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U.S. Holocaust Museum urges recall of Bayerʼs award

History

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. yesterday said the Hungarian government should rescind its decision to grant the Hungarian Order of Merit, the stateʼs second-highest award for civilians, to right-wing journalist Zsolt Bayer.

The Order of Merit of Hungary. (Photo: Národní Museum, Prague)

Bayer has a long record of racist speech and has written highly provocative anti-Semitic and anti-Roma articles in the Hungarian media, according to a statement from the Holocaust Museum. The statement noted that the award he received is supposed to recognize individuals who demonstrate excellence in service to the country and "the promotion of universal human values". 

"The government has repeatedly stated a ʼzero toleranceʼ approach to anti-Semitism. And yet it was János Lázár, minister for the Prime Ministerʼs Office and the governmentʼs point person for dialogue and engagement with the countryʼs Jewish community, who personally presented the award to Bayer," the statement said.

The Holocaust Museumʼs statement said that governments have a responsibility to combat hate speech that invites violence. 

Bayer was decorated with the Order of Merit, Knightʼs Cross on the August 20 national holiday. Since then, numerous previous recipients of the decoration have declared they were returning their own awards in protest. 

Bayer said in an interview published in the government-friendly daily Magyar Idők Wednesday that he did not plan to return the award in the wake of the protests. He said he had not intended to incite hatred against Jews and that one of his articles could have been misinterpreted, which was regrettable.

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