I’m a non-Jewish person, I’m a Catholic, but I also frequently speak with my
hands – and I’m sure this is not the only thing that I have in common with the
We are engaged in a common fight, a fight against anti-Semitism,
which means combating evil, death, the destruction of civilization; of the good
side in fact, of human nature.
So, in a way, it is a fight between good
and bad. It’s a fight between life and death. As I understand it, we choose
life. And I think this is the main message of this conference we are now having
in the Hungarian parliament: “Jewish Life Today: Combating Anti-Semitism in
Yes, indeed, we choose life, and life can never be
John Lukács wrote that when World War II was coming to an end,
Hitler thought, “Okay, clearly I cannot win the war, but I can still win the war
against the Jews.” But despite the murder of 6 million innocent lives, he didn’t
win that war.
The State of Israel was founded, and Jewish life and
culture were resurrected across the world. But as has also been noted,
civilization is paper-thin.
We have to be vigilant, we have to be
relentless. We have to get up every morning with the thought that this can
never, never happen again. And yes, we also need the survivors to remind us, to
warn us, to testify and to explain the truth.
So yes, anti-Semitism is
indeed a crime against humanity, as we all know. It’s a crime against mankind.
But beyond this universal message, I believe that for us Hungarians, there is
also a special significance of anti-Semitism and indeed, of the Holocaust. This
is because the Hungarian Holocaust was committed by and against Hungarians; both
the perpetrators and the victims were Hungarians. And believe me, this is our
biggest national trauma we have to live with, confront and cope with. So what
shall we do? What can we do? The first thing, as was referred to by Deputy Prime
Minister Tibor Navracsics, is to accept and admit responsibility. I would just
like to underline that this statement was made on behalf of the Hungarian
government and nation. Just like other statements, including mine, for instance,
at the beginning of the “Wallenberg Year,” carrying the same message.
it is a national tragedy, because there was a community that has lived with us
for – some people say and I believe them – at least 12 centuries. A community
that gave an immeasurably immense contribution to the progress and well-being of
this nation, to Hungarian culture, literature, science, economy and so
Yes, it was precisely this constructive living together, as it has
been referred to by Bishop Peter Gancs of our Lutheran Church, and indeed it was
also the Fasori Gimnázium, if you think of the Nobel Prize winners. And yes, it
was also the Revolution and the War of Independence in 1848, when our Jewish
compatriots were fighting and dying for the freedom and independence of
But I believe we must not only oppose the bad and the evil. We
must also propose a future of good. And yes, we all believe in a Jewish
resurrection, a Jewish renaissance in this country. That is also part of the
message that we all choose life.
We now have a vibrant and flourishing
There are, of course, concerns, which have also been
voiced by the conference. But the main point is that we live together. And we
very much believe in a constructive living together for the next decades, indeed
Now let me tell you one or two words about foreign policy,
because I happen to be the foreign minister of this government. It’s an old and
never-ending debate, what foreign policy has to be based upon: upon values, or
conversely upon interest, or indeed upon both – but there is a given proportion
between the two. It’s no secret, I’m one of those who still believe that
fundamentally, foreign policy should or has to be based upon values.
if you want to follow values, you have to have ideas.
And if you want to
have ideas, yes, you have to accept and you have to recognize responsibility.
And when we spoke about our Middle East policy, when we speak about the State of
Israel, we should never forget this historic responsibility we have. That’s
point No. 1.
Point No. 2 is that we have a very, very special bond
between the two countries. In fact, two bonds. That is, we have an extremely
important Jewish community in this country, but at the same time, there is also
a 200,000-strong community in Israel of Hungarian-speaking Israeli citizens –
many of whom also Hungarian citizens.
Many of them, by the way, will also
vote next year, in April. So this, I believe, is a very, very special bond
between the two countries, and that’s why I think that our policy always has to
take into account these fundamental facts and considerations.
back to the conference, some people think – and they are probably right – that
this conference is a gesture. Much has been said about gestures towards our
Jewish community, or indeed, the Jews as a whole. It’s true. But we should not
forget that this conference first and foremost helps us, and only thereafter the
Jewish community. It helps us to live with, to cope with exactly that national
trauma I was speaking about.
So we thank you very much for this. We are
on the receiving end of the benefit of this conference. And I tell you this
because, of course, I’m grateful to all who recognize the efforts we make to
combat anti-Semitism and racism. We also thank those who remind us that these
efforts have to be continued relentlessly and also, from time to time, must be
made more robust. So that is the main message, which of course we fully
I agree with Rabbi Ferenc Raj’s proposition that next year should
be one of repentance and reconciliation. I would only add that this is something
which should not occur just for a year, but should be a continuous exercise.
Repentance and reconciliation will go on even after next year.
exactly the message that we should never give up. We should be vigilant, and we
have to renew our strength and our resolve and our determination, to fight for
the good and to fight against the evil. Whether this is domestic politics, or
foreign policy, or international relations, we always follow the same principles
The writer is foreign minister of Hungary. This op-ed is
based on a speech he made to the conference, “Jewish Life Today: Combating
Anti-Semitism in Europe,” in the Hungarian parliament on October 1, 2013.