(JTA) – Hungarian Jewish leaders demanded the resignation of a key government appointee and threatened to boycott government-sponsored events marking the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary.
In an unusually strong statement posted Sunday on its website, the leadership of Mazsihisz, the official Hungarian Jewish umbrella organization, said it was “aghast and find incomprehensible” the “relativization of the Holocaust” by a new historical institute called Veritas established by the government in November.
Mazsihisz demanded the resignation of Veritas director Sandor Szakaly, who in a recent interview called the 1941 deportation of Jews to Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine, “a police action against aliens.”
In the summer of 1941, some 18,000 foreign-born Jews who had sought refuge in Hungary at the outbreak of World War II were rounded up and deported to German-held territory in what is now Ukraine. Most of them were among the more than 23,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis at Kamenets-Podolsk at the end of August 1941.
“After the failure of [Szakaly’s] past efforts at falsifying history, we expect him to resign from his position,” the statement said.
Hungary’s conservative government, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has designated 2014 as Holocaust Memorial Year, with a series of events and initiatives planned.
The Mazsihisz statement urged politicians not to use the Holocaust anniversary as a political tool in the run-up to elections this spring, and asked “all concerned” to refrain from “rewriting our past.”
The statement also said: “If the government of Hungary is serious about facing the true history of the Holocaust, it should immediately put an end to the disrespectful behavior that is ruinous for the credibility of the memorial year of 2014.”
The statement added that Mazsihisz is “seriously contemplating refraining from participation in the events of the Holocaust Year” because of Szakaly’s statements and several other issues.
They include “the lack of information about the ideology” of a new government-sponsored Holocaust memorial center and museum slated to open in April; the plans to erect a monument to the German occupation of Hungary; what it said was the “falsification of history” in a series of broadcasts on Hungarian Radio; and recent attempts to rehabilitate the memory of Hungary’s World War II leader Miklos Horthy.