Jews and Roma in Hungary continue to weather the strident antisemitism and antiziganism – anti-Roma sentiment – of the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party.
In a recent example on May 23, a lawmaker for the party in Hungary said the historic events presented at the Auschwitz death camp museum might not be totally accurate.
Tamas Gaudi-Nagy made the statement during a discussion in Parliament on a proposal to facilitate visits by teenagers and young adults to the former Nazi concentration camp in Poland.
Hungarian news agency MTI reported that Gaudi-Nagy said the site “may not reflect the real facts of history,” and that schools should not be “forced to take up such an expensive venture.”
The statement drew condemnation from a number of areas, including Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party; its leading Jewish group, Mazsihisz; Israel, and the Canadian Jewish community.
“Nobody has the right to question the Holocaust, the suffering and death of millions of people,” the leader of the ruling Fidesz party, Antal Rogan, said in a statement last Thursday.
Depending on estimates, between 500,000 and two million Roma perished alongside Jews in the Holocaust.
According to a May 26 report in the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, Ilan Mor, reportedly consulted a local lawyer over the issue.
“The embassy is asking for a legal opinion and, depending on this, will consider further actions,” Mor told the Post.
David Koschitzky, chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said Jobbik’s comments represent “classical antisemitism.”
“That Jobbik has returned to this poisonous ideology, and is even questioning the truth of its terrible consequences at Auschwitz, should raise alarm among all Europeans. For though antisemitism targets Jews, its effects ultimately prove corrosive for the non-Jewish world. Any attempt such as this to minimize the Holocaust and the monumental suffering brought on by the brutal Nazi regime, must be vehemently and roundly condemned,” he told The CJN.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pledged a policy of “zero tolerance” on antisemitism when he spoke at the World Jewish Congress (WJC) plenary in Budapest earlier this month. However, his commitment to that policy was questioned by the WJC and other Jewish organizations worldwide at the time.
In a statement issued on May 28, Koschitzky said: "Our collective message to… Orbán was clear: Words are not enough. We want to see action and a tangible improvement in the protection of the rights, and dignity, of minorities – including Jews – living in Hungary."
“Though the deputy did not openly deny the Holocaust, he made a sly suggestion that the memorials put up where several million victims were executed do not reflect the truth,” Mazsihisz said in its statement. “Gaudi-Nagy’s remarks have desecrated the memory of over 400,000 Hungarians who were exterminated there.”
Hungary is home to some 100,000 Jews.
Jobbik, Hungary’s third-largest party, has been termed “a neo-Nazi” party by Hungary’s Jewish watchdog on antisemitism, the Action and Protection Foundation, or TEV. Last year, one of its lawmakers, Marton Gyongyosi, said “it was time” for a list of Hungarian Jews to be drawn up as they pose “a national risk.” He later said he was referring only to Hungarians with Israeli passports.
With files from JTA