Nora Berend: Monuments and Memory

The reader should imagine a memorial plaque on the wall of a house: ‘From this house 36 people, including 10 children, were deported in March 1944, with the active participation of the Hungarian government, and murdered in Auschwitz, because they were born Jewish. Let us never forget them.’ And imagine similar plaques not once, but over and over again: on the houses where murdered Jews lived; on every school that the murdered Jewish children used to attend before they were deported; on every public building from which state officials helped the deportation; at every train station where the deported were forced into the wagons.

In Hungary, this is purely imaginary, but in Paris, it is reality. Some examples. ‘Over 6100 children were arrested in Paris with their families by the police forces of the Vichy government, the accomplice of the occupying Nazis; they were murdered in Auschwitz because they were born Jewish.’ On the building of a theatre, the plaque offered by the national syndicate of actors lists those actors who died in the war by name, always adding ‘died in active military service’, ‘died in deportation’, ‘died on the barricades’. ‘To the memory of the small children who attended this nursery, who were deported between 1942-1944 because they were born Jewish, the innocent victims of Nazi barbarism with the active complicity of the Vichy government. They were annihilated in death camps. Let us never forget them.’ ‘To the memory of the director, teachers and students of this school, who were arrested in 1943 and 1944 by the Vichy police and the Gestapo. They were deported and murdered in Auschwitz, because they were born Jewish.’ ‘To the memory of the 112 inhabitants of this house, of them 40 children, who were deported and died in German camps in 1942.’ ‘To the memory of the students of this school who were deported between 1942 and 1944 because they were born Jewish, the innocent victims of Nazi barbarism with the active complicity of the Vichy government. They were annihilated in death camps. Let us never forget them.’

In the Shoah Memorial (Mémorial de la Shoah) in Paris, there is a richly documented exhibition, with heart-rending photos and material remains. A dress, belonging to a 5-6 year old girl, who was murdered in a death-camp. Letters by children hidden in nunneries to their parents, discussing how much they await seeing them, how much they miss them. There was nobody to send the letters to, because, although the children didn’t know it, their parents were already murdered. Photos, on the one hand about the horrors, such as the skeletal cadavers of people in the camps, but even more horribly from everyday life before the war: on one of them, a well-groomed nice boy smiles for the camera. A few years later, separated from his parents, he was deported in a wagon without food or drink, tortured by medical experiments, and finally, together with other children who shared his fate, hanged. One can also see filmed interviews with those who hid and saved Jews. In the courtyard, a wall: the names of those murdered, in never-ending lines.

Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris / Wikipedia

Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris / Wikipedia

France fought against Nazi Germany; after the defeat, during the German occupation that lasted several years, a French government in exile organized fighting, and within France real resistance hindered the task of the occupying army. Many sacrificed their lives fighting against Nazism, and others were murdered by the Nazis to serve as a punitive example. In this way, the population of Oradour-sur-Glane fell victim to the Nazi German troops in 1944: the village was surrounded and its 642 inhabitants, including children, were massacred. Even so, the whole of France was not a victim of Nazi Germany. The responsibility of the collaborating Vichy government is by now well known, although its recognition took time, since collaboration and complicity were only really examined starting from the 1980s in France. Hungary was even less a victim: the government was Hitler’s ally, the German military occupation did not trigger mass resistance, nor was it followed by either the creation of a government in exile, or atrocities against the entire population (as opposed, for example, to Poland).

The blurring of victim and murderer is unacceptable, even if the latter perhaps finally died by a well-merited bullet. Not only is the memory of the murdered victims desecrated, but so is that of those who tried to do something to save the Jews (and these deserve every respect, although there were few Hungarian citizens among them) – and they did so not in order to convert them to Christianity, but because they respected the life of every human being as valuable.

