(JTA) — Jewish leaders in Budapest criticized the planned commemoration of victims of Germany’s occupation because it ignored Hungarians’ complicity in the Holocaust.
The plan announced Thursday involves erecting a monument in Freedom Square situated in the Hungarian capital’s 5th district. The top official in the district is a member of the ruling Fidesz party.
The Hungarian Government Information Center said the plan would pay tribute to “all Hungarian victims with the erection of the monument commemorating the tragic German occupation and the memorial year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust.”
Mazshihisz, the local umbrella group representing Hungarian Jewish communities, said the proposed monument “would serve to blot out the responsibility of the Hungarian government of that time,” the organization’s president, Andras Heisler, told JTA Friday.
He noted that Hungarians were also involved in the mass killings of Hungarian Jews 70 years ago, and that any monument commemorating Holocaust victims should reflect that fact.
Hungary under Miklos Horthy was an ally of Nazi Germany, but Horthy refused to hand over hundreds of thousands of Jews who lived in Hungary before the German army invaded Hungary in March 1944, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
Horthy’s government, however, passed anti-Semitic legislation that resulted in the forced conscription to labor of 100,000 Jewish men, of whom approximately 40,000 perished. An additional 20,000 Jews from Kamenetz-Podolsk who held Polish or Soviet citizenship were turned over to the Germans by Horthy’s troops and murdered.
In an eight-week sweep after the German invasion, some 437,000 Jews were deported and murdered in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
Additionally, militiamen from the Fascist Arrow Cross party murdered thousands of Jews after the occupation by shooting them on the banks of the River Danube and forcing them to take death marches.
The proposed monument on Freedom Square would be opposite a monument commemorating the victims of Communism. Heisler said this risks creating a false comparison between the Holocaust and communist oppression.