Undisguised anti-Semitism of Viktor Orbán’s chief ideologue, the historian Mária Schmidt

In the June 26 issue of Válasz, formerly Heti Válasz, a fairly lengthy article entitled “In the captivity of the past” appeared. It was written by Mária Schmidt whom I earlier described as the “chief ideologist of the current government’s very controversial views on history.”

In this latest article Schmidt, the official historian of the Hungarian “Jewish question” in Viktor Orbán’s regime, does not even try to hide her aversion toward the Hungarian “left-liberal” intellectual elite. Moreover, a careful reading of the article reveals that in that hated group the Jews play a prominent role. The whole article is basically an attack on those “infallible,” mostly Jewish intellectuals who have been keeping Hungarian public opinion “under intellectual terror” for decades. Singled out for especially vituperative attack is the older generation of that intellectual elite.

It is hard to understand Schmidt’s vehemence against this aging group since at the very beginning of the article she confidently states that “since the 2014 election the influence and intellectual terror of the left liberal elite has slowly dwindled to nothing.” The election proved that “these clever ones” simply don’t understand the twenty-first century which, according to Schmidt, “began in 2008.”

What kinds of people are these old-fashioned liberals who understand nothing of the present because they are locked in the intellectual framework of 1968? They are, according to the court historian of Viktor Orbán, anti-Christian, anti-Hungarian, Marxist internationalists who talk about a future beyond nations. They are accused of launching a hate campaign, and “in our country only atheistic, intolerant, Marxist groups” are capable of such a hate campaign. These people are unable to understand the very concept of “Hungarian interest.” Instead, they talk about progress and internationalism while actually “they become servants of foreign interests. While there was the Soviet Union, they represented Soviet interests, now they serve the West, that is, the United States, the European Union, and Germany.” She continues: “Every member of this group is against the nation.” For them the nation is dangerous, repugnant, old-fashioned, pre-modern. They like to talk about “the preferred topics of the empire,” meaning the European Union: Holocaust, racism, Roma, homosexual marriage. And where can these people be found? “In the new SZDSZ, the Demokratikus Koalíció.”

Once she sets the stage she moves on to a specifically Jewish topic, or at least what she considers to be a topic that elicits opposition only from the Jewish community. Of course, this is not the case; about half of Hungarians consider the monument the government intends to erect to commemorate the occupation of Hungary by the Germans on March 19, 1944 a falsification of history. Schmidt’s tirade against those who oppose the depiction of Hungary as an innocent victim of German aggression begins with a side swipe at the United States. She says that some people find the proposed statue aesthetically inferior, but after what “the U.S. Embassy did with one of the most beautiful public places of Budapest” one should refrain from such criticism. This is a reference to the alterations made to the building after 9/11 for security reasons.

Then Schmidt embarks on listing  the arguments that were brought against the erection of the monument, finding all of them bogus. Naturally, according to her, it mattered not that although the German army did move into Hungarian territory, it came not as a foe but as a friend, an ally.

The second argument that the memorial’s message blurs the distinction between victim and perpetrator also receives short shrift from Schmidt. Monuments often do that. There is, for example, the Soviet Memorial standing on the same square. It is a memorial to the soldiers who died in Hungary in the course of the war, but, adds Schmidt, they were the same soldiers who  raped 100,000 Hungarian women. (I don’t want to be irreverent, but surely in this case the perpetrators of the rapes were not the ones whose death is memorialized by the Soviet Memorial.)

The third argument is that Hungary cannot be depicted as an innocent victim because “there were Jewish laws and Hungary deported some people who couldn’t prove their citizenship.” But this doesn’t make the occupation any less of a tragedy. The victim becomes a victim not because he is innocent but because of the aggression of the stronger. It happens often enough that “some of the victims later become perpetrators.” Because I am familiar with other writings of Mária Schmidt, I know exactly whom she has in mind: some Jewish survivors who later became willing supporters of the Rákosi regime and whose activities are so vividly depicted in the House of Terror, whose director is Mária Schmidt herself.

With this introduction about “victims” and “perpetrators” Schmidt specifically addresses the Hungarian Jewish community. She claims that “in the last couple of decades the status of the victim became absolute. We got so far that there are groups that would like to look upon their ancestors’ tragic fate as an inherited privilege and expand the victimization to generations whose members have not suffered any atrocity.” In her opinion this view, held by some members of the Hungarian Jewish community, has “serious consequences” because if the status of victim can be inherited then so can the status of perpetrator. “We lived through two dictatorships. We are full of former perpetrators and their descendants.” Schmidt claims that the soon to be erected monument was created to be “the monument of reconciliation and propitiation.”