In Hungary, responsibility has to be acknowledged both for a series of horrors committed before the German occupation: murders, anti-Jewish laws promulgated one after another through the decision of the Hungarian government; and for the willing collaboration in the deportation and murder of Jews and Roma, as well as the tortures and murders committed by the Hungarian Arrow-Cross party. A few gestures made to the outside world are not enough, which are immediately overwritten by the manipulation of the past in schoolbooks, rewritten history and the cult of the culprits. This knowledge and confrontation with the past must be inscribed in monuments and museums constructed for Hungarian society. The Holocaust Memorial Centre at Páva street would be the suitable venue, which in many respects resembles the Memorial of the Shoah in Paris, but in Paris they are building neither a new museum with government backing against which several organizations of those most affected by the war are persistently protesting, nor a self-exculpatory monument.*

The Hungarian government was guilty during the second world war in the extermination of Jews and Roma, as well as in irresponsibly sending Hungarian soldiers to the front. The many gendarmes and officials who made deportation possible were also guilty, as were those who denounced Jews in hiding, leading to their arrest. All this is part of Hungarian history.

It is time for all of this to be integrated into the historical memory of Hungarian society. It is impossible to make amends for the past. It is impossible to bring back the dead. But in the present, it is possible to build social peace, because the descendants of both the victims and the culprits must live together in such a way that they know and accept what happened, but in the present, can transcend it. The first step of such social peace is acknowledging the facts of the past and honoring the memory of those murdered. Those murdered because they were born Roma or Jew, those deported and annihilated with the active participation of the Hungarian government must be remembered in a way that reflects these facts. It is time to affix the plaques to houses in Hungarian cities and villages, further developing the example of the ‘Stolpersteine’ found in the inner city of Pest. It is time to name the victims: small children, the old, women and men who were humiliated, tortured, and, dragged through unimaginable horrors, murdered.

It is time to show solidarity to all those who bravely say no to the mendacious monument that is under construction. Mendacious, because it pretends that all were victims, without distinguishing between murderers, accomplices and real victims. Mendacious, because it would make foreigners take the responsibility that properly belongs to Hungarian society. I asked French friends what their opinion would be about a monument commemorating the Nazi occupation. In France, there was real occupation, with real resistance. In spite of that, they look at me with incomprehension: why would we want to erect a monument to the most shameful period of French history?

In Budapest, that is what is being constructed: a monument to Hungarian shame.

The article was first published in Hungarian in Népszabadság, 28 April 2014.


*After the original of this article was written, news of a contract between Veritas and the Holocaust Memorial Center was made public on 27 April, with more details emerging over the next days. Veritas is a historical institute created by the government to rewrite the past from a nationalist perspective, the director of which already made several historically inaccurate and ethically untenable statements in line with government ideology. The director of the Holocaust Memorial Centre, whose mandate terminated on 3 May, had no knowledge of the contract, which was signed by the head of the Board of Trustees, the members of which are appointed directly by the government without open competition. A few days before the end of his tenure, there was no information at all on how the Center’s direction will be ensured, and no call for applications for the position was issued.


  1. A very moving piece. I did not know that the French had set such a fine example. An example Hungary would do well to emulate. But there is very little prospect of it doing so, regrettably.

  2. There’s one big problem with this blog: people from civilized, countries will never understand
    the extent to which power is wielded to keep people in line and toeing the government line.
    This was not so much the case in the previous government because, though there was widespread corruption, they didn’t attempt to subvert the government and run it like a mafia organization. This has been done since 2010. So organizations that were beholden to government for their financial support are now strong-armed to do Orban’s bidding or be ground into insolvency. Of course, when you dress this to cater to the widespread anti-semitism of the country, it should be no wonder that Orban is wildly popular–he has allowed,
    nay, ENCOURAGED, the people to hate.

    By the way, Hungarian jews closed the Sabbath this past Saturday with a wondering offering
    on the Spectrum channel: the development of the final solution in Nazi Germany. It would’ve been interesting to find out the number of viewers and their whereabouts in “Christian Hungary”.

  3. correction: ‘wondering offering’….should read, ‘wonderful offering’

  4. Last year in Pest I came across two ‘botlatókő’ or ‘stones that make you stumble’ with the names and dates of two people who had been deported and died at Auschwitz. I had never seen such things before. I wish there were more. The map of ‘yellow-star houses’ available on the internet is a beginning.

  5. All culture includes a culture of remembrance. The Hungarian government’s instrumentalisation of the past by re-writing history is a blatant perversion.

