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Revision of World War Two History

Revision of World War Two History Controversial memorial to the victims of the Second World War in Budapest.

Glorification of Nazism or Nazi collaborators does not occur on the official level in Hungary. However, this is not the case when it comes to media.These materials, if not glorifying Admiral Horthy, then representing him as a politician who was forced to “follow other’s orders”. Meanwhile, Hungary’s role in the Second World War and its responsibility for war crimes are usually glossed over. The Hungarian nation, in this media, is presented as a victim forced to pay debts for the crimes of Nazi Germany.

Different media outlets behave differently on this issue. For example, in 2012, media orientated on the ruling party Fidesz published materials encouraging to “study the historical heritage” and the Hungarian past, “conduct appropriate historical research to define Horthy’s role in history”. This exact idea was contained in Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi’s response to the leaders of three American organisations, who addressed Viktor Orban, protesting the opening of memorials to Horthy in several Hungarian cities.

However, Martonyi assured them that “until the relevant historical research is conducted,” Hungarian government does not intend to rehabilitate Horthy. At the same time, media outlets affiliated with the Jobbik party do not hesitate to not only glorify Horthy and his regime, but also create a cult of his personality. Jobbik’s press regularly publishes articles praising Horthy for his successful struggle against Bela Kun’s bolshevism, as well as for his protest against the Trianon Peace Treaty (1920) and its humiliating conditions.

Jobbik also organises large-scale events dedicated to Admiral Horthy. On November 17, the party organised a commemorative action in Budapest dedicated to the fascist dictator. As a result, Horthy is gradually becoming a very popular historical figure in Hungary. After Latvia and Estonia, Hungary is another European country – member of the EU and NATO – that holds events in honour of Waffen SS soldiers Glorification of Hungarian Waffen SS is a separate topic in modern history of this country. During the Second World War, there were four Nazi divisions of Waffen SS and one (17th) SS Army Corps (Hungarian), which, however, has not been fully formed.

Hungarian National Front, cooperating with activists of the banned “Hungarian Guard”, annually hold commemorative events on February 11th in Budapest, dedicated to the fallen Nazi soldiers and the Hungarian Waffen SS, who were killed during Red Army’s capture of the Buda Castle.

On June 2, a similar annual event is held in Festetics Castle Park, near the town of Deg, where the fallen Nazi soldiers were buried in 1945. The event gathers not just Hungarian Waffen SS veterans, but also veterans from Germany and Austria. Traditionally, this gathering is participated by the youth from the above-mentioned neo-Nazi organisations. In 1991, a monument to the fallen has been erected at that site.

These events all took place in 2013. Hungarian authorities strongly distance themselves from participation in these actions. So far, this has not escalated to mass processions participated by several thousand people, as it happens in Latvia, for example. However, it must be remembered that there, everything also started with small-scale demonstrations.

On January 17, 2014, new director of the Veritas institute of Historical Studies Sandor Szakali described the events in Kamenets-Podolsk in 1941, where almost 20 thousand Hungarian Jews have been executed, called it an “administrative measure towards illegal immigrants. He was later forced to apologise, saying that he used the wrong term. In July, however, he said that anti-Semitic laws of Horthy’s regime were not as restrictive as, for example, communist deportations in 1946.

A common theory in Hungary is the portrayal of the country as a victim, when all responsibility for the destruction of Jews is laid on Nazi Germany, while the role of collaborationists is downplayed. Thus, Holocaust memorial in Budapest makes no mention of Hungary’s involvement in the Holocaust, which sparked heavy criticism from Jewish organisations. “The government is deliberately trying to remove the responsibility for the death of Hungarian Jews from Horthy’s fascist regime. Hungarian Nazis were actively involved in mass executions of the Jewish population and in deportations of Jews to death camps. These facts should be noted on every monument to the victims of Nazism,” stated the President of the Hungarian Jewish Community Andras Heysler on January 13.

On April 8, a flash mob was staged in Budapest to protest against the monument.

On May 22, the President of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians Eliot L. Engel urged the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to reconsider the plans to build a controversial monument dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Nazi occupation of Hungary in Budapest. Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities decided not to take part in the official events dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Nazi occupation. In response, Minister Benc Retvai said on April 9 that “extremists” must stop disrupting public order, because the government’s position was supported by the people in the elections.

On June 4, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in response to a letter from the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, stated: “It was decided in Hungary to pay a moral and spiritual tribute to the members of the Jewish community, who lived with us throughout history and have become an integral part of the Hungarian nation. We have created the Holocaust Museum, we have introduced the Holocaust Memorial Day and we have declared zero tolerance for anti-Semitism... The monument you mentioned that we are building for the 70th anniversary of the German occupation of Hungary, marks the tragedy of the loss of state sovereignty and is not a memorial to the Holocaust... The inscription on the monument clearly says: “The German occupation of Hungary, 19 March 1944, in memory of the victims.”

Revisionism of the Holocaust has wide support among the public in Hungary. According to the December 2014 survey, 60% of people agreed that Hungarians suffered as much as Jews in the Second World War. 12% did not believe there were gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps. 59% believed that compensations to Jewish victims are unjustified. 36% believed that Jews are trying to profit from their suffering. 38% believed that the Hungarian state should not be held responsible for the mass execution of Jews and 23% believed that the number of victims was grossly exaggerated.

In 2015, protests of the Hungarian Jewish community was sparked by plans to erect a monument to Bálint Hóman, an interwar politician, historian and minister in Horthy’s Hungary with anti-Semitic views. The monument was planned in Szekesfehervar, the central part of the country. Homan played an active role in anti-Semitic politics of that period and in the adoption of the well-known anti-Jewish laws of Hungary in the 40s. 20th century. Despite the fact that in May 2015, Prime Minister Victor Orban during his visit to Szekesfehervar called for the rehabilitation of Homan, he was forced under the influence of criticism both inside the country and abroad, to abandon this idea in just a few weeks before the erection of the monument.

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