Today I will share Paul A. Shapiro’s introductory remarks of February 26, 2014 at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Ambassador György Szapáry organized an event to mark the publication of The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide, the latest in a series called “Documenting Life and Destruction” published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The book is authored by Hungarian Holocaust scholars László Csősz, Zoltán Vági, and Gábor Kádár. They belong the younger generation of historians dealing with the subject of the Hungarian Holocaust. Gábor Kádár wrote several books together with Zoltán Vági, one of which was translated into English: Self-Financing Genocide: The Gold Train–The Becher Case–The Wealth of Jews, Hungary. In Hungarian, one of their important contributions is Hullarablás–A magyar zsidók gazdasági megsemmisítése and their latest, A végső döntés: Berlin, Budapest, Birkenau 1944. László Csősz is an associate of the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center and is interested in the anti-Jewish laws and their economic consequences.
Paul Shapiro is the director for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. This is not the first time his name has appeared in Hungarian Spectrum. A year ago I published his testimony on the growing anti-Semitism in Hungary before the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This time his remarks were delivered before a small gathering in the Hungarian Embassy, and I thought they deserved a larger audience.
But first I would like to say a few words about the standoff between the Hungarian government and Mazsihisz (Magyarországi Zsidó Hitközségek Szövetsége/The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities). As you know, Viktor Orbán postponed the erection of the controversial statue that would have depicted Hungary as an innocent victim of German aggression and thus innocent of the Hungarian Holocaust.
Since then not much has happened except that ever more local religious communities are refusing to accept money from the Hungarian government for events connected with the memorial year. Among them is one of the more important synagogues in Budapest, on Leó Frankel Street. Apparently it is well attended by mostly young and highly educated people. A statement was released by the Frankel Synagogue Foundation a couple of weeks ago:
The Frankel Synagogue Foundation, in agreement with the Frankel synagogue community, does not wish to use the financial support it has won through an open tender from the Hungarian Government Civil Fund for the memorial events marking the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust.Our aim is to draw attention to the government’s presentation of the Horthy era in a positive light, the appearance of Arrow Cross writers on the national curriculum and its qualification of mass murders as an “alien citizens’ procedure” as well as several other manifestations that are incompatible with granting support for memorial events that pay tribute to the victims of mass murders or an honourable way of thinking.Naturally, we will still hold our memorial events. But do not wish to use support from a government that displays turncoat behavior, arousing the indignation of the majority of Hungary’s Jewish community as well as the democratic international community.
Paul Shapiro–Introductory Remarks
The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide
Embassy of Hungary
February 26, 2014
Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. I want to express appreciation to my friend Ambassador Szapary and the Hungarian Embassy for organizing this program and for hosting us here this evening.
Having been asked to say a few words of introduction, I would like to offer some comments regarding the book that we will hear about this evening, and then share a few words about why we feel this book is important, and why it is particularly important at this particular moment, during a year that marks the 70th anniversary of the deportation by Hungarian government and police authorities, acting in cooperation with a small band of Adolf Eichmann’s men and with the knowledge and assent of Regent Miklós Horthy, of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau; during a year that marks the 70th anniversary of the crude crimes and murders perpetrated during the Arrow Cross (Nyilas) regime, which cost the lives of additional thousands of Jews; and during a 70th anniversary year that will be followed by Hungary’s assumption of the Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
First, about the book.
Many of you know that one of the mandates that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received at its founding from the Congress of the United States is to assemble at the Museum archival collections that will enable scholars and educators to undertake serious research and to teach about the Holocaust based on the authentic historical record as reflected in original documentation from the years of the Holocaust itself. Our archives contain tens of millions of documents collected from some 40 countries worldwide, including Hungary.
Most of this documentation, of course, is not in English. And again in response to our Congressional mandate, “to educate about the Holocaust,” one of the projects we have undertaken in recent years, through a publication series that we call “Documenting Life and Destruction,” is to make available to English-speaking audiences worldwide authentic documentation of the Holocaust in English translation, so that it can be studied and used in teaching. The Holocaust in Hungary: Evolution of a Genocide is the newest volume in that publication series.
