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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Hungary’

A Journey of a Thousand Steps

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

http://israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/a-journey-of-thousand-steps.html

I sometimes surprise myself with the titles I come up with – this is one of those. I read an article today. My emotions went up and down as I read it, ending with the thought that the man in the story was about to embark on a journey of a thousand steps and that somewhere along that journey, his grandparents would smile.

Szegedi Csanad is a Hungarian politician. He is about 30 years old. He was elected as a Member of the European Parliament as part of the Jobbik party. One of Csanad’s fellow members posted an article that said, ”Given our current situation, anti-Semitism is not just our right, but it is the duty of every Hungarian homeland lover, and we must prepare for armed battle against the Jews.” Jobbik calls itself a “radical nationalism” party – more easily identified as fascists or perhaps neo-Nazis.

And quietly,  Csanad got the shock of a lifetime when he found out, about 7 months ago, that his grandparents were Orthodox Jews but chose to hide their religion. It is understandable – to some extent. They were Holocaust survivors – his grandmother was in Auschwitz…as was my husband’s grandmother. My  husband’s parents survived; though they returned to their tiny villages in Hungary as orphans. Their parents, uncles and aunts, even some of their brothers and sisters had been murdered. All they and their remaining siblings wanted was to leave Europe and get as far away as possible. They tried for Australia, Palestine, the United States – anything that would get them out.

The first visas they got for the whole group were to the US and so they went. They stayed observant Jews and raised their children that way. It was a matter of faith and yes, there was pride in it as well. Csanad’s grandparents chose a different path. I can’t judge them; I can only wonder how they would feel (if they are still alive) or how they might have felt to know that their grandson had become one with the ideology that almost cost them their lives.

And then, Csanad found out – a basic truth. His grandmother and grandfather were Jews. Judaism is passed down in the womb – from mother to child. Csanad’s grandmother gave birth to a Jewish child – a girl. That girl was Jewish, is Jewish. She is a software engineer in Hungary, and her son, Szegedi is Jewish.

Csanad has resigned from Jobbik, though he has requested to keep his position in the European Parliament. And, he has chosen to meet with an Orthodox rabbi, to begin what I believe will be a journey of a thousand steps. I have to believe that somewhere in this world or in the next, his grandparents are watching. Generations of Jews behind them. Perhaps they are not smiling, but I have to believe the weight of the world has been taken off their shoulders and their hearts.

The Train

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

He was having trouble getting up from the platform and into the cattle car. After all, he was only twelve years old and there was no ramp leading inside. An SS thug saw him “dawdling” in front of the car and aimed a boot at the boy’s posterior. The boy jumped out of the way just in time and the SS man fell to his face from the violence of his own kick.

Fearing the German would take his fury out on him, the boy scampered into the train. He hid himself from the Nazi inside a crowded, filthy car until the train pulled out of Budapest’s Nyugati station.

And thus began David Kohn’s participation in what many regard as the most dramatic and controversial train journey in history. For this was the train organized by Dr. Rudolf Kastner, head of the Hungarian Judenrat, on which 1,685 Jews rode to safety.

Kohn, today a well-known medical doctor and expert on geriatric health problems in Haifa, Israel, is one of the diminishing number of survivors from the Kastner train. And he may be the only one who kept and preserved a journal of that journey to freedom.

He was born in a small town in Czechoslovakia, in a region where many of the residents and most of the local Jews spoke Hungarian. After the destruction and division of Czechoslovakia in the wake of the Munich accord, the area passed to Hungarian rule.

The problem was that David’s father had been a patriot and had taken Czechoslovak citizenship, which was frowned upon by Hungarian authorities. The boy was quickly expelled from school there, supposedly because of the father’s citizenship but more likely because they were Jews.

The family moved into Hungary proper, looking for work and a place to live. Then Slovakia was detached from the Czech state by Germany, so for a while they moved back there. The father worked as a forestry manager, a public service job that kept the family safe as deportations of Slovakian Jews commenced.

In 1942 rumors reached them that they were on a list of Jews to be deported. The family stole across the border into Hungary. There they were hosted by relatives who managed to obtain forged residency papers for them.

