The Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Year: One step forward, two steps backward

It was exactly a week ago that I wrote about the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Year, which is still very much a topic of debate in Hungary. The core of the problem is the effort on the part of the Orbán government to rewrite the modern history of Hungary.

The problem started with the adoption of a new constitution that has a fairly lengthy preamble in which  the emphasis is on the concept of “nation.” The preamble is actually called “national avowal” and its first sentence reads “we, the members of the Hungarian nation.” For the sake of comparison the United States Constitution refers to the “people of the United States” and the modern constitution of Germany to “the German people.” As we will see a little later, this preoccupation with the idea of “nation” may have far-reaching consequences as far as the current controversy is concerned.

At the time of the release of the text of the preamble to the new Hungarian constitution a lot of legal scholars, historians, and commentators severely criticized it for being a hodgepodge of disconnected, unhistorical nonsense. But what must be an absolutely unique feature of this preamble is that the framers decided to eliminate 46 years, 2 months, and 5 days from Hungary’s history because the decision was made to “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 organ of popular representation was formed. We shall consider this date to be the beginning of our country’s new democracy and constitutional order.” In plain language, Hungarians are not responsible for anything that happened during this “lost” period. It was immediately noted that the first Hungarian transports headed for Auschwitz and other death camps occurred after March 19, 1944. A lot of people suspected that this government was thinking of shifting the entire responsibility for the Holocaust on the Germans who, with the permission of Miklós Horthy, moved their troops into Hungary. Regardless of how often officials of the current Hungarian government repeat that they accept responsibility for the Holocaust, the new constitution claims otherwise. And that is the basic law of the land at the moment.

Sorry about these repetitive prefatory remarks, but in order to fully understand the thinking of Viktor Orbán, János Lázár, and other high officials of the government we must keep in mind the emphasis both on the “Hungarian nation” and on the alleged lack of sovereignty of Hungary. Giving up the idea of erecting a monument that depicts Hungary as the innocent and long-suffering Archangel Gabriel would go against the very core of this view of history. And when we find more and more references to “Hungarians and Jews” in government parlance, we must also keep in mind the nation-centric views that found their way into the new constitution. I maintain that as long as this constitution is in force there can be no meaningful discussion between Viktor Orbán and those who don’t subscribe to this warped view of history. Viktor Orbán may suggest to the leadership of Mazsihisz that “the dialogue should be continued after the Easter holidays,” but there can be no common ground between the two views.

Still, one ought to appreciate the fact that he made the gesture at all. Viktor Orbán rarely retreats. As his critics say, “he goes all the way to the wall.” It seems that this time he bumped into that wall, a wall of condemnation by a civilized Europe that doesn’t take Holocaust denial lightly. Let me quote here from a speech Ilan Mor, Israeli Ambassador to Hungary, delivered at the gathering to honor the recipients of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations awards. He said that “any attempts to rewrite or to reinterpret the history of the Shoa, in this country or elsewhere, for any reason, politically and/or ideologically, are part of the deplorable attempt to deny the Holocaust, the Shoa.” This is the kind of criticism the Hungarian government is facing when it tries to falsify history.

Just when we thought that, at least until April, we could have a little respite and prepare ourselves for the next round, János Lázár decided to upset the apple cart. He happened to be in Gyula, a city near the Romanian border, when he gave an interview to the local television station. During the interview the reporter asked him about Mazsihisz’s opposition to the government’s plans for the Holocaust Memorial Year. Lázár lashed out at the leaders of Mazsihisz, accusing them of wrecking the government’s plans for the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust. He charged them with fomenting discord between Hungarians and Jews who have lived in unity and symbiosis for centuries. According to him, the story of that common past was a real success. He predicted that Mazsihisz’s “ultimatum” will have a negative influence on the cohabitation of Jews and Hungarians. He added that he hopes “the local Jewish communities in conjunction with the officials of the municipalities will find a way to remember together.” Lázár expressed his belief “in the wisdom of the local Jewish leaders and even more so in the wisdom of the municipal leaders,” and he said he hoped that “this ultimatum was only part of a political move that will not be able to fracture that unity and symbiosis in which we have lived together with our Jewish compatriots in Gyula or for that matter in Hódmezővásárhely,” his hometown where he served as mayor until recently.

"Cohabitiation: Minority and majority in the Carpathian Basin Source: Amerikai Nepszava Online

“Cohabitation: Minority and majority in the Carpathian Basin”
Source: Amerikai Népszava Online

It was at this point that all hell broke loose and for good reason. First of all, Mazsihisz didn’t issue an ultimatum. Second, Lázár practically accused Mazsihisz of fomenting anti-Semitism in Hungary by not meekly accepting the falsification of history promulgated by the Orbán government. Third, it was especially tasteless to talk about Jewish/non-Jewish symbiosis and cohabitation in a provincial town. As is well known, there are practically no Jews left in Hungary outside of Budapest. The vast majority perished because Miklós Horthy wanted to start the deportations with those whom he considered to be the great unwashed. And fourth, what caused real furor was that Lázár excluded Hungarians of Jewish origin from the Hungarian nation. Commentators noted that this view comes straight from the Nuremberg laws and the anti-Jewish laws of Hungary. People are truly outraged.

