MAZSIHISZ and EUJS statement on the 2023 Hungarian ‘Day of Honour’

“For years now, far-right and Neo-Nazi groups have commemorated the Siege of 1945, where the liberating Red Army had encircled the city of Budapest, resulting in the death of thusands of mostly Nazi and Arrow-Cross soldiers and. on the designated ‘Day of Honour’. The multi-day commemoration culminates in a historical reenactment of the 60 km hike, where participants dress up in SS-uniforms, they fly the Nazi-party flag, wear swastika armbands and flaunt the Nazi eagle. Participants of the commemoration claim ‘Glory to the soldiers’ and praise the Nazi and Arrow-cross soldiers as heroes and as defenders of Hungary and Europe. This year, EUJS representatives bore witness to this radicalism with their own eyes and witnessed first-hand the glorification of Nazism and far-right ideologies.” – The following is the joint statement with the Federation of Hungarian Communities, MAZSIHISZ.

There are certain days and circumstances where we have a societal duty to speak up. The 1944-45 Siege of Budapest and its final days are among them. This year, on the 78th anniversary of the Siege, thousands of neo-nazis gathered and a member of the Jewish community was brutally assaulted in broad daylight on the streets of Budapest. The perpetrators were neo-Nazis.

We must not only be aware of history, but it is our moral obligation to remind and warn others of those tragic days and the consequences of exclusionary decisions and laws. That is why it is important and commendable that the leadership of three districts in Buda have chosen to commemorate the Siege together and for years have been setting a dignified example in shaping a culture of remembrance.

Remembrance culture can and should consist of peaceful, dignified, historically authentic and non-offensive commemorations, as is exemplified by the exhibition held by the Mayor’s Office of the 1st District of Budapest with historian Krisztián Ungváry. This honoured the memory of the deceased. However, and in contrast, neo-Nazi radicals are reconstructing history as an inverted heroic cult with authoritarian symbols, exclusionary and hateful slogans, making heroes out of the 20,000 or so soldiers dispatched senselessly to certain death.

These acts are a particularly sensitive narrative for Hungary’s and Budapest’s Jewish communities, and it is unacceptable in any democratic setting. Antisemitism is on the rise in Europe, and now is the time to sound the alarm and take immediate action instead of resisting the warning signs. Often, these signs are strongest in the online spaces and affect young people disproportionately on social media – with or without their own regulations; behind seemingly simple phrases can lie the well manufactured rallying cries of evil, albeit interest-evoking, dark ideals from extremist groups.

Increasingly, far-right actors seek to appropriate and claim significant historical moments to promote their hateful ideologies. It is unacceptable that they use commemoration as a pretext to glorify those responsible for the discrimination and persecution of our fellow human beings – all of this is conflicting with the Hungarian Government’s zero tolerance policy towards antisemitism, and it is incompatible with our democratic culture. We have to say a firm NO to this. But, the task does not end there: we must say YES to a humane, democratic, European, and free narrative.

From today onwards, the government must do much more, and with greater consistency, to reverse this dangerous trend. We often hear the phrase “zero tolerance”. Now, the sense of security has been breached. It is difficult, but it can be repaired.