What is special about this particular volume. The content of the volume, of course, is powerful—a story of mass murder that took place when it was already clear that Hungary and her Axis allies would lose the war. The Holocaust in Hungary is the story of one of every 10 Jews murdered during the Holocaust, and the book reveals through the original documents that it presents to the reader, the prejudices, anti-Semitism among cultural and other societal elites, political calculations and decisions, and absence of compassion that produced that horrible death toll of innocent victims. Also special, all three of the authors of this important volume are young Hungarian scholars, each a Ph.D. and exceptionally well trained. All three have been visiting fellows at our Museum, having succeeded, on the basis of the quality of their work, in winning fellowships through the very rigorous international competition that we organize each year. Two of the authors were on the four-person design team of experts that created the extraordinary and historically accurate permanent exhibition at the Holocaust Memorial Center on Pava Street in Budapest a decade ago; and the third author, László Cősz, is currently the Senior Historian at that very special Hungarian institution. So we know that the volume is of high quality. That Randolph Braham, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the City University of New York and one of the rare survivors of the Hungarian Jewish Labor Service, has provided a foreword to the book further adds to its authority. Thus, this book, on its merits, deserves special attention, and again, I want to thank the Embassy for this opportunity to present it.
Now, why do I stress the importance of this book at this particular moment? The answer lies not in our archives, not at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at our Museum, and not in Washington, … but in Hungary.
Last year, the Hungarian Government announced an extensive set of programs and projects that it intended to sponsor during this 70th anniversary year of the tragic, murderous 1944 events to which I have already made reference. Some of the projects were controversial, and were perceived to suggest a continuation of disturbing trends that might result in distortion of the true history of the Holocaust. But the Government promised consultation, inclusion, and transparency, and solicited advice and recommendations, even from my own institution. Some of our recommendations were included in my testimony before a Congressional Committee nearly a year ago, and thanks to the assistance of Ambassador Szapáry, we were able to share our thoughts in person and in writing with officials of high state authority in Budapest. I won’t repeat the content of my testimony, but I will say that we still feel that our recommendations had merit, and that it is unfortunate that not one of them has been embraced by the Government of Hungary. But that is not the crux of the matter. As I say, it is not what happens in Washington that is important in this story, but what is happening in Hungary.
Regrettably, recent developments surrounding three of the government’s 70th anniversary projects have raised doubts about whether true consultation and transparency exists—that is, consultation and open discussion in which serious objections and carefully argued suggestions might be taken seriously. You all know the three issues: 1) the offensive and history-cleansing remarks made by Sándor Szakály, director of the newly created Veritas History Institute, which appeared to whitewash actions of the Horthy government that resulted in the deportation from Hungary of 18,000 Jews in 1941 and the murder of most of them; 2) the rush to create and display an “alternate history” of the Holocaust, without the guidance and input of leading Holocaust scholars and the Hungarian Jewish community, at a new museum, the so-called “House of Fates,” being installed at the Jázsefváros rail station on the outskirts of Budapest, rather than strengthening the city’s existing Holocaust Memorial Center; and, most recently, the planned German occupation monument, which, by making it appear that Hungary was an innocent victim, most observers consider will lead to a downplaying of “the active contribution of the Hungarian authorities” and “the Hungarian state’s central role in the mass deportations of 1944.” (See AFP, “US Scholar Returns Hungary Award over Whitewash, January 26, 2014; and New York Times, “Holocaust Scholar Returns Top Award to Hungary in Protest,” January 27, 2014).