  6. Not many years ago I shared the speakers’ podium with Minister Ferenc Pinter, then and now the Minister of Interior of Hungary at a celebration when a number of Hungarian citizens received the title of Righteous of Nations from Israel and Mr. Pinter handed over a Hungarian Bravery Order to the same people who saved Jews during the Terror years of the Holocaust.

    It would have been hard to believe that the same Minister’s Police will act against survivors of the Holocaust and others who find the Orban Regime’s attempt to erect a Memorial for or to the unopposed so-called occupation of Hungary by their comrade-at-arms for the purpose of falsifying history and the whitewashing of the past.

    Not only the Jews of Hungary are offended by this action of a Government led by Mr. Orban, but also some non-Jewish Hungarians who do not think that St Gabriel represents them, but also the Germans are appaulled by the thought of such misrepresentation of both history and art. Indeed, the letter written by the Prime Minister of Hungary on the art and symbolism of the proposed set of statues would and should not pass the matriculation standard of an 18 years old.

    The whole affair seems embarrassing and shameful. Maybe it is just a bad dream.

  7. Let us compare the founding documents of the Holocaust Center

    from 2006: Magyar Közlöny 2006. évi 102. szám , augusztus 14., from page 8045

    and the 2011 Fidesz changes:

    Click to access Holocaust_KAL_AOmod_egységes_2011_02_24.pdf

    Part VIII.

    In 2006, the Board of Trustees (7 people) were appointed indefinitely. Only resignation or death made vacancies in the Board. Members served without payments to them, only their costs were reimbursed.

    But in 2011, the Fidesz government dismissed all of the Board members by changing the Founding Document. Nine members were appointed with low salaries, including Chairman Haraszti for three years. Since Mr Navracsics signed the document on March 17, 2011, Mr Haraszti’s term was supposed to end on March 16, 2014.

    So I do not know how Haraszti was entitled to sign any document on April 26 (a Saturday to boot). By the way, what is in the document exactly?

  8. Haraszti is now advertized as “Institute Leader” on

    But there is no such title in the Founding Document as “Institute Leader”, only
    “Acting Director”, which is vacant since Mr Szita’s term expired on May 3.

  9. @tappanch

    You misunderstood it. This is the contact page (kapcsolatok). Intézetvezetés only means that from the institute leadership Haraszti, as head of the board, is given as the contact person. In other words he was chosen to handle contacts in the name of the leadership. Which sound plausible and not surprising if he could legally sign a cooperation document with Veritas.

    This Haraszti case is just normal modus operandi for Fidesz. Fidesz divides the Jewish community like Fidesz divides the left wing, well, you don’t really need to divide them, they are prone to have way too many opinions and have zero discipline and loyalty. Fidesz hates such people, who cannot be loyal to their community and Fidesz interprets the smallest of doubts within its camp as betrayal and immediately retaliates, no exceptions, but it knows that with others, you always have willing people who will do anything in exchange for some petty gains.

  10. There were multiple corruptions of the populations.
    The Horthy regime assured privileges to a 10-15%, who will defend the reputations of that genocidal leadership.
    A similar 10-15% was favored by the post WWII Soviet installed regimes.
    The rest of population has been just too passive, and never produced a significant resistance.
    Where is the next chance for reform ideas, and building a free democratic society?

    How long will Hungary wander around in the moral desert?

  11. ” Gretchen
    May 11, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Last year in Pest I came across two ‘botlatókő’ or ‘stones that make you stumble’ with the names and dates of two people who had been deported and died at Auschwitz.”

    There are many of these “Stolpersteine” in Germany too and there was a heated discussion whether plaques on the wall weren’t better …
    The whole idea is from the mind of Gunther Demnig, a German sculptor and it was taken up internationally:
    “Stolpersteine are small, cobblestone-sized memorials for an individual victim of Nazism. They commemorate individuals – both those who died and survivors – who were consigned by the Nazis to prisons, euthanasia facilities, sterilization clinics, concentration camps, and extermination camps, as well as those who responded to persecution by emigrating or committing suicide.”

    I’ve also stumbled on a few of them – not too far from where we live in Germany there was a clinic for severely handicapped (mainly mentally ill) people which was turned into an extermination facility, where thousands of people of all ages (among them many small children) were killed by Nazi doctors.

