Mária Schmidt is on the warpath again

Last summer I wrote at least five posts about Mária Schmidt, a historian of the Holocaust and director of the controversial House of Terror museum established during the first Orbán administration (1998-2002). Why is Mária Schmidt so important? Why is it necessary to spend time on a historian not held in high esteem by her colleagues? It is true that as a historian she would not deserve much attention, but as the chief adviser to Orbán Viktor on matters of modern Hungarian history her ideas cannot be ignored. I don’t think I exaggerate when I claim that Schmidt’s interpretation of German-Hungarian relations in the 1930s and the first half of the 1940s is crucial to understanding the Hungarian government’s reevaluation of the Hungarian Holocaust. The newly erected memorial to “all the victims” of the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944 was a direct result of Mária Schmidt’s views on the period.

The other reason that I give her so much space is that every time she opens her mouth, or puts pen to paper, she says something outlandish. She begins radio and television interviews with syrupy sweetness and ends with shrill diatribes.

She has been lying low on Holocaust issues since last summer, most likely because it looks as if János Lázár, Viktor Orbán’s deputy, decided to remove her from the job of spearheading the creation of a new Holocaust museum, the House of Fates. The government realized that no compromise could be reached between the administration and the Jewish community as long as Schmidt was in charge of the project.

They are working on the building of the House of Fates but the concept is still missing

The construction of the House of Fates is proceeding apace

She refocused her attention on more recent events. Last month she wrote an essay on “geopolitical games” between Russia and the United States in which she didn’t spare the U.S. This was not a topic that excited too many people in Hungary.

But then came an exchange of letters between Schmidt and the office of the German chancellor that she made public on February 4. Since the publication of this exchange she has given two interviews, one to György Bolgár on Klubrádió and another to András Kovács of Origo.

Let’s start with a summary of Mária Schmidt’s letter, dated January 20, to Chancellor Angela Merkel. In it Schmidt invited Merkel while in Hungary to a reception in the House of Terror honoring “ordinary citizens who [in 1989] risked everything as opposed to the political leaders of the regime who were only following the lead of the heroic civilians.” Of course, she was talking about the East German refugees in Hungary. In addition, she expressed her hope that together they “could light a candle for the victims of communism.” The answer from Councilor Maximilian Spinner, on behalf of the chancellor, was brief and to the point: “Unfortunately, such a visit is impossible due the limited amount of time available.”

I have the feeling that even if Angela Merkel hadn’t had such a tight schedule she wouldn’t have wanted to be associated with the reception Mária Schmidt organized. The Germans ever since 1989 have repeatedly said how grateful they were to the Hungarian government at the time, and here is an event that belittles the role of the Németh government and Foreign Minister Gyula Horn, whom the Germans revere. And that government, whether Schmidt likes it or not, was the last government of the Kádár regime. By that time the dictatorship had mellowed to such an extent that it was not a brave, heroic act to help the East German refugees. Thousands and thousands of ordinary citizens lent a helping hand alongside the Hungarian government. Schmidt’s invitation was something of a trap, which I assume the Germans noticed and wanted to avoid.

Well, Schmidt was furious. She called Angela Merkel “the heartless chancellor.” She accused the Germans of never thanking these “brave civilians,” of thanking only the Hungarian government that existed “during the still functioning communist dictatorship.” Not only did Merkel not go but no “official representative” of Germany made an appearance when Schmidt gave memorial plaques to the few people she found worthy of the honor.

And then came the interview with Origo. She accused Merkel of “insolence,” which ought to “shock all well-meaning Germans.” According to Schmidt, “the chancellor obviously did not know what country she was visiting.” Otherwise, surely she would have wanted to meet ordinary citizens. She also found Merkel’s words about democracy, freedom of the press, and civic groups puzzling. In her opinion, Merkel talked like a “left-liberal” instead of a Christian Democrat.

