By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest

Wiesel says he is concerned about Hungarian extremism
Wiesel says he is concerned about Hungarian extremism

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Nobel Peace Prize winner, author and activist Elie Wiesel has urged Hungary to consider banning Holocaust denials to improve its image abroad and has expressed concern about growing extremist parties in the country and Europe.

Wiesel spoke to BosNewsLife in Budapest after ceremonies marking the revival of Jewish culture since the collapse of Communism in 1989, and the 20th anniversary of the Orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement here.

Hungary’s 100,000 strong Jewish population is now Eastern Europe’s largest Jewish community outside Russia, and young generations are again encouraged by Jewish leaders to be aware of there heritage.

Youngsters have even been seen singing Israel’s anthem near the monument ‘Shoes on the Danube Promenade’ in Budapest.

The memorial depicts shoes left behind by Hungarian Jews after they were shot to death and dumped in the river Danube by forces of Hungary’s pro-Nazi regime during World War Two. Yet Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust and now lives in New York, has mixed feelings about returning to Hungary from where he and family members were deported to Nazi death camps.

He said he regrets that Hungary has not made Holocaust denial a crime. Courts and parliamentarians have argued that this could limit freedom of speech, which Hungary has enjoyed for a mere 20 years.


Farmotel Stefania is located in hunting area in one of Hungary’s most prestigious wine regions. Near hills, forests and lakes. It has all the facilities of a fine hotel and offers full privacy, huge outdoor space, sauna, grill house and much more.


Wiesel told BosNewsLife however that Hungary should be aware of the influence of “extremist” parties, including Hungary’s Movement for a Better Hungary, or Jobbik, which is known for its perceived rhetoric against gypsies, also known as Roma, and Jews.  Its now banned paramilirary group Magyar Garda, or Hungarian Guard, has been seen marching through Roma villages, wearing uniforms and flags once used by Hungary’s pro-Nazi regime.

The 81-year-old Wiesel he finds it shocking that Jobbik received about 15 percent of the vote in recent European Parliamentary elections.  “What does it say about Hungarian society?” he wondered. “Wake up Hungary, wake up. Don’t you know that those who speak, at one point, [their] words can get dangerous. Their words are words of hatred and therefore [of] violence. And I think they should know who they are and the people should know and not vote for them.”

Wiesel condemned Jobbik for establishing a European alliance in Budapest with several European far right parties, including the French Front National politician Jean-Marie Le Pen. “Yes with Jean (-Marie) Le Pen. And Le Pen is the one who denies the Holocaust. So how dare they?”

Jobbik has denied wrongdoing, saying it works for Hungary’s interests.

Speaking at a meeting in parliament attended by Wiesel and officials from Hungary and abroad, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai admitted that his government has failed in tackling extremism.


He said across the political spectrum “Hungarians must unite” in the fight against the far right. He said extremists are misusing the current economic crisis in Hungary “to push an ideology of hatred, just as they did in the 1920s and 1930s,” eventually leading to the Holocaust. In those days Hungary was a close ally of Nazi Germany, and Bajnai said therefore “all constitutional means” must be used to isolate the far right.

Hungary’s government has already made clear it  is seeking the extradition from Australia of Károly Zentai, one of the most wanted Nazi suspects. The former officer in Hungary’s pro-Nazi military allegedly killed a Jewish teenager during the war for not wearing a yellow star.

Shlomo Köves:

Shlomo Köves, the first Orthodox rabbi ordained in Hungary since the Holocaust, said Zentai, who is 88, is not too old for prosecution. “As far as he is still living and as far as he is a person, he has a responsibility. If he passes away, then only goes his responsibility in front of God,” he told BosNewsLife .

The government has also promised Wiesel to get access to archives with names of Hungarian Jews who were send to the Auschwitz camp.


Wiesel said he is hopeful that Hungary will learn from its turbulent past. “I know I am interfering in the domestic affairs of Hungary. But as a former Hungarian who loves whatever I remember in my childhood before the war, I can say that: “Be careful.”

Although he is 81, Wiesel intends to continue his human rights work. His Foundation for Humanity lost millions of dollars because of fraud by now jailed American investor Bernard Madoff. Despite that setback, Wiesel said he will not “allow anyone to destroy” his life-long work.


  1. How ironic that someone who professes human rights should advocate making certain speech a crime just because he doesn’t like it.


  2. What about the extremist group which Mr. Wiesel was in Hungary to honor: the racist Chabad-Lubavitch whose foundational text, the Tanya, teaches that gentiles are trash; the same Chabad-Lubavitch that despises Palestinians and urges violence against them. Wiesel should put his own house in order before he lectures others.

    How many Americans know that Mr. Wiesel advocates jailing historians with whom he disagrees? Oh yes, they will be deumanized as “deniers,” so it is permissible. Is freedom of speech suspended when it offends the Holy People?

  3. As a first generation Byzantine Catholic Hungarian-American who is VERY proud of his heritage, and as a teacher of history, I too am most concerned about the rise of extremism in Hungary.

    In response to Barat’s comment, a fine line separates freedom and license. Because we, meaning Hungarians as well as Americans, have freedom of speech, press, and assembly, does not give us the right to abuse those freedoms. The Supreme Court of the United States would and has agreed with me!

  4. No, he advocates making certain speech a crime not because he does not like it. He does this because he experienced personally the results of THIS KIND of speech. And he is trying to stop that from ever happening again.

  5. Reply to A. Zapotocky and G. Farkas:
    There is no ‘fine line’ between freedom and license. One is God-given, the other is allowed or denied by men, according to who’s in power. The abuse you mention lies in the eyes of the beholder.

    Wiesel experienced the results of action, not speech. And it will happen again. His actions and those of other hate-filled, revenge-seekers of his ilk guarantee it.

    Why do you think Jesus instituted a New Testament?
    “Forgive your enemies” NOT “An eye for an eye.”
    “Turn the other cheek” NOT hound your enemies and their children.
    Disgusting behavior!


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