BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) — An American Jewish organizational leader met with Hungarian political leaders to express concern about growing anti-Semitism in the country.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and Simon Samuels, head of the Paris office of the Wiesenthal Center, met in Budapest with Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister Zsolt Németh and Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics.
"My presence here in Budapest is to deliver a message of concern over the increasing anti-Semitism in Hungary,” Cooper told JTA. He said a number of issues triggered his visit, among them a lack of progress on bringing Hungarian Nazi war criminal László Csatáry, 98, to justice. Csatáry is currently under house arrest in Budapest.
Navracsics told Cooper on Wednesday that he will urge the public prosecutor to move swiftly to commence the Csatáry trial for complicity in the murder of 12,000-15,700 Jews in 1944 in the town Kassa.
"We are on the same side of the issue,” Navracsics said during a meeting in Budapest.
"We are deeply concerned, particularly because of Csatáry’s advanced age, that the trial begin without delay,” Cooper said in an interview. "This case is critical to Hungary’s collective memory, and it would be a betrayal of this sadist’s Jewish victims to allow the biological clock to decide his fate."
Efraim Zuroff, head of the Jerusalem Wiesenthal Office, found Csatáry living in Budapest after being stripped of his Canadian citizenship and deported from Canada 15 years ago.
"There is a unique situation in Hungary in terms of anti-Semitism," Cooper said. "Anti-Semitism here is due to the revisionism of collective memory in terms of World War II."
After a private meeting Tuesday with Peter Feldmajer, president of the Hungarian Jewish Community, Cooper said, "The main issue for us is the safety of the Jews and the respect for the Jewish community here.”
Cooper criticized the center-right Hungarian government, saying, "There is not enough of a tough line concerning the extremists."
During talks with Hungarian politicians, Cooper said he encouraged them to "draw a much tougher line between themselves and the extremists.”