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Randolph L. Braham’s open letter

Cross-posted from Hungarian Spectrum

Anyone who has ever studied the history of the Hungarian Holocaust is familiar with the name of Randolph L. Braham, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the City College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of over 60 books and co-authored or wrote chapters in 50 others. Here are a few titles: The Destruction of Hungarian Jewry: A Documentary Account (1963); The Hungarian Labor Service System, 1939-1945 (1977); The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary (1981); and just last year, The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary. Some of his works were translated into Hungarian while others were first published in Hungarian and later appeared in English.

Randolph L. Braham is highly regarded in Hungary as the foremost interpreter of the Holocaust, and therefore he was honored by both the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest and the Hungarian Government. In 2011 it was the Orbán government that bestowed upon him the Medium Cross of the Republic of Hungary, which is the highest decoration that a Hungarian government can grant. The Library and Information Center at the Holocaust Memorial Center bears his name. At least until now.

* * *

January 26, 2014

Professor György Haraszti, Chairman of the Board
Dr. Szabolcs Szita, Director
Holokauszt Emlékközpont
Páva utca, 39
H-1049 Budapest

Dear György és Szabolcs:

I am writing to request that you remove my name from the Téka és Információs Központ at the Holocaust at the Holokauszt Emlékközpont. I reached this decision with a heavy heart, having followed the recent developments in Hungary with great concern. The history-cleansing campaign of the past few years calculated to whitewash the historical record of the Horthy era, including the changes in the constitution that “legalized” the sinister measures that were subsequently taken to absolve Hungary from the active role it had played in the destruction of close to 600,000 of its citizens of the Jewish faith, have left me, and I assume many others, stunned. The straw that broke the camel’s back in my decision was the government’s resolve to erect a national statue relating to the German occupation – a cowardly attempt to detract attention from the Horthy regime’s involvement in the destruction of the Jews and to homogenize the Holocaust with the “suffering” of the Hungarians – a German occupation, as the record clearly shows, that was not only unopposed but generally applauded.

I realize that for a variety of political and economic reasons the leaders responsible for the operation of the Holokauszt Emlékközpont would or could not speak out against the brazen drive to falsify history. I, on the other hand, a survivor whose parents and many family members were among the hundreds of thousands of murdered Jews, cannot remain silent, especially since it was my destiny to work on the preservation of the historical record of the Holocaust.

I hereby also return the Medium Cross of the Order of the Republic of Hungary, together with the scroll signed by President Pál Schmitt with the request that you forward them to the appropriate Hungarian authorities.

Randolph L. Braham
Graduate Center of the City University of New York

(Hat tip: Karl Pfeifer)