Hungary has a 900-year-old history of plundering, stealing, and being controlled by invaders. From the Romans to the Ottomans, different groups have controlled Hungary. The three periods that moved me the most were the 1940s, the Communist era, and today’s era.
Hungary was very accepting of Jewish people in the 1800s and even gave them full citizenship and a place in the Hungarian state, which was uncommon for the time. In 1940, Miklós Horthy was Regent of Hungary and signed on to be one of Hitler’s Axis Powers. While current history in Hungary has been rewritten to say Horthy did not let the Nazis kill Jewish people until 1944 (when the Arrow Cross Party, the equivalent of the SSa Nazi Party, took over). In fact, deportations of Jews outside of Budapest started in 1940. He needed the educated Jewish population in Budapest to keep the city running. Seventy five percent of the doctors were Jewish at the time and 90% of the businesses were owned by Jews.
Today, there are many Nazi poets and heroes that have statues up in Budapest. They were erected by Viktor Orban, the current prime minister of Hungary after his 2010 election. Further than that, the Turul, a mythic bird symbol that the Nazi party used, still sits next to the Royal Palace. In terms of a Holocaust memorial, he has put up a few, but denies that the Hungarian people or government had anything to do with the Nazis until 1944. That’s a lie.
Today, we visited a Holocaust memorial that the government put up. Archangel Gabriel underneath the Nazi eagle, basically saying that the Hungarians were “taken” by the Nazis during WWII. That was not the case, as Hungary was one of the first countries to ally with Hitler and cooperate in sending Jewish people to concentration camps. Upon further research, I learned that the monument was put up in the middle of the night (https://budapestbeacon.com/german-occupation-memorial-completed-under-cover-of-darkness/). In front of the memorial, protestors have put up their own barbed wire memorial with true accounts of how the Hungarian government was involved from 1940 onward, not from 1944 onward like the current-day propaganda says.
From 1949-1989, Hungary was a Communist state controlled by the former Soviet Union. There was a horrible secret police force that controlled free speech and murdered dissidents. Hungary also served as the place where America and Russia would exchange their money and negotiate. Hungary was the middleman.
The Nationalistic Nutcase
Today, Viktor Orban heads the country. Dangerously.
- He hates Muslims and has run on a platform saying that Hungary will turn into a Muslim country if they allow refugees in.
- He is anti-Semitic and denies Hungary’s role in the Holocaust.
- He has consolidated his own power, so that the Judicial and Legislative branches of the country are beneath him. There are no more checks and balances in Hungary.
- He has gerrymandered, so that he can control the state.
- He has moved into the mansion where the Horthy (Hitler’s willing collaborator) lived instead of living in the traditional prime minister’s mansion.
- He was the first world leader to congratulate President Trump on his win.
- He is a part of the nationalistic rise in Europe, and the “blueprint” by which other leaders on the far right are gaining power in Europe.
- Hungary is no longer stated as a democracy, but as a totalitarian kleptocracy. That is because of Orban.
Our guide, a Hungarian professor who had grown up in Romania, talked about how dangerous the current mentality is in Hungary. Free speech is no longer allowed. The way I see it, when free speech is taken, everything else goes with it. If I can predict Hungary’s future, they don’t have that much longer in the EU or as a respectable country.
In both Romania and Hungary, I have witnessed people who are intensely loyal to their “own” ethnic group. In Romania, I heard people say they had lived in the country for 40 years, but were from Hungary. Again, this mentality seems to create an “us vs. them” situation that creates the perfect environment for nationalism to take hold. Our guide commented that this nationalism takes the same hold as religion, and can be just as controlling. Emotions take over and people are willing to die over their “tribe” or their religion– as history has shown us time and again.
As I was doing my own research, I learned that the Budapest Beacon closed this April 13, 2018, because it felt that it could not cover the news of Hungary anymore. As someone who has been very involved with journalism and cares deeply about the facts, this is appalling to me. In the United States, President Trump may call CNN and the New York Times “fake news,” but he has not shut them down. They have grown stronger. In Hungary, the news is leaving and when the news leaves, so does the truth. Here’s the exit interview from the newspaper, it’s worth a look through: https://budapestbeacon.com/german-occupation-memorial-completed-under-cover-of-darkness/
Tomorrow, we set out for Vienna and travel the same train route that Oma did in 1947 when she was escaping between Hungary and Austria.