It’s October 1944, the dying months of the Second World War. Across what is left of the areas of Europe it controls, Germany is anxious to bolster support. In Hungary the Arrow Cross Party, a local fascist movement, deeply anti-Semitic in tone, is allowed to form a government. The remaining Jews of Budapest, those who managed to survive Adolf Eichmann’s deportations to Auschwitz earlier that year, are once again in grave danger. In nightly raids armed thugs entered the city ghetto. Those they take are shot, their bodies thrown in to the Danube.
It’s the summer of 2012. We are back in Budapest, standing by the statue of Raul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. Pig’s trotters have been tied round the memorial. The writing is on the wall – “This is not your country dirty Jews – you are going to be shot there.” The pointer is towards the Danube.
Yes, Jew-hatred is back in central Europe, back in one of the most tragic locations in Jewish history. According to the Federation of Jewish Communities a “wave of hatred” is breaking over the country, with anti-Semitism reaching levels not seen since the fall of communism in 1990. It’s depressingly familiar, with Holocaust memorials and Jewish cemeteries subject to vandalism.
It’s depressingly familiar in other ways too. Hungary, like many of the other nations of the New European Order, is deep in recession. Scapegoats have to be found. The anti-Semitism, so evident in the city streets, is a wave that is following from the onward progress of the ship of Jobbik. This far right party is effectively the inheritor of the Arrow Cross tradition, though it denies any such association. They are not anti-Semitic, oh no; they are only opposed to ‘Israeli investors.’
One wonders just exactly who these nefarious ‘Israeli investors’ are? One wonders also about the mentality and political logic of people opposed to any form of investment in a country fast sinking down the economic drain! Methinks they doth protest too much.
The reality is simple enough: it’s the rise of this movement that has legitimised hate speech. Commenting on this Andras Kovacs of the Central European University said;
People with hidden anti-Semitic attitudes become more openly anti-Semitic having seen that representatives of the political elite openly express views that they themselves did not dare express before.
Sadly all the high hopes of 1989, when the country struggled to free itself from communist tyranny, have died. In the place of a yearning for freedom and democracy more and more –surely a sign of personal inadequacy? – are turning to the most regressive forms of nationalism, all supported by a nostalgia for the Greater Hungary lost almost a century ago in the aftermath of the First World War.
As one Hungarian commentator said these so-called ‘patriots’ are turning the country into a bigoted little cesspit, whose neighbours are already complaining of the stench. One simply knows that a country is in deep trouble when it starts to believe that its future lies in the past. This is no brave new world merely a cowardly old one.