Professor Braham, whose expertise is uniquely respected around the world, sees a “campaign of history falsification.” A group of researchers and historians from within and outside Hungary have issued an open statement of concern (dated January 28, the full text is available on Amerikai Magyar Népszava, February 2, 2014). Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice in Budapest, has issued a statement calling for an end to “mixed messages” and objecting to an occupation monument approach that promotes “utter amnesia regarding the role of the Hungarian government in the worst atrocities of that tragic occupation.” (Lantos Foundation Statement, February 3, 2014). Clearly, these prominent personalities are signaling a serious crisis of confidence in the Holocaust Memorial Year.
But the most revealing and grave indication that a change of course is necessary has been the reaction of the country’s still vibrant, though of course much smaller, Jewish community. Without recounting the entire sequence of events, it is sufficient to say here that a significant number of Jewish organizations, including some of the most important—MAZSIHISZ, that is, The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, The Dohány Synagogue Foundation, The Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association, regional Jewish community associations, and others—after seeking to consult with the government and seeing their concerns and suggestions rejected, have announced that they will no longer participate in Holocaust Memorial Year events. Institutions and individuals that had received grants from the government’s Holocaust Memorial Year fund have returned the grant monies in order to emphasize their objections. (Some non-Jewish associations have done the same.) When one considers that many of these organizations receive their core funding from the state budget, it is difficult to overstate the courage they have shown by speaking out, and it is impossible to fail to understand the depth of concern that has generated their protest.
It would be difficult to characterize the government’s response thus far as forthcoming. Minister of State János Lázár, who is managing the Holocaust Memorial Year agenda, has accused MAZSIHISZ of “sabotage,” of issuing “ultimatums,” and of thus putting at risk long-term “Jewish-Hungarian coexistence.” To a community commemorating the 70th anniversary of the murder of over three quarters of its members, such language must sound chilling indeed. Construction of the German occupation monument has been delayed … temporarily, but up to now there is no sign that other corrective steps are being taken. I did note, however, that after Minister of State Lázár met with a round table of Jewish community representatives on February 6, he stated that without the support of the Jewish communities, the “House of Fates” project “would be meaningless,” and he stated that “it is important to unravel the events of 1944, in order to clearly determine responsibility” (Government of Hungary Press Release, February 6, 2014). As my friend Ambassador Szapáry knows from our conversations, I am an eternal optimist. If Mr. Lázár’s statements indicate a willingness to consult in earnest, I would urge the Hungarian government to heed MAZSIHISZ’s call for significant investment to dramatically strengthen the programs and capabilities of Holocaust Memorial Center as Hungary’s principal institution for Holocaust education, school visits, and research. And in light of the potential for distortion and misunderstanding of the history of the Holocaust in Hungary that has raised so much concern, I would encourage the government to consider again the possible establishment of a high-level international commission of scholars to prepare for the government, on the basis of authentic archival documentation, a report to be made public that will “unravel,” to borrow the Minister of State’s word, in an unequivocal and authoritative manner, the historical questions to which Mr. Lázár has referred and other Holocaust-related issues where the history can be clarified.
Seventy years ago, the state leadership of Hungary—Regent Miklós Horthy and his government ministers, in particular—failed to listen to the repeated desire for inclusion and, later, the urgent pleas for help in extremis that came from Hungary’s Jewish community. What the country’s Jewish citizens got, instead, was anti-Semitic legislation; exclusion from the protection of the state; deportation and death at Kamenetz Podolski; murder in Újvidék; gassing at Auschwitz-Birkenau; death marches; and, under Szálasi, fanatical killings on the streets and on the banks of the Danube in Budapest during the final months of the war. For Horthy, Szálasi, and others who held leading positions in Hungary at the time—as for Adolf Eichmann and his group of SS-men—this record has left a stain on their legacy that must be confronted honestly and that will never be wiped clean, however much all who care deeply about Hungary might wish the situation to be otherwise. Historical fact is historical fact, and neither wishing, nor lobbying, nor wilful or even unintended manipulation can change that.
