Jobbik Leader Remains a Holocaust Denier, Says Jewish Journalist and Holocaust Survivor
A prominent Jewish journalist and Holocaust survivor has disputed an assurance by the leader of one of Europe’s most dangerous far right parties that he is no longer a Holocaust denier.
Gabor Vona, the leader of the Jobbik Party which secured over 20 percent of the vote in Hungary’s April 2014 elections, establishing them as the third-largest party in the Hungarian parliament, answered “I do” when asked by a Hungarian media outlet whether he thought the Holocaust had taken place.
But Karl Pfeifer, an expert on Hungarian politics who survived the Holocaust in Hungary as a young boy, pointed out in an email to The Algemeiner that Vona “says he’s not anti-Semitic or a Holocaust denier, but then ranks the Holocaust at ‘number 20’ in terms of its historical significance.”
Pfeifer was referring to Vona’s statement, which appeared in the Hungarian version of the interview, that “for me, the question of the Holocaust is of the 20th rank.”
Holocaust denial was made illegal in Hungary in February 2010, when a bill passed through parliament to prevent “denying, questioning or making light of the Holocaust.” However, in June that year, the ruling right-wing nationalist Fidesz Party extended the law to cover “the genocides committed by national socialist or communist systems” and omitted specific reference to the Holocaust. The leader of Fidesz, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has been accused several times of pandering to the Jobbik agenda.
Vona’s latest comments on the Holocaust indicate, as Pfeifer insinuated, that he wants to undermine the historical truth of the Holocaust while avoiding the “denier” label. Asked for his views on the number of victims of the Holocaust, Vona said, “I haven’t studied this side of the historical question. However, I am sure both as a historian and as a teacher of history that the Holocaust happened and very many Jewish people fell victim to it.”
Vona attempted to deflect his reluctance to say publicly that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust by adding that he condemned the slaughter as he condemned “all human sacrifices. However, let me note that it is a mistake to turn the Holocaust into a political rather than a historical matter – on the side of both political activity denying its existence and political bludgeoning with it.”
Asked about endemic Hungarian racism towards Roma gypsies, many of whom have been violently assaulted by thugs associated with Jobbik’s paramilitary “Hungarian Guard,” Vona adopted the same slippery tone he used when discussing the Holocaust.
“I say these are false generalizations,” he responded, when asked “how do you react when you hear ‘all Gypsies steal and all Jews cheat‘?” However, he added, “public life needs to give a responsible and forward-looking answer to the question of why a large proportion of the prison population is of a Roma background.”
While Vona wants to sound more reasonable when confronted with the evidence of Jobbik’s racism and anti-Semitism, Pfeifer emphasized that his past record shows him to be contemptuous of Jewish suffering. “He is on video making fun of the Holocaust,” Pfeifer said, referring to the following clip from 2010, in which Vona joked about the Holocaust before an appreciative, laughing crowd of Jobbik supporters: