holocaust remembrance in hungary

I am struck by a recent boycott which is being carried out against the government of Hungary. On Wednesday, Hungary began 70th anniversary commemorations of the Holocaust amid boycotts and protests by Jewish groups.

Marking the day when Hungarian Jews were first placed in ghettos in 1944, ceremonies were held around the country as part of “Holocaust 2014″, a program of events organized by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government. In Budapest, President Janos Ader and Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics lit candles at a monument by the Danube commemorating the thousands of Jews shot in 1944-1945 by the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross party and militia.

The Jewish groups are concerned by what they see as the government’s concerted efforts to whitewash Hungarian responsibility for the Holocaust. The current hub-bub is about a monument to be unveiled on Saturday which depicts Hungary, a Nazi ally in World War II, as the Archangel Gabriel being swooped down upon by an imperial eagle representing Germany.

Protesters say this is an attempt by the current government to revise history and deflect responsibility for the Holocaust to the Nazi invaders.  Lawmakers have included in the preamble of a new constitution stating that Hungary lost its sovereignty with the Nazi invasion on March 19, 1944—before mass deportations started to concentration camps—and didn’t regain it until the end of communism in 1990.

421px-azertisProtesters say that in 1920, 24 years earlier, Hungarian lawmakers approved what is considered as the first anti-Semitic law passed in Europe after World War I, restricting university access to Jews. Admiral Miklos Horthy governed Hungary from that year until October 1944, when the Arrow Cross Party formed a “Government of National Unity” and led the country into World War II on Adolf Hitler’s side. During its short rule, 10,000-15,000 people (many of whom were Jews) were murdered outright, and 80,000 people were deported from Hungary to their deaths at Auschwitz.

The current Hungarian government was elected in October to take over in 2015 the presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an inter-governmental organization dedicated to placing “political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research,” according to the organization’s website.

The government also has commenced planning for a new Holocaust memorial center in Budapest. Protesters say the project’s organizers have rejected engaging with Jewish groups in its development and haven’t made their plans public, and that therefore the memorial center should be rejected, too.

I don’t know what the exact truth of the matter is. The story of the Holocaust is part propaganda and part empirical fact. The famous six million death toll is a number that has been promulgated since as early as 1933 in the Anti-Nazi Boycott of that year (almost a decade before the Jewish Holocaust even happened). The Holocaust story has been transformed into something that looks like a reparations racket for financial gain. In my own lifetime, I have seen downwards revisions in the official number of the dead at Auschwitz, and the gas chamber on that site has been shown to be a postwar structure put up by the Soviets to accommodate millions of visitors.

It seems to me that when a country like Hungary attempts to officially come to terms with its past, this should be viewed as progress. “Holocaust 2014” is best seen within a context of European anti-Semitism which goes back many centuries. Protesters are focused on perceived shortcomings of the official program, while more progress might be made by celebrating what admissions of responsibility they can.

The truth of history is something which emerges over many generations.  Sometimes the myths of history must be tempered and revised before truth resolves. The truth of history is something which requires many iterations and the participation of an increasing number of people and viewpoints.

800px-Diffusion_of_ideas copyAs Everett Rogers showed in his 1962 theory regarding the diffusion of a message, idea, or technology through cultures, the spread of any new thing through time involves a social process in which some people (the “innovators”, “early adopters”, and “early majority”) take the lead, while others  (the “late majority” and “laggards”) bring up the rear. Within the rate of adoption, there is a point at which an idea reaches critical mass. Any idea must reach this critical mass in order to self-sustain.

The promoters of the story of the Jewish Holocaust have been so effective in spreading their message that over 80% of people today are unable to name a genocide since the Jewish Holocaust of the 1940s. A recent survey, conducted by Opinion Matters on 2,304 UK adults, has revealed that more than half of the British population can not recall the genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, or Darfur. It is as if no other mass killing of anyone but the European Jews of 70 years ago happened or even matters.

Furthermore, only a third of young people were even able to identify the correct definition of genocide, which always involves the belief of one population that they are superior to another which deserves extermination.

This is not as it should be. If we are to learn anything from the genocides which periodically take place in various parts of the world, it is that all human life is sacred, and that no particular race, nationality, gender, color, or creed is superior in value to any other.

I think it is a good thing that the Hungarians are beginning to come to terms with their history and prejudices of superiority. I think they should be welcomed to the table.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Ed Ames performing “Try To Remember”


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