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Common Holocaust remembrance in jeopardy

February 13th, 2014

While Jewish community leaders have outlined their demands in a letter to the Prime Minister, a pro-government commentator expresses disappointment and dismay that the likelihood of a joint remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust seems to be waning.

Seventy years after the Holocaust, front lines have been re-opened, offences renewed and trench warfare prevails” – Zsuzsanna Körmendy writes in her bitter Magyar Nemzet editorial.

On Sunday the Council of Jewish Religious Communities (MAZSIHISZ), representing about one tenth of the estimated 100 thousand strong, overwhelmingly assimilated and secular Hungarian Jewry, threatened to boycott government sponsored remembrance year events unless their three demands were heeded. (See BudaPost, February 10.)

In a subsequent letter to the Prime Minister, MAZSIHISZ leaders struck a milder tone, which Népszabadság reports, “caused widespread uproar in the Jewish community”. Of the three original demands the only one they have categorically stuck to was the suspension of the House of Fates project, dedicated to child Holocaust victims. Instead, they have now proposed an exhibition on “past Hungarian-Jewish coexistence”. Népszabadság quotes historian András Gerő who vehemently opposes this idea, on the grounds that Hungary’s Jews were mostly assimilated and therefore considered themselves Hungarians. Such a distinction between one citizen and the other on ethnic grounds, he said, reflected the very logic of the Holocaust.

The House of Fates project was deemed fully acceptable by moderate conservatives who are critical of the government on the other two points (a statement by the director of a newly founded historical research institute and the planned monument to mark Hungary’s invasion by Nazi Germany in 1944). In his Mandiner opinion piece, editor Ákos Gergely Balogh suggests that the government give up its plan to erect the controversial monument, while the Jewish leaders should withdraw their objection to the House of Fates project. “Without such a compromise both sides will lose a lot more”, he warns.

In her Magyar Nemzet editorial, Zsuzsanna Körmendy finds it disheartening that the new Jewish generations seem to be far less prone to reconciliation and understanding than their fathers and grandfathers, who actually survived the Holocaust. She would have expected Hungary’s Jews to defend the government against unfounded charges of anti-Semitism, at a time when in an unprecedented move, the government intends to dedicate a whole year to Holocaust remembrance and its highest representatives have admitted in an unprecedented series of declarations, the guilt of the Hungarian authorities during the Holocaust. She regrets that the debate on the memorial year is taking place in the heat of the electoral campaign, which has perhaps contributed to producing a stalemate. „We may be compelled to remember the suffering of our Jewish countrymen on our own”, she concludes bitterly.


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