Hungary Backpedals on Disputed Holocaust Monument
The Hungarian government said Wednesday it had postponed the inauguration of a controversial monument which Jewish critics say glosses over Budapest's active role in the Holocaust, according to AFP.
The monument, to be unveiled as Hungary marks the 70th anniversary of the start of mass deportations of Jews when the Nazis took power in 1944, will
also be renamed, according to a cabinet statement.
It will no longer be "dedicated to the memory of the German occupation" but to the "victims of the German occupation", and will be inaugurated on May 31 instead of March 19.
Jewish leaders in Hungary threatened last month that they would boycott the official Holocaust memorial events this year, explaining the government was whitewashing the country's role in the deportations of Jews to Nazi camps.
"The program ignores the sensitivities of those who suffered the horrors of the Holocaust," Mazsihisz said Sunday, adding that it would only take part in the memorial year if the government "changes how it works." It called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to scrap a government plan to erect a monument marking the country's invasion by Nazi Germany in 1944.
Orban has been accused of trying to rehabilitate the image of wartime leader and Hitler ally Miklos Horthy who oversaw Jewish deportations and promulgated anti-Jewish laws before the Nazis took over.
The planned monument depicts 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.
The World Jewish Congress accused Orban's government of trying to "falsify history instead of commemorating the annihilation of two-thirds of Hungary's Jews".
The country's leading newspaper, the Nepszabadsag, reported Orban would write a letter to Mazsihisz urging Jewish leaders to attend the celebrations. It said the government wanted to avoid aggravating the situation before legislative elections in April.
Orban has also been accused of turning a blind eye to a rise in anti-Semitism in the EU member state, and even encouraging it through nationalist rhetoric.
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.
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.