The end of Hungarian sovereignty on March 19, 1944?

On the last day of 2013 at 6:32 p.m. MTI, the Hungarian news agency, reported that the government had decided to erect sometime before March 19, 2014 a memorial to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the country’s occupation by Germany. Most commentators are baffled. They don’t understand why it is necessary to commemorate such an event. And why it was announced only three months before the deadline. And why did they wait until New Year’s Eve for the announcement? In addition, as one blogger noted, MTI referred to Magyar Közlöny‘s December 31 issue as the source of the news, but at the time of the announcement that particular issue was still not available.

Due to time constraints there will be no competition for the design. The government most likely already has its favorite artist, who will come up with something that will please the conservative taste of the government party’s politicians. And it will be placed on the same Szabadság tér which is already home to the Soviet memorial marking the liberation of Hungary in April of 1945.

In order to understand this latest move of the Orbán government we have to go back to the preamble of the new constitution which states  that “We date the restoration of our country’s self-determination, lost on the nineteenth day of March 1944, from the second day of May 1990, when the first freely elected body of popular representation was formed.” Clearly, the Fidesz government refuses to recognize any Hungarian responsibility for what happened after the German occupation. This is a falsification of history. Not only did Miklós Horthy remain in his post after March 19 but he still had a fair amount of freedom to act. For example, to appoint governments or even to stop the deportations when he came to fear that Hungary’s German ally would lose the war and he personally might be held responsible for the deportation and ultimate death of approximately 600,000 Jewish citizens of Hungary.

Együtt 2014-PM was the first to raise an objection to this “nonsense memorial,” as someone called it. Péter Juhász demanded a suspension of the project. According to Juhász, instead of a monument to the occupation the government should erect a column to commemorate the members of the resistance movement and the victims. Mind you, the former were appallingly few.

Mazsihisz, the association of Jewish religious communities, also objected to the decision. In their objection they pointed to the hurried decision without any prior consultation which “raised worries in the Jewish community at home and abroad.” They recognize only a Memorial Year of the Hungarian Holocaust, which allows for open and fruitful dialogue, not central decisions whose purpose is not at all clear.

MEASZ (Magyar Ellenállók es Antifasiszták Szövetsége), the association of anti-fascists and members of the resistance movement, hoped that the announcement about a new memorial is just a “bad joke.” They fear that the monument might become a gathering place for Hungary’s neo-Nazis.

Well, knowing the Fidesz government, I can predict that all these organizations can protest till Doomsday. On March 19, with sorrowful pomp and circumstance, Fidesz supporters will commemorate the loss of Hungarian sovereignty at the unveiling.

Jobbik, as might have been predicted, welcomed the idea. As far as the politicians of this neo-Nazi party are concerned, the memorial to German occupation should actually replace the Soviet monument standing on the same square right across from the U.S. Embassy. They would take the Soviet statue to the cemetery in which there is a section where high-ranking communist leaders are buried. So, there is no question on which side Jobbik stands.

Up to now only one historian was asked about his reaction to the project–Krisztián Ungváry, whose excellent book on anti-Semitism between the two world wars appeared a couple of weeks ago. The title of the book is A Horthy-rendszer mérlege: Diszkrimináció, szociálpolitika és antiszemitizmus  [The Balance Sheet of the Horthy Regime: Discrimination, Social Policy and anti-Semitism in Hungary] (Pécs: Jelenkor, 2013). It is a book of more than 600 pages and so far I’ve managed to read only 120 pages of it. But even that is enough to recognize that interwar Hungarian governments systematically strove to eliminate Jewish economic and professional preponderance and influence. It wasn’t only the numerus clausus; there were numerous administrative measures that made the economic and professional advancement of Hungary’s Jewish citizens difficult. That effort began in the early 1920s and continued all through the period.

