The name of Miklós Radnóti has been all over the news in the last week or so. Radnóti, who lost his life in the Holocaust, is considered to be one of the great poets of Hungary. He died on November 10, 1944, during a forced march of a Jewish labor battalion from Bor, Serbia, through Hungary toward the German-Austrian border. Most of the battalion died en route in one way or the other. Radnóti was most likely shot and buried in a mass grave in a small village, Abda, adjacent to the city of Győr. In 1980 a statue was erected in his honor at the site where he was killed.
Why all this sudden interest in Radnóti? First, because on November 15 in Miskolc a neo-Nazi group called the Hungarian National Front decided to make a bonfire of books that were not to their members’ liking. Among the books journalists on the scene discovered was a volume of the complete works of Miklós Radnóti.
Some people found that shocking enough, but two days later the country learned the sad news that an unknown perpetrator had destroyed the statue of Radnóti in Abda. A local paper, Kisalföld, first reported the news. When MTI picked up the story, the agency decided to be extremely cautious in its wording: “The Radnóti statue broke.” Yes, just broke. I guess by itself. The decision makers at MTI liked this description so much that they repeated it every time the fate of the statue came up. Exactly three times.
Soon enough, however, it became known that the statue didn’t just break by itself but that a car hit it with such force that the statue actually broke in half. In fact, the damage is so great that it will have to be replaced by a replica of the original.
The Hungarian left immediately assumed that the destruction of the statue was deliberate and that the motive behind it was anti-Semitism. The politician who is the district’s socialist candidate for next year’s election expressed his opinion that the “guilty ones” will soon be found and that they will get what they deserve.
Meanwhile, the police began to investigate and came to the conclusion that it was a simple car accident. However, if it was an accident, why did the driver flee the scene without reporting it? 444.hu, an investigative Internet paper, immediately raised doubts about the police’s description of the likely events. The journalist pointed out that the statue is at least 10 meters from the main road. In order to run into it one would have to break through a guard rail and drive across a ditch. Here is a picture of the spot and a Google map of the same.
Cink.hu, on the other hand, accused the left-liberal media of manipulation, which they said began already with the local paper that first reported the incident. After all, the reporter of Kisalföld called attention to the fact that this is not the first time that Radnóti’s statue was defaced. A couple of years back someone poured red paint all over it. So, their assumption was that it was a deliberate political act. Cink.hu also found fault with ATV’s reporting of the case and complained in general that the left-liberal media had already decided the case without having any concrete information of the circumstances. The reporter also mentioned that at the time of the accident, around 2 a.m., there was dense fog in the area and it was therefore quite possible that the driver accidentally drove into the statue.
Gépnarancs, a left-wing blog, is also certain that the destruction of statue couldn’t have been accidental. It must, the blogger surmises, have something to do with the Miskolc book burning.
Within a day the police found an abandoned and badly damaged black Mercedes in Öttevény, a village west of Abda. The next day, on November 19, Szabolcs P., a twenty-five-year-old from Pápa, went to the police and told the following story of accidentally driving into Radnóti’s statue. The car was not his, it was borrowed. He and a friend of his were on their way to Győr to a bar when in the fog he lost his way and accidentally drove across the evergreen shrubs behind the statute and crashed into it. He got scared and drove away, but then he ran out of gas, which is why he abandoned the car in Öttevény. He and his companion hitched a ride to Győr from where they took a bus to Pápa.
The Győr police seems to be satisfied with this story. However, another local online paper, inforabakoz.hu, has serious doubts about the veracity of Szabolcs P.’s story. According to the driver of the Mercedes they were traveling to Győr, but what remains of the evergreen shrubs indicates that the car hit the statue traveling from the other direction–that is, it was hit by a car traveling away from Győr. From the direction Szabolcs P. claims he hit the statue there are no tire marks. Moreover, the car was found in Öttevény, which is not on the way to Győr where the two men were allegedly heading.
I would also like to add my own observation concerning the damaged car. As one can see, it is the left side of the Mercedes that had to come into in contact with the statue. But if Szabolcs P. was driving toward Győr, it should have been the right-hand side that got damaged.
