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May 24, 2013 11:28 am

Hungarian Government Develops Program to Counter Country’s Rising Anti-Semitism

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Hungarian guard members at a Jobbik party demostration in Budapest, August 2007. Photo: AFP

The Hungarian government has prepared a comprehensive program which it hopes can begin to reverse the trend of rising anti-Semitism in the country, exhibited most dramatically by the extreme right Jobbik party [which has 17 percent of the vote in Parliament] and whose members have called for a “list of Jews” to be drawn up.

Israel Hayom received an exclusive copy of the program, “Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Year 2014,” which was prepared by a team in the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office. The program was the brainchild of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is personally overseeing its implementation from his office.

In early May, Orban told the Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress that his government was determined to stamp out the rising anti-Semitism in his country.

According to Israel Hayom, “The program focuses on educating Hungarians about the Jewish communities that were lost during the Holocaust, through a yearlong series of events and visits across the county. Another central plank of the program, and one with longer-term implications, is to inculcate Holocaust education into every school in the country, making it mandatory for school children to visit a Holocaust memorial at least once during their school years. Furthermore, the government plans to open a Holocaust studies program for prospective public servants studying at the National University of Public Service.

“The central message of the program is that the ‘Holocaust was a national tragedy and not purely a tragedy of the Jewish people,’ in the hopes of enabling the Holocaust Memorial Year to achieve the widest possible impact within Hungarian society.”

Four hundred thousand Hungarian Jewish men, women and children were deported to death camps during the Holocaust. One-third of the 1.1 million Jews murdered at Auschwitz were Hungarian.

Some of the other events in the program highlighted by Israel Hayom include:

  • An International Holocaust Conference in Budapest.
  • Inauguration of the Child Victims of the Holocaust Memorial – European Education Center.
  • Reading of the names of the victims in every Hungarian settlement involved.
  • Visit to Hungary by the chief rabbi of the State of Israel and the director of the Yad Vashem Institute.
  • The World Summit of Hungarian-born Holocaust survivors and Righteous Among the Nations award winners from Hungary or with ties to Hungary, in Budapest.
  • A professional conference on teaching the Holocaust.
  • Joining the group of nations that support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.
  • The organization of high-level diplomatic visits between Israel and Hungary.
  • The creation of a travelling exhibition that presents Jewish life before and after World War II through the history of Hungarian towns and villages.
  • The establishment of a Hungarian Holocaust Digital Memorial Library.
  • A synagogue and cemeteries renovation and restoration program, some of which will be carried out by school children so that they can learn about the Jewish history of the area.
  • A “tripping stone” initiative (a cobble stone coated with a yellow metal plate including the name of a Holocaust victim, set into the pavement at his/her last place of abode).

In an interview, with Israel Hayom, Zsigmond Perenyi, chief adviser in the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, said his government’s policy is that “there is zero tolerance for xenophobia and anti-Semitism.”

“We are not in a coalition with Jobbik. We will never be in a coalition with Jobbik,” Perenyi said.

The aim of the memorial year, Perenyi said, was to “show what was lost” in Hungary before World War II, and how much all of Hungary lost because of the Holocaust. “We should have done this much earlier,” Perenyi said.

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