Christopher Adam, The Jewish Tribune, (Toronto), August 19, 2004, p. 10.

Antisemitism in contemporary Hungary

In 1944 one of World War II’s largest mass deportation of Jews occurred in Hungary. Some 600,000 Jews were removed from their homes in the villages and towns of rural Hungary and sent to Auschwitz. This year, the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary was remembered by commemorations throughout the country and the opening of a Holocaust museum and documentation centre in Budapest.

Yet not far below the surface of Hungarian society, antisemitism still persists today, and frequently, finds its way onto the pages of Hungary’s right-wing newspapers.

Although this year was to mark the decimation of Hungary’s Jewish communities six decades ago, 2004 began with heightened tensions between the Jewish minority and the majority population. On December 24 last year, an intoxicated radio host at an alternative station in Budapest declared on a Christmas Eve broadcast that he “would exterminate all Christians.”

These scandalous words rapidly found their way onto the pages of Hungary’s papers. Yet the country’s youngest right-wing newspaper found itself in the midst of controversy when its journalist, László Juhász, pointed the finger squarely at Hungary’s Jews. In a January opinion piece in Magyar Jelen — a weekly published by a Canadian company and sold at a number of Hungarian businesses in Toronto, as well as throughout Hungary — Juhász agreed with a far-right-wing politician who had earlier called on Hungarians to exclude from society the “Galician carpetbaggers,” a crude term associated negatively with the country’s Jewish population. Juhász wrote that “we must take back our country from them, as well as our stolen goods. These carpetbaggers are living and becoming wealthy off of our blood.”

Although Juhász’s comments triggered an investigation against the paper by Budapest police, anti-Jewish remarks are not uncommon in Hungary’s press. Magyar Fórum, a popular radical weekly edited by István Csurka, a veteran playwright and far-right politician, is perhaps the ‘leader’ in the printing of antisemitic material.

According to, an online resource, which documents instances of anti-Jewish reporting in the Hungarian press, Magyar Fórum bases much of its content on explicit antisemitism.

Csurka’s weekly “continues the worst tradition of the Hungarian right-wing by representing, with all its clichés, the classical antisemitism of the period before and during World War II. Magyar Fórum sees a life and death struggle between Hungarians and Jews, while in world politics the constant evidence of their over-powering position.” Perhaps this ominous struggle was what Csurka had in mind when he wrote a commentary appearing in May, in which he also addressed the continuous criticism of deep-rooted antisemitism levelled at his political party and thus cautioned the Hungarian public: “We are free people and we condemn no one simply for their origins. However, while there is still time, we warn the braves whispering at the bottom of the canyon and all who are Hungarian and Christian, that everyone’s time will come — because this is no longer just about a party.”

Arguably, the most fanatical propagator of blatantly antisemitic material in Hungary is the Gede Brothers publishing company. With its full-page advertisements appearing regularly in nationally distributed weeklies such as the Magyar Fórum and Magyar Jelen, the Gede Brothers have relied on anti-Jewish books and videos seasoned with Holocaust denial and vindications of Nazi Germany for their publishing. Publicized in Hungarian papers under the banner of “the forbidden fruit,” books such as The Führer’s Empire aim to tell the ‘true’ story of Hitler’s Germany in contrast with the “the tens of thousands of hateful, slanderous and unscholarly Jewish publications.” Yet Gede Brother’s have been more insidious in their anti-Jewish publications. Books such as World Conqueror’s: The Real War Criminals, The Other Israel and Bolshevism and the Jewry are but a few of the publications disseminated by Gede and publicized on full-page advertisements often boasting book covers adorned with propaganda posters reminiscent of the Third Reich. Out of 20 recent publications, 14 have focused negatively on Jews. Additionally, the company has taken an interest in organizing public screenings, most recently of American right-wing filmmaker Ted Pike’s piece on the Middle-East conflict.

Yet antisemitism in Hungary is a complicated phenomenon that cannot be seen as a characteristic held exclusively by the right-wing. According to the personal opinion of János Gadó, an editor for Hungary’s Jewish periodical, Szombat, antisemitism is an increasing problem on the left of the political spectrum. “A significant proportion of the anti-Jewish rhetoric in Hungary’s right-wing press is characterized by the left-wing’s language of anti-Zionism … according to this Israel is ‘oppressive,’ ‘racist’ and tramples on the rights of Palestinians,” Gadó said, noting that this new form of antisemitism, shrouded in criticism of Israel’s policies, will ultimately replace the old-school antisemitism of the World War II era.

“European integration does not help old-fashioned antisemitism. In the long run, this will take a back seat to the left-wing’s anti-Israeli bias. The right-wing press has understood this and it is practicing it already. Antisemitism will not disappear, but will transform itself instead.”

Gadó added that it would be a mistake to assume that the entire right-wing is antisemitic. The country’s largest centre-right opposition party, the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz), has actively taken part in the 60th anniversary commemorations of the Holocaust in Hungary. Nevertheless, according to Gadó, “the Hungarian right-wing has yet to divorce itself completely of antisemitism.”

Despite the preponderance of antisemitic writings in much of Hungary’s right-wing press, the picture is not entirely bleak. In the past several years a new brand of conservative journalism has developed, which no longer relies on appeals to anti-Jewish tendencies in Hungarian society. The weekly political magazine, Heti Válasz, may be an example of this potential new trend. It was here that Mária Schmidt, director of the contentious House of Terror museum in Budapest, noted that what distinguishes the Holocaust in Hungary from other tragedies and renders it incomprehensible to the human mind even today, is that Hungarian Jews were “ostracized from the community of the Hungarian nation… We imagined a future, in which there was no place left for them.”

Yet in some sense, this ostracizing, and labeling of Hungary’s Jews as inherently “other,” persists today in much of Hungary’s right-wing press. Perhaps the driving force behind this is much the same as that which motivates the more violent antisemitism witnessed in France over the past few years: A significant group of people who see themselves as the disadvantaged of society, faced with the perpetual, enduring myth of a wealthy and somehow foreign “ruling class” responsible for the fate of their country. This may have provided fertile feeding ground for antisemitism 60 years ago, but it still persists today on the pages of Hungary’s right-wing papers and lingers within Hungarian society.