Schmidt had a few not so kind words for the United States as well. According to her, M. André Goodfriend, the chargé d’affaires until the arrival of the new U.S. Ambassador Colleen Bell, “misunderstood his role and became enamored with his media appearances.” Everything has changed since the arrival of the ambassador, a claim that is most likely based on Colleen Bell’s frequent appearances at markets or social events, which of course may not indicate a policy change.

According to Schmidt, Hungary is a true ally of the United States and “it would be very sad if there were people in Washington who would like to disrupt that bond.” She is certain that Hungary would like to restore good relations between the two countries, but “we must not forget that the Hungarian nation is a proud one that does not like it if an American diplomat comes here and tells us how we should or should not remember our past,” a not too subtle reference to the memorial that on Viktor Orbán’s insistence was erected despite international protest, a memorial that falsifies the history of the Hungarian Holocaust.

Otherwise, at the moment Schmidt is organizing a conference, “Test of Bravery” (Bátorságpróba). The odd title seems to be lifted from a well-known picture book for children suffering from cancer. The conference will focus on the second Orbán government’s accomplishments between 2010 and 2014.

The House of Terror’s director is a tireless supporter of the government despite the recent slight she suffered when the much contested House of Fates projet was removed from her hands and taken over by the prime minister’s office. Her “concept” remained, however. It is, in the words of László Karsai, a Holocaust researcher, “two hundred pages of nothing.”

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32 comments

  1. Having just read the Origo interview with Ms. Schmidt I am baffled as to why Andras Kovacs asked her to pontificate on foreign affairs related to the United States and issues such as the war in the Ukraine. Supposedly Ms. Schmidt is now an expert on the history of the Hungarian Holocaust not on foreign affairs.

    I guess Kovacs figured she would give him some juicy quotes which she did. None the less I don’t think her opinions on whether my government should provide lethal weapons to Ukraine will have much of an impact on either the debate in the US Congress or in the State Department.

  2. Maria Schmidt could not have been serious in inviting Mrs Merkel to the House of Terror, she just wanted to add to her own notoriety by stirring the …. (szar now that all naughty words are acceptable in Hungarian). It would be a good idea if she would join Simicska and go enjoy the snow away from Hungary.

  3. Take that weird star away, and it’s two rusty industrial silos.

    Does anyone know/understand the symbolism of this design? (I’m assuming it HAS symbolism – otherwise it’s just a mess.)

  4. …Why is it necessary to spend time on a historian not held in high esteem by her colleagues?

    Because her views are accepted by the Leader of Hungary and thus she is influential in misleading the population of her country and is given to promote her shameful House of Terror. I note that she is not only Mr. Orban’s preferred expert on the Hungarian Holocaust, but is becoming an expert on Ukraine and a critic of Mrs. Merkel.

  5. You Socialist/Communists keep harping on pre-WW2 Hungary – but the wisdom of Hungary’s Adm. Horthy kept the Germans out and a million Jews alive through the war, until that fateful day when they made their last gasp effort to slaughter the Jews. Without any forces worthy of being called an army (thanks to Trianon), with its own (commandeered!) virtually weaponless army butchered in Russia, Horthy had no way to stop the Nazis. But he still managed to save a quarter million Jews in and about Budapest, Then he was spirited away to Germany, and the Arrow Cross (Jobbik’s roots) took over, trying to help finish the job. Hungary’s Jews were the most fortunate in Hitler’s sphere of influence and control, without a doubt. … “Never forget!” But get story right! There is a rightful place in Hungary for its diverse ethnic communities to live together in mutual respect, but politicians like you and your leftwing pals are willing to inflame animosity so you can get back in control of Hungary’s government. You failed twice before and the last time the people threw you out by the seat of your britches. You don’t deserve a third chance!

  6. Eva@ “Thousands and thousands of ordinary citizens lent a helping hand alongside the Hungarian government.”

    The following extract is largely based on my extensive research into the event, talking to people who took part in it, etc. etc.