Commentators are trying to figure out what motivated János Lázár to make a frontal attack on Mazsihisz. Some think that he was just careless and didn’t weigh his words. Perhaps in a more formal setting, they claim, he wouldn’t have said what he did. Others think that he is just outright stupid and/or crass.

I see it differently. Lázár is the messenger boy of Viktor Orbán. It is enough to recall the meeting between him and members of different Jewish communities. The participants were hoping for some solution to the impasse. It turned out that Lázár had no authority whatsoever to talk about anything substantive. He could only tell those present that he would relay the points they made to Viktor Orbán, who would answer them in writing. Therefore, I suspect that Lázár, when questioned in Gyula, simply repeated what he knew to be Viktor Orbán’s position. And I don’t think that I’m too far off when I predict that Viktor Orbán will not be any more malleable after Easter. Lázár’s words are only a forewarning of what lies ahead.

——

P.S. I would like to correct an earlier mistake of mine. I attributed a statement to Ambassador Mor that turned out to be erroneous. In his interview with Heti Válasz he did not speak critically of Mazsihisz as I assumed.

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96 comments

  1. Joe Simon :
    Everybody suffered during WWII. Most Hungarians agree with this. Isnot there in Auschwitz a cross to remember the Polish victims of the war?

    Really everybody suffered during WWII?.
    So let us stick to Hungary and what happened in Hungary.
    Miklós Hernádi wrote: “Now, although the overt objective of the anti – Jewish drive was to supply much needed labor force to the Reich as previously agreed by the Führer and Regent Horthy, the fact that the districts were covertly declared “war operation zones” as deportations continued from district to district much rather suggests that the armed
    Hungarian authorities in charge of the ghettoization and deportation of the Jews
    preferred to view themselves as potential victims of a mortal threat posed by an “excessive
    concentration” of enfeebled, defenseless Jews maliciously labeled to be covert agents
    of the Allied forces (cf. with Ch. 17 of R. L. Braham’s definitiveThe Politics of Genocide).
    If thousands of Hungarian administrators and law enforcement agents had been
    reluctant to recognize victimhood even when they saw it unfolding in front of their
    very eyes, and , to boot, of their own making, then, inevitably, a lot more reluctant
    were many Hungarian opinion makers to concede it when the dust settled, i.e. in the
    immediate after math of WWII
    .
    An all too real Jewish victimhood had to be counterbalanced by assorted cases
    of non-Jewish victimhood, real or imagined; the sheer difficulty of the project explains why it
    took so many forms. Some claimed to be victims of an over-dramatization of the allegedly
    larger – than – life sufferings of Jewish survivors; some others claimed to be victims of gross Jewish ingratitude considering the great number of Jews saved from their deaths by
    compassionate Christian helpers risking their own lives
    ;
    still others maintained the suffering of Jewish labor servicemen and even the
    deportees was way smaller than that endured by Christian Hungarian soldiers
    fighting in the frontlines, and their families starving if not bombed out; yet others envisaged a comprehensive Jewish revenge against innocent Christians for crimes they had never committed. Instigated by left – wing politicians, would – be Christian “victims” even organized
    pre-emptive lynchings claiming several lives in some provincial settings in 1946 against so

    called “food – hoarding black marketeers (Jewish survivors, needless to say).”
    Source:
    http://www.grotius.hu/doc/pub/HCIZHN/2013-08_12_hernadi_the%20rush%20for%20victimhood.pdf

  2. HiBoM :

    How many people does MAZSIHISZ represent? I suspect a few hundred at most. The thing that struck me about Hungary, or rather Budapest, is that of the very many people I knew (and know) with Jewish background, of which they were often intensely proud, not one regarded themselves as belonging to the “Jewish community.” And so all this talk about the government negotiating with the “Jewish community” seems misplaced. MAZSIHISZ is perhaps sincere in its position but I’m unconvinced it represents anything more than a small number of practising Jews, many of whom only moved back to Hungary after 1990.

    In truth, the government is only talking to MAZSIHISZ because that is what people outside Hungary want to hear. But inside Hungary, it is meaningless.

    Sure, Mazsihisz is the representative organization of religious Jews who are very few in Hungary. However, I can assure you that all people with some Jewish background who in the past criticized Mazsihisz because its opportunism are now squarely behind Mazsihisz. So, I’m without any Jewish roots.

  3. Joe Simon :
    Everybody suffered during WWII. Most Hungarians agree with this. Isnot there in Auschwitz a cross to remember the Polish victims of the war?

    Two very old Catholic Poles are drinking the day away in a Warsaw bar. The first one says “Everybody suffered during WWII. Most Poles agree with this.” The second ones adds “Yeah, I remember. We were even forbidden from entering a whole Warsaw district !”.

  4. Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :

    Joe Simon :
    Everybody suffered during WWII. Most Hungarians agree with this. Isnot there in Auschwitz a cross to remember the Polish victims of the war?

