Hungarian official: Jewish group’s ‘ultimatum’ harms coexistence

(JTA) — A Hungarian official said a planned Jewish community boycott of Holocaust commemorations could harm relations between Hungarian Jews and non-Jews.

The government’s commemoration plans “face failure because of the absence of Mazsihisz,” Janos Lazar, chief of staff of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said at a press conference Tuesday, referring to the country’s Jewish umbrella organization.

“They issued an ultimatum to the government, and this is causing more anxiety than a positive impact on the coexistence of Jews and Hungarians,” he said. He added these actions will ultimately not harm coexistence, the Hungarian MTI news agency reported.

It was the latest escalation in an unusually harsh war of words between the Jewish umbrella group and the government over a ceremony in memory of Holocaust victims, which critics say absolves Hungarians of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths.

The ceremony, marking 70 years since the near annihilation of Hungarian Jewry, was scheduled for March 19 but has been postponed over Mazsihisz’s opposition to the inauguration of a monument which the government has described as “dedicated to the memory of the German occupation.”

The planned monument depicts Hungary as an angel being attacked by a German eagle. The monument would be unveiled near another monument in memory of the victims of communist oppression. Critics object to the failure to name Hungarians as culprits in the deportation of the Jews. Mazsihisz also believes the location creates a false equivalence between the two periods, the group’s president, Andras Heisler, told JTA.

Government officials had until now refrained from leveling public accusations at Mazsihisz over the issue.

In an interview this week with InfoRadio, Heisler said Mazsihisz’ boycott of the commemorations as proposed by the government did not amount to an ultimatum. He added that Hungarian-Jewish coexistence was not in danger, because Mazsihisz’s argument is with the government, not with society.

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