Controversial monument divides Hungarians, angers Jewish community


Protests in central Budapest remain ongoing since Sunday (20 July), after a controversial monument dedicated to “all the victims” of Hungary’s German occupation was erected during the night of 20 to 21 July, the Hungarian press reports.

The plan to set up the monument for the 70th anniversary of Hungary’s Nazi German occupation was announced at the end of last year and was heavily criticised by opposition parties and civil society ever since, cotnending that it was aimed at distorting the nation’s role in the Holocaust.

Critics of the monument – which depicts Hungary as the Archangel Gabriel being attacked by a German imperial eagle – say it absolves the Hungarian state and Hungarians of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the occupation.

The protesters in Szabadsag Square formed a live chain that included Ildiko Lendvai of the Socialists, and Tamas Bauer of the Democratic Coalition (DK), with some of the protesters pelting eggs at the monument. MTI’s local correspondent said other politicians who attended the event included the Socialists newly-elected chairman Jozsef Tobias, co-chair of E-PM Gergely Karacsony and DK deputy leader Peter Niedermuller.

Police told MTI on Sunday afternoon that reports had been submitted against three of the protesters for disturbring the peace, including egg pelting, and police checked the identity of a total of 11 protesters.

DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsany said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was “falsifying the Holocaust” by getting a monument “confusing the murderer and the victim” erected “in the shelter of the night.” He accused Orbán of dishonouring all Jewish, Roma and gay victims of the Holocaust, and added that it was “characteristic of the regime that it did not dare set up the statue of falsehood during the day.”

The opposition E-PM said in a statement that the monuments would be removed if a centre-left mayor is elected in Budapest at the upcoming local elections this autumn. It said the monument fails to serve objective and peaceful remembrance, and attempts to deny the responsibility of the Hungarian state.

The Hungarian Liberal Party said in a statement sent to MTI that instead of being a reminder of the horrors of war, the Nazi occupation monument has become “a memorial to the arrogance of the Hungarian government”. It shows that the Fidesz-KDNP party alliance does not want to promote genuine national reconciliation and jointly face the past.

Pal Steiner, Socialist candidate for mayor in district 5 where the monument stands, announced on Saturday that the Budapest Court of Appeal had rejected an initiative on a referendum for preventing the erection of the statue.

The Hungarian government should have more consultations with related parties over decisions concerning commemorations of the 70th anniversary of Hungary’s Nazi occupation, Ira Forman, Special Envoy of the US State Department to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, told MTI at the end of a one-day visit to Hungary on Monday.

The Jewish Federation in Hungary (Mazsihisz) regretted that its attempts to initiate a dialogue about the monument during the year were not successful, but added that its efforts were still not useless because several outstanding scientists, church officials and public personalities had come forward and criticised the symbols it uses.

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