    Two very old Catholic Poles are drinking the day away in a Warsaw bar. The first one says “Everybody suffered during WWII. Most Poles agree with this.” The second ones adds “Yeah, I remember. We were even forbidden from entering a whole Warsaw district !”.

    Excellent story. For the young people this has to be explained. The Warsaw district was the
    Getto Jews were forced to live.

  5. Poland lost 6 million of its citizens as far as I can recall so it goes a little beyond in seriousness than the joke.

  6. Mr. Paul :
    Poland lost 6 million of its citizens as far as I can recall so it goes a little beyond in seriousness than the joke.

    As a remarkable man said not so long ago: “We can laugh at everything – except not with everybody”. I don’t care if you and Joe don’t get it, it wasn’t intended for the both of you anyway.

  7. I do get it, you implied that Polish people did not suffer at all. I just think it simply wasn’t true as a matter of historical record. The factor of the difference is a few million dead Polish civilians that were killed. You see the difference between the two, don’t you?

  8. Here another part of Miklós Hernádi’s article:
    “Shortly after heinously dismembering his sleeping Armenian fellow-officer with an axe in 2004, Azeri military officer Safarov, on a NATO sponsored course in Budapest,
    justified his act with the utter victimhood, at Armenian hands, of his family and nation. N.B. Post-Soviet Azerbaijan is an oil-rich, Muslim country with a large segment of its population living peacefully in Iran; post-Soviet Christian Armenia is an impoverished nation with a large segment of its population forced to seek employment in neighboring Turkey, the site of a massive anti-Armenian drive of true genocidal proportions in 1916.
    The dividends of victimhood snatched from Armenia?”

    Mr. Paul, was the release of this murderer justified? Or just a move of the maffia in order to make business with the oil-rich Azerbaijan?

  9. I hope for a pledge from all participants, forget your political orientation, but adhere to the truth.

    Even rightwing trolls can use some moral.

  10. “Snatching victimhood status from your opponent is probably the best-loved ploy of all simply because it promises many dividends, one of which being the right to claim moral superiority, i.e. the “fact” that yours is the just cause cleared, more often than not, by a divine nod. Long drawn out ethnic and/or religious conflicts rarely go without attempts made by one of the two warring parties (usually the more prosperous and populous one) to come into the sole and ultimate possession of victimhood, a status that should in fact be at least shared after centuries of recurring mutual bloodsheds.”
    Miklós Hernádi

  11. Karl Pfeifer’s Miklós Hernádi quote is spot on. A dear Hungarian friend of Jewish heritage once confided to me that he had given up on talking about “that subject” with gentile Hungarians, because he always got the feeling that they were waiting for _him_ to beg _their_ forgiveness “for having to have gone through the indignity and trauma of having to have carried out the deportations.” Of course this was a terribly cynical joke, and it was intended to be so, but it does convey a peculiar mentality of feigned victimhood that, if not unique to Hungary, does reach a certain pinnacle of chutzpah.

  12. Mr. Paul :
    I do get it, you implied that Polish people did not suffer at all. I just think it simply wasn’t true as a matter of historical record. The factor of the difference is a few million dead Polish civilians that were killed. You see the difference between the two, don’t you?

    Ahh, Mr. Paul, ‘the sympathizer’…yes? Well, sir, try reading a couple of holocaust survivor books. There are quite a few about Polish jews who escaped the ghetto or some round-up.
    To a man, they all write that rather than help them, Poles turned them in.

    Example 2: Saul Rubinek, the actor, made a documentary about the town his father was taken from about 30 years ago. He asked the inhabitants whether they wanted the jews back. “Of course not,” was the standard reply, “we’d have to give all the houses and businesses back.”

    Fact: the only European country to which jews did NOT return was Poland.

  13. @Mr. Karl Pfeiffer

    “Mr. Paul, was the release of this murderer justified? Or just a move of the maffia in order to make business with the oil-rich Azerbaijan?”

    Oh, please, sir, not this chestnut of ‘making business’! What business? Azeri pointed slippers perchance?

    The ‘business’ was COD, and the remains are probably in some bank in Dubai…

  14. @andy helllloooo

    “For evident reasons you will not get these people to behave and think along Western notions of historical and intellectual progress.”

    When people are repeatedly victimized, as the Hungarians have been by both political parties; and when the Church steps in to support their victimizers…there’s not much that the hapless, inferior-minded masses can do–certainly no act requiring independence–but to follow the father figure along (in this case, Orban) and look for little pat on the head and the odd handout (and how odd is ‘rezsi chokkentes’?).

  15. sunyilo12 :
    Eva,
    You probably need to shunt Mr. Paul for good. He is a slug who, I’m convinced, is paid to discredit this blog with his off-topic remarks and to water down meaningful discussions by bringing up irrelevant topics. He reminds me of the subject of Swiss-people jokes. Just like, you are telling a joke to a Swiss guy, like: “Two people meet on the train, one fat, one lean…” you would start the joke, when the Swiss guy interrupts: “where does the train go?”
    With the difference that Mr. Paul does this on purpose to get under the skin of commenters who really care for insightful discussions on this forum.

    I heartily agree.

