The World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the leading Jewish group in Hungary on Friday criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s praise for Miklos Horthy, the World War II-era leader who allied Hungary with Nazi Germany.
In a speech on Wednesday, just hours before he hosted Lauder in Parliament, Orban called Horthy and other Hungarian leaders “exceptional statesmen” for leading the country after the traumatic disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I.
WJC President Ronald Lauder said his organization would always condemn “deplorable actions” like Horthy’s and rejected any attempts to excuse or justify them, reported The Associated Press.
“The horrors that Admiral Horthy inflicted on the Jewish community of Hungary by stripping them of their rights and their humanity, and his role in the deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews, can never be excused,” Lauder added.
Orban’s comments were also criticized by Andras Heiszler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, who said the Horthy era’s anti-Semitism “cannot be put as an example for future generations.”
Horthy, an autocrat who ruled Hungary from 1920 to 1944, passed anti-Jewish laws and oversaw the first wave of deportations of Hungarian Jews in 1944.
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.
That year, the mayor of Budapest ordered a review of a city hall decision to name a street after an anti-Semitic author who was favored by both Horthy and Hitler.
Jewish groups in Hungary have sometimes accused Orban's right-wing government, in power since 2010, of downplaying Hungary's role in the Holocaust during which some 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished.
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.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)