Mária Vásárhelyi: An open letter to Mrs. Annette Lantos

vasarhelyi mariaMária Vásárhelyi is a sociologist whose main interest is the state of the media. She is the daughter of Miklós Vásárhelyi (1917-2001) who served as the press secretary of the second Imre Nagy government. As a result he and his family, including the three-year-old Mária, were deported together with Imre Nagy and his family to Snagov, Romania. Miklós Vásárhelyi received a five-year sentence for his activities during the 1956 Revolution. I should add that Mária Vásárhelyi is one of my favorite publicists in Hungary.

* * *

Dear Mrs. Lantos,

Although we have not met personally, your late husband and my late father, Miklós Vásárhelyi, used to hold each other in high esteem; therefore I take the liberty to write this letter to you.

The tie between your husband and my father was not only based on common historical experience and mutual personal sympathy; they also shared some values that were manifest in moral and political issues that both of them found crucially important. And both of them bravely took a stance whenever they saw those values endangered. Among these principles the idea of freedom was of primary importance, as well as the representation of human rights, or responsibility for the situation of the minorities and the oppressed. Both fought in the Hungarian armed resistance against the fascist occupation; they worked to bring down the state socialist dictatorship; they stood up for the rights of Hungarian communities beyond the borders; and also spoke out after the democratic transformation, when racist and anti-Semitic views came to the fore on the political scene.

As far as I remember, among Hungarians living abroad, your husband was the first to protest when István Csurka’s anti-Semitic pamphlet “Some Thoughts” was published. He also raised his voice in 2007 when the Slovak Parliament reaffirmed the infamous Beneš Decrees. Your husband was most determined in his condemnation of the establishment of the Hungarian Guard, an anti-Roma and anti-Semitic organization, whose purpose was to intimidate and publicly humiliate the minorities in Hungary. To my knowledge, when he last met Viktor Orbán he made a point of expressing his dismay about how several politicians from Fidesz gave support to the foundation and activities of the Hungarian Guard, with Fidesz as a party not distancing itself unambiguously from that paramilitary organization.

The deep, principled understanding and mutual appreciation between your husband and my father was testified to by the speech Tom Lantos made in the House of Representatives on October 6, 2005, in which he emphasized my father’s “significant contribution to the cause of freedom and democracy,” as someone “who played a critically important role before and during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and again in the 1970s and 1980s, in the struggle to transform Hungary from a one-party communist state into a multi-party democracy.”

In the light of these facts I am certain you will understand why I find it so important to write to you about the House of Fates, on whose International Consultative Board you were invited to be a member. I am convinced that this institution, rather than serving its officially proclaimed aim of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive and drawing the public’s attention to the tragedy of child victims, would serve the falsification of history, the politically motivated expropriation of historical memory, and purposes of party propaganda. The policies of the Orbán administration during the past few years, and its ambivalent (to put it mildly) relations with the extreme right; its policy of ignoring the growth of anti-Semitism in Hungary; as well as all that we know about the project so far – its contents, the circumstances of its establishment, the name itself, the location selected and the deadline chosen for its construction, the person in charge, the choice of the trustees – tend to suggest that the real purpose of the new European Educational Center is to downplay whatever responsibility Hungary had for the Holocaust and to mend the damaged international reputation of the current right-wing government.

During the past few years there have been more and more acts of desecration of Jewish symbols, prayer houses, cemeteries, and attacks on individuals whom the attackers took to be Jewish. A series of international and Hungarian sociological surveys give evidence of an extraordinary growth of anti-Semitism within Hungarian society; at least one fourth of the population openly declares it has anti-Semitic views, and many more people are simply prejudiced against the Jews. Everyday anti-Semitic discourse (zsidózás) is quite common in the streets and other public spaces. The same surveys make it clear that while the economic crisis played a role in the increased number of these occurrences, its effect has been boosted in the right-wing and extreme-right political context. Meanwhile, according to comparative research conducted in nine EU member states, it is Hungary where people of Jewish descent feel the most threatened. In 2012, 91% of the members of the Hungarian Jewish community said anti-Semitism had recently worsened to a smaller or larger degree; it is the largest portion among the countries surveyed. During five years, the number of those who consider anti-Semitism a serious social problem has nearly doubled. I am, of course, aware of the fact that anti-Semitism has become more widespread in most European countries, but it is still revealing that while only 11% of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom thinks of anti-Semitism as “a very big problem,” in Hungary 49% hold this view. In the UK 18% of those identifying themselves as Jews have contemplated emigration because of “not feeling safe as Jews”, while in Hungary this ratio is 48%.

I also believe that Viktor Orbán and his party are heavily responsible for the growth of anti-Semitism in Hungary. The Hungarian government’s reputation is rapidly worsening in the eyes of the democratic world, and this is largely due to their particular responses to ever-growing racism and anti-Semitism as well as some of their decisions concerning personal appointments and cultural policy, which gave fuel to such vicious emotions. Falsification of Hungary’s history, whitewashing the crimes of the Horthy era, elevating well-known anti-Semites (public figures, politicians, writers) to the national pantheon, while throwing mud at brave and honest left-wing and liberal patriots, are all features of the current government’s cultural and heritage policies. Parts of the media, which this government supports morally or financially (in direct and indirect ways), are full of overt and covert racist or anti-Semitic statements. Several of the figureheads of the pro-government press openly incite hatred against homosexuals, Jews, and the Roma. In the first rows of the so-called “Peace Marches,” demonstrations organized to prove that there is mass support behind Fidesz’s policies, there are well-known anti-Semites. One of the leaders of the quasi-NGO responsible for these marches used to be a founder and intellectual leader of the Hungarian Guard; another one, an emblematic figure in Fidesz, is a journalist whose work can be legally criticized as anti-Semitic, according to a court ruling. Still another leading figure of the Fidesz-related media can justly be called the father of Holocaust relativization in Hungary.

