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Monuments to Collaborators

Monuments to Collaborators

In 2013, a bust to Admiral Miklos Horthy was installed at Budapest’s Freedom Square. Installation of the bronze statue was initiated by the Jobbik party and with the tacit support of the ruling Fidesz Party. According to the head of the Chancellery of Prime Minister Janos Lazar, the government will not formulate an official position regarding the controversial monument. The Jewish community of Hungary and the World Jewish Congress expressed their protest at the installation of the monument to the dictator.

In 2014, a memorial was opened to the victims of Nazism in Hungary on Freedom Square in Budapest. The sculptural composition itself is an image of a black eagle, as a symbol of Hitler's Germany, which towered over thirteen columns, and the figure of an angel symbolizing Hungary. The composition provoked mass protests among the townspeople who believed that Hungary was by no means an angel during the war years. The country not only was an ally of Hitler's Germany until 1944, but its leaders actively contributed to the destruction of their own Jewish population. The monument, erected on the initiative of the ruling Fides Party, aroused particularly vigorous protests from the Jewish community, which reminded the government of hundreds of thousands of exterminated Jews, as well as a number of anti-Jewish laws of the times of Horthy and Salash. The monument was opened under the cover of night on July 22, 2014. Since then, people have been leaving photos at the monument, picturing murdered Jews, anti-fascists, as well as Hungarian leaders during the Second World War, responsible for the Holocaust. However, the government took into account the criticism and promised to representatives of the Jewish community to take it into account when creating a similar museum.

In 2015, the protests of the Hungarian Jewish community were prompted by plans to create a monument to Bálint Hóman, a politician of the interwar period, a historian and minister in Horthy Hungary with anti-Semitic views in Székesfehérvár in the central part of the country. He 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 works on the monument were supposed to start.

Even though the government and the authorities did not glorify National Socialism and government officials and politicians of Fidesz use every opportunity to condemn anti-Semitism and Nazism, in some cases, however, they have failed to distance themselves from Nazi collaborators in recent years. These cases included naming organisations and public places after these people or erecting memorials relativising Hungary’s role in the crimes committed against its own Jewish, Roma and other minority population during WWII. In our previous report on events in 2016, we wrote about the efforts of the Action and Protection Foundation to legally oblige local governments to change the names of streets named after Hungarian Nazi collaborators such as Bálint Hóman and József Nyírő. Another case in this regard was the planned unveiling of a statue erected in honour of the wartime racist politician and convicted anti-Semite György Donáth by Fidesz deputy chairmen Gergely Gulyás and former prime minister Péter Boross. Due to protests, the unveiling of the statue did not take place.

In 2017, a major topic of similar nature was the erection of statues honouring Miklós Horthy, Hungary’s regent and effective leader from 1920 until October 1944. Horthy’s historical assessment is very controversial because of the discriminatory legislation against the Jews including the three “anti-Jewish acts” in emulation of Germany's Nuremberg Laws that passed under his leadership. In 2015, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán clearly rejected supporting the erection of any statues of Horthy stating that “the government cannot support the erection of statues of politicians, who cooperated with those who oppressed Hungarians and who collaborated with foreign powers repressing Hungary, irrespective of any other potential merits of the respective persons”.

However, by 2017 the concerns of Viktor Orbán seems to have disappeared. In June, PM Orbán called Horthy an “exceptional statesman”, who, along with other leading politicians of the interwar period, had a significant role in re-establishing the country after the collapse following WWI, and whose assessment cannot be overshadowed even by Hungary’s “grim role” in WWII. This statement came just a few days after a Horthy statue had been unveiled in Budapest, which sparked heavy criticism. Among the speakers were the head of the World Association of Hungarians and a Protestant pastor Lóránt Hegedűs Jr., who is infamous for his right-wing extremist, chauvinistic, anti-Semitic and anti-Gipsy views. However, this was not the first case in 2017 that a Horthy statue was erected. In May, another Horthy statue was unveiled on private property in Káloz after the Fidesz-led local government of Perkáta, a village which was originally chosen as the location of the statue, had withdrawn the permit due to heavy criticism of the local citizens. The unveiling ceremony was organised by far-right organisations and individuals including the New Hungarian Guard. HVIM was represented by a speaker, and also the Army of Outlaws participated in the event.

A bust of an anti-Semitic writer and war criminal has been erected near Budapest Albert Waas, convicted in absentia by the Romanian People's Tribunal. Moreover, his works are mandatory for the Hungarian school curriculum. Vass, a Romanian of Hungarian origin, was convicted of participating in the murders of Jews and Romanians. He was also a writer, and his anti-Semitic story was published by the American neo-Nazi portal Stormfront. Wass committed suicide in 1998. In 2015, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called for the cancellation of programs that glorify this "WWII Nazi collaborator". However, the cult of Albert Vass is still supported by the Hungarian government.

In January 2020, the government adopted a new curriculum for secondary schools. Hungary's only Nobel laureate in literature and Holocaust survivor Imre Kertész was excluded from the program, as was the internationally recognized and widely translated writer Peter Esterházy, who received the German Book Trade Peace Prize in 2004. Instead, the works of nationalist authors such as Jozsef Nyiro and Albert Wass are now required reading. Nyiro was a member of the fascist Arrow Cross Party and an admirer of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Wass was an avowed anti-Semite and a convicted war criminal. The government of Orbán's Fidesz party has been pushing for years to rehabilitate these authors, erecting new monuments and naming streets after them.

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