Memorial for those who were killed on the banks of the Danube and their bodies thrown into the river Source; budapest-foto.hu

Memorial for those Jewish victims who were killed on the banks of the Danube 
Source: budapest-foto.hu

As if this were not enough, Schmidt goes on attacking the Hungarian Jewish community. “Those very people who laid the foundations of and represented the historiography of the dictatorship want to prevent us now, seventy years after the tragedy, from placing the flowers of reverence before all the Hungarian victims. They still want to prescribe whom we can mourn and whom we cannot; for whom we can cry and for whom we cannot. They prescribe empathy from us every day of the year, while they remain blind and deaf toward other people’s sorrows. … With this act they exclude themselves from our national community.

Well, this is at least straightforward talk, not the usual coded anti-Semitic discourse. This is the real thing from the chief ideologue of the Orbán regime. And a threat. At least the members of the Hungarian Jewish community now know what they can expect from the Hungarian nation, from which they just excluded themselves.

 

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73 comments

  1. @idus1926

    Why do you call Éva S. Balogh “S. Balogh”? This is simply impolite. It’s bad manners not to get names right. Just as if you didn’t know how to handle fork and knife. (But perhaps you don’t. Who knows?)

    Although I invited you in a previous commentary to provide your “intellectually superior” argument on this topic, you keep on harping on the host of this blog which nobody forces you to read.

    Instead you are trying to belittle Éva Balogh’s remarkable academic achievements – but again without any evidence. Einstein began his career in a patent office in Berne, Switzerland. So what?

    You are not commenting on the topic in question but you are attacking the host of this blog in person with snide and unjustified remarks. Here, this is quite unusual, and most participants in this blog actually don’t suffer fools gladly. Rest assured.

    It might be better for you to find another bone of contention. Perhaps you can tell us what you are really for.

    Or should we regard you as another troll – which we don’t feed as a matter of principle?

  2. @Minusio. She asked me to look at her bio, so I did. I might add that I know Carleton, McGill and Yale (Pearson there, exactly). You guys just want confirmations in your belifs and she is supplying them. If you and Mother Eva want history lessons from the 30s, just read C.A. Macartney’s October Fifteenth (although I suspect that she read him but preferred to look the other way. It is annoying to read the best, objective view of these times when one can read Molnár Erik and Berend T. Iván.)

  3. @idus1926 (any meaning or significance to that alias?)

    Here in Europe we have learned that not all ivy-league universities are equally good at teaching and researching. In fact, the gap seems to be bigger there than in Europe. You are just naming a few more ivy-leagues. What for? In Europe, this impresses very few people.

    What bothers me personally is that you are after Éva S. Balogh as a person and none of her arguments and information. The best service she does is informing non-Hungarian speakers about critical Hungarian developments/news. And she does this very well, extremely well documented, reliably and convincing.

    To call the host of this blog “Mother Eva” sound condescending and insulting. What god-like position have you reached to pass this type of personal judgment? What are your qualifications, references, publications, testimonials?

    Just be fair and let us know.

    Until then, I have to regard your commentaries as another ideological troll trash.

  4. When I will read the first well researched, well argued Eva S. Balogh blog, I will praise her. Until then I cannot do anything but point out her obvious shortcomings.
    By the way, Carleton is far from an Ivy League university. It is more like an equivalent of an American community college in Ottawa.
    I think that you would do better to read books instead of blogs. I already suggested one, start with it.

  5. @idus 1926@ you do not point out any shortcomings. Your ad personam attacks and your insinuation that the readers of this blog are communists or crypto communists (mentioning Erik Molnár) are showing who you are.

  6. @idus 1926@: “I might add that your MA and PhD fields were a wise choice because not many people were interested in Russian Studies at the time (a peculiar choice from an escapee of 56) but at least it explains your worldview.”

    idus 1926 please explain the relation between picking Russian studies at an American university and worldview?

  7. idus 1926 may be Ms Schmidt in disguise.
    You wetted our appetite with your first post but you still need, and we still wait for you, to put some meat on the bones.

  8. I see. Tolerance of other views is shining trough but don’t worry. Now that we discussed the personal aspects I will stick to the subjects. It will be fun.

  9. @Henri Beyle
    Going ad hominem does not qualify as “the other views.”
    I am, and I am sure others too, waiting for the “fun” to start!

  10. @idus 1926

    Yes, Carleton was, largely, like a summer camp, but the History Department was always highly respected.

  11. Maria Schmidt on Egyenes Beszed

    While the doppelganger for Olga was persistent, he lacked the sharpness to put the cross-eyed
    Schmidt on the spot. While Schmidt continuously drove the idea of the joint suffering of Hungarians, I would’ve liked to have heard this: “Was it joint Hungarian suffering when
    Hungarians rounded up and sent 500,000 jews when the Germans only asked for 100,000?
    Did those Hungarians who were busily robbing the homes of their once jewish neighbours suffering like the jews in the cattle-cars?

