A new book reveals Hungary’s ugly state-sponsored Holocaust revisionismBreaking News
On the Sunday morning of July 20, 2014, police cordoned off Freedom Square while construction workers put the finishing touches on an addition to this urban tableau already brimming with historical tributes: the Memorial to the Victims of the German Occupation. From the moment its construction was announced, following an opaque artistic competition lacking public consultation, it had been the subject of heated dispute. Beginning with its very title, which labels the unimpeded movement of German soldiers onto friendly territory an “occupation,” the memorial absolves Hungarians of complicity in the Holocaust. Depicting the Archangel Gabriel (described in the plans as “the man of God, symbol of Hungary”) under attack from a sharp-clawed German imperial eagle, it portrays the Hungarian nation as a collective victim of Nazi predation. This distortion of history obscures both the specifically anti-Jewish nature of the Holocaust and the Hungarian state’s active collaboration in mass murder.
Randolph Braham, professor emeritus at the City University of New York and himself a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, writes about the role played by Hungarian authorities in the crime: “With Horthy still at the helm and providing the symbol of national sovereignty, the approximately 200,000 Hungarian policemen, gendarmes, civil servants, and ‘patriotic’ volunteers had collaborated in the anti-Jewish drive with a routine and efficiency that impressed even the relatively few SS who had served as ‘advisers.’ ” So able and willing were the Nazis’ Hungarian accomplices that Adolf Eichmann, the SS official in charge of deporting the country’s Jews to the death camps, managed to oversee the gruesome task with just 200 Germans at his command....
Second to Russia, no European country is manipulating its history for political purposes more egregiously than Hungary. In both places, rewriting the past is done with an eye to the future, as governments inculcate their citizenries with nationalism, irredentism, and intolerance and then marshal these attitudes in service of the state. The clashing historical narratives embodied by the dueling memorials of Freedom Square have engaged the wider public in a debate reaching far beyond the usual esoteric academic circles. As Hungary creeps further into authoritarianism, its revisionism has worrisome implications for Europe’s future.
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