Tuesday

13th Apr 2021

Jewish boycott puts Orban's statue in awkward spotlight

  • The shoes on the Danube Promenade honour the Jewish people who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II (Photo: proforged)

Hungary has delayed the unveiling of a controversial statue planned for the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust, following criticism by the country’s main Jewish organisation.

The planned memorial would depict Hungary as an angel being swooped down on by an imperial eagle symbolising Nazi Germany.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But Jewish oganisation Mazsihisz say the statue - marking the Nazi invasion on 19 March 1944 - represents an attempt to whitewash Hungary's role in the mass deportation and murder of Hungarian Jews.

“The plans don’t take into consideration the arguments and sensitivities of the victims of the horrors of the Holocaust,” Mazsihisz said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban first sent a letter dismissing criticism. But he then asked for time to resume negotiations on the controversial statue and other projects after Easter, with the country due to have parliamentary elections beforehand. Orban is expected to come out top in the 6 April vote.

Mazsihisz would also like Orban to suspend a planned memorial centre and it objects to the appointment of a new history institute director, who has made controversial remarks diminishing the significance of the deportations.

The statue was orginally supposed to be unveiled on 19 March. This has now been pushed back until the end of May.

Mazsihisz's stance on the boycott hasn't changed. "Nothing has been resolved," said Mazsihisz president, Andras Heisler.

As a form of protest, several Jewish organisations sent back government money they have recieved for the anniversary year commemorations.

Meanwhile prominent Holocaust historian Randolph L. Braham earlier returned a high state award to Hungary.

He said "the straw that broke the camel’s back" was the planned statue.

"The history-cleansing campaign of the past few years calculated to whitewash the historical record of the Horthy era (…) to absolve Hungary from the active role it had played in the destruction of close to 600,000 of its citizens of the Jewish faith, have left me, and I assume many others, stunned," he wrote in a letterexplaining his decision.

Hungary's wartime government was an ally of Hitler and fought alongside his troops against the Soviet Union.

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote in an op-ed supporting the boycott that it would not have been possible for Nazi Germans alone to round up and deport so many Jews from Hungary in a few weeks without the help of the administration of Miklos Horthy, Hungary's wartime leader.

Orban's government has publicly pledged zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, but Jewish leaders want to see concrete action. A strong far-right movement, led by Jobbik, has already caused serious damage to Hungary's reputation.

Meanwhile, analysts suggest the controversy is also helping to mobilise support for Orban's Fidesz party.

Lauder said extreme-right forces must not be allowed to exploit the issue and called on Orban to back his rhetoric with deeds.

Eszter Zalán is a journalist at the daily newspaper, Népszabadság.

Opinion

Anti-semitism: An attack on all of us

Seventy years after the Holocaust, one in four European Jews hides their identity and many Jewish students need police protection, Israel's ambassador to the EU says.

Schinas spars with MEPs over migration job title

A number of MEPs pressed Margaritis Schinas to drop the "Protecting the European Way of Life" title of his portfolio, which deals with migration. But Schinas refused, claiming it needs protecting from terrorists and populists. He failed to convince.

Poland's 'vague' nominee flops in EU hearing

Poland's nominee for agriculture commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, is likely to face a second hearing after MEPs from top political groups lambasted his "vague" performance on Tuesday.

Analysis

How MEPs will quiz the next commissioners

The EU parliament will organise public hearings to assess the future commissioners' suitability for their job and their knowledge about the portfolio they had assigned, before the new EU commission takes office on 1 November.

News in Brief

  1. US officials call for J&J vaccine pause over blood clots
  2. Putin refuses to talk about military build-up, Ukraine says
  3. EU bank to help Greece manage corona-recovery funds
  4. Johnson & Johnson vaccine deliveries to EU begin
  5. EU sanctions commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard
  6. UK opens investigation into ex-PM Cameron lobbying
  7. 'Significant differences' in EU-UK talks on Northern Ireland
  8. Bulgarian PM reveals price rise in new EU-BioNTech deal

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime
  2. China responds to 'low-efficacy' vaccine fears
  3. Merkel party chiefs support Laschet's chancellor bid
  4. EU refuses to bail out Montenegro's China loan
  5. Industry lobby to 'co-decide' on nearly €10bn EU public money
  6. Why Ursula von der Leyen won't go
  7. Incorporating gender in trade policy to benefit all
  8. Does Italian regionalism actually work?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us