BUDAPEST (Oct. 18)
A Hungarian politician known for his anti-Semitic diatribes made a surprise appearance last week at a ceremony commemorating victims of the Nazis.
During his appearance, Istvan Csurka went out of his way to shake the hands of Jewish leaders in attendance and to lay a wreath to the victims.
Istvan Zoltai, the leader of the Hungarian Jewish community, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency the handshakes were like that between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Zoltai said he was very surprised that Csurka showed up.
Csurka has used a radio program and a ruling party newspaper to repeatedly blame Jews for Hungary’s problems.
Csurka was among several Hungarian political figures attending the Oct. 14 ceremony, which was held at Hungary’s only monument to Jewish victims of the Nazi-appointed Prime Minister Ferenc Szalasi, who came to power Oct. 15, 1944.
Szalasi, leader of the fascist group Arrow Cross, was responsible for the murders of thousands of Jews, many of whom were thrown into the Danube River.
The monument is situated on the river bank.
Zoltai, the Jewish leader, expressed hope that Csurka’s presence at the commemoration represented a change of mind and that his attitude toward the Jewish community would improve in the future.
But Rabbi Tamas Raj, who is a member of the Hungarian Parliament, told JTA he feared that Csurka, who is up for election next year, attended the event for purely political reasons.
No price is too steep for Csurka to get reelected, said Raj.
Csurka was formerly the second-highestranking politician of the ruling Democratic Forum.
Last December, after Hungarian Jews, the World Jewish Congress and American lawmakers registered repeated concern over Csurka’s blatant anti-Semitism and called for his political ouster, Prime Minister Jozsef Antall demoted Csurka from his position as vice president of the ruling Democratic Forum.
In June, Antall expelled Csurka and four of his followers from the party’s parliamentary faction. In July, Csurka formed his own party.