Barak Ravid reports (Hebrew and English here) that Hungary, like Poland, is now seeking to engage in Holocaust revisionism. Just as the Poles passed a law that offered a prison sentence to anyone who blamed Poles for the Holocaust, Hungary is now getting into the act. If you asked any of the leaders of the far-right parties running these countries, not a single Pole or Hungarian was responsible for the Holocaust. Well, maybe one or two, at most.
That got the Poles in trouble with legitimate Holocaust historians, including some who are Polish, and leading international academics who pointed out that this was a falsification of history. Though Bibi Netanyahu at first endorsed the Polish legislation, he was taken aback by the fierceness of the response it elicited. He backed off and then hustled off a Yad Vashem researcher to Poland to “negotiate” with the Polish rightists over a joint statement that would mollify those horrified by the bill. As a result, a milquetoast statement was released by the Poles, Yad Vashem renounced it, and the very person who purportedly negotiated on behalf of Netanyahu appeared to renounce her own efforts, saying she had little input into the process, and didn’t officially represent Yad Vashem.
It was a perfect exemplar of Netanyahu’s modus operandi. Stick your foot in the mud thinking it’s oil, then tell the world an oil expert told you this was just the place to look for oil. Then summon an aide to give you a new pair of shoes and tell him to blow the place up after you leave so that no one will ever know you were there.
Hungary’s anti-Semitic leader, Viktor Orban, has tasked one of his billionaire followers with creating a Holocaust museum in Budapest. To be called the House of Fates, it will supposedly explain to the Hungarian people how and why the Holocaust happened. We know there are shady machinations regarding this effort because the woman heading the project, Maria Schmidt, is one of Orban’s wealthy toadies. A professor of history and self-styled expert on the Holocaust, she’s also founded an earlier institution, the House of Terror Museum. This wretched example of historical revisionism is dedicated to exposing the horrors of totalitarianism–by which they mean Communism. It exploited the Holocaust by likening Communism to it.
Here is a sample of an English translation from Schmidt’s latest learned tome on history and something or other. If you can make head or tails of it, you’re doing far better than I:
Language: now, as always, it all started with language. The expropritation, the agressive [sic] seizure of language has swept us frighteningly far from reality. The crisis could not be more serious. Anyone trying to break free from the strangehold [sic] of half-truths and contrived thought experiments risks nothing less than expulsion from the „paradise” of lies. True, in a few decades from now – or a few centuries – such people could become icons; but the prisoners of the putrefying present are doing their utmost to mercilessly annihilate them here and now. With this volume Mária Schmidt is again taking a risk. According to her iroinic [sic] profession of faith, however, she has no choice: what is at stake is liberty.
One of the many stratagems Orban’s far-right party has used to enforce its ideological imprint on the nation’s consciousness is to charge the few remaining independent media outlets with various legal infractions. Take them to court, levy fines. Make it impossible to continue publishing or broadcasting. Then arrange for a white knight, almost always a wealthy confidant of the ruling élite, to swoop in and scoop up the prize at a song. Then the media property, which had represented an independent voice, was transformed into a dutiful member of the ruling party chorus, reciting its well-rehearsed lines from memory.
Schmidt was party to such a maneuver involving the purchase of the struggling independent business and economics magazine, Figyelő. The machinations which led to its demise are described in the linked article. What’s especially relevant here is last month’s cover story, which purported to accuse the leader of the Hungarian Jewish community (and opponent of Orban), Andras Heisler, of financial irregularities. The cover image is yet another one of those repulsive veiled anti-Semitic cheap-shots for which Orban is well-known. It features a picture of Heisler surrounded by Hungarian banknotes dropping like manna from heaven. If it reminds you of the sickening smear the Hungarian anti-Semite engaged in against George Soros, it should. It’s the same MO.
So Schmidt, who’s revised the history of 20th century Hungarian Communism, will now revise the history of Hungary’s involvement in the Holocaust. Keep in mind that there were 400,000 Jews there until 1944, when most were shipped to the camps. Less than half survived. Overall, more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews died.
The wartime fascist Iron Cross government enthusiastically collaborated with the Nazis in betraying the Jews. Orban has gone so far as to blame the country’s leadership for this crime. But it could not have succeeded with the enthusiastic support of the many Hungarians joined in the effort to make their country Judenrein. Now Schmidt gets her chance to rectify all that bad PR Hungary has suffered and she’s relishing the opportunity.
Another curious element of this Holocaust project is that Orban has found an obedient Jewish toady to partner with him in it. The Chabad rabbi, Shimon Koves, is now the Jewish fig leaf for the project. His synagogue will own the new museum. In effect, he’s the mashgiach you go to to turn a pig into a nice cut of kosher beef. It’s a shameful bit of opportunism reminiscent of the acts of Jews who betrayed their own in World War II Europe. Though they did so under terrible duress. Rabbi Koves has no excuse, except for the benefits that the Hungarian anti-Semites will rain down on him and his various projects in the country.
Enter into this mess, Bibi Netanyahu, who wants to do a favor for his new BFF, Orban. Just as Koves will kasher the museum inside Hungary, Orban needs Netanyahu to kasher it for world Jewry. So he’s sent two of his advisors to Israel to meet with Bibi’s political advisor, Reuven Ezer. Mind you, Orban’s emissaries won’t meet with any Holocaust scholars, any Hungarian Holocaust survivors or any figure who could shed light on what a Hungarian Holocaust museum should look like. For Orban and Bibi, this is purely a political transaction to be worked out for the benefit of both parties–and to the detriment of history.
In fact, this Hungarian blog post notes that Yad Vashem itself opposes her museum. It’s also ominous to note that an official within the Israeli museum who opposed the Hungarian project has, according to Schmidt, been fired:
At the end the reporter brought up the fact that the Yad Vashem Institute no longer supports Mária Schmidt’s project, the House of Fates. Moreover, one of the associates of the Institute apparently said at one point that “it is time to get rid of this institute and this woman.” Schmidt assured her interlocutor that this woman no longer works at Yad Vashem. As if her alleged departure had anything to do with her less than polite words about Mária Schmidt. As for her next project, the House of Fates, she is still trying to convince people to work with her. A few more interviews like the ones she has been giving and I can assure her that no one will be willing to do anything with her that is connected to the Hungarian Holocaust.
Heisler is also in Israel desperately seeking to blunt the effort to turn this museum into a Nuremberg-like showpiece for the Fidesz Party’s historical revisionism. Unlike Orban’s representatives, Heisler is meeting with Yad Vashem officials, along with other members of Israel’s exceedingly weak political opposition: Jewish Agency chair, Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid leader, Yair Lapid.
Finally, Ravid’s story originated with disgruntled officials in the foreign ministry, of which Netanyahu himself is nominally the cabinet minister. They have been entirely shut out of this process, in which they normally would be deeply involved. This is yet another example of Netanyahu running the government as if it was his own personal fief designed to advance his own interests.
Here we see Netanyahu’s enveloping embrace of the worst elements of intolerance, hate, and even anti-Semitism in both Europe and the U.S. In return for their support, he’s abandoned all his former allies even in the world Jewish community. Instead, he’s made common cause with a miasmatic stew of neo-Nazis, zenophobes, Islamophobes, Christian fundamentalists, and raging anti-Semites. He excuses their Jew hatred, while embracing their mutual hatred of Islam, Arabs and leftists. It’s a bargain with the Devil.