Mária Schmidt: Another person who chose the wrong profession

Ever since June 26, when Mária Schmidt, director of the House of Terror and a close associate of Viktor Orbán, wrote an article that one of her critics called “fulminating,” a tsunami of articles, blog notes and comments has appeared in the Hungarian media. I wrote about the article in detail on June 29, and many other pieces followed in Hungary. I am happy to announce that the English translation of this controversial article is now available.

Let me sample a few of the reactions by bloggers: “We have always suspected that she is vicious and stupid, but now for some strange reason she decided to let the whole world know it.” Or, “On five long pages she is raving, sometimes with unbridled fury and hatred” which can be described in one simple obscene sentence in a comment on the Internet. Or, I saw a note by Balázs Láng, an actor, on Facebook. In it, he compares Mária Schmidt to Clara Zachanassaian in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play The Visit (Der Besuch der alten Dame). Mária Schmidt, whose businessman husband died young, is a very wealthy woman. Láng continues: “Reading Schmidt’s lines, the heroine of Dürrenmatt is mercy, love, and humanity itself in comparison. The article of the Hungarian heiress is ‘In the captivity of the past’ and she leaves no doubt that in that jail she is the screw.”

Then there are others that must hurt more because they come from fellow academics. The first serious criticism came from György C. Kálmán, a literary historian, who wrote an article not really about the infamous piece by Schmidt but about a television interview that followed its appearance. As you will see, Schmidt has been very busy in the last couple of weeks trying to defend the views she expressed in her article. She has been singularly unsuccessful. Kálmán in this article can hardly find words to describe his reactions to this interview because “everything that leaves that lady’s mouth is illogical, confusing, primitive, discontinuous, and obscure even within her own parameters.” The delivery is “emotional, overstrung, full of indignation, resentment, and saccharine.” And finally, the greatest blow that anyone can deliver, Kálmán gingerly suggests that Mária Schmidt’s “intellectual powers” are wanting. That perhaps she does not understand, or at least doesn’t understand fully, what she is talking about.

Even more upsetting for Mária Schmidt must have been an article by Mária M. Kovács, a fellow historian who is currently professor and director of the Nationalism Studies Program at the Central European University in Budapest. Readers of Hungarian Spectrum should be familiar with her name because we talked about a recent book of hers on the infamous numerus clausus of 1920 that restricted the enrollment of Jewish students at institutions of higher education. Her article in Népszabadság is entitled simply “Schmidt.” It is a very hard-hitting piece of writing; I strongly suggest that anyone with some knowledge of Hungarian read it in the original. Here I can only summarize her most important points.

Mária M. Kovács calls Schmidt’s writing in Válasz a provocation and a declaration  of war. In her opinion, the author of that article crossed a line. One area in which she overstepped the limit of acceptable discourse  is her handling of the Holocaust. In her article Schmidt talks about the Holocaust as “one of the preferred topics of the empire,” meaning the United States, the European Union and Germany, and says that the empire “demands a minimum” that “must be fulfilled.” The Hungarian left-liberals wholeheartedly serve the interests of this empire to the exclusion of the interests of their own country. In fact, they not only fulfill the West’s demands, they overachieve in their servility. And since the Holocaust is one of the favored topics, the attitude of the Hungarian liberals and socialists toward the Holocaust is also overdrawn. The other area where Schmidt crossed the line is her calling anyone who is against the erection of the memorial to the German occupation of Hungary in 1944 a traitor who acts against the nation’s interests.

Mária Schmidt and Mária M. Kovács were both guests on György Bolgár’s program on KlubRádió. Kovács’s conversation with Bolgár took place on July 9 from 25:36 in the first part of the program. On the following day, one can hear Schmidt’s less than cogent discussion from 23:23, again in the first part of the program.

Since then Mária Schmidt had an interview with Ildikó Csuhaj of Népszabadság with the telling title: “And my sensitivity doesn’t matter?” It is clear from the interview that she feels threatened by other historians’ criticism of her position on Hungary’s role in the Hungarian Holocaust. Instead of trying to come up with facts that would bolster her views, she lashes out against such highly respected historians as László Karsai and Krisztián Ungváry. When the journalist pointed out that these two historians did not say, as Schmidt claims, that the Hungarians were more guilty than the Germans, this was her answer: “Questioning the loss of sovereignty covers politically motivated malice, or at least ignorance, low professional standards.” She is the good historian while the others are inferior, ignorant, and full of malice.