The government uses doublespeak. On the one hand, the deputy prime minister at the conference of the Tom Lantos Institute, Hungary’s ambassador at the United Nations, or, most recently, the President of the Republic, have used words of humanism and solidarity commemorating the victims of the Holocaust and admitting in unambiguous language that the Hungarian state and public administration bore responsibility for the murder of 600,000 of our Jewish compatriots. On the other hand, the government itself and government institutions have made countless gestures to the far right, relativizing the Holocaust, and denying that the Hungarian state apparatus was responsible to any degree.

This intention of downplaying Hungarian responsibility for the Holocaust is most apparent in the preamble of the Fundamental Law (Constitution), promulgated in 2011 under the Fidesz government, which states, “our country’s self-determination [was] lost on the nineteenth day of March 1944”. Which means that Germany as the occupying power must bear full responsibility for the deportation and wholesale murder of Hungarian Jewry. Apart from the fact that it was not an occupation in the international legal sense (the German armed forces did not occupy any Hungarian territories against the will of the Hungarian government), plenty of historical evidence and the testimonies of the survivors prove that the Hungarian authorities’ zeal and effectiveness in organizing the deportations shocked even the Germans, including high-level SS officers, while a significant part of the population watched the deportation of their fellow citizens with utmost indifference. The narrative that the government suggests through the text of the Fundamental Law is, therefore, an utter lie. Similarly, the planned 70th anniversary commemorations of the Holocaust are marked by an intention of falsification and lies – including the establishment of The House of Fates European Educational Center.

The name House of Fates is evidently an allusion to Nobel laureate Imre Kertész’s novel Fatelessness, but its message is quite the opposite. It suggests that being murdered in a concentration camp was the fate of those children, but, although they lived through it, the fate was not theirs. As Kertész writes, “if there is such a thing as fate, then freedom is not possible (…) if there is such a thing as freedom, then there is no fate (…) That is to say, then we ourselves are fate.” (English translation by Tim Wilkinson) This is how the main protagonist of the novel, Gyurka Köves, formulates the key to his own story, when he realizes that whatever happened to him was not his own fate, although he himself lived through it. The name House of Fates is not just a play on words but a complete misinterpretation of the essence of the Holocaust. And not just the name but also the site is a telling sign of the intellectual emptiness behind the lofty and bombastic use of the Holocaust as a political instrument. Holocaust researchers and survivors all agree that the Józsefváros Railway Station is not a symbolic site of deportation, and no children were taken from there to Auschwitz. The historian in charge of the project’s concept – who once happened to call the Horthy régime, which presided over the Hungarian Jews’ total deprivation of rights and exclusion, “a democracy until 1938” – is not a Holocaust expert. During the past 25 years, she has not produced any publications of scholarly merit on this subject but was at the center of quite a few scandals.

The plans that have been leaked out indicate that the central message of the Educational Center would not be the tragedy of innocent children but the rescuers, those brave and honorable citizens who put their lives at risk in their efforts to help and save their persecuted compatriots. Naturally, there should be monuments commemorating their bravery and sacrifice, but why must the plight of many thousands of murdered children be used for that purpose? This is the dishonest betrayal and political utilization of the child victims’ memory.

Dear Annette Lantos, living thousands of kilometers away from Hungary you may not be aware of all this. That is why I felt it was my duty to inform you of these issues and draw your attention to some aspects of the cause in support of which your late husband’s memory and your own name are being used. I ask you to reconsider whether you want to participate in the Consultative Board’s proceedings.

Respectfully yours,

Mária Vásárhely

65 comments

  1. I find this letter extremely good and might cause reflection by Mrs Lantos as to her connection with the rulers of present day Hungary.

    The other observation of mine is the same I made in connection with historian Krisztian Ungvary i.e. that he cannot even be accused of being a Jew as others who oppose the present Hungarian regime will be. The only difference is that Ms Vasarhelyi cannot be accused of being either a Jew or a Communist.

    Let’s wait a while for what she will be accused of.

  2. I have to agree – a fantastic letter that sums up the problems of the Orbán regime re WW2 and the decimation of the Hungarian Jews.

    PS and a bit OT:

    If only there existed a Hungarian politician like our German president Mr Gauck …

  3. Jean P :
    Sculptural history lesson galore: Gavrilo Princip in Belgrade

    Not a good sign either.This newfound passion for the adversarial history of Europe is a symptom of the malaise that we have witnessed since the start of the economic crisis : the weakening of the EU cohesion and the return of nationalism.
    Serbia would better recall that it lost 27% of its population during WW2 (60% of its male population).It was devastating.

  4. wolfi :
    I have to agree – a fantastic letter that sums up the problems of the Orbán regime re WW2 and the decimation of the Hungarian Jews.
    PS and a bit OT:
    If only there existed a Hungarian politician like our German president Mr Gauck …

    Are you sure? http://tinyurl.com/oc5m2du

  5. Thank you for this, Eva. I add my own experieince to her thoughtful letter.

    Of the scattered and meaningless numbers –numbers which lead to misunderstanding and rancor, in Hungary called “numbers war” –a great step was taken by Rabbi Mier Lau in reshaping Yad Vashem around the lives of several families. He had learned the great lesson provided by Anna Frank who suddenly lifted memory from an undifferentiated mass grave of unfathomable millions, toward the loss of life that touched us and with which we and our students could finally identify. Loss made palpable, we could also grieve, the latter being the most significant step toward reconciliation the only meaning
    which also lifts us beyond fatelessness.

