The Jewish population numbered between 80,000 and 100,000 persons. During the first nine months of the year incidents of anti-Semitism occurred, including property desecration, verbal and physical attacks, Holocaust denial and revisionism, and articles in the media. Elected officials, including members of the Jobbik party, continued to make anti-Semitic statements. On various occasions the prime minister repeated his commitment to combat anti-Semitism, while government officials often condemned anti-Semitic speech. Law enforcement and judiciary agencies continued to prosecute anti-Semitic incidents.
In 2012 there were 187 reported instances of disturbing the peace around or vandalism of Jewish and Christian properties, nine in houses of worship, and 178 in cemeteries. On April 13, unidentified perpetrators sprayed racist and anti-Semitic slogans on the wall of the synagogue of Vac and on May 19, vandalized tombs in the local Jewish cemetery. The police terminated the investigation into both cases as the perpetrators couldn’t be identified. Incidents of vandalism continued to occur during the year.
On January 17, the Hungarian Holocaust 2014 Memorial Commission set up by the cabinet held its first inaugural session under the chairmanship of Janos Lazar, State Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister. Lazar at the meeting declared that “the cabinet considers it particularly important to face up and issue the apology that was never made during the communist dictatorship… as Hungarians were among those who committed the horrible acts, but those who suffered were all Hungarian compatriots.” Members of the committee included several cabinet representatives, Jewish congregations, Jewish NGOs, and foreign ambassadors. The task of the committee was to prepare remembrances to mark the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Hungarian Holocaust victims in 2014. During the year the memorial committee held five sessions.
On January 27, Prime Minister Orban issued a statement on the International Holocaust Memorial Year declaring that “the government protects all citizens of Hungary and condemns all forms of anti-Semitism.” He added, “It must never happen again in Hungary that people be humiliated for their origin and religion.”
On January 30, the Budapest Metropolitan Tribunal upheld the Pest Central District Court’s ruling issued in June 2012 in the first Holocaust denial case since the introduction of this offense into the criminal code in 2010. According to the case, the defendant held up a sign at a demonstration in 2011 saying in Hebrew that “the Holocaust did not happen.” The court sentenced the offender to an 18-month prison term suspended for three years and ordered him placed on probation. The judge also ordered the perpetrator to visit either the Budapest based Holocaust Memorial Documentation Center (HDKE) three times during the probation, or the memorial site in Auschwitz, or the Yad Vashem memorial park in Jerusalem one time and express his thoughts in writing.
On March 15, Minister for Human Resources Zoltan Balog gave the Tancsics Award for journalism to Ferenc Szaniszlo, a television presenter for Echo TV, who had repeatedly made anti-Semitic remarks. Foreign ambassadors and numerous human rights organizations joined in urging for the withdrawal of the award. Minister Balog asked Szaniszlo to return the award, and on March 20 he did so.
On April 28, unknown persons physically assaulted Ferenc Orosz, head of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, after he warned extremist fans at a soccer match in Budapest to refrain from chanting Nazi slogans. Government officials denounced the attack. As of the end of September, the police continued to investigate. On June 3, Minister of Human Resources Zoltan Balog met Orosz, who handed over a list of proposals for preventing expressions of racism at sport events. Minister Balog forwarded the proposals to the Hungarian Football Association.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC), held in Budapest on May 5-7, focused on growing anti-Semitism in some European countries, including Hungary. PM Orban gave a speech at the WJC opening gala dinner and declared that the “current Christian democratic government considers its moral duty to act against anti-Semitism and declare zero tolerance for such ideas.” On May 4, the Jobbik party held a counterdemonstration attended by a few hundred persons (see section 2, Freedom of Assembly). On or about May 3, three men verbally accosted delegates attending the WJC by shouting anti-Semitic slogans and giving Nazi salutes. On May 9, using a fast-track procedures, the Pest Central District Court convicted the three assailants of committing violence against members of a community. The court sentenced one of them, who was already on probation, to a three-year prison term, while the other two received suspended two-year sentences.
On May 23, Tamas Gaudi-Nagy, member of the Jobbik party, said in parliament during a discussion on schoolchildren’s visits to the Auschwitz death camp that “many criticisms have been expressed as to whether the events presented there are fully in harmony with the historical facts.” Antal Rogan, Fidesz faction leader, condemned the remarks adding that “nobody is entitled to question the Holocaust, the suffering and deaths of millions of people.” The opposition MSZP party submitted a report to the prosecutor’s office, but the prosecutor general refused to take action on July 4. On June 10, Gaudi-Nagy repeated his party’s doubts over how accurately the memorial site reflects reality at parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee session. On June 26, parliament adopted a decree on introducing recommended school visits to the HDKE, the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site, and other Holocaust related sites in the national curricula.