During the interview, the journalist concentrated mostly on questions concerning Hungarian-German relations during 1944 and before. When she mentioned Randolph Braham’s name in connection with Hungary’s status as an ally of Germany, Schmidt lost her temper: “Let’s leave all that talk about ‘allies.’ In the case of Sándor Szakály the problem was that he used the contemporary designation … What kind of thinking is exhibited when someone talks about a real alliance when the elephant allies himself with the mouse?” When the journalist retorted by saying that “formally” Germany and Hungary were allies, the answer was: “Please, formally we can also speak of a police action against aliens.” Dangerous to use contemporary designations in one case but not the other. I guess that means that Germany and Hungary were not really allies.

Mária Schmidt being interviewed by Ildikó Csuhaj Source: Népszabadság

Mária Schmidt being interviewed by Ildikó Csuhaj
Source: Népszabadság

During the conversation the topic of nation and its detractors came up and the journalist remarked that calling people enemies of their own nation is a very serious accusation. Well, it seems that even Schmidt realized that she went too far here and claimed in this interview that what she actually wanted to say was that these people were “enemies of the nation-state.” However, the reporter kept talking about Schmidt’s original wording: “people who are enemies their own nation.” At this point Schmidt became annoyed: “Why are you talking about anti-nation sentiments? I was talking about antagonism toward the idea of the nation-state. Let’s fix this before anyone puts words in my mouth.” Unfortunately for Schmidt, nobody put these words in her mouth; she uttered them herself.

At the end the reporter brought up the fact that the Yad Vashem Institute no longer supports Mária Schmidt’s project, the House of Fates. Moreover, one of the associates of the Institute apparently said at one point that “it is time to get rid of this institute and this woman.” Schmidt assured her interlocutor that this woman no longer works at Yad Vashem. As if her alleged departure had anything to do with her less than polite words about Mária Schmidt. As for her next project, the House of Fates, she is still trying to convince people to work with her. A few more interviews like the ones she has been giving and I can assure her that no one will be willing to do anything with her that is connected to the Hungarian Holocaust.

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44 comments

  1. Post 1989 has produced, a weird antisemitism, practically for Jew-free land, in csurka, miep, fidesz, jobbik, schmidt, szakaly….

    All cultivating various degrees of nasty antisemitism.

    The fake arguments, fake compliments, fake defense are an insult to the intelligence of most hungarians, except for a minority, which still nurture the memories of the murderous nacism, hitlerism, horthyism, arrowcrossism, hungarism..

    most hungarians must fight back and defend the honor of the current generations.

  2. Kedves Eva Nagyon jo mind a ket cikk a ket nagy magyar torteneszrol Ma lehetett latni Orbant a teveben, hogy elrepult Rioba es ott ult Merkel alatt, pont , igy lathato volt a kepernyon egyszer es a vegen a hatat, ahogy ment Merkel fele gratulalni party crasher

    udv Juli

  3. I was as Julianna Bika astonished to see Viktor Orbán sitting not so far from Mrs. Merkel.
    I can not find an article about that in today’s NOL or Népszava.
    Did Orbán fly to Rio at the expense of Hungarian taxpayer?

  4. Karl Pfeifer: “Did Orbán fly to Rio at the expense of Hungarian taxpayer?”

    This is micro-peanuts compared to other Orbán related expenses payable by the Hungarian taxpayer.

  5. London Calling!

    Maria Schmidt is Denieress-in-Chief – encapsulated in that memorial. Liar-Thug-in-Chief.

    The memorial has to go.

    I hope there will be a guerilla action of defacing, red-painting and chipping away until its cancerous corruption of thought is brought to an end as it slowly crumbles and decays in tandem with this Thuggesz government and all its supporting Thugs.

    Hungarian rehabilitation can never happen as long as that pile of kitsch lying stonemasonry stands there corrupting history.

    And the Terror House too.