    Extract from: “The Gresham Symphony” (now available in book format on Amazon.com)

    “One morning, we’re woken up to a big news: Hungarians are cutting down the wire fences at the Austrian – Hungarian border. The year is 1989. East German tourists are arriving to Hungary in their thousands. The newly elected government is asking the Hungarian people to help them by providing accommodations and food for the escapees. Most of them are heading towards the Lake Balaton region. My in-laws have a modest holiday house in Tihany with a huge garden at the back of the house and they open it to the young East Germans to set up their tents. Paul and I decide to take our summer holidays to help them cope with the close to forty young refugees, waiting for a final declaration from the Hungarian Government. They all know somehow, that Hungary joined the Geneva Refugee Convention in June. Our government refuses to return the “border violators” to East Germany, referring to the agreement.
    The excitement in our camp is heightened by the hour. Every day, we are cooking in iron pots and barbecue like outside stoves. After dinner, we have our own show, someone is singing or playing their guitar for our entertainment. The atmosphere is almost impossible to describe: fear mixed with courage; anger against calm; but most importantly, the feeling of freedom and hope for all of us Eastern Europeans, East Germans and Hungarians alike.
    ‘THE AUSTRIAN – HUNGARIAN BORDERS ARE OPEN’ we read the headline news one summer afternoon.”

  7. Small country – Big hearts – Lots of courage – Nem! Nem! Soha! /They were right! Trianon did not work – Bela Kun’s communists failed – Horthy succeeded – Nazis/Reds crushed Hungary – Up from the ashes because of decent families like the one above! There are millions more! –
    God bless the Hungarians … good people … they have suffered enough!

  8. Reverend Kovacs..: We all know you like to get worked up and spout off, but as the son of someone – my Mom, actually – who was in Hungary at that time and was Jewish, I beg to differ with your imaginary confusion about Admiral Horthy being – pardon – some kind of savior figure. Apart from decades of laws restricting the rights of Jewish citizens which were carried out under Horthy’s rule there were plenty of atrocities before 1944: in the countryside, in the Hungarian occupied zones (The Serbian Vajdasag was declared the first “Judenrein” or Jew-Free Zone in 1941 after the Hungarian Army massacred the Jews of Szabadka. Ever heard of Teleki Pal, Rev? Look him up. It is on the internet!) Two of my uncles served in the Jewish Worker Brigades, the MUSZOK… sent to the Russian front to dig latrines and roads for the army unarmed and without winter gear or adequate food. Oh, and Transylvania… You shouldn’t forget Transylvania, Albi, nor Hungarian occupied Slovakia. And regions of Hungary that did not include Budapest. If you were Jewish in those areas – and unable to get to Budapest – you were not so safe.

    Horthy had no way to stop the Nazis? He was already the Regent of Hungary when Hitler was an unemployed ex-artist and freelance journalist in Munich in 1922. What did he do for twenty years? His Jewish laws provided the model for the subsequent Nazi racial laws. You write “But he still managed to save a quarter million Jews in and about Budapest,” Hungary lost 70% of its Jewish population in WWII: and this doesn’t count the losses in Hungarian occupied Transylvania, the Vajdasag in Serbia, and Slovakia. Factor those in and only Poland can count bigger percentages of losses of Jewish population.

    Thus, in my family here in Hungary we never had “large” family occaisions. We had small ones. Very small ones. I have never got to meet a large proportion of my family and relatives. They died a decade before I was born. I suppose you – in your ecclesiastic wisdom – feel I have met (statistically speaking) enough of them to be satisfied with what Admiral Horthy has granted me, yea, grateful for the glorious opportunity given us by Maria Schmidt to sing the praises of Admiral Horthy… I for one will give it a pass.

  9. “Does anyone know/understand the symbolism of this design?”

    Sure.
    It’s two smokestacks.

    Ain’t Hungarian humour peachy?

