(JTA) — A Hungarian official has retracted an op-ed in which he called George Soros “the liberal Fuhrer” who uses Europe as “his gas chamber” and identified Poland and Hungary as “the new Jews.”
After the op-ed was published Saturday on Origo, a Hungarian news site owned by allies of Prime Minister Victor Orban, Jewish groups from across the globe condemned Szilard Demeter, one of Hungary’s 32 “ministerial commissioners” and the director of a literary museum.
Rabbi Shlomo Koves of the EMIH umbrella group of Jewish communities in Hungary called the comparison “inappropriate” and “inexcusable,” and the American Jewish Committee Central Europe office tweeted, “Horrendous!” Israel’s embassy to Hungary also condemned the op-ed, writing on Twitter: “We utterly reject the use and abuse of the memory of the Holocaust for any purpose.”
On Sunday, Demeter retracted the piece about Soros, a Holocaust survivor and billionaire who was born in Hungary and promotes liberal causes in the United States, Hungary and beyond. But Demeter said he was doing so “independently of what I think.”
“I will grant that those criticizing me are correct in saying that to call someone a Nazi is to relativize, and that making parallels with Nazis can inadvertently cause harm to the memory of the victims,” Demeter said in a statement.
In the op-ed, Demeter wrote: “Europe is George Soros’ gas chamber,” in which “poison gas flows from the capsule of a multicultural open society, which is deadly to the European way of life.” He also called Poland and Hungary, which face European Union consequences over their anti-democratic policies, “the new Jews.”
Soros has criticized Orban over those practices, and over Orban’s opposition to the arrival of millions of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa. “Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle,” Soros has said in presenting his roadmap for helping to settle the new arrivals.
In recent weeks, Orban has stepped up his criticism of Soros, who has become a bogeyman for right-wing politicians the world over. In the United States, criticism of him frequently veers into anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Demeter, 44, was appointed last year as a ministerial commissioner for culture tasked with overseeing the relocation of Hungary’s national library. He also runs the Petőfi Literary Museum, a national institution with government funding. Members of Hungary’s opposition party are calling for his resignation.