    As we became aware of the meaninglessness of the dried bones of numbers, early on Mordecia Paldiel, Head, Righteous Among Nations, pointed to the sad fact that we knew the names and of the lives of only 30% of the martyred. A massive quest was underway at the time, to recover their identities. But he added, “Of the 28,000 Rescuers we now Honor, we know that at least 5 times as many existed.” Of the quotes for numbers in this regard from other discussion, 900 Hungarians Honored at Yad Vashem, upward of 100,000 “helpers” of Jewry, we know from historians of eminence who rely on “scientific method” of cross-validation, Szita Szabolcs and Haraszti Gyorgy, of HDKE, that 147,000 men, women, and children of Budapest were rescued.

    Unprecedented, unheralded, and too little known. Yet writing from Hungary, one must quickly add that this is far from any sort of “good news,” –given the tragedy which befell our nation –yet is acknowledged by most of the 2nd/4th generations alive, and enjoying life as “positive.”

    It was the hope of many of us, that Szita Szabolcs, would develop Jozsefvaros site, as
    He is an expert on the Rescuer, and especially on Wallenberg, who major activity and resistance took place there. Wallenberg Rescued Lantos, and the Congressman’s honor
    and homage of Wallenberg has retained of the Swedish Diplomat a clear role as the
    „Pre-eminent Ambassador of Rescue.”

    In 2004, Schmidt Maria undertook, unique world-wide, to go on TV
    And actually encourage Rescuers, or ‘lesser’ helpers, to step forward and give of their testimony. The archives of oral histories doubled that of the slow, official process of Yad Vashem Honored (requiring testimony of living witnesses), Knesset and Israeli Supreme Court approval, and was confirmation for Paldiel’s earlier estimate.

    I had known little of the Museum of Fate, and am grateful for the information gained
    here. A central venue on the Rescuer –if handled and guided carefully
    –which united the scattered memorial of the largest Rescue known in our time, will serve as a stimulus for Holocaust Education, especially in the area of altruism, and the hardest
    choices which can be made, in modern vernacular to Stand Up, Witness, Speak Out.

  6. Petrovics Ofner: “In 2004, Schmidt Maria undertook, unique world-wide, to go on TV
    And actually encourage Rescuers, or ‘lesser’ helpers, to step forward and give of their testimony. The archives of oral histories doubled that of the slow, official process of Yad Vashem Honored (requiring testimony of living witnesses), Knesset and Israeli Supreme Court approval, and was confirmation for Paldiel’s earlier estimate.”

    Isn’t it possible that not all those who come forth are genuine? I fear that the project may end up like all those “anti-fascists” who emerged out of nothing.

  7. This is a letter expressing the partisan political views of the author. It proves that Hungary is a democracy where diverse views can be freely expressed. I visited the synagogues in Miskolc and Budapest for concerts and social events. Last August at Dohany utca a large crowd gathered for a celebration of some sort, mostly Jews. I sensed a thriving Jewish life there. I know the young Rabbi in Miskolc working
    to revitalize the Jewish community there. Vasarhelyi expresses some biased and one-sided personal opinions.

  8. Also, Bill Maher and N. Chomsky are fierce critics of the US political scene but they are not writing letters abroad to save US democracy. They are throwing their eggs where eggs should be thrown, at faces at home.

  9. A little OT – I know there are hundreds of books on Hungarian Holocaust, but one that really made an impression on me was Ernő Szép’s The Smell of Humans.

    The effect and impact of the Holocaust is so overwhelming that it’s almost impossible to convey the full horror of it without drifting into hyperbole, but Szép manages it very well in this book by underplaying the personal impact it has on him – but never downplaying the sheer awfulness of what was happening.

    The book describes his life in Budapest and time in the Arrow Cross labour battalion in the closing months of the war, but he does it from the bemused perspective of an old city-dwelling man, rather confused by what’s going on, and (almost) not taking it seriously at times. Far from disguising the horror of what went on, this technique actually emphasises the shock of the way the mostly elderly men were treated.

    His story is also noticeable for the human way it portrays the perpetrators of the terror – some committed and evil, but many almost as bemused as him. Their march across Hungary is mostly a disorganised, shuffling black farce – but interspersed with shocking moments of unfeeling cruelty. There are also many moments when the ordinary people whose houses they pass risk much to help them out, or even where the guards show compassion that could easily have got them shot.

    Overall, you are left with the impression of the Hungarian Holocaust as not simply something of determined evil, but mostly a thing of confusion and disorganisation, of evil, yes, but also of compassion mixed with indifference, rather than just cruelty.

    Without in any way wanting to play down the part many Hungarians willingly took in the Holocaust, I suspect that this is much nearer the truth (or at least much of the truth) than many of the more ‘simplistic’ histories.

    I thoroughly recommend this book.

  10. A PS to my earlier post:

    My copy of The Smell of Humans in in Debrecen (we are in the UK at the moment) and it is some years since I read it, so my recollection of the book might not be entirely accurate.

    I was also going to recommend two other books for similar reasons (a different view of the Hungarian Jewish experience in WW2), but they are also in Hungary! And in the case of one, I can’t remember the title or author well enough to find it on Amazon (and it’s difficult to recommend a book when you can’t give author or title!).

    The one I can remember the name of is Aranka Siegal’s ‘Upon the Head of the Goat’ – the first-hand story of a young girl living in Beregszász. It starts with her happy, relatively privileged, Hungarian-Jewish childhood being interrupted by Beregszász becoming Hungarian once again – something that’s exciting and interesting to a 9-year old, but nothing more than that. But then it tells the story of how their lives become gradually more difficult and confusing, as neighbours and friends reject them, their business is taken over, and they become victims of ever greater restrictions.

