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Holocaust Denial

Holocaust Denial Representatives of the Jewish community and anti-fascists protest against the installation of a monument to the victims of the Nazi occupation of Hungary in Budapest.

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.”

On July 20, the monument was set up at the Freedom Square in Budapest, which sparked a new wave of protests .

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 February 2015 scholars gathered for a roundtable discussion held at Central-European University focusing on the book titled “Don’t harm the Gypsy” by József Debreczeni, published in 2014, deemed by many scholars as racist. The event was co-organized by the Hungarian Sociological Association and the CEU’s Nationalism Studies Program. “Economist-sociologist György Németh, in sharp contrast to the rest of the panel, expressed admiration for author Debreczeni, calling him »a very brave man« and »intellectually courageous« for writing the book. […] Németh admitted that the Roma were victims of persecution and the Holocaust in many countries, but asserted that this was not the case in Hungary. These statements were vehemently refuted by the rest of the panel and the audience.” The Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities, together with the Roma Press Centre, the Romaversitas , the Chance for Children Foundation, and the Partners Hungary Foundation pressed charges against Németh for Holocaust denial. In March 2015 the Prosecutor’s Office found the charge unfounded, claiming Németh’s statement meant “that the crimes committed against those belonging to the Roma ethnicity are not the same as those committed against Jews”, therefore Németh does not deny the Holocaust.

Action and Protection Foundation took legal actions in many cases concerning Holocaust denial or relativisation. Some of them were presented earlier in the chapter about the “Countermeasures against hate crimes: criminal cases against organizers and participants”. On far-right portals Holocaust denial and relativisation are constantly present. Enough to say that till May 2015 when the Holokamu (Holohoax) subpage of Kuruc.info was made permanently inaccessible, the title by itself was Holocaust-denial.

In 2017, three persons were convicted by the courts of denying the Holocaust, i.e., publicly denying the crimes committed by the national socialist regime. In one case, the punishment was 300 hundred hours of public work and in two cases financial penalties. One of the cases that ended with a financial penalty was the case of Zsolt Tyirityán, who had to pay a fine of HUF 500,000 (around EUR 1700).

Besides some very visible examples of Holocaust denial committed by far-right public figures, the phenomenon is also widespread on social media. Be it in discussion fora beneath articles on news sites or Facebook, Holocaust denial or relativisation along with other forms of anti-Semitic (and anti-Gipsy) hate speech appears in online discussions in Hungary regularly. Action and Protection Foundation took legal actions in many cases concerning these phenomena in 2017.

Also, survey data show that Holocaust denial is present in the Hungarian society. A survey that was carried out by the pollster institute Medián at the end of 2017 revealed that 8 to 17 per cent of the Hungarian population deny the Holocaust , while 22 per cent of the respondents relativise it. These rates increased significantly from 2006 to 2014 while remaining more or less stable since then.

The Research conducted in 2019-20 on behalf of Mazsihisz - the country's oldest and largest religious Jewish federation - showed that in 2019 and 2020, the overall level of anti-Semitism (measured by reported incidents) was lower in Hungary than in the UK, France and Germany. . However, since 2015 the number of incidents has increased. Moreover, if hate speech and other forms of anti-Semitism in public life are on the rise, then there are fewer cases of physical attacks.

This trend was driven by a combination of the coronavirus pandemic, the Hungarian government's campaign against philanthropist George Soros, the politicization of the Holocaust, and Hungary's experience with Nazism and Communism. Mazihisch noted the prevalence of anti-Semitic incidents "related to the one-sided presentation of certain historical events of Jewish concern" and the rehabilitation of "openly anti-Semitic, far-right historical figures". The percentage of Hungarians who agree with statements such as "non-Jewish Hungarians suffered no less than Jews during the war" or "the number of Jewish victims was much less than is usually claimed" has increased since 2006.

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