Hungary Spotlights Antisemitism - Again (GateStone Institute) by Michael Curtis 04/17/12)
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It is not unusual for the malicious, the ignorant or the misguided to
use the blood libel accusation. It is devastating that it should be
used in a European parliament.
Two issues have recently occurred as reminders of the unpleasant past
for Jews in Hungary. One is the coming into force on January 1, 2012
of the new constitution, The Fundamental Law of Hungary, passed on
April 25, 2011. A paragraph in the Prologue can be read to deny any
Hungarian responsibility for wartime actions in the country: "We do
not recognize the suspension of our historical constitution due to
foreign occupations. We deny any statute of limitations for the
inhumane crimes committed against the Hungarian nation and its
citizens under the national socialist and communist dictatorships."
The implication, though not overtly stated, was that as Hungary was
invaded and occupied by the Nazis in March 1944, and then later by
the Red Army, its government and citizens could not be held
responsible for the deportation of Jews to extermination camps. In
more venal fashion this disclaimer could also limit payment of
restitution claims by Jews against the state.
Even more disturbing has been the revival of the infamous blood libel
accusation against Jews, the accusation that goes back to the first
major one in 1144 in Norwich, England that Jews murder Christian
children to use their blood to bake matzos for Passover. In the last
few years this has been echoed by people in Russia, Poland, the
Palestinian Hamas group, by the Syrian Minister of Defense, Mustafa
Tiass, in a book in 1986, and by the leader of the branch of the
Islamic Movement in Israel.
The accusation was echoed in a public space in Budapest. Zsolt
Barath, one of the leaders of Jobbik, the new Nazi party which has 47
seats in the Hungarian legislature, is known as a Holocaust denier.
On April 3, 2012 in a speech in the parliament he referred to the
Tiszaeszlar case, 1882-83 in which 15 Jews were accused of murdering
a 14 year-old Christian domestic servant for her blood. They were
acquitted but the case was followed by pogroms against Hungarian
Jews. The town of Tiszaeszlar has become a pilgrimage site for
antisemites. Barath argued that the acquittal was due to outside
pressure, in effect Jewish international financiers. Hungary, in the
views of this Nazi, was again 130 years later facing similar pressure
of Jewish finance. It is not unusual for the malicious, the ignorant
or misguided to use the blood libel accusation. It is devastating
that it should be used in a European parliament.
The list of distinguished Jews, past and present, who were born in,
or originated from, territory controlled by Hungary, and who made
important contributions to science, mathematics, scholarship,
political and economic activity, and culture is endless. Among them
are Theodor Herzl, John von Neumann, Milton Friedman, Tony Curtis,
Leslie Howard, George Szell, Elie Wiesel, Arthur Koestler, Robert
Capa, and George Soros.
In spite of that contribution to Hungarian culture the story of the
Hungarian Jewish community has not been a happy one. The Wannsee
Conference of German leaders in January 1942 outlined plans for the
deportation and extermination of all Jews in German occupied
territory. Its chairman, Reinhard Heydrich, head of the German Main
Security Office including the Gestapo, calculated there were 742,800
Jews in the territory controlled by Hungary. Of these, 568,000 were
killed by Nazi Germany and by the pro Nazi party the Hungarian Arrow
Hungary even before the war, from 1938 on, had introduced a number of
antisemitic laws, so called "race protective" orders, according to
which Jews, as in Nazi Germany, were essentially removed from the
economy, preventing them from employment in law, press, films,
theater, and from travelling except in street cars.
In the months of July and August 1941, over 16,000 Jews were deported
from Hungary, an ally of Germany at the beginning of the war, to
Galicia, then under German rule: all of them were killed. In January
1942 the Hungarian police murdered 3,500 people, of whom 800 were
Jews. Most of their bodies were thrown into the river Danube; victims
were made to remove their shoes before being thrown into the river --
a set of iron shoes now stands along the riverbank. Other victims
were publicly hanged.
The main malfeasance committed in the country came after March 1944
when Hungary was occupied by German forces. The Regent of Hungary,
the conservative Admiral Miklos Horthy, who ruled the country had not
stood up to Hitler but he had not totally succumbed to or supported
German demands. With the German invasion ghettos were established for
70,000 people and Jews were obliged to wear the Star of David. The
main criminal in charge of the Holocaust in Hungary was Adolph
Eichmann, not exemplifying the "banality of evil," but the energetic
and ruthless head of a special unit to deport Jews. In this activity,
Eichmann was aided by Hungarian soldiers, police, and government
officials. In two months in summer 1944, 437,000 Hungarian Jews were
deported to their death.
The deportations ended on July 6, 1944, partly as a result of D Day
and partly because of Horthy´s awareness of the advance of the
Russian forces into Hungary. The Germans replaced Horthy, who would
no longer be a partner of the Nazis, by Ferenc Szalasi, the leader of
the anti-Semitic Arrow Cross party which was responsible for killing
over 80,000 Jews, some of whom were sent on death marches. Some of
these killers were tried as war criminals in Soviet Union courts
after the war, but many went unpunished.
Budapest, which once had a Jewish population of 825,000, today has
less than 70,000. Prejudice against them remains. A recent survey of
Hungarians showed that 75 percent believe that Jews have too much
power in the business world.
How unfortunate that Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved
so many Jews in Budapest, and Tom Lantos, the Congressman who was a
refugee from Hungary, are not alive to pour scorn on recent
developments in Hungary.
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