New Holocaust museum in Hungary won’t open without narrative consensus

Herzog: ‘We will struggle against historical distortion of Holocaust in Hungary; Orban to Lauder: ‘you have left-wing bias on Hungarian affairs.

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December 6, 2018 21:32
2 minute read.
A sign at Dachau Concentration Camp reading "Never Again"

A sign at Dachau Concentration Camp reading "Never Again". (photo credit: US AIR FORCE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/SENIOR AIRMAN BRIANA JONES)

 
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The Hungarian government reaffirmed its position that a new Holocaust museum in the country will not open without a consensus regarding the narrative that the museum will present, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday.

The statement came after a meeting of officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry with a delegation dispatched to Jerusalem by Hungarian President Viktor Orban to discuss the contentious museum, which has been named the “House of Fates.”

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According to the statement, Israel made clear that it will support the museum only if it meets objective historical standards set by Yad Vashem and similar institutions.

Yad Vashem has publicly criticized the museum, saying that it ignores anti-Jewish laws passed by the Hungarian government in 1938, the deaths of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews in forced labor imposed by the government, and the participation of Hungarian authorities in the deportation of Hungarian Jewry to Auschwitz.

The museum is being built by the Hungarian government at a cost of over €28 million, but is being formally transferred to the ownership of the Chabad EMIH Jewish federation in the country. The main curator of the museum, Maria Schmidt, is a controversial historian who has equated Nazism with Communism, something widely viewed as a form of Holocaust distortion.

The issue has triggered a great deal of controversy within the Hungarian Jewish community, with Andras Heisler, the head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), opposed to it.

Last week the Hungarian business magazine, Figyelo, which until two weeks ago was published by a company owned by Schmidt, published a picture of Heisler on its front page amid falling Hungarian banknotes – a depiction largely viewed as antisemitic. The magazine ran a story accusing Heisler and Mazsihisz of irregularities regarding a state-funded synagogue restoration project in Budapest.

Heisler is currently in Israel, and met Thursday with Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog.


Heisler said that while he and the Jewish community support the idea of the establishment of a Holocaust museum in Hungary, they are worried about the involvement of controversial elements interested in altering the truth.

Meanwhile, Orban reportedly sent a letter to Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress on Thursday, defending the depiction of Heisler in the magazine.

According to a Channel 10 report, Orban wrote to Lauder saying his criticism amounts to an attempt to limit freedom of speech.

“I am surprised however that you are asking me to limit the freedom of speech and the freedom of press,” Orban wrote. “Despite all my respect for you, I cannot fulfill such a request... I am also confused by the fact that you seem to grab a pen and paper only when a left-wing public figure of Jewish descent is at the center of a debate.”

Orban, in his response, accused Lauder of having a “left-wing and liberal bias” in Hungarian public affairs.
“As you well know, the government of Hungary pursues a policy of zero tolerance regarding antisemitism,” Orban wrote.

Jeremy Sharon and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

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