Agnes Heller, a Holocaust survivor who bravely stood against the repressive Communist regime which ruled Hungary until 1989 and the subsequent illiberal regime which rules it now, has died at the age of 90.
Born in Budapest in 1929 to a Jewish family, Heller studied under one of Hungary’s most prominent 20th-century thinkers, the Marxist philosopher Georg Lukas (1885-1971).
She was a key member of the “Budapest School” that emerged following the bloody crushing of a 1956 uprising against Soviet rule.
Labelled a dissident and hounded by the communist regime during the 1970s, Heller — who survived the Holocaust, and whose father died at Auschwitz — left Hungary and taught first in Australia and later at the New School in the United States.
She returned in the 2000s, where she became an intellectual figure of the opposition to Viktor Orban, whose government launched several smear campaigns against her.
In May Orban visited Donald Trump at the White House, where the American president spoke warmly of his guest.
Orbán is “probably like me,” Trump said… in a joint appearance at the White House with the visiting Hungarian prime minister. “A little bit controversial, but that’s OK … you’ve done a good job, and you’ve kept your country safe,” he said, while declaring that Orbán — one of the EU’s most controversial leaders — “has done a tremendous job” and is “respected all over Europe.”
In 2011 our contributor Karl Pfeifer interviewed Heller about growing antisemitism in Hungary.
In 2013 an antisemitic sticker appeared on her office door at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.