Hungarian gendarmes supervise the transportation of provincial Jews to the designated railroad stations

Hungarian gendarmes supervise the transportation of provincial Jews to the designated railroad stations /Múlt-Kor

Ungváry points out that it is nonsense to claim that Hungary lost its right to self-determination on March 19, 1944. First, Hungary was an ally of Germany, and thus Hungary’s occupation cannot be compared to the German occupation of other countries in both the West and the East. Second, the Hungarian parliament, whose members were elected in 1939, was in session even after March 19, 1944. Moreover, the majority of the ministers of the Sztójai and Lakatos governments appointed by Horthy after March 19 also served in the government of Miklós Kállay (March 1942-March 19, 1944).

But the exculpatory rewriting of Hungarian history continues unabated. In a year or so the new school textbooks, which will be approved by a new body whose members will be selected by the government, will carry on the job of proving that the Hungarian government and the Hungarian people had nothing whatsoever to do with the deportation of the Hungarian Jewry. It was exclusively the Germans’ fault.

56 comments

  1. Half OT. You might be interested in a new film called Gitel (produced and directed by UK film director Bob Mullan) which tells of a massacre of Jews at Kovno / Kaunas, Lithuania during the war and which deals with the willing involvement of Lithuanians in the event. This has been swept under the carpet until now. Moreover it is a beautiful film.

  2. The Orban government answered to the objection of the largest Jewish denomination MaZsiHisz to the 1944 memorial with defiance today.

    They do not understand the Jewish community. “It is in Hungary’s [Fidesz-created] basic law that Hungary did not have independence between March 19, 1944 and May 2, 1990.”

    http://www.mazsihisz.hu/2014/01/02/nemet-megszallas-emlekmuve-%E2%80%93-nem-erti-a-kormany-a-mazsihiszt-6684.html

    The “basic law” forgot to mention that Hungary also lacked independence between 1526 and 1918.

  3. Tappanch you are frighteningly correct. Indeed what about those centuries? Mind you the official start of the Turkish occupation is only 1541. Nonetheless, your point is excellent.

  4. The basic law must record that Orban has sold out Hungary to his wealthy friends.
    From 2010 on, Hungary has lost its independence again.
    Orban was the grave digger.

  5. I am not a “green”. But I find it frightening that Fidesz cuts out lots of trees in every unnecessary project in Budapest – Parliament, Varosliget, Szabadsag ter.

    These Fidesz bumpkins want to smother Budapest not only intellectually, but also physically.

  6. “It was exclusively the Germans’ fault.”

    The only dumkin bumpkins who’ll believe that are the heroic Orbanites with the blue marks on their assets.

    To show the difference between German and Hungarian society today, one only has to note
    German reactions to anti-semitism. They’ve come a long way. Hence writers like the Nobel Prize Winner, Imre Kertesz, live in Berlin; and Kertesz has even removed all his original papers from Budapest as well.

    But the real test would be if those moronic bike riders with the “Give Gaz” signs would attempt a demonstration in Berlin. They’d be attacked and ripped to shreds…and it wouldn’t even be the jews who did it.

  7. The crimes of Hungarian leaders can be dated even to the non-independent periods.
    There is no amnesty for treason, genocide, and crimes against humanity
    Equally, the heroic acts of many decent Hungarians was also recorded in non-independent periods, too.
    There was rarely a regime as immoral as the Orban one.
    What is their excuse?

  8. @tappanch

    Chopping down trees often reflects ignorance, arrogance, poor taste and greed. I can’t say if that is “jellemzo” of these people, but if there is a pattern it might be.

    One of the influencers of Fidesz back at the time of the change in the system was the English philosopher Roger Scruton. He writes persuasively how green thinking is at the heart of traditional conservative thinking in his book Green Philosophy. It might be that Fidesz has not yet read this important book. Too busy chopping down trees I guess.

  9. As a contemporary anecdote says, the German occupation took a whole day, but it could have been faster. How? If they had not have to listen on all Railway stations to the welcome speeches of the Hungarian officials…

  10. THere is another important anniversary in 2014.

    Five hundred years ago, the oppressed Hungarians rose up against the oppressing Hungarian noblemen.

    After three months of fighting, the noblemen were victorious, Dozsa, the leader of the uprising was cannibalized by the victors.

    The vast majority of the population were deprived from their previously enjoyed right to escape a bad landlord.

    Verbewci’s (!) Tripartitum became the de facto law of the land justifying the oppression of the majority.

