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September 06, 2019

Hungary Must Reverse Its Support of Memorial to Antisemitic Politician

Washington, D.C.—In response to leading Hungarian government officials unveiling a statue to a virulently antisemitic World War Two era political leader, Gyula Kornis, Human Rights First's ­­­­­­­Ira Forman issued the following statement.

The Hungarian government should promptly reverse its support for a memorial in the city of Vác to Gyula Kornis, a leading antisemitic politician from the interwar period. Kornis, who served for a time as speaker of parliament, helped lead the effort to exclude Jews from universities as well as other sectors of Hungarian life. In the 1920s he characterized Hungary's Jews as invaders from the east, and claimed they corrupted the Hungarian spirit. The government’s public support for such an outspoken antisemite is astoundingly insensitive, given that four thousand Hungarian Jewish Holocaust survivors still live in the country. This represents an affront to the memory of the 565,000 Hungarian Jews murdered during the Holocaust. It is incomprehensible at a moment when a rising tide of antisemitism is threatening Jewish communities throughout Europe.

Human Rights First notes that Kornis, unlike some Hungarian officials, did not support the deportation of over four hundred thousand Jews to Auschwitz in 1944. But in the years leading up to the war, along with other members of parliament, he characterized Jews in Hungary as "too numerous and too powerful," called for the "suppression" of Jewish influence on the economy, and suggested that Jews who were losing their livelihood because of discriminatory laws should be subject to supervised emigration from the country.

“Not only did the Hungarian government support a memorial dedicated to a racist, it sent such officials as Parliamentary Secretary of State Bence Rétvári and prominent Holocaust distorter Maria Schmidt to attend the unveiling ceremony," added Forman. “This is not the first time the Orban government has honored antisemites from Hungary's past, but hopefully it will be the last. Hungary must honor its true leaders from this period, those who in the face of the greatest evil the world has ever known, refused to vilify or defame Hungary's Jewish citizens. They are the true patriots Orban should be honoring, not bigots and racists like Kornis."

For more information or to speak with Forman, contact Christopher Plummer at [email protected].