The Association of Hungarian Jewish Congregations (MAZSIHISZ), has announced that it is boycotting government-sponsored events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust.
This decision follows recent controversies over how the government of Viktor Orbán is choosing to mark the anniversary.
The latest controversy concerns a government funded statue
to be unveiled on 19 March to mark the 70th anniversary of the day in 1944 when German troops occupied Hungary, and according to the Hungarian constitution
[PDF], resulted in the loss of sovereignty and self-determination of Hungary. The statue will bear the inscription, "German occupation of Hungary, March 19, 1944" and “To the memory of all victims,” but will make no explicit reference to the Jewish-Hungarian victims. Critics of the statue including prominent Hungarian historian, Krisztián Ungváry, claim that it falsifies history and seeks to absolve Hungary of any accountability for the subsequent deportation and murder of some 450,000 in Jewish Hungarians
The preeminent historian of the Hungarian Holocaust, Randolph L. Braham, has reacted to the controversey by returning his Order of Merit
awarded to him by the current Hungarian government in 2011, and has asked that his name be removed from the library of the Hungarian Museum in Budapest, saying, "[the statue is] a cowardly attempt to detract attention from the Horthy regime’s involvement in the destruction of the Jews and to homogenize the Holocaust with the “suffering” of the Hungarians – a German occupation, as the record clearly shows, that was not only unopposed but generally applauded."
There have been other controversies around government plans to mark the Holocaust anniversary. These include the decision to establish a new Holocaust museum devoted to child victims of the Holocaust at the abandoned Józsefváros Railway Station
. To be known as "The House of Fates" critics claim the name implies a lack of responsibility of behalf of Hungarians for the Holocaust
, while others claim the railway station itself had very little role in the deportation of Hungarian Jews in 1944. Additionally the project is being overseen by Dr Mária Schmidt, Director of the House Of Terror in Budapest which some
seeks to equate the suffering of the Holocaust with those that died in the 1956 revolution and its aftermath.
Further controversy was also raised when the government appointed director of the a newly established historical Veritas institute, Sándor Szakály described the deportation and subsequent murder in 1941 of between 13,000 and 18,000 Jews living in Hungary as merely "a police action against aliens."
and the Tom Lantos Institute
condemned the statement.
These controversies are despite official statements from Hungarian political figures have sought to acknowledge the suffering caused by the Holocaust. President János Ader acknowledged
in January of this year: "Auschwitz may be hundreds of kilometers from Hungary but it is part of Hungarian history," Ader wrote. "This death camp was the scene of the inhumane suffering, humiliation and death of nearly half a million of our compatriots." Earlier the Hungarian Ambassador to the UN had said "We owe victims an apology as the Hungarian state was guilty in the Holocaust. Firstly because it failed to protect its citizens from extermination, secondly because it assisted and provided financial resources for the genocide."
Elections are approaching in Hungary. Some
fear the atmosphere will get worse.
, and previously