    Hungary became the land of the oppressed and oppressor in the last 500 years.

    The “jogászkodó” (legalistic to justify injustice) ideologues in the Orban government regard the Tripartitum as their guide, their Bible to devise new antidemocratic laws.

  11. Since we live on Dózsa G ut I’ve read up a bit on this. Something similar happened in most European countries – in Germany even Martin Luther was on the side of the oppressing aristocracy.

    So afaik Feudalism reigned in Hungary even after WW1 – the number of people who could vote was astonishingly low.

    I’ve read on pol.hu for example that many in Fidesz would like a return to these glorious times of Feudalism …

  12. The escape from feudalism had a name: Ferenc Deak 1803-1876
    The return to feudalism will be called: Ferenc Deak Erased Again
    Democracy and Deak start with the same D and E.

  13. “And why it was announced only three months before the deadline.”

    Because, like all laws, policies, and actions of this government, it is essentially improvised. This government came into power with no program other than to secure, in any way possible, it’s continuing reelection. Hence the storm of laws and codes and the unbelievable amateur constitution written in days on someone’s laptop during train trips, which come rapidly to votes and, oh so often, rapidly to amendments
    .

  14. Tappanach,
    You’re absolutely right about the trees. One could not have imagined that a self-styled anti-communist government would chop down trees with Stalinist zeal, but they have not only done that, but exceeded it. The government sections of Pest are now surrounded by plazas that mimic Sophia, Bucharest, and Pyongyang in their defoliated monumental ugliness. I have noticed real anger among my Hungarian friends about this, even among the Fidesz faithful. I believe that Fidesz has played its cards very badly here and misjudged their own voter’s tastes. I even believe that an LMP, if it were to put emphasis on this as a green issue, could sway a large number of conservative voters simply by promising to make the parliament place green again.

  15. Didn’t green issues (nagymaros) have some role in felling the previous regime? Although we ceaselessly plunder nature, perhaps she can save us again.

  16. The carving in stone of the whole Fidesz constitution has been postponed until the government has run out of ideas for amendments. However the government cannot wait that long to have one particular paragraph hammered out in stone to last for eternity: “(The) country’s self-determination (was) lost on the nineteenth day of March 1944”. By this paragraph the Hungarians are by law relieved of any responsibility for the deportation of the Jews. The Germans did it. Not our problem.

    In fact it is the core problem. Hungary is doomed if the Hungarians are for ever allowed to reject responsibility and wallow in the postulated courage, wisdom and sanctity of their forebears. This attitude does not posses a competitive edge in our time. Tell peopled the truth in stead making monuments for lies. The lie about the non- involvement of Hungarians in the deportations must be tackled first. All the other lies will fall with it.

  17. Eva S. Balogh :
    Ungváry points out that it is nonsense to claim that Hungary lost its right to self-determination on March 19, 1944. First, Hungary was an ally of Germany, and thus Hungary’s occupation cannot be compared to the German occupation of other countries in both the West and the East.

    Actually, a parallel could be attempted with what happened in France in November 1942, when the German and Italian armies invaded the “Free Zone”. The Vichy Regime continued to operate until August 44. Obviously, no ruling party in France would consider commemorating Nov. 11th, 1942, but that’s because Pétain’s rule is generally considered illegitimate from its start in July 1940. The legal situation is more complex, nevertheless the political myth of Vichy’s native illegitimacy – created by De Gaulle – proved quite convenient. It even allowed the French Republic to eventually assume the sins of Vichy, however fifty years later.

    In the present Hungarian case, this is yet another example of Horthyculture, Fidesz style. Unlike historians (thanks for mentioning Ungváry’s book, it looks extremely interesting) politicians know they have to draw the line somewhere in time. Problem is, choosing the date they choosed it seems they’re eager to whitewash Hungary joining the Axis in 1940, the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, the three main antisemitic laws of 1938-1941, forced labor and so on… this is such a bad idea. I’m still amazed (or is it appalled) that such moves haven’t provoked among some Fidesz or KDNP elected officials a desire to split and create a right-of-center spin-off.