  12. OT:

    Don’t forget:

    Among university students MSZP has 3% support, Jobbik has 17-20%. Jobbik is not the extreme now, but it is the main party and is seen as the group of cool kids towards it is worth to conform by the undecideds.

    Needless to say among non-university, working-class students MSZP has zero support. It is just an irrelevant party for young people. And young people tend to grow up. Once they identify themselves as right-wing and conservative, they will not switch that identity soon. It like changing your gender in Hungary, happens rarely.

  13. @Polgar:

    This is one of those things I really don’t comprehend. I mean, these young one are used to getting all kind of info from the WWW and still they think like Hungarians under Horthy – even though I can’t believe that people were happy in that Feudal state.

    I must count myself lucky that our young ones are “liberals”, reading reddit and watching Jon Stewart. I couldn’t imagine them ever voting for Fidesz or Jobbik even!

    PS and a bit OT:
    We converse in English (my Hungarian is still not good enough …) and I always encourage them to read and use it as often as possible, already helped them with their jobs. And their friends also are “globally oriented” – are they really a minority amongst Hungarian youths?

  14. In Budapest it is possible to stumble upon (figuratively) small brass plaques, about four inches (10 cm) square, embedded in the sidewalk at the entrance to certain apartment buildings. Most have a very brief, one-sentence message: the name, sometimes the profession, of a person (no mention of them having been Jewish) who was taken from his or her home there on a date in 1944 or 1945, and where they were killed. There are a couple on Andrássy út and elsewhere in downtown Pest, and I came across another on a side street in the III. district the other day.

  15. @wolfi:

    These figures to me show that party politics and identification with ideologies (brands) have very little to do with rational arguments and deliberation, which I guess the readers of this blog assume. They want to believe in that this is how liberal democracy works or at least ought to work.

    For young kids party sympathy (essentially wearing one of limited number of political brands) is foremost about belonging, conforming, a socialization process. University kids are only young adults, not adults in a psychological sense.

    Their personality is in the process of forming, and young kids just don’t want to seem to be associated with Imre Szekeres, Laszlo Puch or György Konrad (although these names are also pretexts for disliking them). Worse, it is also a meta-issue, because MSZP or liberals have the *image* of being old folk’s parties/ideologies (eg. Konrad or Heller are both over 80 and act out of touch), despite the fact that Fidesz’ top brass is currently much older than that of MSZP. But this image of old cadres and old intellectuals, which was true for 20 years, is now so accepted that MSZP, try as it might, cannot escape it.

    In addition, for the rich kids it is a family issue to support Fidesz as it is the party of bourgeoisie (whether they are Buda or from rural elites, kids of rural lawyers, doctors etc.). It’s tradition. There is nothing logical about it, but if that is your identity, you must act accordingly and they do. Like in Western-Hungary or Bács-Kiskun, you mention the name “left” and they lough you out (in many counties the entire left wing including LMP got less than 15%).

    Those whose parents are struggling, but they could still afford the university, they naturally like Jobbik’s ideas, after all it is very leftist.

    True, Jobbik is also anti-semitic and anti-roma, but white kids anyway hate romas so that is in line with their views, and they simply don’t challenge Jobbik about the jews, as most kids have zero connection to jewish Hungarians, it’s not a relevant issue, so they believe Jobbik, after all it is a cool bunch and have so many fun parties.

    The left is unbelievably bad shape, but these folks in the party don’t see it, because, after all, they don’t care. Without vision, without wanting something really badly you cannot really care. They are only after positions and power, but that alone does not suffice. (That is one of the reasons Orban will never hand over power to Lazar or Rogan because loyal and unscrupulous they are, they have no vision and Orban, like all founders, will not dare to hand over power to such people, they couldn’t live up to the legacy).

  16. The new enemy is ready. And Hungary will fight them until the last drop of blood.

    The “out of touch, down-town Budapest intellectuals” (of course for Hungarians it is clear that this category has significant anti-semitic undertones, as this group includes Heller but others too such as the civil rights people “trying to solve the Roma-question from district 5”) but really this ‘cabal’ or name will be the symbol of the entire Hungarian civil sector “paid by the Westerners.”

    This is classic Putin by the way, but it’s also politics. It did work finely for Putin, so why would it not work for Orban?

