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“Blood and Soil” Hungarian style

Guest post by Karl Pfeifer

Monica Porter concluded an article in The Jewish Chronicle on September 30, 2012: “So let’s look at the broader picture. Hungary is not such a bad place to be a Jew.”

Let’s to look at Hungary as it is and not as the Hungarian regime is pretending.

On October 5 when András Kerényi, the president of the south Pest district of the Budapest Jewish Community, left a synagogue, he was attacked by two young men, who kicked him in the stomach and shouted “rotten, stinking Jews, you’ll perish”. The police were called and the two perpetrators were arrested.

Whitewashers of the Hungarian regime will react by comparing this to the recent killing of Jews in France. By comparing, everything can be played down. However let’s look at the broader picture.

One week ago, on September 29, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán unveiled an enormous statue in Ópusztaszer to celebrate his own regime.

Setting a statue celebrating the Orbán “revolution” in Ópusztaszer is a highly symbolic gesture for Orbán and his regime. It is supposed to signify the second establishment of the Hungarian state. The whole thing is bizarre even without Viktor Orbán’s speech on the occasion. Celebrating at a place that most likely had no real historical significance and commemorating a “revolution in the voting booths” that didn’t happen is bad enough, but when the prime minister compares himself to the Archangel Michael and Jesus Christ one really doesn’t know what to say.

But that’s not all. The prime minister talked about the Hungarian nation as an ethnically pure group that is held together by kinship and blood rather than by association through language and culture. He kept talking about “őskép,” which in English is “archetype.” It seems that the Hungarian archetype is the large falcon or “turul” that according to legend is associated with the birth of the Hungarian ruling family, the House of Árpád.”

According to Orbán:

The Turul is an archetype for Hungary. We are born into it the way we are born into our language and history. It’s an archetype incorporated in our blood and our native soil. When we are born as Hungarians our seven tribes bond by blood, our king Saint Stephen founds a state, our troops loose the battle of Mohács, while the Turul-bird acts as living symbol for all Hungarians alive, dead, and yet to born.

Éva Balogh commented: “I didn’t realize that babies are born with language skills or with Hungarian history in their blood. And I really don’t know what it could possibly mean to be born into a bird of prey.“

Turul was a rightwing antisemitic students’ organisation during the Horthy regime.

Orbán, like some Fidesz-KDNP politicians before him, discovered the old “blood and soil” (Blut und Boden) ideology.

The Nazis took over the “völkisch” romantic ideology of “blood and soil.” Theodor Adorno wrote in his important essay, “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda”:

In national-socialist Germany, everybody used to make fun of certain propagandistic phrases such as “blood and soil,” (Blut und Boden), jokingly called Blubo, or the concept of the nordic race from which the parodistic verb aufnorden, (to northernize) was derived. Nevertheless, these appeals do not seem to have lost their attractiveness. Rather, their very phonyness may have been relished cynically and sadistically as an index for the fact that power alone decided one’s fate in the Third Reich, that is, power unhampered by rational objectivity.

On the surface everything is in order: there is a parliament, there are elections and political parties. But as Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik said in their passionate appeal to the leaders of the European Union:

This time the destruction of democracy’s guarantees is unfolding right before the eyes of the European Union, the very alliance founded to ensure that respect for our common values remain indivisible….Today, the goal of a Europe united in liberty is in grave danger. What the European Union meant to prevent and what many thought to be impossible, has now materialized: a full-fledged illiberal democracy inside its own borders – in Hungary, an EU member state since 2004. In just 20 years after communism collapsed, Hungary’s government, though elected democratically, is misusing its legislative majority to methodically dismantle democracy’s checks and balances, to remove constitutional constraints, and to subordinate to the will of the ruling party all branches of power, independent institutions and the media…

James Kirchick asked about the Hungarian Nazi writer József Nyirö: “Why Does Hungary Want to Honor Arrow Cross Leader?”

On May 27, 2012, the remains of Hungarian writer and politician Jozsef Nyiro were supposed to be reburied in the Romanian town of Odorheiu Secuiesc…

…In a 1942 speech, Nyirö referred to Jews as “well-poisoners” who “destroy the Hungarian soul, who infect our spirit,” and declared that “This concept of the rundown liberal Jewish tradition, this veiled propaganda, must disappear from Hungarian life.” That year, his party proposed a ban on Jews using railway sleeping cars. In October, 1944, after learning that Hungary’s then-Regent Miklos Horthy was secretly negotiating with the Allies, the Nazis backed a coup by the Arrow Cross to seize control of Hungary and keep it on the side of the Axis. Once installed in power, Arrow Cross members immediately went about massacring over 10,000 Jews in Budapest. Throughout this period, Nyiro, editor of a creepily named, right wing publication “Hungarian Might,” remained in the puppet parliament. Following Germany’s surrender, and wanted for war crimes charges by Romania and Hungary, he fled to West Germany and died in Franco’s Spain, one of several Hungarian Arrow Cross supporters to find exile in the Hispanosphere alongside their German Nazi brethren.

The Hungarian government declared that it considered the reburial of Nyiro – whose works it had just added to the national school curriculums — a “cultural event.”

Hungary saw fit to expend state resources venerating a fascist who has been dead for six decades is but the latest sign of the disturbing turn the country has taken under Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz Party.

Fidesz… is mimicking [the far right's] rhetoric and venerating their heroes, as it is doing not only now with Nyiro but, more importantly, with a rehabilitation of Horthy.

Ben Cohen wrote:

Hungary is rapidly becoming one of the most xenophobic countries in Europe. Roma (Gypsies) face regular attack and those who expose these crimes find themselves on the receiving end of nationalist opprobrium.

There is an atmosphere of fear and many Hungarian Jews feel excluded. Fidesz tries to blame the racist and antisemitic Jobbik party. However the real danger is the blood and soil ideology propagated now openly by Viktor Orbán.