorities and anybody who opposes the government or the Communist Party, censors the press and the internet, and have a dismal human rights record.
Human rights in China: http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-china
An: “Louis Kovach, what is exactly current China? China is still a communist country led by the very Communist Party responsible for example, firing into demonstrating students on Tiananmen Square in 1989.”
There are, unfortunately, many countries claiming Chines like celestial past who mistreat their minorities. I was talking about the unabashed killing that took place under Mao. The current regime is not the same, even if the party name is the same. I have been to Tibet and to Sinkiang and I am aware of the shortcomings of the regime regarding many of their minorities.
Extending territory under claimed ancestral pretenses, certainly is diminishing Tibetian culture, but again such acts are done by supposedly democratic counries also.
Louis Kovach: The mistreatment of minorities are just one of the “shortcomings” of the regime… see my above post.
I know that you are so frightened of free speech that you will immediately spike my comment.
At any rate, how dare you call Mr. Csatary a nazi war criminal without a definitive sentence? Would you call all your commie turned liberal friends in Hungary criminals immediately after charges are laid?
Csatary has been sentenced already, around 50 years ago …
Sorry, more than 60 years ago:
Well, perhaps in Russia you can make a case for a regime change, but not in China. Yes, new men at the top may have taken their turn, but it is the same Communist regime that we know and loath, that etched their rteputation into our hearts at Tienmen square.
“At any rate, how dare you call Mr. Csatary a nazi war criminal without a definitive sentence? Would you call all your commie turned liberal friends in Hungary criminals immediately after charges are laid?”
Dumbar, you’re a dumb ass.
Very well. Now maybe you could explain where does the huge magen david on the wass family arms come from ?
Well, well, well. I just happen to find something on István Eszterhás in Randolph L. Braham’s book, The Politics of Genocide (vol. 1511, 513, 519). I happen to have the Hungarian edition but the book has an excellent list of personal and geographic names. So, those of you who have access to the English edition shouldn’t have any trouble finding the references.
Good old Joe was unfortunately right. Papa Eszterhás was a Hungarian Nazi who was in charge of two important departments of the Magyar Királyi Nemzetvédelmi Propagandahivatal established in 1942. His job was to influence public opinion in favor of the Axis powers. Especially after the German occupation the anti-Semitism of the office became naturally intensified. Eszterhás was also responsible for the press as commissioner serving in the prime minister’s office. He and his superior was Mihály Kolosváry-Borcsa who was executed in 1946 for war crimes were responsible for the “right” information to reach the Hungarian public. Pretty important position. Eszterhás was in the thick of things in the 1940s.
Huhh, Petőfi, Louis, where should I start.
Petofi: “Sure, Stalin starved millions but can the those deaths be compared to one in a gas chamber?”
I’ve been delaying replying to this to be as calm as possible but I still can’t help but think, that you are a truly disgusting human being mister. I can imagine our Petrovich walking in some village during the Holodomor telling to a starving kid who hasn’t eaten for a few weeks to stop complaining, and praise god for not being in a gas chamber. If I wasn’t this civilized I’d say I wish you’ll be presented the chance to choose which one would you like for yourself…but wait that’s an easy one for you as starvation is a piece of cake for you apparently.
Louis: “It was not the current China or the current Russia that committed the crimes. ”
I see now that An has already taken care of this, I might just add that this is the same regime that imprisoned and tortured dozens/hundreds of Tibetians. But that’s such an inconvenient truth for OV when it comes to business, that the pro-Tibet protesters were miraculously going through some random inspections coincidentally with the visit of our kind good commie friends…
Wolfi: “Csatary has been sentenced already, around 50 years ago …”
Even though the case seems very clear to me here too (I’m not at all convinced about the Képiró case for example), that sentence wasn’t worth any more than the paper it was written on. The Czechoslovakians conducted an endless sequence of show trials against various German and Hungarian officials and politicians regardless of the fact that this time they seem to have actually had a real basis for it.
