A government-appointed cultural official in Hungary has been condemned for comparing liberal billionaire George Soros to Hitler in an article about Hungary and Poland’s row with the EU over rule of law.
“Europe has become the gas chamber of George Soros… George Soros is the liberal Fuhrer,” Szilárd Demeter, head of the Petőfi literary museum in Budapest, wrote on the pro-government news-site Origo.hu on Saturday.
Poles and Hungarians “are the new Jews” said Demeter in the article that addressed the ongoing deadlock between the EU, and Hungary and Poland over their veto of the bloc’s funding due to its rule of law criteria.
“These “Liber-aryans” are now aiming at excluding us Poles and Hungarians from the one last political community where we still have rights,” he said.
Jewish and Holocaust memorial groups at home and abroad condemned the tirade from Demeter, a 44-year-old writer appointed in 2018 as head of a prestigious literary museum and in 2019 as a cultural commissioner.
“We utterly reject the use and abuse of the memory of the Holocaust for any purpose,” said the Israeli Embassy in Hungary in a statement late Saturday.
“There is no place for connecting the worst crime in human history, or its perpetrators, to any contemporary debate, no matter how essential,” it said.
Hungary’s largest Jewish organisation Mazsihisz said in a statement that “relativisation of the Holocaust is incompatible with the government’s zero tolerance of all forms of anti-Semitism”.
“Such ignorance of history and minimising the Holocaust have to be called out,” said the American Jewish Committee in Central Europe in a Twitter post, calling the remarks “horrendous”.
Demeter said in a statement Sunday that he had withdrawn the article and deleted his Facebook page.
“My critics are right in that… the Nazi parallel can unintentionally offend victims’ memories,” he said.
But protests continued through Sunday with leading opposition politicians including former prime minister Gordon Bajnai and Budapest’s liberal mayor Gergely Karacsony calling on Orbán to fire Demeter.
“Szilárd Demeter is (Orbán’s) man, his culture politican,..his shame, he should not fill any official position from Monday morning,” said Karacsony in a Facebook message.
The uproar comes amid intensifying rhetoric aimed at Soros by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán over the US financier’s alleged support for migration into Europe and lobbying of politicians in Brussels during the funding veto row.
Poland and Hungary this month vetoed the EU’s €1.8-trillion budget and coronavirus rescue package over its tying of funds to rule of law criteria.
Orbán has portrayed the criteria as “blackmail” against member states opposed to immigration while calling Soros “one of the most corrupt people in the world” and “an economic criminal” in recent interviews.
In 2017 Orbán mounted a nationwide anti-immigration billboard campaign showing a large image of Soros laughing, that Mazsihisz said could incite anti-Semitism.
The 90-year-old Soros, who was born in Hungary and is a Holocaust survivor, accused Orbán of creating a “kleptocratic system to rob his country blind” in an interview this month in the Project Syndicate magazine.