Interestingly, the website of the Győr police which, by the way, has very little useful information on the accident itself, has a small news item asking people whether the future replacement statue should be surrounded by some kind of barrier, like an iron railing. The article also says that members of the Győr police driving at 50 km/h reached the place where the statue once stood in 7 seconds. And, yes, they were driving from Győr toward Abda and not vice versa as Szabolcs P. claimed he was driving. So, perhaps the police after all know something that they haven’t bothered to share with the public.
These delaying tactics of the Hungarian police are regrettable. It would be much better to inform the public of police findings as soon as possible. Otherwise doubts remain, just as they remain in the case of the Baja video.
In a normal, straight, matter-of-fact proceeding you’d get normal, straight matter-of fact infomation and statements from the respective authorities having jurisdiction over the matter.
The simple fact that the public or the media has to get invoved to straighten-out the facts points once again to the status quo in Hungary that is similar to the pre-WWII years of discrimintation, bad will and willful obstruction of justice as regards minorities.
When the government says nothing in a case that raises so many suspicions, you have what is called COLLUSION. It’s tacityl no different from what the government accused 9 or so banks of and fined them for many billions of forints.
This instance HOWEVER is MUCH more serious because its a case of government condoned amoral behavior.
Maybe Mr Orban and cohorts need to start going to church and examine themselves according to the rights and wrongs preached in the faith they sear to in their self-crated and spanking-new CONSTITUTION.
Hey, Orban and Co(horts) how about adhereing to what you PREACH !!!!!
It doesn’t seem that the driver stopped to inform the owner. That suggests that the owner knew the ‘mission’ the car was sent on. The fact that the car is an expensive Mercedes seems to suggest, in the inimitable ways of the Hungarian mind, that the ‘message’ is that powerful, wealthy forces were behind the action.
Ain’t the Hungarian anti-semites a wonderful thing and a joy forever?
Anybody for another viewing of ‘The Music Box’?
“In order to run into it one would have to break through a guard rail and drive across a ditch.” This had to be a special Mercedes made in Hungary, that can fly. I don’t see (based on the photograph above) how else a car could have arrived accidentally to the location of the statue.
I did this route many times, and this morning on google street view I did this again.
No way the driver could have hit the car coming from Abda, because than he had to come from behind the statue. Technically it is possible, as there is a small 100 meter road on the back.
Considering the picture of the damage statue they had to come from the front.
That means they had to turn left from no 1 route (from Gyor) or right from Abda. Drive 50 meter up hill (interesting on street view a police car is seeing on this scene), Turn sharp right, give gas and hit the statue.That part of the road has no asphalt, but small basalt blocks.
I am not even sure that the car has anything to do with the statue. It may have been in a conveniently damaged state and so the ‘perpetrators’ could plead a car accident instead of having to tell that they, or the real perpetrators simply somehow destroyed it. I am saying this because it is not uncommon in Hungary to pay for substitute people who will take responsibility for actions instead of the real perpetrators. There are no witnesses, they confess, get something minimal, if at all, and then get paid for their efforts (as they have no real jobs anyway).
Cink is just deplorable. Not only is it a reliable “liberal”-hater, it is interested much more in the meta-issues than in the real events. Apparently, it is much more important (it generates bigger traffic on cink’s site which is owned by Gawker.com by the way) to point out a purported controversy among journalists, to shout that it is only a “liberal cat-fight” which should be watched from the position of an objective observer (and lough on the whole thing, as liberals and leftist exists solely as a laughing stock) than to seek the truth, to do something real journalistic.
Looking at the maps and the pictures, I just can’t imagine a scenario in which somebody could have just “broken” the statue accidentally. Thanks for the post.
Petofi, the owner of the car is in jail.
Well, that sends the reasoning up in smoke…
But, another thing: if the act wasn’t culpable, wouldn’t they have reported it to the police.
The whole action of the driver smacks of, “Look what we’ve dared do against those damn jews!”
Furthermore, if the perpetrators had wished to escape detection, wouldn’t they have removed the licence plate? or, burned the car?
f.y.i. re the Radnóti book burning by prof. Ungvári Tamás:
When will this kind of nonsense ever stop? In Romania, military cemeteries of Hungarian war dead are routinely vandalised. How can Hungary protest against such vandalism if we do the same.
“When will this kind of nonsense ever stop?”
