Hungary Vows Crackdown Against Anti-Semitism

Government in Sternest Warning Yet on Rising Hate

Take Responsibility: Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid addresses conference on anti-Semitism in Budapest.
GETTY IMAGES
Take Responsibility: Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid addresses conference on anti-Semitism in Budapest.

By Reuters

Published October 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Hungary will use all political and legal tools available to crack down on resurgent anti-Semitism in the country, the deputy prime minister said on Tuesday, in one of the government’s boldest statements yet on the issue.

“We cannot allow, especially knowing our own responsibility, anti-Semitism to gain strength in Hungary,” Tibor Navracsics told a conference on European anti-Semitism in the parliament building in Budapest.

“We will crack down with legal means if necessary and, while we can, we will make sure through political means that Hungary remains a republic of good men.”

Hungary still has one of the largest and oldest Jewish communities in Europe, mostly in the capital, despite the decimation of the population in World War Two, when about 500,000-600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed, according to the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Centre. Jewish culture has flourished in recent years.

But Hungary has also seen a surge in anti-Semitism. The far-right Jobbik party has several times vilified Jews and the state of Israel in speeches in parliament, where it holds 43 out of 386 seats.

Anti-Semitic incidents have also spread. In the most recent case, on Sept. 17, bars of soap were nailed to the fence of the main synagogue in Szeged, Hungary’s third-largest city, in a reference to the myth that the Nazis made soap out of the victims of the concentration camps.

The World Jewish Congress this year asked Hungary to do more to combat hatred. Prime Minister Viktor Orban strongly denounced anti-Semitism at that meeting and said in a newspaper interview Jobbik was a real danger to democracy.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said at Tuesday’s conference Hungarians shared responsibility for the deaths of Jews in the last months of World War Two, and today’s politicians must ensure such tragedies did not happen again.

He recounted the story of his father Tommy, who narrowly escaped being killed along with thousands of other Jews herded to the banks of the Danube and shot in public in the winter of 1945, as Russian troops approached the city. Tommy Lapid served as deputy prime minister of Israel under Ariel Sharon in 2003.

“A genocide of this scope could not have happened without the active help of tens of thousands of Hungarians and the silence of millions of other Hungarians,” said Lapid, who leads the second-largest political party of Israel’s government.

“There is a stain on the honour of this house. For years we have tried to ignore this stain, but history has taught us that ignoring is never the right course … Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in Hungary again. Hatred is not disappearing.”

Navracsics said the government had changed the law to allow class action lawsuits against certain cases of hate speech, and tightened rules in parliament after a Jobbik deputy last year called for a list of Jews among parliament members to be drawn up to assess their allegiance.

“We know Hungarians were responsible for the Holocaust,” Navracsics said. “Hungarians were perpetrators, and victims. Hungarians were shooting, and dying. It is a huge responsibility we must face in central Europe.

“We have learned from the past. We know what happened and we will not allow it to happen again. This democracy will defend itself against anyone who wants to incite hatred.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.