BUDAPEST (JTA) – Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics said the country’s leaders recognize Hungarian involvement in the Holocaust and vowed the state will combat anti-Semitism and racism.
“We know that we were responsible for the Holocaust in Hungary. We know that Hungarian state interests were responsible,” he said Tuesday at the opening session of “Jewish Life and Anti-Semitism,” a two-day international conference in Budapest sponsored by the Tom Lantos Institute.
More than 550 people from more than 50 countries attended the meeting in Hungary’s parliament building. The conference focused mainly on the political aspects of Jewish life, anti-Semitism and the fight against anti-Semitism.
Participants gave a standing ovation to Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Kyriakos Gerontopoulos when he described his government’s crackdown on the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party. Navracsics was standing in for Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who conference organizers said could not attend because he was recovering from a recent injury.
Several speakers, including Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth, noted the significance of a conference taking place in the very hall where Hungarian legislators passed anti-Semitic laws decades ago. In his address, Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Ilan Mor thanked Nemeth for voicing strong support for Israel.
Speakers stressed the need for education to help combat Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. To this end, the Hungarian government has declared 2014 as Holocaust Remembrance Year, with an array of initiatives marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of at least 450,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in 1944.
Mor and Hungarian Jewish leader Andras Heisler stressed the importance of a new national high school curriculum that will teach about Jewish history and the Holocaust. The curriculum is being developed in consultation with the Jewish community, the Israeli embassy and Jewish educators.