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Hungarian ambassador to Canada resigns in wake of flap with Nazi

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TORONTO, Oct. 28 (JTA) — Hungary’s ambassador to Canada has resigned after a birthday letter he sent to a Nazi collaborator was published in a Hungarian-language newspaper in Canada. Karoly Gedai submitted his resignation after his letter to Imre Finta, an 85-year-old former Hungarian police captain who ordered the deportation of thousands of Jews to death camps, was published in the Toronto newspaper Kanadai Magyarsag at Finta’s behest. Gedai told a Hungarian radio station that he resigned because “he did not want this incident to reflect on Hungary or on its foreign policy.” Hungary was offered membership in NATO in July. Gedai also said in the interview that he was unaware of Finta’s past. Gustav Zoltai, the executive director of the Hungarian Jewish community, said he was shocked and amazed by Gedai’s claim. Laszlo Varkonyi, a senior officer in the Hungarian foreign ministry, agreed. “It is difficult to believe that the ambassador did not know about Finta’s past,” he said. Finta was convicted by a Hungarian court in 1948 of forcibly confining more than 8,500 Jewish residents from the town of Szeged in 1944. The detainees were later deported to Auschwitz and other camps, where most perished. Finta fled to Canada in 1951. A Canadian court acquitted him of war crimes in 1990, and the Canadian Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 1994. The decision has been highly criticized by Canadian Jewish officials. “This was not a case of mistaken identity, and Finta did not say, `I didn’t do it,’ ” said Bernie Farber, an official with the Canadian Jewish Congress. “This is a man who should not be glorified,” Farber added. “To have done so was unacceptable not just to Jews, but also those veterans who fought during World War II.” It was unclear whether Gedai would be offered another post within Hungary’s Foreign Ministry. (JTA correspondent Agnes Bohm in Budapest contributed to this report.)

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