Wiesenthal Center Expresses Cautious Optimism Towards Hungarian PM’s Statement Against Proposed Statue to Nazi Collaborator

December 16, 2015

“Only time will tell if this statement represents a real change or is just another cynical political maneuver meant to deflect criticism,” say
s Center official in Budapest

The Simon Wiesenthal Center greeted with cautious optimism Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s statement in Parliament that he does not support any project commemorating politicians who aided and abetted the Nazi genocidal goals and occupation from during WWII between 1944-45.

Photo: Mark Weitzman (second from right) is pictured in Budapest with U.S. Special Envoy on Holocaust Issues, Nicholas Dean; U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, Colleen Bell; and U.S. Special Envoy on Antisemitism, Ira Forman.

Mark Weitzman, the Wiesenthal Center’s Director of Government Affairs is currently in Budapest to join the protests against the planned memorial to Balint Homan, a Hungarian historian and politician who helped craft Hungary’s World War II-era antisemitic laws and later collaborated with the Nazis and the Hungarian Arrow Cross fascist movement. Weitzman said, “These Nazi collaborators must not be presented to new generations of Hungarians as heroes and role models. It is significant that the Prime Minister did not only mention Balint Homan, but also Admiral Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s WWII Regent and now a venerated figure in right wing circles. Unfortunately, it took an international controversy for the Prime Minister to speak up and to publicly state that evil should not be celebrated. It is also unfortunate that the Prime Minister's statement did not refer to any acknowledgement of collaborator's role in the murder of Hungarian Jews."

Weitzman noted that was especially hypocritical that this statue was planned to be built on public lands with public finds while Hungary is serving as Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the 31 nation body dedicated to preserving Holocaust memory. “This initiative directly contradicts the IHRA’s ‘Working Definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion’ and undermines Hungary's positive achievements during its term as IHRA Chair, including the recent conference on ‘The Holocaust in Public Discourse’ which it co-sponsored,” he said.

“The Homan project is just the latest in a series of historical distortions and whitewashing, including the restoration of two antisemitic writers to the national curriculum and the creation of a deeply flawed exhibit in the new Holocaust museum, which was halted in the face of protests by the Hungarian Jewish community, international experts and diplomats and Jewish organizations,” Weitzman added.

On behalf of the Wiesenthal Center, Weitzman commended US Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rob Berschinski, Special Envoys Ira Forman and Nicholas Dean, Canadian Ambassador to Hungary Lisa Helfand and Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor, Andras Heisler, President of Hungary’s Jewish community and prominent historians and representatives of international Jewish and civil society NGO’s who spearheaded the protests. “Only time will tell if Prime Minister Orban’s statement represents a shift in policy or is just another cynical political maneuver meant to deflect criticism,” he concluded.

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).