By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungarian police confirmed Tuesday, May 29, they detained the leader of a neo-Nazi group on suspicion of vandalizing Holocaust memorials across the capital Budapest.
The arrest of Béla Incze, of the 64 Counties Movement, came shortly after last week’s attack on a monument remembering the many Hungarian Jews killed in World War Two by German Nazi’s and Hungarians cooperating with them.
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David stars and anti-Semitic captions were painted on the monument reading “This is not your country, dirty Jews,” and “You will be shot there” with an arrow pointing to the nearby river. Supporters of the extremist Hungarian Arrow Cross party already shot Jews and threw them into the Danube in the 1940s.
Police also suspect Incze of vandalizing another Jewish memorial and a statue dedicated to Soviet soldiers who died while liberating Hungary at the end of World War Two.
BLOODIED PIG LEGS
It also came shortly after bloodied pig legs had been tied around the statue of Raoul Wallenberg, a former Swedish diplomat credited with saving the lives of up to 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War Two, police and local officials said.
Whether Inze was also involvement in that attack wasn’t immediately clear.
It comes amid international concerns over extremism in Hungary, which was a close ally of Nazi Germany when some 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed.
This month, Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, Ilan Mor, canceled his trip to the Hungarian city of Eger, over antisemitic remarks made by a city councilor linked to the ruling Fidesz party about a Hungarian Jewish actor.
Councilor György Várkonyi reportedly said that József Székhelyi, who played in several Hungarian films, wasn’t welcome to perform in Eger because he is a “filthy Jew”.
Hungary has also seen the burning of an Israeli flag during demonstrations.
Amid mounting concerns, Hungary’s government tried to distance itself from antisemitism and attacks on monuments. “The cabinet condemns all extreme manifestations and provocations, whether from the political left or right,” said a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.
Yet, Hungary’s far-right Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) party has made clear it doesn’t view antisemitism as an important issue.
Jobbik Parliamentarian Gyula György Zagyva told a demonstration of sympathy for the detained Incze that “the desecration of the Jewish memorial on the Danube embankment or anywhere else can easily be described as trivial”.
The demonstration outside Budapest’s Markó utca prison was attended by dozens of Jobbik supporters, Hungarian media reported.
There are still some 100,000 Hungarian Jews in Hungary, Eastern Europe’s largest Jewish community outside Russia.