By 1943 Hungarian Jews were being moved into “concentration” areas – not yet internment camps but rather buildings in which the Jews of a town would be segregated. David was staying with his uncle, a prominent Neolog rabbi, in Czegled, a town outside Budapest near what is today the city’s international airport. They were locked up in a single building, and later moved into the town’s synagogue. Then twenty-three of those in the building were selected to be sent to Budapest for internment. The rest were deported.

David and his uncle were among the twenty-three.

In Budapest they were marched down Andrassy Boulevard, the city’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue with its luxury stores, many owned by Jews at the time. They were taunted by Hungarian anti-Semitic youths along the way and eventually were held inside the Rumbach Street synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.

* * * * *

Rudolf Kastner was a pompous, arrogant and irritating person. He was born and raised in the largest city in Transylvania, the Hungarian-speaking territory now in Romania that has passed back and forth between Hungary and Romania due to the frivolities of war and politics. He rose to importance in the Hungarian Jewish community and had the reputation of being an aristocratic “fixer” with ties to the regime.

When war broke out, Hungary allied itself with Hitler’s Germany. Kastner served as a journalist and community leader, moving from Transylvania to Budapest. Later, as a head of the Hungarian Judenrat, he was able to move about freely throughout the war. His residence and offices stood on Vaci Avenue, three blocks from my office today at Central European University in Budapest, where I teach when I am not in Israel.

Kastner was renowned for hatching assorted schemes, some rather hair-brained, during the war years. He tried to recruit support from Jewish Agency leaders in Tel Aviv for negotiating different rescue schemes with the Nazis, including the notorious “Trucks for Jews” deal, which never came to fruition. In 1944 he met several times with Adolf Eichmann to negotiate the escape of Jews in exchange for bribes or ransom payments.

Reform Congregations in Hungary Lose State Recognition

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The European Union for Progressive Judaism and Hungary’s two Reform congregations took their case against Hungary’s new law on religion to the European Court of Human Rights in The Hague.

The two synagogues, Sim Shalom and Bet Orim, said in a statement that they had submitted an application Tuesday to the Court “concerning the violation of their human rights” caused by the entry into force of the new Hungarian “Church Law.”

The new law, which came into force Jan. 1, grants official recognition to only three streams of Judaism in Hungary: Neolog (Hungarian Conservative), Orthodox and Status-quo (associated with Chabad Lubavitch) congregations.

“As a consequence of the entry in force of the Act, the ‘church’ status of the Hungarian [Reform] congregations was revoked,” the statement said.  The two Reform communities consider the new law on religion “illegal” and “discriminatory,” the statement said, and had already called on the Hungarian Constitutional Court to annul it.

Hungarian Police Investigating Desecration of Holocaust Monument

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

A Holocaust memorial monument in the southwest of Hungary was desecrated.

The perpetrators broke off several parts of the bronze monument, which stands 3 1/2 feet high and is the shape of a large menorah. Hungarian police said they were investigating the incident.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary said the monument was desecrated sometime over the last weekend. It stood in the courtyard of the buildings of the Jewish community of Nagykanizsa. The local Jewish community erected the monument, near the Croatia border, in 2004.

All seven menorah branches were sawed off and the main shaft was broken. Only part of the three-pronged base remains.

Some 120 Hungarians protested on June 7 in Budapest against anti-Semitism in Hungary. The demonstration was in reaction to an attack against a former chief rabbi. On June 3, a cemetery was desecrated near the capital.

In a letter to the country’s Jewish leaders, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed his “indignation” at the cemetery attack and ordered the Interior Ministry to track down the perpetrators.

Breakfast With Trutanich

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

(L-R) German Consul General Wolfgang Drautz; L.A. Fire Commissioner Andrew Friedman; City Attorney Carmen Trutanich; Hungarian Consul General Balazs Bokor; and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

 

Prominent members of Hancock Park Jewry and leading Hungarian community figures met with city attorney and district attorney candidate Carmen Trutanich over breakfast at Abbas on La Brea Ave. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and L.A. Fire Commissioner Andrew Friedman introduced Trutanich. Consul Generals Balazs Bokor of Hungary and Wolfgang Drautz of Germany represented their respective communities.

