WJC deplores extremism in Hungary

Reps tell premier it's "alarming" that 60 years after Holocaust, far right parades have returned.

hungary jewish memorial (photo credit: Courtesy)
hungary jewish memorial
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Leaders of the World Jewish Congress warned Monday of a rise in far-right extremism in Hungary during a meeting with Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany. "It is alarming that only 60 years after the Holocaust, people in uniforms closely resembling those of Hungarian fascists during World War II are parading again the streets of Budapest," WJC president Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement. He was referring to the far-right Hungarian Guard, which was formed in August and since has sworn in some 600 members in two public ceremonies. The rest of its activities have been low-key, mostly tributes in countryside towns to Hungarian historical figures and those killed in the country's wars. The group uses the Arpad Stripes, ancient Hungarian flags associated more recently with the Arrow Cross, Nazi henchmen who briefly ran Hungary near the end of World War II. Gyurcsany's critics claim the prime minister has inflated the impact of the Hungarian Guard for his own political purposes, aiming to draw attention away from the country's economic and social woes. In Monday's encounter, Gyurcsany informed Lauder and other Jewish leaders about changes recently approved by parliament to toughen hate speech laws, the prime minister's office said in a statement. "The prime minister expressed his conviction that the defense of democracy demands the legal restriction of the spread of certain extremist views," Gyurcsany's office said. The new legislation, which some criticized as putting excessive limits on free speech, has yet to be signed into law by President Laszlo Solyom. Solyom earlier this month referred the legislation to the Constitutional Court because parts of it may be anti-Constitutional.