Elie Wiesel announced today his decision to renounce a Hungarian state award he received in 2004. Hungary has been “whitewashing” its fascist history during World War II, Wiesel said, including attempting to rebury the ashes of a writer, Jozsef Nyiro, a member of the notorious pro-Nazi Arrow Cross, in his native Transylvania.
As Wiesel put it, “I found it outrageous that the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly could participate in a ceremony honoring a Hungarian fascist ideologue.”
From what we can tell, an op-ed in the Forward by James Kirchick earlier this month was the only real exposure the botched reburial received in this country. And it appears that Wiesel wrote his letter a day after our story posted. So we hereby take credit for the shaming of the Hungarians!
Kirchick wrote about the attempt by the Hungarian government to bring Nyiro’s ashes to his ancestral village, which is now in Romania, and the refusal by the Romanians to let the ceremony take place.
Wiesel got the message that the Hungarian government now has an extreme revisionist agenda with regards to its collaborationist history: “It has become increasingly clear that Hungarian authorities are encouraging the whitewashing of tragic and criminal episodes in Hungary’s past, namely the wartime Hungarian governments’ involvement in the deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens.”
Gal Beckerman was a staff writer and then the Forward’s opinion editor until 2014. He was previously an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review where he wrote essays and media criticism. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review and Bookforum. His first book, “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award and the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, as well as being named a best book of the year by The New Yorker and The Washington Post. Follow Gal on Twitter at @galbeckerman