József Halzl, the co-founder of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and Honorary Life Chairman of the Rákóczi Association died at the age of 86 on Saturday.
József Halzl was born in Győr on December 19, 1933. On his father’s side, his family originates from Szenc (Senec); his mother was a native of Sopronkeresztúr (Deutschkreuz).
He graduated in mechanical engineering at the Budapest University of Technology in 1957, later obtaining a doctorate at the same institution.
Having participated in the Revolution of 1956 as a fifth-year student at the University of Technology, he wrote a diary as events unfolded. The diary was published following Hungary’s transition to democracy.
He started his professional career in the field of energetics; prior to the democratic transition, he worked as an employee of the EGI (Energy Research Institute) on research concerning thermal power plants.
Between 1991 and 1994, he was heading Hungary’s largest company as the CEO of the Hungarian Electrical Works. During Hungary’s transition to a democratic political system, he became actively involved in the work of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), working as party director for a period of time.
Between 1990 and 2018, he was Chairman of the Rákóczi Association. In 2018, he was elected the Association’s Honorary Life Chairman.
In addition to his work with the Rákóczi Association, his social activity included the organization of the youth community of the Városmajor Roman Catholic Parish, Budapest, from the 1980s. He was also the leader of the Héra Foundation, committed to assisting underprivileged households with their energy consumption.
Classical music played a significant role in his life, and he was an expert in playing the piano.
For his memorial, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime minister’s Office wrote:
“His commitment to the nation, unshakable character, and great organizing skills enabled tens of thousands of young Hungarians in the more than three decades after the founding of the Rákóczi Association to experience the feeling of belonging to a nation. That you can come from anywhere: the motherland, former Hungarian territories, or the diaspora, and have your identity as a Hungarian strengthened.
Many have learned from him that historical pain, ‘ proud beauty,’ and that ‘every Hungarian is responsible for every Hungarian’ are woven into the fabric of our Hungarian national identity.
He worked tirelessly even during his illness. His kindhearted, humble, affectionate personality made friends and supporters of the cause he represented everywhere. The loss we suffered from his death is only alleviated by the fact that his life’s work remains with us. It is up to us how we nurture and keep it alive. Rest in peace József Halzl!”
Featured photo by Balázs Mohai/MTI