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House of Fates to express a ‘Love Story’

October 4th, 2014
Historian Mária Schmidt, in charge of the ‘House of Fates’ project, defends the concept of the planned Holocaust memorial museum against leftist criticism and condemns the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s office for employing one of the main opponents of the project as his adviser.
In a lengthy article in Heti Válasz, Mária Schmidt describes her ‘House of Fates’ project as Europe’s and perhaps the world’s largest Holocaust remembrance institution, intended to convey to young generations the horrors of the Holocaust, along with the success story and indeed the ‘love story’ of Hungary’s Jewry as an integral part of Hungarian society before and since. Opponents of the project, including ‘the two thousand strong Alliance of Hungarian Jewish Faith Communities (MAZSIHISZ)’ are motivated by left-liberal resentment towards the governing political majority and by their own frustration over the collapse of the Left, she argues. She finds it tragic that the Chairman of MAZSIHISZ, who is seeking re-election this autumn, is ready to pay the price of harming such a vital project in order to get the majority vote within his organisation. Mária Schmidt also describes in detail how foreign diplomats, including the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy have put pressure on her to suggest what the exhibition should look like, whom she should not employ as members of her staff and even suggested that the mainstream textbook on Hungarian history should be written by foreign scholars. Although MAZSIHISZ is a religious organisation, she continues, János Lázár, the Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s office has given it a right of veto over the House of Fates project – in a decision “unparalleled in Hungarian history since the separation of state and church in the late 19th century”. On top of it all, Schmidt complains, the Minister has employed as his adviser on relations with the Jewish community Mr Gusztáv Zoltai, whom she describes as a former Communist Party member and a member of the (pro-Soviet) 1956 Communist militia, who was recently removed from his post as executive director of MAZSIHISZ where he has been the staunchest critic of the government’s Holocaust remembrance projects so far.
The issue at stake is identity, Mária Schmidt warns, and when politics become devoid of values “the countdown will immediately start”.

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