IHRA to advise on Budapest Holocaust Museum

Controversial historian Maria Schmidt is no longer involved in the project.

June 6, 2019 12:41
2 minute read.
A STAR of David is seen at the new Holocaust museum called the House of Fates in Budapest, Hungary,

A STAR of David is seen at the new Holocaust museum called the House of Fates in Budapest, Hungary, last year. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance will appoint a group of experts to advise the international advisory boards of Budapest’s House of Fates Holocaust Museum and Educational Center, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

The announcement followed a presentation of the museum’s project to an IHRA delegation by Rabbi Shlomo Koves, chief rabbi of the EMIH (Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation); chief executive of the project Yitzhak Mais, the chief curator of the Steering Committee; and Szabolcs Takacs, chief delegate of the Hungarian state to IHRA.
The museum, which was initially scheduled to open in 2014 for the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Hungarian Jews, had previously come under fire for the involvement of Maria Schmidt, a controversial historian who promoted a historical narrative equating Nazi crimes with those of Communist regimes.

But Schmidt, an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban who owns a pro-government weekly according to Reuters, is no longer involved in the House of Fates, Rabbi Koves told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“The whole concept that we started building from scratch in November last year is something we on the steering committee built from the bottom up,” Koves said. “We kept the original idea of putting a strong emphasis on child victims of the Holocaust, as well as aiming to achieve not only a cognitive but also an emotional impact on [the] future audience. But the historical context, as well as the professional themes and guidelines, were created from scratch by a new committee of experts. Maria Schmidt has not been involved in the development of this concept.”

EMIH was granted ownership of the museum by the Hungarian government last year, and in a government resolution, was formally designated a partner in its development and that of the permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Besides Mais, a former Yad Vashem director, the new museum’s steering committee includes historian Esther Farbstein, who is chairwoman of Holocaust Studies at the Jerusalem College for Women, and David Marwell, an American historian and former director of New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage.

The presentation to IHRA gave an elaboration of the creation process; an outline of the main historical guidelines; goals and themes of the future museum; and the new vision document formatted by the new steering committee.

Moreover, the plenary of the IHRA accepted the invitation of the Hungarian Delegation and voted on mandating the IHRA chairperson to appoint a representative group of IHRA experts, reflecting the alliance's areas of expertise to provide suggestions and comments.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this reporting.

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