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Nazi Occupation Memorial divides public

May 22nd, 2014

A liberal columnist comments on a recent opinion survey about the Nazi Occupation Memorial in Budapest, and contends that without a proper debate on the controversial past, the erection of statues is simply a waste of money and a divisive act in Hungary.

According to a survey by the Medián polling company, 39 per cent of Hungarians believe that the controversial Nazi Occupation Memorial (see BudaPost through January 4) under construction in downtown Budapest falsifies history through relativizing the responsibility of Hungarian authorities for the Holocaust, while 38 per cent contend that the statue is a proper way of commemorating all victims of World War Two. In general, 45 per cent agree that the Hungarian authorities took an active part in the deportation and murder of Hungarian Jewry, while 30 per cent blame all crimes on the German invaders. Even a slight majority of Fidesz and Jobbik supporters agree that the Hungarian authorities had their own share of guilt. Meanwhile, 44 per cent of those who consider the memorial a falsification of history also believe that the protest against it “creates unnecessary tension”.

In Népszabadság, Sándor Révész finds it highly disappointing that close to half of those who see the memorial as historical falsification are critical of those who protest against the erection of the statue. The liberal columnist suggests that fears about “unnecessary tension” are an expression of cowardice. He acknowledges however that concerns on both sides should be taken into account, including those who regard the memorial as a proper and fair way of commemorating all victims. Rival interpretations could only be overcome by erecting memorials with less obvious historical messages in order to inspire public debate and compel spectators to reflect critically on history, Révész contends. In conclusion he suggests that in Hungary there is no hope for a meaningful dispute over historical memory, so he believes that erecting monuments is simply a waste of money.

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