A STAR of David is seen at the new Holocaust museum called the House of Fates in Budapest, Hungary, last year.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Hungarian government minister has confirmed that controversial historian Prof. Maria Schmidt, who has been accused of Holocaust revisionism, has not been involved in the development of the permanent exhibition of a new Holocaust museum in Budapest.
The minister also hinted that a new government resolution on the House of Fates museum might be passed at some stage which would formally exclude Schmidt and her research foundation from involvement in the project.
On June 7, Szabolcs Takács, Minister of State in the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, sent a letter to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance stating that Schmidt was not involved in the development of the concept for the museum and its “vision document,” which was instead drawn up by a new steering committee for the museum.
He noted the official involvement of a research institute headed by Schmidt in the project, as per a government resolution on the matter, but insisted that Schmidt and her organization had not had any input in developing the museum’s permanent exhibition.
“The basic concept (vision document) that we presented at the Mondorf IHRA Plenary was developed only by one of the organizations named by the government resolution, and that is EMIH (Rabbi Slomó Köves and his international team), and Prof. Schmidt was not involved in making this concept,” wrote Takács in a letter seen by The Jerusalem Post.
In 2018, the Hungarian government passed a resolution transferring ownership of the House of Fates Holocaust museum to the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), although the resolution stated that the Public Foundation for the Research of Central and East European History and Society which Schmidt heads also had to be involved in its development.
Schmidt has advanced an historical narrative equating Nazi crimes with those of Communist regimes, viewed by many scholars as a form of Holocaust revisionism which has been used in central and east European countries to absolve themselves of their historic collaboration with the Nazis.
Schmidt’s presence on the project therefore generated intense opposition to the House of Fates project from Yad Vashem and Holocaust scholars.
Since September, however, a new steering committee for the museum was appointed by head of the EMIH Rabbi Slomó Köves which formulated a new vision document for the museum’s permanent exhibition, setting its goals, narrative and approach.
Köves told the Post and Hungarian media earlier this month that Schmidt had not been involved in the development of the museum’s new concept and that critics of the project should therefore rethink their attitude to it.
These comments led Minister of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás to issue a statement on June 6 saying that the Hungarian government “will decide on the final concept of the House of Fates Museum, and in developing this the cabinet continues to count on the involvement of both participating organizations, the Public Foundation for the Research of Central and Eastern European History and Society and the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH).”
But Takács, who participated in a presentation of the new concept to IHRA earlier this month, wrote in his subsequent letter to IHRA of June 7 that Gulyás was merely noting that the original government resolution was still in force.
“What is the most important though is that only the concept of Rabbi Köves and his international team got a green light by the Minister,” said Takács.
“The final concept that will be concluded only subsequent to both international and domestic inclusivity and support will be adopted only by the Government and nobody else,” he added.
“If there is peace [around the museum project] there might be and there will be a new government resolution,” he concluded.
The Public Foundation for the Research of Central and East European History and Society declined to respond to a query from the Post regarding its involvement in the development of the museum, pointing simply to Gulyás statement from June 6.
IHRA chair Ambassador Georges Santer said in comments to the Post that Gulyás “did not fundamentally change,” IHRA’s position on the museum.
“As outlined in the IHRA statement made on 11 June the IHRA continues to expect that Maria Schmidt will not be involved in the project,” said Santer.
He noted that IHRA has agreed to appoint a group of IHRA experts to provide input or suggestions to the new steering committee for the House of Fates museum, adding that this had been “dependent on domestic and international inclusivity,” a reference to the involvement of the Mazsihsz non-Orthodox Jewish community in Hungary as well as other authorities outside the country.
In its original statement on the House of Fates on June 11 after it heard from Köves, Takács and others, IHRA stated that it “welcomed the clear assurance by Rabbi Slomó Köves and the Minister of State [Takács], that a highly controversial historian who had been involved in the drafting of an earlier concept had played no role in developing the new vision for the House of Fates and that this person would not be involved in the initiative moving forward.”
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