Foreign Minister On “Horthy Debate”: Hungary Maintains Zero Tolerance Policy Towards Anti-Semitism
Tamás Székely 2017.07.03.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó reassured the Israeli Ambassador to Hungary that the government has declared a policy of zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in a telephone conservation on Saturday. Péter Szijjártó told news agency MTI he had told Ambassador Yossi Amrani that the activities of Miklós Horthy as governor included both positive and extremely negative periods.
Late in June, at the ceremonial opening of the renovated Klebelsberg castle in Budapest Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the “second and third decades of the twentieth century were seriously trying times” in Hungarian history and it was thanks to “statesmen like governor Miklós Horthy, one-time prime minister István Bethlen and Kúnó Klebelsberg”, who served as interior minister and culture minister during the period, that Hungary “had not got buried under history” after losing the first world war, experiencing the Red Terror under the Hungarian Soviet Republic and the signing of the WWI Trianon peace treaty.
Several Jewish organisations raised objections in connection with the speech, including the Jewish World Congress and its leader Ronald S. Lauder. Four days after the speech, Israel’s ambassador in Budapest, Yossi Amrani, issued a statement noting that „Viktor Orbán’s words were very disturbing and the collaboration of the Horthy regime with the Nazis must not be forgotten, as well as the race laws enacted during his time and the destruction of Hungary’s Jewish community.” “Whatever the reason and national goal might be, there is no justification for such statements,” Amrani said in a public statement. Amrani also demanded clarifications of Orbán’s remarks on Horthy from the Hungarian government. Amrani said in an interview with Hungarian news channel HírTV that he was very concerned about the Hungarian PM’s remarks on Horthy. (However, he also said that in his view, Viktor Orbán’s harshly critical remarks on US billionaire George Soros over the migrant crisis was not to be considered “anti-semitic” attacks.)
In response to the Israeli concerns, Hungary’s top diplomat Péter Szijjártó said: “History must be respected, and the historical facts indicate that the activities of Horthy as governor included both positive and extremely negative periods.” An “undoubtedly positive” moment in Horthy’s career was putting Hungary back on its feet after WWI, he explained. “However, it is extremely negative and belongs in the category of historical sin that despite his oath he did not protect Hungary’s Jews, who were part of the Hungarian nation. It belongs in the category of historical sin that laws which discriminated against Jews were introduced during his time in office, and that hundreds of thousands of Jews fell victim to the Holocaust,” he added.
These are historical sins that cannot be relativised, Szijjártó said. “All historical facts must be respected whether they are positive or fall into the category of historical sin, even if they are linked to the same person,” he added. Szijjártó stressed that the Hungarian government has declared a policy of zero tolerance with regard to anti-Semitism. “Our government is one of the European governments that has done the most to combat anti-Semitism. As long as Hungary has its current government, the Hungarian Jewish community can be sure that the government will protect them in every respect,” he said.
Péter Szijjártó pointed out that in 2000, the Orbán government had issued a decree on the introduction of Holocaust Memorial Day. “It is no accident that the government has placed the greatest emphasis on issues relating to the teaching of the Holocaust in schools,” he said, adding that the government is in constant cooperation with Jewish organisations. “We will continue to protect the Jewish community in future against any and all attacks of an anti-Semitic nature and against any attempts to endanger or discriminate against Hungary’s Jewish community,” Szijjarto said.
The Israeli Embassy in Budapest said in a statement late Saturday that the Hungarian Foreign Minister’s message had conveyed an important clarification of the acknowledgement of the crimes committed against Hungarian Jews under Miklós Horthy. “We will always remember our 564,500 Hungarian Jewish brothers and sisters who were murdered during the Holocaust,” the Embassy said.