    Regards

    Charlie

  6. It’s odd that the press hasn’t picked up on one of the strangest aspects of Schmidt’s defense – her self-pity, and insinuation that she is somehow oppressed. This is weird because she is personally quite wealthy. She is powerful and influential, in that she advises the Prime Minister. She, personally, can make or break a historical institute (and thereby historians’ careers) indirectly through funding decisions – hence, perhaps, her current involvement in A. Gerő’s Habsburg Institute. She has been a museum-director for ages, and has been set at the head of a number of institutes and projects (some mentioned above) not just under this government, but past ones as well. As a closing remark – Am I mistaken, or was she involved in the scandalous and aborted plan to redo the exhibition about Hungarian Jews at the museum at Auschwitz some decades ago?

  7. While we are on the subject of thugs, something unfortunate happened yesterday. DK the party of Gyurcsany had a demonstration in Budapest, or maybe it was two days ago. Anyway there was a big crowd and some DK thugs beat up and according to reports spat on a demonstrator who came to the rally and held up a sign.

    It was a man named Gulyas who came to demonstrate against the racism of DK and simply held up a sign peacefully. (DK ppl earlier talked about “Romacrime” and nominated Albert Pasztor in Miskolc, actions condemned by many as racist)

    Marton Gulyas wasn’t hurt too badly but the beating is especially sad as he is a liberal activist who was simply demonstrating against racism, not some Jobbik goon who went there to ruin the whole DK rally.

    he gave an interview after it happened

  8. Marton Gulyas, a principled guy?

    Perhaps a useful idiot, who indirectly cooperates with the Fidesz oppressors of Hungary.

    Will he hold up a similar sign at the fidesz peace marches, and at the many turul/betyar/64varmegye/horthy/garda/jobbik jamborees?

  9. Marton Gulyás certainly has demonstrated at right-wing gatherings. And frankly, he has a good point to make and I think it is rather sad that he is being labeled a “useful idiot who indirectly cooperates with Fidesz oppressors”. But given the mindless tribalism of Hungarian politics, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by contra-marton’s instinctive reaction.

  10. Would it be any surprise that Fidesz had a ‘dirty tricks’ group a la Nixon election times?
    And therefore, what surprise if said group had a wing that sent out Gulyas to demonstrate…while
    another wing sent out the ‘bunkos’ to give him a mild beating? (Marton doesn’t look very beat up.)

  11. Gulylás is from the Kreta Kör organisation that Lazar is attacking. He is not some anonymous figure as certain commentators here imply.

  12. @Last Light. I think you use the wrong word here. This article is not an adaptation of Schmidt’s article. Neither was my June 29th post. These are analyses and critiques of Schmidt’s writings.

  13. Maria Schmidt’s article here (http://hungarianglobe.mandiner.hu/cikk/20140710_schmidt_maria_captive_of_the_past) says ”adapted from” the origial Hungarian at the top, but I presume it means ”translated from”.

    Either way, whoever thought it would be a good idea to translate this article into English for the wider world to read has done Schmidt nothing but harm. It reads like the work of a slightly deranged 17-year-old (no offence to 17 year-olds) – and certainly not someone who should be entrusted with any kind of senior position.

  14. This piece by Schmidt is so funny that it hurts – everybody beware! Just the first sentences:

    “In contrast to the left-liberal fringe, the significant majority of the Hungarian electorate expects representation of the Hungarian national interest and demands it from its elected leaders.

    Following the 2014 elections, the decades-long influence and intellectual terror of the left-liberal opinion leaders are slowly vanishing. ”

    Unbelievable crap!

  15. @ Wolfi: but take note! Only ”slowly vanishing”. So beware – the intellectual terror still exists!

  16. It is shame that Hungary arrived to the point that someone who holds up a sign in support the Roma and questions any kind of racist manifestation receives punches even from those who in theory support equality. THe support of those who deliberately punched Marton Gulyas reflects very poorly on those who do not condemn such behaviour, although such attitude (it is all about my cause) is embedded in the psyche of many Hungarians.
    For the uneducated guessers of Marton Gulyas’ motivation:
    Although Gulyas’ behaviour regularly irritate many (certainly people take notice) he has been a regular fixture to protest against Orban and his government for example. He is an advocate for the fair distribution of funds for art (not only to those arts that the government favours).
    The hitting of Gulyas and the support of it certainly empowered Fidesz and Jobbik who names DK now Hungary’s first true extremist party. Deutsch on Facebook: “Most csak arról beszélünk, hogy gyurcsányistabűnözés van-e. Sajnos ilyen statisztikailag létezik.” We can only talk about now if there is a “Gyurcsanyist crime”. Unfortunately statistically, it exists.”