    The family end up with all the other Jews in the local brickworks – used as a temporary ghetto by the authorities – and they are then separated and shipped to Auschwitz, and then Bergen-Belsen. Luckily for Aranka (or Piri, as she is known in the book), it is by then very late in the war and the camp is soon liberated. Piri and her two elder sisters survive, but the rest of her family are killed.

    Again, because this is a personal memoir, based on the memories ad perspective of a nine-year old girl, this book gives an interestingly different view of how the Holocaust felt to some of its victims. Mostly she is confused by what is happening and why, and doesn’t understand why they have to follow all the new rules and why their friends and neighbours treat them differently. But, although she gradually adjusts to the situation, she never really seems to grasp the sheer horror of what is happening to her and her family – at least not until they are deported to Auschwitz (and even then she can’t believe things are really as bad as she’s being told).

    The other book (of which I can’t remember title or author) is about a Jewish citizen of Budapest and how he survived the war years (arranging/selling certificates of conversion, etc). A little like the Szép book, it starts by playing down the horror of what’s happening, so when things start to really get bad it’s even more of a shock. For most of the book, it reads as a bit of an adventure story (Hungarian Jew outfoxes the stupid authorities and makes a little money on the side), but, once the Arrow Cross take power, the full enormity of the danger they’re in hits the author and his life becomes a desperate battle for survival.

    Like the Szép book, both are worth reading for the unusual perspective they give (personal, rather than historical). The reader is taken so gradually into the nightmare, that what eventually starts to happen is far more of a shock – and comes across not as an unbelievable fact of history, but as something that really happened to people who never really manage to comprehend what is happening or why. The real incomprehension is not so much what is happening, but why ordinary, normal, people are suddenly behaving in such a way.

    (If anyone recognises the second book, please jog my memory!)

  11. I am not clear that readers of Eva’s blog have seen these comments:

    Prepared remarks of Katrina Lantos Swett at UN Hungarian Holocaust Commemoration, January 23, 2014

    Good Evening, Dear Friends.

    As has already been noted by the earlier speakers, we meet tonight with hearts that are both heavy and full – heavy over the sudden and serious illness of our friend Gyorgy Vamos who has been in so many ways the moving force behind this exhibit and full because we gather today to remember a dark time in history and to commemorate and honor the hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their lives in the tragedy of the Hungarian Holocaust. As you know my own family is included in the numbers of those who became victims, and my own dear mother and father were saved only because of the selfless heroism of one of the most extraordinary diplomats and humanitarians of the 20th century- Raoul Wallenberg. A monument to Wallenberg stands just a stone’s throw away from where we are, across the street from the UN, and perhaps the most notable part of the Memorial is the bronze suitcase, left on the ground to symbolize the unfinished work of Raoul who as we all know was kidnapped and imprisoned by the Soviets when they came to Budapest. I think that image of the suitcase left behind as he was taken is an important symbol and reminder for us here today of our own unfinished business.

    This powerful exhibit tells an unforgettable story which we are honor bound to remember and bear witness to. But exhibits such as these have another, even more important purpose. In that sense coming here is quite different from going to admire a Matisse at the Met. We are here tonight not only to remember and to learn but even more importantly to prepare and to arm ourselves to face the very real dangers of the present moment. And as far as anti-Semitism in Europe is concerned, its alarming resurgence in recent years reminds us all of the truth of William Faulkner’s words, “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

    In just the last few days the dark past has re-emerged in Hungary in a disturbing and outrageous way. In 1941, long before the German occupation of Hungary in 1944, nearly 20,000 Jews were deported by the Hungarian authorities to German occupied Ukraine where they were murdered en masse in the infamous Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre. This was the first mass atrocity directed at Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. And yet, a few days ago, the director of a government funded Historical Institute described this unforgivable deportation as simply a “local police action against illegal aliens.” It is hard to properly express my outrage at this appalling attempt to rewrite history and to attempt to evade the Hungarian government’s deep moral complicity in the massacre of these innocent people – the vast majority of them native-born Hungarians. Such an effort to evade, avoid, whitewash and desecrate history is utterly unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any nation that hopes to command the respect of the world community.

    I urge the leadership of the Hungarian government to speak out forcefully against these reprehensible statements and to take appropriate steps to rectify this situation. Hungary is too proud and too decent of a nation to let such shameful remarks stand unrebuked by those at the highest level of government.

    When I first learned of these events, I thought immediately of my dear father, Tom Lantos, who was truly fearless when it came to confronting those who would seek to once again fan the flames of bigotry and hatred in Hungary. I know if he were still alive, he would take to the floor of his beloved Congress to denounce these comments and to call upon the government of Hungary to stand proudly and unshakably for the values of human rights, tolerance, democracy and decency. There are many in Hungary who do just that, and I have come to know many of them both as leaders I admire and even more as friends. Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth are two such individuals; I have been moved to witness their eloquent defense of persecuted minorities, and I’ve been touched by their courageous willingness to honestly face Hungarian history – even its darkest chapters. They do much to bring honor to their country, and I know they represent the millions of decent Hungarians who reject the old prejudices of the past.

    I spoke a moment ago about Raoul Wallenberg’s suitcase, now sitting in bronze outside this great Parliament of Man as a reminder of his unfinished work.

    His suitcase is waiting there for me. It is waiting there for you. It is now up to us to pick up that suitcase and carry his work forward for as long as we are able in the fight for human rights and justice for all of humanity. That is the work of this exhibit, and we must make it our work as well.

    Thank you.