  18. Jean P :
    By this paragraph the Hungarians are by law relieved of any responsibility for the deportation of the Jews. The Germans did it. Not our problem.

    I agree with your analysis, but I think it is only part of the issue. The behavior of the Royal Hungarian armed forces and administration during the occupation of Serbian and Slovenian territories, for instance, was notoriously infamous. It’s weird to read the same day Dr. Balogh’s piece on this subject and a news dispatch according to which “The Hungarian Air Force will secure Slovenia’s air space”.

  19. I look forward to see one more new monument as soon as possible too, to the Great Kahn, Batu, commemorating the occupation of Hungary as well.
    Seriously, it’s missing! Long overdue, even with orbanist standards more than 700 years!
    (It happened 773 years ago, as you well know.)

    Then, and only then could we rightfully claim our place among the red-dotted nations..!
    (Sorry petofi, our learned dr.Matolcsy just can’t be wrong, – he genetically unable to err, you know..!)

  20. I don’t really understand what is going on here.

    A few questions have to be asked:

    Was this a real historical event on March 19 in 1944?

    -yes

    Was this historical event a good thing or a bad thing?

    -bad

    Is it a common occurence to commemorate negative/bad historical events?

    -yes it is extremely common with thousands of example

    So what is the issue here, I don’t get it.

    If the argument was: Let’s not live in the past, look into the future, nobody cares what happened a long time ago, let’s not waste money on these things. I would understand that, but that seems not to be the argument.
    I don’t see how is this any different from thousands of things about negative historical events and or suffering.

    I would guess that 99% of the population had no idea that anything happened at all on March 19, and if articles talk about it, that can only be a good thing.

  21. @Mr.Paul

    Are there sculptures in Budapest squares to commemorate the successful Mongol, Turkish, and numerous Austrian occupations of Hungary? I do not think so.

    It is horrible and shameful, but
    the Nazi occupation of Hungary was met with the approval of a large percentage of the Hungarian population in 1944.

    A March 19 memorial and the Horthy bust on the same square will be magnets for demonstrations by Nazi groups.

  22. @Mr. Paul The original sin is not the erection of a monument although it is bad enough. The real problem is the preamble of the new constitution that claims that Hungary has lost its sovereignty on March 19, 1944. The implication is that the Hungarian governments of 1944—Sztójai, Lakatos, Szálasi–were in no way responsible for what happened in the country. And that is an outright lie.

    The Germans couldn’t pass the buck and eventually they decided to take full responsibility for what happened in Nazi Germany. The Austrians tried to deny their responsibility for a while but eventually they admitted that the great majority of Austrians were supporters of Hitler’s Germany and were elated when German soldiers marched in Austria. Their learned their lesson and faced the facts

    In Hungary, on the other hand, this government fosters the myth that only the German occupation was responsible for the Hungarian Holocaust. They claim that neither the Hungarian government, nor the Hungarian people could do anything. But Viktor Orbán doesn’t do any favor to the Hungarian people by assisting them in this kind of self-delusion.

    There are other problems with the constitution’s preamble. According to the text Hungary didn’t regain its sovereignty until May 2, 1990 when the new, democratically elected parliament convened. If we take that seriously then no political criminal of the communist regime is responsible for anything he did. This government just now is after Béla Biszku, a hard-line who might be responsible for the deaths of several 1956 revolutionaries. And here the Orbán government gets into trouble. If foreign occupation is an excuse for what happened in 1944 how can they deny the same to the communist commissars of Rákosi and Kádár?

    Just a few problems with the memorial. As we go along I’m sure we will find many more.

  23. Eva: ” If foreign occupation is an excuse for what happened in 1944 how can they deny the same to the communist commissars of Rákosi and Kádár?”

    I think the argument goes: It’s not Hungary that’s responsible but a well isolated group of Hungarians who has been punished for collaborating with the occupying forces in the Nazi case but the communist ones walked away freely.

