Budapest mayor rethinks anti-Semitic street name

Mayor orders city to council to review its decision to name street after anti-Semitic author Cecile Tormay.

June 2, 2013 03:22
2 minute read.
Dohány synagogue, Budapest

Dohány synagogue 370. (photo credit: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)

KRAKOW – Istvan Tarlos, the mayor of Budapest, ordered on Thursday a review of the city council’s decision to name one of the streets after a Hungarian author known for her anti-Semitic views.

Budapest’s city council voted on Wednesday to name one of the city streets after Cecile Tormay, a Hungarian novelist who died in 1937, known for incorporating in her work her political opinions.

The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, known as Mazsihisz, expressed its outrage about the decision and asked Budapest’s mayor to overturn it. In a statement to the local newswire service MTI the Hungarian Jewish Community leaders wrote: “The Federation of Hungary’s Jewish Communities is shocked to learn that a street in Budapest will be named after Cecile Tormay who was openly anti- Semitic. Her ideas and thoughts were taken as guidelines by leading anti-Semitic figures in Hungarian politics.

She was Miklos Horthy’s favorite. We call on you not to name public places in the city after persons whose life and works raise doubts about the government’s commitment to fight anti-Semitism.”

Horthy was Hungary’s wartime leader and a close ally of Adolf Hitler.

The proposal to name a street in the Hungarian capital after Tormay came from the Hungarian right-wing party Jobbik. It came at a sensitive time of increasing anti- Semitism in Hungary. Only a few weeks ago, during the World Jewish Congress held in Budapest, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban vowed to fight anti-Semitism in his country. Ronald S. Lauder, president of the WJC, called Orban to urge the mayor, who is a member of the prime minister’s political party, to annul the decision. Lauder also condemned Budapest’s city council decision.

“This decision by the Budapest city government, which is headed by a member of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party, puts into question the pledge given to the Jewish community that anti-Semitism will be fought vigorously by the Hungarian authorities. It seems that they need to be reminded that Cecile Tormay was not only one of Miklos Horthy’s favorite writers but also a notorious anti-Semite,” Lauder’s statement read.

The naming of a park a few weeks ago after Horthy in the city of Gyomro, located on the outskirts of Budapest, caused an international outrage and drew criticism among many world Jewish organizations leaders.

On Thursday, a day after the city council approved the proposal, Budapest’s mayor announced that he ordered a review of the proposal and asked the Hungarian Academy of Science to take an official position regarding Tormay before he would make a decision.

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