Guest post by Karl Pfeifer
According to the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on January 19th that the Hungarians had “payed the greatest sacrifice for democracy in blood and population during and after the Second World War.” (Die Ungarn hätten im Zweiten Weltkrieg und auch danach das “meiste Blut und die meisten Menschen” für die Demokratie geopfert.)
Who sacrificed whom? The mass deportations of 450,000 provincial Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which took place in only seven weeks from May 15th 1944 to July 6th 1944 after the German occupation, was implemented by the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior and the Hungarian Gendarmerie, who brutalized the ghetto inhabitants cruelly before herding them into cattle cars. The same Gendarmerie is now honoured with a commemorative plaque in the Military History Museum of Budapest.
One of Orbán’s close friends is the journalist Zsolt Bayer, who sports Fidesz party membership book number five. He insulted the British journalist Nick Cohen, the Green politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the world famous pianist András Schiff as “stinking excrement”– they had dared to point out deficits in democracy in the Hungarian government.
It was not Bayer’s first paroxysm. Last summer he attacked Magdalena Marsovszky, an associate of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, as a “dung beetle” because she had stated in an interview in the leftwing Budapest daily Népszava that “national rituals give her a rash.” Bayer concluded that the Academy is “degenerate” and subverted by Jews. Thus he provided more evidence for the non-Jewish Marsovszky, whose main field of research is antisemitism in Hungary.
The Fidesz-administered city of Esztergom has paid 25 million HUF (81,300 GBP) for Bayer’s legal expenses, relating to lawsuits against him for his defamatory statements, and will do so in the future. And on Friday January 21st the Fidesz-led county council of Nógrád will give Bayer the Madách prize.
Orbán is invoking the myth of the Hungarian nation as eternal victim. He and his Fidesz party are whipping up a hysterical nationalism and reward Zsolt Bayer, one of its most vitriolic and antisemitic perpetrators, with a prize named after one of Hungary’s greatest dramatists.