  16. “So the Orbán strategy – to take out the winds of Jobbik’s sails – by taking over part
    of Jobbik discourse is a flop.”

    Orban wasn’t taking the wind out of the sails…he was blowing into them!

  17. petofi :

    Mr. Paul :
    I do get it, you implied that Polish people did not suffer at all. I just think it simply wasn’t true as a matter of historical record. The factor of the difference is a few million dead Polish civilians that were killed. You see the difference between the two, don’t you?

    Ahh, Mr. Paul, ‘the sympathizer’…yes? Well, sir, try reading a couple of holocaust survivor books. There are quite a few about Polish jews who escaped the ghetto or some round-up.
    To a man, they all write that rather than help them, Poles turned them in.
    Example 2: Saul Rubinek, the actor, made a documentary about the town his father was taken from about 30 years ago. He asked the inhabitants whether they wanted the jews back. “Of course not,” was the standard reply, “we’d have to give all the houses and businesses back.”
    Fact: the only European country to which jews did NOT return was Poland.

    Let us not make here sweeping judgments on a whole people. In this case about the Poles.
    Many Jews returned after the end of the war from the Soviet Union to Poland. There were pogroms against Jews in Poland and Hungary after WWII. In Poland the communists tried to deflect from their failure with anti-Semitic campaigns in 1956 and 1968.
    As far as confronting their own History: The critical books of Jan T. Gross published in Poland were widely discussed by the public.

  18. I heartily disagree with all this “banning” talk. I disagree with 99% of what Mr. Paul has to say, but I think it’s pretty useful to see how the other half (or two-thirds?) think. Do we really want to bury our heads in the sand and have a closed talking shop while the super-majorities continue for the next 4 decades? Judging by my experience, Mr. Paul actually represents the (comparatively) more liberal side of Fidesz apologists. And at some point we’re going to have to address just why so many can be so blind (despite the overwhelming evidence of their own empty pockets). Here’s someone with some fortitude (and unlike in the case of certain previous characters, I don’t for a moment believe he’s some paid official troll) who seems determined to stick around. Better to ask him a few difficult questions than to ban.

    And it’s just silly to talk about banning him for briefly going off topic by mentioning some truly worrying developments in Hungary’s next-door neighbour. The off-topic digressions have always been one of the most urgently important parts of this blog. And THIS one is pretty important.

    Come on. It’s Fidesz (“you’re either with us or against us”) who condemn any dissent in the nation, a condemnation of democracy. Let’s not join in such nonsense. He hasn’t been racist, I believe, which would be a different matter. And occasionally he has even been a little contrite. He has a little more wit than Johnny Boy. And he’s certainly not the odious Leto.

    But, having said all that, this is the very last time that I’ll be defending Mr. Paul. Because he’s still wrong.

  19. (though I do wish he had taken on a different name, rather than that used by one of our more astute and more long-standing posters – that’s just bad manners)

  20. I’d also like to say I’d be disgusted if Mr Paul was to be banned. I don’t even agree he’s particular pro-Fidesz, he is what I could call a contrarian. Some things I agree with, some I don’t, and many I can’t see the point, I think he posts first and thinks second, but given the sycophantic tone of this blog, I think it is healthy that someone dares to put other points of view. I also accept that Hungarian liberalism is united with Hungarian right wingism, in that neither can tolerate pluralism when it comes to political discussions. I also think it is pathetic in the extreme that people are seriously suggesting Mr Paul is being paid to disrupt us! Who do you think you are??? And frankly, I find some of Petofi’s racist anti-gypsy comments (which are largely unchallenged although pleased to see Karl challenging his anti-Polish unpleasantness) far more offensive and deserving of banning.

  21. HiBoM :
    I’d also like to say I’d be disgusted if Mr Paul was to be banned. I don’t even agree he’s particular pro-Fidesz, he is what I could call a contrarian. Some things I agree with, some I don’t, and many I can’t see the point, I think he posts first and thinks second, but given the sycophantic tone of this blog,…

    Respecting Eva and her work is not sycophantic.

  22. @HiBoM: He is manipulative, not contrarian. Just look at how likes to turn other people’s words around and look at the type of arguments he throws at other commenters. Now, I don’t know why he is so manipulative, whether he is paid or just doing it for his own entertainment. I find his comments disruptive of intelligent discussion, and banning him wouldn’t be a bad idea… but chances are he’ll be back under another name soon, anyway.

  23. In times to come, political correctness will be deemed the great crutch of pseudo-intellectuals of the early 21st century.

  24. Karl Pfeifer :
    “Snatching victimhood status from your opponent is probably the best-loved ploy of all simply because it promises many dividends, one of which being the right to claim moral superiority, i.e. the “fact” that yours is the just cause cleared, more often than not, by a divine nod. Long drawn out ethnic and/or religious conflicts rarely go without attempts made by one of the two warring parties (usually the more prosperous and populous one) to come into the sole and ultimate possession of victimhood, a status that should in fact be at least shared after centuries of recurring mutual bloodsheds.”
    Miklós Hernádi

    Thank you for this quote, Karl. It sure speaks to many of the First and also Second Generation. The work of Simon Wiesenthal, and his colleagues, was very important, in large measure, I feel, because –as the quote reflects –it was also deeply human. To label the work as a general Nazi hunters, misses the deeper desire to address the uniqueness of the Holocaust.