    Of course, the first half of this is false in both cases. This country doesn’t just refuse to take responsibility for being either silent or complicit with the antisemitic policies of the Horthy era and later the holocaust, but also that after the 50s we made the deal with Kádár and we were also complicit in our own oppression. Of course this is not an individual issue for most people, there were victims, there were some who did the right thing, helped, resisted, leave the collective guilt to Edouard Benes. On the other hand, we – as the community of the people of Hungary, (note that I say we, even though I was -50 years old then) can’t relieve ourselves from the responsibility.

  24. @Mr. Paul You are right in the sense that there is nothing wrong with commemorating a historical event of negative impact. The problem is with the governments motives behind it. This is not an honest commemoration.

  25. What the present Hungarian Government wishes to do by commemorating the day when Hitler finally gave up on the Hungarian and Horthy’s Kallay Kettös is indeed confusing. Maybe they wish to take the example of the British and Australians who like to commemorate battles they lost, such as Gallipoli, etc.
    But I am more inclined to agree with Ms Balogh that it is an attempt to divorce responsibility of the Hungary of 1944 from the disaster of not only the murder of the Jews but also the loss of some 250,000 or more Hungarians during WWII. But any person with a sense of justice and a bit of knowledge of the years after WWI know that Hungary was rushing into the disaster without the need for the occupation by the Germans on March 19th 1944.

    Any way, what was this date and how was it different from others. I have been exactly 17 years and 10 month old and can recall everything what happened during the next period while we were supposed to have been under German occupation. Well, I can vouch for the fact that while there were some German soldiers seen on the streets as they were peacefully walking along the boulevards of Budapest and I believe, they were also transported (albeit very discretely) across Hungary in trains and be driven towards Serbia, Romania or Poland.

    Hungary was as Hungarian during the times of occupation as during times when Hungary was at peace and it was governed by the same Admiral Horthy and a Hungarian Government appointed by him.

    Hungary did not require the peaceful occupation of the Germans to be against the Jews or the Communists, they were very much ahead of the Germans with their first ever anti-Jewish legislation in 1920, just a year after the Admiral became the Regent and the subsequent anti-Jewish laws of 1938, 1939 and 1942 and they were happily went along with the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the murders of Novi-Sad and the deportations to Kamenets Podolsk. No occupation of the country were required for these actions by the Hungarian Governments. That in May 1944, Eichmann co-ordinated and organised not the deportation of 438,000 Jews from the provinces, but Messrs. Jaross, Endre and Baky and Hungarian Gendarmes who were arranging along Eichmann’s well tried methods the deportations under the nose of the same Horthy Miklos, who sat on his hands until it was pointed out to him, that some of the happenings between 1919 and 1944 might be used to string him up at the end of the loss of WWII by his erstwhile comrades in arms, namely Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

    I did not see any Germans running my Hungary and when I encountered them at the Airport of Kecskemet, where their air force was using the common facilities, they were polite, friendly, good natured young men. They had nothing to do with us working as labourers extending the runways and I only met them because I was working as a store man in the building where they shared with the Hungarian air force.

    No, 19th March 1944 maybe a date which should be mentioned as a historical date, but to erect a memorial for this date, when it did only mean the appointment of a new Government , which shared members of the new and old one and by the same Regent who approved it and watched from his palace as his army was being destroyed, while his Government mistreated and deported and interned Jews, some of whom fought in WWI with his “vitez” comrades is a shameless attempt by the present Government of Hungary to whitewash the shame of not only 1944 but the period between 1919 and 1945.

    That present day Hungary is talking about the erection of a memorial about March 19 is especially shameful in the year when the 70th anniversary of the death of over half a million Jews is planned to commemorated.

    Shame Hungary, shame.

  26. Thank you, Mr Colman – that was a very succinct but also moving account of those times!

  27. Sacolman :
    Hungary did not require the peaceful occupation of the Germans to be against the Jews or the Communists, they were very much ahead of the Germans with their first ever anti-Jewish legislation in 1920, just a year after the Admiral became the Regent and the subsequent anti-Jewish laws of 1938, 1939 and 1942 and they were happily went along with the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the murders of Novi-Sad and the deportations to Kamenets Podolsk. No occupation of the country were required for these actions by the Hungarian Governments.
    (…)
    No, 19th March 1944 maybe a date which should be mentioned as a historical date, but to erect a memorial for this date, when it did only mean the appointment of a new Government , which shared members of the new and old one and by the same Regent who approved it and watched from his palace as his army was being destroyed, while his Government mistreated and deported and interned Jews, some of whom fought in WWI with his “vitez” comrades is a shameless attempt by the present Government of Hungary to whitewash the shame of not only 1944 but the period between 1919 and 1945.