    I wanna puke but people do like Orban and hate liberals (including Jobbik supporters) and he will continue to win and the civil sector will just stand there like the deer in the spot light before being run over. The civilians wouldn’t even know what hit them — and the political left again will stand there without being able to say anything.

  17. Polgar wrote:
    “In addition, for the rich kids it is a family issue to support Fidesz as it is the party of bourgeoisie (whether they are Buda or from rural elites, kids of rural lawyers, doctors etc.). It’s tradition.”

    Well 50 years ago in Germany (and France, where it all started: May 1968 etc, though the unrest was there from the beginning of the 60s …) we were revolting against our parents just because of this – are most Hungarian youths really just conformists, only trying to make money and live the good life?

    I just can’t believe it – sounds so depressing!

  18. Tappanch, “Institute Leader.” I’;m back. I spent four days at the University of Florida at a conference. Re Haraszti, I think that the description is even funnier than “institute leader.” It says: “institute leadership” followed by his name.

  19. Polgar, Wolfi. There much be a reason why none of the schools and/or universities make the top 100, top 500 of best schools or universities.

    Look at the output. all of them seems to be good Fideszek/Hungarians, but most of them are incompetent and just follow the Dear Leader.

  20. OT: last week, I posted about the Holocaust Memorial Concert at the Music Academy which I felt was a disgrace. To recap, the concert featured works by Jewish Hungarians who lost their lives. But the centre piece was a work by Dohnányi, written in 1930, quite irrelevant to the Holocaust and made all the more questionable because Dohnányi was accused of being a Nazi collaborator. The organisers attempted to explain this choice away on the grounds that Dohnányi’s career suffered as a result of false accusations (which is possibly fair comment) and therefore he is another victim of the Holocaust, like those who were shot or gassed. It is quite an obscene comparison. Dohnányi left Budapest in November 1944, eventually living in Florida where he died in 1962.

    The concert took place last night behind closed doors. Some major names in Hungarian music failed to turn up, disturbed as I was by the implications. But there has been no press coverage so far, despite my attempts to raise a stink. I was told that the concert began with an interminable speech in which the word Jew or Jewish was not uttered once. The government commissioner for serious music, the former dean to the Music Academy, is himself Jewish and proud of it. But it seems that power has corrupted even him. Another example of how the Holocaust is being relativised and trivialised.

  21. Polgar is the embodiment of an cruel, eternally failed type.
    Where is this ignorance originating?
    This emptiness, this criminal nodding approval for discrimination and racism?
    Just be warned that this attitude was suicidal in all ages.

    Petofi, come to my help, and explain this bottomless abomination?

    Who knows a good reform space for such sort of dehumanized people?

  22. soul spirit reform: I think you are mistaken. By the way what ignorance? What approval? Just because I dare to refer to reality? Don’t hate the messenger.

  23. “the civil rights people “trying to solve the Roma-question from district 5″”

    As opposed to the Fidesz/Jobbik thugs who attempt to solve it with wacking kids over the head with baseball bats and cutting off water supplies?

    The fact that the Mafia regime are planning to crucify charities, foundations and NGOs is not news and hasn’t been for some time. T

    he bigger ones will be Ok as they have the resources to switch operations and to be perfectly frank they operate on a different intellectual plane than the moron Lazar, who has been stupid enough to be signaling his obvious intention for over six months now.

    The *intelligent* way for Lazar would have been to pass a law one Monday morning without warning but intelligence and Lazar are not two ideas which sit well together.

    Sadly, the smaller charities and NGOs will be taken out by the Mafia, no doubt about that

  24. Ron
    May 12, 2014 at 6:12 am
    Slightly OT: Almost 600,000 Hungarian are working abroad up from 500,000 as per the end 2013. How many follow or will follow after the election.

    Well, that is great news for Orban / Fidesz as this would show up on the Hungarian employment numbers as 100,000 extra workers that Orban supplied work with under his 1,000,000 new workplace program for dummies.
    If all goes well, Orban, his family and the members of parliament will remain, Hungary will look like a chapter out of “The Walking Dead”, but there will be 3,000,000 more extra work created by Orban according to government data.

  25. Methinks, soul spirit, you misunderstood polgar) – (s)he is heavily criticising those things that he describes, not nodding approval!

