Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice

Two short statements about the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Year

Although the following statement from the Tom Lantos Institute is available elsewhere, I thought it important enough to republish here. A lot of people had been unhappy about the Lantos Institute’s silence, but finally Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, spoke up.

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Recent days have seen considerable controversy in Hungary over the remarks of Sandor Szakaly, Director of the Veritas Institute. His statements regarding the tragic and unforgivable 1941 deportation of thousands of Jews from Hungary to Ukraine where they were massacred in the notorious Kamenets-Podolskii atrocity have sparked outrage and deep concern across Hungary and beyond.

The Lantos Foundation is aware that Mr. Szakaly has acknowledged that his statements were wrong and ill informed. This is an important step and we welcome it. Nonetheless, questions remain as to whether Mr. Szakaly is the appropriate person to serve as the Director of an institute of historical research.

We are also aware of the statement issued by the Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s office, Mr. Janos Lazar. This very brief statement merely asserts that the views Sandor Szakaly expressed do not reflect the opinion of the Prime Minister’s office. One would hope that this was self-evident, and while appreciated, this modest comment is by no means an adequate repudiation of the offensive and inaccurate comments of Mr. Szakaly.

The deeper question remains regarding Hungary’s willingness to come to terms with its complicity in the deportation and murder of over half a million Hungarian citizens during the Holocaust. This painful issue is one that must be honestly faced, not only for the sake of Hungary’s past, but more importantly for the sake of Hungary’s future.

The Lantos Foundation sincerely appreciates the powerful and courageous speeches of Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsis and Foreign Minister János Martonyi at the October 2013 conference on resurgent anti-Semitism that was sponsored by the Tom Lantos Institute in Budapest. We also appreciate the eloquent and strong remarks of Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi at the recent opening of the United Nations exhibit commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust. Such speeches reflect the integrity and decency of the Hungarian people. Furthermore, going back a decade, the Hungarian government established the Holocaust Memorial Center on Pava Street, which is one of the most impressive such museums anywhere in the world. In addition, many important initiatives are planned to memorialize this tragic 70th time in Hungarian history to a new generation.

However, we believe it is vital for the Hungarian government to speak with a unified voice on these issues and avoid the danger of sending mixed messages. That is why we urge a stronger condemnation of Mr. Szkaly’s statements and encourage the Hungarian government to re-consider the design of a proposed monument to the German occupation of Hungary. Any such memorial should reflect the complexity of Hungarian collaboration with the occupation as well as the heroism of those who resisted. The current design seems to show utter amnesia regarding the role of the Hungarian government in the worst atrocities of that tragic occupation.

Such public monuments can play an essential role in educating the population and providing an honest narrative of a nation’s history. The people of Hungary deserve such honesty and history demands it. The Lantos Foundation urges the Hungarian government to remember both the imperatives of history and the future as it moves forward to resolve these issues.

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I would also like to share with you a declaration in support of the protest by Hungarian historians.

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We, scholars of various aspects of Hungarian history, support the protest of our Hungarian colleagues, dated 22 January 2014, against the planned design of an occupation memorial on Liberty Square in Budapest. As important as it is to point to the destructive impact of the German occupation in 1944-45, the most tragic consequence of that occupation – the murder of about 500,000 Jews from Greater Hungary – was also the result of the actions and attitudes of many Hungarians, officials and others. Hungarian troops committed atrocities abroad. While there were also non-Jewish Hungarians victimized by German occupation forces, it is historically grossly inadequate to present all Hungarians as a community of victims, minus the Arrow Cross Party. We call on the Hungarian authorities to stop plans for a monument of such a design. Furthermore, we ask diplomatic representatives of foreign countries to reconsider their participation in sessions of the Hungarian Commission for the Holocaust Memorial Year 2014.

28 January 2014

signed:

Joëlle Allouche-Benayoun, Paris
Eva S. Balogh, New Haven
ehuda Bauer, Jerusalem
Nora Berend, Cambridge
Donald Bloxham, Edinburgh
Randolph L. Braham, New York
Holly Case, Ithaca, New York
Tim Cole, Bristol
Regina Fritz, Vienna
Christian Gerlach, Bern
Heiko Haumann, Basel
Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, Vienna
Eleonore Lappin-Eppel, Vienna
Louis D. Levine, Ashley Falls, Massachusetts
Gerhard Milchram, Vienna
Dieter Pohl, Klagenfurt
Andreas Pribersky, Vienna
Julia Richers, Bern
Jon Rush, Ann Arbor
Tanja Schult, Stockholm
Georg Sessler, Stockholm
Michaela Sidenberg, Prague
Judith Szapor, Montréal
David Tréfás, Basel
Carsten Wilke, Budapest
Susan Zimmermann, Budapest and Vienna