Gov’t to postpone WWII memorial; PM offers dialogue to MaZsiHiSz

History

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has responded to concerns of Jewish communities and the umbrella organization MaZsiHiSz with regard to various controversies regarding national observation of Holocaust remembrance – and certainly much to his detractors’ surprise, the PM’s response seems reasonable and conciliatory.

After stressing his current and previous governments’ “zero-tolerance” policy toward anti-Semitism – included establishment of the Holocaust Museum in Budapest, Orbán wrote in an open letter to MaZsiHiSz that “in addition to increasing awareness of the horrors of the Holocaust, it is also important that our children come to know more about the history of Hungarian-Jewish cohabitation, and especially the values that the Hungarian and Jewish peoples gave to each other, thus enriching Hungarian history and culture and facilitating our common ascension.

“However, as you know, the election campaign officially began on 15 February. I realize that this moment in time is perhaps not best suited to enabling us to share our opinions calmly and with sympathy. … And accordingly I suggest that we continue our dialogue following the Easter holidays.”

In addition, a monument dedicated to the Nazi “occupation” of Hungary that had irked local Jewish leaders due to a “glossing over [of] the country’s active role in the Holocaust” will be unveiled on May 31, well after the election season and will be dedicated to the more all-encompassing “victims of the German occupation.”

This last gesture appears to be in direct response to World Jewish Congress (WJC) president Ronald S. Lauder’s recent statement that “If Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian government seriously believe that the statue should also be a memorial for the Jewish victims, at the very least they should listen to the Jewish community’s concerns, take them into account, and reconsider their plans.”

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