    I absolutely agree. Sovereignty comes with responsibility. In my view, the Hungarian regime became irresponsible some time around the 1935 elections, and the first poisoned fruits of the drift were ripe in 1938, with the May antisemitic law and the First Vienna Award in November. Gömbös, Darányi, Imrédy…

    The Horthy regime clearly took the path to war and ethnic cleansing long before March 1944. And as much as I can understand the deep wounds resulting from both Trianon and the Red/White terrors, this isn’t the kind of ‘sovereignty’ a 21st European country should be gloating about.

  28. @Sacolman, Thank you for your contribution. Indeed, what you write is the bitter truth. I was only eight but I’m blessed with an exceptionally good memory and thus I remember a lot. A few German soldiers could be seen walking about the city who were most likely surprised at the still relatively plentiful food available in Hungary. My mother was told by a shopkeeper that two German soldiers bought half a liter sour cream each and drank it on the on the spot. My cousin and I encountered a couple of them who were offering us chocolate but since my parents were terribly anti-German we were told immediately get into the house. Indeed, they were nice young men who meant no harm.

  29. The English wiki says about the Arrow Cross: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_Cross_Party
    “When it contested the May 1939 elections – the only ones in which it participated – the party won 15% of the vote and 29 seats in the Hungarian Parliament.”

    On the other hand, the German version: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pfeilkreuzler

    “Bei der ungarischen Parlamentswahl im Jahre 1939 erreichte die Pfeilkreuzlerpartei ihren größten Erfolg. Sie erhielt 900.000 Stimmen (rund 25 Prozent) und zählte 250.000 Parteimitglieder”

    Which is correct ?

    Also the German wiki remarks that many Hungarians were not allowed to vote …

  30. A bit OT – but connected to Hungary in WW2:

    The film “The Notebook” based on the 1986 French-language novel “Le Grand Cahier” by Hungarian author Ágota Kristóf might get an Oscar …

    I hadn’t heard the name of the author before, but an article on the book (it is part of a trilogy about growing up in Hungary during and after WW2) made me curious:
    http://zizekstudies.org/index.php/ijzs/article/viewfile/327/410

    If Slavoj Žižek writes about a book it is bound to be interesting …

    Has anyone here read those books?

  31. Re 1939 election. A very detailed table of the results can be found here:

    http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/1939-es_v%C3%A1laszt%C3%A1sok#Az_1939-es_v.C3.A1laszt.C3.A1sok

    The problem with the different numbers is that there were many far-right parties in addition to the Arrow-Cross Party. Although Szálasi’s party won only 11.15% of the votes but put together all the parties right of the government the number is much higher. György Ranki in the Academy’s multi-volume history of Hungary puts their percentage in parliament at 19.2%

    According to estimates the actual support for the Arrow-Cross was much higher than what this table shows. Arrow Cross candidates were unable to run in all the voting districts because of financial and administrative constraints.

    There were only three “democratic” opposition parties: Kisgazdapárt (Smallholders), Szociáldemokrata Párt and the Polgári Szabadságpárt. The smallholders and the social democrats lost mightily. The smallholders had 22 seats before 1939 but after the election only 14; the social democrats used to have 11 seats but after the election only 5. The third party was the party of the liberal, mostly Jewish, voters of Budapest. They maintained their five seats. By the way, they were the only ones who refused to participate in the voting on the anti-Jewish laws.

  32. Éva: ” Indeed, they were nice young men who meant no harm.”

    In this very moment perhaps. Whether in other situations also we cannot say. But such statement is perhaps not different from what Hungarians could mean when they say that they do not see how they or their country has been involved other than “somehow” (despite many “nice people who meant no harm”) the Jews were deported because a “small group of people” took over the government. (I exaggerate on purpose to make the point.)