Antisemitism on the Rise in Europe

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The virus of antisemitism persists in haunting Europe. In recent months, antisemitism has been exhibited all too often in European countries, not just in theory but in practice. France has been the scene for the murder of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse; attacks on Jewish property in Paris and Dijon; desecration of Jewish graves in Nice, and anti-Semitic graffiti throughout the country. Malmo, Sweden, with a now considerable Muslim population, has witnessed increasing outbreaks of violence against Jews. It is disquieting that Ilmar Reepalu, the mayor of the city, has denied these attacks, and dismissed criticism of his denials as the work of the “Israel lobby.”

Over the last decade, antisemitic incidents have occurred not just in France and Sweden but also throughout Europe; some of the more notable have been in the Kreuzberg section of Berlin populated by Palestinians and Turks; even more significantly, in other neighborhoods of Berlin that are not populated by Middle East immigrants; in Stockholm, Amsterdam, and major French cities besides Paris; on the island of Corfu in Greece, and in Rome.

In the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, the European Union called for joint efforts to combat prejudice and discrimination experienced by individuals and groups on the basis of their ethnic features, cultural background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability. As a result of this treaty, comprehensive data and an analysis of the state of discrimination in Europe with special emphasis on antisemitism is now available in a just-published comprehensive study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin.

This study, Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination: a European Report, was based on interviews with sample populations of 1,000 people in eight European countries. It examined negative attitudes and prejudices against groups defined as “other,” “foreign,” or “abnormal.” The overall result — showing widespread intolerance, racism, sexism, dislike of Muslims, concern about immigrants, opposition to homosexuals and gay marriage, and antisemitism — is dispiriting.

Although the prejudices against the various groups differ, the study suggests that they are interconnected: that people who denigrate one group are also very likely to target other groups. Prejudices against the different target groups are linked and share a common ideology, one that endangers democracy and leads to violence and conflicts. The problem that democratic countries and well-meaning people now face is how to confront and overcome these prejudices that are so observable.

The overall saddening conclusion of the report, which deals with a number of areas of discrimination, is that group-focused enmity towards immigrants, blacks, Muslims, and Jews is widespread throughout Europe; and that anti-Semitism is an important component of this hostility. The Report defines anti-Semitism as social prejudice directed against Jews simply because they are Jews. Being Jewish is seen as a negative characteristic. Current antisemitism takes many forms: political (the Jews have a world conspiracy); secular (the Jews are usurers); religious (the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus); racist (Jews through their genetics are not people to be trusted). The report continues with additional detail: Jews have too much influence; Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era; Jews in general do not care about anything or anybody but their own kind. Two additional troubling points of view were documented: the first is why people do not like Jews when one considers Israel’s policy; the second is the belief that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.

Even though the study deals with a limited number of individuals and European countries, its findings are significant. The details are a warning of possible future danger. The study shows that animosity against Jews is strongest in the Eastern European countries (Poland and Hungary) and in Germany, moderate in France, Italy, and Portugal, and weakest in the Netherlands and Britain. A recent shift appears to have occurred from traditional anti-Semitism to a new anti-Semitism in relation to the Holocaust. Ominously, an inversion of perpetrator and victim has taken place.

Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945, but the of the Final Solution seems to have been forgotten in the view of European citizens. The study shows that 72% of Poles, 68% of Hungarians, and 49% of Germans believe, strongly or somewhat, that the Jews today are benefitting from the memory of the camp and exploit the Holocaust. Even in the countries with the lowest expression of prejudice, the percentages of people who hold the view that Jews exploit the Holocaust are alarming. The figure for the Netherlands is 17% and in Britain 21%.

The most frequently expressed-anti-Semitic perception is the certitude that Jews have too much influence in the country of the respondent. Nearly 70% of Hungarians hold this view. In Poland, where few people even know a Jew since Poland has such a small Jewish community, some 50% hold this belief. The lowest figures are in the Netherlands where this view is held strongly by 6% and in Britain where 13.9% profess agreement with this assessment. The other four countries around 20% concur with this statement. On the question of Jews caring only about themselves, the range of views is different. Portugal joins Hungary and Poland in agreeing, 51-57%, while the other six vary between 20 and 30%. Somewhat surprisingly, a majority in all eight countries believe that Jews have enriched the culture of the country; the highest figures are in the Netherlands, (72%), Britain (71%) , and Germany (69%).

