Protest delays anti-Semitic Hungarian statue

Unveiling of statue honoring pro-Nazi fascist politician who called to deport Jews delayed after even US envoy gets involved in protests.

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Ira Forman at protest in Szekesfehervar, Hungary
Ira Forman at protest in Szekesfehervar, Hungary
Reuters

The inauguration of a Hungarian statue honoring a World War II-era politician with anti-Semitic views was delayed after it prompted strong protests and even threats, the group sponsoring the monument said Tuesday.

The life-sized statue of Balint Homan was scheduled to be unveiled in the central city of Szekesfehervar on December 29 to commemorate the 130th anniversary of his birth.

But the planned event had drawn several hundred protesters - including Washington's special envoy on anti-Semitism Ira Forman - to the monument's building site on Sunday.

"The city of Szekesfehervar and its mayor have been subjected to serious attacks and threats which are unworthy of Balint Homan who did so much to build this city...we have decided to postpone the inauguration," said Gabor Kovats of the Balint Homan Foundation on Tuesday.

He did not specify a new date for the event.

The foundation, some of whose members are linked to the far-right Jobbik party, has received both state and municipal funding for the statue.

Homan was a prominent historian and civic leader widely seen as an architect of anti-Jewish laws in the 1930s. He also called for the deportation of Jews from Hungary in 1944 while part of a fascist Hungarian government installed by Nazi Germany.

After the war, Homan was handed a life sentence for his role in approving Hungary joining Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union.

He died in prison in 1951.

However, a Budapest court in March claimed there had been a lack of evidence for his conviction, after which Szekesfehervar City Hall approved the statue plan.

"An openly anti-Semitic, fascist politician should never get a statue anywhere in this country," Andras Heisler, who heads Hungary's largest Jewish group, told protesters on Sunday.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has sometimes been accused of cozying up to Jobbik and glossing over Hungary's role in the deportation of Jews, despite vows of  "zero tolerance" for anti-Semitism.

AFP contributed to this report.