  33. @ Wolfi. Yes, I read all the ”Notebook” trilogy a long time, before I ever came to Hungary. They are fascinating books, written in a very interesting style – especially the first one.

    The writer (Agota Kristof) left Hungary when she was quite young to live in Switzerland. And she wrote only in French, I think (where the novels were published). She never mentions Hungary or anyone’s nationality in the books, although one could guess that the events take place somewhere near the Austrian border.

    It’s interesting because she never ever makes nationality relevant. It’s just people trying to survive while other people do bad and strange things.

    I haven’t seen the film, and I’m not sure I want to. The novels were such an exciting experience.

    Interestingly, I tried to encourage Hungarians to read these books when I first came here (about 15 years ago). And I very often got a negative reaction – many people didn’t even want to start reading a book by someone who had left the country.

  34. Kirsten :
    Éva: ” Indeed, they were nice young men who meant no harm.”
    In this very moment perhaps. Whether in other situations also we cannot say. But such statement is perhaps not different from what Hungarians could mean when they say that they do not see how they or their country has been involved other than “somehow” (despite many “nice people who meant no harm”) the Jews were deported because a “small group of people” took over the government. (I exaggerate on purpose to make the point.)

    Those nice young soldiers were indeed very well aware what the fate of the people they’re assist to be sent away going to be.

    One of my grandfather had a guesthouse/pub/restaurant at the time in a small town near the western peak of lake Balaton. The place had a large courtyard, there were the people ordered to gather before going to the railway station to be transported ‘for labour’ as they made believe would happen. My mother – then about twenty years old – overheard the otherwise polite soldiers, when they talked among each other about how the Jewish “will be smoked”, and a few more grisly references. She became extremely concerned, because among others the father of her best friend were among the people, the local pharmacist, who played card with my grandfather, the catholic priest and a teacher on every sunday, they were friends in short.
    She told to my grandfather who had possibility to move freely in the courtyard – he owned the place, and there was business to attend as if nothing happened – and he find his friend and told him to run, because there is no return trip. He didn’t want to believe, nobody around them, so finally my grandfather pushed him in one of the toilet-booths and locked him in, later by opening a few planks let him out at the back, and told him to get the family and run.
    Shortly after the Hungarian gendarme transported the people to the station, then it turned out, that the pharmacist missing. Didn’t take long before they figured out, that he was still there in the courtyard, and the only people with free access was my grandpa. Then those nice soldiers somehow changed attitude, and tried to force out the information of him, where is the missing Jew.
    When, due to the commotion my grandmother ran out from the house, my grandpa was already holding himself above the well – he was forced to – with a gun at his head, because he was non-cooperative and rather stubborn. Then my grandma singlehandedly attacked the German soldiers screaming, and everyone from the restaurant came out.

    Since it was the centre of the district and my grandfather’s place was suitable enough even the officers were stationed there at the time, and were dining when all hell broke.
    They asked, what is all about, and my mother explained to them, that it certainly must be some misunderstanding, because the man mistreated there is her father, and they certainly wouldn’t seriously suspect, that he involved by any way, would they?
    Thank to the excellent language skills of my mother, – not to mention, that she was very attractive too – the officer in charge dismissed the case and sent the gendarme away to search elsewhere.

    Yes, the family managed to escape, I have heard of them in the sixties.

  35. This monument is a monument to non-resistance. Why commemorate passivity and collaboration?

  36. @spectator What a fabulous story of courage!!! Perhaps it would be better to have a memorial to that instead? I am sure there were many others. To celebrate the bravery of a few ordinary people is not to deny the collaboration of others. “Ordinary”, that is, in their station in life, not in their courage.

  37. James Atkins :
    @spectator What a fabulous story of courage!!! Perhaps it would be better to have a memorial to that instead? I am sure there were many others. To celebrate the bravery of a few ordinary people is not to deny the collaboration of others. “Ordinary”, that is, in their station in life, not in their courage.

