Israel and the United States have vehemently condemned the public celebration and glorification of Admiral Miklos Horthy, a Hungarian statesman who collaborated with Nazi Germany and persecuted Jews during World War II. The outrage emerged after a Hungarian government minister described Horthy as a “true patriot.”
Horthy served as the ruler of Hungary from 1920 to 1944. During his time in power, he formed an alliance with Adolf Hitler and played a role in the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum has documented Horthy’s implementation of various anti-Jewish laws. Initially, he resisted Hitler’s demands for harsher persecution, such as forcing Jews to wear identification badges, confining them to ghettos, and deporting them to death camps. However, in 1944, under pressure from the Nazis, Horthy acquiesced and permitted the deportation of Hungary’s Jewish population.
Horthy remains a highly contentious figure in modern Hungary. Some individuals praise his efforts in securing Hungary’s independence after World War I and overseeing the country’s development during the interwar years.
Recently, Construction and Transportation Minister Janos Lazar attended a memorial service in Kenderes, Horthy’s hometown, commemorating the 30th anniversary of his reburial. Lazar, who represented the government at the event, proclaimed in his speech that Horthy was an exceptional head of state, a true Hungarian patriot, and a heroic soldier.
The Israeli embassy in Budapest strongly condemned the commemoration, asserting that glorifying a person responsible for the catastrophic suffering of the Hungarian people, particularly the Jewish population, is unacceptable in modern Hungary. The US Ambassador, David Pressman, echoed these sentiments, expressing concern over the participation of a senior government official in attempts to rehabilitate and promote Horthy’s brutal legacy.
In response to the backlash, Zoltan Kovacs, the spokesman for the Hungarian government, emphasized that while Budapest acknowledges Horthy’s role in the nation-building after World War I, they are unequivocal about his actions leading up to and during World War II. Kovacs referred to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s 2017 speech, in which he acknowledged that Hungary’s failure to protect the Jews and its collaboration with the Nazis during the war constituted a crime.
The controversy surrounding the public celebration of Horthy highlights the complex and contentious nature of Hungary’s historical legacy. It underscores the importance of critically examining and acknowledging the actions and impact of historical figures, particularly those involved in atrocities such as the Holocaust.
Israel and the United States’ condemnation serves as a reminder that honoring individuals complicit in such heinous acts can be seen as a betrayal of the victims and their memory. It calls for a collective effort to promote understanding, remembrance, and tolerance, while actively working to prevent the resurgence of ideologies rooted in hate and discrimination.