    I wonder what you feel about the new turn of leaf, toward education and prevention –in the here and now, as with bullzing in the classsroom –as with the New York Center, or generally in the States. I share the main concern of Mark Weitzman that the Hungarian History textbooks, although the yearly Shoa Memorial has now been in place for over a decade, do not reflect this well, and in fact, do it disservice. To me this is THE major concern which must be addressed as a possible rectification and which I think Mazshisz is in a good position to achieve if it shows primarily a positive concern for future generations, rather than addressing its own grievances. This is NOT easy, given the bizarre atmosphere set in place from Szakaly that suddenly a voice of the victimizer is telling the victim –and in essence many students –“We know your history better. And this is what it is.”

    I teach several HS students English, and I am grateful for the help of Eva, in providing the link to young Hungarian historians. These students have shared with me more openly what they have learned –when I probed, asking what is Memorial Year 2014 about, (I ask you and other readers not to react with knee-jerk alarm or disdain, but look toward desired change), They all responded, It was the start of WWI. But when they were asked of directly what they knew of the Holocaust, ALL of them mentioned the word, deportation and all of them spontaneously said that many of the trains used involved cattle cars. It took very little time to explore what cattle cars were used for, and that cattle generally stood in them even over longer distances. And the insight that 200 people crammed into one car, slowed to 30 miles by overweight, taking many days to reach the Ukraine, human beings would have to sit or lie down. SIT or LIE DOWN.

    The profound disservice pf Szakaly became palpable as we talked, and they knew it, too. His need to trivialize the Hungarian participation in the very first acts of the Final Solution where mass murder reached 5 figures, should leave open for UNESCO as well as IHRA –NOT to punish Orban, or Hungary now, but to insist on correction and modification of textbooks to truly reflect the Holocaust in both content and treatment..

    I see this as an opportunity, as a road map which can address resistance to change. Am I wrong?

  25. petofi :
    In times to come, political correctness will be deemed the great crutch of pseudo-intellectuals of the early 21st century.

    I think here on this blog a lot is permitted. But when you for instance declare: “Fact: the only European country to which jews did NOT return was Poland.”
    Everyone interested can find out that this is not a fact, and I draw your attention to it, that is not political correctness, but common sense.

  26. Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner :

    Karl Pfeifer :

    I see this as an opportunity, as a road map which can address resistance to change. Am I wrong?

    The problem is a structural one. Orbán and his ilk have included in the new constitution a falsification of history: see Krisztián Ungváry
    http://www.commartrecovery.org/sites/default/files/1944meg%C3%ADt%C3%A9l%C3%A9seFidesz.pdf
    I am for teaching correct history in Hungary. However, if the Hungarian government has included the Goebbels admirer and Nazi propagandist József Nyirö, the anti-Semitic war criminal Albert Wass and the pro-Fascist and anti-Semite Cecile Tormay into the curriculum, one cannot trust this government.
    So Szakály, Mária Schmidt and the monument are not the only problems.
    Orbán did promise to curb the uniformed militias. He did not deliver.
    So all Orbán needs are token Jews, who give Orbán and his ilk an alibi.
    Do you agree?

  27. Karl Pfeifer :

    petofi :
    In times to come, political correctness will be deemed the great crutch of pseudo-intellectuals of the early 21st century.

    I think here on this blog a lot is permitted. But when you for instance declare: “Fact: the only European country to which jews did NOT return was Poland.”
    Everyone interested can find out that this is not a fact, and I draw your attention to it, that is not political correctness, but common sense.

    Ok, draw my attention to it: what is the basis of your opinion? Name me some towns were previous families have returned? where they have had their houses, lands and businesses returned. I’m prepared to be informed–my mind is ready to be changed…

  28. @ Karl Pfeifer

    re Jews and Poland, post war: This in only Wikipedia, but still…

    “In the postwar period, many of the approximately 200,000 Jewish survivors registered at CKŻP (of whom 136,000 arrived from the Soviet Union)[21][22][23] left the Communist People’s Republic of Poland for the nascent State of Israel and North or South America. Their departure was hastened by the destruction of Jewish institutions, post-war violence and the hostility of the Communist Party to both religion and private enterprise, but also because in 1946–1947 Poland was the only Eastern Bloc country to allow free Jewish aliyah to Israel,[24] without visas or exit permits.[25][26] Britain demanded from Poland to halt the exodus, but their pressure was largely unsuccessful.[27]”

    So, ‘free Jewish aliya…no visas or exit permits…” Wow. Was sneaky Victor already operating in Poland? Was this a unique sign of welcome to jews? And, ‘the destruction of Jewish institutions’….was that so new ones could be built by returning jews?

  29. petofi :

    Karl Pfeifer :

    petofi :
    In times to come, political correctness will be deemed the great crutch of pseudo-intellectuals of the early 21st century.

