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Storm blows on around Horthy statue

November 7th, 2013

A centre-right commentator argues that instead of erecting new statues to Horthy, his era should be evaluated by historians. The Hungarian Reform Church has declared that a right-wing pastor’s key role in the celebration will be investigated.

A bust of Miklós Horthy, the controversial leader of interwar Hungary was unveiled on the doorsteps of a Calvinist church in central Budapest on Sunday, November 3, in the presence of a few MPs belonging to the far right Jobbik party. The event was attended by several hundred sympathizers and about half as many protesters on the other side of the road. Lóránt Hegedűs, a Reformed Church pastor known for his radical right-wing sympathies and often described as having anti-Semitic leanings, provided the venue as pastor of the church. The Reformed Church initiated an investigation against Hegedűs, and an open letter was signed by several pastors protesting against his political role. The government, echoing the centre-right press, declared that Horthy should be evaluated by historians, and his legacy is not beyond reproach: while his participation in the war and the persecution of Jews is unacceptable, one positive side was the initiation of Social Security during his rule.

In Mandiner, an author who signs him or herself as Agent Ungur (meaning “Hungarian Agent” in Romanian) suggests that the new Horthy statue “has provoked an outbreak of the usual hysteria”, with protesters equating Horthy with Hitler, while supporters praise him as the greatest Hungarian 20th century statesman. Such claims are not quite true, the author writes. Horthy was acting under huge geopolitical pressure with two aggressive dictatorships threatening Hungary, he argues, and even if entering the war as early as June 1941 was a mistake, resisting German pressure later would have resulted in the Germans occupying Hungary with their Slovak allies earlier than in March 1944. Yet, Horthy botched the attempt to switch to the Allied side and did not resist either the German invasion, or the outright pro-Nazi takeover. Horthy’s life cannot be judged simply in the light of his anti-Semitism. He must be evaluated in all his shades of grey by historians, and this process will take a long time. Instead of naming streets after him, we should face up to and understand twentieth century Hungary, the author concludes.

Reformatus.hu, the online portal of the Reformed Church of Hungary, runs an article questioning the actions of Lóránt Hegedűs. According to a 1988 synod decision, the portal warns, the Church “must not participate in any event organized by or together with political parties or organizations whose ideology is in contradiction with the message of the Church”. The article goes on to quote, without further comment, the pastor’s statements, including “they expect us to apologize while pretending they have done nothing against us” (“they” in such a statement is typically interpreted to mean ‘Jews’ by the extreme right-wing audience), as well as his references to (Israeli president) Simon Peres and Israel as threats to Hungary.

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