European Report Finds High Levels of Anti-Semitism, Correlation Between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel Attitudes

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

In a comprehensive yet troubling study of European attitudes on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, anti-Semitism continues to plague the continent and has been found to “color” perceptions of Israel.

The study, entitled ‘Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination: a European Report’ was undertaken by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German organization aligned with the Social Democratic Party of Germany. The study surveyed 8,000 people in eight countries in Europe – Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Italy, Poland, and Portugal.

Among its results, the study found that 72% of Polish citizens agree or strongly agree that “Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era,” and that 68% of Hungarians share this sentiment. Nearly 70% percent of Hungarians also think that “Jews have too much influence” in their country. The authors identified “Britain and The Netherlands manifesting the lowest levels of antisemitic attitudes.”

The study also surveyed European attitudes toward the state of Israel and the interplay between these attitudes and anti-Semitism. “About half the respondents in Portugal, Poland, and Hungary see anti-Semitic sentiments as based on Israel’s political activities,” the authors wrote.

“Around 40% of respondents in most participating countries affirm the drastic assessment that the Israeli state is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians,” they continued. Breaking down the results further, an astounding 63% of Polish citizens agreed with that assessment, while the number was 49% in Portugal, 48% in Germany, 42% in Britain, 41% in Hungary, 39% in The Netherlands, and 38% in Italy (The question was not asked of French respondents).

And even though Britain and The Netherlands registered the lowest levels of anti-Semitism, “in both [Britain and Holland] there was relatively high agreement with the statement: Considering Israel’s policy I can understand why people do not like Jews.”

One bright spot in the study is the finding that a majority in all of the surveyed countries agreed with the statement that “Jews enrich our culture,” with Germany, Britain, France, and The Netherlands all registering over 60%.

The authors concluded that “[i]f this observation is any measure of Europeans’ attitudes to Israel, then we must conclude that perceptions of Israel are colored by anti-Semitism.”

The results will be formally presented and discussed at Tel Aviv’s Beit Sokolov on May 1, with a keynote speech to be delivered by the prime minister of the German state of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck.

Hungarian Lawmaker Claims Jews Implicated in Blood Libel

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Hungarian Jewish leaders issued a strongly worded protest against a speech by a far-right lawmaker who claimed that Jews had been implicated in a notorious blood libel case in northern Hungary 130 years ago.

In a five-minute speech before parliament Tuesday night, Zsolt Barath of the extreme-right Jobbik party cited the 1882 blood libel case in the village of Tiszaeszlar in which 15 local Jews were accused of murdering a Hungarian girl, Eszter Solymosi. The case triggered widespread anti-Semitic hysteria, but the Jews were acquitted after a lengthy trial.

In his speech Barath questioned the outcome of the Tiszaeszlar trial and said the culprits had never been determined.

“As we can see, there is no clear explanation, we do not know what happened to Eszter,” he said. “Nevertheless, there is one point common to the known variants: The Jewry and the leadership of the country were severely implicated in the case.” He said the verdict acquitting the Jews had been due to “outside pressure.”

No one stopped Barath from speaking, but government representative Janos Fonagy condemned him.

”Mention of the Tiszaeszlar blood libel opens up wounds of entire centuries,” Fonagy said.

In a protest letter Wednesday to the parliamentary leadership, the senior leaders of Hungary’s umbrella Jewish organization, Mazshisz, called Barath’s speech “straight from the dark Middle Ages” and demanded that government authorities “immediately take such legislative and other steps” to prevent and penalize such speeches.

Warning against the “growing threat” of mounting anti-Semitism, they said the Hungarian parliament must not allow lawmakers to hide behind their parliamentary immunity in order to make “openly racist, anti-Semitic remarks.”

The right-wing government parties and their leaders, they said, had the direct responsibility to ensure that such openly anti-Semitic manifestations were not tolerated.

Opposition parties called on Barath to resign.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hungarian-lawmaker-claims-jews-implicated-in-blood-libel/2012/04/08/

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