    I think here on this blog a lot is permitted. But when you for instance declare: “Fact: the only European country to which jews did NOT return was Poland.”
    Everyone interested can find out that this is not a fact, and I draw your attention to it, that is not political correctness, but common sense.

    Ok, draw my attention to it: what is the basis of your opinion? Name me some towns were previous families have returned? where they have had their houses, lands and businesses returned. I’m prepared to be informed–my mind is ready to be changed…

    Fact is Jews returned to Poland in contradiction to your statement.
    Claude Lanzmann’s 1984 documentary Shoah, which painted an unflattering picture of Poles, was shown on Polish TV and a vigorous debate followed. Subsequent conferences (1984-1988) reestablished dialogue between Polish and Jewish academics, led to the establishment of Jewish studies institutes at several Polish universities and a modest revival of Jewish life in Poland.
    Most post 1989 governments have been liberal in their outlook and many Polish intellectuals have faced up to the challenges of the past. Warsaw has a long-established Jewish theater, which performs plays in Yiddish, there is a chief rabbi once again, a functioning synagogue in Warsaw and a synagogue and yeshiva in Krakow. The Museum of Jewish History in the center of Warsaw was built with government support.,
    The publication in 2000 of Jan Tomasz Gross’s book “Neighbors”, documenting the 1941 pogrom that destroyed the Jews of the small town Jedwabne, sparked both an official inquiry, which substantially confirmed Gross’s findings, and an unprecedented public debate in all Polish media. Polish scholars now make a full contribution to Holocaust journals and conferences.
    A Jewish view on property restitution:
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/poland-seen-as-worst-offender-on-shoah-restitution/
    The WJC view:
    http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/news/13961/statement_on_recent_magazine_report_about_jewish_property_restitution_in_poland
    A Polish-American view:
    http://propertyrightsintransition.com/property-restitution-in-poland

    I have answered your question. Let us return to subject matter of this blog: Hungary.

  30. Ivan :
    (though I do wish he had taken on a different name, rather than that used by one of our more astute and more long-standing posters – that’s just bad manners)

    I share your reservation!

    Especially as some people on here can’t seem to tell the difference – despite the name, the style, the opinions AND the avatar!

  31. The status of Mazsihisz, and Judaism –an its several branches –can not be separated In recent years from changes in the status of Houses of Worship which received State support and tax exemption initially being cut from over 300 to less than 30. There were more or less logical reasons for this, as many of were, in fact, misusing their privileged status, and did not meet the required desires to give back in terms of social services. There were also clearly political motives and racism –Hare Krishna has a useful food service for the homeless, but did not receive religious status. Nor did any Buddhists. The clearest political discrimination befell one of the most active social service churches of the Methodist Pastor Ivanyi Gabor, Head, John Wesley College. He had actually baptized Orban!s children, and of the Methodists in Hungary, has far and away the largest staff of over 700 engaged in “service” of many sorts –including a hospital and clinic at minimal cost, nursery for very poor mothers and their kids, and start-up HS and University. What harmed him was his clearest stance of social activism on behalf of Jewry, and Roma.

    Mazsihisz, Neolog, or Conservative, is clearly the largest coordinating body of Budapest synagogues, and now that many countryside synagogues have been renewed, of small countryside congregations. But plagued by ongoing economic woes due to a historic heritage, it also tended to live from the past, partly compensation and foreign aid. For the longest time, this led to problems and at time, even gross illegalities, such as robbing their own museum in the past. Other problems included actual definitions of Judaism, and periodic infighting whether their Rabbi!s had been trained, or simply appointed, etc. As such, Mazsihisz is more a social agency, and as such, tends to serve the elderly, and also foster a dependence which is sometimes disempowering. The new leadership of Heisler was welcomed for his desires to be forward looking, and desiring openness. In fact, most of the area around Maszihisz in the VII-the District has flowered with lively new business, and hopeful young entrepreneurs. 80% of tourists to Budapest visit the area of the Ruin Pubs there.

    My sense is that the Lubavics are misunderstood in this discussion. They are largely independently funded, and so free of both internals and also government influences. They chose, wisely, to continue to engage the government in dialogue. As such, they serve a useful mediating voice. And they have been independently free to be critical of Mazshisz, well known to be closely aligned with the former Communists, and present socialists. One of their attractions is clearest grounding in the Torah, and as in the congregations of some Christian churches, a disappointment in the “laws of man,” especially questionable in the “Wild East.”

    Szim Shalom, was the first Reformed Jewish movement, dating to before 1989, and has a female Rabbi. Several new Reformed congregations now exist, but have met with strong resistance from Mazsihisz, likened to a stonewalling. One explanation for this was economic, and related to this, that given the fragmentation of identity, most secular Jews, as in other countries, would flock to the Reformed movement.

  32. As a Hungarian Jew who actually attends synagogue, I’ve got a bunch of thoughts.

    First of all, the Fidesz Basic Law is the root problem for me. I am proud of my Hungarian and Jewish roots, but as long as it is in effect, I cannot say that I am “Hungarian.” Its message to me is clear: I am not considered part of the Hungarian people. I know there will be many people who would disagree with me, saying that it does respect all faiths. But from my personal and subjective perspective, my perception is that it is rejecting me and my family (did I use enough redundancy to make that clear?). I will not rest until the Basic Law is completely changed, but I understand that others don’t care about this wonky issues. So talking about the secondary effects of the Basic Law, like statues, is a good way to humanize a legalistic problem.

