Hungary Erects Monument Despite Protests

WWII monument detracts from Holocaust, glosses over Hungarian anti-Semitism, demonstrators say.

AFP , | updated: 9:49 PM

Jews in Hungary
Jews in Hungary
Yoni Kempinski

Several hundred protesters gathered in Budapest Monday at a controversial new World War II monument which Jewish groups say glosses over Hungary's active role in the Holocaust, AFP reports. 

The government said Monday it was canceling a planned official inauguration of the monument -- put up under the cover of darkness early on
Sunday after months of protests - which it says marks all the victims of Hungary's occupation by Nazi Germany in 1944.

"The government respects the debate within society that has taken place," Janos Lazar, spokesman for the prime minister's office, told journalists.

Critics of the monument - which depicts Hungary as an angel being attacked by a German eagle - say it absolves the Hungarian state and Hungarians of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths after the occupation.

Hungary fought alongside Nazi Germany during the war as a member of the Axis, but Hitler invaded on March 19, 1944, when he discovered Budapest had started secret peace talks with the Soviet Union.

Organizers of daily protests at the construction site said the cancellation of the inauguration was "a kind of result, if not a success".

"This is not only about Jews, this memorial poisons our past, present and future," Fruzsina Magyar, a 60-year-old playwright, who has attended most of the 103 days of protest since the plan was announced, told AFP Monday at the monument site, which is still ringed by police.

In a statement Monday Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the memorial marks Hungary's loss of sovereignty and the tragic consequences which followed the German takeover.