Hungarian PM denounces plans to erect statue of anti-Semite

After int'l outrage, Viktor Orban demands foundation behind statue of WWII-era politician Balint Homan return government funding.

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Cynthia Blank,

Viktor Orban
Viktor Orban
Reuters

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced his opposition Wednesday to plans to erect a statue in honor of a World War II-era politician infamously known for his anti-Semitic views. 

The statement notably comes a day after senior US State Department officials and Jewish communal leaders convened in Budapest to protest plans to unveil the life-sized statue of Balint Homan in his hometown of Szekesfehervar. 

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.

In a statement issued by MTI, Hungary's official news agency, Orban neglected to make a direct mention of Homan's anti-Semitism, saying only that he would not support dedicating a statue to an official who had served when Hungary was not under sovereign rule.

“There can be arguments about reasons, extent and quality of collaboration with invading powers but the government of Hungary shall not support erecting a statue for a politician who cooperated with the oppressors,” he added. 

Orban also called on the private foundation behind the statue to return the government funding it has so far received for the project. 

The Balint Homan Foundation is currently searching for new sources of funding but has, in the meantime, delayed the inauguration of the monument after it prompted protests and even threats. 

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder thanked Orban for clarifying the Hungarian government's standpoint, adding that “no honors must be given to those who prepared the ground for the mass murder of 600,000 Hungarian Jews by Nazi Germany in 1944.”