“Proud Hungarians must prepare for war against the Jews.” This article, from the Israeli daily Haaretz, quoted a newsletter published by an organization calling itself "The trade union of Hungarian police officers prepared for action.” The union - by its own definition - aims to protect the professional interests of those unionized, and not to partake in political activity. However, the law does not prevent the union from distributing a newsletter, the content of which is at the discretion of its editor, and its editor alone. Clearly, the editor did not feel inhibited about sharing the anti-Semitic content of the newsletter
Anti-Semitism, which had been for so long been frozen by the Communist regime but not eradicated from society, is coming back like a virus kept in hibernation.
Although it might seem paradoxical and absurd that such words are uttered in the heart of Europe, in country that belongs to the EU, at the beginning of the 21st century, calls to racism and hatred are quite commonplace in Hungary nowadays.
In Hungary, marked by the sufferings of history, democracy is breaking down. The year 2009 marked the twentieth anniversary of the end of the communist regime, but nobody in Budapest celebrated twenty years of democracy, ten years of NATO or five years of membership in the European Union.
The majority of Hungarians see that, during this period, living conditions, instead of improving, have sharply worsened. The consequences of this crisis have been translated into a disaffection towards politics and looking with suspicion at democracy. The French daily Le Figaro notes, “Hungary resembles Russia, where the very concept of democracy has become a despicable one. And this authorizes Vladimir Putin to behave like an arrogant autocrat.”
Hungarian political analyst, Jozsef Martin, claims that “mentally, Hungary has diverged from the European Union. People do not feel like being European citizens. In this country nobody agrees on common values.” And Pierre Kendre, member of the Hungarian Academy for Sciences, says, “We are paying for our lack of historical clarification. Through the generations, we have undergone deep dramas, but we have been unable to explain the reasons to the generations that followed. What is going on today, can be compared to what happens when you take out something from a deep freeze.”
The country’s extremist right, openly anti-Semitic is in fact on the verge of making an important breakthrough in the upcoming elections. According to recent polls, far right extremists might get as much as 30% of the votes. They openly claim that the economical and financial problems of present day Hungary are caused by the Jews, and the social difficulties by the Gypsies. So, once again in History, there is a clear tendency to use the Jewish people as a scapegoat for someone’s else failures.
The corollary to this anti-Semitism is Holocaust denial. Many in Hungary are nowadays joining the international choir of deniers. Elie Wiesel, who visited Hungary last December for the first time since he was deported from his home town in 1944 to Auschwitz-Birkenau, urged Hungary's leaders to do more to combat racism and anti-Semitism, and to consider banning Holocaust denial. Speaking at a "Jewish Hungarian Solidarity Symposium" of Hungarian political and Jewish leaders held at the Parliament, the 81-year-old Holocaust survivor and human rights activist said: “"I urge you to do even more to denounce anti-Semitic elements and racist expressions in your political environment and in certain publications .I believe that they bring shame to your nation, and they bring fear to its Jewish community and other minorities, such as the Roma."
He added, "I ask you, why don't you follow the example of France and Germany and declare Holocaust denial not only indecent but illegal? In those countries, Holocaust deniers go to jail."
It is unlikely that Wiesel’s proposal will be adopted. In response, however, Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai praised the contributions that Jews have been making made to Hungary but admitted that the ideology that led to the Holocaust is still present in certain circles and that Jews and Non-Jews have every reason to be worried. Bajnai also admitted that the Hungarian governments erred when they allowed the far right to appear in political life, and called on the moderate right to draw a sharp line between itself and the extreme right. “The far-right must be isolated” he said.
2010 will be a crucial year for Hungary: this spring, elections will be held. If the far right remains isolated, it will be kept out of power. But if somehow its votes will be used to form a coalition, democracy and the fate of the Hungarian Jewish community will be at risk.