Miklós Jancsó

Mazsihisz has decided to boycott; a portrait of Viktor Orbán by Miklós Jancsó

As usual, there are more topics than can be squeezed into the usual length of my posts. The news of the day is Mazsihisz’s decision to stick to their guns and boycott the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Year unless there is a radical change in the government’s plans. Mazsihisz wants the government to abandon the memorial to Germany’s 1944 invasion of Hungary. The leaders of the organization also want to stop the erection of a new center devoted to the memory of child victims of the Holocaust. They object to being excluded from the planning stage of this project. Although the decision issued today doesn’t mention it specifically, the Jewish leaders are most suspicious of the intentions of the historian entrusted with the execution of the project– Mária Schmidt, whose views on the Holocaust are quite controversial. In addition, there is the problem of Sándor Szakály as the director of the Veritas Institute. The Jewish leaders object only to his comments about the Kamenets-Podolskii deportation but, let’s face it, his appointment is unacceptable altogether.

Photo Attila Kovács / MTI

Photo Attila Kovács / MTI

The first reports on Mazsihisz’s boycott have already appeared in the international press, and I assume that more will follow. We’ll see how Orbán gets himself out of the corner he’s painted himself into.

Now let’s change topics. Although I didn’t mention it earlier, the famous Hungarian film director and screenwriter Miklós Jancsó died at the age of 93 on January 30. Perhaps his most famous creation was The Round Up (1965). Those who would like to know more about the man who became something of an idol in Hungary can read several English-language biographies of him on the Internet. His obituary appeared in The New York Times immediately after his death. By contrast, the Hungarian government and Viktor Orbán were silent.

Orbán himself never said a word about his passing, and it took the government a whole week before Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources, announced that the government will give Jancsó a state funeral. The reason for the delay? Miklós Jancsó deeply disliked Viktor Orbán and I assume the feeling was mutual. Perhaps it was the open letter Miklós Jancsó and Ferenc Grunwalsky, another Hungarian film director, wrote to Viktor Orbán on April 14, 2002 that made Viktor Orbán hate the film director. Keep the date in mind. It was almost twelve years ago, right after Viktor Orbán made that infamous speech in which he declared that the election must be won. Otherwise, Hungary is ruined. His message was that if you are a Hungarian you must vote for Fidesz, the only legitimate representative of the nation. The other political side is the enemy. It was that speech that prompted Jancsó and Grunwalsky to write their letter.

The open letter was again made available online, and I recommend that Hungarian speakers read it. It is priceless. I really should translate the whole letter one day. It should be compulsory reading for those who think that the first Orbán administration was a great deal better than the second. Yes, maybe in degree because he didn’t have a two-thirds majority, but all the essential elements of the present Orbán regime were already there. And they were frightening even then.

The authors of the letter posed twelve questions to Viktor Orbán.

First. “Can anyone say about himself that if he does not become prime minister of the country then Hungary will go astray”? The answer is NO.

Second, can you say, Viktor, that if three million don’t vote for you then “our families, our children, our human dignity, our freedom, our faith and our homeland will be in danger”? The answer is NO.

Third. Hungary is not in bad economic shape, there is no natural disaster that would threaten us. There are no foreign enemies. Is it permissible to create a feeling of danger that is lurking against the country? The answer is NO.

Fourth. Do you have the right to incite people against each other, create mass hysteria and then talk about love? The answer is NO.

Fifth. Can it happen in a democratic country that the homeroom teacher in school asks the children for whom their parents will vote and that those children whose parents aren’t planning to vote for you receive indoctrination about changing their parents’ mind? Is it normal that the teachers demand answers to whether the children could convince their moms and dads to stand by the government? The answer is NO.

Six. Is it normal to frighten people with such an eventuality that all accomplishments, everything under the sun will collapse if the government is not in your hands? The answer is NO.

Seven. Do you have the right to defend your power that much? Do you have the right to appropriate the national colors? The answer is NO.

Eight. You consider yourself a prophet? You are NO prophet. It would be blasphemy on your part. In everybody there is a little messiah but the trouble begins when it comes to the surface.

Nine. Must the whole country live among constant slogans? The answer is NO. WHAT FOR?

Ten. Did you ever ask women what kind of life they want to lead? Did you think through what kind of role you assign to them within the family? We think YOU DIDN’T.

Eleven. Are you sure that your children want to live the way you imagine? Do you know that half the country doesn’t even have a chance for such a life? The economic crisis you talk about so much inflicted the greatest hardship on the poor. Did you think how as a young lawyer you would be able to bring up four children? Could you afford it? NO. Everybody knows that.

Twelve. In your opinion in the past few years how many young people became rich? Who could afford three or four children? In your experience could young people with a respectable job become rich? Could they buy real estate, factories, agricultural land, vineyards? NO. Everybody knows that.

In addition to these questions there are a few memorable sentences in this letter. For example: “Your key word is ‘akarat’ (Das Willen). One must will and dare and then all will become true. Better future, beautiful country, great dreams. Moreover, everything which is, will be. ‘Az akarat diadala’ (Macht des Willens). Viktor! This is the title of Leni Riefenstahl’s film about the 1934 party congress. An uncomfortable similarity in megalomania and in extravagant hunger for power. And meanwhile on the telephone the messages arrive from your office: ‘Viktor Orbán loves you.’… Such a leader, such a world existed before and it has no place here anymore.”