“Let’s draw inspiration from János Esterházy’s dignity of manner and pass on his faith to our children,” President János Áder said in Dolné Obdokovce (Alsóbodok), Slovakia on Tuesday at an event commemorating the ethnic Hungarian politician from the former Czechoslovakia. According to Áder,
“Esterházy reminds everyone of human decency, helpfulness and the love of freedom, but most of all, his dedication to Hungary, the land of his birth, and his Christian faith,”
He talked about Esterházy’s sufferings in the Gulag camps where, despite inhumane conditions, Esterházy managed to preserve his faith and dignity of manner. This wasn’t the first time President Áder has commemorated János Esterházy: last year, during an official visit in Prague, the Hungarian head of state laid a wreath at his plaque in the city’s cemetery.
Count János Esterházy (1901-1957), the sole Hungarian deputy in the Slovak Parliament before 1945, was a firm advocate of the ethnic Hungarian community, raising his voice against any violation of minority rights and against discrimination. In 1942 he was the only MP not to vote in favour of the deportation of the country’s Jewish citizens. Czechoslovak authorities arrested him in 1945 under the charge of war crimes, and turned him over to the Soviet military authorities. In 1947 he was sentenced to 10 years of forced labour in Moscow, and handed a death sentence in absentia in Bratislava on trumped-up charges. Two years later, the Soviet Union extradited the ailing Esterházy to Czechoslovakia, where the president commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. The count died in a prison in Mirov in March 1957. His ashes were identified in 2007 in Prague’s Motol cemetery. They were then taken to a chapel and centre of pilgrimage built in Dolné Obdokovce last year, on the 60th anniversary of his death.
While public opinion in Hungary regards him as a hero, praising his efforts for the Hungarian community, a number of Slovakian politicians and historians still dispute his life and legacy, often portraying him as a traitor to the Czechoslovak state, though some say that this argument lacks historical foundation. Thus, to date, Esterházy has not been officially rehabilitated in Slovakia.
image: Bruzák Noémi/ MTI