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WJC Says Hungarian Government is Falsifying History

World Jewish Congress president supports decision of Hungary's Jews to boycott events marking the 70th anniversary of deportations.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/16/2014, 5:46 AM

WJC president Ron Lauder
WJC president Ron Lauder
Flash 90

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Saturday accused Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government of trying to "falsify" history, adding its voice to concerns about Holocaust commemorations this year, AFP reports.

"The attempt to falsify history instead of commemorating the annihilation of two-thirds of Hungary's Jews has caused profound disappointment," WJC president Ronald S.  Lauder said in a letter published by the Nepszabadsag daily.

Lauder said he supported last week's decision by Hungary's largest Jewish organization Mazsihisz to boycott events marking the 70th anniversary of the start of mass deportations of Jews when the Nazis took power in 1944.

The events have been overshadowed by a planned new monument depicting Hungary as an angel being attacked by a German eagle, which critics say absolves Hungarians of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths.

In January, 26 Hungarian historians signed an open letter saying that the Holocaust took place "with the active contribution of the Hungarian authorities."

The government says it has acknowledged the state's role in the Holocaust on several occasions, and Orban has said the memorial is a "show of respect for the memory of victims and requires no further explanation."

Orban has also been criticized for presiding over a rehabilitation of Hungary's wartime leader and Hitler ally until 1944, Miklos Horthy, who oversaw Jewish deportations and promulgated anti-Jewish laws before the Nazis took over.

In January a historian close to Orban who heads a new historical research institute characterized the 1941 deportation of 18,000 Hungarian Jews to the Soviet Union -- of whom 10,000 died -- as a "police procedural action against aliens."

Last month prominent U.S. Holocaust scholar Randolph L. Braham returned a Hungarian state decoration and said his name could not be used for a department at the Holocaust Museum, saying he was "shocked" by attempts to whitewash Horthy.

Orban, who is running for re-election in April, has also been accused of turning a blind eye to a rise in anti-Semitism in the country.

Anti-Semitic incidents in Hungary in recent years include the country’s chief rabbi being verbally abused on a Budapest street, anti-Semitic chants at a football match against Israel and pig's trotters being placed on a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Budapest Jews in World War II.

Much of the anti-Semitism has been perpetrated by the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party. In November of 2012, one of its members released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of government.

He was followed by another Jobbik member who called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.

On Friday, Jobbik members held a political rally in a former synagogue, sparking protests by anti-fascist demonstrators, who accused the group of "provocation."

The rally was held in  the town of Esztergom, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Budapest.

Last Thursday, the Hungarian Ambassador to Israel was summoned for a discussion by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem over the rising anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in his country.