Today, once again, the Jewish community of Hungary is seeking real inclusion, real consultation, and is pleading for today’s more modern, better educated, democratically elected state leadership, to listen to their legitimate concerns and to be responsive regarding appropriate commemoration of the Holocaust; preservation in a dignified way of the memory of the majority of the Jewish community that was lost forever; and commitment to teaching Hungary’s young people the historical truth, without distortion, obfuscation, or the presentation of more convenient or more comforting “alternate facts.” As in Horthy’s time, the long-term legacy of today’s national leadership vis-à-vis the tragedy of the Holocaust, will depend on the Hungarian government’s response.
The book of László Csősz, Zoltán Vági, and Gábor Kádár demonstrates that the truth regarding many issues that have been deemed “controversial” is knowable and documentable. We are hopeful that this book may provide a starting point for corrective action that will alter the trajectory of events in Hungary that I have described. Our Museum stands ready, as we have stated repeatedly, to contribute in ways that we can to serious remedial efforts. We will continue during this anniversary year to promote and present well-documented scholarly work on the Holocaust in Hungary. There will be a full-day symposium on this subject at the Museum on March 19. I hope that you will attend.
With thanks again to Ambassador Szapáry for his indulgence, let me now turn the floor over to Dr. László Csősz.
Indeed. Are any of you aware of a public reaction by Mrs Applebaum on the ‘house of fates’ controversy? She was also on the advisory board.
Beautiful… it’s all the left’s fault. Hungarians just need to sit back and relax and carry on with Orban because there is no better choice… no, Hungarians are not responsible for their future, they just have to choose every 4 years, and if there are really no good choices, it is not their fault.
The problem with articles like this is not that they are criticizing the left, but the general sentiment they espouse… the know-it-all condescending attitude with which all political players are treated, old and new. It’s exactly like people criticizing a football game they are watching. Articles like this only reinforce general political passivity in Hungary: the average Hungarian is just the guy who is watching the football game and criticizing the the players and the coach, but would never get up from the couch and actually do something.
The “sitting back and choose every four years” model may work fine in functioning democracies (though in functioning democracies civil political activism is still a lot higher than in Hungary). But when you have a budding dictatorship, you need to do more than just offer smug criticism. I would imagine a leftist paper could be critical of the current opposition, but in a way that is constructive and not self-serving.
@Verde” “As a result, it seems that lefty smartasses are starting to leave the left and writing more and more snarky articles, comments, predictions, analyses and reports. They are preparing for their own future.”
This may very well be true.
@An, generally I share your irritation with the condescending nature of the Hungarian intelligentsia. And I’ve certainly found myself irritated with Para Kovács in the past for the same reason. But I think in this case, he has every justification. The opposition has been hijacked by the MSZP and Gyurcsány for their own wretched ambitions and while I grant that the Zuschlag and Simon affairs have been disgracefully managed by Fidesz, any party with so many skeletons in the cupboard was always going to be a liability. Unless there was a complete and radical change of personnel at the top which did not happen. So people wanting something better have every right to feel frustrated even if they do share some of the blame by their own negativity at other times.
By the way, the opposition has just shot itself in the foot with its campaign videos. The idea is not bad: find people who have suffered at the hands of Fidesz, such as a businessman who was pressured to sell his company to some Fidesz maffioso. But how have they done this? By getting actors (or amateur actors) to recite a script, thus making it absolutely clear they aren’t authentic – the one ingredient that is most important to the whole story. Madness…
@Verde” “As a result, it seems that lefty smartasses are starting to leave the left and writing more and more snarky articles, comments, predictions, analyses and reports. They are preparing for their own future.”
An alternative theory, they might be angry just as the ordinary non-Orbán voter like myself. We want to see Orbán gone, but the left turned out to be a spectacular self-absorbant old fashioned screw-up. Fidesz is not the devil’s forces unleashed, they were a defeated party in 2002 and 2006, Orbán’s career was on the brink of being over. If they could get where they are now, is because they were allowed. Yes they used all means necessary, yes they were ruthless and obstructive, but that wouldn’t have led them anywhere had the left not have shown incompetence, chaos and corruption, and nobody is even learning the lessons from that.