    Second, Mazsihisz does NOT represent me. I am angry at their years of tacit support of Fidesz, though I’m encouraged that they are finally starting to speak up for Hungarians of the Jewish faith.

    Third, there are several Reform congregations in Hungary that have lost recognition in Hungary, such as Szim Salom. I wish more people cared about them. While Neologs are considered the equivalent to Conservative Judaism, the two branches were once unified. I consider Neologs the forerunners of Reform Judaism, and I love to point out that the Central Synagogue in New York City is a replica of Dohány.

    Finally, I have no problem banning Mr. Paul. We can have a great discussion without him, and it wastes my time to read his posts, which tend to distract from the point at hand. If I want a read people who consider Hungarians as the only victims in human history, I can read politics.hu. We have a lot of work to do to help restore Hungary, and I’d rather read about the differences of opinion of petofi and Karl Pfeifer. Don’t feed the trolls. I’m a rabid free-speech advocate, but that doesn’t mean that this site shouldn’t have its own perspective.

  33. Just finished watching a show on pax tv on the Hungarian holocaust. I was under the impression that Pax was a very pro government channel,especially with its catholic links ,but the final summary of the program was that the holocaust simply would not have happened without the cooperation of the Hungarian authorities. Interesting.

  34. Apparently the Russian invasion of the Ukraine will officially begin see this story from AFP:

    Night Wolves, Putin’s ‘Biker Brothers,’ To Ride To Ukraine To Support Pro-Russia Cause

    Agence France Presse

    Posted: 02/28/2014 1:06 pm EST Updated: 02/28/2014 12:59 pm EST

    A group of Russian bikers called the Night Wolves that regularly rides with President Vladimir Putin is heading to Ukraine to back pro-Russian protests, its leader said Friday.

    Putin has ridden a Harley-Davidson with the bikers and called them his “brothers”. He is said to be close to its long-haired leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed “the Surgeon”.

    The patriotic group opposes Ukraine’s European integration and the protest movement that has taken power in Kiev. Its website says its members are “ready to die like warriors”.

    “Tomorrow people are organizing an action called Russian Spring,” Zaldostanov told the RIA Novosti news agency, saying the event would start from the town of Popasnaya in eastern Ukraine.

    “The column will start at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) and ride across the whole eastern part of Ukraine,” he said, adding that he himself was going to the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based.

    The overwhelmingly Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea has emerged as a flashpoint in Ukraine after the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovych, with many residents openly hostile to the new authorities in Kiev.

    The bikers’ leader said members also planned to deliver “humanitarian aid” to Sevastopol on four-wheeler bikes.

    Putin has several times appeared at bike rallies with Zaldostanov, a towering figure who wears studded leather and ties his long hair back in a pony tail.

    Last year, Putin personally decorated Zaldostanov with a state honour after the group helped restore a monument symbolic of Soviet war heroism in the southern city of Volgograd.

    In 2011, Putin, riding a Harley-Davidson, led a column of the bikers at a rally held on a former Soviet warship in the Russian Black Sea port city of Novorossiisk.

    The club has its own Kiev branch, which says its aim is to “spread Russian influence around the world”.

  35. I think it should be mentioned once more, that whoever commenting here has no any right to tell Eva what- and how should she publish whatever she pleases, – has only right to stay away from here in case he/she don’t like the tone, the style or the view of the blog.

    This is a private blog and we are guests here people, and not on any way can we demand anything from our host – in case if we’re at least have passing familiarity with civilised behaviour. In other words: don’t spit on the floor, you are not at home!

    Imagine, like she let us in her backyard or let us sit on the patio and discuss about whatever – but you aren’t supposed to tell her, how to plant her flowers the as they would fit to your taste, or complain about their colours, are you?

    It certainly isn’t harder than this.

  36. I guess our dear Viktor presently on his knees and praying intently for a miracle, like “please, don’t let the Russians turn too nasty on Ukraine, otherwise my plans may have nasty ends too…!”

    I mean, if the Russians really stand for their reputation, how Orbán will be able to explain even to those few sane Fidesz supporters, that they really are our true friends, only at the moment they don’t look the part that much?

  37. Interesting post from gardonista – and very good to hear from someone actually living the reality we all speculate and opinionate about (not to mention a Hungarian with such excellent English!).

    Thinking about the way Jews (and Roma) are described as ‘non-Hungarians’ made me wonder if this happens in the same way in other countries, and if so/not, why?

    In Britain we talk of British Jews, Black British, Asian British, etc, but the emphasis is always on the ‘British’, whereas in Hungary I always feel the emphasis is on the ‘Jewish’ (or ‘Roma’) bit. (I’m not claiming that we are a non-racist society, we have our idiots and uneducated, just like everyone does.)

    And in the US, it seems to me (I’ve never been there) almost everybody is a ‘Something’ American, it seems to be something that Americans take for granted (everyone came from somewhere else), and the label is often worn as a badge of pride.

