Jun 2001 Journal

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Dangerous truth

When the Hungarian Parliament staged its first Holocaust memorial ceremony in late April, twelve extreme rightwing deputies stayed away. Their leader, Istvan Czurka, told Hungarian radio that he felt “victims of Communism and the Holocaust are the same.” This is, of course, arrant nonsense – victims of the Shoah outnumber casualties of the Budapest Uprising by a hundred to one. In addition, it harps subliminally on the Zhidekommunism myth, which casts the Jews as germ carriers of Communism. (Though the Jewish ‘Prime Ministers’ Bela Kun [1919] and Matyas Rakosi [1948-54] were both Communists, their co-religionists tended to be middle-class and religiously observant.)

To blunt the impact of the Far Right’s boycott, the Speaker of the House, Janos Ader, asserted that the fate which befell Hungarian Jewry in 1944 did not reflect the will of most Hungarians. This assertion was challenged by Matyas Eorsi, a Jewish opposition deputy. The sad truth is that Eörsi was right. In the 19th century the gentry who ruled Hungary encouraged Jewish entrepreneurial talent for the sake of the country’s economic growth, and the community flourished. The situation changed drastically when the lost 1914-18 War and a Communist interlude led to Admiral Horthy’s semi-dictatorship and the Depression. The Horthy government enacted the numerus clausus, and other discriminatory measures against the Jews, which met with popular approval. Nor does the fervent commitment the gendarmerie brought to the roundup of Jews in 1944, and the army’s sadistic treatment of Jewish conscripts in labour battalions bear out Speaker Ader’s statement.

On the other hand, it may be politically more expedient to argue along the lines of the Speaker. After all, if the Hungarian people were really genocide-minded, then the murderous Arrow Cross thugs were in tune with the majority – which is one of the definitions of democracy.
Richard Grunberger

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