By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party on Tuesday, October 15, condemned a legislator of the influential far-right opposition for using “anti-Semitic rhetoric” in relation to the upcoming Holocaust Memorial Year.
Fidesz told BosNewsLife that Előd Novák, of the Jobbik party, used the Parliament’s Committee on Cultural and Press Affairs on October 14 to question the government’s measures to convert Budapest’s unused Józsefváros train station into a Holocaust memorial.
Novák also criticized the establishment of a civil fund for the 70th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust next year, saying the memorial events were part of a “holocaust industry” and a “waste of public money”.
Hungarys center-right government plans to make 1.5 billion forints ($6.9 million) available through tenders to fund local memorials on the 70th anniversary. However, “We firmly reject the extremist statements made by the member of Parliament,” said Fidesz legislator László L. Simon, who chairs the Parliament’s cultural and press committee.
Simon told BosNewsLife in a statement that the Jobbik representative “spoke against these plans and as such has violated the memory of those of our compatriots who fell victim to the Holocaust.”
The rightist Fidesz of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has come under international pressure to distance itself from Jobbik ahead of next year’s upcoming parliamentary elections. At least 600,000 Hungarian Jews are believed to have died in World War Two, when Hungary was a close ally of Nazi Germany.
Some far-right politicians have defended the decision by Hungary’s wartime leader Miklós Horthy to cooperate with the Nazis, saying this ensured that Hungarians received back lands that were taken under the Treaty of Trianon after World War One.
Yet, “The tragedies of the Hungarian people, such as the decision at Trianon and the Holocaust, cannot be set in opposite corners and cannot be played off against each other,” explained Simon.
“The dignified remembrance of the Holocaust, in contrast to Előd Novák’s statements, is not designed to strengthen a feeling of collective guilt, but instead contributes to ensuring that similar tragedies cannot occur in future,” he added.
“We regard it as unacceptable and outrageous for openly anti-Semitic statements to be made in Parliament or at the meetings of any of its committees, and we shall continue to take decisive action against such manifestations in future,” Simon said.
This isn’t the first incident in Hungary’s Parliament, where Europe’s first antisemitic laws were introduced in the 1920s.
Last year, a prominent legislator of Jobbik suggested to draw up lists of Jews “who pose a “national security risk”.
Jobbik’s Marton Gyöngyösi said the lists were needed following the brief conflict in Gaza and should include members of parliament.
The party is also linked to paramilitary groups marching through Roma villages that rights activists say are contributing to an atmosphere of hatred in which Jewish people, including a prominent rabbi, were physically or verbally attacked, Israeli flags torched and Holocaust monuments vandalized.
In one of the latest known cases, bars of soap were nailed to the fence of the main synagogue in Szeged, Hungary’s third-largest city, on September 17, following allegations that Nazis made soap out of the victims of concentration camps.
Despite Jobbik’s influence as the third largest political party here, Hungarian State Secretary Zsolt Németh told BosNewsLife earlier this month that his ruling Fidesz party won’t seek a coalition with Jobbik, whatever the outcome of the 2014 elections. “I cannot speak for the government, but as a member of Fidesz I can say that will not happen,” he said.
Yet controversy remains over Fidesz involvement in memorials for Hungary’s perceived anti-Semitic wartime Regent Horthy. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Sándor Lezsák, a Fidesz politician, attended last month’s ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Horthy’s reburial on Hungarian soil.
“I lived ofcourse under Horty’s rule in Hungary,” said Annette Lantos, the widow of Tom Lantos, the first Holocaust survivor to be ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She narrowly survived Jews-hating Hungarian fascists.
“I have seen how Horthy sold out to the Nazis in 1944,” when most Hungarian Jews were massacred, she told BosNewsLife at a recent conference on anti-Semitism in Budapest.
“He did not retire and did not renounce what was happening. So in view of his record and the way he totally sold out Hungary, the efforts to rehabilitate Horthy are deplorable,” she added.
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