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Budapest Residents Honor Ghetto, Lash out at Today’s Anti-semitism

January 22, 2002
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A commemoration of the liberation of the Budapest Ghetto turned into a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Hungary.

The Jan. 17 ceremony in front of the Hungarian Parliament building hit some notes similar to ones heard at Holocaust ceremonies around the world.

Hungarian President Ferenc Madl’s message was read to the audience at the 57th anniversary of the ghetto’s liberation: “The Holocaust was the shame of world history, and this tragedy cannot ever be forgotten.”

Rabbi Peter Kardos, representing the leadership of Hungary’s Jewish community, ended the event with the Kaddish.

But many of the approximately 10,000 Jews and non-Jews gathered in the freezing weather appeared more interested in countering a present-day scourge — the rise in anti-Semitism in Hungary.

Some carried posters reading, “Do not let the walls of the ghetto be rebuilt” and “We want to live freely as human beings, as Hungarians, as Jews.”

Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky added his voice to the protest.

“It would be the biggest scandal in the 12 years of a free and democratic Hungary if the anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic ultra-right can again get near the newly elected government,” Demszky said, in a reference to the far- right Hungarian Justice and Life Party, known as MIEP.

Some observers believe the ruling conservative party, the Young Democrats, will count on the unofficial support of MIEP to form a ruling coalition after the country’s next round of elections, scheduled for April.

Demszky, who called on Budapest residents to fight racism and anti-Semitism, was applauded several times during his speech.

For a time, some 100,000 Hungarian Jews were crammed into Budapest’s ghetto, one of the last ghettos in Europe when it was opened at the end of 1944.

The lives of most ghetto residents were spared when the Soviet army took over Budapest in January 1945.

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