VIDEO – A record 10,000 Hungarians took part in an annual march to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust on Sunday, amid rising racism and anti-Semitism
in the country in recent months. It was more than double the annual turnout.
The ambassadors of Israel
and the United States reportedly took part in the event.
Hungarian Jews have complained of increased verbal attacks in the past year and observers have accused the center-right government of stoking anti-Semitism in the face of a weak economy, but many urban Hungarians claim worries of a rightward shift in the country are overblown.
Last year, Hungary’s government unveiled a bronzed bust of World War II leader Miklos Horthy, who was an ally of Adolf Hitler and whom historians consider responsible for ordering the death of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
Hungary bans 'Give Gas' march / jn1.tv
Local Jewish group says title of rally organized by bikers 'unequivocally refers to the tortuous deaths of more than 400,000 of our compatriots killed in Auschwitz'
Patriotism and respect for Hungary’s past are becoming increasingly popular in the Central European country, and some Hungarians see Horthy as a leader who preserved Hungary’s identity against both the Nazis and the Soviets. The unveiling of the Horthy bust attracted more than 1,000 supporters.
Horthy's first public statue was unveiled in May in the western village of Kereki, but stood for just a few hours before it was smeared with red paint by lawyer and liberal activist Peter Daniel.
"There are many reasons why I smeared Horthy's statue with paint," he explains, "mainly because I believe that with the erection of this statue they have gravely injured and humiliated the memory of the Jewish martyrs sent to their deaths by Horthy, and the state apparatus, the railroads and the security forces serving him."
Fighting Hungarian anti-Semitism (Photo: Reuters)
Hungary’s third-largest party is Jobbik.
Its leader, Gabor Vona, pushes a platform based on patriotism and preventing foreigners from contaminating Hungarian values. Last month, a Hungarian state honors list
for cultural personalities included a prominent TV presenter and a musician both known for their anti-Semitic and racist views.
Some Hungarians contest claims the country is sliding to the right. Besides the annual March for Life, Hungarians have come together in demonstrations wearing Stars of David, to respond to anti-Semitic charges made by Jobbik politicians.
The World Jewish Congress has said it will hold its annual assembly in Budapest next month to show solidarity with Hungary’s Jews, who it says are facing “exceptionally strong and aggressive anti-Semitic voices."