    ###

  12. The problem with Katrina’s speech in the UN is that she didn’t speak about two important things. (1) The House of Fates–the topic of Mária Vásárhelyi’s letter and (2) The monument for the loss of Hungarian sovereignty. She talked only about the Sándor Szakály afffair when she was urged to stand up against the other weightier problems: Mária Schmidt and the monument.

  13. The Lantos Foundation is not properly managed. It is a cushy work place for some. Tucked away in New Hampshire, it needs qualified managers.

    Call them or email them with advice:

    http://www.lantosfoundation.org/

    The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
    6 Dixon Avenue, Suite 100
    Concord, New Hampshire 03301
    Tel: 603-226-3636
    Email: info@lantosfoundation.org

    Why is it giving support for the revisionism sweeping Hungary now?

  14. The letter is a good summary. I wonder if Mrs Lantos, due to her age, can sense from abroad the CUMULATIVE extent of the the weight of the distortions being implemented within Hungary.

    A hello to the fellow readers of H. Spectrum.
    Best regards, Andy

  15. From a speech of representative Tom Lantos in the American Congress on May 26, 1994. The capital letters are mine. I believe Mr. Lantos, out of fear of political correctness, gave all the merit to the commanding colonel (who definitely deserves the merit) and does not mention by name the person who gave him the orders:

    “Ferenc Koszorus was a colonel in the Hungarian Army in charge of the First Magyar Armored Division stationed in and around Budapest. He learned that Laszlo Baky, Secretary of State and director of all security forces, with the exception of the army, had planned a coup d’etat to install a police force completely subservient to the Nazis. They would see to it that Hungary was purged of all remaining Jews.
    With the help of the Gestapo, Baky formed several battalions of `gendarmerie’ forces loyal to him. Orders from the Regent to disband the gendarmerie went unheeded. Colonel Koszorus controlled the last remaining active army unit in Hungary. At a time when few others would stand up to the Nazi occupation, Colonel Koszorus took the initiative to resist.
    Realizing the severity of the situation, Colonel Koszorus consulted with the Regent and began preparations on his own to stop Baky and the gendarmerie battalions. On July 5, 1944 at 11:30 p.m., Colonel Koszorus ordered the units of the 1st Armored Division to take up positions at strategic points in Budapest, sealing off all road leading into the city. By 7:00 a.m. on July 6, 1944 all the units were in place and Colonel Koszorus informed Baky that if his gendarmerie did not leave and disband they would be destroyed. On July 7, 1944 Baky capitulated and evacuated his forces.
    Colonel Koszorus’ unparalleled action was THE ONLY CASE KNOWN IN WHICH AN AXIS POWER USED MILITARY FORCE FOR THE PURPOSE OF PREVENTING THE DEPORTATION OF THE JEWS. As a result of his extraordinarily brave efforts, taken at great risk in an extremely volatile situation, the eventual takeover of Budapest by the Nazis was delayed by 3 1/2 months. This hiatus allowed thousands of Jews to seek safety in Budapest, thus sparing them from certain execution. It also permitted the famous Raoul Wallenberg, who arrived in Budapest on July 9, 1994, to coordinate his successful and effective rescue mission.”

  16. Eliezer :
    From a speech of representative Tom Lantos in the American Congress on May 26, 1994. The capital letters are mine. I believe Mr. Lantos, out of fear of political correctness, gave all the merit to the commanding colonel (who definitely deserves the merit) and does not mention by name the person who gave him the orders:
    “Ferenc Koszorus was a colonel in the Hungarian Army in charge of the First Magyar Armored Division stationed in and around Budapest. He learned that Laszlo Baky, Secretary of State and director of all security forces, with the exception of the army, had planned a coup d’etat to install a police force completely subservient to the Nazis. They would see to it that Hungary was purged of all remaining Jews.
    With the help of the Gestapo, Baky formed several battalions of `gendarmerie’ forces loyal to him. Orders from the Regent to disband the gendarmerie went unheeded. Colonel Koszorus controlled the last remaining active army unit in Hungary. At a time when few others would stand up to the Nazi occupation, Colonel Koszorus took the initiative to resist.
    Realizing the severity of the situation, Colonel Koszorus consulted with the Regent and began preparations on his own to stop Baky and the gendarmerie battalions. On July 5, 1944 at 11:30 p.m., Colonel Koszorus ordered the units of the 1st Armored Division to take up positions at strategic points in Budapest, sealing off all road leading into the city. By 7:00 a.m. on July 6, 1944 all the units were in place and Colonel Koszorus informed Baky that if his gendarmerie did not leave and disband they would be destroyed. On July 7, 1944 Baky capitulated and evacuated his forces.
    Colonel Koszorus’ unparalleled action was THE ONLY CASE KNOWN IN WHICH AN AXIS POWER USED MILITARY FORCE FOR THE PURPOSE OF PREVENTING THE DEPORTATION OF THE JEWS. As a result of his extraordinarily brave efforts, taken at great risk in an extremely volatile situation, the eventual takeover of Budapest by the Nazis was delayed by 3 1/2 months. This hiatus allowed thousands of Jews to seek safety in Budapest, thus sparing them from certain execution. It also permitted the famous Raoul Wallenberg, who arrived in Budapest on July 9, 1994, to coordinate his successful and effective rescue mission.”

    Do you mean the fact that Lantos is using sentences like “Koszorus consulted with the Regent”, instead of using the actual name of the person in question? And to use an actual name would be politicly incorrect in your opinion? How so? Because we already know how he is talking about, it is not like there were multiple “Regents” at the time…

  17. Mr. Paul. Since Tom Lantos said that the role of Koszorus has been cleared up. He was not coming to save the Jews. The gendarmes were called up to Budapest to get ready for the impending deportation of the Jews of the capital. You’re grabbing straws, I’m afraid.

