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December 7, 2015 7:28 am

Visiting Hungary and ‘The Grand Hotel Budapest’

avatar by Michael Widlanski

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The Hungarian parliament building in Budapest. Photo: Wikipedia

The Hungarian parliament building in Budapest. Photo: Wikipedia

My family and I were recently looking for someplace to visit. When Hungary’s leader said he would not discriminate against Israel or its products, we put aside the jokes my dad used to relate about Hungarians, and we bought cheap tickets for a four-day R&R at “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

We were not seeking to walk in the steps of the movie stars, because we’ve rubbed elbows with enough celebrities to know that real life usually beats what’s on screen. In Europe, real life — and very real death — have been grand and tragic.

As a proud Jew, I don’t want to visit a country club or a country that doesn’t want to welcome me as a member, a tourist, or a visiting professor.

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As Paris and London have become more uncomfortable for Jews, our family has stayed away from them. As people masquerading as Europe’s leaders hold parades to fight Arab-Islamic terror, Arab-Islamic terror grows. Many “leaders” prefer to hug each other in public as a sign of combating allegedly man-made global warming rather than fighting a real and proven terror danger.

Hungary does not want to be part of the group hug. It wants to make cars (for Skoda, Vokswagen, etc.), and it wants to welcome tourists, not “refugees” who want to transfer their war against “infidels” to a place where they get free meals and medical treatment.

Hungary does not want to play host to the latest round of the Sunni-Shiite murder competition. Hungary also does not want to pick sides between the Ba’athist Arab socialists (Assad or Saddam) and the Salafists (Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc.), nor the misogynist Muslim murderers of Boko Haram, the Janjaweed in Sudan, the various sects in Yemen, etc.

Hungary’s citizens want to enjoy their hard-won freedom from the occupations by Nazism (1939-1945) and Communism (1945-1993), and they do not want to be occupied by Islamism, even as Barack Obama is more worried about Islamophobia than stopping Islamic terrorism.

Hungary has its eyes wide open.

Yes, there has been Jew-hatred in Hungary, and there are many monuments to it, including   the remnants of the wall of the tiny Nazi-built ghetto where one-quarter of Budapest’s population stayed (yes – one quarter of Budapest’s population was Jewish).

Seventy thousand people were stuffed into 4,500 rooms. That’s 14 people per room, including bathrooms. Many died of hunger and disease or in death camps. There is another monument featuring metal-cast shoes on the edge of the Danube, where hundreds of Jews were thrown into the water to drown.

Today, the Danube hosts great scenic boat tours, featuring audio translations in Hebrew, while the beautiful river-side markets cater to Israeli and Jewish visitors.

Today the Jewish quarter is the heart of Pest (pronounced Pesht), Budapest’s trendy downtown, and there are several working synagogues and good kosher restaurants.

Hungarians also know a lot about music, and we saw a great rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet at the beautiful Opera House, only a short walk from the Corinthia Hotel, where they prepare their own specially wrapped chocolates bearing the hotel’s grand trademark insignia.

The buses, metro, and surface trolleys are spotless, and the Hungarians are justifiably proud of their medicinal spas and Sulphur baths. There is actually a law requiring a spa in each neighborhood.

We did not have time for the much-ballyhooed sauna and spa treatments, but we are planning on it the next time we skip Paris, London, and San Bernardino.

Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Threshold/ Simon and Schuster. He teaches at Bar-Ilan University , was strategic affairs advisor in Israel ’s Ministry of Public Security, and was the Schusterman visiting professor at University of California, Irvine for 2013-14.

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  • Stan Nadel

    The ignorance displayed here is enormous. Jobbik is the 2nd largest party in Hungary and is virulently Antisemitic. And every so often leading members of Orban’s ruling party get caught out expressing ope Jew hatred. And it was just this week that we read about the Hungarians putting up a statue honoring the man who promoted Antisemitism in pre-WWII Hungary and who helped organize the deportation of half of Hungary’s Jews to Auschwitz. To claim that Budapest is better than Paris on this is absurd.

    • Tom L. Antos

      Well… I would prefer to live next to the statue of a long-dead politician (and excellent historian) than being surrounded by scores of knife-brandishing fanatics yelling Allahu Akbar.

  • Adele Winston

    As a Jewish Anglo-American living in London, I have only once in my long life experienced any anti-Semitism, and that was from a Russian. I find the remarks about London bewildering.

  • Excellent article. I’m going to look into going to the Grand Budapest Hotel for my next vacation. Every nation has its choices today to learn from mistakes and stand on the right side of history. May Hungary continue to make the right choice. Hag Sameach!

  • If I’m not mistaken there is a lot of antisemitism in Hungary, so we as Jews should be careful with whom we associate.

  • Gabriel Eichler

    Dr. Michael Widlanski,

    Hungary today serves the same purpose as Theresienstadt did.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresienstadt_concentration_camp

    Too bad you can’t read Hungarian!

    You might like to visit the Website: https://kuruc.info/

    With all due respect Sir, three days of touring does not make you an expert or authority on this subject.

    If you visited the monument of the abandoned shoes by the Danube, you may have noticed the three plaques embedded in the cobblestone: in English (for your entertaining pleasure), in Hungarian (for local consumption)- and one- even in Hebrew. The plaques shed crocodile tears for the “Victims of the Nazis”. The word “Jewish” does not even appear in the Hebrew version!!!

    You have gotten the tour of Viktor Orban’s version of the mode camp “Theresienstadt”.

    Anti-Semitism is in the mother’s milk there and all the window dressing and Yiddish concerts, Kosher cafes add up to nothing more than did the Orchestra of Auschwitz!!!

    No, not all Hungarians hate us. But most of them do.

    So before you get all misty-eyed about the Hungarian Jewish Paradise, I urge you to look at the facts!

    Try Tel-Aviv next!

  • Dr.Peter Syrtash

    You are mistaken in writing ” occupation by Nazism (1939-1945) ”

    In fact Hungary was a Nazi ally until 1944. In 1942/43 the Hungarians suffered at Stalingrad. After that they made overtures
    to the British for a separate peace. Hitler found out and sent in several SS divisions to occupy Hungary.(1944) At this point they started rounding up Jews with Hungarian help.

  • Frank Horvath

    Thanks for writing this review. It’s refreshing to read a positive article about Hungary when it received so much criticism in recent months. Unfortunately, there still are people in that country that have extremist views about Jewish people. But when I hear nonsense from them, I remind them that some of scientists, musicians, authors, and actors they’re most proud of are Jewish. As for the recent migrant crisis, I was in Hungary when it happened and saw some of events in person. I can say that the media did a wonderful job of distorting the truth. Now I have trouble believing anything I read in the news.

    • Daniel

      I’m with you. The American media is completely biased. They just beat the leftist drum and provide cover for the radical muslimsl and their hatred. I also find it difficult to believe in anything that our mass media is saying.

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