Hungary’s main Jewish umbrella votes to boycott state Holocaust commemorations


(JTA) – The main Jewish umbrella group in Hungary voted to boycott the state-sponsored Holocaust memorial program unless the government makes changes to redress distortions of history.

Representatives of Mazsihisz, the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, at a special assembly on Sunday voted 76-2 to “distance” the organization from the government’s program marking the 70th anniversary of the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz “under the present circumstances.”

Its resolution said the government plans “do not take into consideration the sensitiveness of those who went though the horror of the Holocaust.”

Mazsihisz, the resolution said, can take part in the Holocaust 2014 program and will use the grants it received from the government’s Civil Fund for memorial events “only if the Hungarian Government changes its attitude toward the memory and research of the Holocaust.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orban must take action on three specific issues, the resolution said: halt the erection of a memorial in downtown Budapest to the German occupation of Hungary; dismiss Sandor Szakaly as the director of a new government historical institute; and suspend the creation of a Holocaust memorial museum in a former Budapest train station.

The resolution said the monument’s “symbolic message promotes the shifting away of national responsibility” in the Holocaust. It also noted that Szakaly recently characterized as “a police action against aliens” the 1941 roundup and deportation of about 18,000 foreign-born Jews to Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine, where they were massacred.

As to the museum, Mazsihisz experts still do not know what the museum’s ”take on history” will be, the resolution said, and the head of the museum project, Maria Schmidt, “does not cooperate with Mazsihisz.”

Representatives of Jewish organizations raised their concerns Thursday at a meeting with Orban’s chief of staff, Janos Lazar, who heads the state’s Holocaust memorial year program. At the meeting, Lazar said Orban would address the concerns this week.

Orban already wrote to Jewish leaders last month defending the German occupation monument, saying it would commemorate all Nazi victims.

Meanwhile, several synagogues and other Jewish institutions have unilaterally announced that they will decline funding from the Holocaust memorial year Civil Fund.

“We are sad to have witnessed how in recent weeks the remembrance initiatives have become unworthy pawns in governmental political games as Hungary approaches its parliamentary elections,” a statement from the Bet Orim Reform congregation said Sunday announcing that it would not accept the Civil Fund grant. “Bet Orim does not wish to be part of this kind of political strategy.”

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