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Hungary to build Holocaust center

BUDAPEST, March 21 (JTA) — The government has approved the establishment of a public foundation for a Holocaust center to commemorate the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who died during World War II. The center will include a museum housed in a former synagogue that belongs to the local Jewish community. The state will pay $530,000 to renovate the building, which currently is in very poor condition. The French government also has offered $500,000 to build a Holocaust Documentation Center in the compound. The Holocaust Center´s board will include representatives of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, the French and Hungarian governments and the Hungarian Jewish community. The renovations are due to be finished by the end of 2002, and the museum and documentation center could be ready in 2003. "The establishment of the Holocaust Center was long delayed. So far, no public memorial or public institution was built in Hungary in memory of Holocaust victims, not even by the three previous post-Communist governments," Tibor Vamos, chairman of the Holocaust Center´s board, told JTA. The Holocaust Center will follow the House of Terror, which opened recently in Budapest to commemorate victims of the Nazis and the Communist dictatorships. "Our goal is to show Hungarian history and to demonstrate realistically the Holocaust era," Vamos said. The House of Terror building belonged to the family of a famous Jewish painter before becoming the headquarters of Hungary´s pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party, which ruled from October 1944 to March 1945. From 1945 until the end of the 1960s, the building served as headquarters for the Communist security police. Members of the Jewish community and some Jewish historians have criticized the House of Terror, saying it devotes a disproportionate amount of space to the Communist era and stresses the brevity of the Arrow Cross regime. Others criticize the House of Terror for not addressing the "Horthy era" — when the first anti-Jewish laws in Europe were instituted under Admiral Miklos Horthy — which preceded the Nazi invasion of Hungary and the Arrow Cross regime. Under the Horthy regime, and during the German occupation from March to October 1944, Jews from the Hungarian countryside were deported to the gas chambers.