What the left is doing under the pretense of campaigning is a travesty. There hasn’t been an original idea, just zero vision, constant fruitless whining (even if it is justified), ridiculous wishful thinking alternating with chronic defeatism. It’s like having to choose between a malicious but otherwise sane person who knows what he is doing or a sweet disoriented bipolar idiot, who doesn’t even have a clue where and who he is, let alone where he wants to go, but has a strong intrinsic natural urge for self-preservation.
Sorry about the rant, but I’m incredibly frustrated and I suspect the more independent left-liberal pundits are as well. Consider that before you automatically imply that Fidesz bought them up, or they are rubbing up to the stronger dog. (Some might, but not in general)
@Jano: “a malicious but otherwise sane person “??????? I think your frustration with the opposition has taken over your best judgement.
@Jano: Don’t confuse sanity with efficiency. Psychopaths can be very efficient.
@An, Fidesz and Orbán are perfectly sane. That is what makes them so horrible and dangerous
@HiBoM: Sure…Orban at minimum has NPD, but I wouldn’t rule out sociopathy either.
Sane people are especially known for megalomaniac projects, like building a 3500 seat football stadium in their hometown of 1800, for a team generally drawing in 500 people.
An: Ok, sane in the sense, that he knows what he is doing, he has a plan, and he is frighteningly efficient. That’s the allure.
@An: Also, we agree about Fidesz, there’s no argument between us about how we see Orbán’s rule. I’m sure you know what I was talking about.
I know, and I understand your frustration.
Don’t know if this will make you laugh or cry:
I just asked my wife if I should switch on the tv and if she would like to watch the news – and she answered:
I’ve had enough of the news, it’s only politics and I don’t want to see no Jobbik nor Ballik nor Fidesznik!
So we decided to listen to some blues&rock music …
OT but Mandiner has actually expressed its distaste for the latest round of rezsicsökkentés adverts on television. Quite a rarity for a pro-government blog:
@wolfi: just happy for you both. As a brilliant European TV professional once said, speaking of TV content – news included: “What we’re selling to Coca Cola is available human brain time”.
Yeah, this gives me the chance to promote one of my favourite writers: Harlan Ellison
He not only edited Science Fiction (Dangerous Visoins) and wrote short stories (A boy and his dog) but also had a column in the 60s in a LA paper which were collected under:
The glass teat ak tv …
He wrote that the typical tv show is produced for a teenager of average intellect who has not been weaned …
It is stunning that some fanatics even attack HVG, it is as liberal as they come. Journalists are not campaign propagandists on the liberal side. That is the norm on the Fidesz site. A real newspaper has to adhere to some rules, it is not HVG that need their head examined but some people on this site. People accuse HVG but do not raise their voice, when blatant antisemitism appears on the site. Targeting a Jewish intellectual and then throwing her in front of the mob like some virtual pogrom to face attacks ranging from “very crazy” to “dirty jew”. And the first thing people mention is that she is a jew. Last time people paid such close attention to everyone’s Jewishness or not was in the 30s. It had nothing to do with whether her view had any truth to it regarding Mazsihisz, or not (it didn’t).
Is Mr. Paul back with a vengeance (and a new handle) or do we have a new troll?
Dude, you have no idea what you’re talking about.
HVG is not liberal or leftist. This is a standard fidesznik accusation but it does not make it any true. It is (was) a Western-oriented, middle-of-the-road, pragmatic, balanced medium which is line with its original business/economic focus.
HVG used to be an independent weekly paper which is changing as it is now losing relevance. It also had a pretty good internet page which was rearranged recently: the articles became boring (i.e. HVG was successfully pacified) and HVG is clearly overcompensating for Gavra Gabor (the editor in chief who left/was sacked a couple of months ago)’s unfortunate fake video blunder.