On July 23, the Prime Minister’s Office signed a contract with the Brussels Institute founded by Action and Protection Foundation (TEV) to sponsor their monitoring of anti-Semitic incidents in Hungary with a 41.7 million forint ($190,500) grant for the year. Besides the monthly publication of its findings, TEV also provided legal counseling for victims of anti-Semitic incidents. TEV is composed of representatives from major Hungarian Jewish organizations. The activity of the Brussels Institute also included the development of a differentiated training program for various levels of public administration officials.
On August 17, fans of the FTC soccer team, during a game aired by public TV, unfurled a banner reading “In memoriam Laszlo Csatary,” a war crimes suspect who died on August 10. The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ) expressed its outrage over the banner. Gabor Kubatov, Fidesz party director and president of the FTC, expressed regret over the incident and called on those who displayed the banner to identify themselves to the club accepting responsibility. On August 22, the Hungarian Football Association issued an 800,000 forint ($3,660) fine to FTC for the banner display.
On October 1-2, the Tom Lantos Institute (TLI) organized a conference entitled “Jewish Life and Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Europe,” which was cosponsored by the government. In a keynote speech at the TLI conference, Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics declared, “We know that we are responsible for the Holocaust, we don’t pass on the responsibility.” Minister of Foreign Affairs Janos Martonyi repeated in his closing remarks that the Hungarian Holocaust was committed by Hungarians against Hungarians, and “to us this was the biggest national trauma we had to face. We accept responsibility.” Jewish communities welcomed the speeches of the two ministers calling them unprecedented in terms of high level governmental recognition of the role played by Hungarian officials in the Holocaust. Andras Heisler, Chairman of MAZSIHISZ, in his speech at the conference called the remarks of Minister Navracsics “a great political statement” and noted that “if Hungarian politicians will act and governmental institutions will function in harmony with this spirit, the Jewish community will have less reason to be fearful in their own country.”
In November the EU Fundamental Rights Agency released a survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in eight EU member states, including Hungary. When asked if they faced verbal insults, harassment and/or physical attacks due to being Jewish in the last 12 months, 30 percent of Hungarian Jewish respondents indicated that they did, and 43 percent stated that they witnessed other Jews being verbally insulted, harassed, and/or physically attacked in the past 12 months. Officials called into question the methodology and representativeness of the report.
The weekly magazine Magyar Forum and the official weekly publication of the Jobbik party, Barikad, continued to publish anti-Semitic articles, as did numerous far-right websites. NGOs reported that the government monitored the content of these sites to enforce the prohibition against public display of the swastika, the hammer and sickle, the five-pointed red star, and the arrow cross.
On May 29, on the initiative of Imre Kerenyi, the prime minister’s commissioner for preserving Hungarian cultural values, the Budapest City Council named a public place after the early 20th century author Cecile Tormay, known for anti-Semitic writings. In response to harsh criticisms from MAZSIHISZ and other organizations, Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos commenced a review of the street naming decision and requested the opinion of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). On July 18, the MTA advised the Budapest City Council not to name the street after Tormay, and, ultimately, the council refrained from naming the street after Tormay.
On June 26, the Curia ruled against Zsolt Bayer in a suit he brought against Gyorgy Bolgar, presenter at Klubradio, and Peter Feldmajer, then head of MAZSIHISZ, over their accusation that a comment he made in a column in Magyar Hirlap in 2011 was anti-Semitic. Alluding to the murders of suspected communists, including many Jews, following the collapse of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, Bayer wrote that “unfortunately not all of them were buried up to their neck in the woods of Orgovany.”
During the year leaders of the extreme ethnic nationalist party Jobbik and other extremist groups continued to make anti-Semitic statements often packaged as anti-Zionism. The speaker of parliament exercised a newly introduced power to fine MPs who violate the dignity of the House, a person, or a group of persons (particularly a national, ethnic, racial, or religious community). In the first nine months of the year, the speaker imposed fines three times on Elod Novak, member of the Jobbik party, for using the word “Zionist” in a pejorative context during his speeches (see section 3, Elections and Political Participation).
Some local government officials continued try to rehabilitate the reputations of several World War II era figures associated with anti-Semitism, including former regent Miklos Horthy, leader of the country between 1920 and 1944, who presided over an alliance with Nazi Germany and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens to concentration camps. On September 1, Sandor Lezsak, deputy faction leader of Fidesz and deputy speaker of parliament, gave remarks at the event marking the 20th anniversary of the reburial of Miklos Horthy in his birthplace of Kenderes. On November 2, Jobbik unveiled a bust of Horthy in the entrance hall of a church in Budapest whose pastor is Lorant Hegedus, who has a history of anti-Semitic statements. Jobbik MP Marton Gyongyosi, who in 2012 questioned the loyalty of Jewish government officials and called for a list of them to be drawn up, addressed the gathering.
Throughout the year the president, the prime minister, cabinet members, and opposition politicians routinely criticized extremist movements, condemned anti-Semitic incidents, and attended events commemorating the Holocaust.