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Radnóti’s statue shattered – Magyar Hírlap condemns Der Spiegel’s reaction

November 22nd, 2013

The pro-government daily believes Hungarian liberals and foreign observers should apologise for having characterised a simple late night road accident as an expression of anti-Semitism in Hungary.

In the early hours of Sunday 17 November, a black Mercedes car ran into the roadside statue of Miklós Radnóti, a renowned Hungarian poet murdered in November 1944 along with 21 comrades when they were too exhausted to continue walking during a forced march. His labour battalion had been driven mostly on foot by its guards from a Serbian labour camp to Hungary’s western borders. A statue was erected in his memory in 1980 on the spot where his body was exhumed in 1945. The driver of the black Mercedes surfaced two days after the incident, and told police he had lost control of his vehicle while driving towards a night club in Győr.
In Magyar Hírlap, deputy editor László Szentesi Zöldi asks why those who swiftly described the incident as proof of rampant anti-Semitism are silent, instead of admitting their mistake. He also takes on the international press, Der Spiegel in particular for commenting that the statue was probably shattered by right-wing extremists and anti-Semites. (As a matter of fact, Der Spiegel online carried a DPA news agency report, which was also reproduced verbatim by scores of German newspapers on Monday.) He protests against what he sees as the accusation of the authors that the Hungarian government is guilty of tacit connivance with anti-Semites. (The same report includes a comment to the effect that PM Orbán has made “unexpected” announcements about devoting the year 2014 to Holocaust remembrance and suggests that the government is thereby hoping to shake off the image of an institution which “does not dissociate itself clearly enough from anti-Semitism”.) Szentesi Zöldi finds it unacceptable that the German author describes Radnóti as a Jewish poet, since Radnóti himself did not consider himself Jewish, was a believing Christian and discarded ethnocentric and racial approaches as “rubbish”. “He had to die because of the kind of people that we flushed down the toilet seventy years ago”, the commentator continues, and accuses those who see anti-Semites everywhere of doing unjust harm to Hungary.

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