The Hungarian Government Finds a New Old Way to Dash Hopes and Stir Anger

Not too long ago we credited Hungary’s decision to cancel the statue honoring notorious antisemite Bálint Hóman as an important signal that antisemitism would not be tolerated and that any efforts to honor the legacy of antisemitic political leaders will only further isolate Hungary from the international community.

But today the Hungarian government showed that it is still determined to honor those with shameful antisemitic pasts. Hungary installed a memorial, notably a short distance from the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center, of György Donáth—a WWII-era politician who was an enthusiastic supporter of Hungary’s antisemitic laws and also known for his racist contempt of Romanians and Swabian Germans (Germans who have lived for centuries in Hungary). Even more troubling is that Fidesz deputy chairman Gergely Gulyás was the one who planned to officiate at the unveiling, showing that this has support at the highest levels in the mainstream party.

But the people of Hungary caught wind of this plan. A large group of protesters reportedly surrounded the memorial and prevented the ceremony from happening. This grassroots action gives cause for optimism.

The U.S. government should again strongly support Hungarians who favor tolerance, reject antisemitism, and take a stand with their European allies against this latest offensive act. When the U.S. government took firm action against the Hóman statue, in common cause with Human Rights First and others, it made a difference. Hungary’s latest move to erect an antisemitic statue shows that we must continue to work together to redouble efforts to bring Hungary back into the democratic fold.

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Published on February 24, 2016

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