  26. Wow, my comment finally got accepted!

    I tried this morning several times but it wouldn’t go through! Anybody here had a similar experience? Is this a wordpress problem?

  27. @ soul spirit reform

    “Petofi, come to my help, and explain this bottomless abomination?”

    Even though I’ve been mulling it over for quite some time, it’s hard to get a handle on it.
    First off, the society has become self-delusional with no little help from the churches, chief
    among them, the Catholic Church. Now, with the sins of the Hungarian Church abundantly clear, it has bothered me no little that the Vatican hasn’t seen fit to set things right. I can only posit that there is an element of blackmail: the Hungarian Church is probably up to speed on things like pedophilia in the church; the extent of the Vatican’s responsibility in aiding the flight
    of nazis etc. etc. And, the Hungarians being such an unpredictable lot, the Vatican will just steer clear, thank you.

    And, as for anti-semitism and the Hungarian Catholic Church, I’ve yet to hear of a concerted
    effort to educate its brethren “on the Jew”. In fact, the age old truth for primitive societies–and Hungary’s is certainly primitive–a good enemy is useful for the cohesion of the group.

    Aside from the above, Hungarians have always had a conceit about their ‘cleverness’ and how they can put it over foreigners. Remember that as the ‘happiest barrack in communism’ Hungarians were oh so proud of fooling the Russians. But the Bear laughs and eats last: and Russia will make a happy meal of the morsels ground down through Paks, and what remains of Hungary.

    So then, an exclusionary mindset that depends on being different, nay ‘better’ than all else. So ask not what the EU has done for Hungary recently, as most Bekement types know: they owe us that and more for ‘stopping the Turks’ (I’ve heard this from a couple, high school teachers, no less).

    And, sad to say, Russian communism is alive and well in the KGB (FSB if you will). They frolic with dissimulation and causing havoc worldwide. For one thing, it keeps the price of gas and oil high; and gives the mad islamists (Iran) somewhere to turn. They can also be counted on to support extremist groups–right or left, regardless–around the globe. Jobbik is one of their orphans as it is slowly coming to light.

    So, in thise direly confusing world, how can Hungarians, who have never prided themselves on Principle or Doing Right…find their way? They can’t. And they won’t. It’s much more fun to
    beat the Roma and blame the Jew; and to claim that Hungary is the last bastion of right-thinking
    peoples. Led by Viktor. Now there’s a laugh.

  28. I think that “polgar” is not the mellow democrat, and an anti-orbanist. Polgar is just another generic anti-intellectual kovach or johnny.

    Myopic generic Polgars never fear the future if their little safety net is holding up for the time being.

    Generic cool Polgars are the analyzers, who are mostly afraid to attack the current ruling extremists.

    Post WWII, most generic polgars landed in the dungeons of Rakosi together with the defeated rightwing.

    Only a few generic polgars slipped seamleassly from Horthyism into Rakosism.

    Have the ordinary polgars ever come to the help of the underdogs, the poor, the persecuted?

    I doubt it, but I would be happy if my guesses were wrong.

  29. Petofi, thank you for your help. You have lifted my spirit again.

    Go Petofi! Go Heller! Go Konrad!

  30. The article by Nicholas Sebok that Polgar linked to is indeed depressing and what is more depressing is that both more educated youth and less educated youth in numerous Central European nations have also moved to the right. This has also happened in the Russian Federation, where the right wing evolution doesn’t manifest itself in neo-Nazis ideology, but rather in a return to Great Russian chauvinism of a kind familiar in the 18th and 19th century.

    Svoboda in the Ukraine also has youth support. Its leader Oleh Tyahnybok, a vicious anti-Semite who is famous for making comments such as), “You are the ones that the Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling Ukraine fears most!” and “They [WWII-era insurgents] were not afraid and we should not be afraid. They took their automatic guns on their necks and went into the woods, and fought against the [Russians], Germans, Kikes and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state.”

    There are also two major far-right organizations in Poland, National Revival of Poland (NOP) and the All-Polish Youth (MW), which have led marches of thousands through the streets of Warsaw, carrying the symbols of pre-war Polish Fascism. I could go on and on, but the turn of the youth in the former socialized states towards the right exists in numerous nations. The problem facing the left is in part due to how discredited the command economies of Communism have become and how the model of the German economy can’t be implemented in many Central European nations. Why not try radical nationalism when all else isn’t working for young people?