Note the implied insult of the very placement of the statue. The ostensible reason–that Radnoti fell here–smacks of typical Hungarian, smirking, mockery–“Let’s put it where no one will see it!”
Genius. Hungarian genius–that is…what amounts to “Hungarian Genius” when you subtract the Jews…
The evergreen bush is completely cut since the incident! I find it outrageous.
Look at the last seconds in the video:
Tappanch: Thank you for the video. It leaves such a very bad taste in the mouth…..Has nothing happened to the Radnóti statue on Nagymezo utca in Budapest?
Yes, I couldn’t mention everything in my short description of the events but I also found it outrageous that the police and perhaps the organization that takes care of public monuments removed all the evidence. One wonders whether the police investigated the scene properly or not. The objects, including the broken statue, are important pieces of evidence.The scene should have been untouched and declared to be off limit while serious investigation was being conducted, including hundreds of photographs of every but of the ground and the surroundings.
“How can Hungary protest against such vandalism if we do the same.”
Can someone explain this sentence to me please? It doesn’t appear to make sense, either as English, or logic.
I thought Joe Simon was saying “How can Hungary protest against such vandalism [the desecration of Hungarian cemeteries in Romania] if we do the same [desecrate the statue of a beloved poet].” That’s how I took it anyway. Perhaps he had something else in mind.
I understood it also in the sense that Gretchen wrote. I very much welcomed such a clear thought of Joe, who otherwise (I think) prefers to criticise the US as a reaction to criticism of Hungary. Csak így tovább. 🙂
Ah. I didn’t realise that by ‘we’ JS meant Hungarians (I thought, from is past postings, that JS was a US citizen!).
But, even with that interpretation, a) ‘we’ didn’t do anything – the actions of a few can’t be taken as the responsibility of an entire nation/people, and b) a crime is still a crime, and should be condemned as such just as much, even if ‘your side’ are guilty of similar crimes.
As I said, the ‘logic’ of his statement is completely wanting.
What is the vain reasoning in all this. Respect the dead, it is plain stupid thinking dwelling on destruction just to prove a point. Tasteless in my book.
Paul, probably it was not Joe Simon who drove the car but what he says (I believe) is that Hungarians should try to abstain from such actions. There should be some group pressure that does not tolerate that Hungarians behave that rudely. But in what you are completely right is that is quite funny when he asks his own compatriots to behave more respectfully to Hungarians if it is a national interest that also Romanians treat Hungarians more respectfully.
Exactly, you understood it right, Gretchen and Kirsten.
Having now ‘looked’ (via Google) at the scene of the accident (in as much as one can from out-of-date Street View photographs, etc), I don’t find the driver’s story as implausible as Éva suggests.
The road that the statue is/was on is the remains of the original Győr road, and would be very easy to drive onto by mistake in thick fog, as there is no ditch or embankment at that point. The first thing you would know about your mistake (assuming you didn’t feel/hear that you were on a different road surface) would be your almost immediate collision with the shrubs and the statue.
This is also consistent with the damage to the left-hand side of the car, as the driver would have presumably been driving on the right and the statue (again, presumably) was in the middle of the road.
Two things argue against this – the fact that the bushes behind the statue (i.e. the direction the car would have come from) look intact, and the damage to the car looks too severe for it to have been driven onwards. I have had a crash almost exactly similar to this (although a tree, not a statue!) and I was unable to even turn the wheels until the crushed wing was removed.
But both my reservations are based on assumptions drawn from single photographs, which may be giving an inaccurate impression. The damage to the car may be less severe than it looks (as modern car wings are designed to crumple even on relatively low impact to absorb the shock of the crash), so the car might still have been drivable (if not actually legally so!). And the damage to the shrubs caused by the car simply might not show in this view.
There appears to be some damage on the left of the picture, which is obscured by bushes in front of it, and this might be more severe than it looks. Also, we can’t be sure of the orientation of the picture – it looks like we are facing the statue from the approaching road (i.e. the opposite direction to that the car is supposed to have come from), but this might be a misleading impression caused by the severe damage to the statue and the apparent orientation of the road (which looks much the same from almost any direction because of the overlapping pattern of cobbles).
As for apparently driving off in the ‘wrong’ direction afterwards, this is perfectly believable. Young men in a valuable (and ‘borrowed’) car, who might have already been drinking, who run into, and destroy, a possibly very important/expensive statue at night, in fog, are hardly going to be thinking rationally.