    Schmidt’s argument could’ve been torn to shreds…

  12. Petofi: “Yes, Carleton was, largely, like a summer camp, but the History Department was always highly respected.”

    I received an excellent education at Carleton University and naturally I didn’t go to McGill or the University of Toronto because I wouldn’t have been accepted but because I was dirt poor. Tuition when I went to Carleton was 500 dollars and I did not have 500 dollars in my checking account when I began my first year in September. I put down half of it and I prayed. I somehow survived. I remember of getting 300 dollars “bursary money” from the university. My political science professor, Adam Bromke, a well known Polish-Canadian scholar, recognized me as having a future in academe and managed to scrape up another 300 dollars so I could be his research assistant. Next year, I got some money to conduct a seminar in Russian history. During the summer I got a job in the library but they would pay me only a dollar an hour. However, by the second summer I was recommended by the head of the department to work on a government project of the reconstruction of the French Fort of Luisbourg, doing research on the history of the fort before it was conquered by the English.

    I liked Carleton. I had a good time, especially in the last year when I lived on campus. Today, Carleton is a large university. It bears little resemble to the university I attended in the first half of the 60s.

  13. @Eva

    I, too, went to Carleton but a little later–from 1968 on. Not a good time as it was the time of the flower-children and the counter-culture: taking studies seriously was frowned on. What’s more, there were a lot of soapbox types spouting Marxist, pro-Communist slogans. It wasn’t really a serious time. I remember a few years later–I think it was 1972–when I was back-packing in England and sat in on a lecture in Cambridge. Wow! What a difference. Shortly after my return to Ottawa, I left the University not having completed a degree. I only got my degreee some 27 years later from the University of Toronto.

    By the way, I, too, worked at the library but by then they were paying $2 per hour, I think.

  14. Petofi, 1968 and after. Don’t worry they were crazy times at Yale too. I was still a grad student but I lived in Morse College already. I remember of shouting matches between the “conservative” Eva and the Marxist crazies talking nonsense. The students skipped classes, they organized sit-down strikes, And don’t forget it was in New Haven where the Black Panthers trial took place. Yale’s president was worried about the safety of the university. To refresh everybody’s memory:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Haven_Black_Panther_trials

  15. Thank you Eva for telling about your time as a student. I found the whole “argumentation” of @idus 1926 snobbish and impertinent. The impertinence of @idus 1926@ to make a connection between the choosing of Russian studies and worldview shows the narrow mind of this troll.

  16. Karl, Circumstances often determine one’s choices. I have a friend, a powerful lawyer who is a partner in a New York law firm. While all her colleagues went to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc. she finished law school at the University of Cincinnati, not a distinguished school. How did she end up there? At age of 18 she got married to a rabbi and with him she ended up in Cincinnati. Mind you, later they got divorced. She is very, very, very smart.

    Another friend of mine is one of the most brilliant minds I have ever encountered. She went to Western College for Women in Ohio which is now defunct. She was accepted to Harvard but a year there in 1960 cost about 5,000 dollars, more than her father made in a year. Unhappily she had to go to her “safety” school. She ended up teaching philosophy at Yale.

  17. Thanks Eva, We can resume with Mattew: “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?”

  18. I am saddened by the fact that Hungary is descending into willful ignorance. I have been through Budapest and the southern part of the country 7 times in the last 15 years, because I married a Serb and there are no direct flights to Serbia from Finland.

    I have to say that I have not personally experienced nor noted the change, all my knowledge of it has come second hand. Still, I’m not going to go to Hungary again if I can help it. Every single time we have been there, somebody has been trying to steal something from us in some way. Restaurants adding to the bill, custom officers delaying passage & forcing a bribe, train conductor claiming we have to buy a new ticket because the old (pre-ordered and paid for in Vienna for Vienna-Belgrade connection) one “expired” and so on. Independent of rising Nazistic ways, these experiences alone have frozen my heart towards our Ugric brothers the Hungarians. It is sad. Sadder still if the whole system becomes more and more hostile towards unwanted foreign influences, no matter what they might be. It is also sad because the reigning stereotype for Hungarians in the minds of the Serbs is just that: they are thieves. So what has happened to me and my family serves to enforce the stereotype.

    When I have met individuals from Hungary, there has been good rapport. Knowing what I know now, having the aforementioned experiences, I no longer wonder about why a Hungarian Jewish guy I knew from basketball left the country.

    I think most Finns still regard Hungary as a good travel destination and perhaps even nationalistically minded Hungarians still suffer us better than some other nationalities.. When I have reported our grievances to other Finns, the reaction has usually been one of suspended, polite disbelief. I am afraid that will not last for very long if things continue to sour.

    I wonder if all these idiots and their vocal trumpets, such as idus 1926, understand what they are ordering from the menu? Hungary truly is not an island – it does not have any coastline, har har – and this will only server to impoverish the country, both materially and ideologically. Then what will happen? With values of all kinds of things going down and businesses going bankrupt and so on, there will be unprecedented opportunities for foreign money to buy stuff off cheaply and so on and so forth. Gains? Not likely.

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