March 22, 2014

Hungary: 70 Years After Nazi Occupation, Anti-Semitism Still a Problem

BY TREVOR GRUNDY©2014 Religion News Service

years ago, shortly after the German army invaded Hungary, thousands of Jews
were prodded by bayonets and swords into the freezing waters of the River

first, they were ordered to remove their shoes so that others could walk around
in them.

Jews worldwide, March 19 is a horrific anniversary.

the 12 months after the invasion, more than 450,000 Hungarian Jews were rounded
up by the Gestapo with the enthusiastic help of its Hungarian equivalent, the
Arrow Cross Movement, and sent by train to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other
extermination camps in Poland.

an estimated 800,000 Hungarian Jews at the beginning of 1944, fewer than
200,000 were alive at the end of the war. The Nazis and their allies murdered
three-quarters of Hungary’s Jewish population in the last year of the Second
World War.

many Jews are wondering whether the passage of time has done much to quell this
nation’s troubling history of anti-Semitism.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is seeking re-election on April 6, said at
recent meetings of the World Jewish Congress in Budapest that his government is
determined to stamp out the rising tide of xenophobia and anti-Semitism. He
described the latter as “unacceptable and intolerable.”

this month, unidentified vandals desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Tatabanya in
northwest Hungary, daubing slogans such as “Stinking Jews” and “There was no
Holocaust but there will be” on gravestones.

February, the Israeli Foreign Ministry called in the Hungarian ambassador to
Jerusalem in a rare move to voice Israel’s “deep concern” over growing
anti-Semitic incidents in his country.

envoy heard Jewish concern about the Hungarian government’s apparent
unwillingness to deal truthfully and courageously with its past.

far-right Jobbik Party last week held a pre-election rally in a former
synagogue at Esztergom, 60 miles north of Budapest. Jewish demonstrators stood
outside waving Star of David flags, calling Jobbik members “Nazis.”

is a disgraceful event,” Agnes Drelvo, one of the protest organizers, told a
reporter from a local paper. “Any normal person who is morally OK will not
agree with what’s happening.”

pressure has persuaded the Hungarian government to delay erecting a disputed
memorial of Germany’s invasion of Hungary in one of Budapest’s main squares.
Pressure groups said that a memorial showing a German eagle swooping down on
Archangel Gabriel (symbolizing Hungary) minimized Hungary’s own involvement in
the Holocaust and placed all blame for the deaths of Hungarian Jews on Hitler
and the Nazis.

new memorial to all those who died in the war will be unveiled after next
month’s election. “We’re here on a visit,” an elderly Jewish American couple
said outside Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest in Hungary and second largest
in the world. “But to live here again, as our parents lived before the war?