  18. Mr. Paul :

    Eliezer :
    From a speech of representative Tom Lantos in the American Congress on May 26, 1994. The capital letters are mine. I believe Mr. Lantos, out of fear of political correctness, gave all the merit to the commanding colonel (who definitely deserves the merit) and does not mention by name the person who gave him the orders:
    “Ferenc Koszorus was a colonel in the Hungarian Army in charge of the First Magyar Armored Division stationed in and around Budapest. He learned that Laszlo Baky, Secretary of State and director of all security forces, with the exception of the army, had planned a coup d’etat to install a police force completely subservient to the Nazis. They would see to it that Hungary was purged of all remaining Jews.
    With the help of the Gestapo, Baky formed several battalions of `gendarmerie’ forces loyal to him. Orders from the Regent to disband the gendarmerie went unheeded. Colonel Koszorus controlled the last remaining active army unit in Hungary. At a time when few others would stand up to the Nazi occupation, Colonel Koszorus took the initiative to resist.
    Realizing the severity of the situation, Colonel Koszorus consulted with the Regent and began preparations on his own to stop Baky and the gendarmerie battalions. On July 5, 1944 at 11:30 p.m., Colonel Koszorus ordered the units of the 1st Armored Division to take up positions at strategic points in Budapest, sealing off all road leading into the city. By 7:00 a.m. on July 6, 1944 all the units were in place and Colonel Koszorus informed Baky that if his gendarmerie did not leave and disband they would be destroyed. On July 7, 1944 Baky capitulated and evacuated his forces.
    Colonel Koszorus’ unparalleled action was THE ONLY CASE KNOWN IN WHICH AN AXIS POWER USED MILITARY FORCE FOR THE PURPOSE OF PREVENTING THE DEPORTATION OF THE JEWS. As a result of his extraordinarily brave efforts, taken at great risk in an extremely volatile situation, the eventual takeover of Budapest by the Nazis was delayed by 3 1/2 months. This hiatus allowed thousands of Jews to seek safety in Budapest, thus sparing them from certain execution. It also permitted the famous Raoul Wallenberg, who arrived in Budapest on July 9, 1994, to coordinate his successful and effective rescue mission.”

    Do you mean the fact that Lantos is using sentences like “Koszorus consulted with the Regent”, instead of using the actual name of the person in question? And to use an actual name would be politicly incorrect in your opinion? How so? Because we already know how he is talking about, it is not like there were multiple “Regents” at the time…

  19. Chabad of Hungary has issued its opinion:

    Let me try to figure out the essence of their rather convoluted letter – I hope I am not mistaken in my interpretation.

    0. They hope that MaZsiHiSz and the Hungarian government will reach an compromise.
    [Lazar has agreed to meet the representatives of the Jewish communities on February 6]

    2. The Hungarian government should issue a declaration condemning the Horthy regime in parallel to building the “German occupation” monument.

    3. The Hungarian should build a museum of Hungarian-Jewish coexistence in lieu of or next to the new Holocaust Center on the Jozsefvaros railroad station.

    If I understand correctly, they agree to everything Orban wanted in return of a formal declaration (which might not be published in Fidesz newspapers, perhaps will only serve a fig leaf for foreign consumption).

    http://zsido.com/cikkek/Emlekev__Mit_mond_a_zsido_tanitas/10/3952

    Compare this with MaZsiHisz’s earlier demands:

    1. Remove historian Szakaly as director of Veritas Institute.

    2. Do not build the “German occupation” monument.

    3. Maria Schmidt must not direct the exhibition at Jozsefvaros railroad station

  20. In the entire letter, Chabad proffers itself as a mediator, not as a supporter of the demands of the bigger Jewish denomination.

  21. tappanch :
    In the entire letter, Chabad proffers itself as a mediator, not as a supporter of the demands of the bigger Jewish denomination.

    I am afraid you expect much too much from Chabad. All they care about is that secular Jews return to the religious practices and stay with them. As soon as that is done, they consider their job completed.

  22. Eliezer, I’m tired of explaining over and over what happened in July 1944. Go and read a reliable history book. I suggest, for example, Christian Gerlach and Götz Aly’s book, Das Letzte Kapitel. It is available in Hungarian. There on pp. 275-76 you will find the true story.

    I can tell you that Koszorus’s son, Koszorus, Jr. who is a lawyer in Washington, has been trying for years to get his father’s name on the rostrum at Yad Vashem. He has not succeeded because there is no reliable evidence to substantiate the claim that Koszorus’s appearance in Budapest had anything to do with saving the Jews of Budapest.

    Your long entry is again nothing else but hairsplitting.

  23. tappanch :
    Compare this with MaZsiHisz’s earlier demands:
    1. Remove historian Szakaly as director of Veritas Institute.
    2. Do not build the “German occupation” monument.
    3. Maria Schmidt must not direct the exhibition at Jozsefvaros railroad station

    Yes this “list of demands” was a textbook example of an ultimatum. Here is a list of demands meet them all or war will be declared on you. The problem is that these sort of “demands” have no basis in reality. Let’s suppose I meet your demands, and in exchange you do not declare war on me. But a few weeks later you start thinking “Well this worked out pretty well, Here are the NEXT three demands”… What happens then? Meet the next three demands? You see this type of tactic has no basis in reality.

  24. Mr Paul, you must be coming from outer space. Making demands to the authorities is one of the basic activities of every civil society organization, from trade unions to folk dancing associations.

    NGOs constantly demand funds, material resources, new legislation, or policy changes. In exchange, governments count on the field work, expert advice and mobilizing capacities of NGOs. And of course, both parties regularly re-negociate the terms of their collaboration.

