Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Culture war resumes over Nazi occupation monument

April 12th, 2014

Left-wing commentators accuse the government of courting anti-Semitic voters and PM Orbán of reneging on his earlier promises, as the building of the controversial Second World War memorial in Budapest resumes. A conservative pundit suspects “external forces” of trying to blame the persecution of Hungarian Jews on ordinary Hungarians rather than on the Nazi invaders.

In late February, the government decided to postpone the building of the controversial memorial marking Hungary’s occupation by Nazi Germany in 1944 (see BudaPost through January 23). In an open letter to the Alliance of Hungarian Jewish Faith Communities (Mazsihisz), PM Orbán said that his government is committed to maintain its policy of zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism, and proposed that the dialogue over this Holocaust memorial year should be continued after the electoral campaign and should resume after Easter. “Meanwhile, he wrote, our working groups should carry on their tasks, if possible”. On Tuesday, construction workers started preparations around the planned site of the statue. Protestors including left-wing politicians demonstrated at the site and dismantled the fences around the location on several consecutive afternoons. The police did not intervene.

Magyar Hírlap’s Ferenc Sinkovics contends that the Orbán government is doing exactly what it promised, which is to resume the construction of the World War II memorial after the election in order to commemorate all victims of the 1944 Nazi invasion. The pro-government columnist believes that “some global powers want to force Hungary down the German path”, that is, to impose collective guilt on Hungarians. Sinkovics recalls that in 1953 Chancellor Adenauer blamed the crimes of the Holocaust on the Nazi dictatorship rather than on everyday Germans.

The decision to resume the construction works is a slap in the face for those who after PM Orbán’s letter in February hoped for a compromise, János Dési writes in Népszava. The left-wing commentator accuses the government of courting the anti-Semitic far-right by resuming the construction of the monument.

Népszabadság’s front page editorial contends that after a brief pause, the government is continuing the symbolic battle where it left off a couple of weeks ago. The left-wing daily contends that the government suspended the construction of the “kitsch Golem” only because international and internal criticism had become too awkward for Fidesz during the election campaign. Népszabadság interprets the Prime Minister’s letter as a promise that the monument would not be erected while the dialogue is suspended, and accuses him therefore of reneging on his earlier promise.