  31. Tappanch: “What was the topic of the conference at U of Florida?”

    It was a very mixed bag: literature, history, arts, political science, and Hungarian language. I was the keynote speaker and therefore I could pick and choose. So, I decided to concentrate on Hungarian news in the international media, availability of news about Hungary on the Internet. I also spoke about Hungarian Spectrum. But I also touched on the government’s misconceptions about the reasons for the “bad press” Hungary is getting. Also there was a fairly long and very animated discussion after my talk.

    A memorable short conversation followed my talk with somebody in the audience. He introduced himself and said: “Fascinating talk!” So, I asked: “Did you like it?” He: “No!” But, I must say that there were very many people who were very happy with what I had to say. I received a lot of congratulations.

    By the way, I didn’t get the invitation from the American-Hungarian Educators Association that organized the meeting but from the host institution: the University of Florida. Specifically, from Alice Freifeld, a historian whose main interest is in Hungarian history and director of the Center for European Studies at UF.

    We had two interesting participants: (1) Kumiko Haba, Aoyama Gakuin University and (2) Amedeo di Francesco, Universita degli Studi di Napoli ‘L’Orientale. Both speak excellent Hungarian. Amedeo actually delivered his lecture in Hungarian because, interestingly, his English is not really good enough. He talked about “America” as a topic in 20th-century Hungarian literature.” Kumiko talked about “Democratization and Nationalism in Hungary after 1989.” She later asked me about which language I preferred to use with her. I told her: “mindegy!” So, she switched into very good Hungarian.

    There were a number participants from Hungary as well.

  32. Congratulations, Eva, and thanks for sharing this!

    Re Polgar:

    I really believe he’s not pro-Orbán, on the contrary and his insights to me at least were very valuable! He’s just painting a very pessimistic, but realistic picture …
    Anyone who doesn’t agree with me should read his comments on this thread again!

    PS (also re Istvan’s comment):

    Seems that many young people everywhere have gone to the dark side – i e the extreme right wing while in my youth we had the opposite problem (anyone remember the German RAF?) and I didn’t understand it then and don’t understand it now:

    Why is there that need for these extreme positions, combined with deadly hate against some (often imaginary) enemies?

  33. A bit OT:

    Since “Berend” is similar to my last name (though I’m not Jewish …) I got interested in the author’s history and found a lot of info on her father Ivan Berend – who had a similar experience in Hungary as our commenter Steve397 (Thanks again, Steve!) as a young man, or rather boy. It was even worse because he got deported to Dachau – but he survived too …

    It’s described here:
    Interestingly enough the French wiki contains much more on him and his family than the Hungarian, a bit strange, n’est ce pas?

  34. Polgar here. Note the quotation marks too, I used them on purpose. I am no Orban fan at all, far from it. I am kinda surprised by the reactions, but it is probably my mistake, I wasn’t clear.

    But, I thought that readers need to understand the Hungarian situation and these articles which I linked I thought were useful, though a bit OT.

    Like it or not, younger people support Jobbik and Fidesz overwhelmingly and the left have been ignoring them just like rural Hungary. Unfortunately for the left, young kids grow up by then solidified identities and the election system is now constructed so that without a very strong (not just an OK, although the left has currently zero) rural support winning is impossible.

    I just don’t think that the current democratic opposition can wait things out, hope when the tide turns, or when the pendulum swings back. This is not that scenario. The problems are much much deeper.

    Orban and Jobbik do have very real support, although probably if Fidesz did not have the media control that support would be smaller.

    But the fundamental trends which started 10-15 years ago in earnest, the rise of the right wing and the extreme-right wing and the parallel devaluation and practical disappearance of the leftist and liberal (West-oriented) ideologies still have not run their course, far from it. And the remaining democratic parties have no leadership in the true sense or the organizational strength which can seriously compete with the unity and iron-clad discipline of Fidesz or Jobbik. It is better to see these clearly than to be surprised later on, I thought. I am not gonna be surprised, but then I haven’t been since 2010.

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