    There’s no need to fear, it’s a sound democratic activity. 🙂

  25. May the good Lord Bless Rabbis Shlomo and Oberlander, true Jewry guided by the correctness of the Torah. They alone have taken a role of continued dialogue with the government, and I am sure they will be heard. Reader should know also that the NYT has a direct line to reports of anti-Semitism, and that the Chabad have an independent foundation called TEV which can investigate complaints. If interested can search and send both links.

    But back to Eva B. comment 13 to Schmidt!s TV unique search for the Righteous Among Nations validation of Yad Vashem Director of Righteous that we know only a small fraction of those who Rescued….

    Absolutely correct, Eva. The researchers knew they would be criticized along the lines that you suggested –a bunch of wolves will come out dressed in sheep!s wool. Over 1300 oral histories were collected in 3 months!!! Of these, there has been “tisztitás” downward. Over 300 were eliminated. BUT this still doubled the number of those we had been able to Honor from MANY years. So such positive findings may be valid!!

    It is my conviction that the Rescuers deserve a united venue. As is they are scattered around like autumn leaves. 175,000 men, women, and children saved must not be pitted against deepest tragedy, light must not prettify the darkness of our history, BUT it is of great worth from which Holocaust Education can benefit as supporting the healthy development of youth hungering for “truth telling of history,”..

  26. I wonder, did anyone listened to Mr.Bolgár’s interview with Mária Schmidt on the Klubrádió a few days back?
    I did, and I was flabbergasted by her blatant demeanour regarding the subject, which was the House of Fates in particular, the rewriting of history in general.
    I was particularly appalled by her remark, when she talked about, that many of the people or/and historians don’t even belong to “that particular interest-group”, yet they dare to interfere (- beat up the foam) and express opinions, while “the creative work” still on the making, and anyway, history is an opinion, and as such ought to be different.

    Personally I have quite a number of problems with her statement.
    – In my opinion history by itself must be factual at the first place, interpreting of those facts could be individual for a number of reasons, but in this order. Something either happened or did not, I guess it can’t be a matter of opinion. But, then again, I am an outsider with an attitude, so how should I know, what counts? (- A hint: common sense and logic, maybe)

    – Presenting history, allegedly factual, couldn’t depend on the creativity of the presenter before valued in it’s own genre, in this case history. Valuation of creativity she could leave for those who has something to do with it, history by definition doesn’t belong to the freely interpreted topics being science, at least, if you, as a historian have some self-esteem.
    (Otherwise what are we talking about?)

    – It happens to be, that I’m an outsider regarding “that particular interest group” put it plainly I am not a Jew, but I have a strong opinion regarding the subject, so just how dare Mária Schmidt deprive my right to express my opinion against this whole shameless charade? Just on what basis she – and her kind of people – decide, that someone with a different religious/ethnic background can not have his/her say about those events?

    – I would like to inform her, and any other sympathisers of her ideas/ideology that I am a Human Being and as such I have all the right to protest against the discrimination and the mistreatment of another such creature – commonly known as another Human Being – particularly regarding the unforgettable event having taken place in the mid twentieth century, namely the Holocaust, because – contrary to Mária Schmidt’s opinion – it is the shame of the whole Humanity, especially of those who were involved deeply in it, like the Hungarians.

    How can anybody who dare to call her-/himself Human Being give absolution to the participants of the industrial level of massacre of another Humans, particularly when those humans haven’t done a thing against anybody else, only happened to born belonging to a group with different religious view?

    I was a kid, I guess somewhere like twelve when searching in the attic I opened an old chest with various items in it, a load of devaluated bills, pre-war newspapers and calendars, and documents. Among these I’ve find “certificates” with close semblance to the dog’s and horses pedigree, which proved that my parents and grandparents were “purebred Arians”, in original “Tisztafajú árja”…(I just couldn’t get over on it ever since, that such times and rules even existed…)

    Lo and behold, this is the era what the present government with the help of the esteemed Mária Schmidt want to restore in it’s full glory, and they are on the way just to do that.

    And the worst of all, that she even an educated, literate person, as opposed to Orbán and his gang, even though she will go along.

    The place, otherwise, Budapest, Hungary, and the year is 2014.

  27. @ tappanch – Just how could anybody compromise in these questions?
    I mean, it was 50% OK to deport the people, only the other 50% is questionable?
    Enlighten me, please!

  28. Eva, as always, you don’t understand me because you don’t want.

    “Your long entry is again nothing else but hairsplitting.”

    My entry was short – a long one was my quote of Mr. Lantos. But in my entry I criticized him for giving all the praise to Col. Koszorus instead of Horthy. Do you deny the Colonel’s existence and his commanding? Fine. But you surely do not deny that the troops were used to stop the deportations? And who was their commander then? And does it really matter?

    >Go and read a reliable history book. I suggest,

    Thank you for your advice. Are the books and articles by professors Deak, Braham, Sakmyster, Karzai, Patai, Snyder, Hilberg, Kinga Frojimovics, records of Eichmann’s trail sessions are NOT RELIABLE enough from your point of view? Would you call them all corrupted?

  29. Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :

    There’s no need to fear, it’s a sound democratic activity.

    I think my reading comprehension is pretty good and nowhere did I mention any fear in what I wrote. I tried to illustrate though a hypotethical example that this can not be an effective tactic under any circumstances. This is more like stressing a point than expecting anything to come out of it.