  17. Based upon the previous remark. I try to find pictures where Orban interact with somebody during this game but no such picture. Anybody found such an image?

  18. @Last Light. Sorry, I became confused. I thought you were talking about the article I wrote. Now, I see what you meant: the article was translated into English. I think Mandiner made a mistake unless they decided to be rebellious and show the world how stupid the government’s court historian actually is.

  19. Back in that age–a period of development Hungary is just coming up into–known as the Middle Ages, such cross-eyed, wacky looking broads were summarily burnt at the stake as witches…

  20. Has Gyurcsany condemned the treatment of Marton Gulyas? If he does not, he can’t claim to head the “Democratic” Coalition.

    Very sad to see part of the left supporting a fascist candidate and violently suppressing protest at a rally. They gave up the moral high ground with these actions.

    I had some hopes for DK. At this point they need some serious damage control and soul searching.

  21. Realitycheck: “They gave up the moral high ground with these actions.”

    Do you mean the moral high ground that Fidesz occupies? Absurd action, the whole thing, and even more absurd to stylise it now into some fascist incident. I trust Petöfi’s instincts, with all these “moral high grounds” that Hungary abounds with, why should I believe that there was not some “extremely clever lawyer” around to do the job?

    About the picture with Frau Merkel, interesting company that she chose. Was it indeed impossible to sit somewhere else and to chat less intimately with Tzar Putin?

  22. Is it just me, or does Marton Gulyas not look and sound just like Gergely Gulyas (though not what he says, obviously)?

  23. @Kirsten

    “…to chat less intimately with Tzar Putin?”

    Seems to be a visual message to the Americans…
    Mind you, I don’t see what all the German fuss is about. Back in the days of Willy Brandt, half his office where Soviet operatives…so there’s a history there.

  24. @petofi

    “Back in the days of Willy Brandt, half his office where Soviet operatives…so there’s a history there.”

    Where did you get that from? Utter nonsense.

  25. Generally, several contributors seemed to get off on several tangents on the topic (Mária Schmidt). I heard from reliable sources that within the community of respected historians she has been an outsider of low reputation for more than 15 years. Now she is in the self-destruct mode – which is welcome.

  26. @Minusio

    I’m certainly no expert on the Stasi and the KGB but back in 1974…

    “The Guillaume Affair was an espionage scandal in the Cold War history of Germany. The scandal revolved around the exposure of an East German spy within the West German government and had far-reaching political repercussions in Germany, the most prominent being the resignation of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1974.”

  27. Stevan Harnad: Is it just me, or does Marton Gulyas not look and sound just like Gergely Gulyas (though not what he says, obviously)?

    Yesterday, I saw him on ATV, Olga Kalman interviewed him. To me he looked just like VO 25 years ago. Aggressive, quick talking and believe he is right.

  28. @Minusio and Schmidt’s reputation in historical circles. Yes, your information is correct and it is possible that it is that “slight” that motivates her.

  29. @Karl Pfeifer

    I wrote off of a 40-year old remembrance…memory had it that there were others, or so it was reported at the time.

    Anyway, having refreshed my memory, Guillaume was Brandt’s personal advisor–some have given it as ‘chief’ advisor. After the revelation, Brandt was widely discredited.
    In any case, Berlin of the 70’s was awash in spies, and many of them were East German and Soviet spies.

    But the point of all this was that Americans had been ‘ouchy’ about West Germans, no less than their reaction to post-Philby MI5.

  30. Addendum: As far as spying; with double/triple agents, noone can come close Russian expertise, and the Americans know it. And it certainly must give the yanks pause to see that the former Chancellor Schroder is in the employ (on the board) of the worlds biggest company and the nesting place of KGB operatives, called Gazprom.

  31. I don’t like Schröder and what he’s doing right now – but he was one of those who tried to stop Bush from marching into Irak in 2003. And he was right there and then!

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