Hungary: Thousands March in Memory of Holocaust

WJC president denounces anti-Semitic Jobbik party at annual "March of Life" commemorating the Holocaust.

Elad Benari,

March of Life in Hungary (archive)
March of Life in Hungary (archive)
Reuters

Thousands of people on Sunday joined Hungary's annual "March of Life" commemorating the Holocaust, as World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder denounced the country's surging far-right Jobbik party as "extremist", AFP reported.

Over 10,000 people took part in the march.

In a speech at the end of the procession, Lauder called Jobbik an "extremist party that promotes hate".

Condemning a Jobbik deputy who recently spat on a Holocaust memorial in Budapest, Lauder said the party damaged Hungary's image abroad.

"Jobbik may think they are true Hungarians trying to save Hungary, but Jobbik hurts Hungary," he said, adding, "The Hungarian Jewish community is not going anywhere. We march today to say: We are here. We are alive. And here we will remain.”

Condemning acts of anti-Semitism, Lauder said, “There are statues of shoes along the Danube. They are there as a memorial to the Jewish people who were murdered there. No one has the right to spit in those shoes. No one. In this great city we send one clear message to the entire world: The Hungarian Jewish community is alive and well.”

Around 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in World War II. Only 100,000 survived the Holocaust, mostly in Budapest.

"The march is for all those people, family members, relatives, friends who didn't survive the Holocaust and for all those who did," Erzsi Molnar, 50, a child of survivors, told AFP.

"Besides remembering the tragedy of the Hungarian Jewry the march highlights that human beings are all part of a big family, despite their different religions, beliefs, or orientations," said Orsolya Fekete, a volunteer at the event.

This year's march took place against a background of rising support for Jobbik, a party often accused of anti-Semitism, and now Hungary's second-largest party behind Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz.

Jobbik looked almost certain of its first ever win in a parliamentary district after topping a by-election poll Sunday although the result cannot yet be declared official, noted AFP.

The win marks a new stage in the growth of a party which achieved their highest vote -- 20.5 percent -- at last year's parliamentary elections.

A poll last month put Jobbik just three percentage points behind Orban's Fidesz.

Hungary has seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks over the past several years, many of which were perpetrated by members and supporters of the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik.

In November of 2012, one of Jobbik’s 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.

Last summer, at the height of Israel’s counterterrorism Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, a town mayor linked to Jobbik was filmed ordering the hanging of effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres in protest against the conflict.

Earlier Sunday, Lauder said in an interview with The Associated Press, Lauder said that he was “concerned” about the rise of the far right in Hungary.

Young people, said Lauder, have been flocking to Jobbik, which specifically rejects Jewish and Israeli investment in Hungary, but the party's supporters are not necessarily all anti-Semitic themselves, he said.




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