Earlier on Sunday, an American historian said he was returning an
award he received from the previous head of state in protest at what
he called the government's attempt to erase Hungary's role in the
In a statement prepared for Monday's Holocaust Memorial Day,
President Janos Ader said that if the war had gone according to the
plans of Adolf Hitler and his Hungarian fascist allies, Jews would
have been exterminated completely from Hungary.
"Auschwitz may be hundreds of kilometers from Hungary but it is part
of Hungarian history," Ader wrote. "This death camp was the scene of
the inhumane suffering, humiliation and death of nearly half a
million of our compatriots."
Jewish groups have criticized the center-right government of Prime
Minister Viktor Orban for what they see as its lackluster attempt to
A Jewish group has threatened to boycott Holocaust commemorations
over plans to erect a monument to the German occupation in 1944. It
said that pushed the blame for the genocide solely onto Germans,
obscuring the role of Hungarians.
Orban, favorite to win re-election in April, has said he would do
everything to stamp out growing anti-Semitism in a country where a
far-right party, Jobbik, again openly uses anti-Semitic rhetoric and
last November unveiled a statue of wartime leader Miklos Horthy, an
ally of Hitler.
"Seventy years ago, after our nation's German occupation, the Nazi
overlords and the Hungarian authorities that collaborated with them
seemed to fulfill the will of Hitler's Nazi Germany," Ader wrote.
"In barely half a year they mercilessly completed ghettos and
deported almost the entire rural Jewry."
Because the deportations were halted in July 1944, tens of thousands
of Jews were spared the gas chamber, mostly in Budapest, and the
central European capital today is home to the largest indigenous
Jewish community in Europe.
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CRITICISM FROM HISTORIAN
Before Ader's statement was released, veteran Romanian-born
historian Randolph Braham, who settled in the United States after
World War Two, said he was returning Hungary's Order of Merit which
he received in 2011 for his work, including on the Hungarian
"I have followed the latest developments in Hungary with great
concern," Braham wrote in an open letter posted on several news
websites. "I was shocked, as were surely others, at the past few
years' campaign to whitewash history."
"They wish ... to excuse Hungary from the responsibility for the
active role it played in annihilating nearly 600,000 of its Jewish
In Hungary the Holocaust began years before it came under direct
German occupation in 1944. Under Horthy, there were anti-Jewish
pogroms, several reported instances of mass killings and the
deportation of thousands of Jews to labour camps.
Occupying German forces then received willing help from Hungarian
authorities in deporting 437,000 Jews within a few weeks in 1944.
"(The) national monument to the German occupation... is a cowardly
attempt to deflect attention from the role the Horthy regime played
in the annihilation of Jews," Braham wrote.
"It blurs the Holocaust with what they say is the suffering of
Hungarians during the German occupation ... which was met with
general applause rather than resistance, as proven by historical
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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