  10. Personally, I do not mind the design. For me the design represents the cattle cars that Jews were deported. I like that it stands out against it surrounding, and it is impossible not to see it. My concern is what could be inside and how history is told. THe quality of the exhibition that is presented is what worries me. I believe when Karsai referred to to 200 pages of nothing, he did not refer to the design or the aesthetics. I am afraid the material is put together to please people, like for example Rev. Albert W. Kovacs, who has some warm and fuzzy feeling about Horthy and goes at lengths to prove that Hungary played no role in the extermination of thousands of his own citizens.

  11. @Rev. Albert W. Kovacs – It’s excellent to remind people of communist crimes. The question is, who is a communist?
    Uncovering communist crimes, and revealing the depth to which the former communist secret services (along with the KGB) have penetrated public life in Hungary is a demand of all patriots, whether conservative or liberal.
    The Orban government, with its 2/3s majority, has not only failed to pass any legislation to open communist secret police files, it even actively blocked the passage of a law that would have opened the files and revealed how many former communist secret police agents were in ALL post-communist Hungarian parties. When that bill came to the floor of the parliament in an open vote the governing Fidesz-KDNP fraction voted against it, almost to a man. Since then, the Fidesz government has made no attempt whatsoever at lustration.
    Indeed, the Fidesz government has appointed Mr. Laszlo Tasnadi, a known communist secret services officer from the Kadar era to the post of state secretary. This man sits on the Hungarian state security council.
    You don’t have to take my word for it. You can examine the evidence presented the following article, which includes links to more evidence.
    http://444.hu/2014/06/19/az-uj-rendeszeti-allamtitkar-iiiii-es-operativ-tiszt-volt/

    Reverand Kovacs, I ask you: Who are the communists?

  12. @Isvan

    Origo.hu is now a solidly fidesz-leaning site, not much better than say metropol or heti válasz (to mention two print publications owned by Simicska, in the online world fidesz is not as overwhelming but fideszniks did capture origo).

    There’s no real journalism a origo anymore, the real journalists left when the editor in chief was fired at the behest of Janos Lazar.

    The current crop of journalist are loyal media workers.

    By the way, you have to know that unlike in the US an oral interview is not what eventually appears in the end because the interviewee as a matter of custom has the right to amend the text in any way and in such cases when the medium itself is a quasi-propaganda outlet (such as origo) they can put other questions/answers into the text and have the best possible version published.

    Maria Schmidt just wouldn’t have had the opportunity to say anything anywhere else in the online media, even index.hu which owned by a right wing oligarch doesn’t produce such interviews on demand, but since origo.hu is now a party media, the solution is now easy, ask the friends at origo to arrange an “interview”, ie. a pontification in the form of an interview.

    Business as usual in Hungary.

  13. Simicska vs Orban

    Curse like an oligarch

    http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21642647-countrys-biggest-media-mogul-turns-against-viktor-orban-no-uncertain-terms-how-cuss

    I have the feeling that Simicska will retreat, his media empire will not become anti-Fidesz, and we will regard his four-letter outbursts as a minor event a few months from now.

    If Simicska had really wanted to do harm to Orban, he would have disclosed damaging facts about Orban right away. But Orban also knows a lot about Simicska’s dealings. In addition, Orban’s prosecutor would never investigate Orban, in spite of any evidence.

  14. Putin – Iranian connection —– Jobbik

    Iranian embassy —-> Jobbik connection: Ali Jahroumi —-> Adonis Kassab —-> Jobbik

    The same Adonis Kassab helps organize a pro-Putin rally for February 17.

    http://atlatszo.hu/2015/02/09/kubatovtol-a-kommunistakig-a-putyin-parti-tuntetok-kapcsolatrendszere/

    Persia is getting powerful again, after 2500 years. They are courted by Putin and Obama, holding 1/3 of Iraq & Lebanon, have troops in Syria, their allies just toppled the government of Yemen, and feverishly building their atomic bombs.

