BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s main Jewish umbrella group has voted to boycott official commemorations surrounding the 70th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust, unless the government backs down on policies seen as minimizing the country’s role in the mass murder of Jews.
In total at least 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed during World War Two, when Hungary was a close ally of Nazi Germany.
The Federation is particularly angry about plans to unveil a German occupation statue in March on Budapest’s famed Freedom Square, near a Soviet war memorial, a statue of late American President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. embassy.
Those familiar with the plans say the large memorial includes Germany’s imperial eagle swooping down on the archangel Gabriel, who symbolizes Hungary.
Hungary’s government has defended the statue saying it represents all victims of Nazi-aggression, including Jewish people.
Yet Federation leader Gusztáv Zoltai recalled to reporters that Hungarians played a key role in his deportation to a concentration camp when he was just eight years old.
“Neither my mother nor my father were put on the train wagons by Germans, but by Hungarians who passed them over to the Germans,” he said.
Zoltai explained that it was not only about taking responsibility for these crimes, but in his words “people need to acknowledge that it happened this way.”
Jewish groups also want the government to remove the director of a new history museum after he reportedly called the 1941 deportation of tens of thousands of Jews “a policy procedure for foreign nationals.”
Separately, Jewish representatives have expressed outrage about including anti-Semitic authors in the national high school curriculum and ceremonies honoring Hungary’s war-time leader Miklós Horthy.
International Jewish organizations, including the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center, have applauded the decision to boycott Holocaust memorial ceremonies if the Jewish concerns are not addressed by the government.
The dispute has become a main theme ahead of the parliamentary elections, with the left-wing opposition supporting Jewish groups. It comes amid growing anti-Semitism in the country, which included verbal threats and attacks against a synagogue, and Jewish cemeteries.
The anti-Jewish atmosphere prompted the elderly famed Hungarian Jewish writer Ákos Kertész to seek political asylum in Canada.
The 80-year-old award winning author said he had received death threats after writing about antisemitism in Hungary, which has Eastern Europe’s largest Jewish community outside Russia of some 100,000 people.
Kertész was also stripped of his honorary citizenship of Budapest on an initiative from the far-right Jobbik party, supported by votes of the ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Orbán.
(BosNewsLife is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians as well as anti-Semitism and related developments, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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