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Holocaust remembrance conflicts explained

February 17th, 2014

A liberal analyst predicts that the Prime Minister will reject the demands put forward by Jewish leaders as pre-conditions for their presence at the government sponsored events of the Holocaust remembrance year. A right-wing pundit, on the other hand blames “uneducated” advisers who led the Prime Minister into a controversy which has proved difficult to handle.

In Magyar Narancs, editor Endre B. Bojtár thinks the Prime Minister will not heed the requests of the Jewish leaders, even if by refusing to do so he will tarnish his international image. The Council of Jewish Religious Communities (MAZSIHISZ) has decided to boycott Holocaust Remembrance Year events unless the government dismisses the director of a new historical research institute, and halts its plans to erect a monument marking Hungary’s invasion by Nazi Germany and the House of Fates, a memorial site to be dedicated to child Holocaust victims. (See BudaPost, November 2013 through February 2014 .) A few weeks before the election, Bojtár believes, PM Orbán cannot retreat “in front of the Jews”, unless he is resigned to allowing some of the voters “in the grey zone between Jobbik and Fidesz to move in the wrong direction”. Therefore, the editor of Magyar Narancs continues, although the Prime Minister did not need the Holocaust remembrance events to win the elections, now he cannot easily cancel them. Those anti-Semites he might lose are all potential voters, while the authors of angry articles that will be published on newspapers abroad, vote in their own countries. If the Prime Minister has to choose between those two categories of people, there is no doubt about his choice, Bojtár concludes, before asking, who is actually guilty of setting the trap he finds himself in – implying that it was the PM himself.

In Demokrata (print edition), political analyst Péter Farkas Zárug has a more nuanced answer to the same question. He thinks the government side wanted to reap too diverse political fruits from the otherwise salutary Holocaust remembrance initiative. On the one hand, it wanted to pre-empt the usual artillery barrage of accusations of anti-Semitism the right wing has invariably been subjected to over the past 25 years whenever elections were approaching. On the other hand, government spin doctors also intended to avoid being considered “philo-Semitic opportunists by more radical right-wingers”. This is why, Zárug suspects, the “great idea” of the monument marking the 70th anniversary of Nazi occupation was put forward, with the aim of laying all the blame on Nazi invaders. He thinks those spin doctors must be extremely uneducated about history if they wanted to commemorate the Holocaust without facing local responsibility for what happened.

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