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International scandal brewing over Holocaust Memorial Year?

January 28th, 2014

Wrangling over the proposed monument to mark the German occupation has taken a new, momentous turn, from a national quarrel to an international scandal, says an opposition daily, due to a statement by Randalph L. Braham. Pro-government commentators, on the other hand, dismiss the issue as fear-mongering and baseless accusations from the left.

On Sunday historian Randalph L. Braham, the number one expert on the Hungarian Holocaust, and himself a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, sent his Hungarian state decoration back and withdrew his name from the planned Braham Centre, set up within the government financed Holocaust Memorial complex. In a letter to the Museum, Braham said that his decision was motivated by the planned monument commemorating the occupation of Hungary by Nazi Germany in 1944, a monument he believes attempts to whitewash the role of the Hungarian authorities and that part of the population who collaborated in the deportation of the Jews of Hungary (see BudaPost January 4).The Hungarian authorities stress that the planned monument would also be a tribute to Jewish, as well as non-Jewish  victims. House speaker László Kövér told the right-leaning Lánchíd Radio that the attacks on the government on this issue are the fruit of a collective hysteria. He said the government clearly acknowledges the guilt of wartime collaborators, including the state authorities, but rejects “the traditional communist charge” of collective guilt.

A Népszabadság editorial is clearly upset by Kövér’s statement, interpreting it as a sly way of blaming the left and the Council of Jewish Religious Communities (which, Kövér noted, happens to be helping the left one more time) for whipping up hysteria over the monument or at least “acting in a frantic mood”. Meanwhile, Professor Braham has sent his letter to make exactly the same points as the government’s domestic critics, and although Mr Kövér may say that he too “acted in a frantic mood”, Braham is the number one expert on the Hungarian Holocaust, and it seems the government is about to face a full-blown international scandal, Népszabadság concludes.

In Magyar Hírlap, on the other hand, editor-in-chief István Stefka accuses the left (domestic and international) of inciting fear and “forcing the public agenda”. Quoting Jewish friends of his, who, he claims, are afraid to come out with their opinion lest their community ostracize them, he states that all these accusations about responsibility for the Holocaust and Hungarian anti-Semitism will lead to more anti-Semitism in Hungary. He concludes that although there are straight-thinking historians on the left, they are simply afraid to come forward with their opinions.

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