    For example what would you say if the party KDNP were to make the following demands

    1. Remove András Heisler from any leadership positions within Mazsihisz
    2. Former Munkásőr (Communist guards) cannot be in a position of power
    3. Democratic norms demand that Mazsihisz distances itself from the Munkásőr (Communist guards) including any former Munkásőr

    If our demands are not met, within 1 month we will boycott Mazsihisz completely.

    Now I think you would (correctly) say that their aim is not to remove Heisler, it is to call attention to their political point that they are trying to make. And they do not expect Mazsihisz to remove its leader.

    Similarly if Mazsihisz’s goal were the removal of Szakály they would start backroom negotiations and offer large concessions in other areas in return. By making fully public demand lists, while offering nothing in return they are ensuring that none of the demands can be fulfilled without large extra costs (losing face). This actually heavily works against things happening in the list.

    Do you remember when in 2006 Fidesz publicly demanded the resignation of Gyurcsány, with a 72 hour ultimatum? It strengthened Gyurcsány’s position by a large amount, wouldn’t you agree? Then how can you not see the exact same concept work in the exact same way here?

  30. I’ve found the M.Schmidt – interview what I referred to in the archives, the part what I mentioned is between the 16.00-18.00 minutes, but if you have patience worth to listen to the whole (the interview starts at 06.00) – an excellent picture of the powers that be and it’s humble (?) servants.

    [audio src="http://www.klubradio.hu/klubmp3/archiv/20140129/klub20140129-162854.mp3" /]

  31. Eliezer and Mr. Paul, please check the effect of the misinformation by Fidesz on yourself.

    Do not hang up you honesty before trying to confuse us.

    Let us agree on the character of the Fidesz leadership as one of dishonesty.

  32. “I tried to illustrate though a hypotethical example that this can not be an effective tactic under any circumstances.”

    Cannot under any circumstances??

    What about under the circumstances where someone makes certain demands, they are met, and that person is then satisfied?

    You may not think that is likely, but that isn’t the same as claiming that this “cannot be an effective tactic”.

  33. “What about under the circumstances where someone makes certain demands, they are met, and that person is then satisfied?”

    You make my point for me. Even in that case it is easier to agree if the demand was not made publicly. Then the acceptor can pretend it was “his idea”, “own free will” and similar. If the demand is publicly made accepting causes additional reputational costs thus making it harder to accept. But let us watch what happens.

    If Mária Schmidt is removed from the House of Fates, I will gladly admit that I was wrong and making a “list of demands” was an effective tactic. Szakály can still undo himself if he makes a few more remarks and the statue question is much more complex. But if Mária Schmidt is removed I will 100% admit I was completely wrong on this.

  34. Why is this blog being sidelined by Fidesz’s red-herrings?
    There’s little more than 2 months to the elections and a lot more important things to discuss than these trial balloons–holocaust remembrance, rewriting of history etc.–that Orban sends up to distract people.

    Why are we not putting out ideas on:

    –how to organize
    –hot to get the opposition message out
    –how to raise money
    –what topics to emphasize
    –how to target the electorate..etc.etc.

    We should be brainstorming on how to win the election.

    We, and the opposition, must stop ‘reacting’, and become proactive; and not let our resources and focus be splintered.

  35. Did anyone have a chance to catch “Szabdad szemmel” on ATV earlier today? Antonia Meszaros was talking to Gyurcsany and Boross former Prime Ministers.

    The discussion with Boross was very adversarial as could be expected and Antonia dominated throughout. But towards the end there was a comment of Boross that was unchallanged by the reporter.

    Boross claimed that at the reburial of Horthy there was a commemorative circlet(?- koszorú) sent by the Budapest Jewry with the text: “A hálás budapesti zsidóságtól” -/ “from the thankful Budapest Jewry”. I found this odd that the reporter wouldn’t correct this. It does not seem like a true story.

  36. >February 2, 2014 at 3:43 pm | #41 Quote
    “Eliezer and Mr. Paul, please check the effect of the misinformation by Fidesz on yourself.
    Do not hang up you honesty before trying to confuse us.
    Let us agree on the character of the Fidesz leadership as one of dishonesty.”

    Dear Mr. or Ms. “Honesty Above All”,
    I am not Hungarian, do not read their newspapers and political leaflets. All that I know about the current policies, I know mainly from this side. I have no firm judgement about the entire policy, though I have no sympathy to both creating that monument and rapprochement with Russia instead of the West.

    As regards to the history of the Hungarian Holocaust, I know about it from my intensive reading, thinking and now – writing on the topic, and if it has happened it coincides with somebody’s else view and contradicts your view, so it’ll be. I regret that I see this site as a place of left-wing political distortion of history. If you state that the occupation never occurred and that all negative action after March 19, 1944, is of Horthy’s doing, you will never convince the Hungarian majority in this revisionist view. And it is my opinion that tone of reconciliation would bring much better results that uncompromising confrontation.

  37. For instance, has the issue of the OSCE been cleared up? Will they be here in force?
    Will representatives of the opposition be present in the counting area?

  38. Mr Paul, your point is valid, at least in a way. What Marcel Dé and Paul are trying to say is that in a functioning democracy, deals are possible, often commitments are honoured and this means that politicians do not immediately have to fear loss of reputation when just accepting a demand from an NGO or some other group of people. (By the way, it is expected that all benefit from it, the public by having an additional opportunity to participate in the political process, the politicians as the political process gains legitimacy.) There are procedures that govern how organised groups people can demand (whatever) from the government, politicians and the like; it is clear that not all demands will be met, that depends on the circumstances. But, it requires some cooperative spirit and as I understand, such cooperative behaviour has not been too common in Hungary. Your arguments would just reflect this experience, if I understand them correctly. Nevertheless you could believe that for a democracy (more or less functioning) such demands are indeed nothing uncommon or disturbing.

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