For those of you, who read Hungarian, here is an interesting link http://www.parameter.sk/comment/32600
The gist of the somewhat convoluted article is that the Rakosi/Kadar regimes’ secret service was known to co-opt rightwing war criminals and blackmail them. The author raises this possibility with the Csatary case and points to the fact that Csatary repatriated from Canada with prior written assurances from both the Slovak and Hungarian authorities that he will not be brought to justice if he returns. The author feels this may have been in exchange for prior services rendered, but the outing of Csatary by the Wiesenthal Center and The Sun forced their hand. He also points to the fact that Hungary has to this day did not make full disclosure of its secret service dealings during the Communist regime.
Please note, I know nothing about the website, which seems to be in Slovakia. I am also not familiar with the author, but he claims to be a regular contributor to the Hungarian publication, ES (Elete es Irodalom), which is a reputable weekly. magazine, as far as I know.
Boys! Take it easy … Let’s just take one genocide at a time … This doesn’t lead anywhere. I don’t think it’s a different experience watching your children dying from starvation in front of your eyes or watching your children disappearing in gas chamber.
It is useless to compare different crimes against humanity, as if the outcome would excuse the crime. The premeditated death of one person is murder and the punishment for that life inprisonment or death. It does not matter if a person serves 10,000 consecutive prison sentences or 20,000 or is he is hanged 10,000 times or 20,000 times. Both Hitler and Stalin – and the people who willingly supported them and carried out their wishes – are guilty of multiple murders.
Sackhoes, Mutt: This is where I stand too, for some reason I’m always kind of enraged when people try to do this comparison. It’s just disrespectful and tastelessly offensive to innocent people whose life was brutally taken away and makes some of their tragedy of second class. Every life is equal and the mere fact that states have exterminated them in an industrialized way is an extent of crime where there are no levels, no better or worse any more. Of course, there are features that are characteristic to specific ones and apologists can hang onto to excuse or make their favorite genocide look less severe, but that’s just nauseating.
Well, my own post was based on the Széky’s article on Parameter. I even gave the link.
As for Parameter, it is a very prestigious Slovak-Hungarian site and Széky is a columnist for ÉS.
But I agree, the article is convoluted. Kutruczka’s own story is much more interesting. The case of Bosnyák having some connection to Képíró and Csatáry, I think, is too far-fetched.
Jano: “I see now that An has already taken care of this, I might just add that this is the same regime that imprisoned and tortured dozens/hundreds of Tibetians. But that’s such an inconvenient truth for OV when it comes to business, that the pro-Tibet protesters were miraculously going through some random inspections coincidentally with the visit of our kind good commie friends”
I am sorry, but that was not the issue. Earlier, I have stated that the Stalin/Mao duo killed at least 30 million folks. I repeat, it was not the current regimes who did it. This does not mean that either country’s current regimes are “kosher”.
Louis: What was not the issue? The evil monks launched an invasion against the peaceful democratically elected government of China?
“I repeat, it was not the current regimes who did it.” Just as Károly Grósz had nothing to do with 56, Kádár didn’t have to do anything with Rákosi’s crimes… Btw, just as An raised it? Who the hell ordered that tank to turn that poor protester into a speedhump back at Tienanmen square? Or again I assume Hu Jin-Tao has nothing to feel guilty about what happened under Yang Shankun…. jesus… I almost feel like being the successor of a ruthless mass murderer dictator. I just take over and start afresh, how easy it is in your world..
Oh my, I haven’t spoken English in two months (yes I’m back for the summer, can’t help it, I just love this place so much), sorry for the unusual amount of Hunglish
Jano: “What was not the issue?”
What was not the issue is the time since Mao died. Please believe me I am very familiar with Chinese non-democracy by having been there numerous times.
I was specifically referring to activites during Stalin and Mao! Not the current regimes’ times.
Jano, just ignore Louis Kovach. He does the same with stuff that doesn’t fit in his word view (for example, we both brought up 1989 that was not during Mao’s time)…I have found having discussions with him quite pointless.
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