  15. @tappanch

    mandiner as “independent blog”, I have to laugh.

    Also kinda interesting how (half)Syrian men living in Hungary get involved in interesting stuff, there was also Sayfo Omar who currently leads the foreign affairs section at weekly Demokrata and was implicated in the gipsy killings.

    There was another man named Salha Omar at 4K!, although his father was Palestinian (having said that “Syrian” is not in itself a dispositive identity). I also remember an LMP politician, but I couldn’t find him.

    Somehow men with Middle-Eastern backgrounds are involved in Hungarian politics, or maybe this is just optical illusion.

  16. Lawyers at work.

    How to legally arrange the destruction of any photos or filming about politicians or public people like Rogan, Vida, Habony, Orban etc., prevent their publication and make the publisher/media pay, all in a qusi-martial law fashion.

    All legal, all OK.

    You can go and petition at Hitler — as they used to say in Hungary.

    Ohhooh, this game is just beginning, Orban is just getting started, as they say in Hungary hunger arrives during the meals.

    http://444.hu/2015/02/10/jon-a-torveny-engedely-nelkul-nem-lehet-fotozni/

  17. @Rev Albert W. Kovacs

    If you aid in the killing of seven members of a family and spare the last three, you are not a hero. At best you should be spared a hanging and be shot instead.

  18. Kave – a wonderful reply. The most succinct and effective reply to the “Hungary was a haven for the Jews” ‘argument’ I have read in a long time.

    My condolences for your family’s losses.

  19. Apparently someone has the correct point of view here:

    The picture appeared on Index.hu, the title of the article it illustrated has the title: “Ön is hallotta? A Terror Házában hangosan csattogott néhány barna nyelv” (Have you head it too? Flapped loudly a couple of brown tongue in the House of Terror.) A rather direct reference to the nature of Maria Schmidt conference, with timely summaries of speeches praises and lies.
    In Hungarian, mind you, but then again it definitely provides a certain flavour to the occasion.

    In the House of ERROR..!
    Where else!

  20. Maria Schmidt at the “conference” in the House of Terror: “Everything Orban did was a success.”

    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20150210_Schmidt_Amit_Orban_tett_minden_bejott

    Every word of hers at this event (practically a series of lectures explaining why Orban is a genius) needs to be treasured.

    “Germany and the US are panicking because they realized that Orban is brave and is not giving in.”

    “Orban is one of the most influential politicians in Europe now” (actually Ivan Krastev also says that too).

    The best part for Schmidt is that the West hates Orban but it is unable to do anything, and there’s no bigger enjoyment to be had than when the West or the liberals are frustrated but are totally unable to anything against the situation.

    It’s like going very close to a scary, big, barking dog which is chained down and making it insane by provoking it just an inch in front of the dog’s nose. It’s barking like crazy, frothing, veins popping out, but nothing can be done, the chain is too strong, and the dog after a while becomes catatonic, realizing its utter weakness and humiliation. This is what Orban likes to do with the West and he’s having the party of his life — plus getting insanely rich (just today fronts and family members acquired construction companies). Orban has won.

    The theses are exactly the same kind of (serious) craziness what some of us have been trying to make understood here. The ideas are crazy and irritating but they represent the reality too, ie only crazy to adversaries, but for fideszniks they are normality and the strategy.

  21. Here’s an exchange that has nothing to do with Hungary, but it might be of some entertainment value to those who commented above.

  22. Now this is really OT:

    Reverend Kovacs on twitter – really funny, especially when he writes about hell!
    Reminds me of my favourite joke:
    A guy wakes up after a severe accident in strange surroundings, many people in conversation and soft music. He’s totally overwhelmed.
    Suddenly a beautiful woman appears and smiles at him:
    Hi, welcome to the afterlife aka hell – I’m the devil assigned to show you around and take you to your quarters. On our way I’ll show you a few of our installations: Here’s a bar, there is one of our many buffets and to our right the gym …
    Suddenly they pass a heavy iron door, from behind it red light flashes, a sulphuric smell emanates and screams and wailings can be heard. A little bit afraid he asks his host:
    What’s behind that door?
    And she answers smiling:
    Don’t worry, these are just the Christians – they want it that way …

  23. Re: Jagello’s post. I wonder if Maria Schmidt is truly this dumb or she things mots people are dumb. Does she believes what she is saying at all?

