Lapid participated in a conference on Jewish Life and antiSemitism in Contemporary Europe, hosted by Hungary, the country where his father, former justice minister Tommy Lapid, survived the Holocaust.
The finance minister began by saying he has complex feelings attending the event in a building that, 70 years ago, had a sign reading “no entry for Jews and dogs.”
“We want to forget, but we cannot,” he said.
Lapid told the story of his father, who at age 13 lived in a basement in the ghetto in Budapest as Nazis and Hungarian fascists began taking Jews on death marches and shooting them into the Danube River.
Tommy Lapid and his mother were sent on a march, and on the way, a Russian plane passed over them, and the Jews started running away. Germans shot into the air, and Tommy and his mother hid in an outhouse. The march continued without them, but they didn’t know where to go and returned to the ghetto, hoping that the Russians would arrive before the next death march.
Years later, Yair Lapid visited Budapest with his father, who took him to the outhouse and said, “This is where I was saved and my Zionism was born, because this is where I understood that there has to be a place I can go to.”
“We were a statistical error. He was supposed to die, and I wasn’t supposed to be born, but we were still there, against all odds, two men who needed to have a place to go to,” Lapid said.
Lapid pointed out that 450,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the 10 months the Nazis occupied Hungary.
“I’m a guest, and guests aren’t supposed to embarrass their hosts, but it would defeat the purpose of this event if we deny the fact that genocide of this scope could not [work] without the active help of tens of thousands of Hungarians and without the silence of millions of others,” he said. “There is a stain on the honor of this house. For years, we all tried to ignore the stain, but history taught us that ignoring is the wrong policy.”
The finance minister warned that “anti-Semitism has raised its ugly head in Hungary again, and we know today that we cannot disregard racism, we cannot let it grow. Hatred does not disappear. It is an awful fact of life that we must battle every hour of every day.”
“We can never, never stop fighting against racism and hatred and for justice,” he added.
Lapid concluded the speech
FINANCE MINISTER Yair Lapid addresses the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest yesterday. by telling members of the Hungarian Parliament that they must “wake up every morning and say ‘this will never happen again. Jews will not die on the land of Hungary just because they’re Jews, and we are really committed to that.’”
Hungary’s deputy prime minister told the conference that Hungary will use all political and legal tools available to crack down on resurgent antiSemitism in the country, in one of the government’s boldest statements yet on the issue.
“We cannot allow, especially knowing our own responsibility, anti-Semitism to gain strength in Hungary,” Tibor Navracsics said.
“We will crack down with legal means if necessary and, while we can, we will make sure through political means that Hungary remains a republic of good men.”
Hungary still has one of the largest and oldest Jewish communities in Europe, mostly in the capital, despite the decimation of the population in World War II, when 500,000600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed, according to the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center. Jewish culture has flourished in recent years.
But Hungary has also seen a surge in anti-Semitism. The farright Jobbik party has several times vilified Jews and the State of Israel in speeches in parliament, where it holds 43 out of 386 seats. The rise of Jobbik mirrors similar stories in Greece and Ukraine, where the Golden Dawn and Svoboda parties have also entered their respective parliaments on allegedly anti-Semitic platforms.
Jobbik officials recently declined to be interviewed by The Jerusalem Post, stating that they “cannot hope for a nonbiased interview.”
Anti-Semitic incidents have also spread. In the most recent case, on September 17, bars of soap were nailed to the fence of the main synagogue in Szeged, Hungary’s third-largest city, in a reference to the myth that the Nazis made soap out of the victims of the concentration camps.
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder harshly criticized Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the international Jewish organization’s plenary assembly in Budapest in May, stating that the Hungarian premier had not taken sufficient steps in combating Jobbik.
Navracsics’s comments come only days after Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras approved a series of raids by anti-terror forces leading to the arrest of a number of highranking officials from his country’s Golden Dawn party on Saturday.
Speaking at a meeting convened by the American Jewish Committee in New York following the arrests, Samaras said that it is “important to me to deracinate” the neo-Nazi party.
Navracsics also said the government had changed the law to allow class-action lawsuits against certain cases of hate speech, and tightened rules in parliament after a Jobbik deputy last year called for a list of Jews among parliament members to be drawn up to assess their allegiance.
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Reuters contributed to this report