That said, HVG now has to show that it is not biased against Fidesz and in it does. Plus is awfully tough to even exist in this politico-business environment which people compare to Russia or Ukraine or Serbia and HVG is thus making its own “compromises”.
HVG is fighting for its survival and the German owners have realized that there is not much future in it, either in the print or in the internet versions (although this is true for most traditional media companies where print is in decline but internet cannot yet compensate for that decline). On the other hand there are several fidesznik investors who would just love to buy it for a good money.
People at HVG also realized that should the medium be sold their jobs will (but certainly might) depend on the generosity of some fideszniks, hence it is a great strategy to look open generous to fidesz and to start ridiculing the left (not criticizing, but ridiculing). It is an open question whether this strategy will work, but who cares if they can at least receive another month’s paycheck.
Since Zsuzsa Hegedüs’ activities now encompass involvement in Jewish issues, it is a relevant fact to refer to her identity. There is nothing “anti” in this. If anything, the criticism is pro-Jewish, because it wanted to call attention to the fact that although she has Jewish roots she has no problem wholeheartedly supporting Fidesz, and especially its efforts to rewrite history to the detriment of Jewish Hungarians and being an instrument of dividing and subduing the Hungarian Jewish community. Because that is what she is doing, make no mistake.
Moreover,it is common knowledge around Orban that the only reason he hired Zsuzsa Hegedüs in the first place as her personal advisor and has been keeping her on his payroll, is because she looks Jewish to ordinary fideszniks. Yep, that is how people strategize at Fidesz. She looks her part, so she looks all the more credible when supporting Fidesz against the Hungarian Jewish community. If anybody, it is Fidesz who is using insidious methods to advance its power.
The bottom line is that this kind of thinking only exist on the left.
A proper right-winger may be critical but will never openly say so and will vote in a disciplined manner to Fidesz regardless.
The trick is exactly to have voters who see the corruption, the rottenness, the decline and lagging behind and despite all these still vote for you (because they still hate or want to hate the “communists” more, for example). That is what Fidesz is very successful at. That is because they realized that voting is not rational, but that I guess goes against the whole epistemology of the left so leftists just cannot comprehend it.
Until the left can only attract rational, deliberative, argumentative people it is doomed, because any critical person would never be satisfied with any political force.
Then you certainly should try one of these days those guys at the Bellyup4Blues.com – makes the whole other crap pretty much unimportant, you’ll see, the real stuff for adults all strictly Orbán-free, I promise!
FOUL FIDESZ TROLL-SPAM
Well, just when you though it was safe to dip back in the chatter, it’s back! The Fidesz troll-team formerly posting under the false name of “Mr Paul” is of course predictably back with us now that it has been banned — now planning to use a changing thematic false-name instead of an identifiable constant moniker. It will be just as disruptive, with the advantage of mutating one-off posts that cannot be banned in advance.
This is of course spam, and a particularly foul kind of spam, when used by a national government (surreptitiously, of course). I suggest that Professor Balogh keep track of the IPs. Perhaps some of Hungarian Spectrum‘s more technically savvy users can help trace the spam: It may even become one of the long list of filthy tricks that can be proven objectively to be orchestrated by Fidesz.
In the end, the only way to prevent this sort of malign abuse is to moderate all postings. Even if this is not feasible on a permanent basis, I strongly advise doing it until the election is over. Fidesz is not satisfied with controlling the Hungarian media and with having squeezed the opposition off the billboards and spammed them with Fidesz propaganda instead — it wants to do the same with open online media too, especially those that have earned a high profile, like Hungarian Spectrum…
sztarec: Excuses, excuses, the left is full of those. No, people vote for stories and for visions on the future if that’s combined with a strong image of actually being able to govern. I hate Fidesz’s story with a passion, but they have one (so does Jobbik) and they know how to sell it. That’s what they are successful at and that is what the opposition just plainly sucks at.
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