A Hungarian cabinet member spoke out on Wednesday against a boycott of official state Holocaust commemorations that his country’s largest Jewish communal body declared.
The Jewish community, Human Resources Minister Zoltan Balog said, was uninterested in engaging in dialogue with authorities to resolve its grievances.
“I regret that they have made this decision and that the case had progressed in this direction since the first minute,” Balog told wire service MTI, according to a report on the politics.hu news site.
On Sunday, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) declared the boycott of all events associated with Hungary’s 2014 Holocaust remembrance year over allegations that the government has recently been engaged in historical revisionism in order to minimize its role in the genocide.
Last month, the Mazsihisz issued an ultimatum following a statement by a senior government historian diminishing the significance of Hungarian actions during the Second World War.
Sándor Szakály, director of the state-sponsored Veritas Historical Research Institute, aroused outrage when he termed the deportation and massacre of tens of thousands of Jews, most of whom were Hungarian, in Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine, a “police action against aliens.”
Aside from demanding Szakály’s resignation, the Jewish community has also objected to a planned statue commemorating Germany’s 1944 occupation of its former wartime ally, and to the construction of the “House of Fates” memorial museum on the grounds of the Budapest railway station, through which most of the Hungarian victims of the Holocaust were transported. The Mazsihisz has accused the government of cutting it out of the museum’s planning process.
According to politics.hu, Balog accused the Mazsihisz of short-term thinking in declaring that “if certain things differ from what they want, then they will boycott the whole issue and refuse to hold a dialogue.”
According to the Hungarian website, Balog also said that what happened at Kamianets-Podilskyi was not widely known, and that only a few dozen historians knew about it. He called upon Prof. Laszlo Karsai of the University of Szeged, an opponent of the rail station memorial, to debate Szakály on television to “help Hungarians obtain an authentic picture about the Holocaust.”
“If we do nothing else but turn our back to one another, the situation will not change in the future, either,” he was quoted as saying.
Hungary’s ambassador to the United Nations recently apologized for Hungary’s role in the Holocaust, echoing the government’s official line and prompting Israeli Ambassador to Budapest Ilan Mor to call for the “implementation of these very good statements.”
Mor’s statements are consonant with statements by Jewish organizations accusing Budapest of failing to back up its statements against Holocaust denial with sufficient action.
Jewish leaders previously accused President Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party of attempting to rehabilitate Hungary’s past as part of an effort to draw voters away from the Jobbik Party, which came out of nowhere to become Hungary’s third-largest parliamentary faction in 2010.
Earlier this week, Mor told the Post that he believed Mazsihisz president Andras Heisler should have waited until an the receipt of an official response to his grievances from Orban, which is expected before the end of the week.
Writing on the Mazsihisz website on Wednesday, Heisler decried attempts “to discredit us through the media” and said that he did “not want to break bread with the prime minister but [rather sought] results.”