Hungarian politician blasted over memorial for Hitler ally

Hungary's Jews condemn senior member of ruling party for participating in memorial for Nazi-allied Miklos Horthy.

Ben Ariel,

Statue of Miklos Horthy
Statue of Miklos Horthy
Reuters

Hungary's main Jewish organization on Wednesday condemned a senior member of the ruling Fidesz party for participating in a memorial for a Nazi-allied wartime leader to be held on a Holocaust remembrance day.

Sandor Lezsak, also a deputy speaker of the Hungarian parliament, is scheduled to give a speech after a mass in Budapest on Saturday in honor of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Miklos Horthy.

Horthy, an autocrat who ruled Hungary from 1920 to 1944, passed anti-Jewish laws and oversaw the deportations of several hundred thousand Hungarian Jews to Nazi German death camps.

Since 2005 the event's date, January 27, is a UN-designated Holocaust memorial day marking the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the camps.

Almost a third of the approximately 1.1 million victims at Auschwitz were Hungarian Jews, said the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz).

An estimated total of 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished during the Holocaust.

In an open letter addressed to Lezsak published on the group's website and quoted by AFP, Mazsihisz head Andras Heisler said the official's participation in the Horthy event on the UN Holocaust day "tramples on the memory of all the Hungarian victims".

"It can only amount to the falsification of history,... no state representative should contribute to the building the cult of Horthy," said Heisler.

Heisler also criticized the event organizers, the Association of Christian Professionals group, as Horthy's birthday is June 18, not January 27.

Hungary has experienced something of a Horthy cult revival in recent years, with new statues dedicated to him and streets named after him.

A park has already been named after him in Gyomro, on the outskirts of Budapest. In 2013, a bust of Horthy was unveiled outside a Budapest church, causing protests among locals.

Last year, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban came under fire from local Jewish groups for praising Horthy during a speech in parliament.

Jewish groups in Hungary have sometimes accused Orban's right-wing government, in power since 2010, of downplaying Hungary's role in the Holocaust.

In 2015, however, Orban admitted his country’s role in the Holocaust, saying many Hungarians chose "bad instead of good" in helping deport Jews to Nazi death camps.


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