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Hungarian Holocaust relatives threaten protests

BUDAPEST, July 17 (JTA) — The president of the Hungarian Jewish community is threatening to hold demonstrations if compensation payments to the relatives of Hungary’s Holocaust victims are further delayed.

Peter Tordai, head of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, said the group is appealing to Prime Minister Viktor Orban regarding the issue of compensation, which isn’t even on the Cabinet’s agenda.

“According to the Jewish organizations, the government should at least set up a timetable as soon as possible for the compensation of the relatives of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust,” Tordai said.

Last December, Hungary’s Constitutional Court canceled a discriminatory compensation law from 1999 that granted about $140 to Jews whose relatives were killed in the Holocaust, a fraction of the amount granted victims of communist terror. Relatives of those executed by the Communists — though far fewer in number — have received $3,300 each.

In protest against the paltry sum, many angry recipients have returned the money, some directly to the prime minister.

In 1992, the Hungarian Parliament passed a law giving thousands of dollars in compensation to heirs of communist victims. After opposition from Jewish groups, the law was modified in 1997, adding relatives of those who died between 1938 and 1945 to the list of those entitled to compensation. In 1999, however, Parliament voted to slash the payments to Holocaust victims’ relatives to about $140.

Earlier this week, Laszlo Keller, Eastern European president of the World Jewish Congress, met with Hungarian President Ferenc Madl and urged him to speed up the compensation process.

However, a government spokesman said the matter of Jewish compensation probably would not reach a legislative settlement until after next year’s general elections in Hungary.

There are about 100,000 Jews living in Hungary — and an estimated 25,000 Hungarian-born Jews living elsewhere who would likely be eligible for compensation.

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