    Yet in Hungary, it is used to denote a second-class person, someone who cannot be fully trusted, someone with a different (therefore non-Hungarian) agenda – not a full citizen.

    Labels like Catholic-Hungarian, Romanian-Hungarian, Calvinist-Hungarian, etc are informative (mostly), rather than pejorative – whereas labels like Jewish-Hungarian or Hungarian Roma, are very often entirely pejorative.

    And this is because ‘Catholic Hungarian’ (for instance) and ‘Jewish Hungarian’ are not equal descriptors. ‘Catholic Hungarians’ are Hungarians of the Roman Catholic faith, ‘Jewish Hungarians’ are Jews with Hungarian citizenship. The emphasis isn’t on the faith, but on the race. Jews (and Roma) are not Hungarians. They may be Hungarian citizens, and may have been for hundreds of years, but they are not seen as ‘racially/ethnically’ Hungarians.

    Hungarians may not like it, but I’m afraid the motivation/’justification’ underlying all this is straightforward racism.

  38. Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner :
    My sense is that the Lubavics are misunderstood in this discussion. They are largely independently funded, and so free of both internals and also government influences. They chose, wisely, to continue to engage the government in dialogue. As such, they serve a useful mediating voice. And they have been independently free to be critical of Mazshisz, well known to be closely aligned with the former Communists, and present socialists. One of their attractions is clearest grounding in the Torah, and as in the congregations of some Christian churches, a disappointment in the “laws of man,” especially questionable in the “Wild East.”

    Oy, the Lubavitch. Viewed from the outside (including by most Reform Jews/Neologs), they are a unified group. From the inside the community, it’s quite diverse, and as they grow, their internal divisions grow. They have a political leadership that tries to make decisions, but the decision-makers aren’t always respected.

    When I’ve spoken to people about Slomo Köves (the head of the Lubavitch community who seems totally pro-Orban), the people who know him respect him a lot. He’s considered smart, and he knows Hungarian and American politics. He’s been able to convince most of the Lubovitch community that he’s got the right way to deal with Fidesz, and I profoundly disagree.

    But don’t say they have the “clearest ground in the Torah.” For other Jewish groups, they are too focused on the midrash and not on the Torah.

  39. Mr. Paul :
    Poland lost 6 million of its citizens as far as I can recall so it goes a little beyond in seriousness than the joke.

    It is pretty obvious what Mr. Paul’s background is. If he would be a Jew he would know how to laugh at himself.
    But do keep him amongst the contributors to this blog (or forum ?). He amuses me all the time.

  40. Karl Pfeifer :

    Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner :

    Karl Pfeifer :
    I see this as an opportunity, as a road map which can address resistance to change. Am I wrong?

    The problem is a structural one. Orbán and his ilk have included in the new constitution a falsification of history: see Krisztián Ungváry
    http://www.commartrecovery.org/sites/default/files/1944meg%C3%ADt%C3%A9l%C3%A9seFidesz.pdf
    I am for teaching correct history in Hungary. However, if the Hungarian government has included the Goebbels admirer and Nazi propagandist József Nyirö, the anti-Semitic war criminal Albert Wass and the pro-Fascist and anti-Semite Cecile Tormay into the curriculum, one cannot trust this government.
    So Szakály, Mária Schmidt and the monument are not the only problems.
    Orbán did promise to curb the uniformed militias. He did not deliver.
    So all Orbán needs are token Jews, who give Orbán and his ilk an alibi.
    Do you agree?

    Karl, Appreciate your active contribution here drawing on personal experience and expert knowledge, and appreciation to Eva to allow issues so charged to gain time for ventilation. Many memories come up which detract from the distance needed to address your reply and what I agree is a seemingly “structural” calcification. Un-sticking is one area of my focus since I have started working with the Tavistock Institute, where one view is that crisis can forster a “window of opportunity” for change. Several comments here, as well as further examples from discussion with my students may provide some answers in this direction.

    One memory which comes back is of my stepfather, a top student, who wanted to study medicine. He was refused due to the Jewish quotas, but they said to him, “O Ofner. You do not even look like a Jew. Just change your name, and you are in.” As many in my family, he was thin on denial, and chose to study in Padua, and then in the States, where he joined the army as medical officer. Later, stationed on the Italian front in Milan, he was called up to treat the survivors when Auschwitz was liberated. Like many vets, he never talked about it. So let me gain a little distance, and I will respond. Will get back later today.

  41. Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner :

    Can you explain what you mean, when you write about “seemingly “structural” calcification”?

    How long will it take to answer my simple and straightforward questions?

  42. Steve :

    Mr. Paul :
    Poland lost 6 million of its citizens as far as I can recall so it goes a little beyond in seriousness than the joke.

    It is pretty obvious what Mr. Paul’s background is. If he would be a Jew he would know how to laugh at himself.
    But do keep him amongst the contributors to this blog (or forum ?). He amuses me all the time.

    Yes, please keep him. The way things are, we need the light relief.

    We just need to laugh at him, but not be drawn into his trollish schemes.

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