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Hungarian Jewish leader resigns

(JTA) — Gusztav Zoltai, the director of Hungary’s federation of Jewish communities, or Mazsihisz, resigned in what community leaders said was a protest against the government over Holocaust commemorations.

But Szombat, the Hungarian Jewish newspaper, published an article on Wednesday alleging that Zoltai quit because of financial irregularities connected with Budapest’s main Jewish cemetery on Kozma Street and other affairs.

Zoltai, who is in his 70s, has served as Mazsihisz’s director since the early 1990s. Mazsihisz has accused the government of promoting plans that whitewash Hungarian Holocaust-era complicity.

Zoltai “and all Holocaust survivors are frustrated by what is happening in public life,” Mazsihisz President Andras Heisler said in an interview Wednesday for the ATV news station.

In the interview Heisler — a reform-minded leader who took the helm last year following a no-confidence vote that ended his predecessor’s term — denied the claims about Zoltai in the Szombat article. But a source who is familiar with internal processes within Mazsihisz told JTA on condition of anonymity that ascribing Zoltai’s resignation to the commemoration issues was designed to allow Zoltai a dignified way out.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is planning to commemorate the invasion of Germany into Hungary 70 years ago by unveiling a statue of an angel being attacked by an eagle – imagery that Mazsihisz and other critics said whitewashed the complicity of Hungary’s pro-Nazi government in the murder of approximately 586,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

The government ignored Mazsihisz protests on this and similar issues, prompting the group to pull out of government-led commemorations of the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation.

Earlier this week, government employees began constructing the contested monument, which is scheduled to be unveiled next month.

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