    I am positive, there were many others. Even in the coming years, era, there was always ‘the common people’ who made a difference.
    Actually the same grandfather of mine was saved of deportation – being a ‘kulak’, the ‘enemy’ of the system – by his neighbours, they moved them and emptied their house overnight, before the AVH would come – and the info was leaked by the communist party secretary beforehand.
    An average Hungarian history, I would say.
    Life is always complicated there for some reason, there is never only blacks and whites.

  38. Here’s a (probably daft) idea. What if we started an online petition to change the statue from being about a negative and divisive thing to one which celebrates great acts of bravery by ordinary people during wwII in Hungary. It could become a place to rally unity not division, to celebrate positive bits of Hungary’s history not negative bits and it could show bearers of hatred that there is a better way!

  39. Maybe these stories should be made into a book – or better into a film!

    Some story comes to my mind regularly:

    I read about the (mis)adventures of the internationally famous Jewish mathematician (I used to be a mathematician myself …) of Turán Pál who because of the numerus clausus couldn’t get an academic job and was sent to a labour camp around 1940. He was a collaborator of the probably better known Paul Erdös

    I can see the story as it might be shown in a Hollywood film:

    Turan (a frail guy) in the camp is working on a tree when one of the other workers calls out: Be careful, Turan.

    One of the guards (who was a proofreader for scientifiv journals in civilian life) tries to mock him:
    Now tell me something about Turan’s theorem!

    Without thinking Turan starts and says: oh, btw , while working here I found a much more elegant proof …

    The stunned guard says: You are Turan ? Well, then I have to find an easier job for you, come with me, you’ll work in the office …

    In the end, Turan was saved – but all his family was killed …

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A1l_Tur%C3%A1n
    I won’t link to his math biography – you know only one link allowed here …

  40. The memorial can be the brainchild of Finkelstein.
    The good description is: Monument of Hungarian German War Cooperation.

  41. Eva S. Balogh :
    Re 1939 election. A very detailed table of the results can be found here:
    http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/1939-es_v%C3%A1laszt%C3%A1sok#Az_1939-es_v.C3.A1laszt.C3.A1sok
    The problem with the different numbers is that there were many far-right parties in addition to the Arrow-Cross Party. Although Szálasi’s party won only 11.15% of the votes but put together all the parties right of the government the number is much higher. György Ranki in the Academy’s multi-volume history of Hungary puts their percentage in parliament at 19.2%
    According to estimates the actual support for the Arrow-Cross was much higher than what this table shows. Arrow Cross candidates were unable to run in all the voting districts because of financial and administrative constraints.
    There were only three “democratic” opposition parties: Kisgazdapárt (Smallholders), Szociáldemokrata Párt and the Polgári Szabadságpárt. The smallholders and the social democrats lost mightily. The smallholders had 22 seats before 1939 but after the election only 14; the social democrats used to have 11 seats but after the election only 5. The third party was the party of the liberal, mostly Jewish, voters of Budapest. They maintained their five seats. By the way, they were the only ones who refused to participate in the voting on the anti-Jewish laws.

    The support of the various Nazi and Arrow-Cross parties was even larger, usually between 1/3 and 1/2 of the votes, where they were on the ballot at all, since they were not listed in large parts of the country. For instance, the support for Nazi parties was above 43% in the election districts of Zala, Győr-Moson, Budapest surroundings, Central and Northern Pest-Pilis, and above 36% in Veszprém, Vas, Szabolcs-Ung, Sopron, Nógrád-Hont, Jász-Nagykun, Southern Pest town and Buda town. The Nazi parties were not on the ballot mainly in the Eastern third of the country and in Somogy, Baranya, Tolna, Fejér. Their smallest support was in Békés county (15%), Pécs town (19%), Szeged town (22%) and in Northern Pest town (27%)[

  42. Dear Eva,

    I think the site vokscentrum was maintained by Politikatorteneti Intezet. The Orban government declared war on this institute of history. The institute probably did not have money to continue the site. [The site was still in existence as late as May 2013]

    Fidesz discontinued any government funding to the institute,
    they put it in their pseudo-constitution and “cardinal” laws that the government can take over the archive of the institute and even the premises of the institute.

    http://www.polhist.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4:torteneti-adattarak&catid=7:torteneti-adattarak&Itemid=67

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