I had some friends when I was much younger who accidentally drove their car off the road and into a field in fog one night. Whilst they were trying to push the car back on the road, the police arrived, and, without thinking, my friends ran off. They were immediately pursued, sparking off a serious incident involving many police vehicles and a helicopter. And when they were arrested, they were treated as highly suspicious potential criminals, and got into a load of trouble over the whole business – all because they had followed the young London youths’ natural instinct when faced with the police and a potentially tricky situation!
Also, on a purely circumstantial level, if you are going to deliberately damage a statue, do you choose to do it in an expensive, ‘borrowed’ car (borrowed, apparently, from someone in jail)? I would have used something like a pick-up truck, or a Land Rover, or perhaps a bulldozer – something with more power and mass than a saloon car – and I would have chosen one that was least likeliest to be in any way involved in anything criminal. At the very least, I would want to be sure I was going to do a lot more damage to the statue than the vehicle, and that I stood a very good chance of being able to drive away afterwards. I also wouldn’t have bothered driving over/into the bushes – given the position of the statue, it would be easy to damage it severely without even touching the bushes.
I suspect we are simply the ‘victims’ of that good old reliable favourite, coincidence (and, after all, we wouldn’t have a word for it, if it didn’t happen), and our natural suspicion of the right-wing and their tendency to damage statues of people they don’t like.
Even in Orbán’s world, just because something looks suspicious, doesn’t mean that it actually is.
As usual when the evidence is uncomfortable, authorities have a way of destroying what remains…
Cops are a reflection of the rightist elements of society. And they join together to bolster their own private beliefs. As a group they have tremendous power particularly when the judicial system is is happy to underscore the same results.
Looks to me Hungary has been HIJACKED by these right-wing forces.
The practical options for change appear very slim for the next 5 years or more during which the noose is just gonna tighten the more we wiggle in discomfort or pain.
The guy, (who caused the fall of the statue) belongs to the roma minority. So racist motifs are impossible.
Just a short note to Paul. I didn’t mean to suggest that it was deliberate. The only thing I claimed that the fellow’s story couldn’t have been true about their traveling to Győr. They had to come from Győr. So, why lie? Of course, it is possible that the police got mixed up, Anything is possible in Hungary.
“Nem mellesleg, aki 24 éves kora dacára többszörösen büntetett előéletű – sőt, micsoda véletlen, jelenleg is folyik ellene más ügyben büntetőeljárás – és az épp előzetes letartóztatásban lévő barátja által lopott autót vezette.”
The fact that the police destroyed or permitted the destruction of the evidence proves to me that it was a crime not an accident.
A bit OT:
The Spiegel has a very critical report on the new Holocaust museum and the handling of the 70 year anniversary in Hungary generally:
1. He didn’t necessarily lie. He’s from another town, and he drove at night, in dense fog. He may well have thought that he was driving toward Győr on the current #1 road, when in fact he was driving away from Győr on the old one. I remember that a couple of years ago, we were trying to get back to our hotel from San Gimignano, Tuscany, by car. Darkness had already fallen and though we did have a satnav, some construction work prevented us from taking the suggested route. We took a narrow mountain/hilltop road instead, with the satnav still trying to take us back on the route it had originally suggested. We thought we were driving away from San Gimignano but actually we were basically going round it in circles… Bottom line, in the middle of the night you do not always know correctly where you are.
2. He did lie, and for good reason. According to Pannon Media, which seems to be a regional news portal, the driver is a criminal who has been convicted multiple times. It is entirely possible that he had had some shady dealings in Győr, which is why he took the less travelied road, tried to get away after crashing into the statue, abandoned the car when he ran out of petrol, and lied about his driving direction/destination when he eventually reported himself to the police.
At any rate, it is evident that the memorial was not destroyed on purpose. Who would have trashed a Mercedes, putting his personal safety at risk in the process, just to knock down a statue they didn’t like? Linking this accident to anti-Semitism is ridiculous.
The man who caused the accident was gypsy origin person, . So racist motifs are impossible. Eva, do you think that Hungarian Gypsy people are antisemite?
Róbert Bogdán, who caused the accident belongs to the Romani (Gypsy) minority.
Comments are closed.