  24. Rev. Kovacs,
    Why are you so insistent on whitewashing Hungary’ role in the holocaust? Why is it okay for you that Horthy participated in the death of hundreds of thousands, but spared 100000 in Budapest? He sold out to Hitler and only once he was warned he would not be spared prosecution if it persists, did he halt deportations. How as a reverend can you possibly say that this is okay? You remind me of the fidesz posters on another site who refer to everyone who disagrees with fidesz as left or socialist or communist, when in fact many of them are conservative. Is it considered in your version of Christianity that only politically left leaning people believe that the choices made by Horthy were wrong? Is it only a socialist that could possibly believe that aligning with Hitler and only changing sides once Hitler was already losing is a gutless and cowardly thing to do? If he did not testify at the Nuremberg trials against other Nazis, he himself would have been put to death for his crimes, yes, crimes! Also, if you claim he was such a hero, and was not a Nazi himself, how would he have enough evidence against the others to help convict them? Why did he live out his life in exile if he was innocent? What I find disturbingly interesting is you as a reverend should be looking for the truth, not just the propaganda. What do you have to gain from this stuff you spew? I have read multiple posts of yours over the past couple of years and often get the feeling that you are defensive for your own reasons. Maybe some soul searching is in order for you reverend. Those of us who have lost loved ones through WWII and 1956, deserve our right to finally obtain truth and justice and people like yourself, Fideszers and Jobbikers are denying us this right. Why? I have a feeling that there is more to hide here, and many more are involved and ashamed. Being Hungarian myself, I am very familiar with Hungarian pride and how deep that is, but we also need our day of peace, even if it outs those who still are hiding their own crimes and injustices they have committed. I sent you an email once asking all about your views, and you never replied. But yet you have no problem continuously pushing the propaganda online. This tells me there is more to you than meets the eye.

  25. On January 29, 2015, Eliezer Rabinovich gave a talk at the Budapest University entitled: “The Hungarian Elite and the Jewry, 1939-1945”. The talk was based on his 100 pages’ article published in Russian under the title: “Rescue of the Budapest Jews: Miklós Horthy, March 17 to October 16, 1944; Diplomats, 1942-1945 г., and Many Other Righteous Hungarians”. A very abbreviated Hungarian summary of the article translated from English can be found here:

    Hogyan mentette meg a gyakran „antiszemitaként” jellemzett Horthy Miklós a budapesti zsidóságot? – See more at: http://www.aspektus.eu/content/hogyan-mentette-meg-gyakran-antiszemitakent-jellemzett-horthy-miklos-budapesti-zsidosagot#sthash.3LVVrH35.Zb4gSR6W.dpuf

    Reviews of the talk of Eliezer M. Rabinovich have been published on:

    A magyar elit és a zsidóság a második világháború alatt – See more at: http://www.aspektus.eu/content/magyar-elit-es-zsidosag-masodik-vilaghaboru-alatt#sthash.JNMgx2EK.dpuf

    http://www.irodalmijelen.hu/2015-jan-30-1256/egesz-eletemben-antiszemita-voltam-horthy-miklos-mas-aspektusbol

    Eliezer Rabinovich a Holokausztról és Horthy szerepéről
    http://www.gondola.hu/cikkek/94764-Eliezer_Rabinovich_a_Holokausztrol_es_Horthy_szereperol.html

  26. Eliezer can not tell a bigger joke than this one.
    What is his profession?
    Who pays a salary to such people?
    A similar case is Ilan Pappe.

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